Allison Gilbert, LMFT - Marriage & Family Therapist



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Mother's Day and Birthdays

Posted by allisongilbert on May 13, 2012 at 11:40 PM Comments comments (0)

I love May because I get to celebrate both my birthday and Mother's Day.  It feels like a month full of fun and a time to treat myself to whatever I want. 

For me, birthdays & Mother's Days have always been days of doing whatever I want to do.  It's not that every other day of the year is not for focusing on myself but there's something about birthdays & Mother's Days that have given me more permission to do whatever I want to do with my day.

"It's your birthday (or Mother's Day), you get to choose where we go out to eat." "It's your birthday, you get to have cake!" "It's your birthday (or Mother's Day), did you have a happy one?"

On these special days I get to make all the decisions, as if the rest of the time I don't?  I get to eat sugary stuff guilt free, as if the guilt must be present every other day of the year?  I get to ask myself, "what do I really want to do right now?" every moment of the day as if every other day isn't my life. 

My 50th birthday was just after my cancer surgery and since diagnosis, I've been living my life, every day, like each day is my birthday.  So this year's birthday/Mother's Day is not so different actually, from any other day of my week. Whenever I remember it's Mother's Day today, I stop and ask myself if I'm really happy doing whatever it is I'm doing at the moment, like I do now, every day.

So this Mother's Day, I'm remembering my desire since diagnosis, to live a life that's stress free and meaningful.  Each day is special and every day is about living and loving the life I have and the people who share it with me.

I have implemented permissions, priorities and perameters in my life so I can keep my stress levels down. This has enabled me to have a birthday or a Mother's Day 365 days of the year for the rest of the time I have coming to me.


Chanukah and the Moon

Posted by allisongilbert on December 1, 2011 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (1)

Did you know that the Jewish calendar is based on the moon whereas the Gregorian calendar is based on the sun? That’s why Chanukah can fall at the end of December, like this year, while another year it falls much earlier. You can enrich your celebration this year by understanding why the last night of Chanukah always falls on the new moon even though most of the other Jewish holidays fall on the full moon.


Beyond the traditional Chanukah story about the miraculously, long-lasting oil, we can see our lighting of the Chanukah candles through the lens of the following 3 facts about how the sun and moon interact.


From Shifra Hendrie


1. Even though the moon can be full and bright at times, it doesn’t have its own light but instead reflects a light outside of itself.


2. At its darkest, the new moon is actually closest to the sun even though it doesn’t reflect any light at all.


3. In contrast, when the moon is farthest away from the sun, it is full, reflecting all it can get from the sun’s light.


But why on each night of Chanukah do we light one more candle until on the darkest night of the year (the last night of the holiday) our menorah is completely full and bright?


In essence, the light we illumine through increasing candle lighting represents our purpose in life which is to increase in bringing the light into the dark corners of our world. In other words, our purpose is to create more goodness, kindness and benevolence when we are faced with the darkness (suffering) we encounter.


 Illness, war, death and disaster are all part of existing in the world as it is now. The goal is to work toward a completely healed world in every sense of the word. Shifra Hendrie states:

That’s really what this stage in history is largely about...this global shift that everyone is feeling…we are like the adolescent [who is no longer simply a reflector of the “light” his parents gave him but instead tries to find his own way in life]… there is a breakdown of the old on behalf of building the new…that’s why [right now in our world] there appears to be so much darkness… that’s why there is so much searching for new light, so many new discoveries, new possibilities… because the function of a healthy human being isn’t to forever be a receiver…it’s now up to us to be builders, givers, doers and co-creators…

Every dark moment offers us a way to build a world where there is no darkness at all. We go into the darkness to discover that the essence of who we are is more infinite and unlimited than we previously believed. We can light up the darkness. We can shift to an entirely new level consciousness that breaks free from any limitation and builds a world that actualizes its infinite potential, a world that can be a shelter of peace for all.


So this Chanukah, as you set your menorah aglow, remember that just like the waning moon, you too are still a luminary even when it’s dark.


For Chanukah celebrations in Santa Cruz & Capitola, go to

Mindfulness & Psychotherapy

Posted by allisongilbert on October 16, 2011 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

There is a popular trend these days in the treatment practices of counselors and therapists that comes out of the practice of meditation and Eastern Religions.  It's called "Mindfulness".  Meditation has been extremely popular in Santa Cruz and you can now find many groups and classes in mindfulness.  New counseling techniques and strategies take the ideas of mindfulness to help people better deal with the challenges of daily living.

How do you deal with your challenges in life?  Are you able to step back and notice your reactions?  That is the first step in the practice of mindfulness.

The Compassionate Observer

Noticing, observing, being curious, compassionate and non-judgmental with ourselves gives us the ability to make wise choices.  When you stop yourself long enough to notice your thoughts and feelings with radical acceptance, you are on the way to gaining some distance from them.  You no longer have to continue down the path your thoughts and feelings take you if they are not where you want to go.  (Observer is at the top of the Tree of Life.)

Your reactions to difficult and challenging situations are more in your control than you would normally believe.  Being mindful of them, accepting them and being curious about them softens them so that they no longer have power over You.

As you continue to observe yourself and others, you will come to realize that you are not your thoughts or your feelings.  You are the Observer of your thoughts and feelings and you can be the Creator of thoughts and feelings too.


Negative thoughts and feelings are not bad or wrong.  This world is full of brokenness.  In Authentic Kabbalah we are taught that when the world was created, it caused a "shattering of the vessels" and our task is to collect and elevate the broken shards.  We are searching for the Light in the Darkness.

All the darkness that we go through is simply a vessel that needs to be expanded in order to contain Light.  Our limited perspectives of who we are and how the world is can be like a tight jacket that no longer fits.  When we go through the discomfort that comes from our tight jacket, it allows us to realize we need a larger size.  


Wherever we feel discomfort in our lives is exactly where we need to be - it can clue us into our purpose.  In our own little corners of our own families, work and relationships, we can find the purpose we are alive for.  Our specific challenges are there to help us realize we can be more, help more, give more and love more than we ever thought we could.  

We are working on a World to Come that we can't even fathom right now.  It is a creation that we are all involved in and it comes out of the best that we all have to offer.  See your challenges for what they really are:  ways for you to let go of limiting beliefs and negative judgements.  Mindfulness can help you to expand your vessel to hold more possibilities and more Light...  

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How To Stay Married

Posted by allisongilbert on February 11, 2011 at 7:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Maybe you'd like to see a marriage counselor but your partner won't.

Maybe you've seen one but it didn't help and your partner won't change.

Maybe you've been ignoring your feelings until you explode and you've tried harping on your spouse and you still don't get what you want.

Maybe you've given up and are contemplating separation or divorce...but wonder if there's anything more you can do to try to stay married.

It's Understandable to Want Out

Movies teach us an idealized, Utopian view of marriage and romantic relationships.  It can sometimes feel like you're the only one who doesn't have that beautiful relationship you think you see everywhere else.  You may start questioning your choice in a partner and miss that incredible feeling of falling in love.  Maybe you remember falling in love with your partner...everything was so great about him or her - even the stuff you can't stand anymore...falling in love, though wonderful, is often a fantasy that never comes true.


Depression can make you want to run. The organ called your brain can become completely depleted from parenting, wakeful nights, overworking, stress and worry.  It's no wonder the brain can only see everything in the world from a negative perspective.  When you're depressed, everything seems overwhelming and everyone seems horrible, including yourself & including your spouse. 


Five Tips for Staying Married:


1. Know this is a very hard time in your lives and you're stressed beyond your limits and so you both will be on edge.  It's very normal to have marriage problems once you add children to your plate, make a job change, have financial set-backs. Don't blame yourself or your partner, you are not the only couple with these problems - see the stress you have as the reason for your marriage problems. Working through these problems, rather than running away from them, will strengthen your marriage.


2. Get an assessment for depression.  Do whatever's necessary to take good care of yourself, including a psych evaluation for meds, exercising, getting enough sunlight.  Your partner may be depressed too but you only have control of your own psyche.  If he/she's not willing to get help, your own improvement can help tremendously. Once you're doing better, then you have the energy and emotional fortitude to support your partner or at least not be so angry all the time. 


3. Set up at least one day each week for sex.  Pick a time...maybe it's Saturday morning when the kids are busy watching Barney or whatever.  Don't leave this physical bonding experience for the end of the day when you're too tired.  If you have a set time every week, you'll feel less pressure and more able to get yourself in the mood.  Also set up one day each week when you both get together outside the home, without kids, if possible.


4. Each of you needs to schedule a few hours away from kids, work and each other on the weekends.  Time alone blesses any relationship.  You need to be a separate, whole human being in order to relate to anyone, including your kids.


5. Every night write down 3 things you appreciate about your will force you to focus on gratitude rather than on what he/she's not doing right.


I know that staying married can be a challenge, especially when you have very young children.  But when you can close all your exits, address the major blocks and apply some of the tips above, you can take your mind off of leaving and put it back where it belongs: on yourself.  Getting counseling can be a great help - even if it's not marriage counseling.  I've worked with many women in counseling in Santa Cruz, without their husbands present, and have found that when you work on yourself, the world around you changes too.



©2011 Allison Gilbert, M.A., L.M.F.T



Counseling and Mysticism

Posted by allisongilbert on November 30, 2010 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (1)

Counseling and Mysticism

In counseling we dissolve the blocks to a life of joy and happiness.  The goal is living a life of purpose, satisfying relationships and meaningful work.  The highest purpose of human life in Jewish mysticism is to create heaven on earth. 

When we are born, we come into this world deeply connected to the world we came from before we were born.  This is the same world that we go to when we die. 

You can see hints of that other world in the spirit of small children...they are free, full of life, full of wonder and awe. They are still living in a spiritual world.  They can see & feel the mystical and magical world and are in touch with what most adults have lost.

Children are pure and innocent and have to be taught how to live in this finite world with it's consequences.  So they are taught right and wrong, good and bad, and things like: fingers in your nose will gross people out.  These lessons keep children safe - so they don't run into the street and get hit by a car.

I use the term, "theology" to describe the belief system that a child puts together to help them create an ego or personality that can apply all the lessons they learn.  This personality helps them to navigate through this world.  It's an "outer self" that is finite and limited though it may have strengths and works well in this world,.  As the child grows up, this finite, limited self can block the Larger, True Self.

The True Self is also called, the Higher Self, the Inner Light, the Inner Spirit or the Soul.  It's a part of us from birth and it never dies.  It is called energy in Quantum Physics and possibly Chi in Chinese medicine or Kundalini in Hinduism.  It's connected to what we call the Higher Self or the Source, or G-d.  In Hebrew the word for soul and G-d come from the same root: Shem (name).  Soul is called "neshama" and G-d is called, "HaShem", literally, the name.  In America, Jews sometimes have both an English name - an outer name, along with a Hebrew name, the inner name.

Sometimes as adults we experience our soul in those moments of joy, compassion, love and awe.  This is what religious and spiritual practices are meant to help us connect to - that part of us that is connected to the Source, Higher Power, One, All, G-d, or HaShem.  The problem is that the practice of religion can sometimes come from the child's theology and then wars/murder, hatred and self-righteousness follow.  The child's theology comes from fear and limitation.  It can make us very small-minded.

As an adult we can develop a more mature theology that is not based on fear.  That endeavor is the Highest goal of counseling.  When we can hear the voice of the Inner Self, we connect to a more expansive, compassionate, unlimited self.  That's where more options, abilities and goodness can uplift our lives and the world around us.