Dr. Sue Duenke

Licensed Psychologist PSY 15555


Photographer: Irene Young

Choosing a therapist can be a daunting task, and yet it is quite possibly the most significant element in a successful therapeutic outcome. No one therapist is right for every patient and, as there is an art and science to the process of therapy, choosing a therapist is also a process which requires discrimination. I offer here a representative sample of myself and my view of my work so you may discern if my guidance might be helpful to you.

I believe therapy is a collaborative process. My office is offered as a safe space in which you are treated with respect, compassion, and integrity. You bring a desire for self-knowledge and a willingness to explore, with empathy and insight, both your strengths and your impediments. The pain which often drives an individual to seek my help is explored as an aspect of the balance of life in which joy and pain are essential elements. Jung taught us that life is composed of both light and shadow components, yet we are typically driven by the darkness in ourselves. Rarely are we suspicious of joy which has come to us, but pain is questioned and grieved. Many times our strengths are undermined in the context of our perceived weaknesses, and this focus shapes the patterns of how we relate to ourselves and others.

But if pain can be used to motivate us to make healthy changes in our lives, why not embrace that and use the momentum to propel ourselves into a higher existence? I can help you understand and clarify the meaning of your experiences. In a supportive environment, I will challenge you to write the story of your life in a manner which articulates your strengths and expresses your most authentic self.

I wonder if it is possible that life is actually about coming to terms with loss. Losing not just loved ones to death, but also facing and assimilating a multitude of other losses, tangible and intangible, great and small. Strands of hair in the drain of the shower, health and vigor, youth itself. A broken vase, a lost purse, a whole house taken by fire or flood. Friendships, jobs, pets, lovers, marriages....

But with all that darkness there is light as well. So many of the beautiful things we do and make -- quilts, gardens, shrines, poems, albums, scrapbooks -- have loss at their root. So many acts of kindness and empathy, so many new bonds between people. Even political and social movements are often founded in the grief of one person or many.

-- Marion Winik, 2009

Having been in private practice in The Bay Area since 1998, I am blessed to be employed in an occupation for which my ability to think is a valued asset. I consider it an honor to be entrusted with the deepest secrets of the human mind. I love to assist in assembling the pieces of the puzzle that make up that complexity which is the human being. Our DNA, our experiences, and perhaps even the spirit that came into this life, combine to make each individual unique and extraordinary.

Although my training is quite traditional (psychodynamic Master's program and cognitive behavioral Doctoral program), my avid thirst for learning continues to propel me along a path of reading and open-minded searching for yet more understanding. All of this has shaped me into a therapist who wants to truly see each patient with clarity, and to guide each one into the fullest expression of this life's possibilities. I believe that within each of us is all the potential we need to fully realize an existence which fulfills our needs. Effective therapy may function as the Kundalini energy through the chakras, as in Eastern tradition, which when awakened vitalizes all the elements of the human being. Western science has recently begun to recognize the changes in the brain that occur through the process of psychotherapy. The pathways of neurons are altered as we alter the patterns of our relationships. The relationship with your therapist is the catalyst for that change.

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
-- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin