Therapeutic Style

In counseling with Debra L. Kaplan, you’ll make significant progress. You will decrease or extinguish self-defeating behaviors and finally make the change you’ve wanted in your life, whether that means giving up an addiction, resolving trauma(s), ending sexual compulsivity and addictive behaviors, or managing anxiety and depression.

Experiential therapy

Under the guidance of Debra’s direct yet caring style clients experience profound change. She incorporates proven modalities – such as EMDR  and somatic based therapies– to achieve tangible outcome-driven results. Debra is a Certified EMDR therapist and brings a depth of experience and EMDR protocols into her work.

In individual and group therapy, you’ll work together on self-empowerment, increased self-esteem, and authentic self-efficacy. You’ll learn to make healthier choices and communicate more effectively with others. Your relationships — in particular those with your family — will become more rewarding and emotionally connected.

Debra’s Therapy Methods

Debra L. Kaplan, utilizes several highly effective therapy methods, called “modalities.” EMDR, EFT, experiential therapy, and family of origin work are clinically proven to get results, even with seemingly untreatable conditions such as Complex Post Traumatic Stress. Debra has received specialized training in each modality, and she remains current on advances in their theory and practice.

Read more about a specific modality:

EMDR – Critical to overcoming trauma

EMDR has proved to be highly effective since it was first studied and designed by Dr. Francine Shapiro over 30 years ago. Today, it is regarded as one of the most powerful methods for treating trauma. Compared to other modalities, EMDR delivers profound results in a relatively short period of time. Studies have confirmed that EMDR is extremely effective. A 2013 meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found it ranks alongside more traditional psychotherapies—and outperforms medications—in its ability to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. The therapy has been adopted and strongly recommended by the Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense. Debra is a certified EMDR clinician and integrates advanced EMDR protocols for addiction and trauma. For more information watch Debra discuss EMDR on PBS.

EMDR helps you move past trauma and the ways it has impacted your life. It does this by eliminating or diminishing the negative feelings associated with your traumatic experience. Instead of being caught in a cycle of distress and harmful behavior, you regain power over your own story.

In EMDR, the client briefly focuses on a traumatic memory while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus, which is provided by the therapist. The process is repeated until the client’s memories no longer cause such an intense emotional response.

The client is left with a more positive belief—one that counters the negative beliefs and feelings previously associated with the traumatic memories. For example, a client who feels responsible for a traumatic event may realize through EMDR that he or she isn’t to blame for it.

Why does EMDR work? Explained simply, in EMDR, the left and right hemispheres of the brain work together to productively process traumatic experiences and make new, more positive associations.

To read more, visit Debra’s Borderline/CPTSD pages, or check out

Experiential Therapy – In the moment therapy

Experiential therapy goes beyond talking with your therapist. It includes methods as diverse as EMDR, role playing, psychodrama, music therapy, and even outdoor team exercises. What all of these approaches have in common is that they bring up your issues in the here and now. This allows you to identify your feelings as you experience them, with the guidance of a therapist.

For example, in reenacting an argument with your spouse, you may realize that your core feeling was not anger, as you previously thought, but actually fear. As a result, you and your therapist can effectively deal with the core problem — your fear.

Through experiential therapy, you become empowered by new awareness and insight, which opens the door to further self-empowerment and emotional growth. You also practice using feelings as a tool and guide for self-awareness. This skill helps you respond to difficult situations in a healthier manner.

Debra’s primary use of experiential therapy is in the form of EMDR, which you can read about above. Debra also utilizes empty chair work, two chair work, and shame reduction.

EFT – Listen to your life

Sometimes it’s tempting to suppress or ignore our feelings. But feelings are unavoidably human, and you can learn a lot from them. By understanding your emotions, you allow for profound shifts to take place in your life. This is the basis of Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT).

Les Greenberg, Ph.D, a principle developer of EFT, explains it this way:

“The individual’s anxiety may be a “cue”—a constructive unpleasant emotion. In other words, s/he may be better served by working with her/his isolation-induced anxiety rather than against it. The same may be true of the alcoholic’s shame, the neglected spouse’s frustration, and the depression of the office workers in a dead-end job. Emotions provide us with information about how we should conduct our lives.”

To put it another way, EFT uses emotions — even unpleasant ones — as tools for building a happier life. Your feelings are an internal road map or barometer, with negative emotions indicating that something isn’t right.

By using constructive yet unpleasant emotions, you gain the gift of wisdom. Emotions that are understood and used as a guiding tool can lead to beneficial changes in your marriage, your career, and your overall well-being.

With the tools that EFT provides, partners learn to understand and appreciate the other’s perspective and feelings and not to over control their partner’s emotions.

Family of Origin Work – Know the past, move into the present

Debra Kaplan uses family of origin work to help clients leave behind harmful patterns of behavior.

Family of origin work addresses the values and messages – both implied and stated – that your family communicated to you in childhood. It also examines the assigned roles in your family system.

Family of origin work involves identifying and then changing the negative patterns of thought, feeling, behavior, and belief you inherited. By identifying family-related issues, you can stop perpetuating the unhealthy patterns, both in yourself and in your current family system.

For example, if a child watches a parent struggle with addiction, that child may internalize the beliefs that fuel addiction, like “I’m unlovable” and “No one can meet my needs like I can.” The child is much more likely to become an addict in turn.

It’s important to note that family of origin work doesn’t require you to dwell on your childhood. Rather, you’ll find healing from the past and be free to live fully in the present. Family of origin work helps you better understand your past, so you can ultimately learn from it. This awareness provides a new foundation for you to create healthier relationships and a happier life.

Debra works extensively with Pia Mellody, a specialist in family of origin work at The Meadows in Wickenburg, Arizona. Debra’s training has included Pia Mellody’s Post Induction Therapy Training and PIT Intensive Couples Training.