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Transformations Issue 10 - January/February/March 2014



from the office of

Christopher Emerson, Ph.D. 

January/February/March 2014 Issue No. 10  
On Top of Los Angeles


Welcome to the current issue of TRANSFORMATIONS. In this issue, I introduce my new intern Robert Linton, M.A., MFT-I, and Robert writes about commonly held myths connected with the process of grief. Guest author Michel Horvat, MFT returns with an article exploring coming out, and I address aspects of both topics in an article called "Confronting Change: Risks and Benefits."  Finally, popular character actor and internet radio host Jasper Cole is featured in our TRANSFORMATIVE VOICES section.


I'm pleased to announce that Dr. Katie Barnes is now a licensed clinical psychologist (PSY26046), and in addition to seeing patients here in our office space at 822 S. Robertson, Katie also has availability in her new Orange, CA office. Dr. Barnes can still be reached at (562) 708-3276.


I am also very pleased to welcome Robert Linton, M.A. to my practice as a registered marriage and family intern (IMF70224).  Robert is a well-trained, highly skilled clinician who is eager to begin establishing a clinical presence here in the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills area. He holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University.  


As always, thanks to practice administrator Dylan Maddalena for all of his hard work in putting this issue of TRANSFORMATIONS together. Please visit my website (www.drchrisemerson.com) for more information about my practice and for past issues of TRANSFORMATIONS. I look forward to hearing from you with your comments, questions, opinions and insights!


-Dr. Chris Emerson


At A Loss



By Robert Linton, M.A.  

Robert Linton, M.A.


One of the most profound emotional experiences in life is that of a loss and the grief that follows.  As common a human experience as grief is, it is not necessarily well understood by most of us, which can leave us unsure and questioning of our own experience.  In my work with clients in grief, I address these painful experiences from several aspects, one of which is through an understanding of the myths and truths of the grieving process.  Here are five common myths regarding grief:



1.  Myth:  "There is a right way to grieve."  Truth:  There are no rules for grieving a loss.


We tend to view grief as something that should be experienced and expressed in certain ways, over some finite period of time, and in a series of ordered phases.  But when a person's grief does not occur in these preconceived ways, it can cause feelings of depression, anxiety, and even anger for not grieving the way they think they should.  The way one grieves is very personal and can be different for different people.  It needs to be allowed to evolve and flow however it naturally does.  I have seen people express their grief in many different ways, and I am often surprised and inspired by the unique way clients have found (not always consciously) to work through their grief.


2.  Myth:  "Grief follows a series of 'stages,' that occur in order, and ends when the final stage is completed."  Truth:  If only that were true.  


It would be comforting to be able to monitor our progress through the painful process of grief by knowing that we no longer have to experience the stages that have passed, and only have a certain number of them left before it is over.  But in fact, the well-known stages of denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance may appear in any order, one or more may repeat themselves, and the process itself might abate temporarily and only to then resume.  A grieving person may think they have "relapsed" or feel disheartened if they find themselves back in a stage they have already gone through.  Each of these stages will occur as many or as few times as we need in whatever order or non-order we need.


3.  Myth:  "Grief should only last for a certain period of time."  Truth:  Grief is not concerned with what "should" be, only what is.  


Grief will last as long as it lasts, no shorter or longer.  It might seem to us that our grief did not last as long as we thought it should, or conversely that it has gone longer than we expected.  We can only look in hindsight to understand how long our grieving period needed to last - because that was the amount of time it did.  And another loss we might experience at another time, might have an entirely different period of grief that follows.  


4.  Myth:  "I can't handle this."  Truth:  You already are.


This has a lot to do with reframing what we mean by "handling it."  Loss may feel overwhelming, but it may not always actually be overwhelming.  There are times that might be physically and emotionally exhausting, and we feel we are drained and have no energy left.  That is handling it.  There are times when our emotions are so intense that our daily activities come to a stop.  That is handling it.  There are times when we want to completely distract ourselves from the pain we have been feeling.  That is handling it.  Therapy can be particularly helpful in identifying the ways in which someone is handling it and in increasing the effectiveness of their coping skills.


5.  Myth:  "I need to let go and move on."  Truth:  Not necessarily, and not necessarily right now.


A common belief is that a grieving person needs to "let go" and "move on."  It might be surprising to know that there has been research showing that people who have not "let go" have worked through the grieving process more effectively than others who said they did.  That does not mean that it is that way for everyone, but it is another example of how grief is individual to each person.  An individual will come to a close of their grief as they are ready, when they are ready, and if they are ready.


Having a better understanding of grief can be helpful, comforting, and empowering in the knowledge that however you experience and express your grief it is the right way - the right way for you.




On Coming Out

By Michel Horvat, MFT

To a large degree, society is not accommodating to an LGBTQ identity.  In fact, the hostility that exists in response to the existence of LGBTQ individuals crosses the spectrum from tacit silence when witnessing homophobia, to all-out violence against individuals, to entire swathes of the populace condemning the community's very existence. This is the atmosphere most LGBTQ people are both born into and brought up in the midst of.  Unless individuals are lucky enough to have been born into a family that is accepting and sensitive to their childrens' differences, the onslaught begins in the very spot a child is supposed to feel safest - right at home. 


Isolation is unique to this minority. African American children don't need to muster up the courage to eventually tell their parents that they are black for fear that they will be hated for their difference, disowned or thrown out of their homes.  LGBTQ children do.  The latest evidence backs this up: More than 40% of runaway homeless children are LGBTQ identified. See The Williams Institute 2013 findings for this and other staggering statistics.



This is immensely disproportionate in that, purportedly, up to only 10% of the population identifies as LGBTQ. Teen and young adult suicide attempts display the same disproportionate numbers. The tragedy is that successful suicides are marred by shame-based silence and cover ups by families that will not air dirty LGBTQ laundry after the fact for fear of ridicule and stigma. Though the proportionality of the numbers of such suicides are simply not known or reliable, my fear is that they are staggeringly high.


It is not surprising, therefore, that LGBTQ identified individuals exhibit trauma responses associated with their sense of safety in the world. Why should they feel secure in a world that is constructed to bully them? This is the field upon which they must then come out and pronounce themselves - as the very people society has deemed acceptable to condemn.


Coming out requires a paradigm shift in the thinking of an LGBTQ individual that is tantamount to walking out of a bomb shelter in the midst of a war.


It is beyond mustering up courage. It is about discarding, in one fell swoop, all of the defenses that, up until that moment, we had erected in order to survive. It is a ritualistic purging of all armor that, paradoxically, by virtue of the action, erases the need for it.


This is why this process is intensely personal, can be terrifying, and whenever possible, requires support, understanding and love. In practicality, it also may well require planning, timing and strategy. For example, it may not be wise for a dependent child to come out prior to their 18th birthday or before they have a safety plan in place that gives them alternate forms of moral, emotional and financial support. 


While I use the term "Coming Out" as if it were a single event, it is indeed a process where layers of homophobia, installed by experience, fear and shame, get discarded - much like the armor that protected us early on. This occurs at every step of coming out and continues throughout the adult life of LGBTQ individuals.


In fact, many of the consequences of having had to erect this "bomb shelter" to survive come to roost as adults.  The defenses we had put in place, including systematic self-negation, now have become maladaptive to forming a sustainable sense of self and healthily attached relationships.


It is a testament to the courage and resilience of such individuals that they seek out support during every part of this process.  It is with this mindset of respect and admiration that I work with my LGBTQ clients - they are survivors.


Michel Horvat, MFT is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Los Angeles






Confronting Change:
Risk and Benefit

By Dr. Chris Emerson
Dr. christopher Emerson, Ph.D.

Today, I was lying on my somatic therapist's table with her hands on my head.  She was feeling some subtle changes in my skull and neck, asking if I was aware of any sense of release, and all I could think was, "What the hell am I doing here?" 


I felt my resistance rise, the anxiety about wasting precious time and money taking center stage.  When I heard her inquire about any emotional change I might be experiencing, I heard a small voice inside myself say, "...the whole thing seems hopeless..." And suddenly, the whole process of lying on that table and my experience of being there with all my senses began to shift and change.


Some analogue of that moment takes place frequently in effective therapy. In that moment, as the first signals of some kind of change begin to come through, something makes itself known through a combination of physical sensation and cognitive awareness, and then, an emotional awareness - today, for me, that dreary feeling of hopelessness - comes clearly into view.


But who wants to feel hopeless? What is the good of that, the purpose of it?


I would maintain that the goal is not to move into the feeling of hopelessness and "set up shop" there, but rather to acknowledge a piece of our experience that has been quietly going about its business, perhaps for quite some time, just under the radar of conscious awareness. Becoming aware of something is the first step toward doing something about it.


We all feel resistance to change. There's just something about going to the familiar, to what we know, even if what we know is difficult, painful, or even abusive in some way. Our conditioning can be a powerful force, and to further complicate matters, implementing positive change can be experienced as an extremely disruptive force, at least in the initial stages.


Many times, families of people struggling with substance abuse plead with the "identified patient" to get clean and sober, with the presumption that once that takes place, the family's problems will all go away. But what actually happens is usually far more nuanced, and quite surprising. As the patient gets better, the "family system" that functioned so well around the patient's dysfunction is thrown into chaos. It takes a while, and usually some hard work in therapy, for the family system to reorient itself to this new paradigm where the patient is no longer the problem, and for the family to examine itself in an entirely new light.


Resistance.  I hope it's useful for you to know that even the most pro-therapy, pro-change psychologist can experience it, sit in it long enough to get really uncomfortable, and then decide whether or not to move through it. After all, it's up to us to risk changing up what we know and are comfortable with in order to reap the benefits. 



-At A Loss
-On Coming Out
-Confronting Change: Risk & Benefit
-Welcome Robert Linton, MFT-I




As I approach my 50th birthday and my 27th year working as an actor here in Hollywood, I realize that my whole journey has been one "transformation" after another, even though I didn't always appreciate it at the time. In my early years, I would see challenging events as "crisis" or "drama", fret over what to do and fight the changes at every step. However, with age and time has come the knowledge that...it is what it is and my only real job is to stay in the moment and appreciate everything as it unfolds. As I have "transformed" into a veteran character actor, I look back on all my experiences and wish at times I had truly enjoyed the present instead of living for the future.




-Jasper Cole

Actor/Radio Host


Jasper Cole is a veteran character actor with over 100 television and film credits, including the ABC series "The Forgotten" with Christian Slater, and the film "MacGruber" with Will Forte.  







Robert Linton, M.A., MFT-I
Welcome to the Practice 

Robert characterizes his orientation as psychodynamic, and utilizes humanistic, cognitive, and existential approaches.  He strongly believes in the importance of a safe, non-judgmental and empathic environment to facilitate his clients' growth and positive change. In addition to his clinical expertise, Robert has a strong business background, with extensive experience as a paralegal in employment law. He will focus his current practice in the treatment of:

  • mood, anxiety, and adjustment disorders;  
  • adult individuals and couples, with a focus on rebuilding relationships after infidelity;
  • sexual addiction, sexual anorexia, and other issues related to sexuality and intimacy; and
  • issues of particular relevance to legal professionals.

Robert's hourly rate is $125 and he will consider seeing patients on a sliding scale. You can reach him at: 213-422-3458. I hope that you will consider him as a clinical resource. 


For more information about Robert, check out his full bio HERE




This concludes the tenth issue of our quarterly newsletter, TRANSFORMATIONS.
Feel free to forward TRANSFORMATIONS to friends and colleagues, and take a moment to check out our archive of past issues at www.drchrisemerson.com. As always, we create our newsletter for YOU, our friends and colleagues, and we welcome feedback, comments, questions, or a simple "Hello". We look forward to our next encounter - Thank you for reading! 

Chris, Robert, and Dylan


Contact Us...

for appointments and comments

Dr. Chris Emerson: 
(310) 550-4560
Robert Linton, M.A., MFT-I: 
(213) 422-3458

Dylan Maddalena, Editor:

[email protected]

(310) 550-4560



822 S. Robertson Blvd., Suite 303

Los Angeles, CA 90035 




1900 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Suite C-3

Palm Springs, CA 92262

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