Offering couples therapy intensives in Vancouver, British Columbia

Personally Speaking

I have spent the last twenty years helping couples to communicate more openly and to develop more intimate partnerships, and helping individuals to find their voices and redefine themselves within their relationships and marriages. No one lives in a bubble—we are each connected to a network of people who love us and depend on us. The better we understand how to nurture these connections and enrich our relationships, the more joyful and fulfilling our lives will be.

I provide intensive couple therapy to both married and unmarried couples. I prefer strength-based techniques and tend to focus on working with the strengths you already have—your individual positive attributes, as well as the strengths you have together as a couple. I’m working also at a drug and alcohol treatment program, where my primary work is with clients who are dealing with spiritual, religious, sexual trauma, physical and relational trauma.

I was born in Taiwan, and I grew up in Vancouver and Los Angeles. I was educated and socialized within both Western and Asian cultures, which present two distinctively different mindsets: one that emphasizes the freedom and autonomy of the individual, and one that emphasizes loyalty and duty to family and society. As a result, I understand the tensions and conflicts that may arise in a relationship that spans a cultural divide. This understanding really applies to all couples, not only where two individuals have different backgrounds.

Every couple experiences a cultural divide. When you combine two individuals, each with their own sense of identity, you are also combining two families of origin, each with many generations’ worth of values and beliefs that come together. My primary focus is on helping you to identify which of your individually held values and beliefs you wish to bring into your partnership. What is it that you both decide are the most important things for us? Which of these values and beliefs do you want to pass on as your shared legacy to your future generations? Which ones are you ready to let go?

I’ve lived in British Columbia, Manitoba, Taipei, Tochigi, Ghangzhou, and Hong Kong, where I had the opportunity to work with individuals and couples and families from diverse ethnic, socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. It’s been a privilege to cross international borders to share in these people’s lives and to learn about their personal stories and life experiences, and to gain insight into the specific needs of individuals and couples and families who live in different parts of the world.

I speak four languages (English, Mandarin, Japanese, and Taiwanese) and so I welcome the opportunity to work with couples whose native languages are different from each other. I see this as another way in which I can provide a bridge and help you to connect and communicate.

I have a special interest in working with people who live outside their home country. I understand the challenges of leaving your hometown and learning to adjust to a completely different culture and way of life. Whether alone or with a partner, we can all use some support and guidance in adapting to the new culture and understanding how the change in environment impacts our relationships within our family and couple systems.

I really see myself as a bridge between two individuals or between an individual and a system, whether it’s a couple or a family system. I offer an opportunity and a safe place for open communication that may serve to clarify misunderstandings or miscommunication between the individual and that system. I absolutely love to play that role and that’s one of the reasons why I got my Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy. Presently, I’m working toward my doctorate, because I believe there’s always more I can learn.

Incorporating Spirituality

In recent years, I have begun to address spirituality in my clinical work. I always assess for it, and, if the client so wishes, I’ll incorporate it in our sessions. During assessment, I always ask the client about their religious faith or spirituality. This provides me with valuable insight and context, as this is the source of your belief system and code of values, which forms the core of how you perceive yourself and how you interact with other people.

I offer clients the opportunity to incorporate (religious or non-religious) spirituality in their sessions with me. Not every person is religious, but many people believe, as I do, that they are spiritual beings with spiritual needs. Many people experience existential pain or dread. This is a normal part of the human condition. A lot of the time, we are going through life and, even though everything is so beautiful, there seems to be this sense of emptiness that slowly surfaces over time.

This feeling is your desire to acknowledge your spirituality—the part of you that yearns to connect to, and belong within, the universe. Sometimes we are not fully aware of it, but it really manifests in our behavior, in our interaction with others and the way we treat ourselves. That’s why many of my clients have found it helpful to include and address their spiritual side in our sessions.

Clinical Approach

I believe that people are always able to tell whether you are genuinely enthusiastic and passionate about what you do. They can feel it in the way you talk and how you approach them. I know that my clients very quickly pick up on my enthusiasm and passion, and they know they are in safe hands. They understand that I am here because I genuinely care about their shared experience, and their relationship and connectivity.

My clients tell me I have a comforting presence. Feeling safe in my presence helps them to be more honest and open with themselves and their partner. When I’m working with a couple, I soften any tension that arises and help the couple to engage on a deeper level, so that they can trust each other with the things they need to share and process.

With any method or technique I may suggest integrating in our work together, we will incorporate only what you feel comfortable with, because while I may have the expertise, I’m not here to tell you how to live your life. I will share with you my ideas about an intervention or an approach that will really benefit you. I might say, based on research and clinical experience, here is what has worked and why I think it may work in your particular case. I will always ask you what your thoughts are in response to what I’ve shared. Therapy is a collaborative effort between us.

I absolutely love doing experiential work. Whether I’m incorporating evidence-based scientific approaches or incorporating clinical technical machines, it’s all about bringing the couple to a place where they can really come face to face with each other and, perhaps for the first time in a very long while, to experience one another in a pure sense and at an extremely deep level. We are able to incorporate this through emotional, physiological and physical change.

I’ll often include the physical aspect of processing your emotions—holding or touching your partner in a way that hasn’t always been possible in recent times. I can always see how much both partners long to be close, and yet there may be a wall between them that has been built over months or years. When you’re able to come to a safe place and be in touch with each other at such a deep, deep level, emotionally, cognitively, spiritually or physically, it’s incredibly empowering for the couple and very touching to experience as a therapist.

I highly value the integration of evidence-based therapies with alternative holistic approaches. When working with couples, I will implement Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy as the core treatment modality, while integrating Gottman Therapy, Intergenerational Family Therapy, Solution-Focused Grief Therapy, Experiential Therapy, Mindfulness Meditation and other multidisciplinary practices as needed.

Many couples have difficulty defining what they really want for themselves in their marriage. While they may be aware of a specific aim or obstacle, there may be underlying needs that aren’t being as readily presented, either because the individual does not feel comfortable sharing it in the presence of their partner or because they are not fully aware of it themselves. It’s always necessary to delve deeper. In some cases, it comes to light that one partner has trauma that has yet to be processed. Where applicable, I’ll incorporate EMDR into our trauma work. EMDR simultaneously engages the left brain and the right brain. With this bilateral stimulation, we are able to create a bridge between the two sides of the brain. Making this connection is crucial to the processing and healing of trauma.

Many of the above techniques are strength based, so we will focus on working with what you already have. When clients come to me, many of them already feel like they are lacking something. There is always room for growth, but it can be discouraging to focus on what you don’t have. When I can help them to identify and utilize their strength areas, it makes our work together even more effective. It’s empowering for the client to understand: I already hold the solutions within myself, and it’s really nice to have a professional to help me to draw this out. I can be aware of this while I work together with my other half and the professional to utilize the strengths I have individually and the strengths we have together as a couple, and we can use those to work toward the goals we have in mind.

I am enthusiastic and caring whilst remaining neutral and respectful. I want both of you to be heard and understood. Wherever there’s disharmony or disjunct in the relationship, I hope to be the bridge that helps to reconnect you, so that together you can build your own bridge. It’s my passion and my privilege to do so. I look forward to working with both of you.

Preparing for Therapy

The most helpful thing you can do to prepare for your first therapy session is to open your mind.

You may be seeking therapy after having tried other approaches that did not help you in the way or to the degree you would have wished for. If, after putting in the work and then being disappointed, you’re harboring some resistance or negativity, it would be a good idea to try to reset your outlook. It’s just one step that requires you to be honest with yourself. Only you can really know whether you are simply telling yourself you have opened your mind or if you are really feeling it in your heart and in your body.

As we try out different ways to assist you with your issue, if you’re battling your own resistance and defeatist attitude, this will slow your progress as well as making it harder for you to see your progress, and you may become more easily frustrated or defeated. Approaching these ideas with an open mind and a positive mindset will help you to see progress and possibilities everywhere.

No matter what you experience in the therapy room, don’t resist it. Try to welcome it. Know that this is part of the process of growth and transformation in your healing journey. Coming in with an open mind doesn’t mean necessarily having to take on absolutely everything that comes up or having to absorb everything.

It simply means saying to yourself:

  • There’s this differentperspective that’s being presented. There’s this underlying mood that’s surfacing. What am I going to do with this?
  • Why is itcoming up now?
  • Why is itcoming up in this phase of my life? What’s it trying to tell me?

Being open to these questions will make a huge difference and the growth will be tremendous.

Professional Experience

2014-2016   Intensive In-Home Clinician – New River Valley Community Services, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A.

2013 – 2014  Graduate Teaching Instructor. Human Development Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, U.S.A

2013 – 2014  Marriage and Family Therapist Intern – The Family Therapy Center of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, U.S.A.

2013  Research Assistant. Graduate Research Team: Technology and Couples. Human Development of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. Professor: Fred Piercy, Ph.D.

2013- 2014  Intergenerational Group Facilitator – Child Development Center for Learning, Blacksburg, VA, U.S.A.

2012 – 2013 Research Assistant.  Graduate Research Team: Work, Travel, Families. Human Development of Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A. Department Head: Dr. Anisa Zvonkovic, Ph.D.

2012 – 2013 Graduate Teaching Assistant and Guest Lecturer. Human Development Department, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, U.S.A

2012 Preschool and Elementary English Teacher. Golden American School, Taipei, Taiwan

2011  Marriage and Family Therapy Delegate to China. People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs, Beijing & Guiyang, China.

2010 – 2011. Head English Instructor & Counselor. G-Communication Global Educational Opportunities & Services. Language Corp. Causeway Bay, Hong Kong

2008  Clinical Therapist Intern. Valenta, Inc. Eating Disorder Clinic, Redlands, California, U.S.A.

2008  Television Spot Host. Loma Linda Broadcasting Network, Loma Linda, California, U.S.A.  Provided psycho-educational television spots on effective parenting worldwide.

2007-2008  Parenting Education Facilitator. Community University Initiative for the Development of Attention and Readiness-San Bernardino, San Bernardino, California, U.S.A.

2007  Chaplain Resident.  Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California, U.S.A.

2006-2007  Marriage & Family Therapist Trainee. Loma Linda University, Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic. San Bernardino, California, U.S.A.

2005  Crisis Pregnancy Counselor. Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

2003 – 2004  English Instructor & Counselor. Global Educational Opportunities and Services Language Corp. Nishinasuno, Tochigi, Japan

2002  Counselor. Oh Canada Education and Business Consulting Center. Vancouver, British