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Michael Y. Simon, LMFT

I work from a cognitive-interpersonal perspective, utilizing the insights and empirical research based in Control-Mastery theory, along with the tremendous and growing insights in the developmental sciences. Control-Mastery theory emphasizes and is centered around the idea that people come in to therapy with an unconscious plan to work on their difficulties, and to remove the obstacles that prevent or interfere with the pursuit of normal development goals. Therefore, my view is extremely positive and progressive—that people come to therapy with a wish and real willingness to master their difficulties and not to remain stuck in old, unhelpful patterns.


When you enter therapy, you will be entering a collaborative process whereby you assist me in understanding both what your goals are and what beliefs, attitudes and behaviors might be undermining your conscious and unconscious life goals. You will find in our work a great deal of respect from me for your abilities to communicate just what you need—even if you have trouble talking directly about what you want.  I work with adult individuals, couples, families and youth, and specialize in working with teens and their families.

Why Developmental Science for Understanding Adolescents?

As noted UC Berkeley researcher Ron Dahl wrote, "adolescence [is] a period of rapid growth, learning, adaptation, and formational neurobiological development. Adolescence is a dynamic maturational period during which young lives can pivot rapidly-in both negative and positive directions. Scientific progress in understanding adolescent development provides actionable insights into windows of opportunity during which policies can have a positive impact on developmental trajectories relating to health, education, and social and economic success. Given current global changes and challenges that affect adolescents, there is a compelling need to leverage these advances in developmental science to inform strategic investments in adolescent health."


Understanding the advancements in developmental science allow us a purposive view of development, which is ultimately about knowing how the ways in which children develop is for a reason, and not evidence of pathology.  This is especially important to working with adolescents and knowing that the changes they experience are by and large filled with meaning, with the purpose of adaptation to complex environments. Developmental science "thinks" in terms of systems, and is intensely interested in the plethora of new types of data collection, from functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) which "...allows the examination of how different parts of the brain work together to better ways of tracking eye movements to study attention as the interplay between the person and the environment." Consider the impact of stress on development (Aldwin, 2014): "...stress and stress-reducing processes exist at the cellular levels, impact on mental and physical health, transact with the immediate environment, and are strongly influenced by social policy. At the genetic level, stress hormones can result in the methylation and down regulation of genes that regulate the stress process, perhaps leading to greater vulnerability in adulthood." Developmental science offers a nuanced, multidisciplinary, multilayered way of understanding the human being.


Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Science in Clinical Psychology from San Francisco State University and a Master of Arts in Religious Studies/Philosophy from Temple University.  He is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with licenses granted by the Louisiana LPC Board of Examiners Louisiana, #1193); by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (California, #38305); by the Connecticut Department of Health (Connecticut, #2591); by the New York Department of Education, Office of the Professions (New York, #001784) and; in Washington State by the Department of Health (#LF61166135). License verification is available online.


Michael has been providing psychotherapy in private practice setting since 1997, specializing in work with adolescents and their families and supporting the creative processes of musicians, visual artists, writers and actors. As the former executive director of the San Francisco Psychotherapy Research Group, he worked closely for many years with the developers of Control-Mastery theory, promoting greater understanding of psychotherapy change processes and psychopathology from a Control-Mastery perspective. Michael is the founder of Practical Help for Parents—a support organization for those who work daily with adolescents—as well as a school counselor, educator, and author of The Approximate Parent: Discovering the Strategies That Work with Your Teenager (Fine Optics Press, 2012).

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