Leonna Chodos is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California specializing in couples counseling, anxiety, and self-esteem. We asked Leonna more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.
Leonna’s background and personal life
How did you decide to become a therapist?
How did I decide to become a therapist? After I graduated from college with my B.A. I began working in law firms because I thought I wanted to become a lawyer. The second law firm I worked in concentrated on family law. During my time at this law firm I started to realize how important the role of the therapist played in helping these families transition. I wanted to be apart of supporting people transition from this very painful part of their journey into living a more positive, productive and abundant life.
What was your previous work before going into private practice?
As stated previously, after graduating from college I started working in law firms. The most influential law firm I worked at was one that concentrated on family law. I also worked in schools counseling teenagers. I worked at a suicide and crisis hotline and in community counseling centers working with a wide range of clients and issues.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
In my free time I like meeting up with friends to hike, walk the track or just share a meal together. I participate in board gaming group. I love to bake. I enjoy working out. I read books, watch TV, and spend time with my family.
Leonna’s specialties and therapy philosophies
What guiding principles inform your work?
I truly believe that when a person comes into therapy it is my job to create a space that feels safe and accepting. I want to hear the clients journey. What has shaped their lives and what has caused their pain, trauma or discomfort. It is also important for me to create space in which the client not only can speak their truth, but can also tell me what is working for them in therapy. What interventions have been successful to their healing and growth and what interventions do not align with them. I believe Building a strong alliance with clients is the foundation to helping clients heal and grow.
What clientele do you work with most frequently?
The clientele I work with most frequently are couples and individuals. My clients ages usually range from 25 - 60 years old. I work with couples and individuals that come from diverse economic, racial, ethnic, neuro-diverse, LGBTQIA and religious backgrounds. The couples I work with are a mixture married and married, and they represent many different types of coupling. I also work with couples who are thinking about ending their marriage or who are actively uncoupling. What draws me to the work I do with my clients is the belief that we can all create more satisfying and abundant lives and we all deserve to be at peace.
Can you tell us more about your work with couples?
Being in a couple presents very interesting challenges. The main challenges that connects all the other challenges is lack of effective communication. Many couples fight, argue, nag, and scream at each other and all of those are forms of communication but they are not effective and do not promote understanding or collaboration. Learning how to effectively communication is the foundation to a couple understanding one another and collaboration. I help couples decrease the tension in their communication by teaching them how to actively listen, how to ask clarifying questions with genuine curiosity, and to understanding that effective communication is the cornerstone to building trust, empathy and intimacy in their relationship.
Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?
Many people struggle from anxiety and anxiety effects people differently. Many people who do have high levels of anxiety suffer in silence and blame themselves or feel very isolated. The first thing I work on with my clients is normalizing anxiety. Anxiety is a natural occurring feeling that all human beings experience, so people who are experiencing high levels of anxiety are still having a human experience. Secondly, I work with clients by teaching them a variety of coping skills and techniques they can use on a daily basis to reduce their anxiety levels. Lastly, I help clients understand the origins of their anxiety in order to help them realize that they are not "going crazy" or "abnormal" and that there are reasons they feel anxious or uncomfortable.
Can you tell us about your specialty in helping clients improve their self-esteem and self-worth?
Individual clients usually seek out therapy because situations and circumstances in their lives have either overwhelmed them or gotten out of control. They come into therapy feeling like they have no solutions for what is happening in their professional or personal lives or both.
When an individual come to therapy in this state so much transformation can occur. I work with clients to help them understand what has happened in their journey and how it has impacted their choices, situations and relationships. I help clients identify the parts of their lives they do have control over and work to maximize those areas. I also work on building self-worth and self-esteem and supporting my clients in creating boundaries that nurture healthy relationships, and contribute to client building the life that they choose.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
What I find most rewarding and humbling about my work is clients willingness to trust me with their hurt, pain, trauma and deepest wishes for their lives. Therapy is a very intimate process and clients continue to choose to participate in the journey of self healing, growth and change. It is humbling and inspiring.
Therapy sessions with Leonna
What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?
The first session always consist of letting the client know their rights and making sure the client understands the forms they signed in order to participate in therapy. I also like to answer any questions that they client has about therapy or information about myself. Since it is the client's session I like to discuss what the client wants to talk about. I do ask questions and I am interactive. I don't just seat there and stare. Also in the first session I like to explore the goals of therapy. In ongoing sessions will focus on working on set goals and having discussion about client's life or whatever client brings to session that day. Therapy is not linear and many issues can be addressed in ongoing sessions.
How long do clients typically see you for?
Therapist get this question a lot. How long will therapy last. In my practice individual therapy can be as short or long as the client wants and is still benefiting from therapy. Regarding couples therapy I do approach this form of therapy very different. I believe couples therapy is about identifying the issues and working to understand and resolve those issues. Therefore, I do not work with a couple more than a year (this does not include couples that have suffered a traumatic event in their relationship).
Are there any books you often recommend to clients?
- The New People Making by Virginia Satir
- The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver
Do you assign “homework” between sessions?
I do assign "homework". I like to call it "thoughtwork" because homework has such negative connotations for many people including myself. I do try to align the "thoughtwork" with a goal the client is working on but clients will never be shamed or chastised for not doing their "thoughtwork". Therapy should be a positive experience.
What advice would you share with therapy seekers?
It is important to understand therapy is a process of discovery, understanding and healing. Allowing the process to unfold and being patient with yourself and your healing is vital to getting all the benefits from therapy.
Visit Leonna’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and book an initial call!