One of the most profound and universal realizations of later childhood, a realization that probably is never totally integrated, is the discovery that one's parents are not necessarily representative of the human species, that one has grown up in an idiosyncratically structured family with its own peculiarities and dramas.


As social beings, most of us feel the need for secure and rewarding social contact and relationships. This starts from infancy. The relationships we have throughout our lives deeply inform personality, behaviour, and emotions. Without secure and healthy relationships, individuals are more likely to experience anxiety and depression, and other mental illnesses as well as to feel lonely. I can help you work through past and current relationships in order to better understand how they affect you. Together, we can develop goals for forming healthier relationships in the future.

One of the most fundamental tools of therapy is the therapeutic relationship. Research repeatedly confirms that the single most important aspect of therapy is the therapist-client relationship. One of the ways that it is important to clients’ progress is that it symbolically begins to replace negative relationships in clients’ lives, thereby reorganising negative patterns of self belief and related emotions and behaviours. 

Attachment theory and research, beginning with Bowlby (1969) and Ainsworth (1973), demonstrates that the biggest predictor of attachment patterns in our relationships is the one we experienced with our primary caregiver as infants and children. The attachment pattern we form in our childhood tends to shape the emotional and behavioural reactions we have with others throughout our lives. In order to change negative patterns of attachment, it is necessary to understand and feel the full pain of our story. I often do this through creating a “narrative” of clients’ lives. This process of self-understanding is fundamental to the therapeutic process.

When a therapist reacts to a client in a different manner than he or she expects, with validation and greater attunement, the client has the opportunity to begin to form a new and healthier model of attachment. The formation of a secure attachment to the therapist has been demonstrated to be significantly associated with greater reductions in client distress. By experiencing a secure attachment with the therapist, clients can feel safe to start to work through some of their old trauma and to view themselves and others differently.

Long-legged wader in the family Recurvirostridae, aka common or pied stilt

Couples Therapy

I offer a semi-structured form of couples thearpy that usually takes place in 5-6 sessions, depending on each couple’s needs. During the first session, I meet with the couple together. During the 2nd and 3th sessions, I meet with each partner individually (one each week or both over the course of one week) to further assess each partner’s feelings and goals for the relationship, and during the 4th, 5th, and 6th (if needed) session, I meet with the couple together to systematically work through areas of difficulty and to create lasting and fulfilling solutions. The therapy is supportive and non-judgemental, and starts from a place of respect.

Couples therapy can be helpful for those who are considering commitment or divorce/breakup. It can profoundly change relationships by helping to facilitate better communication so that couples are able to talk more openly, listen better, resolve disagreements, and learn to be supportive and non-reactive. 

Working on keeping relationships interesting is an integral part of couples therapy. Developing more satisfying or greater intimacy is key to a healthy relationship. Brainstorming together to find ways to take the dullness out of relationships and to commit to creating specific couples time together is often a key part of couples therapy. 

Other issues that are often central to couples work are parenting, dealing with in-laws, money, lifestyle, life changes, health issues, and addiction.

While the idea of beginning couples therapy can be daunting, I find that typically couples are able to resolve issues and find greater intimacy by the end of our work together. It always makes me happy to hear from couples months or years after ending therapy with news of babies, marriage, or greater harmony in the relationship. 

Please email me if you have questions about commencing couples therapy with me. 

Comfort Shields Therapy