My Approach to Therapy

As a human being, there are fundamental ways I view and approach my interactions and relationships with strangers, loved ones, and clients. People close to me know one of my guiding quotes is “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Treating people with grace, dignity, and compassion regardless of their behavior is a model of human interaction I strive to embody in my daily encounters, close relationships, and counseling sessions. I embody a non-pathologizing, collaborative, strengths-based approach to therapy.

The solutions to our world’s most challenging problems- world hunger, access to clean drinking water, treatment of infectious disease, international terrorism, and violence against women- may lie inside the mind of any one of us. However, due to the country, city, neighborhood, schools, and religion we are born into… our sex, race, and gender… how family, friends, and strangers treat us… the possibility of reaching our potential is either maximized or minimized by our life circumstances. Sometimes these circumstances work for us and sometimes they appear to work against us. I acknowledge we all have constraints, barriers, and obstacles we have to deal with- and, I view these as opportunities to gather strength, resilience, and motivation; to learn, think creatively, strategize, grow, and persevere; to be humble, to be bold, and to let yourself be transformed.


Domestically and internationally, I have provided trauma-informed services with children, adults, and families with varying levels of needs- from private practice, to school and community-based, to inpatient residential treatment. I utilize an effective mix of person-centered (i.e., you choose your goals, we work together), evidence-based (i.e., research backs it up) and strengths-based (i.e., honing in on assets, successes, and what is going right) approaches.

As a registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern (IMF #89547) with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, I currently provide therapy for eating disorder recovery at the PHP and IOP levels of care at the Lotus Collaborative in San Francisco, CA. Some particular areas of clinical interest include: Eating Disorders & Recovery, Body Image, Addiction & Recovery, and College and Young Adult Issues (e.g., transitioning to college, social anxiety, stress management, low self-esteem, etc.)

I lean on evidenced-based therapy models like Internal Family Systems Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and Mindfulness-Based Interventions. I have also completed a 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training in India and have received additional training in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga and incorporate the philosophy and practice of Yoga and mindfulness into therapy. I help people explore their inner worlds and relationships, let go of negative beliefs about themselves, learn strategies to manage distress, and tap into their innate resources, wisdom, and strength. What does all this psychology jargon mean?

Person-centered therapy means just that- therapy is centered around your needs and goals. One of the basic tenets of person-centered therapy is that you are the expert of your own experience (i.e., the client always knows best). The role of the therapist is to be “real” (i.e., genuine and transparent), offer unconditional acceptance, and sensitively and accurately understand the client’s subjective view of the world (i.e., your thoughts and emotions).

A trauma-informed, systemic approach involves assessing how the systems people are embedded in function and contribute to the concerns and resources they bring to the table. A systemic therapist will explore the patterns of interaction in your relationships with family members, significant others, friends, and colleagues and the interplay of a variety of individual, relationship, family, community, and societal factors on your mental health and well-being.

Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy is a model of therapy which asserts that the nature of the mind is to be subdivided into parts- each of which contains valuable qualities. However, these parts can be forced out of their valuable roles by life experiences and can reorganize the internal system in unhealthy ways. Another important tenet of IFS is the belief that, in addition to these parts, everyone is at their core a Self containing many crucial leadership qualities (The 8 C’s: Confidence, Compassion, Courage, Creativity, Clarity, Calmness, Connection, and Curiosity).

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy which teaches people practical skills to improve emotion regulation, distress tolerance, mindfulness abilities, and interpersonal effectiveness. The goal of DBT is to teach you the skills to improve your quality of life and replace ineffective behaviors and thoughts with adaptive, life-enhancing behaviors and thoughts. DBT supports people in balancing the emotional with the logical and change with acceptance.

Narrative Therapy separates people from problems (i.e., you are not the problem, the problem is the problem) and deconstructs the stories we tell ourselves about the world and who we are. How you frame a story might be oppressive, perpetuating a problem, or prohibiting you from leading a fulfilling life. Narrative therapists gently guide you as you re-author story lines- shifting your perspective from problem-saturated to hopeful and empowering.

I also integrate body and mindfulness based techniques into therapy since working with the mind-body connection is very healing especially for people who have experienced trauma.

The cultural mental health stigma and shortage of skilled mental health professionals are critical issues facing the world today. Mental health issues emerge from a combination of genetics, neurobiology, psychological influences, early childhood experiences, relational dynamics, and environmental factors. Many people wait to see a professional until their concerns are unbearable, instead of taking a preventative approach the moment they feel something is off. I define therapy as a journey to the heart of being yourself and nourishment for the soul. Therapy is nourishment, education, support, and guidance in understanding, solving, and coping with the events and experiences that tire our mind, body, and soul.

At some point, everyone experiences a sense of “I just don’t feel like myself” or “Something is off/up/wrong/missing/etc.”- this is normal.  If something feels off in your body, you see a doctor. When you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. When you’re struggling with heartbreak, grief, or stress, consultation with a therapist makes total sense.

Human beings share many of the same struggles and needs- we all crave safety and security, connection to others, validation that we are seen and matter, and a sense of purpose in life. As Harry Stack Sullivan would say, “We are all much more human than otherwise.” And yet, the irony and beauty of the human experience is… even though 99% of our DNA is similar, we all vary– each one of us is refreshingly original. “A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” My hope is that you are always blooming- simply, in your own way.


Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.