My Practice children | adolescents | adults | couples | families

• Candace N. English mft

my practice
art therapy

Hello, and thank you for your visit to With this website I am trying to put some of my concepts and ideas as a therapist out for consideration, including how I use art therapy in my work.

Every therapist has essentially the same goal: to help people change in order to relieve their distress. But how is a client to know which practicioner would be a good match? Of course, a referral, or seeking out someone who identifies with your problem or population can be a good start. But interestingly, outcome studies have shown that regardless of the theoretical orientation, specialty or license, positive results are actually based upon the bond of trust and mutual acceptance that develops between therapist and client.

In my practice of psychotherapy, we are seeking to create a process of transformation. It is a journey derived from the unique needs and inclinations of each client and sought collaboratively through the client-therapist relationship. As you read through this page and browse other pages of the site, I hope you will begin to get a feeling for who I am as a therapist, and how the journey might proceed with clients in the different stages of life.



The work I do with children is experiential and grounded in the art of play. It works from the assumption that play can be a metaphor for the conflict or fear which the child needs to express. The process is one of deeply listening to the child, following and being willing to take a secondary role as the child gains a sense of control and safety.

My greatest influence is Viola Oaklander’s work and her ground-breaking writings, including "Windows to Our Children". I believe she is right in her assertion that many of the diagnoses associated with anti-social and hyperactive behaviors are actually impulse control problems. Many of us become angry and feel an impulse to lash out. The ability to control aggressive impulse, to process it successfully through metaphor, can be practiced in the play setting where the child feels comfortable and curious.

Children and adolescents who have problems with anger or depression, may also display a special sensitivity, a developmental eccentricity or even an extraordinary gift. These factors may contribute to their inability to cope with feelings of hurt and frustration. In addition, there is likely to be an environmental aspect--a discord or perceived threat in the environment that is provoking him or her. As Oaklander says, ‘the resulting behaviors, which are often perceived as anti-social by adults, are actually a desperate attempt to reestablish a social connection.’


• Adolescents

Blue heart

A lot has been written in an attempt to explain the “teenager”. The process of adolescence is set in motion by profound physiological changes. In some populations these changes may begin as early as 9 years old. While transition and transformation are characteristics of puberty in every culture, the phenomena of rebellion and alienation appear to be more prominent in Western consumer-oriented societies.
Some of the issues that bring teens into counseling include problems with parents and peers, academic failures, conduct problems, eating disorders, alienation, depression, drugs and alcohol, sexuality and questions around sexual preferences.

As a therapist, my initial goal is to provide a young person the opportunity to express conflicting or amazing thoughts in a safe and neutral context. To do this requires the client’s trust. Building trust with a teen client is all about patience, consistency, confidentiality and a non-judgmental response.


• Adult Individuals

Fire Tree

The term adulthood spans at least three life phases, according to most theories of development. While the issues and priorities of young adulthood are far different from those of old age, still the oppressive themes of loss, grief, guilt, anger and regret touch everyone’s life at one time or another. Sometimes these themes are awakened and brought to the forefront by life-changing events such as a separation, illness, caregiving or reversal of fortune. The feelings associated with these events are frequently what bring adult clients to seek counseling.

My practice includes old and young, gay and straight, partnered folks and dedicated singles. Most of the work is about becoming whole through building the core of selfhood; and developing a knowledge of self care that is viewed as the foundation of our reaching outward to others and to our world. Conversation is a big part of this work, but the approach I take as a therapist includes and goes beyond traditional talk therapy. Embracing the clients’ own gifts or inclinations in the process, we work together to carefully craft the experiences of imagining, art making, writing or enacting that will play an important role in creating real and lasting change.


• Couples

Blue heart

The great diversity of couples’ relationships is a testament to how fundamental is this basic unit of society. The Marriage and Family Therapist License in California limits the scope of practice to relationship work. When you think about the role of relationships in the development of the human being, it’s clear that the MFT scope of practice is broad indeed. That special training in matters of human interaction and the heart makes us uniquely qualified as couples counselors. Most people want meaningful relationships that include companionship, trust, compassion and a form of closeness that resonates with the body.
Inevitably, the act of forming a couple means that folks are bringing together different family cultures, with all the challenge and frustration of reaching beyond the familiar. Family culture is where we first saw and experienced the dyadic roles played out. Without doubt we do build some relationships, in part, out of those early memories. Of those, what strengths of the family of origin have we brought into our relationships of today? And which of its dysfunctions are being repeated? For the therapist, the dance of couples’ therapy is being in the middle but out of the way. For all concerned, couples therapy will demand respect, commitment, perspective and humility.


• Families


Family Therapy views the family as a system in delicate balance, where each member plays his part of the whole, and where what affects one will ultimately affect all. Often when a family comes to therapy, it is because one of the children is having problems. Rather than pathologizing this child, known as the identified patient, family therapists see him or her as the one who is carrying the symptom of the family’s imbalance.

As a student of family systems therapies, I have been particularly attracted to the work of Virginia Satir, sometimes called Experiential Family Therapy. The Satirian approach is warm, directive and playful, with an emphasis on the practice of communication in several forms. Changing the form of the communication helps the family to move beyond the ‘content’ and reflect on their ‘issues’ more with an eye to uncovering their own unique processes. For example, we look at the different roles and alliances portrayed within the family and what these really communicate.

While many clients do reach new levels of understanding as a result of verbal exchanges with therapists, I have seen that it can sometimes be difficult to hold on to these gains or apply them in one’s life. Experiential Family Therapy includes the notion of “anchoring gains” by taking the clients through a series of experiential interventions. The intent is to bring new conclusions and changes to a deeper level. These interventions may take several forms, such as: telling family stories, charting milestones, sharing photos, doing family art projects, playing board games, or Satir’s unique creation: family sculpting. The idea is to weave spoken word together with the creation of images and/or corporeal actions.

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