What Self Care Isn't

Written for Face It Today, an organization committed to empowering girls by teaching them important life skills, including how to take care of themselves and and to feel confident in who they are.

How apropo that the latest two pieces I’ve read by a couple of our amazing FIT contributors have been about self-care and managing stress...a topic that can seem so simple at times, yet is hitting me really hard personally this week. I am a professional in this field. I am trained to literally sit with people in their distress, eventually help them unravel it, manage it, and take better care of themselves. Sounds like I should really have my act together in this department. But I am forever being humbled (sometimes smacked in the face) with the reality that growth and life is a forever evolving process, and just when I think I have ‘arrived’ and ‘wow I’ve really figured this out’, I take a big spill and have to figure out how to get myself back up again. And you know what, that process looks a little different every time, and that’s okay.

The internet and social media are full of proverbs and platitudes about self-care, and what that is, and how to do it, and when to do it, and what face mask or makeup or new workout routine to purchase so that you can do it. And to be honest, although I may be an expert in this field and I wholeheartedly believe in the theories and science behind self-care and its many benefits, I get sick of hearing even myself say that word sometimes.

What I noticed in my 20s is that someone I hardly know telling me what I needed to do, or buy, or eat, or consume in order to feel good and be healthy, was usually an easy, temporary relief, but it really never worked for me. And I don’t think it works for most people. It did, however, rack up my credit debt and my disillusionment in the self-help industry for some time….I promise this is going somewhere positive.

What I learned is that self-care is a purely personal experience, thus the items on your self-care list must be that. Personal. And the reason that can seem so “duh” yet can be so difficult to attain, is that it takes work to figure that out. It takes a lot of time, effort, patience, and insight to discover and experience what self-care actually means to you. Sometimes, self-care for me is forcing myself to put on my nikes and go to a spin class, and sometimes it’s ignoring that “just do it” voice and sitting on my couch with my dog just a little longer. It’s ever-changing. But I have to know and respect myself enough to ride that wave of change.

What I believe (and what the research shows) is that lack of good self-care is hugely detrimental to our long term physical and mental health. So whatever this may look like to you, I urge you to take some time to check in with yourself, to try different things out, check in with the part of you that is in need. Ask for help from people you really know, who really know you, and who you trust. Make a mental or literal checklist so you have some good ideas to fall back on when you’re really stressed, anxious, sad, or tired.

It’s much easier to just do what someone says works for them or what an inspo post tells you. That doesn’t mean those things are always wrong or ill meaning, they aren’t. But don’t take it all for face value. Stay curious. Stay open. Listen to your body and your intuition. And know that your list of go-tos and your needs for self-care will constantly evolve. For some really awesome ideas and motivation from your peers, check out the latest by Mackenzie and Kaylee on this page.

- Rachel Daggett, LMFT, FIT expert contributor


This piece was written for Face It Today, an organization committed to empowering girls by teaching them important life skills, including how to take care of themselves and and to feel confident in who they are.

Do less, More heart

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I spent my Friday morning a couple weeks ago down at the beach, by myself, phone turned off, in the bottom of my bag and wrapped in a towel where I wouldn’t be tempted to pull it out. I didn’t really have a plan going into this practice, but to experience quiet, peace and aloneness for at least 2 hours. I ended up staying for 3. I’ll admit, I only spent about 20 minutes in “active” (whatever that means) meditation - first going around my 108 beads on my mala, repeating the mantra “do less, (with) more heart”. When I made it around the mala, I continued meditating on this intention, focusing on my deep ujjayi breathing and my senses. I tried to match the rhythm of my breath to the sound of the waves….that was kind of trippy, feeling one with the ocean, Mother Earth, and to God. I was flooded with gratitude for where I live, for nature, for life, for my Faith.

The mantra “do less, more heart” has been really important to me lately. During the 4 months of my Yoga Mittra Teacher Training (well, the last year in general), I have experienced major burn out. Burning the candle at both ends as they say. The trap I get myself into is that I am so deeply passionate and in love with what I do, that I end up doing way too much of it, and then doing none of it wholeheartedly. That’s my conundrum lately. So, my resolution right now is to say no to more things, spend more time be-ing and less time do-ing...so that what I do, I can do with more heart. And so that who I love, I can love really well….instead of giving small, broken, tired fragmented bits of myself to a million different things. 

That morning I spent at the beach really brought that home. Usually I have a hard time crying over my own personal stuff...but lately I couldn't hold it back. I was overcome with so much emotion sitting there by myself with no technology or work or other people’s feelings to distract me - so many different kinds of tears and emotions happened during those three hours, that the familiar thought came to mind “am I going crazy??” … and the answer is yes. yes, I am losing my mind … maybe I’m having a mental breakdown, and how beautiful is that? I am thankful for my breakdowns. They make me feel (and release) gratitude, grief, despair, anger, confusion, relief, acceptance --- all of it. really intensely. Basically all the things I am usually helping other people work through. And I realized that this, this time in the quiet, this is what I should be doing.

Thank you for this assignment, YTT teachers. And thank you mind, for losing yourself so that I can be with myself.

Tips from the trenches

A few of my recovering girls helped me put this together for their parents. This is a great resource for family or friends of someone recovering from an eating disorder. But it's not just for them.

At the risk of ruffling feathers, these apply broadly, not just to eating disorder kids and not just to parents.

We as women have a responsibility to teach girls how to love themselves and love others; how to maintain balance in a world of extremes; how to Nourish their bodies, not abuse them; how to speak consciously in truth, without judgment. Men and boys too. 
And we can only teach them by doing it ourselves. 
💜
Don't lose sight of what's important and what's REAL in a superficial, diet, image, accomplishment driven society.

We are all works in progress and the unfinished, imperfect, raw authenticity is the most beautiful part. 

After the Recovery

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Body Image is certainly not a topic or issue unique to eating disorders. It touches all women regardless of a diagnosis or illness. And it certainly doesn’t go away after the illness and unhealthy relationship with food becomes a thing of the past.

I have had the honor of speaking with many women lately who fall somewhere in a category of “disordered eating” or “negative self-image”, or perhaps just “a normal woman” in today's western culture. Women who are not necessarily in the middle of full blown treatment or recovery from an eating disorder (as defined by a medical or mental health professional) but who still struggle with being at war with themselves and their bodies. These are generally high-functioning adults living their normal day to day as mothers, sisters, wives, teachers, business-women, fitness instructors, actresses, artists, etc...

Most recently, I have been honored to collaborate with some dear friends and fellow professionals on a Self-Love Mastermind with the help of the leaders and founders of Manifesting Mamas. My dear friend and colleague Josie Kramer is helping me guide women across the country on a 4-week course about body love and self image.

During this course, we show the trailer for the powerful documentary “Embrace”, created by Taryn Brumfitt, founder of The Body Image Movement. {If you have not seen this film yet, I highly recommend you do!}

This past week, our participants were courageous enough to discuss their reflections after watching the video. I feel it important to share this conversation in order to shed light on how body image can be a painful struggle for all women, and most importantly, how we can support each other in cultivating a healthy, empowering relationship with our bodies, our souls, ourselves.


participant names are changed to protect confidentiality

Sarah: Here's what I am struggling with after watching this. I don't want to embrace my body as it is. I want a healthier, thinner body. Not because society tells me that's what I should look like, or because I think that's what will make me more beautiful. But because I want to be healthier. Does that make sense? So I guess my question is, is the key to changing your body, first accepting it as it is now? Because until I reach my healthiest me, I want to feel happy with how I am.

 

Cindy: A wise woman once said, "Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” I like to think that I like my body as it is now but I also love the idea that I alone have the capacity to change it... and am making progress, albeit, baby steps, towards those changes every single day.

 

Rachel (myself): Sarah brings up such a good point, and such a common struggle with the "body acceptance/self love" paradigm. Because truly, there is nothing innately WRONG with wanting to improve ourselves, to change ourselves, to be "fit" "healthy" "lean" "curvy" "toned" or whatever your personal goals may be.

It really all goes back to balance. There is a difference between self-improvement, health and fitness - and obsessively going to unhealthy extremes (whether emotionally or behaviorally) - which is what the media, health and beauty industries thrive on.

Even when our desires to change our bodies in order to be healthy are truly SOUL-DRIVEN, and not overtly due to society telling us how we should look, there are layers and layers of shame and worth tangled in there that are influenced by outside factors, that we are often not aware of. So the real work in recovery is being aware and accepting of those factors at play while on your journey of health...so that you are completely aware of your intentionality and emotional state throughout that process.

I also love Cindy’s feedback on this!! What an empowering perspective. There is a lot to be said about liking/loving yourself and your body for all that it does - regardless of weight or size! And the truth that you alone have the capacity to make changes towards a healthier you, based on your authentic values and your innate health needs is an incredible gift!

 

Josie (my partner/fellow recovery warrior): Sarah brings up such a great question! I absolutely agree with the emphasis on balance! What I can add to this conversation is a little of my own story and how it relates... When I was a teenager and into my early 20's I suffered HARD with going on and off restrictive diets & my weight would drastically fluctuate up and down by 25 pounds. Whether I was thinner or heavier I felt miserable, I didn't enjoy food & I definitely didn't accept myself. I was in so much turmoil over food that I made a resolve to quit focusing on my weight, to quit weighing myself and to quit dieting all together!!

I decided to start over from a place of self acceptance & focus solely on health while trusting that my weight would balance out in its own time. The acceptance part was key, because I had to accept that I was 25 pounds heavier than I wanted to be. I also had to accept that the “yo-yo” dieting was making my life a living hell.

So I made balanced eating, balanced exercise, and self-care my new approach. No more starvation. No more out of control bingeing. No more over-exercising. And much less obsessing!

It was definitely a process but little by little I started feeling so much better!! I enjoyed food again, I fell in love with yoga and I even got to a weight that was much healthier and more comfortable for me!

Better than all that, I started to truly love myself! The decision to stop battling with myself, while still focusing on health made ALL the difference. It doesn't have to be one or the other approach. I think a balance of the 2 is the answer! I hope this perspective helps with your question!


My favorite part about the transcript above, and the overall experience of working with women on these topics, is the love, kindness and support I get to witness and be a part of every day.

Remember, as Brené Brown said,

“we don't have to do of all of it alone. We were never meant to”.

❤️

Body {beyond} Image: what recovery is really about

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How many times in recovery have we heard “it’s not about weight. It’s not about size. Your disorder is really not about your body at all.” We are told to throw our scales away, never let the doctor show us our weight when we go for a checkup, encouraged not to exercise during recovery, to buy new jeans in more “realistic” sizes...  I remember doing these things in my early recovery days and thinking everyone was full of it. They were clearly all in in cahoots to make me completely lose awareness and control of myself. To make me stop caring about my body so I could be fat and happy.

I realize now that this was all so difficult and incomprehensible at the time because, at the time, it was about all of those things {in my sick mind at least}. It was, but it wasn’t. It was smoke and mirrors, but I wasn’t ready to see that yet.

As a therapist now, I do it too -- I tell my clients that knowing their weight will not do them any good. I remind them that their body is literally crying out for nourishment and energy. Then, I hear myself saying that what they are struggling with really has nothing to do with their weight or size at all...it’s a twisted facade to cover up the insecurities, pain, fear, and lack of control going on far beyond anything to do with their physical body image. They’ve got “ed goggles” glued to their faces.

Sometimes, for those who are ready to look beyond the binds that hold them, I get a look of relief that says “tell me more”. But usually, I get a deer in headlights look, a dead stare, or, especially the teens, a thoroughly annoyed eye roll. And that’s okay! Neither response is right or wrong, they simply reflect two very different phases of recovery. I think back to my earlier self, and I get it.

It’s interesting because the illness, the disease, the life vs. death reality all have everything to do with physical factors -- but the recovery itself, the true, sustainable, the genuine recovery takes an immensely significant and difficult perspective shift of what really matters, and of what is real. No wonder body image is one of the most difficult parts of recovery.


Something really stuck with me last week during a presentation by Dr. Guadiani of the Guadiani Clinic, and Lyn Goldring, VP of Nursing at Monte Nido. They were discussing the unique jobs of nurses, doctors and other clinicians in the eating disorder treatment field, and Lyn spoke of the invariable truth that sometimes, our most important task is to simply bear witness. I felt like she was speaking directly to me. She was so right, and I so badly needed that humbling reminder.

Recovery is a funny thing. I firmly believe that all the time, it is about feeding the soul. All the time, it is about relationships and boundaries. All the time, it is about self-esteem, control, attachment and belonging. All the time, it is about so much more than what it seems.

But, in the eyes and the mind of a hurting, broken, confused girl, sometimes, it is about the food. Sometimes, it is about the body. My job is not to try to convince anyone otherwise, but to hear, respect, and honor my clients, wherever they may be.

I will remind you, I will show you the light, I will bear witness and be a witness to the beautiful and hopeful realities of recovery. But you must walk towards that light, throw away that scale, try on those new jeans, and choose to trust the process in order to really get there. The mission is not to lose awareness of your body, or to lose control so you stop caring. It’s quite the opposite. But it’s one of those things that is so hard to explain, yet so powerful to experience.


Body image is about so much more than the physical, tangible, measurable aspects of the body. And it is undoubtedly something that all women struggle with to some extent. I have lots more to say about this topic, so stay tuned, beautiful girl. And don’t give up. 

The Dis-ease of Being Busy

This article hits home as I sit down to prep for another { busy :/ } week ahead. 

Busy-ness has somehow become our autopilot as a society. We are all guilty of this as professionals, parents, students, kids, teachers, etc. etc. 

"How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?"

Read on for a real and refreshing perspective on the dis - ease of being busy.

 

The Disease of Being Busy

BY OMID SAFI, ON BEING COLUMNIST

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we over-schedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and face-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote:
“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?
Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

 

Building Strength in Heart, Mind, Body and Soul

Rachel Cord, MFT Intern

Manhattan Beach, CA

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Laugh. Think. Cry. - Jim Valvano

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.
But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.
You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special."

...

"Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever."

...

- Jim Valvano, ESPY Award Speech 1993


Two different statements, one moving message, so many truths, from one amazing man.

There are a lot of horrible, ugly, terrifying things about this world. Cancer is one of them. Yet somehow, we must remain hopeful, we must remain humane, we must remember that we still have choice about how we live. 

Jim Valvano's 1993 ESPY Award Speech is a perfect example, and still stands today as a ray of hope, peace, and inspiration among a broken, ill, but beautiful world.

To hear his full speech, see video below.

And don't forget to laugh, think, and cry today.

Kids Health and Nutrition

I'm blessed to be a part of a wonderful online community of real women supporting real women, called Women's Wellness Tribe, founded and managed by the lovely Kacey Morrow [Kacey is also an amazing Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, whose professional work I deeply trust and resonate with, and who I love collaborating and consulting with!]

This past Thursday, one of the hot topics among some of the mamas in our group was KIDS' NUTRITION ... Although I am yet to embark on the adventure of motherhood, I found the topic very interesting and relevant to many of my own friends, clients, colleagues who do have little ones running around. 

So, I decided to share some of Kacey's wisdom here on my blog. Read on to see why I love working with her so much!


KIDS HEALTH THURSDAY - Kacey Morrow, RDN, CLT, Women's Wellness Tribe

Today we are talking BEFORE SCHOOL BREAKFAST!
Kids do so so so much learning before lunch. This is true at ALL grades! Some people (adults) can skip breakfast and still do ok (as long as their other meals of the day are larger) BUT with kids in school this simply doesn’t work well!
DUH! {I’m sure that’s what many of you are thinking} However WHAT we include in our kids’ breakfasts is even more important than “just having something.”
When people consume carbohydrate alone for breakfast, they will experience a quick rise in blood sugar followed by a fairly rapid “crash.” This is due in part to how quickly carbohydrate-rich foods are digested and absorbed (leading to the quick rise in sugars moving INTO our bloodstream) as well as thanks to one of our ever important hormones insulin (answering the call to “do something with this blood sugar rise!”) and subsequently grabbing onto those sugars and racing them off to storage in our liver, muscles, or fat stores.
How do we FEEL during this series of events? BEFORE breakfast…maybe hungry or not hungry…we are all different in the morning! WHILE eating breakfast…”mmmm this tastes good and I can eat it pretty quickly and be out the door in a jiffy!” AFTER eating breakfast….”yay I have energy!”…followed very quickly by…”wow, I’m hungry again already, how did that happen?!”
This is an incredibly tough chain of events if you are a child stuck in a desk seat at school and you don’t have an option to get a snack! You are left with lower-than-optimal energy the rest of the morning…all the while being expected to read, write, answer questions, head off to different specialists (library, gym, art, music), and all the while beings asked to “Sit still! Don’t answer until I’ve called on you! Speak up! Let’s read that again!” {Btw…I feel that teachers are THE most amazing professionals on this planet. THANK YOU TEACHERS FOR ALL YOU DO!!!}
Let’s help our children AND educators out by avoiding this spike and crash in blood sugar and instead create a nice, sustained rise in energy for the whole morning! How do we accomplish that?!
We need to include sources of proteins, fats, and fiber in that morning meal. These things take longer to digest and as a result provide a sustained energy release into the body! Don’t get me wrong…still include carbohydrate! {fruit, grains, sweetened dairy, starchy veg, etc.} However, we just don’t want the first meal to be ONLY from that previous list of foods. This will help create better energy and an increased ability to be an engaged learner for our kiddos!
For my kids, eggs are on the menu several times a week. We also incorporate high-quality breakfast sausages as well as yummy baked goods made with coconut flour (high in fiber as well as protein and fat due to the amount of eggs used in these recipes). I know that not everyone does great with eggs! I had a long Hot Topic post about it earlier this week . What works for one family will look completely different for another!
Now I would love to hear from you! What are some PROTEIN, FAT, and FIBER-RICH options     that you like to include for breakfast?

If you would like to join the conversation, click here!

Whether or not you are feeding little ones breakfast every day, Kacey's advice above is golden! It's important that as parents, or child-less adults, we nourish our bodies properly at the start of the day too to avoid crashing and burning.

Check out Kacey's website to learn more about her virtual wellness programs and nutrition counseling!

With loving gratitude, 

Rachel

© 2016 Rachel Cord, Pacific MFT Network


Pacific Marriage and Family Therapy Network

We provide teen, couples, and family therapy, and have therapists who are skilled in working with kids, teens, and adults experiencing difficult transitions, relationships, or emotions.

Pacific MFT Network is a professional network of highly skilled licensed Marriage & Family Therapists and Interns that are committed to empowering a sense of self in our clients and helping them live the life they want. We do so by creating a relationship that is based on genuine care and concern, non-judgment, and support. Our mission is to help you help yourself live a happier and more satisfying life. 

www.pacificmft.com

Manhattan Beach, CA

rachel@pacificmft.com