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Dr. John Petersen

Meet Dr. John Petersen

John Petersen is a clinical psychologist and a married father of three children. He completed his doctorate and training at the Adler University in Chicago, a school he chose for its long history of maintaining a focus on both the art and science of psychotherapy. He describes his clinical work below.

Marriage and Relationship Counseling

Relationship counselingMarriage and couples counseling is one of the most demanding and exciting types of counseling. It requires a broad knowledge and understanding of individuals, personality development, family dynamics, and what works in romantic relationships. My approach to couples is heavily influenced by the research of John M. Gottman, Ph.D. formerly of the University of Washington’s “love lab”. Gottman is the psychology equivalent of a rock star. In a field claiming to be a science of human behavior but with a dismal track record of predicting behavior or even giving clear concise advice based in scientific findings, Dr. Gottman’s longitudinal research on marriages and romantic relationships stands out for it’s stunning ability to predict relationship satisfaction and longevity with accuracy over 90%. His findings are scientifically sound and easily translated into practice – the dream of every clinical researcher. I continue to participate in training and consultation with the Gottman institute. As of 2017 this includes reviewing video recordings of my work to continue to learn from the most expert clinicians in the field. I ask all my couples clients to allow HIPAA secure video recording to continue my training but also so you can benefit indirectly from potentially having the top experts in the world reviewing our work. For more information on the Gottman Institute, see

Bill Doherty is another major influence on my work,  helping me to appreciate the importance of being pro-marriage and pro-relationship when working with couples. Barry McCarthy is one of the best author I’ve encountered for information on couples sexual health and sexual intimacy. His informed and thoughtful style with a focus on practical effectiveness is a standard I strive to reach.

Adult Individual Counseling

adult individual counseling

About 25% of my practice is individual counseling of adults with a wide range of concerns. I have a particular interest in treating anxiety disorders including OCD, Panic Disorders, Chronic Worry and Insomnia with a combination of techniques including Cognitive Behavioral, Relaxation Training, Acceptance/Commitment, and Motivational Interviewing approaches. Whether you want help to reduce distress, solve an immediate problem, or understand life-long patterns of relationship and identity, I’m happy to help. See Best Practices below for more information.

Working with Children and Families

One of the great gifts I received from Adlerian professors and mentors is a holistic and common-sense understanding of children that engenders great respect for children and avoids a lot of the nonsense the field of psychology perpetuates about children and how to work with them. Most of this nonsense is variations on rewards and punishment and efforts to control the child, repackaged with theoretical jargon of clinical fads occurring every four or five years. I believe the mark of an excellent pediatric or family psychologist is the ability to help deal with the common and routine struggles in family life, as well as disorders such as ADD/ADHD. The Adlerians provided me a wealth of wisdom and practical know-how in helping parents cope with common yet stressful challenges of family life.

While individual counseling with children can be effective, it never made sense to me to work with a child alone behind closed doors, while leaving out the most important asset and resource in the child’s life – the parents. I rarely work without the parents in the room. Exceptions include working with some teenagers and other special circumstances, such as discussing drug use and sexual activity. Working with children is almost always a family effort. I help parents help their children by moving beyond rewards, praise, and punishment in solving problems.

Best Practices and Accountability to Standard of Care

I do my very best to focus on the most reliable research and clinical wisdom to guide my work. In that pursuit, I tend to draw from research in education, human development, human behavior, and positive psychology. The biggest leap in my professional development came from studying with the Institute for the Study of Therapeutic Change, now the International Center for Clinical Excellence. This group lays bare the biases of clinical research with an extremely disciplined approach to research review and meta-analytic studies. The original research to come from this group (and it’s members’ individual work) side-steps fatal flaws in research of psychotherapy and avoids biases resulting, in part, from the field’s love affair with the medical model of psychotherapy.In late 2006, as a result of my study with ISTC, I  moved from an Evidence Based Practice model to a Practice Based Evidence model. Simply put, I track and measure what works with each individual client at each session. This increases clinical effectiveness (by as much as 65%*) and holds me accountable to my client to get the results they are paying and working for. This commitment to measuring outcome also allows me to measure the overall effectiveness of my clinic, increasing accountability to referral sources.

Miller, S.D., Duncan, B.L., Sorrell, R., Brown, G.S., & Chalk, M.B. (2005). Using outcome to inform therapy practice. Journal of Brief Therapy, 5(1).