Dr. Angela Klein: Dialectical behavior therapist (DBT) & Author

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Angela Klein, Ph.D., earned her doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 2009. Prior to this she began her study of eating disorders and psychology through the honors program at Kent State University, completing her B.A., with a minor in women’s studies, as valedictorian, in 2002.  As both a researcher and practitioner, Dr. Klein has extensive experience delivering and conducting treatment trials emphasizing effectiveness in the real world, including her development and investigation of the mindful eating program presented in her book “Mindful Eating from the Dialectical Perspective: Research and Application.”  She began specializing in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) in 2004. She is also now actively engaged in radically open (RO) DBT, becoming one of the first intensively trained RO therapists in the U.S. in 2015.  Her evidence-based approach retains perspectives from cognitive behavior therapy, balanced with Eastern wisdom. She has multiple journal publications in the field of eating disorders and has presented her research both nationally and internationally. She founded and directs her private practice, Centered Ground, providing individual therapy, family therapy, group skills training classes, and coaching support to adolescents and adults in the greater San Diego area, with her main office in Carlsbad, offering her expertise in DBT, RO, and mindful eating from the dialectical perspective. 

What do I do best?

Perseverance—persevering through pain, walking through adversity and finding strength and joy, growing and overcoming in the process.  This characterizes my own personal journey and my work with my clients as a therapist.  In fact, one of my dear friends dubbed me with the nickname “Persey” for perseverance, and I have been told that I have the patience of Job.  Because I have walked the road myself I can offer others great compassion and perspective as they find their own way out of the darkness.  This is invaluable in moving past some of the extremely chronic and challenging concerns that my clients bring to therapy.

What makes me the best version of myself?

By bravely embracing and expressing my authentic self, I can deeply, mindfully connect with others and passionately live into my potential and fulfillment of my valued directions.  This includes the qualities of radical genuineness, openness, and radical acceptance of whatever happens, so that no matter what, I can ultimately adapt and find peace within the storm, using the new circumstances as a springboard for further growth and evolution.  

What are my aspirations?

I definitely want to travel more.  This past summer I walked several sections of the Camino de Santiago—the North Way, the Camino Primitivo (the oldest trail), and the French Way, then continued on to Finisterre (“the End of the World”).  It was one of the most profound experiences of my life and I would like to return to walk more of it, over time, starting outside Notre Dame in Paris and walking through the French countryside before ultimately arriving back in Spain.  I am also aiming for my next big trip to be a month in India.  On a professional level I aspire to continue growing my practice, to further develop my reach to clients beyond the office, including presenting to a more widespread audience on mindful eating.  I also intend to write more, with my current book, “Mindful Eating from a Dialectical Perspective: Research and Application” as a foundation, as well as future novels.

My Biggest Success?

A couple clients in particular come to mind with this question.  In general, it is so immensely rewarding when my clients come alive before me, truly, after years of struggle, empowered by our therapy through the most devastating emotional and behavioral challenges.  To celebrate their milestones previously unimaginable, such as a glowing, beaming teen sharing about her new boyfriend after years of relentless isolative depression, suicidality, and self-harm, or a healthy baby, carried with remission of behaviors, after decades of a severe eating disorder, continuously ranks as my biggest success.  Of course, I cannot fully claim credit, since I can only provide the tools and show the way, but I would say that my biggest success has been reaching that ability to give back in this way, on the other side of overcoming my own challenges.

My Most Challenging Moment?

When my (now ex-) husband left me in 2013, it was one of the most difficult times of my life—and that is saying a lot because if have overcome a lot.  I would say it was my most challenging period because I have never felt so utterly gutted.  The ending of our marriage was completely unexpected—I think even to him.  It left me wondering if I could ever trust anything or anyone again.  Every day I gave my clients a message of hope and encouragement and in those days I struggled to believe any of it myself.  But I had to take care of myself, more than ever, so I continued to see clients.  I sat in the depths with them still, even when it was all I had in me to get myself showered and drive to the office, in the thickest mental fog, tears streaming down my face in unrelenting assault for months.  I had to face everything that that relationship had helped me ignore, all that I had pushed down in an anxious attempt at perfection to prevent what happened anyway—my love walking away.  I had to decide to transform.  To return to myself.  To yet again overcome.  And to refuse to let myself be broken.  And so I did.  I healed.  And now I know I can survive anything.  And not just survive, but thrive, more than ever, thrive.

My Motto?

I wear a pendant with a quote from Anais Nin: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”  For me this is emblematic of how I live my life, moving into vulnerability, not allowing myself to stay stagnant or rest in what feels safe, but rather courageously endeavoring to risk and follow my passions.  This creates a life of incredible moments of triumphant overcoming; an ever evolving sense of freedom; profoundly moving emotional depth; often unexpected, authentic connection; ephemeral joy; and an unquenchable sense of humor about it all.  During a particularly challenging time of personal rebirth I likewise thought to myself, “I don’t want to feel safe—I want to feel.”

My Favorite People/Role Models?

In graduate school I was paired with a women’s leadership mentor who ceaselessly has offered an amazing role model for empowerment as a woman in the field of psychology: Ann Looby.  She has tirelessly traveled the world as a crisis responder and humanitarian, with projects personally spearheaded in Africa, Tibet, and Nepal; in her spare time she hikes around the globe, does trail maintenance, and prepares for her next adventures.  In her 70s she shows no signs of stopping.  She emanates joy and self-actualization.  She has been an invaluable mentor in what it means to be a strong, independent woman, not just professionally, but rather, and perhaps more importantly, personally.  My grandfather and piano teacher, Mr. Robert Vandall, also have been two of my favorite people.  Sadly, both have departed this earth and are dearly missed.  My grandfather was a true embodiment of love.  Basically the entire small town that was his home and mine growing up showed up for his calling hours to thank him for how he touched their lives.  A carpenter, he volunteered well into his older age for Habitat for Humanity, building houses in the wake of hurricane devastation.  He was humble, endlessly giving and kind.  Mr. Vandall provided a similar example of humility and kindness, patience and encouragement, teaching me not just piano, the brilliant composer he was, but perhaps more importantly, how to deeply express and embrace emotion.

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Paris.  The beach.  Obradoiro Square in Santiago de Compostela.  I love the energy of Paris, its resilient spirit of living fully no matter what tragedy occurs.  And I love watching the sunset over the Pacific.  I feel so grateful to be living in Southern California.  I love to end my week by walking to the local beach by my office in Carlsbad every Friday—and any other evening I can!  And the emotion of Obradoiro Square is unparalleled.  This summer, completing the Camino de Santiago in Spain and arriving in the square was one of the most moving experiences of my life.  I highly recommend walking the Pilgrim’s Way.  It will be life-changing.  I also highly recommend watching the pilgrims arrive into the square.  You will witness such ecstatic joy and jubilation, along with incredible depths of experience, from elated groups to quietly reflective individuals, each finding release from the burdens they have been carrying.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

My morning cup of coffee, in one of my favorite mugs, such as my very first coffee mug with a cheeky Maxine declaring “Don’t bother me until my first 12 cups of coffee,” my California Starbucks mug from one of my most rewarding clients, or my most recent edition, a beautifully curving, hand-crafted, large “Robot” mug by Maaike Charron of Blue Dragon Pottery, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, with an endearing stick figure robot declared to be aspiring to stardom, from one of my dear friends who ended up being a fellow companion on my Camino.  My boots.  Hiking and otherwise.  Unfortunately, in California, boot season is limited and really a result of us wanting to create seasons rather than it actually truly being cold enough to warrant winterwear such as boots—but I have acclimated from my days in the Midwest and sport my beautiful boots with swagger when “winter” arrives.  My flip flops, cheetah print.  I love to throw them on at the end of the work week and head to the sand.  And besides just generally being awesome, I appreciate the cheetah print especially after learning that cheetahs have a high strung, anxious nature that parallels the overcontrolled temperament to which I offer my expertise as one of the first intensively trained providers of radically open dialectical behavior therapy in the U.S. and currently the only intensively trained provider in Southern California.  In fact, at the San Diego Zoo, the cheetahs thus are soothed by canine companions, such an endearing example of the imperative of balance in relationship.  And my hiking poles—from the trails of California to the Camino of Spain, with me every step of the way.  I love their rhythmic cadence, their lightness yet unwavering support.  I feel incomplete when I go hiking without them.

My Current Passions?

I love my practice.  It is truly a gift to be directing my own center, guiding clients through the depths of their despair into lives of fulfillment and joy.  I am grateful for it every day.  I am also excited to continue sharing my mindful eating approach, further disseminating it with my book.  I intend to develop this further in the coming year through dynamic presentations, broadening the reach of my message and its transformative inspiration and potential.  And basically life—growing, learning, evolving, connecting.  Every day is an adventure and I fully intend to make the most of each and every one.