ABOUT ME

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As a kid, I was surrounded by music.

Both of my parents are professional double-bass players who played in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for a living, so I spent a lot of time in concert halls listening to Beethoven and Mozart as a child.

I remember mom and dad’s friends coming over to the house after I was supposed to be asleep. They were artists, psychologists, and musicians who would sit in my parents’ living room, long before the internet, talking face-to-face about art, music, and psychology.

As I peeked at them from my bedroom door, I found myself mesmerized by the meaning and richness of the inner life that they were describing. I think this served as a kind of window into the deeper levels of human experience and planted the seed that grew into a lifelong curiosity about the workings of the human mind and spirit. The more I started exploring the psyche, the more the impact of childhood experiences on later life jumped out at me.

Before I became a therapist, I was a Montessori teacher, instructing and mentoring very young children. I found myself engrossed watching kids become human: I also became very troubled whenever I saw this process get off track. These concerns took me back to college to get my Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling with an emphasis in Couples and Family Therapy. I really wanted to understand the deep principles behind what makes an extraordinary human life.

After I earned my Master’s degree, I opened my private practice as a play therapist, working with traumatized children and their families. I was also deeply invested in serving the community. I was a founding member of the Therapist’s Guild of Blue Sky Bridge, Boulder’s Child and Family Advocacy Center, and was qualified by the District Court as an Expert in Play Therapy and Sexual Abuse. I am a published author in this field and have also served as a mental health consultant to the Sex Assault Response Committee of Boulder County.

Gabrielle Usatynski in front of bear display.

My passion for providing therapy for adults really evolved out of my passion for working with children. In my private practice, I was confronted with the day-to-day reality of relationship problems between the parents of my child clients and how this created enormous suffering for these little ones. It dawned on me that if I could help parents reduce their conflict, it could be a game-changer for everyone.

In addition, I had spent a lot of time in my 20’s and 30’s on various spiritual paths. While I felt that I had matured as a result of this and gained insight into myself, I was always struck by how much suffering people experienced in their intimate relationships, no matter how much meditation they were doing.

These observations, combined with the painful failure of my own first marriage, led me to pursue intensive training in couples counseling. I studied PACT (a Psychobiological Approach to Couples Therapy) with its founder, Dr. Stan Tatkin, for eight years. I was among his first group of students in Colorado. In 2015, the PACT Institute invited me to be one of only two individuals, out of thousands of trainees in the international program, to participate in the Pilot Certification Program of the PACT Institute.

I can’t tell you what a breakthrough it was for me to find a clinical method that was so grounded in science and could produce such immediate and lasting effects for the intimate relationships of my clients.

The proof is in the pudding.

Me with my husband Ted

Me with my husband Ted

My studies in couples therapy have carried over into my marriage with my new husband, Ted, the love of my life, who reminds me of what it means to heal and mature every day in a relationship. We live together in Broomfield, CO. I am also extremely proud of my 16-year-old son who is currently attending high school abroad in Israel.

The epic importance of healthy relationships really hit home for me when I had a health crisis in 2016. Only a month after getting married, I was exposed to black mold in our home and became very ill. Ted and I had to move out of our house and totally reorganize our lives. This is how I learned first hand what really supports people in their struggle with chronic illness.

I devote a part of my psychotherapy practice to helping those like me cope with the trauma and relationship pressures that inevitably arise in the midst of this major life challenge. It is an honor to be able to help clients suffering from chronic illness through this difficult juncture in their lives. This work allows me to combine my training in the treatment of trauma from the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, with the wealth of experience I gained in successfully navigating my own journey with chronic illness.

I’ve been so inspired by what Carl Jung said:

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

Professional headshot of Gabrielle Usatynski

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to help people through this process. I’ve seen over and over how healing early attachment wounds and overcoming trauma transforms my clients’ lifelong suffering so they can reconnect with the deep meaning in their lives. This is where my training and experience all come together for me and meet the innate desire of my clients to heal and grow.

I also teach clinical consultation groups to other therapists and am currently designing an online program for therapist support and renewal. I have also lectured on the role of healthy relationships in preventing professional burnout at local Colorado hospitals.

In my spare time, I love reading Jung, watching documentaries on Paleolithic humans, and enjoying the quiet peace of mind that arises in the secret crevices of the Colorado mountains.

The changes I see in the lives of my clients, their joy when they discover who they are and what they are capable of, is what I will remember most when I am 90 years old. As far as human happiness goes, I see time and time again that it is the quality of a person’s relationships that makes it or breaks it.

This is really the foundation of my practice, whether I am working with couples or individuals. That’s why I call my practice Empowered Connection Psychotherapy, because it’s about empowering relationships, whether that’s with ourselves, our bodies, our lovers, or the world.