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Kristen Morrison, Ph.D.

Licensed Psychologist

303-547-3592

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Kristen Morrison, Ph.D.   303.547.3592

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areas of treatment

These are the areas that I address most often with my clients. Please click on a topic below to learn more about how I approach that particular concern:

acceptance
affairs & infidelity
anger
anxiety
body image
boundaries
child & adolescent therapy
couples
depression
divorce & other break-ups
eating disorders
eating, food, and weight loss
emotion regulation
grief and loss
interpersonal concerns and relationships
loneliness and isolation
mindfulness & mind-body integration
parenting
perfectionism
pre-marital counseling
self-esteem
social skills
stress
transitioning to parenthood


acceptance

Acceptance is a profoundly life-changing concept, although it's difficult to comprehend through words--you have to experience it in order to truly understand the benefit. In the words of Pema Chodron, acceptance is "creating space for the unwanted"--whether the "unwanted" is a loss, an unpleasant emotion, a difficult interaction, or any other life circumstances you did not choose. Acceptance is NOT resigning yourself to pain or giving up. It's actually the exact opposite of that: it's an empowering ability to embrace that which is difficult. Practicing acceptance can greatly reduce your pain and struggle in virtually any situation. If you're interested in acceptance work, you may benefit from a model of therapy (called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT) that helps make the concepts of acceptance more accessible and tangible in your daily life. (Mindfulness is another tool and philosophy that can assist you with the concept of acceptance--see my section on "Mindfulness" for more information.)

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affairs & infidelity

You feel like the ground has been pulled out from under you. How could this happen? Affairs are one of the most painful--and often shocking--experiences a couple can endure. If you or your partner has participated in an affair, I highly recommend seeking treatment to help you recover from it in a healthy way. This is tricky territory, and having a guide to help you navigate the path of recovery can make all the difference. First and foremost, treatment for an affair helps you to regain equilibrium, so you can re-establish a basic sense of safety in your relationship. Once this happens, we can move into the process of understanding the factors (both individually and in your relationship) that led to the occurrence of the affair. Throughout this work, there is an essential focus on rebuilding trust. These steps, and having the structure and safety of a professional to walk you through them, can lay the foundation for you to heal and move forward.

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anger

Many people think of anger as a negative emotion, something they want to eliminate from their lives. I disagree - I believe that anger is an important and universal feeling, and one that serves some essential functions, such as giving us energy to take action, or courage to assert our needs. So, I don't think of "anger management" as a process of getting rid of anger, but rather a process of channeling your anger into more productive avenues, and responding more effectively when you are angry. If you're experiencing rage that feels uncontrollable, then we can work together to help you to reduce the intensity of your anger, partially by learning to understand your triggers and the cues that alert you to a rising level of frustration. It's much more realistic to work on changing your behavior before your anger escalates in a given moment. By working together on anger management, we can help you reach a point where anger is no longer controlling your life.

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anxiety

Whether your anxiety manifests as stress, tension, worry, fear, or phobias, there are a number of tools that can help you reduce anxiety, and teach you how to relate to it in an entirely different way. With anxiety, one of the biggest hurdles can be finding the courage to take the first step, because the urge to avoid your fears is so strong. But the fact that you're reading about anxiety treatment suggests you've already taken the first step, by looking into the options that may bring relief. Some of the ways that I help people with anxiety include understanding more about the way your thoughts contribute to your tension and learning different ways to respond to these thoughts; cultivating skills that can reduce physical and emotional stress; developing a program to face situations that you fear (at a pace that feels manageable); and using mindfulness to uncover a whole new approach to interacting with your anxiety.

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body image

So many people struggle with accepting their appearance that "body image" is now a commonly used phrase. Body image is a crucial part of self-esteem, and working to improve your body image can be a rewarding way to feel better about yourself as a whole. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to change your body or lose weight in order to feel better about the way you look. We can work through a step-by-step process to understand your particular body image struggles and to address the areas that are most problematic for you. We'll do this by using a variety of different techniques that attend to your beliefs, emotions, behaviors and values about your body image and your overall self-worth.

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boundaries

Interpersonal boundaries are essential for having safe, genuine, and effective relationships --whether at home or the office, with friends or family. If you feel walked over, taken advantage of, or disrespected by those in your life, you may struggle with boundaries that are too loose. Alternately, you may have boundaries that are too strong--although you feel protected, that protection may come at the cost of feeling close and connected to others. I can help you find the middle ground of appropriate boundaries, and teach you how to set them with others in a way that is both clear and kind. Understanding more about different communication styles, and learning (or brushing up on) assertiveness skills can also be a helpful way to strengthen your boundaries.

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child & adolescent therapy

For parents:
I work with adolescent girls on a variety of topics, including depression, anger, anxiety, self-esteem, body image, perfectionism, relationships, and emotion regulation. In order for therapy to be successful, it's important to establish clear boundaries--is this family therapy or individual therapy for your daughter? This decision will impact how we proceed, and what your role in the treatment process will be.

For teenagers:
Whether it's your idea or your parents' idea to talk with someone, I want you to know that you will have control over how this process unfolds. If you work with me for individual counseling, there are certain topics (related to your safety) that I will share with your parents if necessary, but otherwise I want to create a space where we can discuss whatever matters to you. I can share with you a number of skills and tools to help you cope more effectively with the challenges of life. I can also provide an objective perspective on what's going on, and a space to sort out who you are and who you want to be (and, if the two are different, what steps you can take to bring your reality closer to your ideal).

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couples

Whether you and your partner struggle with unproductive communication; feel stuck in negative argument patterns; are going through a life transition; coping with infidelity; or want to regain a lost spark or sense of intimacy, couples therapy may be for you. Couples therapy has the power to turn your relationship around by increasing the positives you share together (such as fun, support, and friendship), decreasing the negatives (such as unproductive and escalating fights), and bringing you back to the strengths that made you choose each other in the first place. I can also help you reach a place where each partner recognizes and understands the other's point of view, even if you don't necessarily agree with it. Also, we all tend to have "hot buttons" that stem from life events outside of the relationship, and helping you to understand each other's triggers can be a powerful way to improve your connection.

(For more information, please see "A special note about couples' therapy" on my general info & approach to therapy page).

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depression

Depression, sadness, and the "blues" can take many different shapes and forms. When people begin treatment for depression they often feel hopeless, helpless, and like nothing can alleviate their excruciating emotional pain. I start by understanding more about what makes you feel down, and what has (and hasn't) helped, so that we can determine the best way to move forward. The good news about depression is that it is very treatable--there are multiple types of talk therapy that have been shown to be effective, and I can help you choose which approach will be the best fit for you. I establish a safe place for you to explore your depression, and for you to learn some valuable tools to start feeling better. You can leave this process feeling empowered, knowing you have the ability to improve your depression. There is hope--and seeking help is the best place to start.

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divorce & other break-ups

Whether you want individual support around this life change, or help as a couple to part ways with kindness and integrity, therapy can be a valuable resource for processing your break-up or divorce in a healthy way. The end of a relationship is an enormous loss, and it necessitates a grief process in order to feel whole again. There is also an opportunity to learn from the experience, so that you can leave feeling stronger and healthier than before. We can discuss how to grieve in a beneficial way, the importance of forgiveness, and the value in understanding your role, so you don't repeat the same pattern in the future. I can also help you (with or without your partner) to focus on how to best co-parent your children, and to minimize any negative impact of a divorce on them. This type of work can be helpful whether the relationship is just ending, or whether you're feeling stuck about a relationship that ended long ago. .

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eating disorders

I often work with people who struggle with a variety of eating and weight-related problems, such as body image, weight loss, binge eating, over-eating, restrictive eating, or chronic dieting. To learn more about how I approach some of these problems, please see the "Eating, food, and weight loss" and "Body image" sections of this webpage. I do not work directly with people who have clinical eating disorders such as Anorexia Nervosa and Bulimia Nervosa, but if you need help for one of these problems, I'm happy to give you a list of excellent treatment resources in the Denver area.

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eating, food, and weight loss

Food is universally important - it's a part of every culture, and provides nourishment on multiple levels. There are many good reasons why eating gives us comfort. However, when taken to an extreme, food can become a tremendous source of difficulty, and can lead to restrictive eating, chronic dieting, yo-yo dieting, emotional eating, over-eating, and binge eating. I believe that any efforts to change your eating need to address several areas. Understanding your emotional relationship with food is critical, and this area often gets little attention from diet programs. But we also need to investigate your food environment - how your daily habits and surroundings may be shaping your eating behavior without you even knowing it. Clarity about your beliefs surrounding food is also important, as is your readiness to change. By addressing all of these levels, we can create changes in your eating that are effective, sustainable, and allow you to have healthy and fulfilling relationship with food.

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emotion regulation

I believe that emotions are an essential part of our human experience, and not something to be suppressed or stifled. However, when emotions fluctuate wildly, you can sometimes feel like life is a roller coaster on which you have no control. This can be especially true with emotions like depression, sadness, anger, or anxiety. We can work together to develop tools to manage your emotions better, so you get the sense that you are holding your feelings, rather than having them hold you. I can also share some concepts that allow for an entirely different way to relate to your emotions, so you can experience your feelings in a way that doesn't overwhelm you. Through emotion regulation work, you can reach a place where your emotions are an important part of your life, but not the only force directing it.

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grief and loss

Grief is probably one of the most painful and universal of human experiences. Whether suffering from the death of a loved one, illness of a family member, loss of a pet, divorce, separation, break-up, your own recent health changes or a new diagnosis, loss can take many shapes and forms. Understanding more about the process of grief, and allowing yourself space to experience its many faces, can help you through the mourning process and create a smoother path to healing and resolution. Grief counseling can provide you with guidance, validation, and direction during a process that can otherwise feel overwhelming. Whether for a recent loss or one you endured decades ago, therapy for grief can be a valuable source of strength and support during a difficult journey.

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interpersonal concerns and relationships

Do you find that you're struggling in one or more of your interpersonal relationships? Conflict, whether with a spouse/partner, parent, child, family member, friend, boss, colleague, or any other significant person in your life, can drain you of energy and joy. I work with individuals who want to improve one (or several) of the relationships in their lives. This often involves developing a clearer understanding of the patterns you experience with others, and building skills to help you learn how to break free of those patterns and create a new way of relating to people. I can also help you to be more authentic in your relationships, so you feel as if the real you is coming through in your interactions. The end result can be relationships that are less conflict-ridden, more productive, fulfilling, intimate, and genuine.

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loneliness and isolation

I often work with people who are feeling lonely, disconnected, or disengaged. I believe that meaningful relationships with others (whether friends, partners, children, family, colleagues, or a larger community) are one of the most fulfilling aspects of life, so I understand why isolation can be especially painful. To address this concern, we may begin by understanding more about the problem: has it always existed, or is it due to a recent change such as a move, family conflict, break-up, or divorce? Sometimes, when people have trouble branching out, it can also be related to concerns such as social anxiety, fear of evaluation or rejection, or low self-esteem. Using a combination of tools to increase your comfort and skill, and ideas to address the underlying concerns that may contribute to your isolation, we can work together to help you build a life that is more connected.

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mindfulness & mind-body integration

"Our deepest self-knowledge resides in the body, which a great deal of the time does not speak the same language as the mind."
- Annemarie Colbin

It's easy to see why people view the mind and body as separate entities, because they speak to us in such different ways. For many of us, the mind is our "dominant language," and we value what we think over what we feel. But there is great wisdom in the body and in our emotions, so when you disregard these areas you're doing yourself a disservice. Learning to decipher what you know "from the neck down" can lead to wiser decision-making--because the best decisions often come from an integration of both our rational mind and our felt/intuitive sense.

Mindfulness is an excellent tool to help with body-mind integration, and it's something we can focus on exclusively in treatment, or incorporate into any other therapeutic approach. Mindfulness is both a coping tool and a life philosophy. As a tool, the practice of paying attention to your present experience--on purpose and without judgment--can help you cultivate a greater sense of peace and self-awareness. With repeated practice, you can learn to step back and watch your thoughts and emotions (rather than wrestle with them), and to do so with a kindness and curiosity that makes these experiences less painful and frightening. But mindfulness is also a way of life--a focus on living with intention and presence, and being "awake" about what you do, rather than coasting through life on auto-pilot. Because I practice mindfulness myself, I am well-versed in its trials and tribulations, as well as its amazing benefits. I can guide you through mindfulness practice in sessions as part of our work, and I can also give you guidance for doing this work on your own outside of sessions.

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parenting

Becoming a parent not only changes your life, but it often changes you as well. Parenthood can bring out both the best and worst in you, because it's one of the most intense relationships you'll ever experience. It can also be an overwhelming job, often stretching you beyond your comfort zone--and I can help you use this stretching as a way to grow. Plus, in today's culture of information overload, it can be confusing to determine what is "right." I can help you cultivate your personal theory of parenting (including how two partners can bridge their differences and find a middle ground that feels good to both of you). Another area we can focus on, if you're interested, is exploring the ways that becoming a parent stirs up reminders--both good and bad--of your own childhood. We can discuss how to let your past experiences inform your own parenting in a way that is reflective, rather than reactionary.

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perfectionism

Perfectionism and "all-or-nothing" thinking can rob the enjoyment from many areas of life, and they can also have a negative impact on your productivity. Does this scenario sound familiar? You have a presentation or project, and 95% of it goes brilliantly, but you are fixated on the 5% that was "wrong" and made the whole thing a failure. Therapy can help you to embrace the gray zone in between perfection and failure - the flawed and beautiful place where real living can happen. I find that most perfectionists struggle with a deep belief that they are unworthy, and perfectionism becomes a way to feel "good enough." If you are ready (or want help becoming ready) to let go of the battle with yourself over unattainable standards, then I may be a good fit for you.

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pre-marital counseling

Marriage is a wonderful adventure, but transitioning into a marriage (including wedding planning itself) can also be a very stressful process. I work with pre-marital couples who want to be proactive about starting their marriage on a strong foundation, both by working through any current sources of difficulty, and by having a guide to help you navigate some of the important decisions and challenges you may face in the decades of marriage to come. You may also want to learn, or perhaps just brush up, on effective communication skills. Working on these skills now can help you to avoid common pitfalls and unhealthy argument patterns, as well as give you a structure to work through life's decisions productively and respectfully with your partner. You can also take my 4-session course called Optimal Marriage.

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self-esteem

The level to which you value, respect, trust, and accept yourself has a tremendous bearing on your relationships, work, and overall quality of life. Many people know on a rational level that they have much to offer the world, but they don't feel any real sense of self-worth. If self-esteem is a problem for you, therapy can help you to find the path to self-acceptance. You will be amazed at how different your life becomes when you finally believe that you have value, deserve to have healthy relationships, and trust your internal compass to guide your decisions. Many people don't believe that it's possible to improve your self-esteem, but I'm here to tell you that you can - I've seen it happen countless times. Of course, this is a process and it doesn't happen overnight, but even valuing yourself enough to seek help is a very important first step.

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social skills

Whether you are shy, anxious, afraid of rejection, or find that you are constantly misunderstood by others, you may benefit from strengthening your social skills. I can provide you with tools for smoother interactions with others--and depending on your situation, this could include skills for improving your communication, assertiveness, interpersonal sensitivity, anger management, confidence, or relaxation. We can also practice these skills in session so you'll have a safe place to try them out. Learning, practicing--and then actually using--these tools can lead to more productive and serene relationships at home, work, or in the community.

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stress

Stress is a non-negotiable part of our lives, and I believe that we can all stand to improve our stress management techniques. I think we also tend to forget that positive changes (such as getting married, moving, starting a new job, having a baby, or retiring) cause a significant amount of stress, in addition to the joy and excitement these changes bring. There are many ways to cope with stress more effectively, and we can personalize the approach we take, based on your interests and strengths. Perhaps you want to develop tools for managing your stress, such as learning more about the body's stress response, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, or meditation. Or maybe you would like to explore your relationship with stress, and get a clearer picture of your typical pattern in responding to life's stressors. We can also help you to incorporate avenues for stress reduction (such as increasing social support, exercise, creative outlets, and self-care) that can be very effective when you implement them in a meaningful way.

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transitioning to parenthood

Having your first child may be one of the most dramatic life-changing events a person can experience, and not surprisingly, this joyful (and stressful) transition can also lead to changes in your relationship with your partner. I have a background in helping couples navigate the transition to parenthood more smoothly, both by anticipating and preparing for some of the possible challenges, and by focusing on how to work together to keep your relationship strong as you bring a new life into your family. I work with couples pre-conception, during pregnancy, or at any point after having your child (or children), in order to make sense of and cope with the ways this change impacts your relationship.

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