The San Francisco “No Ban/No Wall” march on Saturday

I talked with so many folks over the past few days about how taking action can sometimes make you feel better in these stressful times, that I wanted to share info about the “No Ban/No Wall” march happening Saturday in San Francisco.

No Ban No Wall

From the SURJ Bay Area “human billboard” last weekend

Many clients, and friends, have said that going to rallies like their local Women’s March or the airport protests made them feel less alone and hopeless, more connected and capable of standing strong as part of an intersectional community of care.


Me at the Portland Women’s March January 21, 2017

On the other hand, if you need some cute animals, I am prescribing regular doses of Bored Panda.  Because sometimes you need cute animals too.

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Homo for the holidays

Whit Ryan, Point Foundation Scholar

Whit Ryan, Point Foundation Scholar

My dear friend and trusted colleague Whit Ryan was selected as a Point Foundation Scholar this year, to help support his graduate studies in sports psychology focusing on the needs and well-being of queer and trans athletes. He’s written a two-part blog post, beginning here and finishing at the Point Foundation’s blog, on being queer at the holidays and coping with questions like “should I go home?  How do I deal with all my family’s BS if I do? How will they penalize me if I don’t?” that inevitably come up for LGBTQ people with less-supportive families.

Among other things, he offers some great resources for those who may be feeling lonely, alienated, or even suicidal – a common experience for marginalized people during this “festive” season.  He includes a link to one of my favorite non-profits, the trans* and gender-queer crisis line Trans LifeLine, where I’m proud to be an advisory board member.

Take care of yourselves out there.

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The Day After

2016 has been a notoriously difficult year for many folks in my circles. Folks have joked that maybe David Bowie was the only thing holding the universe together and the wheels have started coming off since his death, but in all seriousness there has been a lot of crisis, grief, and loss going around this year. Some of which may just be that this is how life looks once you’re firmly in your 40s: Your childhood heroes start dropping like flies; your friends and family members start confronting the realities of vulnerable, aging bodies; and you actually pay attention to things like the impact of international politics on your retirement savings. (Many of us from Generation X barely even have retirement savings, thanks.)

The escalation of global terrorist attacks, increased awareness of U.S. police killing Black people, and desperate flow of refugees away from war and terror haven’t made the year any less terrible.

But this election has been notoriously painful and poisonous, particularly for women, people of color, and GLBTQ folks. Kids of color have reported being bullied and taunted at school “Trump is going to send you back to your country!” and worse. My hairstylist’s son was too scared to go trick-or-treating on Halloween, and has asked his mom if she’ll be sent back to China. Trans people have already been subject to PTSD-inducing levels of stress by watching their very existence be debated on national TV, sometimes in the most crude and violating terms. Women everywhere are talking about having trauma flashbacks to their own experiences of harassment and assault thanks to the lionization of a self-confessed groper who has made verbally abusing women into a personal sport.

I understand that calls to crisis hotlines are spiking today. People feel vulnerable, afraid, and despairing.

If you are in crisis, please reach out for help:

National Sexual Assault Hotline (  (800) 656-HOPE (4673)

The Trevor Project: (866) 488-7386

Trans Lifeline: US: (877) 565-8860/Canada: (877) 330-6366

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  (800) 273-8255

Trevor Project self-care guide

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I’m speaking at AAMFT 2016!


I’ll be presenting a workshop at AAMFT 2016 in Indianapolis next week.  My talk is called “Difficult Dialogues: A Cultural Humility Approach to Broaching Cultural Issues,” and you can have a look at my slides at the link there.  It’s a fairly similar talk to the one I gave at the ACA Conference in Montreal earlier this year with the help of my colleague Steve Schoser, but tailored for MFTs and improved based on the feedback we got from attendees.  (Now with bonus W. Kamau Bell video!)

Workshop 301 is from 2:15 – 4:15 on Friday, September 16th.

Friday will be a pretty busy day for me, because I’m also part of a panel in Workshop 200 from 8:30am – 10:30am that morning:  “Cutting Edge LGBTQ Research and Practice: Informed Therapy.”  I’ll be sharing the stage with a number of colleagues who have all been doing research and writing about working with LGBTQ clients in different ways.  I’ll summarize the work I’ve been doing with Dr. Deb Coolhart  about working with queer and trans* couples from an intersectional perspective.  We explored some of our ideas in an article in Family Process last fall, and we’ll have a chapter in an upcoming book on Problem-Based Learning that looks at how therapists can develop their case conceptualization for couple work based on our model.  I can’t wait to hear my colleagues’ presentations on their work, and take questions from the audience!


Posted in Dr. Sheila Addison, Education, GLBT, Marriage, Presentations, Queer theory, Research, Social justice | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

AAMFT-CA Conference: San Francisco

I’m presenting today at the AAMFT-CA division conference at SFSU.  It’s great to be with my colleagues and see friends from other universities and agencies around the state.

I’ll be presenting on Size Acceptance and Health at Every Size for MFTs; my slide deck is available on here.

It’s a great conference with an emphasis on diverse clients of all kinds.  I’m looking forward to hearing about cultural competence with Asian families with LGBTQ youth later this afternoon, as well as resiliency in the BDSM/kink community.  This morning, I’m listening to my friend and colleague Robert-Jay Green talk about queer couples, a topic close to my heart (and he cited my recent paper with Deb Coolhart!  Squee!)

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New publication in “Family Process”!

I’m proud to announce that I’ve written a new article with my friend and colleague Dr. Deb Coolhart for the journal Family Process which is published in its latest issue.  Our article, titled “Expanding the Therapy Paradigm with Queer Couples: A Relational Intersectional Lens” is part of a special issue edited by Dr. Robert-Jay Green of the Rockway Institute, focused on cutting-edge work with GLBTQ clients.

Dr. Coolhart and I particularly wanted to highlight the way that our queer couples are often challenging the status quo in many dimensions of their lives, not just their gender and/or sexuality.  Same-sex couples are more likely to have large age differences, and to include partners of different races, religions, ethnicities, class backgrounds, and educational levels, than mixed-sex couples.  They are also more likely to choose negotiated non-monogamy (sometimes called “open relationships” or “polyamory.”)

Bringing these dimensions into the conversation also requires us to consider our own identities as the therapist.  As a woman, when I work with two men or two women, the subject of gender comes up differently than it does if I work with a male/female couple, but my cisgender identity should also be considered particularly when one or both partners are transgender or genderqueer.  Couples are often looking for signs that the therapist might be favoring one member, so when I share some of my identities with one partner but not the other, I want us to talk about how our similarities and differences are part of the conversation even before any of us speaks a word in session, to get potential concerns out in the open and consider how they might influence our relationship.

Dr. Coolhart and I actually think that our article has a lot to say that is helpful to therapists working with straight couples as well – after all, it’s not just queer couples who navigate difference and similarity (and the power imbalances they can create) on a daily basis.  We’re excited to have our article published in the most influential Family Studies journal out there, and hope to get the chance to follow up with some writing about our experience working with polyamorous relationships sometime soon.

Posted in Dr. Sheila Addison, GLBT, MFT, Queer theory, Research, Social justice, Trans | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Hello from ASDAH!

I’m at the Association for Size Diversity and Health conference this weekend in Boston, MA, and I’m very excited to get to give a presentation tomorrow called “Fat Studies & Mental Health – A New Intersectional Lens.”  It’s part of their “Difficult Conversations” weekend, which began this evening with a group dinner, a discussion of how to bravely engage in difficult dialogues facilitated by fellow Oaklandish gal Lisa Marie Alatorre, and radical poetry by Sonya Renee Taylor.

I’m really fortunate to be here – I was asked to serve as a program alternate when the committee reviewed proposals, and just a few weeks ago, they told me they’d had a presenter drop out so they had space for me after all.  Although it was a bit of a scramble to put together this trip, Boston is beautiful and walking by the Boston Public Garden today on my way back to the hotel from lunch, I felt incredibly grateful to be getting this opportunity to share with other Health at Every Size professionals about a topic that’s so important to me:  ending weight stigma in mental health, and adding an intersectional understanding of body size and HAES to mental health training programs.

I’ve made the presentation available at Slideshare, so feel free to take a look!

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New announcements for 2015

It’s two months into the new year, and there have been lots of new things happening in my world.  Most importantly, I’ve been working as the Interim Program Director for the master’s in Clinical Counseling  at Alliant International University in San Francisco since the fall semester.  Meaning, I’ve had to reduce the amount of time I spend seeing clients because I have obligations to students and faculty.

However, I spent all of 2014 providing supervision for a terrific MFT intern, Kim Paulus, who passed her two licensing exams right before the holidays (great job, Kim!) and received her license number from the state just after the first of the new year.  After taking a month to sort out the last of our business, I interviewed candidates for two intern positions, and hired Richelle Corbo and Amber Boyd to work with me in my practice.

I’ll be making another post soon to introduce Richelle and Amber, but for now, wanted to let visitors know that both of them have openings in their schedule.  Richelle works on Mondays and Amber works on Saturdays in the Berkeley office.

(Having new interns also means I may be able to give this site a facelift soon.)

And speaking of the office, we’ll be moving at the end of this month!  Fortunately, we won’t go far:  just next door, to 2006 Milvia.  The new office suite will have more protection from street noise, and best of all, an ELEVATOR!  This means we’ll be able to be an accessible office for people with mobility issues.  This shouldn’t interfere with client sessions at all; just don’t be surprised when we suddenly give you instructions for finding our new office.

Screen Shot 2015-03-01 at 7.10.24 PMHow’s your new year going?

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Resources for therapists who see “geek women” clients

Image courtesy of arztsamui /

Image courtesy of arztsamui /

Women (cis and trans, straight and queer) working in “geeky” or STEM professions often experience harassment, marginalization, and hostile work or networking environments as well as internal and external stigma, “imposter syndrome,” and a host of other issues that may be relevant in individual and couple therapy.  The Geek Feminism folks have started a wiki entry offering information and resources for therapists working with geek women, to help us help our clients.

I thought this site was a great reminder of the ways that current events can be so salient for our clients – when a particularly visible example of misogyny or discrimination in tech has just happened, it’s not uncommon for my clients to want to talk about how it’s impacting them in their professional and personal contexts.

I wound up talking about the UCSB shootings with many of my women clients the week it happened, as well as some of the men. Discussing emotional reactions to the murders, to the shooter’s manifesto, and to the #yesallwomen hashtag campaigns on Twitter and Facebook were an important part of understanding clients’ social context, and provided opportunities for talking about internalized gender norms and their impact on relationships.

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Happy Holidays!

I’ve been quiet around the blog for a long time, but I’m hoping to write more in 2014.

Meanwhile, the holiday season has crept up on me yet again!  As someone who wears a lot of different hats in my work life, this time of year always seems to be a rush of “Grades are due! Textbooks for next semester are due! Holiday crises are happening! Family has needs!” and suddenly I look around and my gifts are all in a pile under the sewing table, the cards are still stashed in a bin of craft supplies, and the “Days Until Christmas” calendar has been in single digits for quite a while.

I wish my calendar looked like this these days.

I wish my calendar looked like this these days.

The holidays are rough times for lots of people.  Grief and loss, loneliness and depression, and the sense that “normal people enjoy this time of year” can make it hard to take the endless demands to get into the “holiday spirit.”  Here’s some ideas for how to take care of yourself if you are finding yourself all out of cope:

– Practice mindfulness.  Mindfulness is the practice of slowing down and tuning into the present moment, rather than the past (ruminating) or the future (worrying).  Mindfulness suggests that if we can be kind and friendly to our difficult and painful feelings, rather than trying to resist or change them, they will have less power over us.  Mindfulness practices like R.A.I.N. (recognizing feelings, accepting their presence, investigating what they are trying to tell us, and non-identifying with them – getting a little distance from them, being an observer instead of drowning in them), body scans or progressive relaxation, meditation, etc., can help you get a little “breathing room” between yourself and the painful feelings that are threatening to take over your present experience.  I recommend that everyone get themselves a present of “Comfortable with Uncertainty” by Pema Chodron – even if you are not Buddhist or have no intention of meditating, her writings on working with fear and pain may profoundly change your way of handling these emotions.


– Get some tools for dealing with difficult people.   I really love the “Ask Captain Awkward” advice blog, particularly because they are very good at suggesting “scripts” for dealing with difficult interpersonal situations.  For example:

I particularly like the Captain Awkward point, oft-repeated, that if people cross your boundaries even after you have politely asserted them (e.g. asked to change the subject, requested that people not talk about your weight, made it clear that you do not find racist jokes cute and funny, etc.), THEY are the ones making things awkward and expecting YOU to bear the consequences by not calling them on it.


– When tension arises in your intimate relationships, try your best to fight fairly and repair whatever damage gets caused.  Emotions run high at the holidays – family members are thrown together willy-nilly, people are jet-lagged and sleeping in strange places, routines are disrupted, expectations for “the perfect celebration” put stress on even the most mellow. Tempers may erupt – dramatically, or in cold, detached anger.  Toes get stepped on, literally and metaphorically.

  • Do your best to avoid the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” identified by John Gottman’s research as the most hurtful behaviors when fighting:  criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling, and most importantly, contempt.
  • When you start to get overwhelmed with emotion (or “flooded”), ask for a time out.  Commit to returning to the issue at a specific time (in a few minutes, an hour, tomorrow after you’ve both gotten some sleep), and make sure what while you’re apart, you’re soothing yourself – thinking calming thoughts like “we’re working on this together” and “everyone is having a tough time right now,” rather than upsetting thoughts like “my partner is always such a JERK!”
  • Practice accepting influence from the other person.  Even if you don’t agree, find something you can say “you have a point” or “I can see how that would make sense” about.  Try “let me think about what you’ve said just now” rather than the reflexive “NO!”
  • Repair, repair, repair. We all use harsh words at times, or let problems build up, or blame others for things beyond their control.  We intend something as a neutral comment but it comes off as a jab at the other person. We shriek when we should talk, or go “selectively deaf” when we should be paying attention.  As a wise friend of mine once said “apologies are a down payment on making things right.”  Even if you genuinely feel you were in the right, saying “I didn’t listen as well as I could have” or “I let my emotions get the better of me” tells the other person “I respect that you’re a human being with feelings.”  When you get yourself that glass of iced tea while you take your time out, bring the other person one when you come back.  Sometimes it’s the little things.


– It’s a cliche, but: work on your self-care.

– If things get stressful for you, call a crisis hotline.  This link is for Alameda County in California, but it includes national resources as well.  Many people think of hotlines as something you’d only use in a dire emergency, if you were suicidal, but in fact crisis counselors are trained to provide a friendly, supportive listening ear for whatever is stressing you out.  If you find yourself thinking “if my mother comments on my weight one more time, I’m going to have to pull a table flip,” call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and lock yourself in the bathroom with your cell phone for a while, if that’s what it takes.


– And as always, if you drink too much, whether in celebration or as a coping mechanism, take care of that hangover!   (And practice a little harm reduction next time please?)

Just remember what Kate Bornstein says in her book “Hello, Cruel World“:

Get out of hell free

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