As of 2019, I have maintained a solo practice in Seattle for 20 years, after being in a multi-disciplinary mental health group practice for two years. I’m 66 years old, a native of New York City whose path to becoming a therapist in Seattle has gone through Chicago (college), Boston and Los Angeles. I’m a father, son and brother.
I’ve been married and unmarried, and parented a wonderful, successful young adult. Monogamy is a maturing, empowering and humbling experience that grows us intensively. Its most consistent foundation is personal integrity, as it does in consensual non-monogamy. The development of multiple concurrent committed relationships offers a different path to self-growth, integrity and maturity.
I try to bring the benefit of working with all relationship types to my clients, with the ability to see the common elements of adult development that cross over both relationship paradigms.
Practicing psychotherapy has greatly enriched my life, as have my own experiences of being a client in individual and couples treatment.
My areas of practice frequently let me see my clients at their best; being a practitioner and understanding the client challenges me to find my own.
Professional Education & Development
In 1994, I received my Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from the University of Southern California School of Social Work in Los Angeles. It was the nation’s first school of social work established west of the Mississippi. It’s currently ranked #12 by U.S. News and World Report, out of 756 MSW programs in the U.S. USC SSW is known for its excellence in clinical training. My Bachelors degree is in Political Science (1975) from the University of Chicago.
My work is grounded in the study of life and development, in which psychology holds its place. My orientation is best described as “eco-systemic“. It came together over years of study and consultation with the late James (Jim) Maddock, Ph.D. “Eco” involves finding an accurate, useful big picture, integrating a wide variety of personal and systemic information about you – such as heredity, social life and family influences. I include medical and neurobiologic (brain functioning) information in my assessment. All of these factors emerge in the initial assessment conversations.
A Developmental Perspective
I usually frame the ‘big picture’ within a developmental perspective – how people, families and relationships take their shape over time. I continuously look at the personal, biological, gender, family and relational “ecology”, striving to create a picture that helps us make sense of problems, and links to therapeutic action you can consider. To me, this multi-systemic approach is the heart of clinical social work.
Relationship Therapy Focus
Like most other therapists or counselors, I work with individual clients (about a third of my practice), and develop skills in that area. But my ongoing training and development is heavily focused on relationship and couples practice. I believe this emphasis is necessary to effective work. I also agree with David Schnarch: “Couples therapy can be the best individual therapy you can get.”
Integrated Relationship & Sexual Therapy
I’m grateful that my theory and practice over the last 20 years has allowed me to expand the kinds of relationships I can effectively work with. This now includes committed multi-relational partners, so-called polyamory. (consensual non-monogamy – CNM), and open marriage or relationship.
My training fully integrated sexuality into a model of relationship therapy, hence working with sexual diversity came naturally. Understanding kink, a broad term of erotic desire & sexual creativity and diversity, was an easier task because the underlying approach was and is intentionally sex-positive.
History of Relationship Training & Development
I spent 1997-99 studying and practicing methods learned in professional education with John Gottman, Ph.D. From 1998 until 2004, I trained with David Schnarch in three week-long intensive workshops, plus three additional 1 and 2 day workshops*. I have also done a 6 month case consultation in 2010 with him, and for nearly two years with his partner, Ruth Morehouse, Ph.D.
My near decade of training and consultation with Dr. Schnarch formed a foundation for my work. If you want the briefest summary of core principles and framework for couples therapy, using his approaches, read this by Dr. Schnarch.
I also consulted monthly with their colleague, the late Jim Maddock, Ph.D., for four years, and in two week-long practicums with Dr. Maddock and his wife, Noel Larson, Ph.D. Drs. Maddock and Larson integrated diagnosis and treatment of personality disorders with systems theory. I maintained two peer clinical consultation groups with other advanced students of Drs. Schnarch, Maddock and Larson, for ten and four years, respectively.
In the last seven years, I have especially enjoyed the influences on my approach from education with Esther Perel, LMFT and Marty Klein, Ph.D. Both are erotically and sexually mature approaches. Along with Dr. Schnarch, they bring scholarship, a broad range of knowledge, love and respect for sexuality as one of life’s greatest treasures.
Other Professional Activity
• As of July 2010, I am a Past President of the Board of Directors of the Washington State Society for Clinical Social Work (wsscsw.org), after serving a two year term. I have been an active member for 19 years.
• In 2005, I co-led the launch of the Veterans Outreach Program, which provides free & low cost therapy to veterans who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their families. In 2012, I re-launched this program, reaching veterans and families through a network of community based professionals.
• I have been a member of the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, a leading organization for critical incident response since 1998
• I maintain continuing education in professional ethics, relational therapy, sexuality, trauma, neurobiology and grief.
Clinical Social Work and Licensure
The LICSW (Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker) is the highest level of licensure for Clinical Social Work in Washington State. To learn more about this licensure, see Resources.
In the U.S., Clinical Social Work is the single largest profession providing private mental health services. It should not be confused with social work services provided in institutional settings, such as in hospital discharge planning, or in local government child/adult protective services, For more information, see “WSSCSW” in the Therapy Links tab above.
* (Professional references to training with Dr. Schnarch are contractually required to be specific in number & nature.)
Robert Odell LICSW/3214 W. McGraw St./Seattle, WA 98199/(206) 282-3137