John Petersen, Psy.D., HSPP

John Petersen View Specialties

Meet Dr. Petersen

I’m a South Bend native and a married father of three young children, ages 11, 8, and 5 years old. I completed graduate studies and predoctoral training at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in Chicago (, a school I chose for its long history of maintaining a focus on both the art and science of psychotherapy.

Working with Couples

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. Gottman has recently ventured into the Popular Psychology realm but his roots are firmly in research and professional training. For more information on Gottman’s work, see

Bill Doherty is another major influence on my work. His biggest influence was to help me appreciate the importance of being pro-marriage and pro-relationship when doing couples work.Barry McCarthy is the best author I’ve encountered for information on couples sexual health and sexual intimacy.

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 with common and routine struggles in family life, as well as disorders like ADD/ADHD. The Adlerians provided me a wealth of wisdom and practical know-how in helping parents 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.

Adult Individual Counseling

Yes, I do Adult counseling. About 25% of my practice is counseling adults with a wide range of concerns. In fact, my original training strongly emphasized working with adults. Whether you want help reducing distress, solving an immediate problem, or understand more life-long patterns of relationship and identity, I’m happy to help . I encourage you to read on to understand my approach to adult work.

Leading Edge in Clinical Excellence

Since graduate school, I have doggedly focused 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. 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 have 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). Find a good therapist

Dr. John Petersen Reaches

South Bend IN