Why I became a therapist

The weather’s been gorgeous. The tulips are blooming. The first day of spring has arrived here in Northern California.


A perfect day to share my big news with you: on February 27th I passed the final test and am now officially a licensed professional clinical counselor!

You might be wondering what all this means. Well, a clinical counselor (or LPCC) is similar to a marriage and family therapist (or MFT). Even though LPCCs have been licensed in other states for many years, California was the last to get on board.

When the legislation finally passed, those of us who were already working as unlicensed counselors had the option to be grandparented in. That basically meant that we’d have a limited amount of time to clear up any deficiencies, but we could proceed without the intense scrutiny directed at new counselor interns.

So the clock’s been ticking.

My deadline to finish everything was yesterday, March 19th. The final day of winter.

Let me tell you, the past eight months have been intense. In fact, I had to become a bit of a recluse, studying for (and passing) three tough exams.

What a relief to be done. Now I can add another slash to my already slash-filled existence:

Therapist/Life Coach/Career & Life Transitions Counselor/Relationship Coach

Which probably begs the question…Why did I do this?

Here’s a hint: I did it for me. And for you.

Let me explain that by backing up a bit and telling you about something that happened over a decade ago. Something I remember like it was yesterday.

On that particular day one of my clients needed to tell a difficult story, rooted in the past. There was pain. There were tears.

After awhile she looked up and said, “Is it okay for me to tell you this? I feel like I dumped all over you.”

Maybe I remember it like it was yesterday because it happened more than once, some version of it at least. Other clients wondering: am I allowed to go here with you?

In those early days I discovered that simply saying — It’s okay, I’m a trained counselor — helped my clients give themselves permission to let go and explore freely.

Still, it bothered me that they sometimes held back.

I felt boxed in, like clients saw my role as a holistic career counselor as being too small to encompass the depth and breadth of their lives and emotions.

So when coaching beckoned to me in 2005 I completed training and certification in both life and relationship coaching. I reasoned that it would be a larger invitation for clients: Please, bring it all. Your entire life is welcome here.

For the most part, that worked out, although eventually I ended up feeling a bit boxed in by coaching too. Not the process of coaching, which I love, but the way the profession had positioned itself: coaches only deal with the present and future, never the past. It didn’t help that pretty much anyone could put up a shingle and call themselves a life coach.

So, as it turned out, life coaching ended up being somewhat small too.

Right about now you might be thinking my career has been a lot like the Goldilocks story, searching for the version that fits just right.

The good news is that one sunny morning a few years ago my search came to an end.

On that morning I was musing about my clients: who they are, what they talk about, what they want.

And in one quick flash I landed on this truth: no matter what my clients are working on in our sessions (personal, work or relationship issues), most of them aren’t locked in one spot in time or one area of life.

Instead, they tend to flow back and forth. Feeling and thinking. Past, present, future. Life, career, friendships, partnerships. Planning, insight and action. Healing and growing. Looking back and looking forward.

In other words, they (and you) can’t be boxed in.

Many of us are built this way, after all. We need a deep, rich inner experience that honors who we’ve been and who we’re becoming, as well as encouragement and support for taking action.

We don’t do so well at compartmentalizing. When we try to we get blocked. Stuck. Frozen.

That was the day I realized two important things.

First, that therapy and counseling and coaching aren’t separate professions, but rather all part of the same helping continuum.

And second, most of my clients are moving back and forth on that continuum, not anchored at one particular place.

I knew then that I was being called to step up. Because if my mission truly is to meet you right where you are, I must move and flow with you all along that continuum. And in order to claim my work as a therapist, and be in integrity about it, the State of California tells me I must be licensed.

Here’s how my vision has unfolded during these last few years:

Therapy. Counseling. Coaching. Beautiful threads, all woven together.

Each thread there for you when you need it.

Each thread receding into the background when you don’t need it.

I consider it a remarkable bit of serendipity that at the same time I was beginning to voice this then-tentative vision, the opportunity arrived to become a LPCC.

It’s been a tremendously meaningful (and sometimes difficult) journey to bring this vision to life. But now that I’m here, it feels so good!

So to all my subscribers, readers, clients, colleagues, and friends, I send deep gratitude to you for being on this journey with me.

And I want you to know: even though I did it for me, I truly did it for you too.

p.s. This is a photo of a shrine I made to commemorate my journey. More about that next month.


So just what is it I do now?

I help bright, caring, creative women (and sometimes men) find their way back to their deepest wisdom, so they can live, love and work in harmony with what truly matters to them.

I offer a continuum of services to meet your needs:

psychotherapy and personal counseling :: uncover and share your stories, heal from past hurts, learn to nurture yourself, honor your needs, increase self esteem and develop mindful approaches to stress, worry, anxiety and depression.

holistic career counseling :: excavate the yearnings, themes and inner knowing that will guide you toward a purposeful career path that reflects who you are at your core.

life coaching :: wisely navigate transitions and make room for the dreams and desires that want space at the table of your life.

couples coaching :: revive the bond between you and your partner, enhance your communication and create a shared vision for your relationship.

women’s circles, retreats, and events :: get support, encouragement and community for your personal growth journey with a blend of group coaching and expressive arts activities.

6 thoughts on “Why I became a therapist

  1. Congratulations again, dear Patty! I hope you are relaxing and giving yourself time to catch your breath. I love your shrine and the way the threads are woven together and not. No boxes for us, my friend! I thank outside the box for you and your kindness in my life. ♥

  2. Wonderful Patty! Congrats for finishing this leg of your life journey. I miss so many of your news bits because of the way Goggle puts newsletters in the promo area. I forget to go in there for months on end and just did now.

    All your threads look fab for folks to partake of your giving talents.

    Best wishes!


    • Hi G! Isn’t that annoying about Google? I’ve deleted their boxes so now I don’t have to deal with them.

      I so appreciate you stopping by. It’s been wonderful to know you throughout this journey.

  3. I am so proud of you:~) And you ARE a wise woman. I loved what you said about people being on a continuum and needing to go back and forth between the past, the present and what they hope for in the future.

    While I already knew you were an excellent therapists/coach/mentor and friend, this just makes it all the more fulfilling. To see how you’ve creativity mapped out what you wanted from life and then accomplished it…well, that’s the best advertisement for your gifts there ever was.

    You go, girl…no, that’s not right…YOU GO, WISE WOMAN!

    • I’m so glad that continuum metaphor resonates for you Sara. I feel passionately that we helping professionals need to stop putting people in boxes and saying I can only do this or that with you!

      And from one wise woman to another: thank you so much for your validation and kind words of celebration!

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