Counselors & Therapists

All these are folks I know personally or professionally and have had a good sense of their work and their person. Shopping for a therapist is difficult, I know. It has been for me too. I hope this list is helpful. You might also explore the Somatic Experiencing and Organic Intelligence practitioner lists.

Many of these practitioners offer a sliding scale. Many also will do distance work via online video. For both, I recommend making contact first based on your hit that they might be a good person to work with, then ask about the logistics. When asking for a sliding scale, offer the highest you can honestly afford, taking your respect for this work and the long training these healers have undertaken into account.

Organic Intelligence

OI practitioners are not as often MFTs (“therapists”) as most of the below SE practitioners are, and the work can be distinct enough from classical therapy and SE that it wants its own category. So here are a few friends doing lovely OI work. Almost all are listed on the Organic Intelligence mentor list. Everyone is in the SF Bay Area except those noted otherwise.

Sara Oakes, SEP, OIX, CST [Website being redone, but you can email Sara here.]

Michelle Borok, LM, CPM (Berkeley, CA)

Ellah Ray, LM, CPM (Berkeley, CA)

Anthony “T” Maes (Berkeley, CA)

Maggie Brande, SEP, OI (San Francisco, CA)

Eliza Carlson, LMHC, CN, SEP (Seattle, WA)

Rebecca Renfrow, MS, SEP, LMHCA (Seattle, WA)

Bram Kaprow (Encinitas/San Diego, CA)

Robin Craig, LPC, SEP, OICC (Flagstaff, AZ)

Veronika Gold, MFT, SEP (San Francisco, CA)

Brent Morton (Berkeley, CA)

Randy Watson (Ashland, OR)

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Neuroception: How we know when we're safe

When our nervous system detects safety, our metabolic demands adjust. Stress responses that are associated with fight and flight, such as increases in heart rate and cortisol mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, are dampened. 

Similarly, a neuroception of safety keeps us from entering physiological states that are characterized by massive drops in blood pressure and heart rate, fainting, and apnea—states that would support “freezing” and “shutdown” behaviors.

How does the nervous system know when the environment is safe, dangerous, or life threatening? … Specific areas of the brain detect and evaluate features, such as body and face movements and vocalizations that contribute to an impression of safety or trustworthiness. … This process of identifying familiar and trustworthy people and evaluating the intentions of others based on “biological movements” of face and limbs seems to be located in the temporal lobe of the cortex. 

If neuroception identifies a person as safe, then a neural circuit actively inhibits areas of the brain that organize the defensive strategies of fight, flight, and freeze. Slight changes in the biological movements that we see can shift a neuroception from “safe” to “dangerous.” When this shift occurs, the neural systems associated with prosocial behavior are disrupted and the neural systems associated with defensive strategies are triggered.

In the presence of a safe person, then, the active inhibition of the brain areas that control defense strategies provides an opportunity for social behavior to occur spontaneously. Thus, the appearance of a friend or caregiver would subdue the neural circuits in the brain that regulate defensive strategies. 

And as a consequence, closeness, physical contact, and other social engagement behaviors become possible. In contrast, when situations appear risky, the brain circuits that regulate defense strategies are activated. Social approaches are met with aggressive behavior or withdrawal.

(Stephen Porges, Neuroception)