Therapy with Christina Mathieson, LMFT

Christina Mathieson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the owner of My Mental Climb, a group therapy practice located in California. Christina specializes in working with couples on relationship-related topics, including sex therapy, communication challenges, and family-related issues. She also works with individual clients on topics related to trauma, ADHD, and major life transitions/adjustments. In sessions, Christina takes a holistic approach—focusing on the mind-body connection to help clients take agency in their healing and make meaningful decisions to improve their lives.

We asked Christina more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.

Christina’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

I was initially inspired to pursue a career in therapy by various life experiences that guided me in this direction. One of the earliest influences was observing how amicably my parents handled their divorce, providing me with a positive example of co-parenting. Witnessing the impact of a skilled child therapist during that time instilled in me the value of therapy from a young age.

As I progressed through my education, I found myself naturally drawn to and excelling in courses related to psychology and sociology. During my college years, I developed a deep fascination with human sexuality. This interest became a driving force, motivating me to explore ways in which I could combine my passion for helping people with creating a safe space to navigate and process the intricate role of sexuality in individuals' lives.

These cumulative experiences not only shaped my personal journey but also fueled my commitment to becoming a therapist. Today, I am dedicated to assisting others in their own journeys toward self-discovery, growth, and well-being.

What was your previous work before going into private practice?

Before establishing my group practice, my professional journey encompassed enriching experiences in various clinical settings across California. I had the privilege of working with group practices and clinics that specialized in sex and relationship therapy, working with students, and the LGBTQI community providing me with a focused and in-depth understanding of these critical aspects of human experience.

I worked for Kaiser as a Generalist, which means I had the opportunity to work with a wonderfully diverse group of clients. At Kaiser I appreciated having an integrated approach where I could work collaboratively with psychiatrist, doctors, and psychologists. In addition to providing individual therapy I also had the privilege of facilitating groups centered around topics such as sleep, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), anxiety, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and social skills.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

In my leisure time, I find joy in engaging in various activities with my husband and puppy. Whether it's exploring nature through hiking and camping, embracing new experiences, going to workout classes together, working on house projects, or simply unwinding with a good book and a bath, these moments contribute to the balance and fulfillment in my life.

I also cherish the social aspect of my free time, with friends. Whether that's challenging our knowledge during trivia nights, immersing ourselves in the strategic world of board games, or simply sharing the experience of a good movie.

Christina’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

Some of the guiding principles that include my work include empowerment and collaboration, mind body connection, individualized healing paths, and client autonomy and self determination.

As a therapist I work with the client collaboratively to tailor the therapy to align with their specific needs and strengths that reflect their individualized healing path. I value and encourage clients to actively participate in the therapy by identifying their responsibilities for growth, highlighting areas of agency, and fostering a sense of commitment to the process.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

As a therapist, I have found fulfillment in working with a diverse range of clients, spanning from young adults to the elderly, providing individual, couples, and sex therapy. My practice is characterized by a commitment to supporting individuals and couples navigating various life changes and transitions.

I particularly enjoy working with clients who are actively seeking support during pivotal moments in their lives. Whether it's a young adult facing the challenges of transitioning to adulthood, a couple navigating relationship dynamics, or an individual seeking to explore and enhance their sexual well-being, I find great satisfaction in being part of these transformative journeys.

I am drawn to clients who share a common trait—an earnest desire to improve their situations and a motivation to invest effort in the therapeutic process. I appreciate individuals and couples who approach therapy with curiosity and a willingness to engage in self-reflection. This openness creates a collaborative and dynamic therapeutic environment where we can explore challenges, uncover insights, and work towards meaningful growth.

Can you tell us more about your sex therapy specialty?

Clients seeking sex therapy can be individuals and partners or couples who have a range of concerns around sexual health and intimacy.

Common challenges can include issues related to desire, arousal, orgasm, sexual pain, communication barriers, and navigating differing sexual preferences. Relationship dynamics, past traumas, and cultural factors can also play a significant role in shaping the challenges clients bring to the therapy space.

In my observations, I have noticed that the societal stigma surrounding discussions about sex can contribute to individuals and couples feeling isolated or hesitant to seek help for their sexual concerns. Additionally, miscommunication and unmet expectations in intimate relationships can lead to a variety of sexual difficulties.

My goal is to help clients better understand their sexuality, improve communication with their partners, and develop healthier sexual attitudes and behaviors. I may incorporate psychoeducation, mindfulness techniques, and exercises designed to enhance intimacy. Additionally, I work collaboratively with clients to explore and navigate any underlying psychological or relational factors contributing to their sexual concerns.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in working with high-achievers?

In my work with high-achievers, I engage with individuals who are driven, ambitious, and often occupy leadership roles in various fields. This population can include professionals, entrepreneurs, and those with a relentless pursuit of success in their respective endeavors. High-achievers frequently encounter challenges related to burnout, imposter syndrome, work-life balance, intense pressure, and perfectionism.

One notable observation is the tendency for high-achievers to place exceptionally high expectations on themselves, often leading to self-imposed stress and anxiety. The fear of failure can be a powerful motivator, but it can also contribute to a cycle of overworking and neglecting self-care.

In working with high-achievers, my approach is holistic, focusing on both professional and personal development. I assist clients in identifying and challenging limiting beliefs, addressing imposter syndrome, and exploring healthier approaches to achieving goals.

I help high-achievers establish realistic work-life boundaries, manage stress, and develop sustainable strategies for long-term success. Collaboratively, we explore the impact of their achievements on their overall well-being, relationships, and sense of fulfillment. Coaching around effective delegation, time management, and self-compassion is often integrated to foster a more balanced and sustainable lifestyle.

Can you tell us about your work with clients with ADHD?

In my work with individuals experiencing ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), I work with adults who may have recently been diagnosed, as well as those who have lived with ADHD throughout their lives.

Common challenges for individuals with ADHD include difficulties with attention and focus, impulsivity, hyperactivity, time management, organization, and maintaining sustained effort on tasks. Emotional regulation and challenges in interpersonal relationships may also be part of the difficulties individuals with ADHD encounter.

One observation is the unique strengths that often accompany ADHD, such as creativity, hyperfocus, and a unique way of thinking. However, individuals may face internal and external challenges due to societal expectations and misconceptions about ADHD.

In working with individuals with ADHD, my approach is tailored to the specific needs and strengths of each person. I employ strategies that enhance executive functioning, such as time management skills, organizational techniques, and task prioritization.

Therapeutic interventions often include exploring coping mechanisms, building self-awareness, and addressing any emotional challenges associated with living with ADHD. I work collaboratively with clients to create strategies for success in academic, professional, and personal realms. Additionally, I provide psychoeducation to clients and their partners to enhance understanding and support.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

One of the unique and rewarding aspects of therapy is seeing people beyond the ordinary interactions we often encounter in our daily lives. By listening to a client's inner world and most intimate struggles, I get to experience their highs and lows, celebrate breakthroughs, and empathize with their pain. Through that experience I am able to witness their ability to access resources, strengths, evolve, and develop coping mechanisms which highlights their resiliency and capacity for growth.

Therapy sessions with Christina

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

The first few sessions are assessment sessions. This is where we set the groundwork around what therapy is and isn't, what to expect, review forms that you have filled out about symptoms, goals, medications, sleep, etc. that will help me get a clearer picture of what is going on. We will work on creating a roadmap of what your priorities are based off of your goals and start the process of me getting to know you so I can individualize your treatment plan to your needs. I often will be taking the lead the first few sessions but will be asking for feedback and collaboration to make sure that your voice is being heard.

How long do clients typically see you for?

How long clients are in therapy for depends on what their goals are, how many goals they have, and their level of motivation and willingness to take action that will result in change. Therapy can be as a short as a few months or as long as a year or longer depending on the complexity of the situation.

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

I enjoy reading Emily Nagoski's and Brene Brown's books.

Emily Nagoski is an expert in sex education and in her book Come As You Are, she provides insight and exploration into female sexuality. In her Burnout: The Secret To Unlocking The Stress Cycle she discusses actionable steps for how to cope with stress that are empowering and understandable.

Brene Brown can do no wrong with her books, which is why I will not cite just one. She researches the topic of shame and vulnerability and is able to educate through story telling that promotes personal growth.

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

Yes, I do like to give homework that is relevant to the clients goals and ideally not take a lot of time in between sessions. I will check in with clients to see if the homework feels manageable, what barriers they might have, and am available for questions. With couples I like to use handouts that help couples have a reference and resource for Gottman tools that we are using in session.

How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?

I often will check in with clients around how the therapy is going, we will discuss initial goals, symptoms, and current stressors. I like to ask for feedback from clients so we can track progress and if we need to make any changes to the therapy.

How can I prepare for our first session?

You can prepare for your first session by filling out the forms that will be sent ahead of time and sending them in by the deadline. Writing down notes about anything the forms didn't cover that you would like to cover or would be good for me to know can be helpful for some clients. To mentally prepare give yourself time before and after the session to transition and not feel rushed. Having pen and paper with you in session to take notes is strongly encouraged as well.

How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

I often ask clients this during their first initial sessions when developing goals and creating a roadmap for what our work will look like together. Usually you can tell it is time to reduce frequency when there is less to cover in session, symptoms have decreased, and tools are implemented between sessions.

Visit Christina’s profile to read more about her and contact her for an initial consultation!