Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy
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About Joe

 About Joe  

Personal Statement | Presentations List 


I am a marriage and family therapist. I am also a lawyer. Sometimes these two professional identities get mixed up in people’s minds – “What are you? A lawyer or a therapist?” That’s an excellent question and here’s the answer:

I am a counselor and mediator, who also provides certain limited legal services. My main practice involves individual/couples counseling and mediation. I blend my legal and therapeutic experience in my mediation work. However, I still hold onto a small corner of the legal work I have done over the years. I would describe this service as providing support and counsel to people who are facing divorce, or therapists who need legal/ethical advice around their practices. These clients seem to appreciate the therapeutic education and skills I bring to this work. Today, I would say that about 90% of my practice is mental health and mediation related and the other 10% involves limited legal services. Perhaps a little biographical information will give you a better sense of who I am and what has brought me to this particular place.

In 1971, I received my B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and in 1974, my law degree from the University of Southern California. I was admitted to the California Bar that year. After a time working as a legal aid foundation attorney, I spent a number of years both challenged and fascinated by personal injury litigation, primarily representing individuals who had been harmed by exposure to drugs and other products, such as asbestos, DES and sulfites. It was the heyday for this kind of work - in the state that was ground zero for legal innovation.

However, by 1988, I had come to the conclusion that litigation exacted far too great a personal and economic toll on all participants - except, of course, for the lawyers - and because I had enjoyed a very positive counseling relationship, I left my practice and entered the Master’s Degree program in Marriage and Family Therapy at the California Family Study Center (now The Phillips Institute) and received my M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy in 1989. I was licensed as a marriage and family therapist in California in 1991.  My area of greatest interest at the time was marital therapy as informed by the systems thinking I studied in my graduate program and clinical training.  I also drew from many of the approaches utilized in Gestalt Therapy, Transactional Analysis and Voice Dialogue. I began to build a psychotherapy practice in Southern California.

One of my strongest memories after passing the California Bar was visiting a law school buddy and his wife in Seattle. Their home was in the Leschi neighborhood and to this day I remember waking up in their guest bedroom and gazing at Mt. Rainier out of one window and Lake Washington, below us, out the other. Seattle was the most beautiful city I had ever visited, in this country, and I resolved one day to make it my home.

In 1995, following through on this dream, I relocated to the Puget Sound, passing the Washington State Bar Exam and becoming a Washington marriage and family therapist that year, as well. I also participated in the 40-hour mediation training conducted by John Allen Lemmon, Professor at San Francisco State and Past Editor of the Mediation Quarterly, the profession’s principle journal. 

Almost immediately, it became clear to me that family mediation was a felicitous combination of my legal experience and therapeutic sensibilities – and while starting a family law practice was, initially, the most sensible economic move, my real passion always lay with the counseling end of the work. My therapist’s training found expression for the first few years, here, in working with couples as they struggled to disengage from their failed marriage with integrity. From the outset of my work, I saw divorce as a journey, and emotional healing as the goal. I would often be aghast at the damage inflicted by the litigation process and grieved as I witnessed good people diverting their vital life energy from creation of the next chapter of their lives to licking the wounds gouged by an often-brutal process. My own professional energies became increasingly engaged in counseling people through their transition. In 2002, I began lecturing the Washington State Family Law Bar about the psychology of divorce, in their annual conference each year.

At the same time, I became deeply involved in the special challenges faced by lawyers, themselves. I devoured the literature discussing the state of the profession and the forces that erode the sense of well-being of these (mostly) wonderful people who, of course, had been my own group of colleagues for years. Beginning in 2000, I wrote frequently for the King County Bar Journal about how lawyers can take better care of themselves. Many of these columns can be found on this website. I taught yearly classes at U.W. Law School on Interviewing and Counseling and co-developed a class on how to start and maintain a law practice. The theme of these classes always circled around the message, “Who are you? How can you find satisfaction in this work that is consistent with your own set of personal values?” As my work in teaching, counseling, writing and mediation bloomed – I still felt bound, for purely practical, economic reasons, to a conventional family law practice, albeit to a lesser extent every year. Not feeling comfortable completely abandoning this profession which I had pursued for over 20 years, I still was increasingly disheartened by the harm it visits on people. Then Collaborative Law came into my life.

Starting around 2000, I began reading a good deal about this extraordinary approach to helping people navigate the rocky passage out of their marriages called Collaborative Law.   I recall reading these articles and thinking, “Well that’s a great way to do things, but you can’t do this alone – you need another collaborative lawyer to make it work.” Then in 2002 a couple of lawyers went to an out-of-state training, returned to Washington and planted the seed. I immediately became actively involved in the “movement” in our local community, serving on the board of the principle collaborative law organization in Seattle/Bellevue (the only one in Washington for quite a while) and eventually becoming one of the principle trainers in basic collaborative law for lawyers, therapists and financial professionals here in Washington. During this time, my facilitative mediation practice was growing as was my counseling work.

Yet, as solid and supportive as these avenues are for people ending an intimate relationship, you just can’t avoid the fact that divorce is a great tragedy in peoples’ lives.  Sometimes it is just unavoidable and in those cases, for most people, either collaborative law or mediation is by far the best approach.  If litigation is the course people have chosen, I work with individuals to help them manage their emotions, deal with their estranged spouse and communicate clearly and effectively with their lawyer about their needs. However, in recent years, I have been drawn more insistently to the very important work of helping couples in distress salvage their relationships.  From my initial training in 1989, and my absorption in the brilliant book, The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict, working with struggling intimate relationships has drawn me. Then, in 2004, I attended a transformative seminar by U.W.'s Dr. John Gottman. For two days, he sat alone in front of an auditorium of raptly attentive therapists, supported only by Powerpoint slides and his incredible organization, wit and brilliance. Seeing a couple as something different than merely two individuals, but as a vital, pulsing and beautiful thing all its own, I continued with the intermediate Gottman Training. At the same time, I became absorbed in the approaches of other masters of the art, such as Dan Wile of Oakland, California and William Doherty at University of Minnesota.  However, it was not until I attended the 4-day externship in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy put on by it's co-founder, Dr. Susan Johnson, that I truly discovered the professional path I would pursue for the remainder of my career.  As of this writing (January, 2014), I am involved in the advanced training program in EFT and it is at the core of my work. The "attachment perspective," by which we are all viewed as people striving to fulfill our fundamental (and "hardwired") need for deep connection, informs my couples work as well as my individual counseling practice.

So that’s my professional story.  On a personal level, we live a pretty simple, satisfying life.  My wife is also a therapist, specializing in neurofeedback therapy and is my rock.  We enjoy each other's company and her goofy sense of humor matches mine, silliness for silliness.  Our 24 year old daughter remains the light of my life. She graduated from U.W. and is planning on pursuing the study of nutrition policy. She remains incredibly steady, hard-working, funny, smart, sweet-hearted and an utter delight.  Since we have been empty nesters for a while, now, we enjoy long walks either on the beaches at Moclips on the Olympic Peninsula, or along Denny Creek, near Snoqualmie Pass; entertaining at home; some travel; kayaking around the Sound and just generally hanging out. On my own, I love reading by the fire (or anywhere), making or listening to music, cooking and being with my lovely friends.  I also love writing and I wholeheartedly invite you to visit other sections of this site to read some of the other stuff I’ve had to say over the years. 

Thank you for visiting this website.  I hope you can find something of value while you are here. I also invite you to visit my blog, where I periodically post my current thoughts about the joys and challenges of intimate relationships, how to understand lawyers, good and bad ways to approach divorce (if you must), the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, good books and whatever else pops into my head.


Lectures, Presentations & Workshops

1999-2013, Adjunct Instructor, University of Washington Law School, Interviewing and Counseling; Practical and Ethical Issues in Solo/Small Firm Practice and Negotiation

2008, Visiting Professor, Seattle University Law School, Supervised Family Law Clinic

2017, Attorneys' Ethical Obligations to Non-Clients, Collaborative Professionals of Washington, Annual Conference,

2017, Mediating Step-Family Issues, Northwest Altenrative Dispute Resolution Conference, U.w. Law School,

2017, Clarifying the Decision to Divorce through Discernment Counseling, Northwest Alternative Dispute Resolution Conference, U.W. Law School,

2017, Same-Sex Parenting - Legal and Psychological Perspectives, AFCC Regional Conference,

2016, Dealing with High Conflict Personalities - The Art of Boundary Setting, Washington State Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section Midyear Conference,

2015, Identifying and Working with the Difficult Client, Washington State Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section Midyear Conference,

2015, Families of Origin: A Primer for the Estate Planning and Probate Attorney, King County Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section Annual Conference,

2015, Systems Thinking: An Essential Tool for the Family Law Attorney, Oregon State Bar Association Annual Conference,

2004-2017, R.C.W. 26.09.191 “Emotional Abuse” and Parenting Evaluations, King County CASA Trainings

2013, 2014 & 2018, Chair, Psychological Aspects of Divorce, King County Bar Association Continuing Education Program (Including presentations, Divorce as a Psychological Process and Understanding Divorce Through the Lens of Attachment)

2012-2014, Developer and Presenter, The Psychology of Divorce (Including sections on Gottman's Approach to Conflict Resolution and Divorce; Systems Thinking and Divorce Counseling and Divorce as an Attachment Injury)

2003-2015, Family Law for the Mental Health Professional , Six-Hour Continuing Education Program for Therapists

2013, Our Families of Origin as Guides in our Role as Counselors for Divorcing Clients , Collaborative Professionals of Washington Symposium, Lynnwood

November, 2009, Coaching from a Clear Theoretical Perspective, Collaborative Professionals of Washington Symposium, Gig Harbor
November, 2009, Dealing with Difficult Lawyers, , ABC’s of Dissolution, King County Bar Association
October, 2009, Business Plans for Lawyers, Dissolution Boot Camp King County Bar Association
July, 2009, Collaborative Law Fundamentals for Mental Health Professionals, Seattle Counselors Association
June, 2009, The Subversive Art of Teaching Interviewing and Counseling, Institute for Law Teaching and Learning Summer Conference – Gonzaga Law School
April, 2009, Working with Difficult Personalities, Washington Defenders

November, 2008, Establishing and Maintaining the Collaborative Team, Collaborative Professionals of Washington Symposium, Gig Harbor

October, 2008, Professionalism in the Face of Provocation, Dissolution from A-Z Program, King County Bar Association, Seattle

June, 2008, Using Psychological Type (MBTI) to Strengthen Client Relationships, Washington State Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

June, 2008, Comparing Collaborative Family Law and Litigation - Risks and Benefits, Panel Discussion, Washington State Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

November, 2006; Psychological Testing portion of CLE Seminar “Helping Your Client Survive a Parenting Evaluation,” National Business Institute, Seattle         

October, 2006, The GAL’s Role in Alternative Dispute Resolution in Advanced Guardian ad Litem Training, King County Bar Association, Seattle

June, 2006, Personal Marital Issues for the Family Law Practitioner, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

April, 2006, The Concept of Collaboration in Collaboration in Law & Life, Washington State Bar Lawyer Services Department 9th Annual Statewide Conference

October, 2005, Dealing with Difficult Attorneys, Oregon State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference    

June, 2005, Dealing with Difficult Attorneys, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

June, 2005, Mediation, Ethical Issues and Procedural Steps in Bringing a Modification of Custody Action in Modification of Custody in Washington, National Business Institute, Seattle

June, 2004, Dealing with High Conflict Clients, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

March, 2004, Communication Techniques for Collaborators in WSBA Collaborative Law Symposium, Washington State Bar Association, Seattle

February, 2004, Collaborative Law & The Collateral Professional, An Introductory Training, NW Collaborative Divorce

June, 2003, How Family Systems Dynamics Endure Through the Divorce Process, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference

June, 2002, The Psychology of Divorce, Washington State Bar Association Family Law Section Annual Midyear Conference                

October, 1999, The Process of Divorce, in The Psychology of Divorce - Toward a Holistic Approach to Divorce, King County Bar Association, Seattle    

Approved by Washington State Bar to provide four hours Continuing Legal Education credit with the presentation, Advanced Techniques in Client Counseling and two hours C.L.E. credit with Use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for Personal and Practical Development


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