Julia Beecher-Flad is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California specializing in depression, life transitions, trauma, and anxiety. As the parent of young children herself, Julia is also passionate about working with fellow parents and families to help foster more positive relationship patterns.
In sessions, Julia frequently draws upon Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to help clients recognize the impact of cognitive distortions on their thinking. By recognizing such distortions and improving one’s self talk, Julia helps to reduce clients’ sense of distress and alleviate mental health symptoms.
We asked Julia more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.
Julia’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
I had a pretty chaotic and unhappy childhood, and I had long wanted to change some of the behaviors I learned in that environment, as well as understand myself, my emotions, and my family better. I was helped along the way by a few therapists who made a big impression on me. I made the decision to become a therapist after working at a family shelter and realizing that I wanted to help more than I could in my capacity there.
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
I worked at several community mental health agencies across Los Angeles County from 2013-2022, treating children and young adults ages 6-25. I also worked with their families (parents & caregivers) as treating young people often involves making changes within the family system.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I'm a parent of young children, so free time isn't exactly in abundance! But I enjoy taking my daughter to do fun things around LA, like the beach, parks and arboretums. I'm a big fan of exercise and it's my #1 coping skill.
Julia’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
I believe that people are inherently good, even when they do things that don't seem good, or hurt others. People are seeking and need connection to self-regulate, and when they are isolated from others, or their relationships are impaired, there can be many negative health and psychological outcomes. It matters how we talk to ourselves, how kind and compassionate we are to ourselves; what we experienced in childhood/early life matters, too.
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
I have the most experience working with young people and their families, but I do good work with young adults, adults experiencing relationship difficulties or life transitions, and parents.
Can you tell us more about your experience working with young adults?
Young adults are often struggling with big emotions and poor or risky decision-making, which is related to how the brain develops. Some common problems I see are self-harm, suicidal ideation, disordered eating, body image concerns, unsafe experimentation with substances, academic difficulty, peer problems, and family turmoil.
All of these problems can lead youth into situations that are unsafe and expose them to trauma. I find it's helpful to provide information about brain development, mental health, and how therapy works before diving into teaching coping skills. I love working with young adults because they are at such an exciting stage of life, but often need support, as the work of being young (figuring out who you are/want to be) is quite hard work!
Can you tell us more about your specialty in working with parents?
I feel a tremendous responsibility and honor when working with parents, because parenting is probably the most important job any of us will ever do! I have learned after so many years working with young people that changes usually need to happen across the entire family system; children alone cannot effect change in their families. Parents, however, can. My general philosophy about parenting is that connection increases cooperation, and I try to attack behavior issues by fostering positivity in the parent-child relationship.
Can you tell us about your work with clients struggling with depression?
I have personal experience with depression and something that really helped me was learning to observe how I think (my "self-talk") about myself, the world around me, and other people. When I was able to shift my self-talk, I was better prepared to deal with life's problems. I find that people with depression have ideas about themselves and the world that are not only unhelpful, they are often inaccurate! I also lean heavily on research-backed coping strategies, like mindfulness, meditation, and breathing skills.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
The most rewarding things about my work are being able to give people concrete tools to solve problems and make their feelings more manageable, help people make the changes they want to make, and help them understand their inner world better, so that they can give themselves and others more grace.
Therapy sessions with Julia
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
In our first session we will talk about you, your history, your current problem(s) and your goals for therapy. I will ask you, "When therapy ends, how will things be different?" We'll also discuss logistical things like fees, confidentiality, safety, and privacy.
You will have time to ask me any questions you might have about me or the process, and it's also an opportunity for you to decide if I'm the right person to help you. Even after the first or second appointment, if you feel we're not a fit, I'm happy to try to connect you with someone who is.
How long do clients typically see you for?
Clients are usually apprehensive about coming in, and they might feel ambivalent about change. They usually start to feel better pretty soon after beginning therapy with me. After a few weeks, therapy becomes enjoyable, and something they look forward to. Often, I'll notice that a client has met their goals, but when I ask if they're ready to stop, they say they don't want to! I would say the average length of treatment is 3-6 months.
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
- For PTSD - Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman (for PTSD)
- For parents - books written by Dan Siegel
- For relationships and couples - books written by Sue Johnson (e.g. Hold Me Tight)
- For burgeoning therapists - books by Irvin Yalom, Carl Rogers, and Mary Pipher
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
I usually ask clients to track their symptoms, mood and thoughts in the early stages of therapy, so we can both get a better idea of what's going on. I might ask you to try something out that we discussed in session, and report back to me about how it went. This can include skills or worksheets that we talk about during our appointment, but not always.
How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?
Along with the self-monitoring mentioned above, I use some quick and simple questionnaires to track your symptoms at regular intervals. We will also create a goal at the beginning of therapy, and periodically review that goal to see how you're progressing.
How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?
You'll know it's time to seek therapy when the way you feel is taking over one or more areas of your life; you might feel that your work or relationships are negatively impacted by X problem. You might also just feel kind of lost and unsure how to proceed.
How can I prepare for our first session?
Please complete your intake paperwork, which will be sent to you by email, before the first session, so that I have time to review it before we meet. You don't need to bring anything except yourself, the things that are bothering you, and your willingness to work hard!
How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?
You'll know it's time to reduce session frequency when you're feeling better and you're confident about moving forward on your own. This can also look or feel like you don't have anything to talk about, or you'd rather spend that hour doing something else.
Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?
Some people have great support, others don't. The one thing I find is that it's hard to be objective when giving advice to someone you care about/are in a relationship with. That's because what you do affects them, and vice versa. A therapist is an objective 3rd party who can help you make sense of things in a way that someone from your personal life may not be able to do (both because of training, and because of objectivity!).
Additionally, relying too heavily on your loved ones for help/advice can cause frustration, fatigue or conflict for one or both of you, and the last thing you want to do is damage your relationships; your therapist will tell you that social support is absolutely key to happiness & well-being.
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
Therapy is for everyone. You don't have to be sick, crazy or have a mental health disorder to find something useful for you here. I also see therapy as something I do on and off, as the stressors of my life ebb and flow; you don't have to do it forever, and if your therapist is doing their job, you should be able to get some good stuff out of it and then move forward on your own!
Visit Julia’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and book an initial call!