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Sierra Dator Therapist Anxiety Depression Youth Adults Family

Feeling overwhelmed by depression, anxiety, and/or changes in you or your loved one’s life?  Looking for support for yourself, your child, teen, or family?  Breathe a sigh of relief.  You may be in the right place.

I provide therapy for individuals and families specializing in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and life transitions in my lovely office located in Petaluma, California.  Online therapy sessions are also an option for residents of California.  Overall my work centers around what my patients are wanting in their own lives and unearthing the resources within themselves to make it happen.

I also am the founder and facilitator of Wise Girl Workshops, a social-emotional program for girls in 4th-10th grades focused on making wise decisions, increasing self-esteem and confidence, developing healthy coping skills, and decreasing anxiety.  This program is not group therapy and is instead a forum for girls to come together and develop skills to help them along their way.

What makes me different than other therapists and facilitators is simply who I am.  My sense of humor, compassion, skill set, and love for what I do and those I have the honor to work with is unique to me just as you are unique to you.  I believe the relationship is everything and together we create something unique to us.  Something that cannot be replicated no matter who walks in my door.

If you are looking for an experienced therapist or facilitator, please feel free to contact me and see how I may be of help.

I offer daytime and evening appointments.   I can be reached at 707-478-4351 or send me an email at sierra@sierradator.com. I look forward to speaking with you!

P.S. You can follow me on Facebook to ensure you are always up to date on my articles and what Wise Girl Workshops is offering.

P.S.S. You can also follow me on Instagram too!

Social Anxiety On Netflix

Check out the latest family friendly show about a middle schooler with social anxiety and his emotional support animal Dude. While it doesn’t accurately depict anxiety for many kids, it does take out some of the stigmatization and can create some empathy for kids who don’t experience social anxiety. The program does a great job of depicting how anxiety impacts the entire family and the day to day of life going to school. While I am only 3 episodes in and don’t love shows with talking animals and humor I find to be luke warm, the show is growing on me. Watching a kid make new friends, a family adjust to their kid returning to school, and a boy exposing himself to his fears and grow tolerance to anxiety is warming my heart. And to see my own kids laugh and enjoy the program let’s me know this is a good show for the 9-12 age group. Looking forward to checking out more!

Happy New Year!

To all those seeking to climb, move, or shake mountains.

To all those who have overcome mountains and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

To all those who are looking forward and not going to let any mountain stand in their way.

To all those who need to just kick back and think about what the mountain in their life means or appreciate the mountain they are on.

Wishing you all a New Year full of just what you need. Many blessings. ❤️

Tough Times At The Holidays

People often feel puzzled as to why “the happiest time of year” leaves one feeling sad, depressed, overwhelmed, angry, and lonely, especially if you are someone who has a “good life.” It doesn’t seem to make sense.

I want to pose the idea that for some people trauma gets kicked up over the holiday season. Holidays are full of memories, smells, sights, tastes, and sounds. If you had a childhood that was problematic, especially around the holidays, it is quite possible you are feeling either consciously or unconsciously activated by the holidays.


In the writings of trauma specialist Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., he reflects on how the body holds sensory memory even though our thinking memories of the past may be suppressed. For some, the smell of a pie baking in the oven evokes a warm feeling of yumminess. For others, the smell can be repulsive. Why is this? The body holds memory in all forms and even though we may not know the conscious memory of why we feel a particular way, it is stored inside of us. If there was an incident where an angry parent smashed a pie against the wall and flew into a rage, this may haven gotten wired into the brain and body. Pie might not invite warm feelings any longer. Especially if something like this happened repeatedly.

Grief and loss is another feeling stored in the body and is often triggered around holiday time, no matter how long ago the loss was.

We are products of our past. Be kind to yourself this holiday time and reach out to those who love you if you are having a tough time. Share your stories with someone you trust and take really good care of yourself. Remember, this is a season, and seasons always change.

8 Tips For Dealing With Anxious Spiraling Thoughts

Spirals can be beautiful to see and touch.  Staircases, shells, labyrinths, art work.  But anxious mind spirals are not beautiful.  They suck our energy, scare us, and can last for a long, long, long time.

Anxious mind spirals are when our thoughts start to ramp up and bring us down.  Our thoughts keep leading from one negative thought to the next, and one might feel trapped in the anxiety and negativity.  It’s kind of like punching yourself in the face over and over again, and it feels like you can’t stop.  Brutal!

If you are catching yourself getting caught in a spiral, here a few things you can do.

1. Name it. This is an anxiety spiral.  Awareness is the first step to making changes.

2. Breathe into it.  Take some deep breaths and remind yourself this will pass.

3. Remind yourself.  You are not a mind reader or fortune teller, and all this forecasting isn’t helping you.

4. Be present.  Bring yourself into the room and out of your head. Name everything you see in great detail.

5. Empower yourself.  Am I going to sit with this all day or am I going to use my time in the way I want to? 

6. Stop feeding the spiral with your thoughts.  When you have a thought label it as a thought and not a truth.

7. If you can’t stop, change scenes and move.  Whether it be dropping to the ground to count how many push ups you can do or going outside and walking briskly around your neighborhood, you can reset your system by moving your body and moving locations.

We all have a lot to learn from one another.  Any tips you have for getting out of an anxiety spiral?

5 Tips For Thriving This Holiday Season

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy? Let’s just get right into it.

  1. Let go of expectations. Expectations lead to disappointment. Don’t expect happy. In fact, don’t expect anything. Attend Thanksgiving with an openness to whatever you feel and whatever happens, happens.
  2. Set a tentative plan. You can do this for yourself before you head over or host. Also, you can collaborate with your significant other on the plan, and maybe let your children in on the plan. Let me stress maybe. If you have children who are inflexible and rigid, do not let them in on the plan because if it changes, you can erupt chaos. If you have children who benefit from knowing the play by play and can be flexible, let them in on the plan. Tentative gives you the option to stay or go given you have let go of expectations (see tip #1) and do what feels best for you and your family.
  3. Set an intention for your day. This is a quiet prayer, mantra, or way you would like to hold this day and time in your mind and heart. Go back to it throughout the day. Some examples include, “I enjoy what is in front of me.” “I see the good in each of my family members.” “I can do anything for one day.”
  4. Find people/things to be grateful for. There will always be something to be grateful for around you. In fact, if you have a place to go or food to eat, well there is a fine place to start. If you can, expand your circle of gratefulness. Go ahead and extend. To the farmers who grew your food, the store clerk who sold you the bread, the hands that built the table or home you are in. Go big!
  5. Get in touch with nature. Whether a walk outside or a peak out the window at the landscape, we can’t help but feel good when we make contact with our natural world.

Wishing you a natural, grateful, intention filled, expectation free with tentative plans holiday! May peace be with you!

Holidays Are Hard

Don’t mean to be a downer here, just a realist trying to provide support for those of you who don’t have a picturesque family.

Even if you do have a picturesque family, it doesn’t mean perfection lies there either.

If you have a less than ideal Thanksgiving, you aren’t alone. Kick the fantasy about what you think everyone else has and know in every social media post there will be a story you haven’t heard. You won’t see the tension, the looks, the alcohol consumption, the tears, the absent folks, the loss, or the feelings stuffed inside. Sure, some people might have it all this holiday, and I hope you do too. But if you don’t, I get you. Be kind to yourself.

Smartphones, Loneliness, and Depression

Girl with white fingernail polish and silver watch holding a gold covered cell phone

“Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or loneliness and depression?” Take a guess and then read this article from the latest research coming out of the University of Arizona in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Review of study

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?

Actual study

Short-Term Longitudinal Relationships Between Smartphone Use/Dependency and Psychological Well-Being Among Late Adolescents

Back To School Social Struggles

Many kids right now are struggling to find where they fit. Maybe they started a new school or new classroom. Maybe the social scene has changed with the addition of a new kid to the grade.

Whatever it is, some kids are unsure of how to find their place.

What can you do if this is your child? I am so glad you asked.

  1. Talk to them. Ask them to share about their day. Who they ate lunch with. Who they played with at recess or hung out with at break. Understand what their social landscape looks like.
  2. Help them gain another view of the social scene. Listen for who might be a good fit for them and point it out.
  3. Empower them by pointing out their strengths.
  4. Dialogue about how to make new friends or get closer with others. Give them language to try on.
  5. Normalize that many kids are struggling with the same issue. Even though kids may look to be a part of a group doesn’t mean they actually feel it or want to be a part of it. They may be open to making a new friend, but may hang with an unfit group because they don’t see any alternative.
  6. Limit your judgement about your kid or someone else’s. Parents can get awfully triggered by social dynamics and start to point fingers and put kids down. Be sure to understand what is your own stuff getting kicked up. Try to remain in a supportive place for your kid and get out of the judgement zone.