Thursday, 21 January 2021

Local psychotherapist receives PhD in psychology

Taira St. John has earned a PhD in psychology from Northcentral University. Courtesy photo.


LAKEPORT – Taira St. John, Ph.D., M.F.T., a resident of Lake County since 1993, presented her oral defense for her dissertation on domestic violence on March 4 and was approved by her committee, earning her a Doctor of Philosophy in psychology (PhD) degree.

Dr. St. John is the owner and clinical director of Clearlake Counseling Center. She has practiced Marriage and Family Therapy, first as a registered intern under the direction of Thomas D. Williams, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT), then, after managing the agency in Clearlake and Lakeport for three years, she achieved licensure herself as an MFT, purchased Clearlake Counseling Center from Williams, and took over the clinical direction of the agency.

“Those three years as an intern were the best years of training a therapist could have,” said St. John. “I not only saw hundreds of medical and Victim Witness patients in Clearlake and Lakeport offices, but learned how to do the bookkeeping, scheduling, and maintenance of the agency, including,” she laughed, “cleaning the johns … I used to be there until 2 a.m. so that I could keep the billing and accounts in order before driving home to the Rivieras.”

Dr. St. John assumed the direction and facilitation of Alternatives to Violence, a 52-week program for men and women convicted of domestic violence offenses, where she has facilitated classes for the past 15 years in Lakeport first at St. John’s Episcopal Church (1190 N. Forbes) and Clearlake, formerly at Redbud Hospital, and now at the Mental Health Drop-In Center at 1149 Lakeshore Drive.

She was the mental health consultant to the Primary Intervention Program to establish play rooms and professional play counselors in each of the elementary schools to serve children at risk or in need. She also served on the executive committee of the Lake County Children’s Council and the Lake County Perinatal Substance Abuse Prevention Team, where she wrote and produced educational videos, the Lake County Mental Health Advisory Board, as an Advisor for the Teen Alcohol Prevention program and the Primary Intervention Program for the Lake County Office of Education.

Dr. St. John also served as manager of Family Court Services for five years for the Superior Court of California, County of Lake, helped launch the Domestic Violence Prevention Council under the leadership of the Honorable Robert L. Crone, Jr., then-presiding judge of the Superior Court, and represented Lake County at various statewide Judicial Council meetings, especially where they focussd on violence and the courts, family court services, mediation or dependency court issues.

She was invited to participate in the Trainer-for-Trainers Program in the California Attorney General’s Safe from the Start Program, where she studied under Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D., a world-renowned child neurologist specializing in child trauma and speakers such as Drs. R. F. Ande and V. J. Felitti, principle researchers on the Adverse Child Experience study, a massive research project jointly sponsored by Kaiser Permanente and the Center for Disease Control demonstrating the correlation between childhood trauma and adult mental and physical health conditions.

Other major influences in her work have been: Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., whose writings on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, repetition of the trauma and other stress disorders relate to the effects of child trauma on adult violence, and David E. Arredondo, M. D. on attachment, bonding and human relatedness.

St. John also served in PhD internships at the Napa Walk-In Center in Napa (formerly operated by Lutheran Social Services of Northern California), where she counseled at-risk elementary children and their families; at Los Guilucos (the Sonoma County Juvenile Hall), where she worked with high-risk boys 16 to 18 years of age in the DePaz Unit, in Petaluma where she co-facilitated a domestic violence program for men; and in Clearlake, where she counseled abused and neglected girls and boys in gender-specific groups.

She has served on the Lake County Mental Health Advisory Board, the Lake County Children’s Council, as Sonoma County’s representative with the California State Attorney General’s Program, Safe-from-the-Start and on the Family Service Board of Trustees.

St. John produces and hosts her own weekly talk-interview-call-in radio show, “Inside Out,” on KPFZ/88.1 FM in Lake County, and serves on the board of Lake County Community Radio. She also serves on the board of the Lake County Repertory Theater and on the fundraising and management committees of the renovated Soper-Reese Community Theater.

Prior to becoming a therapist, St. John served in the White House Press Corps for eight years, writing on the president, arms control and the federal budget, edited the 450-page U. S. Agricultural Handbook for World Perspectives Inc., and served on the Foreign Service Journal Editorial Board, publisher of articles for U.S. embassies throughout the world.

She was also a communications and entertainment executive in Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington, D.C., where she directed theaters and a performing arts school, produced marketing campaigns and educational videos for Fortune100 corporations, assistant-produced a documentary film, "Yates Center, U.S.A." for U.S. Postal Service and other major organizations, and wrote and produced entertainment extravaganzas for the National Education Association, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the cities of Raleigh, NC and Washington, D.C.

St. John received her bachelor’s degree in literature and political philosophy from Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont in 1971, her master’s degree in counseling psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria in 1992, and her PhD from Northcentral University (NCU) in Prescott Valley, Ariz., in 2008.

Dr. St. John has writing projects in development and is working on a screenplay about Lake County. She has three grown children who love and practice arts in various media, and a granddaughter who dances.

Clearlake Counseling Center is located at 149 N. Main St., No. 210, Lakeport, and is open only by advance appointment, telephone 707-262-0400.


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