SallybyHerb_s (18K)


With therapy, advanced education, and consultation with masters, Sally Watkins has become a highly trained and deeply empathic professional, having survived and healed from some of the same situations her clients are experiencing.

She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Carnegie Mellon University and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Maryland at Baltimore. A member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers since 1978, she has since 1989 practiced in California as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She worked with Eugene Alexander PhD in Gestalt practice for four years, consulted with Stephen Johnson, PhD for five years in Object Relations, and for 8 years with Jim Doak in the Sacramento Gestalt Training Group. She took three one-month training programs in Gestalt at Esalen Institute as well as several workshops with Jungian analyst Marion Woodman.


The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you,
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want,
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds meet,
The door is round and open,
Don’t go back to sleep.

    It is frightening to imagine who I would be today without psychotherapy. I began in my thirties with groups and self-help books and eventually sacrificed many non-essentials for the one luxury I truly couldn't live without-individual therapy. Most of what I bring personally to my clients now I learned in a violent abusive childhood and on the long steep climb out of that hell.

    Clients sometimes want help for their current problems and don't want to go back and dig into their childhood wounding. Whether we explore the current situation or the events of childhood, it often has the same result. Our beliefs about the world and our behavior patterns were formed in childhood and they often continue into our present reality. One client had a violent abusive father and learned early that authority was capricious and unpredictable. He would have unbearable anxiety when called to the boss' office and catastrophized the worst scenarios on his way there. In that instant the stress of the situation would regress him to childhood and standing before his supervisor he would feel like an eight year old and not an accomplished professional. I'm working with a young woman whose mother would have severe mood swings and not speak to her for days. The girl felt punished for these withdrawals and took responsibility for her mother's moods. Now when a close friend or lover is not forthcoming with supportive or caring statements she regresses and begins to feel that their silence is a negative statement directed to her. If you doubted your value as a five year old you may doubt it now. If the world was unsafe at three it may continue to be scary. If your mother was critical and disparaging, you don't need her around anymore to feel badly about yourself. You can do it better for yourself now. When clients tell me that they were too ashamed to admit how much pain they were having and that they were too distrusting to believe that anyone would care or be able to help them, I know that just the act of telling me is a gift of trust and a step toward healing.

    Depression, anxiety, and addiction are symptoms among others - not the disease itself. The disease which underlies these symptoms is our separation from our self. Inside we have internalized that parent who taught us we weren't enough, or who punished us for being too independent, or who abandoned us to their own needs. When we excavate our true self and discover the faithful internal support and wise guide that lives inside us life becomes easier. When we develop commitment to our self  and learn to love and value our self  and begin to give to our self  and open up to that internal well of knowledge, love, and guidance-the source of which is infinite-we magically are able to take in the love and support and nurturing from others. The effects of therapy are subtle and not necessarily obvious. Being able to feel a breeze, hear the bird, smell the lavender, taste the peach, or see the love in another's face is a testimony to its power. Until I love myself and feel lovable I am unable to accept the love of another no matter how much I want it and to what lengths I go to try to get it. When love is not forthcoming it often has more to do with ourselves and how we block it.

    Therapy is not for the feint of heart. We must first dismantle the defensive armor that protected and supported us-our survival gear. We must be willing to go through a period of disintegration and confusion and vulnerability until we can put ourselves together in a new healthier way. The therapist can be the good parent or the holding place for us, can interpret landmarks on the path that mark the way, can help decipher the language of dreams, can respect the difficulty of the task and our courage and can recognize and celebrate our small victories. Above all, the therapist will love us in that non-possessive way that we may never have been loved before. She will align with us and deeply trust our process. She will believe that everything we did was in the service of learning and growth no matter how bad we may view it. She will be a true ally, a champion for our deep truth, a midwife for our spirit.

    In a different way, the therapy process will enable us to work through the developmental tasks we missed growing up, will deepen our maturity, will help us become true emotional adults. When we have revealed to ourselves our self-loathing, our distorted belief systems, and our self-destructive behavior, we are less able to continue those patterns. There is no timetable, no urgency. It is a process that once begun continues forever. Once you are awakened you never want to go back to sleep. The experience of having a therapist may end but the task of continuing to learn and grow does not.

    Dreams have, since the days of the caveman, been a way for our unconscious to speak to us, to receive important information in the form of symbols and images. Remembering and recording dreams and working with their meaning in therapy can be a powerful tool in our recovery process. The gestalt process of personifying the dream symbols and allowing them to speak to us is a particularly useful way to get clarity.

    It's important to feel the anger of what was done to us during our vulnerable and formative years that wounded us deeply and affected us for years afterward. It is appropriate and necessary to express the resentment and sometimes hate that is directed to people who used us or did not care for us or violated our trust. These are deep betrayals that are impossible to understand or accept. If we continue to feel like a victim, we may become stuck in our self-righteous pain and stunt our development. I think with help it is possible eventually to recognize that we are stronger in the broken places. We are able to find the gift in the hit and grow beyond the wounding. We may be able to see that the perpetrator was himself defective and limited and wounded also, that parents despite loving us and doing their best were inadequate and impaired. There is the bigger tragedy in becoming locked in anger, blame, and victimization.

    It is often difficult to justify giving yourself the gift of therapy when you have little value for your self, or when you mistakenly view being interested in yourself as selfish, or when it is hard to turn away from the external stimulation and approval you crave to look inside. I encourage you to place the highest value on this one life and make that financial and personal investment it takes to become whole. There is nothing more rewarding for this therapist than to travel with a client who is willing to take that journey.

In Therapy with Sally, You can Expect:

  • To be listened to deeply and supportively.
  • To uncover your strengths, survival strategies, life scripts, coping mechanisms, and belief systems.
  • To recognize the learning in mistakes, the positive motivation in your life choices.
  • To participate actively in your healing, and identify the unique ways you learn and grow.
  • To understand your “psychological work”, the necessary steps to moving through your stuck places.
  • To have the opportunity to internalize a wise and loving presence where once a critical or abandoning or negative parent once lived.
  • To develop more self-confidence.
  • To understand the power in taking risks.