Like many, I came to this profession through my own life story as a “wounded healer.” My journey started when I went to medical school in Germany more than three decades ago. After a serious physical illness and a break from medical school, I ended up studying Buddhist meditation in Sri Lanka in 1980-1981. After graduation from medical school, I immigrated to the USA. By the early 1990’s I had become a clinical psychologist in California. I began integrating Buddhist with western psychology, as I found that this worked well for 20th/21st-century suffering.
For more than a decade I worked as a consultant, assisting people wounded by religious in authority. Those times helped me to become aware how tender our spiritual longing is, and how this longing can be confounded by harsh dogma and misuse of power. I was also part of a group “Survivors International,” working with survivors of political torture, who had found refuge in the US. During my seven years in San Francisco, I also worked with groups of survivors of sexual abuse at St. Mary’s Hospital. In addition, I facilitated a group directed to people challenged by an AIDS diagnosis in the late 1980ies and worked extensively with members of the LGBT community.
After practicing psychotherapy for seven years in San Francisco and Berkeley, I moved to Santa Barbara, where I opened a private practice in the mid-1990s. Nowadays I see clients with a variety of concerns, including depression and anxiety, many of whom seek help in times of relationship crises and major life changes. I work with those spiritually homeless and disappointed, who want to find their individual sense of spiritual connectedness. I work with many of those, who work with others who are suffering, with those who are social activist or teachers. I also specialize in seeing clients from international and minority backgrounds, helping them to bridge cultural and religious identities.
I draw upon an eclectic background, ranging from client-centered and Gestalt to psychodynamic and Jungian orientations. I have been studying mindfulness meditation, both as a personal practice and as a tool in psychotherapy, for 40 years. I have been exploring how dream work (dream-tending, embodied dream-tending, intuitive associations) and mindfulness meditation can work in complementary ways, deepening the therapeutic process. I have noticed how the development of a meditation practice has helped my clients to reduce their anxiety and embrace a fuller sense of self. My teaching is mentored for the past 12 years by Meditation teacher and psychologist Jack Kornfield, Ph.D. and for the past 2 years also by psychologist and Dzogchen/ Mahamudra meditation teacher Dan Brown, Ph.D. I also studied for over 10 years with Dzogchen meditation teacher Alan Wallace, Ph.D.and took the cultivating emotional balance training with him and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. in 2011.
I teach mindfulness meditation and dream work in many different settings both nationally and internationally. Many of my clients come to me because I approach psychotherapy with a solid psychotherapeutic foundation grounded in both Western and Buddhist psychotherapy.
I currently mentor two psychological assistants, and adjunct faculty of Pacifica Graduate Institute. My husband, Michael Kearney, M.D., a palliative care physician, and I are authors of several book chapters and a JAMA article on whole-person care, spiritual care, and mindfulness meditation. My book Heartwork: The Path of Self-compassion was published in July. Together Michael and I teach at conferences both nationally and internationally and give seminars and retreats on related topics. I had three children, Joshua, Bella and Benjamin and three step-children, MaryAnna, Claire and Ruth, including four step-grandchildren Elliot, Finn, Alex and Tilly.