Paula Kettula, LCSW - Psychotherapy,  Educational Services and Consultation

My practice focuses on the entire person from a mind-body-spirit-soul perspective. I believe that in order to get relief from psychological problems, we have to pay attention to the whole being that we are - It is absolutely vital to our wellbeing that we pay attention to our soul!

My approach to therapy is based on the deep belief and conviction that behind the pain and suffering we experience in our lives, in our being or body is a higher meaning or a purpose that needs to be discovered. It is a realization that our difficulties in life do not exists because of some meaningless or cruel cosmic joke or because “there is something wrong with me”, but for us to recognize that there is a part in us that is always whole, protected and can never be broken. One of the most important goals of my work is to remind my clients that we are more than we think we are; we are soul-like, spiritual beings with light within us that can never be extinguished by anyone or anything!

The journey of therapy is about finding this lost light that has the potential to transcend pain and suffering which belong to this earthly life. Viewed this way, the symptoms of despair, sadness, anger, grief and anxieties, or the acting out behavior in children don’t exist because the person is flawed, but are the soul’s way of communicating to us about what needs to be paid attention to. 

When we grow up, any negative or traumatic experiences in our lives end up shaping the view of who we are. Our parents or others around us may send us negative messages that we, not knowing anything else, allow to come inside our psyche. Because of these introjections, we may grow up thinking that “I am not good enough”, or “I am unlovable”. Feelings of worthlessness and shame develop as a result of hurtful or abusive behavior of others (often from the ones we love) towards us that may send us ever deeper into self-hatred, anxiety, anger or depression. 

Since no-one wants to suffer and live their life in pain, we begin the eternal search for that which might make us feel better or happier, or help us avoid the pain; compulsive love, medications, relationship, sex, new car, perhaps a nice dress or drugs and alcohol. Though we may get brief joy and satisfaction, in the end, this search leaves us feeling unfulfilled, and empty. We get stuck in samsara. We lose our freedom and the sight of who we truly are. Slowly, life becomes narrow, constricted and unenjoyable. Suffering, emotional pain and anxieties have taken over and now drive us further and further away from our true self. We may retreat from others, have issues with intimacy or feeling love towards others, we may want to isolate and think we are worthless or struggle with addictions. Common issues are also out-of-control anger or up and down moods that make us feel as we are constantly in the middle of a storm. We may also feel that the world is against us, and that things are unfair and we carry this deep-rooted hurt in our hearts. In the very pain and suffering we usually try to avoid is a kernel of healing. 

I work with people to help them see their problems and emotional pain as something that can guide and restore rather than something that needs to be hated with one’s whole being or eradicated at all cost. Each individual, be it adult or child, has the capacity to learn to see this. My role as a therapist is to provide a safe, nurturing, trusting, and accepting space for a person to explore their life experiences and inner terrain; to help them learn to trust and accept themselves once more and to help them cope with the multiple difficult demands of life. In the words of Lao Tzu: “If one is lost, one can also be found”and that is the beauty of therapy. 

So everything said above provides a background for all that I do in therapy no matter what the intervention or method we are using at the time, may it be EMDR, cognitive-behavioral, relaxation or guided visualization, learning to manage day-to-day life, skill building, or psychoeducation.  
My approach to working with children:

Besides working with adults and couples, I especially love working with children and families. 

Children are the most precious asset of humanity: they are our hope and our future. Without children and the strength of childhood, we all would vanish from this earth. Dr. Maria Montessori calls the child "The Savior" or "The Father of Man". In her philosophy, she describes the child "incarnating" the Man he will become as an adult. She also believes thatchildren, when given the right kinds of supports for their development, are the answer to create a more peaceful world that is based on love, altruism, social cohesion and collaboration. I believe that all children have the capacity to develop these qualities!

But, children of today have many problems from tantrums to unexplained fears and anxieties, learning difficulties, ADD/ADHD, depression, anger/aggression or general defiance and misbehavior.  Our typical response to remedy these issues is that of direct influence of teaching rules, implementing regulations, instilling consequences, teaching about proper behavior and conduct, pouring our values and morals onto the child, teaching them "the lessons of life" hoping that they will turn out ok.... We do all this out of our deep and very special love for the child, and concern for their future. But, it is a position of us adults "knowing what's best for the child" by filling the  child with our wisdom and knowledge.

This approach has lead us further away from understanding our children. It has not solved the problems, and we have not been able to provide for their emotional, developmental and educational needs. Children have become the lost and forgotten citizens of this world. 

I invite all of us adults and parents to let go of the idea that we know the best. Life and through it, the development of the child, and indeed the child, is the one who knows the best! When we trust and follow the child, he will, WHEN GIVEN THE CORRECT CIRCUMSTANCES, DEVELOP INTO A HAPPY, LOVING, KIND AND BALANCED HUMAN BEING.  

Nature, and life itself, has a master plan of development which includes certain needs, universal human tendencies and sensitive periods when optimal learning can happen. 
It is through understanding these special times of growth, their needs and providing the child the right kind of nourishment, we help them become who they are meant to be. 

As Alison Gopnik says, we need to be gardeners to our children rather than carpenters: As each flower or plant needs the right kind of light, water, and soil for it to manifest its' true beauty, so do our children. They follow their own time and path. We do not need the mindset of the carpenter who has exact ideas of what he wants to build and how. We should not instill our precise measurements and plans onto our children. THIS is what stifles their spirit, and goes against the natural path of development leading to the problems we see in our children today.  

So, I offer a view that is a bit different from the general public, but it is a view that has proven to work, and is backed by the current knowledge provided by developmental neuroscientists regarding the needs of children.  

I strive to towards a deep understanding of the needs of children, following the laws of nature and utmost respect for the child as a unique individual with a rich emotional, spiritual, cognitive and social inner life.I invite the parents along this miraculous journey of discovery so we may all grow and learn through the child. 

In my work with children, I combine aspects of the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy with child-centered play therapy. This allows children to work through the issues that are bothering them and restores them to a more natural state of being. I trust that the child will communicate to me through play what he or she needs. It is my job to understand this and respond in appropriate loving and caring manner whether it is just listening and witnessing or eliciting the parents to help the child. 

I typically meet with the parents first to discuss the concerns before I meet the child. I think it is imperative that parents stay involved in their child’s therapy thus I like to set up parents-only sessions every 4-6 weeks where we can discuss pertinent issues and help the parents understand the child’s behaviors. It is not through attempts of control and authority that the problem changes, but through understanding, love, respect, and collaboration.  
More about me:

I graduated with master’s degree in social work from San Diego State University in 2006, and got licensed as a clinical social worker 2 years after that. I am originally from Finland but I have lived and worked in the therapy field here in San Diego since 2000. 

My professional experiences range from working with sexually abused and abusive children to adults hospitalized in a psychiatric unit to helping parents struggling with their children’s challenging behaviors. Since 2009, I have had the privilege of owning and managing my own private practice that allowed me to unite my personal beliefs and style with my professional life. 

I have received adjunct training in EMDR therapy, Play Therapy and Sand Play Therapy. I also became a certified yoga teacher in 2014 in order to incorporate this ancient practice of balancing the mind, the body and the spirit into my work. 

In 2015, I felt a deep cry for help from the children I work with as well as the children of the world. Fueled by this call and frustrations with the traditional school system, my journey of helping children lead me to obtain an AMI Primary Montessori Diploma at the historic Montessori Training Center in Perugia, Italy. I returned from there with my heart full of hope for the future of children, for the future of humanity, and eager to contribute my share of creating peace in this world by nurturing the spirits of children.

As any other human being, I have experienced trauma, grief and loss, happiness and sorrow.  Along the journey of my own healing, I have delved into the study of Greek mythology, Judaism especially the mystical aspects of the Kabbalah and Hasidic Tradition, alchemy, yoga, dreams, poetry and writing, existentialism, and Jungian depth psychology. Through this process AND receiving special guidance, I developed a profound sense of spirituality, faith and a sense for the order of the world in which all people and things can be as they are. The duty of our lives as human beings is to diligently work towards finding all encompassing love and freedom in this polar world. 

I incorporate my personal healing experiences, life lessons learned and knowledge gained with the professional and theoretical background of my education, resulting in a unique, and authentic style of therapy. 

In my personal life I try to balance family, friends, work, fun and relaxation. Besides spending time with my family, I enjoy long walks with Trinity (a 6 lbs Chihuahua!)  connecting with nature, reading and writing, and of course yoga!

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