Frequently Asked Questions

Is therapy right for me?

We all feel stuck sometimes—trouble sleeping, feeling stressed out, worrying all the time, lacking direction, grieving over a loss, being overwhelmed. Problems can start to infiltrate into our every day lives, making us less happy and less productive.  Our sense of functioning becomes significantly impaired and we can feel distress in our personal, professional, and family lives.  Well-meaning friends and family are there for us to talk to, but sometimes we need more.  We need the professional services of a therapist, a neutral and impartial third party.  YOU don’t have to do it alone. 

The first step to becoming healthier and happier is recognizing the need for therapy.  Therapy can be a beneficial step in improving your life, marriage, career, and family.  It can offer hope, encouragement, and guidance through the murky waters of life.  It can teach coping skills to help with self-improvement.

The first step is making a phone call.  I encourage you to call and set up an initial appointment so we can begin to make you feel better NOW!

How do I choose the right therapist for me?

When looking for a therapist, it is important to consider many things, including office location, fees, years of experience, and education.  The most important thing to consider is how you well you “fit” with the therapist.  Does the personality and demeanor of the therapist resonate with you? Do you feel comfortable with him/her?  Do you feel like he/she understands your problems and offers you helpful insight into your problems?  Does you prefer a therapist who sits quietly and waits for you to talk or do you prefer one who is engaging and interactive?  Has your therapist treated someone with a similar problem before?  While it is quite normal to feel anxious initially in your therapy session, does your therapist help you to feel relaxed enough to open up and share your inner most thoughts and feelings?  Do you feel that your therapist offers you hope for the future and suggestions for change that could better your life or current circumstance?  Research has shown that having a good connection with your therapist is the best predictor for good treatment outcomes[1].

My style of therapy is one that is warm and empathetic.  I am engaging and supportive of your needs.  My goal is to foster a trusting relationship with my clients and to make them feel accepted and understood in a confidential and relaxing environment.  I provide a safe sanctuary to explore difficult areas in your life, sometimes talking about things you have never talked about with another person before.  I will help you to problem-solve and find your own inherent solutions to problems.  I help you to become unstuck and to move forward in life.  When you need to be challenged, I will challenge you.  When you need to be heard, I will quietly listen. I help you to actualize your needs and become a more fulfilled and empowered person.  I believe in a holistic approach to therapy, integrating both east and west techniques in the treatment of the mind, body, and spirit.  Some of my goals for therapy are to help you reduce stress and relieve distress, to decrease emotional pain and reduce symptoms, to manage crises more effectively, to improve communication, to provide insight on the root of a problem, to educate you about coping tools to help you live a more positive and productive life, and to aide in personal growth.  Therapy is an investment into a better you!


How long does therapy last?

Therapy can be brief or long-term, depending on the needs and presenting problems of each client.  Some issues are relatively simple and desired goals can be accomplished quickly (i.e. adjusting to parenthood).  Other issues can be long-standing problems and these can take longer to explore (i.e. dealing with abuse as a child).  Regardless of what brings you to therapy, my focus is on maximizing your time and helping you feel better as soon as possible.  In most cases, I practice brief, short-term therapy (approximately 12 sessions) with an emphasis on solutions, with each session lasting 45 minutes. 


What kinds of clients do you see and what kinds of problems do they have?

I work with a variety of clients, including children, adolescents, young adults, middle-aged adults, and seniors.  I work with individuals, couples (both single and married), and entire families.  The most common problems that I see include anxiety, depression, stress at school, work and home, adjustment difficulties to life transitions, relationship and family conflict, communication difficulties, attachment injuries, women’s issues (infertility, pregnancy, post-partum), sexual problems, parenting issues, self-esteem, ineffective coping skills, past and current trauma, PTSD, and grief and loss. 


What theoretical orientation do you use?

I am a solution-focused therapist, which means that I assist you in looking for solutions to your problems.  I believe that clients possess their own strengths that can help them resolve a presenting problem, although they sometimes need help in finding them.  The focus is on the present and future, with the goals aimed at finding solutions and what is already working for the client so they can do more of it and less of doing what isn’t working for them.  This form of therapy has been found to be shorter-term than more traditional, lengthier therapy. 

I also utilize a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) approach, which is a structured, collaborative, goal-oriented psychotherapy that focuses on current symptoms and teaches specific skills and strategies for managing them. By focusing on the interaction between a person's thinking patterns, behaviors, and their emotions, CBT combines cognitive and behavioral strategies into a powerful treatment for anxiety, depression, and various behavioral problems. Cognitive techniques teach ways to alter unhealthy and often inaccurate thinking patterns, beliefs and attitudes that are tied to bad feelings and maladaptive actions.  CBT is active, relatively brief, and often involves "homework" assignments to practice therapy skills.  An abundance of research over the past several decades supports the effectiveness of CBT for treating many emotional and behavioral problems.

For my work with couples, I use the empirically validated marital therapy approaches based in John Gottman (Gottman Method Couples Therapy) and Sue Johnson's (Emotionally Focused Therapy).  The Gottman Method Couples Therapy is an approach to couples therapy that includes a thorough assessment of the couple relationship and integrates research-based interventions based on the Sound Relationship House Theory.  Interventions are designed to help couples strengthen their relationships in three primary areas, including friendship, conflict management, and the creation of shared meaning.  Couples learn to replace negative conflict patterns with more positive interactional ones to repair past hurts, while deepening emotional connection and increasing intimacy and connection.  EFT is an attachment oriented approach to couples work that stresses that we all have deep needs for a safe attachment and emotional connection with our partner, but that sometimes attachment injuries from our past relationships (rejection, abandonment, emotional abuse) can cause us to get stuck in negative interactional processes with our current partner.  EFT helps to change the dance of emotions from unhealthy to healthy via use of our emotions by providing greater understanding and helping our deep seated need to feel securely attached within our relationships.

For my work with past and current trauma clients, I use EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).  EMDR is a powerful psychotherapeutic technique which is successful for clients suffering from trauma, PTSD, anxiety, panic, and phobias, and disturbing memories.  It can provide quick and lasting relief for emotional distress and traumatic blocked energy by using bilateral stimulation, via left/right eye movement or tactile stimulation, that repeatedly activates both sides of the brain, thereby releasing negative emotional experiences that have been trapped inside the nervous system allowing a more peaceful state of being.  Sessions usually take place in 90 minute intervals.


What is the difference between a Psychiatrist, a Psychologist, and Marriage and Family Therapist, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and a Licensed Professional Counselor*?

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor who completes four years of residency in psychiatry after obtaining a medical degree.  Their focus of study is on the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders.  While some provide psychotherapy, most psychiatrists usually only provide psychotropic medication for various psychological diagnoses.

A licensed Clinical Psychologist has obtained either a Ph.D or Psy.D with 4-7 years of graduate study and the completion of a dissertation, original published research.  They also have to complete 3000 hours, in pre-doctoral and post-doctoral training. Their focus of study is on many areas, including perception, cognition, emotion, personality, behavior, interpersonal relationships, and clinical research.  They work mostly with individuals, conducting assessments, formulated diagnoses, and treating a variety of psychological and emotional disorders.  Some psychologists work solely in clinical practice, while others work full-time in academia or conducting research.

A Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) has a master’s degree with at least 2 years of supervised clinical work.  An MFT’s focus is on how marital and family behaviors impact the individual and they are trained specifically in how to evaluate and treat mental, behavioral, and relational issues that develop within a family context.   Specifically, interpersonal relationships are examined for the purpose of achieving more adequate, satisfying, and productive marriage and family adjustments.  Research has shown that this type of therapy can be even more effective than individual therapy for many mental health issues, including schizophrenia, mood disorders, marital distress and discord, eating disorders, conduct disorders, both adolescent and adult alcoholism and addiction issues, and working with children. 

A Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) has a master's degree in social work with at least 2 years of supervised clinical work.  They have studied sociology, growth and development, mental health theory and practice, and human behavior/social environment. LCSW’s are concerned with social problems, their causes, their solutions and their human impacts. LCSW’s work with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities.

A Licensed Professional Counselor (LPCC) has a master’s degree and provides counseling interventions and psychotherapeutic techniques to identify and remediate cognitive, mental, and emotional issues, including personal growth, adjustment to disability, crisis intervention, and psychosocial and environmental problems. They help empower individuals to deal adequately with life situations, reduce stress, experience growth, change behavior, and make well-informed rational decisions.

*Dr. Vadnais is both a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY 21368) and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC 39973).  She has advanced training in Prepare /Enrich (Premarital and Marital Assessment), Level 1 and Level 2 Gottman Method Couples Therapy, EMDR Level 1 and Level 2 Training, and Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples.


[1]Marci, C.D., Ham, J., Moran, E., & Orr, S. P.   (2007, February).  Physiologic correlates of perceived therapist empathy and social-emotional process during psychotherapy.



Dr. Aimee Vadnais 

  10531 4S Commons Drive #166, #670  San Diego, CA 92127   |   Mailing Address

12000 Carmel Country Road San Diego, CA 92130 (Inside the Connect Business Suites at the Bay Club Carmel Valley)   |   Office Address

   858-284-9592  |  Email: click here