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Transformations Issue 1 - January/February/March 2011

Issue 1 - January/February 2011

Welcome to Transformations!

        Greetings - my name is Dr. Chris Emerson, and I'm pleased to introduce you to the first of our quarterly newsletters.  I am a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice since 2005, providing psychotherapy for individuals, couples, and groups in a Beverly Hills, California-based private practice. 

        I received my Ph.D. from Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, California. My work revolves around helping patients explore and integrate spiritual and existential concerns as components of psychological and emotional well-being, and working with couples to facilitate the revitalization of intimate relationships.  I am EMDR-trained, treat mood and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, sexual addiction, and trauma, and facilitate a weekly psychodynamic process group for gay men (www.drchrisemerson.com).

        My two interns in private practice, Dr. Katie Barnes and Eleanor Moreh, along with practice administrator Victoria Dekovich and I are taking this opportunity to be in contact with colleagues and friends, old and new, as we explore topics of interest related to psychological, personal, professional and spiritual growth and change - in other words, transformation.

        That is, after all, what the process of psychotherapy is all about - it is our primary occupation, the way we spend our time and attention on a day-to-day basis, and what occupies so much of our "off time," as well. And ultimately, what is more fascinating than human behavior?  - the constant movement and motion of the psyche, the ebb and flow of mood and affect, how and why we dream, the innumerable ways in which we manifest and conduct relationships with others - everything related to how we experience our selves in this increasingly complicated and often perplexing world?

        In months to come, we will explore these and other diverse topics, invite your feedback and participation, and share vital information with you about the ways and means of change, all aligned with our basic presumption that human beings inherently seek growth and positive change as a fundamental part of our nature. I hope that you will let us know your interests in these and other topics, and stay connected with us with your feedback, thoughts and questions.

        In this issue, Dr. Katie Barnes gives some important information about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and Eleanor Moreh introduces a fascinating look into the capacity of newborn infants to implement a remarkable element of change into their experience from their very first days.

        TRANSFORMATIVE VOICES is a regular newsletter feature in which people in the community provide brief insights into the processes of change in their personal and professional lives. In coming issues, we will be launching a three-part series, METAMORPHOSIS, based on the transformative experiences of people as a result of the psychotherapeutic process.  

        I'd like to introduce you to the contributors to my practice and to TRANSFORMATIONS:  

        Dr. Katherine Barnes (www.DrKatieBarnes.com) utilizes psychodynamic and existential therapy to treat adult individuals and couples, specializing in mood disorders, relationship issues, addiction recovery, eating disorders and performing artist-related issues.  Dr. Barnes received her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the C.S.P.P. Los Angeles, and undergraduate degree in Psychology and Social Behavior from UC Irvine.  As Katie's career path originated in the performing arts, she approaches therapy from a deep curiosity in understanding the human condition, and often fuses her creative background with her therapeutic approach.

        Eleanor Moreh, M.A. is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Psy.D. program at The Chicago School in Los Angeles.  Ms. Moreh received her B.A. from UCLA in Psychology in 2004.  Eleanor is a talented clinician who has trained at The Maple Counseling Center, where I previously served as her off-site supervisor. I was so impressed with her skills and enthusiasm that a few months ago I invited her to join my private practice.  Eleanor is fluent in both English and Farsi and focuses her practice in the treatment of mood, anxiety, and adjustment disorders.  She strongly believes that congruence between therapist and patient and a strong therapeutic alliance are key factors in patients' success in therapy and in facilitating overall change.

                We hope you enjoy being an active and engaged part of our community - we are anxious to hear your thoughts about TRANSFORMATIONS and to be a resource for positive change for you and the people in your life.  Please feel free to share this newsletter with others in your circle who share your interest in transformative change!

Beating the Winter Blues
by Katie Barnes, Psy.D.

        Many of us are familiar with the appropriately abbreviated "SAD," or Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that is triggered by the seasons of the year.  This winter-onset depression affects an estimated 4-6% of Americans each year, and as many as 10-20% of Americans report experiencing milder versions of SAD.  Not so surprisingly, it has been found that over 80% of people with SAD report having at least one relative who has suffered from a major depressive disorder or alcohol abuse.   (NAMI)

        We now know that SAD symptoms likely result from the naturally changing availability of sunlight during the late fall and winter months.  Despite this most probable cause of the disorder, many people often attribute their symptoms to the changes in climate, lack of exercise, increased isolation and/or their annual "Holiday weight-gain."  However, these familiar symptoms might actually be a result of SAD, and when added to lowered affect due to lack of natural light, a spiteful, yet easily treated cycle tends to occur. 


What are the symptoms of SAD?


        While not everyone diagnosed with SAD experiences the same symptoms, winter-onset SAD typically begins in late October, lasts throughout March or April, and is characterized by decreased mood, daytime fatigue, oversleeping, increased cravings for sweets and carbohydrate-rich foods, weight gain, irritability, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and increased emotional sensitivity.  Summer-onset SAD, which is less commonly reported, is usually characterized by insomnia, irritability or anxiety, decreased appetite and weight loss. 


What are the causes of SAD?


        It is thought that the photoreceptors in the lower half of the retina are sensitive to changes in light, and that visible light triggers the release of a natural anti-depressant effect in the brain. While the causes of SAD remain uncertain, experts believe that the availability of light in one's environment directly correlates with the number of people reporting symptoms. Sufferers report their winter depressions to be more severe and longer-lasting, the farther north they live. They also report worsening of symptoms during overcast weather or decreased exposure to indoor light. 


How can I treat my symptoms?  

        Light box therapy is the most common method of treatment for SAD, as studies suggest between 50% and 80% of patients treated with the proper amount of light therapy report essentially a complete remission of symptoms.  Light boxes for personal use range in cost from $35 to $200+.  A bright fluorescent light box that filters out UV rays and a color temperature between 3,000 and 6,500 degrees Kelvin has been shown to be most effective for treatment.  The light should sit on a table top at eye-level, for between 20 and 60 minutes daily for best results.  The light should be able to produce up to 10,000 lux. (a normal household light produces 150-300 lux.), and be able to adjust downward.  

        Sufferers of SAD who live in more southern, sunny climates such as Southern California, may be able to experience similar effects to light box therapy by increasing their daily time spent outdoors, or in well-lit indoor environments. Exposure to UV rays from the sun are not linked to improving SAD symptoms, although some experts suggest increasing Vitamin D levels from skin exposure to sunlight might play a role in improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and irritability.


What should I do if I think I have SAD?

        If your symptoms are mild - that is, if they don't interfere too much with your daily living, you may want to try light therapy as described above or experiment with adjusting the light in your surroundings with bright lamps and scheduling more time outdoors in the winter.

        If your depressive symptoms are severe enough to significantly affect your daily living, consult a mental health professional qualified to treat SAD. He or she can help you find the most appropriate treatment for you. To help you decide whether a clinical consultation is necessary, you can use the feedback on the Personalized Inventory for Depression and SAD at www.cet.org. (NAMI)


National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website:


Talking to Babies
by Eleanor Moreh, M.A.

        "Talking to Babies" (Beacon Press, 2005) is a fascinating book that shows how the "talking cure" can help suffering infants and their parents. It offers a passionate and moving exploration of a humane path for restoring health for newborn babies and their families. This groundbreaking book should find a welcome audience among parents, psychologists, doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel.

        Myriam Szejer is a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who applies her own fundamental principles and methods to communication with newborns facing life and death crises.  Dr. Szejer is also president of the organization La Cause des Bébés, an organization of pediatricians, midwives, neonatal nurses, psychologists, historians, and obstetricians who work to further the best interest of infants as human beings who deserve individualized respect and care.

        When summoned by parents and the hospital staff in the maternity ward of a French hospital, Dr. Szejer carefully studies the baby's symptoms and behavior, and investigates with parents the emotional history of the pregnancy, looking for the factors that could have led to the baby's "failure to thrive."  When the issues seem clear, she brings baby and parents together, holds the baby face to face, and empathically tells the baby "the true story," including the keys to a resolution and renewal of family ties, and challenges the baby to choose life.  The typical response over the ten years of cases is a rapid turn toward health. 

        Dramatic healings suggest the potency of babies' memories and their capacity to participate in a truthful encounter, as well as their capacity to make decisive moves toward life and health.  According to the author, after the first intense moments following the birth, and beyond the mother's loving and caring gaze and voice, the most important thing are "words" addressed directly to a newborn.  The newborn is surprisingly capable of communicating and expressing herself if she wants to "listen."

        Researchers have corroborated the findings of simple, common sense: a baby is a human being to be respected for who she is, because all her senses are awakened. She is sensitive to what surrounds her from the earliest moments of her life; babies thirst for communication, seeking warmth and tenderness of their parents.

        Beyond the physiological needs, she should be recognized as a being receptive to all the stimulation from the environment.  It has been proven that the baby recognizes her mother's presence and voice from among others, that the newborns have a memory for their father's low frequency voice, and can smell the mother's bodily odor and the taste of her milk.

        Dr. Szejer emphasizes that through words, mothers give their babies a sense of connection,  and by telling them the particular context of their birth and pregnancy, the babies can establish the necessary means to develop and thrive.

        This book can be of use to new and prospective parents alike, as well as to clinicians interested in how humans begin to manifest the process of transformation from our very earliest days.

This concludes the first issue of our quarterly newsletter, TRANSFORMATIONS. We hope you have enjoyed reading, and remember to check your inbox in April for the next issue!




Chris, Katie, and Dylan

In This Issue
Beating the Winter Blues
Talking to Babies
Transformative Voices



"At one point early in my career I anxiously shifted from acting, directing and designing not sure which way to turn. A good friend of mine, the actor/producer Norman Lloyd, listened to my tale of indecision. He then paraphrased Jean Renoir who once had offered this advice to him: 

 'A creative life is like a river flowing toward achievement and satisfaction. If you thrash about frantically grasping at every bit of floating debris, you will eventually become exhausted and sink. But if you take a deep breath and let the current of the river (your creative center) propel you toward the distant shore, you will eventually arrive safely and find artistic satisfaction.' 

And I GOT it. I immediately took that deep breath and realized that my true creative calling was in design and began my trip down the river. It continues to be a lovely journey."

-Roy Christopher, Ten-time Emmy Award-winning Production Designer


"I realized early on that people would come to me to learn how to lose weight, to get stronger, to get 'buff.' But that was never really what interests me...what interests me is getting people to strengthen their WILL. So I trick them. I use my position as a fitness trainer to take this captive audience who think they are 'just exercising' and teach them the secrets of Mind-Body Connection. And in doing so, improve their lives."

-Michael Latch, Owner, Valley Crossfit


"Many years ago, after I had just relocated to Los Angeles and was anxious to continue to pay the bills by being fully employed, I noticed a tiny job ad in the LA Times that caught my attention one Sunday morning. It seemed that the "job" description matched my skills and my desire for autonomy with a creative bent. I got the job - thinking that it was only a 'job' and that if things did not work out, I would look for a different one. 

Then one day, not much later on, while answering the 800 line, a "coup de foudre" struck. In that one single moment, I realized that the voice on the other end of the line was a person I could help by providing information and suggestions for better managing this terrible and mysterious disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. I stuck around and the job became a passion. I now run the organization that provided me with a job many years ago and I could not imagine a different career for myself that could have possibly been more fulfilling.


My transformation was to recognize that we cannot imagine the unimaginable, and that usually we really are not in charge."

-Laurie M. Savage, Executive Director, Spondylitis Association of America





A weekly psychotherapy group for Gay Men


Group psychotherapy can provide unique perspectives and opportunities for personal growth and improving emotional and psychological well-being. An ongoing, closed process group of five to six gay men is underway.  This group was formed in 2008, and several original group members are regular participants.

There is one opening for a new group member in January 2011.

This group meets weekly on Tuesdays from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm for a 90-minute group therapy session, at a rate of $45 per session.

We explore life issues associated with, masculine identity, sex and relationship, spirituality, recovery/sobriety as appropriate, and group process with other men.

The focus is interpersonal and dynamic; the goals of the group include furthering self-awareness through increasing the capacity to give and receive feedback, and gaining access to previously blocked affective and cognitive experience. This group is kept to a maximum of five to six participants to allow for intensive, individualized work.

Participants are asked to be willing and able to make a six-month commitment to regular group attendance and participation.     

There will be an interview process to screen prospective participants. Beverly Hills psychotherapy office location.


Contact Dr. Chris Emerson:


Contact Us...
for appointments and comments
Dr. Chris Emerson:
[email protected]  
(310) 550-4560

Dr. Katie Barnes:
[email protected]  
(310) 684-3605

Dylan Maddalena, Editor:
[email protected]
(310) 550-4560


Christopher Emerson, Ph.D. |450 N. Robertson Blvd., 2nd Floor| West Hollywood| CA | 90048
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