Starla Dean MA, LMFT
Starla’s Professional Background
and Personal Journey
“I have come to take you into my heart
and lift you like a prayer to the sky”
Ever since I was a young child, I've cared deeply about people. I wanted to understand their pain and offer a place of comfort when they were weary and lost.
I'm passionate about helping adults of all ages to gently navigate life's most painful, challenging problems and transitions, learn to cultivate loving kindness and compassion for themselves, and find inner sustenance and nurturing.
I will hold you with great kindness and compassion through your darkest nights, grief and heartbreak - and when you’re ready, will delight in assisting you to realize your heart’s desires, and dive deeply into your spiritual journey.
My path of healing and awakening started in my own psychotherapy in 1982, and it's a profound honor to help you find your way, as I have, to your own source of wisdom, self-love, joy, creativity and inner nourishment.
My soul-centered holistic practice is informed by Western Psychology, as well as the ancient contemplative practices of the East. Eastern practices emphasize a radical meeting of our actual experience, often ending the inner war we have with each unfolding moment.
As we practice opening to and fully meeting each moment as it is, we begin to develop more self-compassion, clarity of mind, and acceptance - and a greater capacity to handle with loving kindness and tenderness, the challenges of our ever-changing lives.
I attended John F. Kennedy University’s Graduate School for Holistic Counseling, a school known for its remarkable alternative holistic curriculum and training. I graduated in 2001 from a program grounded in Transpersonal and Somatic therapies, along with the more traditional training needed for state licensing.
I have been extensively trained in Mindfulness-Based and Somatic Therapies, Mindfulness Meditation, Focusing, Core Belief and Inner Child Work, Breathwork, Dreamwork, Authentic Movement, Radical Forgiveness, Shamanic Work, The Spiritual Enneagram and Hypnotherapy. I also have a depth of experience and respect for 12-step recovery work.
My own personal guidance, inner transformation and professional exploration, also led me to be of service as an Interfaith Minister, Hospice Bereavement Chaplain, Suicide Hotline Counselor, Postpartum Birth Doula, Play Therapist and Creative Parenting Coach, Radical Forgiveness Workshop Leader, Spiritual Midwife to the Dying and their families, and a leader of “Sacred Grief” groups.
My thirty-year spiritual practice of mindfulness and vipassana meditation, prayer, and embodied soul inquiry, deeply inform my work. I am a Diamond Approach student of the Ridhwan School, and connected to Spirit Rock Buddhist Meditation Center since 1990. I’ve been deeply blessed as well, to be a devoted student of Eckhart Tolle and Adyashanti’s non-dual teachings and practices.
Frances Weller, and the late Stephen Levine and his wife Ondrea, were, and still are, my grief teachers and guides. In the early 80’s, Stephen, and Jack Kornfield, were my first spiritual teachers. With their help, my heart broke open and revealed its tender gifts for the first time. I was never the same.
“Deep in our wounds are seeds
waiting to grow beautiful flowers”
1982. Great suffering through motherhood is what it took to wake me up to the fact that I was extremely wounded from a traumatic childhood I was in complete denial of. My deepest hearts desire was to be a sacred guardian and a source of unconditional love for my children, and the reality of raising a toddler, brought me to my knees.
The truth was: being a mother of a precious bundle of two-year-old aliveness - and horribly distressed by her tantrums - shocked me quickly into therapy for my own traumatic childhood. And what a blessing in disguise that was! Thirty-six years and seemingly a few lifetimes later, here we are.
What is it like to have your heart walking around in someone’s else’s body? It’s one of the greatest gifts of this lifetime.
We are both, now, after many years of healing together through her teens and “tweens” - deeply grateful for our sacred bond of mother-daughter closeness and love.
The seeds of transformation from healing my own personal childhood nightmare, bloomed us both into beautiful flowers, overflowing with kindness and respect for one another.
In addition to the journey of healing catalyzed by motherhood, I have also personally faced a few very dark nights of the soul this lifetime. They were all filled with profound despair, grief and anxiety, as I faced many of life’s most painful experiences like devastating betrayal and divorce, a friend’s suicide, PTSD from childhood and natural disaster, single parenthood, court litigation, chronic illness and more!
I know first-hand how excruciating it can be to make it through such extremely overwhelming times.
As painfully difficult as these cycles in life were, the healing they catalyzed blessed me with the ability to walk my talk, and emerge from the darkness deeply transformed. I’ve used all of these intense challenges as grist for the mill for my own inner awakening, and the gifts behind the pain have been immeasurable.
I know without a doubt, with absolute certainty, that this can be true for you as well.
“The wound is the place where light enters.
These pains we feel are messengers, listen to them”