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Welcome to

Waking Bear Therapy

My name is Rich Mertes and I am a Certified Practitioner of the mindfulness-based, body-centered (somatic) healing modality called Hakomi. I'm also a practitioner of Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy.  I invite you to come work with me in order to address issues that are currently inviting healing and growth to mind, body, and spirit.

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About Hakomi: 
Somatic, Mindfulness-Based Healing

Hakomi is based on a belief in and a great reverence for a deep wisdom in the body that always wants to emerge more fully. This instinct toward self-healing flourishes when it is met with open-hearted engagement conducted in a container characterized by compassion and safety. The client is invited into a state of mindful awareness in which he or she has greater access to that guiding wisdom. Client and therapist together follow thoughts, images, sensations, memories, and emotions--whatever arises--to get clues about how the prevailing belief structures of the client have been formed. These core beliefs hold sway over much of our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health and well-being. Beyond merely gaining insight into their workings, Hakomi employs many elegant techniques--always nonviolently following the organicity of the body--to actually replace limiting core beliefs with more empowering and expansive ones.  It is worth noting that some people come to this work with a specific issue to focus on, and hope to feel relief or resolution within a few sessions.  Other people view our time together as a sort of ongoing sanctuary and are not so much seeking to be "done" as to schedule regular dates with the deepest part of themselves--like a sort of soul massage, or a kind of spiritual hygiene.  Both of these motivations are welcome and Hakomi is a modality that works powerfully either way.

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About Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapy

IFS, developed by Dr. Richard Schwartz, is based on the idea that:

  • each of us is made of a multiplicity of parts--that we aren't just a fixed, monolithic thing,

  • these parts each have a beneficial intention--to keep us healthy, safe, and to help us flourish,

  • these parts can become "burdened" by stress, trauma, and neglect--and this can pressurize and limit our lives, 

  • each of us has a Self--an indestructible, core goodness--that is the primary healing agent in "composting" these residues that slow us down.  With time, we learn to interact more with our Self-Infused aspects, and to liberate our "burdened" aspects.

IFS is an incredibly powerful--and evidence-based--tool which can help individuals gain knowledge and mastery of their inner systems. ​This can help alleviate anxiety, addiction, phobias, attachment challenges, and lingering traumatic residue.  With IFS, we don't sweep any parts under the rug or try to deny they exist.  Rather, IFS has marvelous ways of understanding them and creating a lasting, internal peace.

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About Nature-Based Healing

"Eco-" is derived from the Greek word for "home" or "house." Ecopsychology and ecotherapeutic practices focus on the ability to come home and be fully welcomed BOTH in the "house" of your body and in the larger "house" of the environment around you.  The feeling of not being fully rooted in either of these bodies is an epidemic that affects many people today.  Outdoor sessions may combine somatic work together, guided meditation, a reconvening in council after some solo time for the client--there is a lot of room here to honor what reveals itself to be the most healing pathway in the moment.  Holding it all are the land and sky and sun and streams as we work in the sanctuary of nature.

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-Beverly, CEO

I was introduced to Rich by another practitioner.  A healing awareness had led me to knowing I needed some form of specialist to help with developmental trauma affecting my physical health. I was initially resistant to the idea of working with a man and would say that I entered into the therapeutic relationship in a pretty guarded state.  Rich’s approach and way of being opened me to ideas and vocabulary my body’s intelligence was experiencing, but didn’t have words for yet.  Rich was able and willing to flow organically with my needs as they arrived.  He leads with his heart and has a unique skill set that is not bound by the constraints and limitations of standard talk therapy.  With Rich, there is an overall sense of being met and understood without judgement, and this is a precious gift.  I have begun to lean into my healing with a kind of trust—for myself and for him—that I could not have imagined before working with Rich.

What I Offer

Individual Counseling/Healing Sessions

I offer 60, 90, and 120 minute sessions of individual counseling and healing work.   While I operate primarily out of a Hakomi-and-IFS framework (see above for a description of the Hakomi and IFS methods), sessions can include elements of multiple modalities, such as eco-therapy, mindfulness coaching, guided imagery, teaching of self-regulation techniques, music therapy, internal "parts" dialog, or energetic healing if requested--whatever appears to be in greatest service to the client.  For people who are so motivated, I combine in-session experiential work with tools the client can practice on their own in between sessions.

My training and studies are primarily in the following areas:

  • Hakomi Method of Ron Kurtz (for depression, anxiety, addiction, attachment issues, and trauma)

  • Internal Family Systems (IFS)/Parts Work of Richard Schwartz, Janina Fisher

  • Somatic Experiencing of Peter Levine (for PTSD)

  • Polyvagal Theory of Stephen Porges--with elaboration by Stanley Rosenberg, Deb Dana

  • Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) for couples, individuals, and families, of Sue Johnson

  • Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) Resourcing of Francine Shapiro and Laurel Parnell

  • Flash Technique of Phillip Manfield

  • Coherence Therapy and Memory Reconsolidation work of Bruce Ecker

  • NeuroAffective Touch by Aline LaPierre (for attachment issues and complex-PTSD)

  • Bioenergetics of Alexander Lowen

  • Nonviolent Communication (NVC)/Mediation of Marshall Rosenberg

  • Emotional/Energetic Literacy work of Karla McLaren

  • Guided Visualization work of Belleruth Naparstek

  • Cultural Mentoring/Eco-Literacy/Nature Awareness work of Jon Young, Tom Brown Jr., and Tim Corcoran

  • Buddhist Meditation/Mindfulness in Zen, Vipassana, and Shambhala traditions

  • Shamanic/Energetic work of Michael Harner

  • Interfaith Spirituality work of Neil Douglas Klotz

  • Story of the Universe: New Cosmology work of Brian Swimme

  • The Work That Reconnects of Joanna Macy (existential, deep ecology work)

I work with people around issues of depression, addiction, stress, anxiety, attachment, trauma, and chronic physical pain.  Sometimes the work is not so much about "solving a problem" as it is about encouraging a growth leap in an already fruitful life.  Ultimately, this means identifying and updating the limiting core beliefs that no longer serve the health, happiness, and growth of the client.  A fuller sense of embodied living is the goal.  I am also comfortable using more spiritual vocabulary and stepping into sharing those lenses with you if that's how you view your process.  Your body's deepest wisdom, once engaged, is always what guides our process--both in its pacing and its direction.  This work can be very powerful, and often utilizes personal resources that talk therapy alone cannot access.

Couples Counseling/Mediation

I also do Hakomi-style work with couples, and lead mediation sessions for parties (like relatives, roommates, or business partners) who are not romantically involved but still need to resolve conflicts around pressing issues.  My work here is strongly influenced by the Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) method of Sue Johnson and the Nonviolent Communication (NVC) method developed by Marshall Rosenberg. Having a third party maintain a safe space for sharing often facilitates breakthroughs neither side thought possible.

Healing Sessions In Nature/Therapeutic Walks

Based on the client's wants and needs, I collaborate with the birds and trees and streams and clouds to facilitate safe intrapersonal and interspecies communion beneath a ceiling of open sky.  The length and location of these healing sessions depend on what is appropriate to the situation of the particular client.  Guided half-day and whole-day personal retreats in nature can be arranged.  See more information below in FEE SCALE section.

Mindful Mentoring/Counseling for Children

Combining my background as an educator (14 years as a special education paraprofessional and 17 years as the lead teacher in public and private school classrooms) with my counseling and nature connection training, I offer 60, 90, and 120 minute sessions as an inspirational ally for children.  Sessions can be held indoors or out, with a focus on developing mindfulness practice (appropriate to age) and self-regulation skills.

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Fee Scale

Individual/Couples Sessions

1 hour               $150 - 200 (sliding scale)

1.5 hour            $200 - 250 (sliding scale)

COUPLES and MEDIATION sessions require, at minimum, a 75-minute block at $180-240 (sliding scale).

I am aware of the financial impact many people are experiencing at this time.  If you are motivated to begin this process but concerned about the cost, please contact me and I will do my best to help make this accessible to you.

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Rich Mertes,

I am a Certified Practitioner of the Hakomi method of somatic, mindfulness-based counseling.  I've taught mindfulness and nature awareness to people of all ages, and was a teacher in public and private schools for seventeen years.  As a Certified Massage Therapist, I spent years doing bodywork at UCSF Medical Center--primarily in the oncology and maternity units.  I have studied with a number of nature-based healers, and maintain a regular nature immersion practice. I've been involved in Buddhist practice since 1984.  I have certificates in Hakomi work and massage, as well as degrees in Education and Religious Studies.  I also co-teach a mindfulness and emotional literacy curriculum at juvenile hall in Marin County (   

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Contact Me

At Waking Bear Therapy, your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being is important to me. I look forward to our interactions being conducted in a spirit of compassionate curiosity. Perhaps some of life's intrinsic challenges feel overwhelming to you at the moment. Or maybe life is simply offering an opportunity right now for you to heal and grow. Feel free to contact me to see if what you're needing matches up with the services I am offering.

I am happy to offer complimentary 20-minute consultations over the phone to see if working together might be a helpful step along your path.  Call 415-623-0147 to set up a time to talk.  If I'm not available when you call, I will respond to your message within 24 hours.

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