About Gemma


I have been working and volunteering in the the fields of counseling, marriage and family therapy, coaching, facilitation, teaching and training since 1985 in a rich variety of settings.

I am dedicated to helping adults and adolescents with a wide variety of individual and relational issues. If asked to define the essence of my work I’d probably respond with:

I help people listen to – and seek to understand and feel compassion toward – themselves.”

From that place, good shift can happen.

I find this particularly rewarding when working with people-in-relationship (married or cohabiting or dating couples, and families). I have found that so often the feelings and judgments we hold for those around us can be excellent portals into an encounter with our own demons. While at first this can seem irritating or unfair (as in ” You’ve not met  X or you’d never say that...” ) it is actually very good news.  Time and again I’ve seen remarkable personal and interpersonal transformations when one person grasps the uplifting truth that any one can initiate positive change.  We are not helpless victims of our previous choices. There are always options, and these can become more easily perceived and explored in the safe and non-judgmental setting offered by a helping professional.

Maybe my interest in the complexity of these interpersonal dances stems from growing up in a pretty unhappy home. While I loved my parents as individuals, together they were definitely not a match made in heaven.  When they finally separated after 36+ years of marriage, I think everyone who knew them was relived.  Fortunately I was saved from equating “marriage” with “torture” by my rowdy and boisterous collection of aunts and uncles who did the whole thing quite differently. Here were other marriages of 20, 30, 40, even 50 years, where husband and wife seemed to grow closer. Where homes were filled with laughter, teasing, loud fighting and raunchy make-ups. Here were living witnesses to the idea that marriages could be places of comfort, solace, great fun and great learning. I knew that if I married, I wanted my experience of relationship to mirror my aunts’, not my mum’s.

So,  the two-part question I seem to be spending my lifetime answering is this:

  1. How do we learn to love ourselves?
  2. How do we cultivate healthy, happy relationships with others?

In the early 1980s I moved from Sussex (UK) to Seattle (USA) to get to know Mark (you’ll hear more about him) and invest in our relationship. Figuring it came down to communication, I volunteered for three years with the King County Crisis Clinic. This was a 24 hour hour call center where I learned how to communicate usefully with suicidal callers, the chronically mentally ill, the homeless, the lonely and the bereft. I took up a regular shift with Planned Parenthood supporting girls in their contraceptive choices and talking a wee bit about healthy relationships.  I worked in a leadership school for gifted teens. All the while watching. How to use my words to communicate caring, and encourage change. It wasn’t easy or obvious.

Eventually I went on to study for my masters degree in Psychology at Seattle University, and followed that with two years of post-masters training in systems theory and practice: in other words – with relationships.  I had finally arrived into the territory I had been seeking.

That was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since then Mark and I have raised a son (now  30 years old)  and a daughter (now 25 years old) and will be celebrating 39 years of marriage in November 2021. I guess by now  I can claim to have had some real life experience in how to be happy and married.  And, thanks to some inspiring teachers, great clinicians, insightful supervisors, brave clients and lots of practice,  I have learned that thriving in relationships is about a whole lot more than communicating. I have come to see that  ~

  • “Fixing” a marriage does not just mean “fixing” one or other partner. Instead, it means fixing the way they relate, first to themselves and then to one another.
  • Communication is important, and some formulas can be taught, but it is by no means the royal road to success.
  • Emotion is key. By tracking what is going on when we feel suddenly angry, fearful, ashamed or abandoned we can follow the clues to our own raw, sore spots. And then we can work to heal them.
  • We are not doomed to be helpless duffers at the whim of Cupid’s arrow-throwing chaos. There are skills, and simple daily habits, we can use to fan the flames of love.
  • Having children changes everything. Again, there are ways to become a family that are more likely to deliver happiness, and these too can be learned.
  • And so much more!

Over the years I have helped individuals, couples and families make the improvements they want to make.  In any session with me I have two goals in mind. The first goal is the one the client brings – to feel happier, to fight less, to love more, to decide whether to stay or go. These are all very important.

But I also have the goal of making myself redundant. It matters to me that my clients learn how to grow in love, compassion and understanding toward themselves so when they leave the therapeutic encounter, they feel well equipped for future storms.  I am focused on creating a deep understanding and a shift into a whole new pattern of relating (to self and others) not just short term symptom relief.

Working with me, you will learn how to listen to what you feel, need and want. You will learn how to understand your feelings for the useful windows into your deepest self that they are. And you will discover how to use this information to get your needs met in healthy ways.

Working with me means you will have a skilled, kind, hopeful and compassionate guide on your side. If and when you are willing, I promise you a change process rich in discovery, empowerment and results.

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