The Psychotherapist: Judy Zexter

January 5, 2012

Have you ever treated yourself to a shiny, new unbiased perspective? It really is a beautiful thing. It can open doors and clarify with refreshing gust of hope and direction. The trick is to find the right person who can help open those doors.

Meet Judy. She’s known what she was meant to do since high school. Not only does she help provide new perspective, but also the invaluable gifts of empowerment and inspiration…


where are you from?
I was born in Rhode Island, spent most of my life on the East Coast and moved to the LA area in 2005.

what do you do?
I am a psychotherapist with a private practice in Santa Monica, CA. I work with individuals, couples and families who are facing various emotional and psychological challenges. I specialize in life transitions and the parenting process.

what did you want to be when you were little?
From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a therapist. I was fascinated with people, their moods, what motivated them to act the way they did and how they were impacted by their experiences. I took my first psychology class in high school and my career path was officially paved.

what do you love about your job?
I love giving people the gift of perspective; reframing the way they perceive and understand situations so that they can realize their strengths, allow themselves to have limitations and see their potential to create satisfying life experiences. People often develop ways of interacting that have served a purpose for them in their pasts, but are no longer benefiting them with productive outcomes in the present.  It is powerful to watch people realize and learn that they no longer have to be restricted by old and negative reactions and responses. I take pride in empowering people to have more influence over their lives as they move toward their identified goals. I am a facilitator and witness. They are the achievers.

what is the hardest aspect of your job?
Witnessing hopelessness knowing there is hope. There is often a phase in psychotherapy whereby people either can not see the light at the end of the tunnel or they actually can see it, but don’t quite know how they are going to reach it. By respecting the process and my clients’ positions in it, I support them, help them to develop trust in the unfamiliar and offer realistic encouragement as they find their ways.  Progressing past these hurdles is extremely rewarding.

what do you want to be doing in 5 years?
I would love to be doing what I’m doing now, but to fuller capacity. There is a dance between recognizing my accomplishments and simultaneously setting new professional and personal goals. I want to continue to enrich and enjoy my life, as I add to my existing structure. Professionally speaking, I’m passionate about continuing to integrate innovative means by which to help people reach their potential and feel confident in their lives. Additionally, I’d like to place some focus on the dual role of women as both daughters and mothers, perhaps by creating a forum for women to gain support and insight into their complex, evolving family roles. There are inherent demands in what’s been termed “the sandwich generation” and I think women could greatly benefit from some assistance with negotiating the emotional challenges and logistical tasks involved.

what is your other dream job?
I dream of being a world traveling photographer, documenting people and customs from various cultures and interviewing individuals and families along the way. I’d love to chronicle the outcome in a photographic journal.

what is one thing we need to stop, or start, doing today to insure a better life for ourselves and our kids?
If I had to choose one thing, it would come down to living and parenting with well established intentions. It sounds simple, but many people get caught up in habitual modes of functioning and living, according to a doctrine of “shoulds” that they themselves have not determined.  By taking the time and developing the confidence to step back to identify personal dogma, define and prioritize needs and wants, live in the present while remaining cognizant of the impact on the future and develop clear perspectives of themselves and their children within both their smaller and larger communities, people could purposefully focus their energy on realizing success and betterment.

what is the biggest misconception about therapy?
I think there are a few misconceptions, actually. They include the need for life to feel completely out of control or emotions to be at an extreme before seeking support (aka the need to feel or be “crazy”), that it takes multiple years of work in order to realize any sort of change or relief and that therapists have your answers and are there to give advice. Effective therapy enables people to move forward in a self influenced manner. Success is attained when a person achieves clarity, insight and the capacity for healthy and productive responses to people and situations.

you’re in need of a vacation. what will you do? the sky is the limit.
I’ll go on Safari in Africa. I think it would be fascinating to witness wildlife in a setting of such vast and natural, unadorned beauty. I would love the opportunity to watch animals move freely and exhibit innate behaviors and instincts. It would also be an incredible chance to photograph spontaneity, movement and interaction among living beings.

what do you collect?
Recently, I have been drawn to anchors, and am keeping an eye out for items with this symbol. Through my personal and professional experience with life transitions, I am clear on the importance of links that provide us with an ability to remain connected and grounded through periods of change. As our relationships, roles, routines, jobs and geographic locations shift, replete with gains and losses, a sense of sturdy footing can go a long way. To me, anchors represent  strength, continuity and the ability to travel through life, balancing firmly wherever you land for however length of time you are there.

all photos by judy zexter.