My Approach

My approach to therapy is very conversational—you will not feel like you are the only one doing the talking -- or the work! While you share what is on your mind, I will ask questions to help clarify what you are striving for and what is standing in your way. Often people feel like they already know what they do and why they do it, but they still can’t seem to do anything else. In our sessions we will look at things from different angles, uncovering overlooked skills, offering up new possibilities and connecting you to your motivation for a change. My approach is non-blaming, using a method which separates you from what you are struggling with so you can get an elevated perspective on your situation. From this elevation we can see the destinations you dream of, the skills, abilities, and commitments that support you, and identify the influence of the problems that plague you.

I believe all therapy is identity work. It is easy to see ourselves or our partners as a certain kind of person: “I am weak.” “I was born with this anxiety. I will never be rid of it."  "This is just the way my partner is, there is no changing them."  But we do not have to be defined by our problems. And relationships can change. I have seen individuals and couples make incredible, dramatic life shifts in therapy. We are not powerless, no matter what we think or have been told. We have the opportunity to be more than we have been. And a good conversation can help people take steps towards a new way of being. 

 
 

Couples Therapy

Even good marriages fall prey to drifting apart, lack of communication, and arguments. Conversations that turn into debates leave both people feeling unappreciated, resentful and misunderstood. When effective communication is difficult, it can be helpful to have a third party to draw out a sense of empathy and connection and offer new perspectives that lead to previously unseen solutions.

 

I specialize in helping people find ways to communicate preferences to their partner(s) and to negotiate even the toughest situations when compromise seems impossible.  I love working with complex negotiations where each member of the relationship has strongly held but differing idea about what they would prefer. I help couples have conversations that bring about understanding and resolution.

 

I find that whether we do individual therapy or couples counseling, most therapeutic conversations help to improve the understanding and the communication in the relationships in our lives.

Divorce, Remarriage, and Blended Families

Divorce brings many challenges. There are many complicated feelings and separating after years of marriage requires difficult conversations over competing interests and values. When children are involved it means negotiating with your previous spouse about custody schedules, financial arrangements, new partners, and differing ideas about what is best for the kids. Good communication is essential for working out these differences but this can seem impossible with a difficult ex-spouse. Our court systems are imperfect (!) and lengthy battles often result in distrust, resentment and one partner's attempts to use the children as a weapon in these power struggles. At worst, this can result in alienation and estrangement.

Post-divorce: Building a new life out of the wreckage is daunting. Redefining relationships with children, rebuilding relationships with friends, and rebuilding financial assets are big stressors and take time to evolve.

Remarriage and Blended Families: A new relationship is an opportunity to do it better than the last time. However, a biological parent's experience is very different than that of a step-parent. Negotiating new rules for a household, supporting children to develop a sense of respect for the step-parent, and communicating with the ex-spouse can all be a challenge. Helping children make sense of life in two different households can be hard on them and you. I can help you navigate this challenging terrain.

 

Anxiety

Anxiety is the worst. It keeps you up at night. It distracts you when you are trying to focus on work or visiting with friends. Worrying about the future can have you constantly bracing yourself for the worst case scenario. Friends and family try to boost your confidence with reassurance and encourage you to 'be in the moment' but that can leave you feeling misunderstood or frustrated and hopeless that you will ever find relief.

At it's worst, these worries can balloon into full time obsessions and it can feel impossible to relax. These fears include health anxieties, replaying the mistakes of past, or constant predictions about everything that could go wrong in the future and making never-ending plans to avoid a negative outcome. When anxieties are this bad, it is difficult to imagine anything ever changing and it can feel like "this is just the way I am." 

There is hope. You can learn separate from these fears, find a sense of peace, and get back to enjoying the things that really matter to you.

 

Depression 

Not Measuring Up

I have spent my career working with ‘outsiders’ --- people who have been treated by the culture like they are inadequate, abnormal, or disqualified as a person of worth. These exclusions are not just abstract or metaphorical. They are in micro-aggressions as well as the macro-aggressions of our institutions and communities. There are real effects of being pushed to the margins -- internally on one's sense of confidence, on the physical body, and in the limiting of some people's full access to groups and resources. 

Everyone is welcome in my practice. My office is a space where people can feel safe to be exactly who they want to be without shame and to make the choices they want without judgment. I have an explicitly anti-racist philosophy that seeks to understand the effects of white-supremacy and/or immigration on people's understanding of themselves and their safety in the world.  My work is not based on judgments and internalized pathologies but on the contexts that create and support anxiety, depression, trauma.  It is important to me that therapy be a space where that tiny, quiet voice can be spoken or where a person can go to let out a mighty roar.

Failures, Imposters and Broken Identities

I believe that most people are highly aware of what they feel are their ‘failures’. Our culture, jobs, and relationships can feel like they are constantly pointing out where we are too much or where we are not enough. How can a therapy that only makes clear all the things you are doing wrong increase your mood or decrease your anxiety?  Unlike some other therapies, our conversations will not be centered around all of the things you are doing wrong but instead on getting a clearer and clearer version of where you are headed and what is holding you back.

The world can feel like a place where people are constantly pointing out where we are too much -- too emotional, too lazy, too fat, too loud, or too difficult.  Or we have a voice in the back of our heads that is making us constantly aware of the ways we are not enough -- that we don’t have enough desire, self-esteem, resilience, or ability to 'be in the moment'. We will work to thread the needle between what you would like to change and what you can come to accept. You do not need to fix all of your flaws in order to be happy, healthy, and loved. 

 

Sex, Love & Identity

I have a lot of experience helping people bring forward different aspects of their sexual selves to get what they want out of love, relationships, and sex. I help couples have difficult conversations about desire and work together to get the sex life they dream of. Our conversations can help to unpack shame and connect to your feelings of arousal.

I am open to everyone’s orientation, gender, kink, and how they choose to identify themselves -- even if they don’t fit the mainstream and even if those definitions change over time. I enjoy collaborating with people to develop and support alternative relationship structures, helping people to create strong bonds and to find a community that supports their choices, even if those choices are outside of the box. 

 

Life & Career Transitions

Life is constantly changing. The need to adapt can be externally provoked by something like a pandemic, divorce, or children launching. Or change can be internally driven by a voice that says: "I am not happy. Something has to change." To keep growing, we need to be able to course correct, evolve and move ahead in new directions.  

It can be difficult to move forward because you are caught by all of the time you feel like you have wasted or everything you have already lost. Or, fear about the future and taking risks have you afraid to take that "big swing". It is important to look back and make sense of how you have ended up where you are. It is equally important to look forward, refine your goals, and to distinguish your preferences from the voices of the peanut-gallery of your life (real or imagined).

Whether it is a job or a relationship, I can help you figure out if something can be changed in your current circumstance or if you need to move on toward new horizons. 

Individual Therapy
  • Sadness and depression

  • Anxiety and stress management

  • Life transitions

  • Finding your passion

  • Sustaining hope and possibility in challenging circumstances

  • Problematic desires and addictions

  • Body image and eating disorders

  • Young adults moving toward independence

  • Sexuality, gender, orientation, identity, queer expression

Growth
  • Identity issues

  • Increasing sexual satisfaction 

  • Exploration of goals and dreams

  • Nurturing yourself

  • Creating balance

  • Finding your 'Yes' and finding your 'No'

  • Building a community

  • Increasing connections with others

  • Managing career and relationships

Relationships
  • Dating

  • Creating a partnership, couples moving towards marriage

  • Recovering from a breakup

  • Commitment and trust issues within couples

  • Infidelity

  • Stuck communication patterns

  • Parenting

  • Family communication

  • Separation and divorce

  • Second marriages and developing healthy blended families

© 2020 Ali Borden, LMFT. 310-845-5440