Who we are
Frances Verrinder PhD MFT
“My goal is to provide a nurturing, safe, warm environment that respects your needs and timing. Developing mindful self-awareness and self-acceptance can transform pain and suffering, and restore a kinder, fuller relationship to self, others, and the world.
“Integrating all my experience and training means my work focuses on deepening your awareness of your moment-to-moment emotional and physiological ‘felt sense’.”
I offer psychotherapy for individual adults, couples, stepfamilies and families of all kinds and styles, as well as groups and workshops
My areas of expertise include anxiety, depression, grief work, stress management, posttraumatic stress and trauma recovery, sexuality, relationship and intimacy issues, divorce, remarriage, infertility and pregnancy loss, menopause, women’s’ issues and mid-life transitions, chronic illness, death and dying.
One of my specialties, which I particularly enjoy, is what I’ve come to identify as Romantic Intelligence — working with professionally successful men and women who have difficulty with creating long-term romantic relationships. For more information about Romantic Intelligence groups both in San Francisco and at Esalen Institute, please contact us.
A second specialty is working with immigrants. Since I am an immigrant, I understand the dynamics and challenges of leaving one culture and adapting successfully to the United States. I usually have several clients who are from Europe, Britain, and Asia, or from the Commonwealth.
Another specialty is psychotherapy with step-couples and stepfamilies, which I come to from my own wonderful and difficult experiences as a stepmother.
Over the past 35 years, I have developed my own holistic, integrative therapeutic approach. I was fortunate to arrive in San Francisco in the 1970s at the height of the Human Potential Movement, when family therapy was being invented. I was lucky enough to intern with a group of creative, innovative “cutting edge” clinicians who taught me to develop and value emotional aliveness and relatedness to my self and others. From them I learned play therapy with children, Expressive arts, couples and family therapy. After several years working in community mental health, I went to live at Esalen Institute in the early 1980s to learn Gestalt therapy. My teacher, Dick Price, an Esalen co-founder, was also a Vipassana practitioner, so his version of Gestalt focused deeply on awareness and breath. This quickly led me to training and experience with somatic psychotherapy, specifically bio- energetic and Reichian bodywork. Since then, my professional training and experience have included training in group therapy skills, psychodrama for group work, hypnosis for stress management and trauma recovery, EMDR, psychobiology and Attachment theory. I have been training with Stan Tatkin PsyD for the last five years and I am a Level 11 clinician in PACT, a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy.
How I work
Integrating all my experience and training into my practice means that my work focuses on deepening your awareness of your moment-to-moment emotional and physiological “felt sense”. Developing mindful self- awareness and self-acceptance can transform pain and suffering, and restore a kinder, fuller relationship to ourselves, to others, and to the world. My goal is always to provide a nurturing, safe, warm environment that respects each person’s needs and timing.
Together we work on
- Experiencing and containing emotional pain
- Recovering from trauma experience
- Developing thinking skills and self-soothing skills,
- Increasing core vitality and an expanded experience of autonomy, and • Deepening a loving and accepting relationship to others and ourselves.
With couples and families, I also utilize systems theory and family of origin approaches, communication and fair fighting skills. My aim is to help everyone — individuals, couples and families — develop affection, playfulness, resilience, communication and problem solving skills so that they can move forward successfully and happily in their lives.
Teaching and supervision
I have been a visiting teacher at Esalen Institute since 1984. From 2000 to 2010, I co-lead twice yearly intensive weekend groups with Michael Griffith and Dorothy Charles for the Work Study Program. I currently co-lead groups on developing romantic intelligence for both men and women with my husband and co-therapist, Michael Griffith.
As an Associate Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies, I have taught family therapy and couples therapy in the Expressive Arts and Somatic Psychology Programs. I have also taught post-graduate courses in play therapy, couples and family therapy at the London Gestalt Center as well as at Bay Area universities including John F Kennedy University’s Graduate School of Holistic Studies, and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology.
I provide supervision and consultation for pre-licensed and licensed clinicians both individually and in groups.
I currently offer a Consultation Group for Licensed Clinicians. Please see Groups and workshops for details.
I usually employ and supervise two MFT Interns in my practice. This allows us to offer low fee therapy to clients. Please see Our Interns page.
Michael Griffith and I have been married for almost thirty years. I am the stepmother of two adult sons and step-grandmother to two small girls. I love to sing and I am a member of two Bay Area choirs. I am in the process of writing a book about Romantic Intelligence.
Michael Griffith MFT MA MS DDS
“My goal is to offer you a completely safe environment in which you will be fully accepted, understood, and supported. Our aim will be to maximize your self-awareness, identify what is most vital in your relationships, and to explore how to promote changes to help you adapt to your life more fully.
“We will help flesh out your highest personal style of relating, and develop the highest potential in your relationships. Your physiological and emotional inner life will be more fully understood in our work.”
I have been licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 1991. I offer psychotherapy for individual men and women, couples, families of all kinds including stepfamilies and multi-generational family structures.,
Approaches–My areas of expertise
I relish working with couples of various kinds – gay, straight, premarital, high-conflict, separated, divorcing and remarrying. The problematic life experiences many have had can make relationship life challenging to accomplish, even while pursuing it avidly. I have come to love helping couples learn how to manage conflict and facilitate active loving in long-term relationships. It is helpful to focus on identifying the habitual patterns in each partner’s emotional style, and to find ways to overcome these old, entrenched patterns, to help overcome deeply held fears and avoidance strategies.
I have been training in PACT (Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy) for the last five years with Stan Tatkin PhD . This approach helps couples develop securely-attached functioning.
Over the years, I have worked successfully with depression, anxiety and panic disorder; recovery from trauma and abuse, including dissociative disorders; eating disorders; personality disorders; men’s issues; relationship and couple conflicts of all kinds; family issues, especially marriage, divorce, remarriage and step-family problems; stress management; work and career difficulties; grief, loss, dying, and TMD disorder.
My emphasis is to help you further your growth and individuality to your fullest potential. I can help you handle your fears, and maximize your enjoyment, both at work and in your personal life. I have learned how to help clients recognize and manage their most difficult inner experiences—those times when you are immobilized by depression, overcome with grief, and frozen with fear and anxiety. These darkest of feelings, require courage and effort to work through, reorganizing habitual patterns of feeling and thinking, as well learning to maintain an ongoing positive experience of yourself and others. I also focus on training your brain to take pleasure in your life, developing and using humor and generosity, as ways to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties are important skills for enriching your day-to-day life.
My specialties also include working with post-traumatic stress and trauma recovery. I am certified in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which is a highly effective method for recovering from a variety of traumatic experiences including sexual and physical abuse. For example, I have worked successfully with a number of clients, both men and women, who had sustained sexual traumas.
I also enjoy helping men develop their full potential, in the world, at work, and especially in relationships. My practice usually includes a number of men who want to recover from abusive life experiences, reclaim and develop their masculine identity, their sense of self, and define what it means to be a man in the 21st century.
How I work
I offer both long-term and brief psychotherapy. Sometimes several sessions are enough to promote change, perhaps using EMDR. Often, longer term can be more helpful in changing deep seated patterns.
You will find me direct and interactive. Our interactions in sessions will range from quieter moments to interactive processing. I don’t sit back and simply say, “a-hum”. Not all styles suit everyone so I make sure that the therapeutic method we use feels comfortable for you.
Over the past 25 years I have found it useful to employ a number of approaches depending on the client and on their challenges. Whatever the issue, I strive to bring it to life in our sessions so we can work with it fully. This may mean working with Gestalt therapy, somatic therapy, EMDR or hypnosis, attachment-based techniques (especially with couples) or short-term behavioral strategies.
While my therapy practice has a strong somatic component, I draw upon a number of psychotherapeutic modalities. These approaches include:
- EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
- Gestalt practice
- Somatic trauma work
- Attachment based exercises for couples
- Visualization and hypnosis
- Bioenergetic exercises
- Psychodynamic/object relations theory
- Family systems theory
- Expressive Arts Brief psychotherapy
Teaching and Supervision
I have been a visiting teacher at Esalen Institute since 1994. From 2000 to 2011, I co-lead twice yearly intensive weekend groups with Frances and Dorothy Charles for the Work Study Program. I currently co-lead groups on developing romantic intelligence for both men and women with my wife and co-therapist, Frances Verrinder.
As a lecturer at the California Institute of Integral Studies, I have co-taught couples therapy in the Somatic Psychology Programs. I provide supervision and consultation for pre-licensed and licensed clinicians. I usually employ two MFT Interns in my practice.
My Other Practice
I am a licensed dentist and have practiced for over 30 years in San Francisco. I have mostly retired from dentistry but have specialized in treating patients with dental anxiety and phobias as well as offering regular dental services and implants. I can work with you for dental anxiety, stress reduction, and TMJ disorder. TMJ or TMD is a complex symptomology of pain in the jaw joint, with multiple aspects, some physical and many emotional.
I have been married to Frances Verrinder for many years, and have two sons whom we co-parented. My personal interests involve oil painting, for which I have maintained a studio in San Francisco for over 30 years, as well as a range of physical (aerobic and snow skiing) and cultural activities including dance, music, drama, and voice.
Copyright by Frances Verrinder and Michael Griffith (2003, 2006, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020). All rights reserved.