Victory Over Sexual Abuse: A Client’s Story

August 4, 2010

I was so moved by a note that I received from a former client that I asked and received permission from her to share her story.  She stated that if hearing her story helps someone else, she’s all for it.  I am, of course, changing the details so that she won’t be identified, and the basic facts are true.

It has been ten (10) years since Chloe (fictitious name) started treatment with me.  We worked together for approximately two (2) years.  She had been referred to me by another client.

Chloe was a very attractive young woman in her early thirties.  She was very bright and extremely creative.  She had her own successful business, designing, making and selling beautiful handmade, expensive, usable items.

Chloe came to see me because she was having a “nervous breakdown” as a result of finding out that her sister had been molested by their father.   

Her story was heartbreaking.  She had been sexually abused by her father from the age of seven (7) until she was in her teens.  At the age of ten (10), she started to think about suicide.  She started drinking regularly and using drugs occasionally.  She was in a major freeway accident in her early twenties, and hadn’t driven since.  She felt she just couldn’t continue living the way that she had been.  She wanted much more from her life than she was getting.  She picked very unsatisfactory men and her relationships were unhealthy.  She often deliberately cut herself.  She knew that she had to do something.  She couldn’t go on living feeling as though she were damaged goods, and that she would never find love.

Chloe had both male and female siblings.  As we worked together and I heard her story, I knew that I had to report her father.  She did not want me to do that.  I was very concerned because she had another sister at home.  We made a contract that if she found out that he had sexually abused her youngest sister, she would give me the information I needed to report him.  She never would give me that information.  I took what little I had and reported him.  She was very angry and left treatment with me.

Before that happened, however, she met a man with whom she fell in love.  Although still not totally sure that she really deserved love, after our work together, she allowed herself to at least test whether or not she could accept his love and caring.  The last picture I have in my mind of her was the two of them, holding hands and walking away.

I thought about Chloe often over the years and wondered how she was doing.  Suddenly, a week or so ago, I received a note from her that brought tears to my eyes.  She thanked me for the work that I did with her, although  she is the one who actually did the work.  Since we last met, she wrote that  she had closed her business and is thinking about opening a new one.  She reported her father and is facing and coping with the consequences of her family’s wrath against her.  She is with the man whom she loves and he loves her deeply and she has the most gorgeous little girl.

To quote her, “In a nutshell I have to say that I no longer feel like the abuse I endured defines me. I had to shed those shackles in order to get past it and be happy being me.”

Hearing from Chloe and learning how happy and content she is–this is what makes me so passionate about this work and so grateful to my clients for letting me accompany them on these extremely painful journeys.


If any of you reading this have any comments or questions, please feel free to get in touch with me either by phone, 415-474-6707, or email to


What do Your Dreams Say to You?

July 20, 2010


The other night I dreamt that I was walking down some stairs and a tall, elegant black woman was walking up the stairs.  She looked at me and asked me, “What do you do?”  I answered, “I’m a psychotherapist.”  She responded, “Oh, then you are your own authority.”

When I awoke, I thought, “What does it mean to be my own authority?”.

As with many questions, it is often easier to say what that does not mean.  First of all, it does not mean being an expert.  Although I have expertise, special skills and knowledge, in a number of treatment  areas, I am not an expert.  I always have more to learn, and, truth be told, I love doing so.  Secondly, it does not mean controlling everyone and everything else around me.  Much as I might like to, I cannot control what anyone else says, thinks, feels or does.  I can only control myself.  I’m sure that there are many more examples of what it doesn’t mean to be my own authority, and I’d rather look at the positive aspects.

There is a great deal of freedom in becoming my own authority, and it does take work to get there.  What do I have to do in order to become my own authority?  I must learn to “know” myself.  I don’t only mean “know”  in terms of what I like and don’t like.  I knew for a long time that there were parts of me that I liked and parts that I didn’t like;  I knew what foods I liked and those that I didn’t like;  I knew the kinds of clothes that I liked and those that I didn’t like.  On a very superficial level, these were things that I knew about myself.  It wasn’t until I started training to become a counselor, which included being in therapy, that I really got to know myself;  how I made myself happy and/or unhappy;  how unaware I was that I was angry and/or fearful.  It was only as I began dealing with my own issues that I began to be a “whole” person and able to  relate to others more fully.  The more I began to know myself and my feelings, the more options I had on how to react.

It was only in this way that I could become my own authority.  I still feel many things that I don’t necessarily like to feel, and I can deal with them.  I have no need to control others, and there is a great deal of freedom in that.

I would love to discuss any of this with you.  Please feel free to call me and thanks for reading this far.

Have You Had to Say “Good-Bye” to Your Pet?

July 15, 2010

If you have looked at my web site, you have met my co-therapist, Dafka.  If you haven’t met him, I invite you to check out my web site, therapywithzora.

Dafka is big and black.  He is English bull terrier, lab and pit mix, and he is almost four years old.  I love my dog dearly.  He makes me laugh, and I do get very angry with him.  It took me a long time to get him.

Before I got Dafka, long before I got Dafka,  I had a cat, the first cat I had ever owned.  He was a beautiful gray Siamese Lilac Point, and I loved him dearly.  His name was Khamudi which means “My Sweet” in Hebrew.  Cats are supposed to live a long time, right?  I expected to have Khamudi with me for at least twelve or fifteen years.  This, however, was not to be.  At age four or so, Khamudi got sick, very sick.  I won’t explain to you what was wrong with him.  Suffice it to say that I did everything I could to save him.  I feel very badly at what I did with him trying to save him, and I would never do that again.

I know, now, that what I was doing when I subjected him to all those indignities, when I humiliated and tormented Khamudi by all of the treatments I put him through;  I was trying to postpone my feelings of grief and loss over not having my beautiful cat in my life.  We do grieve our animals and this is normal and natural.  We have tended them, and nursed them, and caressed them.  They, in turn, have tended us, nursed us, and caressed us.  They have made us laugh, and maybe made us cry.  They have also made us angry.  No matter what our other feelings are, we love our pets, and it is wrenching to say good-bye to them.

There are certain feelings which we go through when we are grieving the loss of a loved one, including our pets.  They are:






We do not go through these feelings in a straight line, from one to the other.  We jump around and may certainly feel more than one at the same time.  There is also no “acceptable” time for going through these feelings.  People may say, “Get over it already”.  Please do not believe them.  It will take you as long as it takes you to grieve the beautiful animal that was a part of your life.

If you would like to talk about your feelings, about the loss of your pet, or any other losses, please feel free to get in touch with me.  Just know that whatever it is you’re feeling is normal and natural;  and it is important for you to go at your own pace.


April 4, 2010

Eastern philosophies and cultures, including medicine, have always recognized and acknowledged the unity of mind, body and emotions. Western culture and philosophy, on the other hand until recently, have taken a very dualistic approach to healing. Still, within that dualistic approach there has been an unacknowledged recognition of the impact the emotions have on the body and vise versa.

Try this: close your eyes, imagine you’re hearing the most beautiful music. It gives you goose pimples.  Let yourself feel the goose pimples. What are the emotions that go with hearing that music? Now, someone in the orchestra hits a discordant note. What happens in your body and what are the feelings that go with that discordant note?

Now imagine someone is hollering at you.  You feel angry. How do you know you are angry?  What are your body’s clues, and what do you feel like doing? What is going on in your body that tells you are angry; or, in reverse, you have a pain in the neck. What are the emotions that go with that pain in the neck? Is there someone you want to tell to get off your back?

Are you sometimes so overcome with emotion that you feel weak in the knees? Have you ever been broken-hearted?

These are just a few examples illustrating the mind/emotion/body connection. Self-awareness is Somatic – in the body. Therefore, the most effective way in which to relearn and work through early emotional deprivations and emotional traumas is to deal with the body – emotional holding patterns that are fixed and held within the body. Recognizing the mind/emotion/body connection and working with it enables people to expand their options and to find their voices so that they may be truly present in the world.

I would love to speak with you about this.  What do you do when you feel this way?  Please feel free to call me at 415-474-6707 or email me at


November 7, 2009

I have the most wonderful clients and I’m so honored that they allow me to journey with them.  One of them is a young Lesbian woman whom I treated for several years.  I still see her occasionally, and have her permission to tell her story.

She came to me because she was in a difficult relationship.  She knew that she wasn’t happy and didn’t know what to do about it. Should she stay or should she go?  She was a very successful scientist working primarily on cancer research, very bright and very much in her head.  Her primary feelings were mad, glad, sad or bad.

During her first visit, she didn’t want to answer some “personal” questions which she didn’t see as relevant to what she was going through.  She did work very hard and eventually came to realize that she was entitled to be in a warm and loving relationship.  She learned to receive and didn’t always have to be the giver.

As luck would have it, she was offered a very high position in a biotech company in San Diego and moved there.  She has a warm and loving relationship and realizes that she is worth having good things in her life.

Very unfortunately, she contracted ovarian cancer, and she is now a three (3) year ovarian cancer survivor.  She decided that she wanted to do more than survive.  She wanted to make a contribution and help others who are attacked by this horrible disease. She started THE CLEARITY FOUNDATION which helps fund research and helps cancer patients who can’t afford treatment.  Please check out their web site.

A few weeks ago, THE CLEARITY FOUNDATION had a fund raiser at the new Academy of Science here in San Francisco.  What a thrill it was to hear about some of the research which is focusing on individualized treatment of cancer based on a person’s genes.

As I said before, I am so honored to be allowed to accompany someone on a journey that starts with a small step and that can lead to help for so many others.

Thank you so much, Laura.

Is anger bad, scary, powerful, forbidden, masculine?

October 4, 2009

Most of us have been taught to associate anger with the adjectives listed above, and these are difficult words to eliminate from our heads. There is actually nothing wrong with feeling anger. Anger is a very powerful emotion which can be used in either a positive or negative way. It can empower us to achieve our goals or impede and distract us. As with other emotions, anger, by itself is neither good nor bad, it just IS. It is what we DO with our feelings, including anger,our behaviors, that can uplift us or damage us. Thus, the more we become aware of our emotions, the more options we have.


1.  Acknowledge that you are feeling angry.

2.Tune into your body sensations: Blood pounding; Teeth clenched; Jaw tight; Breath rapid.

3. Begin to focus on your breath, saying “in” and “out” as you inhale and exhale.

4. Be aware that anger can give you important information about your beliefs and feelings.

5. Take a time out or weigh another possible appropriate action that will allow you to deal with your anger.

6. After being honest with yourself and accepting responsibility for your anger, congratulate yourself on handling your anger in a positive and life-affirming way.

I am very interested in hearing from you about how you deal with anger and how it impacts on your relationships.  I look forward to your comments.  If you’d like to talk with me about any of this, I’d be delighted to talk with you.  You can reach me at 415-474-6707 or email to

Thanks for reading.

Waiting–Can You Guess for What?

September 21, 2009

your car

Did you guess correctly about what I was waiting for?  As you can see from the date of my last post, I’ve been looking out of the window for quite a while.

Depending on what it is, just looking out of the window doesn’t bring us what we want.  We have to take some action.

Are you waiting for something in your relationship?  If you are, does your partner know that you are waiting?  What action can you take in order to get what you want?

Sometimes we need help in looking at our options.  I know.  I’ve been there.  I’d love to help you.  You deserve to get what you want. We can explore your options together.

Come On Out and Play!

August 8, 2009

The couple who plays together stays together. Well, maybe that’s not totally true and think back to when you were younger and what it meant to play.  Remember how much fun you had then?  Remember how you felt about your playmates and friends?  There’s no reason why you can’t have fun now, too, especially with someone you love.

Play isn’t just for children. In fact, experts claim it’s beneficial for adults, too. It’s good for your mind, body, and soul–and it can do wonders for a relationship. You can discover your inner child together;  form a closer bond.

“Research is showing that play is a basic need—a biological requirement for normal growth and development,” says Stuart Brown, president of the National Institute for Play and author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. “Play helps learning, memory, and well-being. It sculpts responsive, socially adept, and flexible brains. Play can make us smarter and more adaptable all our lives.”

What kinds of play time can you think of that both you and your partner would enjoy?  What do you think your partner would say?  Schedule a play time together or just begin to play spontaneously.  Let me know what happens.

Rain or Rainbow?

July 15, 2009

Has the rainbow gone from your relationship?  Is there now more rain than rainbow?  Is that the way that you want your relationship to be?


The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. When I’m inspired, I get excited because I can’t wait to see what I’ll come up with next. Find out who you are and do it on purpose. – Dolly Parton

I just found this Dolly Parton quote.  It says a lot to me about possibilities.  What does it say to you?  I’d be honored to have you share your thoughts and feelings with me and  I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


July 12, 2009

When we speak of “bad” words, we generally mean swear words and/or “four-letter” words.  There are other words, however, which are very important to have in your vocabulary, and on a deeper level are often considered “bad”–or, at the very least, not okay.  For instance, what do you feel when you hear your partener say, “No, I don’t want to”? There are three (3) words in that sentence, three very short words, which are very important.

When your partner uses the word “NO”, or you use the word “NO“,  it does not mean that  you or they are being stubborn or obstinate.  It means that you’re both expressing yourselves.  Both of you need to be encouraged to use it appropriately because as you get older there will be more and more occasions when you and/or your partner will want to say “NO”.  Besides which, when you say “YES” when you really want to say “NO”, you will get angry at the person asking the question and you will be angry with yourself.

Another very powerful word is the one letter word “I”.  When you speak in terms of “I”, you are expressing yourself and are also taking responsibility for what you say and do. It is your ego and you want  to feel good about yourself.  One of my daughters, while in Junior High School, once had to write a paper about herself without using the word “I”.   I was outraged.  “I” is related to self-esteem and a sense of individuality; something that should be encouraged in everyone.  It is known that low self-esteem is one of the causes of emotional and behavioral problems.

The third important word in this sentence is “WANT”.  We all want;  it doesn’t matter what it is–whether it is a new car, good health, high grades, etc.  We all WANT.  It is critical that you learn to express your “wants”.  You may not always get what you want, very few people do,  and being able to say what you want without being put down or demeaned for it is vital to your well-being.

So you see, the sentence, “No, I don’t want to”, has more meaning than just the words in it.  Accepting these words from someone, not necessarily agreeing with them, can help build a  sense of self-esteem and self worth;  can let you  take responsibility; can let you know that it is okay to want something even though you may not get it;  and can instill  feelings of being worthwhile human beings.

In relationships, it is not unusual to have misunderstandings and miscommunication with a partner, especially when expressing your needs and wants.  I would love to help you explore these issues.  Please feel free to contact me at 415-474-6707 or email me at