Skillful, Compassionate Therapy in Berkeley


Individual Therapy

What is Individual Therapy?

Many people wonder what individual therapy is all about. There are many confusing ideas about it. For instance, one common misconception is that the therapist is there simply to ask questions and make statements in order to “fix” the client. Another is that a therapist’s job is simply to sit, listen and analyze.

In reality, individual therapy is an organic and naturally unfolding process. The therapist and client collaborate to define the goals of the therapy and the means to achieve those goals. Just as each snowflake has its own distinct shape and as each fingerprint differs from every other, each therapist-client relationship is unique in and of itself. Much of the change that occurs in individual therapy is a result of this unique blend.

It is important to know that whatever is shared in therapy is held in strict confidence between the client and therapist (and the therapist’s supervisor if the therapist is unlicensed). The only exception to that confidentiality is when someone’s safety is in jeopardy.

What Can Therapy Help With?

Individual therapy can help with many different issues including:

  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Powerful emotions that feel overwhelming.
  • Building self-esteem.
  • Trauma.
  • Addictions.
  • Parent-child conflict.
  • Eating and body issues.
  • Deepening spirituality.

Individual therapy can work in many different ways. Each therapist brings their own unique perspectives and experiences along with a variety of different theoretical orientations. Read our therapist bios to see the variety of therapists working at Blue Oak Therapy Center.

To be seen and heard with kindness and compassion is deeply healing. Through the experience of talking and being together, both therapist and client reach an understanding and a shared experience of what is going on under the surface. Once this happens, opportunities for new experiences emerge and change, and transformation is possible.

Why Blue Oak Therapy Center?

As a community, the therapists at Blue Oak Therapy Center take a holistic approach to working with clients.Our work goes beyond solely relying on verbal conversation; our therapists have other ways of working with people. Our therapists use other forms of communication such as the written word, artwork, drama, narrative story, sand tray, music and body awareness. These forms of creative expression offer exciting ways into the unconscious. Our therapists believe that there is a deep human longing to be witnessed while being creative, and that such witnessing facilitates the unfolding of unconscious processes. Blue Oak Therapy Center’s approach is a combination of our diversity of interests and expertise, and our shared commitment to working with kindness and compassion.

Please read our therapist bios pages to get a further sense of the varieties of therapists available here at Blue Oak Therapy Center or contact us at (510) 649-9818 for more information.


COUPLES THERAPY

What is Couples Therapy?

Couples therapy is a form of therapy used to treat relationship distress. It is a type of therapy that addresses the couple’s relationship, and supports each member to explore and understand their similarities and differences, with respect and compassion for themselves and their partner. Understanding ourselves, and what gets evoked in a relationship, can sometimes be a mystery. In couples therapy we explore in a safe, supportive and respectful environment, our patterns of relating, and beliefs about ourselves and each other in a relationship. Our couples therapists work to help couples increase connectedness, resolve conflict, take responsibility for themselves, deepen intimacy and work through stages of life challenges.

Do we have to be married to attend?

Absolutely not! The therapists at Blue Oak Therapy Center work with people at all stages of their relationship from those who are newly dating to people who have been together for decades. Blue Oak Therapy Center Therapists welcome couples and families of all sexual and gender orientations and relationship configurations. We are interested in helping people get greater satisfaction from their relationship. What issues might be addressed in Couples Therapy?

  • Emotional enmeshment or estrangement.
  • Not feeling like you are on the same page.
  • Trouble with intimacy.
  • Sexual concerns.
  • Communication concerns.
  • Fighting excessively.
  • Impact of trauma.
  • Overly critical or withholding what is important to you.
  • Desire to strengthen your commitment to each other.
  • Exploring ways to have increased satisfaction.
  • Navigating recovery from sexual abuse.
  • Recovery for one or both of the partners from an addiction.
  • The presence of depression, anxiety, bipolar or other mental illness in one or both partners.
  • Parenting.
  • Adoption.
  • Parenting a special needs child.
  • Longing to rekindle love, passion and excitement.

Will my Couples Therapist ask me to attend individual therapy?

If during the therapy process, it becomes apparent that one or both partners may be struggling with individual issues that would be best supported in personal (individual) therapy, the couples therapist will make a referral for adjunctive therapy and discuss this with the couple. To learn more about couples psychotherapy services at Blue Oak Therapy Center please call (510) 649-9818 and we will be happy to answer any questions you might have.


CHILD, TEEN, & FAMILY THERAPY

What is Child Therapy?

Child Therapy is usually based on the idea that children best express their feelings, thoughts and experiences through play. Whereas adults often (but not always) express themselves through words and ideas, children “show and tell” what is happening for them through using the symbolic language of play. Blue Oak therapy Center has a variety of specially selected toys and games that facilitate a therapeutic process between a child and their therapist. Our therapists are trained to “understand” the language of play and convey to a child their understanding, acceptance and response to the child’s concerns.

How do I know my child can benefit from therapy?

Searching for a therapist for your child can be overwhelming. At Blue Oak Therapy Center, you have the advantage of a community of therapists with different theoretical backgrounds and orientations. Some of the signs your child may benefit from therapy are:

  • Difficulties at school, either with teachers, peers or academics.
  • Sudden changes in mood or behavior.
  • Difficulties with sleeping, eating or going to the bathroom.
  • Irritability, difficult “temper tantrums”, excessive anger or aggression.
  • Sad or scary dreams, nightmares, or fantasies.
  • Preoccupation with ideas, thoughts or feelings that seem inappropriate to their age.

Anxiety and depression often manifest differently for children than they do for adults. If your child is having a hard time with their behavior at home, at school or with friends, or if they are having a hard time transitioning from one activity to another, they may be expressing unspoken concerns and fears. It is always a good idea to call us at (510) 649-9818 and speak with one of our child therapists about whether therapy might be helpful for your child.

How Does Play Therapy Help Children?

Play therapy often has a profound healing effect on a child’s life. The ability to communicate their deepest fears, wishes and concerns and the feeling of being understood and received is extremely meaningful on its own. Additionally, our child therapists work with each individual child and their parent to structure the therapy so a child heals their wounds and gain new ways of feeling, thinking and relating. Play therapy is child-centered, meaning its focus is on the child and their inner worlds. However, our therapists will always work closely and collaboratively with a child’s parent/s to better understand the child in the context of their home, family and community, and to make sure that the gains from therapy carry out into the child’s life outside of therapy.

What Issues Does Child Therapy Address?

Child therapy has been shown to be greatly effective in a wide variety of situations, for children facing a variety of challenges, including:

  • Separation/Divorce and other family changes.
  • Trauma that the child experienced or witnessed.
  • Grief and loss of loved ones.
  • Recovery from child abuse (physical, sexual or psychological).
  • School or academic problems.
  • Sleeping or eating problems.
  • Difficulties in relating to other children or adults.
  • Aggression, irritability, anger.
  • Behavior problems.
  • Depression, anxiety and other emotional distress.

What about Adolescents?

Adolescence presents itself with incredible challenges. Teenagers often feel caught in between childhood and adulthood, and are struggling to find their own identity while undergoing rapid physical, emotional and intellectual growth and change.Therapy with adolescents often integrates both play therapy and talk therapy, and is tailored around each adolescent’s particular needs and capacity. Though adolescents can use words to convey themselves a lot better than younger children, there are still parts of their experience that are hard to access through words and ideas.

There is often a gap between a teenager’s emotional and intellectual development and capacity. We offer Sand Tray Therapy for adolescents (as well as for children and adults) to specifically address this gap. Through the use of miniatures, one can create stories or scenes that reflect inner experiences and dilemmas.

Other ways to work with adolescents (and younger children) include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is a modality of therapy focused on thoughts and behaviors. Through talking, thinking and planning together, the therapist may help a teenager with facing specific stressors, phobias or difficulties.
  • Therapy focused on specific issues, such as substance abuse, sexual or other risk-taking, aggression towards peers or family members, truancy and more.

What is Family Therapy?

Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy that helps a family, rather than an individual, understand and change dysfunctional familial dynamics, interaction patterns, and communication styles. Family therapy engages the entire family (whatever the configuration may be) in sessions to uncover unhealthy relating strategies, while simultaneously supporting and strengthening a family’s healthy dynamics.

Family therapy helps alleviate emotional pain within a family dynamic by working with the family as a complex relational system, and avoids blaming one family member as the origin of the family’s problems. Research shows that family therapy proves to be very effective in cases of child and adolescent problems, trauma, incest history, domestic violence history, anger management, victims of crime, and addiction in families.

What kind of help does a family therapist offer?

A family therapist helps and supports families by:

  • Developing, with family members, a family history which identifies the emotional strategies a family uses to cope with difficult emotional transitions, such as divorce, separation, loss of a family member, and trauma.
  • Identifying the familial rules and roles that family members have followed with or without their conscious awareness.
  • Improving communication between family members.
  • Strengthening healthy relational patterns.
  • Evaluating how families make decisions.
  • Identifying how power is exercised in a family, and helping family members learn the differences between fear and respect.
  • Encouraging and promoting love, understanding, empathy, and forgiveness, while helping family members to understand the role of guilt and blame in family dynamics.
  • Dissolving old wounds, and resentments that get in the way of developing healthy relational patterns.
  • Helping families to heal deep wounds due to “family secrets” that cover up shame, usually present in families with a history or incest, abuse, domestic violence, victims of crime, and addiction.
  • Developing a “new narrative” that supports a family to open to new ways of relating and communicating.
  • Identifying how family members, consciously or unconsciously, tend to develop compensatory behaviors as a way to maintain the equilibrium of the family. Some examples include: one parent being too rigid, the other too permissive; one child being “totally responsible”, while the other is “totally irresponsible”; one family member being “too serious”, the other “not taking anything serious”; some member of the family yearning for contact and connection, while others withdraw avoiding any intimacy.
  • Dealing with external stressors and changes, such as losses, death, remarriage, divorce, life transitions, cultural pressure and expectations on the family.
  • Evaluating acculturation, immigration, multi-cultural, and diversity issues that might influence the ability of the family to function properly.
  • Helping step-families and blended families adapt and grow as a family unit.
  • Reorganizing a family as a cohesive unit that encourages individuals to be independent and interconnected at the same time.

Can we come to Family Therapy while members of my family are in child, couples, or individual therapy?

At the Blue Oak Therapy Center, families have the advantage of a community of therapists with different theoretical backgrounds and a variety of experiences located in the same building. This enables a family to have their family sessions with one therapist, while individual family members can see another therapist for individual therapy at Blue Oak.

Our Therapists have many different specialties and theoretical backgrounds. Please call (510) 649-9818 to find out whether one of our therapists has the experience, skills and training to meet your family’s needs.


GROUP THERAPY

Does Blue Oak offer group therapy?

Blue Oak therapists periodically offer group therapy opportunities. This section will be updated continually. If you don’t see a group you are interested below, please check back soon! For more information about current groups, please call (510) 649-9818.

Groups currently being offered:

  • Please check back soon!

Will my Group Therapist ask me to attend individual therapy?

If during the therapy process, it becomes apparent that you may be struggling with individual issues that would be best supported in personal (individual) therapy, the group therapist will make a referral for adjunctive therapy and discuss this with you.

Our Address
3101 Telegraph Avenue Berkeley, CA 94705
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Clinical director
Roni Gillenson, MA, LMFT# 40438