“Ellen Boeder is a psychotherapist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado. Since 2004, she has worked primarily with women and is now incorporating couple therapy into her practice. Her theoretic approach includes transpersonal psychology, developmental attachment theory, family systems, and somatic and energetic modalities. For couple therapy she also utilizes Stan Tatkin’s model, the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy (PACT). She is inspired to support women and couple’s heal and grow in ways that liberate their authentic selves.”
About Ellen Boeder, MA, LPC
I have been working in the field of counseling and healing arts since early adulthood. After receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Women’s Studies in 1995, I spent four years working with girls in residential treatment, while also beginning to explore the practice of yoga. Eventually, I chose to pursue my Master’s degree in Transpersonal Counseling at Naropa University, which I received in 2003. This program combined rigorous clinical training with contemplative mindfulness practices that are the foundation of my approach as a psychotherapist. While in graduate school and since graduating, I have trained extensively in Ashtanga yoga, and I developed a therapeutic yoga program for the Eating Disorder Center of Denver, Colorado in 2004, where I worked as a primary therapist for four years. Since 2007, I have been in private practice, specializing in women’s issues and eating disorders. In 2009, I completed the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute’s Training for the Treatment of Trauma, and recently received my certification in Reiki energy work. I have spent the last 4 years training with Stan Tatkin, PsyD in his method of couple therapy, PACT and am Level 3 Trained. I continue to pursue training in cutting edge, research based clinical work, as well as the transpersonal practices of meditation, yoga, energy work, and shamanism. My approach is relationally based, and I utilize experiential modalities such as Gestalt, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and body-centered approaches, which I find deeply enhances the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioral work. My theoretical view is informed by family systems, attachment and developmental theories, as well as my contemplative training and studies. I live in Boulder, Colorado where I maintain a part-time private practice, while also parenting my two young children with my partner, Jayson.
When I specialized in treating eating disorders for seven years, a discouragingly large number of these women had been sexually assaulted at some point in their life. The majority of my clients had not had the resources to address their trauma and had accumulated a range of other issues (such as the eating disorder) that needed attention. Now as I work with couples looking to repair or revitalize their relationship, when sexual assault is in one or both of their histories, we work to help the couple manage and navigate the trauma together, creating new pathways of healing and connection for both.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
My interest in working with this population stems from a strong passion for working with women in general, and women are the ones most often the targets of sexual assault. My sister was sexually assaulted in 2003, and her recovery was made possible by not only her determination and courage, but also the wonderful healing practitioners that supported her along the way. Women who have the support necessary to recover from this trauma can have beautiful and fulfilling lives, and contribute wonderfully to their families and communities. It benefits us all to help women and survivors.
As a couple therapist, my approach is steeped in the Psychobiological Approach to Couple Therapy which is a way of working with couples that incorporates the latest research and findings as it applies to couples from the fields of attachment theory, developmental neuroscience, and arousal regulation. Even if we have a difficult attachment history, it is still possible for a couple to function securely, with safety, trust, and connection as the relationship’s foundation. This becomes even more important if one of both partners are survivors of sexual assault. A trauma informed approach when working with couples is necessary to navigate the complexities of experience that occur within our intimate relationships, especially when there is a trauma history for the client or clients. My role as a couple therapist is to help the couple move safely into a more secure way of relating by teaching them skills of secure functioning, honoring their trauma reactions, and helping them regulate each other more effectively and efficiently even when their trauma responses are activated.
How My Practice Holistically Addresses the Impacts of Sexual Trauma
I think my way of working with survivors honors all the physical, emotional, mental, spiritual aspects of this trauma, and as written above I hope you can see that! I do also refer to alternative providers to fill in the inevitable gaps that I cannot fill: I utilize our local rape crisis center for information, advocacy, and group work, I have collaborated with massage therapists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, nutritionists, psychiatrists, and other providers as it seems helpful to my client. I also am a trained yoga teacher and have offered clients simple tools through working with breath and body to calm and restore and ground themselves. I am certified to practice Reiki energy work as well but have not incorporated that into my work with any clients yet.
Modifications for Survivors
The ways I modify my approach to increase safety for survivors is to be very clear and remind them ongoingly that the pace is in their hands, and I am here to help them tolerate their experience. I feel it is very important that I am quite overt about the work they do with me is very much a choice, moment to moment, and I support and respect that. I am not always that overt with my other clients about that power they have in our sessions, but find with survivors the locus of control needs to be obvious and stated. I have found that the course of treatment that Judith Hermann so eloquently and knowledgeably writes about unfolds naturally when this tone is set. I am of course more directive if I feel someone is becoming a danger to themselves, avoiding something that may be a resource for them, etc.
When it comes to accessibility, I have limited hours in my practice and very limited availability outside of my office hours, so clients are informed of that up front and may decide if that will work for them. I do maintain several sliding-scale clients on my caseload so that I can offer that to a survivor if needed.
Learn more about Ellen’s work with survivors of sexual trauma and eating disorder recovery in this interview Sexual Violence and Eating Disorders – Making the Connections to Promote Holistic Healing as well as our blog interview Cycles of Healing through the Lens of Pregnancy, Childbirth and Parenting.