The Goals of Therapy

     Often, an individual, couple, or family seek out counseling when they are having a painful experience in their lives.  Pain whether emotional or physical is a red flag that alerts the person that something is not working well or is out of balance.  Either we are challenged by a new situation, relationship, or unexpected development, or we are changing and not able to adapt our new selves to the status quo.  Psychotherapy is an exploration of the self in relationship to oneself, the world, other people and / or problematic symptoms.  It is about creating new possibilities and expanding into new realizations about who you can be and what you can do.

     Therapy is a creative process wherein each step helps you unfold unto the next, and each step contributes in some way to the creation of the new self.  The therapeutic relationship between therapist and client models and demonstrates for the client the caring and supportive relationship they are developing within - tolerating frustration, accepting imperfection, reframing disappointment, accepting and loving oneself, etc.  Psychotherapy (the name for the personal in-depth work that is done in counseling) is a tool for self-awareness, self-acceptance, and transformation. 

Marriage, Family and Relationship Counseling

Couples - Relationship - Family Counseling 

Couples or family therapy offers you an opportunity to learn new ways of relating while bridging or healing some of the deep chasms that have resulted from worn out or hurtful dynamics and behaviors. It is hard to stop what doesn’t work until you know what you are doing and have other options. Change occurs on every level of our being and our brains / nervous systems and bodies have to learn how to do something new (all the latest neuroscience documents this). Therapy can help you to learn to how to identify what you want in your relationships and develop new methods of relating that will create greater harmony and satisfaction.  Listening and feeling heard are mindful practices that start with you identifying how it is that you would like to be treated or loved and hearing how your loved one(s) would.  New behaviors can be established as you practice helpful  tools and methods to communicate about what is lacking or difficult without conflict or defense. Counseling will help you to learn how to live with differences, stop fighting, and build something new.  Individuals in a relationship generally want to feel content with themselves and their partners, be heard and accepted, express themselves to the other, agree enough on what is important in their lives, make the most of their time together, be intimate, and feel loved as well as love the other.  What are your fantasies about companionship / love / passion / sexuality? Where are you on this continuum of a satisfying relationship? 

     Most couples or individuals contact me, when they are suffering the pain of a relationship that is not working, has disintegrated, or has for years been unsatisfying, and they don't know how to continue as they are.  The pain of losing love and the promises of what a couple came together for in the first place is the deepest kind of loss and pain, striking a person’s deepest needs for healthy interdependence and attachment to a loved one. It is a discovery process to find out how your attachment needs either complement or trigger your partner. Feeling safe in a relationship is essential for intimacy and therapy brings awareness and understanding to each partner or family member. Occasionally, a couple comes into therapy, who are happy with their lives and each other, but want to work on some aspect of their relationship that needs to be strengthened or made more enjoyable.  A relationship is a living organism and always evolving and changing, even if it seems stagnant and stuck.  Whether you are looking to improve or rescue your relationship, I can help you to build the new ground you need to stand on, and the awareness, tools and methods for creating the relationship you desire.  Therapy / counseling can heal and re-energize your relationship by improving communication and making room for ways to connect that bring you satisfaction. 

     I believe there is always the possibility that a couple can turn their relationship around, even following a deep hurt or betrayal.  If two people want to, they can learn new methods of relating, take responsibility for their actions and choices, learn to set boundaries, build intimacy, and ask to be treated in the ways they have always desired.  The only requirement is that both people show up to explore what is possible both within themselves and with the other and be willing to work at it.  Counseling will help you to learn how to be honest with yourself and another, as you explore how you think, feel, and interact.  Contacting your own experience helps you to make room for your partner's experience without having to convince them to think like you (my definition of fighting).  You will be able to develop new habits and make new choices. 

Growing up, most of us did not learn these reflective skills and were not required to take classes in how to love effectively or communicate and express emotions in healthy ways.  So, you and your partner probably have different understandings of what love is, how to get it, and what to do if you don't get it.  Gender differences alone can cause you to feel misunderstood and unappreciated.  Even if you think you know how to love, the pain of not knowing how to navigate through differences can create hurt, rejection, distance and a sense of despair and hopelessness.  Your core childhood losses are often retriggered by hurts in your adult relationships.  It is important that each individual understand what they bring to the relationship from their past, and how their self-preserving survival strategies that worked before may not be serving the relationship now.   

What about fixing my partner?

       If you stop looking to your partner to change, so that your life will improve and instead start asking yourself what needs to happen in order for you to better take care of yourself in the relationship, you will be working with the one person you can control - you!  It is empowering and allows you to control more of an outcome, if you focus on something you can do, instead of someone you can not control.  In counseling, you will learn to clarify and strengthen by staying grounded and in contact with yourself, while engaging your partner. You will learn to make choices that are "relational" and for the good of the relationship, and not at the expense of yourself individually.  Even if you did not learn this at an earlier age, you can learn to identify your feelings, beliefs, thoughts, and explore your core beliefs as they contribute to or create problems in your current relationships.  I will help you and your partner learn about your strategies, defenses, and the inner framework that determines how you interact with life and your relationships.  You will be able to determine what works and what doesn't.  Eventually you will feel the strength and clarity within yourself to be more authentic and be more comfortable giving your partner the room to be as well.  

     At first, it may feel impossible to stop thinking of all that your partner does that you do not like; this will be a skill you develop in counseling.   Two very different people can learn how to respect each other, even if they don't like those differences, and find a place to meet for the sake of continuing in relationship.  As you clarify, define, pay close attention to yourself, and express what is important to you, you will develop a caring relationship in which both you and your partner are important and worthy of attention.  A close relationship with yourself is crucial for a close and healthy relationship with another.    

     Along with cognitive and relational methods of therapy, I use body-oriented approaches that will help you become aware of how your body is affected by what goes on in a relationship and how to utilize body awareness as a tool to help you regulate your emotions.  I incorporate relaxation techniques that help each person make more room for the other.  There are emotional reactions that are so core to our physiology that we react before we even think sometimes.  By working with your body awareness, you can feel those signals and intervene, before they have a chance to create destructive behaviors. 

Shifting Your Consciousness  

I believe that the important function of a marriage / committed relationship or a family is to provide an opportunity for the spouses or family members to love and be loved.  You can define what love is for you, but in relationships that work, I see that love is an action, not just a feeling.  Feelings change.  If you took a vow to another person, it was not to feel the same over time, but to continue to live with certain values and practices, that would demonstrate love.  To love is in part instinctual, as with a parent to a child, but many of our love beliefs and behaviors are learned from our parents and caretakers and the culture we grew up in.  If you are struggling with how to stay loving (or even civil) towards your spouse or yourself in the face of differences, difficulties, and the challenges of managing life, family, and work, I will be able to help you differentiate the pain from the person(s) or situation and start to develop the insights and skills you need to be in a loving relationship that feeds you instead of depleting you.
    You have to identify your values and what is important to you to have a motivation to do this, but that is based on what brought you together in the first place.  I can help you to identify and clarify these truths that are already a part of you and your relationships, even if you feel their absence.  In relationships where there has been betrayal or deep hurt, repair can happen, followed by bridging or building something new, if both people want a greater connection. 

     Most marital and family therapy focuses on resolving conflict and problematic behaviors.  When a family is unhappy or suffering, it is essential to find a way to intervene and bring to a stop the destructive patterns and behaviors.  Repairing the damage or hurt that has occurred is crucial.  It is equally important for a family to learn new healthier behaviors, responses and communication styles and develop a way to know and value themselves individually, while respecting others.  If you know what you are doing, you can learn to make a choice to do something different, as you learn the best ways to inter-relate to your spouse or family.  
     Your capacity for intimacy and knowing how to relate to yourself and others started in your family of origin, with your own mother and father or caretakers.  Some people were fortunate enough to learn some good relationship skills and others not, but there is always an opportunity in the present to know yourself as you truly are (not what others told you should be) and to learn new ways of relating to others (not what your family told you was "normal").  Learning how to relate in ways that will bring you a sense of satisfaction and joy is one of the primary goals of counseling.  "Peace" is a result of how you live your life and treat yourself and others.  My work with couples and families offers them a safe place to explore what is not working and then, to build the inner resources and skills to create a different experience with each other .

When Therapy Doesn't "Work"

     Sometimes, therapy will not offer a couple or one partner the resolution they need to live with differences or behaviors, and they will choose to terminate the relationship.  Counseling has not gone to waste, because it has helped one or both partners to clarify and weigh every aspect of the partnership and come to a realization that there are "irreconcilable differences", they can not live with. When this happens, I can help a couple and a family work with the dissolution and how to effectively co-parent, if children are involved.  As is true in couples counseling, during a break up, it is important to move away from who is right or wrong and emphasize "different".  I have helped couples move through this trying and awkward time into new lives on their own.

Here are a few other circumstances that prevent couples counseling from being effective: 

     1)  If one or both individuals have already decided that they want out of the relationship, but are coming for the other person or to clarify / justify their reasons for leaving.

     2)  If there are alcohol / drug / or addiction issues that prevent a partner from being present to him / herself and partner.  It would require an admittance of a problem and individual therapy to help the "using" partner(s) heal from the dependency or addiction, and to help the other partner stays out of denial.

     3)  If a person comes to therapy and lies.

     4)  When the emotional pain and hurt of betrayal is too great to forgive and move beyond.  When betrayal becomes the "deal breaker".

     5)  If couples are too tired to try and have "had enough".  If one person is too tired to try.

     6)  If mental illness prevents a person from being able to learn and incorporate new perspectives.

 If There is Any Chance It Can Work, There's a Chance.

                                                        Give Counseling a Try!

Spiritual Counseling and Guidance

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Holistic Counseling and Body Psychotherapy

What is Holistic Counseling?

    Holistic counseling or psychotherapy is a modality of therapy that will help you understand how interconnected your mind and body and spirit are.  Body oriented psychotherapy is a holistic approach that develops and utilizes a person’s body awareness and presence as a route to self-knowledge and integration. This can be a powerful resource for healing anxiety, depression, or managing any troublesome situation or relationship.  Through slowing down and learning to first observe thoughts, emotions, and feelings, you can start to track the various sensations and body experiences you are having in response to these mental activities and learn to work with them.  Your thoughts, emotions, and actions have a direct affect on your body and brain chemistry, and the state of your brain and body have a direct influence on your thoughts and emotions.  Holistic psychotherapy goes beyond conventional therapy that looks at how you think or feel, to explore and utilize how you are organized on a psycho-physical level.  You can realize how your body is triggered, alerting you to slow down, breathe, or move to stop the anxious /depressing thoughts and self-talk that pull you into difficult places - like how you distance yourself from or disconnect from others when you are hurt or angry.  When you are holistically aware, you can read your physical red flags first, understand the simple brain neuroscience of reactivity, have time to sort out the emotions, and then, more easily care for yourself and your relationships.        

     From a young age, you form your body by what you are told, what you believe, or what you protect yourself from.  Your muscles and postural habits follow what you have been told about yourself and life.  "You can do anything, keep trying" allows your body to find strength through doing.  "Shut up and sit down, who do you think you are?" lends to hiding yourself and pulling back.    Included in your self-concept and body development are your spiritual concepts and beliefs about yourself and life.  Hope; trust; optimism; love; friendship; appreciation; self-worth (or a lack of these) - are sometimes defined as spiritual qualities - those aspects of yourself or life that are non-physical and can not be touched.  Spirituality can be as simple as what you find value in, how you connect to people and things, or how you embody your religious beliefs.  I have a broad and varied background and training in spirituality that allows me to help people develop a system that will work for them in every day life.  

Holistic counseling and psychotherapy respects the unity between all parts of an individual and works to bring them back together in a harmonious, integrated manner, so that you can feel greater peace and make choices that bring you more enjoyment of life.

Expressive Arts and Creative Imagery

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Hakomi ~ Body psychotherapy

Hakomi - Mindfulness Based Body Psychotherapy

Below is a flyer for a Hakomi workshop (offered by the Hakomi institute), that will describe some aspects this gentle body-oriented psychotherapy.  In addition to the many diverse body-oriented therapies I have trained in (bio-energetics, bodynamics, sensory awareness, authentic movement, etc.) I am a Certified Hakomi Therapist and have completed the  2-year comprehensive training, the one year advanced training and other advanced training in this method.

Dynamic Mindfulness and the Body

An Introduction to the Hakomi Method of Experiential Psychotherapy

 with Melissa Grace, M.A. Certified Hakomi Trainer

 “Hakomi presents some astounding methods for getting to core material. It is well-grounded in theory, and revolutionary in its results."

- Association of Humanistic Psychology

Hakomi is an excellent system for learning key emotional intelligence skills.”

- Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence”

“A visionary contribution to mindfulness in psychotherapy.”

-Daniel Siegel, author of “The Mindful Brain” and “The Developing Mind”

 Hakomi Experiential Psychotherapy is uniquely effective, integrating the mindfulness and non-violence found in Buddhist and Taoist traditions with a innovative Western methodology originated by Ron Kurtz.

Loving presence and the healing relationship are central to Hakomi. We learn to develop an exquisite sensitivity and attunement to others - both their conscious and unconscious material - and to convey this recognition, creating a deep sense of safety and connection.

Hakomi is a body-centered,  somatic psychotherapy.  The body is viewed as a door that can be opened to reveal the entire character and belief system of the individual. The body's structures and patterns become a powerful access route to core material.

The dynamic use of mindfulness is a foundation of the Hakomi Method. We teach clients  to  be  mindful  during  the  process,  and  when  unique  Hakomi  techniques  are introduced, we rapidly and safely access the unconscious beliefs and early experiences which shape our lives, relationships, and self-concepts. When unconscious, this hidden material creates projections, conflict and disharmony in our interactions and inner world. Once conscious and directly experienced, these patterns are available for transformation and  re-integration.  Powerful  emotions,  memories,  and  trauma  may  surface  at  times during the process, and these are handled safely and effectively.

In this experiential  workshop  we will also explore  the "body as map of the psyche", non-violence in therapy, using empathic skills to read subtle, unconscious cues  - and how creating safety, embracing resistance, and protecting the spirit encourage the cooperation of the unconscious.

The workshop will facilitate increased self-awareness for all participants, and introduce practical, evocative skills for professionals. It is designed for psychotherapists, counselors, social workers, and students in these fields, and is also open to individuals in related fields including coaches, educators, and holistic practitioners.

The workshop may also be used as the prerequisite for the Hakomi Therapy Training.

 Melissa  Grace, M.A., C.H.T. leads Hakomi Therapy trainings throughout  the U.S. She is a member  of the Hakomi  Institute  Board  of Directors,  and has served  as Adjunct Faculty Member and Group Process Leader at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.  Melissa  has  facilitated  groups  for over  20 years,  and  studied  with  the National  Training  Laboratory  and the Group  Leadership  Training.  She maintains  a private practice in Boulder, offering psychotherapy and life coaching.

For more information, or to register call Hakomi Trainings: 303-266-1866 or email Web: (no online registration)

Hakomi Institute is recognized by the National Board for Certified Counselors to offer Continuing Education for National Certified Counselors. We adhere to NBCC Continuing Education Guidelines (Provider #5476.)

This program is approved by the National Association of Social Worker

Meditation Instruction

  Meditation is not a mysterious or difficult activity.  It does not require hours to practice.  It is a simple choice to spend time with yourself alone or in a group for the purpose of developing and deepening awareness.  By turning your awareness inward and becoming a witness to your own experience, you can encourage a gentle, curious exploration of what is true in respect to your emotions, thoughts, and body. 

      Meditation relaxes the body and quiets the mind, making it easier to listen to your thoughts, feelings, and body sensations without criticism or struggle.  Learning to listen and observe without judgment helps you to accept and work with what is within yourself with compassion.  This creates greater unity and increases inner peace and harmony.  Through meditation you will practice mindfulness, imagery, visualization and grounding to help you create the peace within that helps you to make peace in your world.