Clearwater Counseling and Assessment

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  • My 16 yo daughter's therapist has recommended we shift her over to Clearwater Clinic for DBT group and individual therapy there as well. She has anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and has tried some self-harming behaviors when things get difficult.  On the other hand she is bright, talented, creative, and a great student, who has strong friendships with smart, down to earth kids. 

    I have a whole bunch of questions both financial and about the treatment.

    I would love to hear from people who used Clearwater. I know one person who did it with her daughter and it helped her but not her daughter. In her case insurance covered it. Also is there anything else around that is more intensive than once a week therapy but less intensive than day treatment? Does Kaiser offer anything? Our experience with Kaiser groups is that they weren't very helpful. Kind of on the surface and lots drop ins. We had a great therapist at Kaiser but she left and my daughter couldn't connect with the new one so we moved her to a private therapist about a year and half ago. 

    We currently pay for everyone but me to be on Kaiser through my job.  When I look at other plans I could buy out of pocket (Blue Shield) it's confusing but it looks like they also would only cover a percentage of Clearwater treatment and that's after a high deductible is met. Can anyone who has used Clearwater tell me if it was effective for your child? Did you find a way to get it covered by insurance? How much did you end up spending (back of an envelope calculations looked like $20,000 for a year).  I'd be so grateful for any relevant information on Clearwater or the insurance issue or other treatment options. Feel free to contact me privately if you prefer. I just feel kind of overwhelmed trying to figure all this out and could benefit from your experience. Thank you. 

    hi, Kaiser has a DBT program modeled the same way as Clearwater, but it's only available in Richmond.  And, the Oakland psych department is very territorial - I had to go through a lot getting them to agree to continue providing therapy and urgent care to my son in Oakland, while going to a psychiatrist in Richmond.  That said, if you don't mind switching therapy (and psychiatry if needed) to Richmond, you could sign up for the DBT program there.  The program requires that the teen sees a therapist who's a part of that DBT program as well.  I hear the program is excellent, and the price is covered by your insurance so it's just copay for sessions.  

    My son and I ended up doing Clearwater, because he was clinically depressed and it would have been very difficult for us to get to Richmond Monday evenings (that's when the program was scheduled last year and most likely now as well).  I paid out of pocket for two modules.  They were very helpful to me, and I hope my son got something out of them as well.  He participated yet said he hasn't learned much. Just like with anything, one has to want to learn, and in my son's case he went to classes because he had to.  I've seen families where parents came to the class, but their child did not.  I've seen families that did all of the modules twice, and the kids would storm out or walk out of the class while parents were still there (and the moderator would follow them out to check in on them).  

    I suggest you do Kaiser DBT if logistics allows - note that both Clearwater and Kaiser require parent participation.

    If you have more questions, I'd be happy to answer them, just ask the moderator for my contact.

  • Hello, Has anyone had any experience with or knowledge of DBT programs at Kaiser Richmond and the Clearwater Clinic?

    My 16 year old son has been depressed and even checked himself in the hospital when he had thoughts about taking his life. He's been working with a therapist since, and is also on medication.  Those things help, but he's still up and down a lot, and hasn't stayed up for longer than a few hours at a time.  His Kaiser psychiatrist recommended DBT program at Kaiser Richmond, which sounds good but is hard to get to from Oakland at 6 pm on Mondays (that's when it takes place, for about 6 months).  Most likely, my son would have to stop seeing his current therapist if he enrolls in the Kaiser DBT program.

    I have also looked into a private DBT program that's not covered at all by our Kaiser insurance (I asked), called Clearwater.  Of course, it costs several times more than the Kaiser one in Richmond, but it's very close to where we live and they don't mind if my son continues seeing the same therapist he's been seeing, as long as that therapist supports DBT (he does).

    Please share your thoughts on those programs! 

    First of all, I'm so sorry to hear that your son is struggling like this--I can very much relate as we went through a similar situation three years ago with our then 15 year old daughter. While she still struggles at times with depression and may do so throughout her life, she has learned strategies for moving through it and being productive. She's now applying for college--something we couldn't have imagined three years ago. So hang in there: these waters you're navigating are really rough and frightening. Be sure to get lots of support for yourself: This will help you stay sane and in the best position to help your son.

    Neither my daughter nor I have ever taken the Kaiser DBT classes, though a friend of mine thought the adult class was very, very good. Her teenage daughter did not like the teen course--she was a little appalled at the level of glorifying drugs and sex that occurred in the class. DBT classes are fairly "scripted"--so I'm not really sure how all that sharing occurred, and it may not always be that way. Hopefully, others with direct experience will respond to round out the picture. As a teacher myself, I can imagine that the tone in the class would vary depending upon who teaches it and who the clients are (just like any class taught anywhere). 

    Although we were Kaiser patients, we decided to attend Clearwater's program--and we attended the class altogether. It was very well taught--and yes, it was expensive. We also signed up for parent coaching every two weeks because we needed to work on being more effective and united in our parenting. That added to the cost, of course, but in our case it was worth it. There were some family dynamics at play that contributed to my daughter's depression, and both my husband and I benefitted from taking DBT. If you want to keep costs down, it might be worthwhile to enroll your son in the Clearwater course and take it for free yourself at Kaiser. DBT is generally considered most valuable when the whole family understands the skills and concepts. As a parent, perhaps one of the most important skills to work on is "Validation"--and there are great resources for this on the internet. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to develop good validation skills when your loved one is depressed--especially when this person is a teenager.

    I also want to add that DBT skills can be valuable for anyone--it's very practical and full of skills-based solutions and ideas. The content would help just about anyone understand what motivates people, why some people get angry or easily annoyed, and what to do when you're feeling depressed or angry. Plus these concepts are taught by someone other than yourself--and since many teens aren't listening to their parents as a source of wisdom--this can be enormously helpful. I'm a huge fan of DBT. And/but, because Kaiser has a DBT program, they tend to recommend it broadly. I'd want to know if your son's therapist agrees that DBT will help him in particular. Since your son has suicidal ideation, it's really important that the most effective course of treatment is offered to you.  At any rate, DBT is like Vitamin C--it can't hurt, and it could be really helpful. 

    Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about DBT or other resources/support for you.

    The Clearwater Clinic is excellent. They helped my severely depressed, suicidal, anxious daughter. She recovered and I attribute much of her recovery to the outstanding therapists at Clearwater.  In addition to weekly therapy, she and I took a 20-week class at Clearwater, which was very helpful. I had to learn how to best support her; DBT skills were not intuitive for me. This is the best money I ever spent.

    There's a therapist in Emeryville that takes Kaiser insurance and uses DBT and CBT in his practice.  This therapist is also using EMDR very successfully with many clients.  His name is John Bieda, jr and can be reached at (415)254-8203 or  He helped me with getting Kaiser to cover my sessions with an outside therapist.  He told me he mostly works with adults but works with teens as young as 14/15 years old on occasion.  

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I'm sorry that you are in this situation--it's really hard. I would recommend reaching out to Clearwater Counseling in Oakland. They are a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) practice, which focuses on strengthening emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and other skills that are useful for people who act impulsively based on emotions (I'm oversimplifying). Clearwater has different types of programs--we did the Comprehensive DBT program for teens, which involved a weekly skills-based class, individual therapy for the teen, and "parent coaching" for the parents. The parent coaching isn't really couples therapy, but they can help couples come together and agree on parenting strategies so that you aren't undermining each other. Not everyone does the "comprehensive" program--they have other arrangements. DBT was invented for people with Borderline Personality Disorder, which has a lot in common with DMDD. (I suspect DMDD is what they call borderline personality disorder in younger kids, but I'm not sure.) 

Clearwater might have a waiting list--I would get on it while you pursue other options. Good luck!

That is a tough position to be in, for you and for him. It's great that he wants to get help. DBT is the evidence-based treatment for BPD, but it only works if the client is willing to engage with it, at least to some degree.

I recommend that you get on the waiting list for every DBT program in the Bay Area. Two that I know of are Clearwater Counseling in Oakland and Wisemind in Berkeley. We have been clients of Clearwater and can highly recommend it. Wisemind also seemed very good (we did an initial consult). Clearwater does not take insurance, but we got partial out-of-network reimbursements from our insurance.

UCSF also has a DBT program that takes insurance. It has a long waiting list.

RE: 13yo son lying ()

My son is 19 year old and has been lying for years as well. I recommend Clearwater.  I have tried their DBT with my son when he had clinical depression and was suicidal, so I know them from that standpoint, but my guess is they'd be good with your son's issues as well. You can at least have an initial consultation with them and see how it goes.  Don't worry about upsetting him or causing him to think he's not "normal" by taking him to classes and therapists. Now is your chance, as he'll be old enough soon enough to refuse to go anywhere like that even if his life depends on it. 

If your son is vaping (and 13 is on the younger side!), my guess is he's vaped or smoked pot and has likely tried other "stuff".  I would recommend taking him to the Chemical Dependency Recovery program even more than taking him to Clearwater.  We have Kaiser, so I've done their Chemical Dependency Recovery program with my son in his last year of high school, which is the only reason he was able to graduate (and with 4.2 GPA).  It took A LOT to get him to do that, and at that point he's been smoking pot daily, and probably tried other drugs.  In fact, if you are with Kaiser, they have a DBT program very similar to Clearwater's at their Richmond location.  But, again, I highly recommend you deal with vaping and current and future drug use first or at the same time.  You'd go through intake first, so they will tell you if your son is a good candidate. At Kaiser's Chemical Dependency Recovery Program, the teens are tested for all drugs weekly, and both parents and kids come to meetings (one group meeting for parents and kids together, another one just for kids).  If he's not doing drugs, then great, and your son will know you are dead serious that he doesn't start on those - or else he'll be enrolled in that program again.  And if he's doing them already (pot stays in one's body for weeks at a time), then you'll know the truth and he'll receive the support he needs to stop.

Good Luck!  Who said parenting was going to fun?

You are likely to encounter a waiting list for any DBT therapist in the Bay Area, so I would cast a wide net and get on every waitlist.

We have worked with a couple of the therapists at Clearwater Counseling in Oakland--all have been great.

We also worked with Rachel Chapple (also in Oakland) and highly recommend her as well.

Other options are the Wisemind Institute in Berkeley, DBT Center of Marin, and Mindfit DBT Center (also in Marin).


I also recommend Clearwater Clinic in Oakland, but they likely have a waiting list. But don't be discouraged! You may need to get on several waiting lists and do intake appointments with many therapists before finding just the right one. This can be extremely exhausting.

Some "cutting" can be just a phase, but it can also be indictative of larger underlying mental health issues. A good therapist will be able to help you figure that out.

We have been very happy (after seeing many, many practitioners) with Pacific Coast Psychiatry Associates. They have both MDs and therapists, and have several Bay Area locations. We see Dr. Martin in Walnut Creek, whose demeanor is very appealing to our teen, and whose expertise in psychiatry were immediately apparent. I hope that your child is one for whom cutting is just a phase. If not, you have a very tough road ahead of you. The "good" news is that there is a large community of parents of teens with mental health issues and many resources in the Bay Area.

Try Clearwater Clinic in Oakland. They have DBT programs for teens that are designed to work with self-harming behaviors. My teen has been really helped by their program. I'm sorry you are dealing with this. It's so hard. 

RE: Anxiety Support for a Teen ()

Clearwater counseling in Oakland (bear Oakland Kaiser) was amazing for work with teens!!

We had to give a $5K down payment for services then a % placement fee if we ended up placing her in a camp/facility/school. We ended up working it out at home by ramping up meds in the short term to stabilize, taking time off to monitor her fulltime at home (we also put an alarm on her door / taking anything away she could use to hurt herself), then going to DBT (Clearwater in Oakland). My greatest desire was to have my daughter stay home with us.  To do this, we (parents/family) had to change our tune big time to make things work.  DBT trained us to deal with ourselves and my lovely daughter magnificently. Volunteering with my daughter 4 hours a week helped tremendously too.  She loves animals so we ended up volunteering at the SPCA.  After a wild and bumpy ride, I'm forever grateful to have my daughter happy and safe at home with us 2 years later.

Clearwater in Oakland is great with CBT (they call it DBT, a take on CBT that includes mindfullness)

I'm having very similar issues with my son. We had a neuropsych exam done at Clearwater Counselling in Oakland and are now doing therapy there with Talia Kurland. My son really likes her and looks forward to going. He has not that reaction to other therapists that we've seen. Talia is young and has developed a very nice, trusting relationship with my son. We tried the therapist who is known locally as the leading adoption therapist and there was no connection at all. I've found that my son relates much better to younger therapists than to baby boomers at the end of their careers.

We pay out of pocket for this. Unfortunately we have never had any luck with therapists covered by our insurance. In my opinion, you can do a lot of damage by trying to force a relationship with the wrong therapist. You don't want your child to hate therapy and be reluctant to attend. If you can get help to pay for this out of pocket, I'd recommend that. We also told our son that he would have input into the therapist and that our goal was to find someone who he liked. Talia has been great. I've not heard good things about Kaiser mental health services. And the Medi-Cal resources that we've tried to use haven't been great either. Unfortunately the age of the therapist is one of the most important things for the fit with my son and the older the therapist, the less likely there is to be a good fit.

I've used Clearwater Assessment for my children.  I won't say it's cheap but it's relatively reasonable.