Laura Walton, LMFT
Licensed Marriage Family Therapist
As a kid, I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. For my first 20 years of life, I kind of floated around aimlessly – working in restaurants and retail. Then one morning when I was 21, I woke up to my mom calling me to tell me that my dad was dead. He had committed suicide. It was shocking, yet not surprising. He had struggled with mental health challenges for at least as long as I’d been around. I dealt with his death by avoiding – I moved out of state, moved in with my long-distance boyfriend, and proceeded on with my life. I finally finished college, after changing my major about 6 times, with a BA in Art History (I still haven’t used that degree), and went about my life as a waitress. Five years later, I woke up to another phone call. This one was more shocking, and for me, more devastating. My boyfriend had died of a heroin overdose. My world collapsed in that moment. He was my everything. To say I was devasted was an understatement. I believed there was absolutely no way I could continue to live in a world without him.
In the months and years that followed, I sought out all different kinds of support. I tried many different therapists, but really struggled to find a therapist who I felt wasn’t trying to “fix” me. It felt as if my grief was problematic to others, as if it was something that made people uncomfortable and that they wanted to fix or shut down. I didn’t know much at the time, but I knew that that did not feel right. I thought we could do better to support the brokenhearted, and I decided that, one day, I would go to grad school to become a therapist and do just that.
Fast forward to 2012, when I graduated from grad school. I spent many years working as a therapist with some very traumatized populations – families involved with DCS, teens on juvenile probation, and incarcerated men and women. I learned a thing or two about trauma. Through this work and my continued education studies, I became fascinated with trauma, in particular the lesser-known childhood developmental or relational trauma. I uncovered and healed from many of my own childhood traumas, of which I had previously had no awareness. I see my own personal experiences and my healing journey as one of my greatest assets as a trauma therapist. I deeply understand trauma on both a personal and a professional level, and I am able to offer a truly compassionate, supportive, loving hand, while also creating a clear, direct, and accessible road to transformation.
Now, I’ve been a therapist for over a decade. What I’m best at is working with trauma, and what I have learned is that we all have trauma, whether we know it or not. It can show up in our lives in deceiving ways – be it in the form of addictions, relationship problems, anxiety, depression, OCD, feeling lost, hopeless, or overwhelmed, disconnected, lonely, or stuck. You may be struggling with any or all of these things, or your struggle might look a little different.
I am not your typical therapist. Inspired by everything that I have seen work, and everything that I have seen not work, I’ve refined my therapeutic approach to trauma to one that, in my experience, works better for me than the standard therapy model. My approach is unique and customizable to you. My approach is focused on you as a whole person – body, mind, and spirit. We meet for longer periods of time, less frequently, in order to create the deep, sustainable, magical transformation that you want and deserve.
I have so many skills, tools, tricks, approaches, and education to offer, but very little of this works unless you do the work. I work with people who are tired of suffering and are beyond ready to do the work. I work with people who can commit to investing in themselves both in and out of session. I work with people who want something different. I work with people who believe in magic.
My Education and Credentials
I have a Master’s degree in Marriage Family Therapy from ASU, and am a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of Arizona. I am also an approved Clinical Supervisor by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, and a Certified Clini-Coach®.
I have training in and am influenced by the following areas:
- Family Systems Theory
- Narrative Therapy
- Attachment Theory
- Trauma-Informed Care
- Somatic Practices
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
- Post Induction Therapy (PIT)
- Compassionate Bereavement Care (CBC)
- Trauma-Informed Breathwork
- Motivational Interviewing
- EMDR RTEP and GTEP protocol
- Flash Technique
- EMDR Fairytale Model
- EMDR 2.0
- Compassionate Inquiry
- Inner Child
- Internal Family Systems (IFS)
Challenges I Can Help With
➢Recent Event Trauma
➢Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
➢Complex PTSD (CPTSD)
➢Challenging Life Transitions
➢Chronic or Terminal Health Diagnoses
My original therapeutic training was In Marriage Family Therapy, so my work is greatly influenced by my interest in my clients’ family of origin, attachment styles, and relationship dynamics. I am a trauma specialist, and frequently consider life challenges through the lens of trauma – I have found that almost everything that upsets or challenges us as adults has roots in childhood.
I also have a background in yoga practice, instruction, and study. I have been practicing and studying yoga since 2002, and I understand the purpose of a yoga practice to be (as stated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) “yogas chitta vritti nirodha”, which translates as “yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind”. I see this approach to quieting the mind (by learning how to be with what is) a cornerstone of my work.
I also believe that trauma lives in our whole physical being – in our brains, our nervous systems, our bodies, our breath. Through my own somatic (body-based) practices, I understand how trauma can impact these systems, and I have learned ways to bring the whole body into the healing process.
I am easygoing, warm, compassionate, relatable, and collaborative. I am creative and intuitive. I provide a beautiful, safe, and comfortable environment for our work. I use humor in my work, and I prefer yoga pants and bare feet over business casual.
SERVICES I OFFER
“Mindfulness” describes a mental state of nonjudgmental attention to and awareness of the present moment — along with calm acknowledgment of feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations as they arise. Mindfulness can also describe a type of meditation practice which cultivates this awareness, a quality all human beings possess.
According to Mindful.org, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
Mindfulness meditation comes from early Buddhist traditions over 2500 years old, developed to foster
- clear thinking
- open-heartedness, and
- the alleviation of suffering
Despite its Buddhist origins, mindfulness meditation requires no special religious or cultural belief system. In fact, Jon-Kabat-Zinn PhD is internationally known for bringing these practices to the West – creating a research-based program called “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction” that has benefited people from all walks of life. This program has been a helpful ancillary form of treatment for many patients with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, anxiety, psoriasis, and other chronic conditions caused or exacerbated by modifiable lifestyle factors.
As one aim of mindfulness is to take greater responsibility for one’s life choices, it may both strengthen one’s internal resources for optimizing health, and evoke greater engagement with one’s health care too.
Ample research documents effectiveness of mindfulness practices in avoiding relapse in depression, addictions, and also in many forms of anxiety. Studies of its applications in trauma survivors are underway as well. Some forms of psychotherapy which use these practices include Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention. It is not a panacea, though. Psychiatrists and therapists keep aware of potential pitfalls with certain types of people, conditions, and timing. For instance, actively psychotic patients may worsen with long periods of silence in an extended mindfulness retreat. Once symptoms remit though, the person may be well able to participate and benefit from such programs.
Mindfulness can be taught as part of formal meditation practice, and also as integrated into everyday life situations. It isn’t about changing what you think or feel – but about becoming gradually more aware of these things in a moment-to-moment way. Through mindfulness practice, you can develop a wiser and more compassionate relationship with your own mind and body. This pays dividends not only in how you feel personally, but also in the quality of your relationships with others.
All Optimal You professionals apply some form of mindfulness principles or practice in their work.
Post Induction Therapy
Post Induction Therapy is a type of trauma therapy that was created to help people with developmental traumas that comes from abuse and neglect. This style of therapy was developed by Pia Mellody, a leading proponent of issues relating to love addiction and love avoidance, as well as codependency. This specialized therapy helps people find balance in core issues relating to their self-esteem, and personal feelings of shame. It also helps people develop better, long-lasting relationships with others, because they develop better relationships with themselves.
This style of therapy is largely used at The Meadows, which is a well-known treatment facility for issues with intimacy disorders and addictions. This is why it is also often referred to as “The Meadows Model”. This powerful therapeutic works helps clients work through childhood wounds, in a way that avoids becoming overly complex. Clients learn to support themselves in the here and now, rather than get immobilized by past trauma.
Help with Intimacy Issues
Some people struggle with becoming too dependent on others. On the other hand, others struggle with chronically avoiding building genuine connections. Post Induction Therapy (PIT) helps people understand how these struggles came to be. Clients identify and heal old wounds, in a way that helps them notice their own breaking of boundaries and crossing of their own values system. This helps to enhance both friendships and romantic relationships. Thus, the PIT model also is effective for the most intense of these situations, including love addiction and love avoidance.
Help with Self-Esteem
The most important aspect of developing strong relationships with others is developing a strong relationship with yourself. Identifying areas where lacking self-respect impacts the self, as well as those around you, goes a long way in reaching intimacy goals. Post-Induction makes this more apparent to clients, while also helping them to work through the actual source of the self-esteem problem.
Help with Addictions
Many addictions have trauma at the very core of their energy. Post-Induction Therapy can help people deal with the trauma that is based in childhood relationship traumas. This can include abuse/neglect with parents, as well as abuse from peers. By helping clients to better understand these wounds, and work through them, clients are less likely to fall out of their recovery.
Post Induction Therapy can help with the following:
- Problems finding and maintaining stable relationships.
- Overcoming addiction related trauma.
- Becoming more comfortable dealing with personal emotions.
- Contending with issues of codependency.
- Avoiding intimacy with others.
- Problems with self-esteem and self-worth.
Compassionate Bereavement Care (CBC)
Compassionate Bereavement Care is a mindfulness-based, non-
These are the guiding principles for Compassionate Bereavement Care certified providers:
- We believe that traumatic grief presents the most difficult and painful circumstances for individuals, families, communities, and even clinicians;
- We believe that good clinical care and compassionate communities help create a safe environment in which individuals and families are better able to cope with traumatic loss in their grief journey;
- We, as providers, commit to building relationships based on civic love and compassion with the individuals and families we help. We agree to adherence to these principals as part of the Certification in Compassionate Bereavement Care®. We will provide personalized care according to each client’s nuanced needs and their own comfort level. We agree to tender, non-coercive counseling and treatment;
- We support our clients’ participation in healthy, grief-related activities according to their comfort level;
- We trust our clients/patients know best what their own unique needs are and we do our best to meet them at that place, accommodating them on their terms, not ours;
- We respect each person’s unique grieving style and engage in mindful, nonjudgmental relationships which do not pathologize their experiences of grief and grief expressions;
- We do not diagnose or label grief as mental illness;
- We believe in family strengths and we do our best to use those to benefit our clients and their family systems;
- As clinicians, we pledge to remember and honor those who have died and stand with our families as they mourn;
- We care deeply for our clients and engage in activities which reflect such human caring;
- We believe that self-care and compassion and ongoing education are penultimate to our client’s well-being. Thus, we commit to actively engage in daily self-care and ongoing educational opportunities as providers;
- We strive to offer uniquely individualized care that creates healing environments for our clients. We are not constricted by rigid guidelines or rules which do not, ultimately, result in best care practices for our families.
- Guided by the ethics of human compassion we serve, we care, we nurture, we love.
Trauma-Informed Somatic Practices (yoga, breathwork)
To understand trauma-informed breathwork, it is essential to dive deeper into the different aspects of the comprehensive nature of this approach. There are instances in the personal development world where the “trauma-informed” descriptor is used indiscriminately with little regard for what it means and how it is applied. When consciously and responsibly implemented, a trauma-informed approach makes yoga andbreathwork safer and more accessible to all humans.
Once we understand the profound impact of trauma on the entire person, we realize how difficult it is to heal from trauma without explicitly addressing the body. Ideally, a trauma-informed yoga or breathwork facilitator meets clients exactly where they are to collaboratively create an experience that safely enables the embodiment necessary to allow for healing and transformation.
All humans can benefit from a trauma-informed approach. It is not just for people whose pain is obvious with notable sources of trauma. Trauma-informed support can also apply to people with a history of depression or anxiety that has created havoc in life. Ultimately, this approach relates to people who identify with experiencing any amount of psychological pain or grief. This is literally a human-informed approach.
Recognizing the nature of trauma and understanding its impact is where the hope lies—it’s where recovery begins! The foundation of trauma-informed care is a holistic view that offers safety and compassion. It inspires optimism, strength, and relief while enabling people to make long-lasting changes. Facilitating with trauma in mind acknowledges suffering while enabling a safer space for survivors to heal.
Brainspotting is a powerful, focused treatment method that works by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other challenging symptoms. Brainspotting is a simultaneous form of diagnosis and treatment, enhanced with Biolateral sound, which is deep, direct, and powerful yet focused and containing.
Brainspotting functions as a neurobiological tool to support the clinical healing relationship. There is no replacement for a mature, nurturing therapeutic presence and the ability to engage another suffering human in a safe and trusting relationship where they feel heard, accepted, and understood.
Brainspotting gives us a tool, within this clinical relationship, to neurobiologically locate, focus, process, and release experiences and symptoms that are typically out of reach of the conscious mind and its cognitive and language capacity.
Brainspotting works with the deep brain and the body through its direct access to the autonomic and limbic systems within the body’s central nervous system. Brainspotting is accordingly a physiological tool/treatment which has profound psychological, emotional, and physical consequences.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a cost-effective, non-invasive, evidence-based method of psychotherapy which was originally developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD in the late 1980’s for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There have been 24 randomized control studies of EMDR therapy which attest to its value and demonstrate its usefulness across all ages, genders, and cultures. Tens of thousands of clinicians have been trained all over the world in EMDR therapy and studies have supported the use of EMDR with many special populations with an assortment of conditions such as Acute Stress Disorder due to Recent Incident trauma or disasters, personality disorders, eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, performance anxiety, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, addictions, chronic pain, sexual and/or physical abuse, ADHD, and body dysmorphic disorders, just to name a few.
EMDR has been accepted as an effective form of treatment by several major health organizations including most recently the WHO (World Health Organization). It is listed as an evidenced–based practice by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration) and NREPP (National Registry of Evidenced Based Practices and Programs) and the VA/DOD Clinical Practice Guidelines (2004, 2010) recognize EMDR as being a “A” category (the highest level designation) for treatment of trauma.
EMDR is an eight-phase treatment which comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity, and have thereby generated traumatic symptoms and/or harmful coping strategies.
Through EMDR therapy, patients are able to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive. EMDR is a physiologically–based therapy that appears to be similar to what occurs naturally in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and seems to have a direct effect on the way our brain processes and stores information.
The Adaptive Information Processing Model is the guiding principle of the EMDR approach and it postulates that health and wellbeing is supported by positive and successful experiences that increasingly prepare a person to handle new challenges and that the brain is equipped to manage and process adversity. Sometimes it just needs a little help. EMDR Therapy utilizes a 3 pronged approach which includes not only a focus on past (contributory) memories, but also focused reprocessing of present situation that continue to be triggering, as well as the development of an adaptive, positive template for the future.
“EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.” (Francine Shapiro, EMDR .com)
For more information, go to www.emdr.com, www.EMDRIA.org, www.aztrn.org (Early EMDR Intervention and Disaster response). www.emdrhap.org (International Humanitarian organization) Shapiro’s describes EMDR therapy in a 1 hour webinar/video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsQbzfW9txc
EMDR RTEP is the Recent Traumatic Event protocol of EMDR. This method is a comprehensive trauma focused protocol for early intervention. This means that relatively recent events can be processed using EMDR RTEP, allowing the client’s brain to process what has just happened, in order to mitigate later development of PTSD. This treatment approach can often be completed in just 2-4 sessions.
Compassionate Inquiry® is a psychotherapeutic approach developed by Dr. Gabor Maté that reveals what lies beneath the appearance we present to the world.
Using Compassionate Inquiry, both the individual and therapist unveil the level of consciousness, mental climate, hidden assumptions, implicit memories and body states that form the real message that words both express and conceal.
Through Compassionate Inquiry, the client can recognize the unconscious dynamics that run their lives and how to liberate themselves from them.
“The purpose of Compassionate Inquiry is to drill down to the core stories people tell themselves – to get them to see what story they are telling themselves unconsciously; what those beliefs are, where they came from; and guide them to the possibility of letting go of those stories, or letting go of the hold those stories have on them …
That’s what Compassionate Inquiry is.
~ Dr. Gabor Maté
-Dr. Laurence Heller, Author of Healing Developmental Trauma
Retreat Experience Therapy Sessions – longer sessions (2+ hours) for deeper, more targeted trauma healing. Number and length of sessions will be customized to meet your needs – price varies depending on treatment plan.
A La Carte Therapy Session – shorter sessions (2 hours minimum) customized to meet your needs – price varies depending on treatment plan
Partial payment is due at the time of booking to hold the session. Remaining balance is due on day of session. Cash, check, credit cards, and HSA are accepted payment methods.
Your session time has been reserved just for you. Late cancellations are difficult to fill and take appointment times away from others. My cancellation policy varies depending on the type of session booked. Please contact me or refer to your informed consent paperwork.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays – hours vary
All forms can be found within your client portal.