Robert Ogner, LCSW

Robert Ogner View Specialties

Welcome to my Theravive Profile!

You are looking at my profile, so there is a very good chance that you are looking for a therapist to help with your relationship.
When I see a couple for our first appointment (which is 90 minutes, instead of the usual 75 minutes) I spend about 15 minutes talking with them about how to make sure, sooner than later, that I will be the right couple therapist for them. It matters to me that you get the help you need. If you'd like some immediate help in knowing how to choose a couple therapist, before you read the sections "About Me" and "About Couple Therapy" and "About Individual Therapy", skip to the bottom section of this profile and read: "How To Choose a Couple Therapist"

About Me

I have provided therapy to individuals and couples, from young adulthood to the senior years, for 34 years. 
My practice was born in Davis, California and is now located in Encino and Westlake Village.  Before beginning  my practice, I served as the Executive and Clinical Director of Yolo Family Service Agency and as Clinical Instructor of Psychiatry at the UC Davis School of Medicine. However, my history of interest and involvement in the things which help us grow and connect better with each other goes back to my mid-adolescence. I read my first book about psychotherapy when I was 15 years old and never turned back. I took part in several meaningful group growth/therapy experiences in my teenage years. My first two paid work experiences in the field were when I was 21 years old.
I have a deep personal, sometimes spiritual, sense of mission in helping people connect and forgive. (I always cried as a boy when Lassie came home, when I read or watched a story of father and son making atonement and forgiving each other, or when a couple would find their way back to loving feeling and a stronger bond.) It's no wonder that being a therapist became my work.
I have a particular feel and enthusiasm for helping couples. This is not an arrogant statement of capacity. I can make mistakes regularly. (And I will own them as soon as I or you see my error.) This is more a humble statement of a sense of deep fit for this work. I want you to know this about me. 
I work to help you step back, together, from negative patterns and processes in which you get stuck, help you find ways to share the more vulnerable experiences and feelings that will strengthen your bond and bring you closer; deepening your connection to each other. This is a description, in a nutshell, of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.
I have vigorously pursued professional training and consultation through all the years of my practice.
I seek to constantly improve and challenge myself so that I might better help the individuals and couples with whom I work. As part of my on-going education I continue to train extensively to deepen my experience and expertise in working with couples.
The most recent evidence of my dedication is being Certified as an Emotionally Focused Couple Therapist. The demands of becoming certified are rigorous.  Certification requires many hours of training and supervision and the evaluation of video recordings of effective work with couples by an EFT Trainer at the International Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. (You might like to go to the ICEEFT website to learn more about Emotionally Focused Therapy and particularly about the phenomenal amount of research that supports the effectiveness of this model. Here is a link to the ICEEFT website: . 
I am currently an ICEEFT approved Supervisor candidate for Certification as Supervisor in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy and in an intense training period to be able to teach and supervise this model to therapists.
All this training is not just hard work and investment of time and money. It makes me more effective in my efforts to help. And there is another personal benefit: The community of EFT therapists is among the most human, collaborative and supportive of any therapeutic community of which I have been a part.  It's not unusual in consult and training groups for EFT Therapists to be moved to tears regarding one another's stories of couples repairing and healing their relationship.
Even before my formal involvement in EFT (I have been reading Sue Johnson's articles and books since 1987.) I was exceptionally lucky to have a strong, supportive and cohesive therapeutic community of colleagues with which to learn. I had four core colleagues with whom I regularly saw couples in co-therapist pairs. This gave us many opportunities to critique together what worked best and to help us grow in our capacity. In all the years of my practice I was never without at least one consultation group and one study group. Being a good therapist requires constant work on being emotionally and intellectually open. Continued learning is required as understanding in the field of how to help continues to grow and change.

About Couple Therapy

Where are we headed when we meet for couple therapy? What am I like as a couple therapist?

 Couples usually have a very good feel for what I am like within the first two sessions. If things are going well between us you will experience me as very actively involved, energetic in my effort to help, task oriented while at the same time emotionally attuned to each of you. If you don't have an experience of me as really caring about each of you and your relationship by the end of the first session, something is going wrong. (You might like to read my article, "Are We Making Progress" on my website. Here is the link:
 I want us to find our way, as soon as possible, into helping each of you express the hurt and longing that is underneath the repeating patterns in which you are stuck. We take some time to learn about how your interactions go, about the moves you each make to manage the different feelings that are difficult to express, and to help you see, together, that these patterns are the trouble rather than any fault of either of you individually. When you come to see how those patterns of interaction are the problem, it will become easier to work together to change the moves that have become so predictable.
 Next, I want to help you work together to identify the patterns when they are happening so that you can stay connected when difficulties begin, rather than flare apart or distance from one another. As you develop momentum in, together, stopping the pattern, you will find a renewed confidence in your relationship. Some couples feel ready to stop once things are more friendly, but this is usually too soon.
 We are working also, at the same time, on helping you feel empathy for your own and your partner's sensitivities and relational difficulties and repairing wounds that have occurred between you. The combination of the relationship becoming more warm and friendly, the increase in empathy for each of your sensitivities and difficulties, and the repair of past hurts consolidates our gains and sets the stage for ending therapy. But we are, generally, not quite done yet. The last stage of therapy helps you take the relationship further toward deeper engagement and intimacy. This stage helps you remain very mutually involved in making sure that you can always make things better when a difficulty occurs. In the end we hope that your relationship (even the troubles in your relationship) will be a deep source of connection.
 Couple therapy sessions are 75 minutes. In the first session (90 minutes) I'll work to link our aims for your therapy to your very specific difficulties. The description above is largely an expanded nutshell description of Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. If this written description of what to expect feels abstract, it won't feel that way when we meet in person and connect it to each of you and your relationship.
In advance of meeting you might like to spend time on my website, which will give you more of a feel for the things I think about and also, perhaps, help you by looking at it together. Here is the link:

About Individual Therapy

In individual therapy the relationship we develop becomes a context in which you can think and feel about your relationship to yourself and to others. I bring a practice life of commitment, creativity, genuine engagement, and also the flaws of my own humanity. I think with you about your experience from a psychodynamic, contemporary interpersonal and relational psychoanalytic and attachment frame of reference, but I have been strongly influenced by the experiential, somatic, expressive and narrative therapies and take an active approach, doing whatever is practical, to help you connect with your deepest and most true self. I see psychotherapy as an enormously valuable gift, not only in healing painful experience, but also in creating a meaningful life.

While I use this Theravive directory listing and my website to declare my interest and enthusiasm for working with couples, half of my practice and an equal amount of my commitment, enthusiasm, and lifelong learning are involved in my work with individuals.

How To Choose a Couple Therapist 

Only 14% of therapists in the United States that state they do couple therapy have actually had training in how to do couple therapy. Many who claim to be competent in working with couples are applying training they received in working with individuals to the couple dynamic and think that this will work, or they have had, perhaps, one class or workshop in couple therapy. Couple therapy is a very demanding mode of psychotherapy. It requires a high level of skill, understanding and experience which can only come from intensive learning and experience. Here is a list of things to ask your potential couple therapist.
1)What is the extent of your training in working with couples?

Some therapists may mention specific conferences or workshops they have attended. Others may point to certification programs they’ve completed. A therapists response will tell you whether her work with couples is something she has invested time and energy in developing or simply something she offers as a general part of her practice.  
Though you may feel uncomfortable doing so, ask follow up questions. For example, if a therapist says that he works in a specific model of couple therapy ask how extensive this training has been. If he says, “Extensive”, ask “Would you tell me specifically what classes, seminars and trainings and also specifically “What training in couple therapy have you had in the last 2 years?” If the therapist is reluctant to share this with you or becomes defensive, she is probably not well trained and probably not a person who will know how to be in a relationship with you, let alone, help you with your most important relationship.
2)How many (or what is the percentage of) couples do you see in your practice on a weekly basis?
This should be a significant number. In general the higher this number the more on-going will be this therapists learning and development. Couple therapy, particularly in EFT, is an ongoing learning experience. The more we practice the more our experience teaches us to respond effectively. There is an exception to the high number rule: If a therapist is honest with you in a way, something like this, “I have only seen a few couples (or, I only have a few couples) in my practice, but I am very committed to learning and to helping you. I am only at the beginning of my journey as a couple therapist. I get lots of supervision and training and will do everything I can to help”, this will very likely be a worthy helper. If you get a defensive response to this question, this will probably not be a good choice to be your couple therapist.
3)What is your theoretical perspective in working with couples?
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, Collaborative Couple Therapy and IMAGO Couple Therapy are the three most well known conceptualizations of working with couples. Of these, only EFT is backed by strong research support. Two others, backed by strong research support, are Behavioral Marital Therapy and Integrated Behavioral Couple Therapy. Of all these therapeutic models of couple therapy, EFT is singularly strong in the depth, breadth and ongoing strength of it’s commitment to research. If the therapist does not incorporate a theory then they will have no idea where they are going with the couple and you will be wasting precious resources and time in their care.
4) Does the therapist work on communication skills?
This is a tricky one. If the therapist answers "Yes" and does not qualify their answer, you may be in trouble. For example, research clearly states that working on teaching a couple how to use "I" statements and other basic communication techniques does not work. Communication is about trust. If the couple does not trust their partner then the words coming out of their mouths will not be taken in and listened to. 
“An emotionally focused therapist focuses on emotional experience. There is a “here and now” focus to this model where primary attention is given to what’s happening in the therapy room. EFT is focused on working with emotion, helping couples make explicit that which is often not spoken, and using therapy as an opportunity to work with these experiences in new ways.” Bradley, Brent; Furrow, James (2013-06-25). Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies (Kindle Locations 7147-7149). Wiley. Kindle Edition. 
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy is, par excellence, the model of couple therapy that builds a deep sense of trust.
5) Does the therapist split the couple up and work with them individually?
If they do, then they are not a couple therapist; they are an individual therapist. Only in extreme cases should a couple be split up and worked with separately i.e., domestic violence, unprocessed trauma, active substance abuse. Splitting a couple up for a session or two for assessment purposes is ok as long as that is the reason for the division. This is a rule in general, but applies very strongly to EFT. There are exceptions to the general rule. Please feel free to ask me about these exceptions.

 6) How does the therapist ensure that they do not take sides?
This question will help understand how the therapist conceptualizes the couple's dynamic. Do they see the couple as two people impacting the other and therefore causing a reaction that further impacts their partner? Couples are systems and just like interlocking gears, one can't move without affecting the other.
7) Does the therapist see the couple as an "Emotional Bond" or a contract that needs to be renegotiated?
Therapists that give their couples tasks to complete such as going on more dates or doing more chores around the house are missing the point. "It's not about the trash!!!" It's about the emotional bond between the couple and when that emotional bond is not strong enough, the couple will respond with distress. These tasks to do more chores or bring home more flowers try to get at strengthening that bond. However, without directly focusing on how that bond is weakened, the couple therapist will be wasting more time and missing the point completely.
8)Do You Focus More on Strengthening the Couple or on Each Partner Individually?
 “A stronger relationship brings resilience to both partners individually and to the couple. As a couple’s relationship changes and more emotional security and positive emotion are felt, couples are less reactive when dealing with difficult situations. They’re better problem solvers in part because they can use their emotional experiences more effectively in addressing the typical issues that couples confront. Relationships are a resource for resilience and change. Emotionally focused therapists make working with the relationship a central focus of their work.” Bradley, Brent; Furrow, James (2013-06-25). Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies (Kindle Locations 7136-7140). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
9)What should you do, in selecting a couple therapist, if you are not sure that you should stay together?
 If your relationship is in bad enough shape that you are having mixed feelings about staying together, an inexperienced therapist may be pulled into agreeing with the negative feelings that have overtaken your positive feelings of love and regard. Some therapists are more divorce friendly than marriage friendly. They tend to take the view that if it is not working and you are not feeling the will to work on things, then it is time to let go. Other therapists say that they are neutral on the subject. I think when your relationship is in big trouble you need a therapist whose stance is, “I will fight for your relationship. I will help you see how you are stuck so that we can find a way to help you feel connected again. I will also face with you how bad it feels and has become and I will face an ending with you, but my main stance is that you need someone fighting for the relationship when you can’t feel your own fight for it. I will, of course, support you in ending if that is what you choose to do, but I’m here to fight for your relationship.”
You can look for therapists at Marriage Friendly Therapist Directory. Here is the link:  . You will also, likely, find marriage friendly therapists at the "Find a Therapist" Directory of ICEEFT. Here is the link: or in the Directory of the Los Angeles Center for Emotionally Focused Therapy. Here is the link:
10)A final few ideas about choosing your couple therapist.
 “You’re paying for a therapist to help heal your relationship, not just give you a warm and fuzzy hour every week. The emotionally focused therapist is busy helping you discover and share with each other. He or she will regularly have you turn and share directly with each other. That’s vital to the model. EFT works inside and in between you and your partner. A good emotionally focused therapist is extremely helpful in knowing when to have you share directly with your partner, helping you stay on track when doing so, highlighting the critical elements shared by each of you, and then helping your partner hear and respond to the sharing from the heart. The therapist helps create the safety, support, and gentle prompts to aid in this happening between you and your partner as needed. He or she then helps each of you make sense of these powerful emotions and needs in light of the past, present, and future.” Bradley, Brent; Furrow, James (2013-06-25). Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies (Kindle Locations 6958-6965). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
“Both you and your partner need to feel comfortable with your choice of therapist. Regardless of the therapist’s approach, if you don’t feel comfortable, chances are, it won’t work as well as it could.” “You’re not the only one who sees this as a priority — most…” (good and responsible) “…therapists, themselves, prefer working with clients who are comfortable with them. Having one session with a couple therapist isn’t a commitment to continue with that therapist. Let the therapist know that you want to have one session with a few of your possible choices to find the best fit. This approach is standard, and it just makes good sense. You don’t have to decide right after the session either. Let the therapist know that you want to go home and talk about it. You can give it several days if you aren’t sure.” Bradley, Brent; Furrow, James (2013-06-25). Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy For Dummies.

Tell the therapist that you’ll call back to let him know if you would like to continue with them or not.
Many therapists will charge for that initial consultation. Many will give the initial consultation without charge. My policy is to see you for the initial consultation and only charge you for it if you decide to come for a second appointment. 


Robert Ogner Reaches

Encino CA