What You Can Expect

​Services provided for emotional, behavioral, or relationship change should not be a mystery. However, the journey, though structured, is often mysterious and full of discoveries that we can not foretell.  Everyone brings unique circumstances to the process, requiring an individualized approach in our utilization of the most effective tools of personal change and growth. The following will give you a good idea of how I work and what you can expect in effort to strengthen your emotional health.

I use an approach that combines the most effective methods from a variety of counseling disciplines, including Cognitive-Behavioral, Coherence Therapy, Rogerian, and collaborative models.  It is a multi-faceted model that continues to develop as the art and science of personal change moves forward.  

Underlying all strategies I use is the process of memory reconsolidation.  That's a technical term meaning that lasting emotional change at the level of the brain comes from changing memory and prediction patterns through new experiences that reveal old beliefs, emotions, and strategies to be obsolete and no longer needed.

Once new and contradictory information is experienced while old memory and expectation patterns are operating (meaning you're feeling uncomfortable based on prior emotional learning as you do something different than your normal patterns), the brain can reset these patterns of remembering and predicting in negative ways that don't serve you and are no longer true for you. The brain changes its emotional responses when it expereinces an error in what it's predicting.  It's why unforseen traumatic experiences can stay with us for a lifetime if we don't resolve them. It's also why a pleasant surprise stays with us and can change our perspective. Memory reconsolidation processes are at the heart of lasting emotional change that can greatly improve the quality of your life.  

Together we will plan tasks that alter these patterns. These tasks can bring discomfort, and that's a necessary step of the process.  They can also bring profound change.

However, I will never ask you to do anything that doesn't make complete sense to you and isn't something that you want to do for your current and future selves. But I may remind you of the quote from novelist James Baldwin. "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." I will help you face your challenges in a systematic way that can bring profound and lasting results.

Ultimately, you are in control of the process of change and we will work at the pace that feels right for you.   

How the Process Unfolds

Prior to each session, you will fill out a short and very simple, yet sophisticated, mood survey that will guide our work and your progress.  We'll know session to session how you're progressing, and we will know what factors have brought about that progress. Additionally, at the end of every session, you will rate the quality of the work and empathy I provide on a quick and simple, but highly sophisticated and validated, instrument.  We'll know if our relationship is getting off track and be able to get it back on track quickly. 

Dr. David Burns pioneered the work of these instruments in the 1980s, and similar instruments have been validated by independent researchers to improve treatment outcomes by as much as 100%. (Anker, Duncan, & Sparks, 2009).

A therapeutic alliance between us built on empathy is an extremely important condition for your progress out of personal pain and in to greater emotional mastery.  I will seek out your story of emotional and behavioral challenges, making sure that I have heard all aspects of your story and know your most important thoughts, beliefs, values, emotions and strategies surrounding those challenges.  I will work to make sure that you are convinced that I understand your story and challenges so that our alliance in support of your growth is maximized.

We will work together to establish the goals that you wish to achieve.  Equally importantly, we will work to discover the competing priorities and natural immunity to change you have that have thus far gotten in the way of achieving those goals.  We all often have powerful reasons not to change, reasons that are rarely in our awareness.  

Despite the pain of emotional difficulties, we often cling to the familiar in order to protect ourselves and others from what we fear will be worse pain, to honor our value system, to achieve a valued goal, and/or to keep a sense of connection to powerful others in our lives, among many other reasons, all of which will be unique to you.  Discovering those reasons to remain the same can be a powerful experience that frees you to take the steps you need to achieve the goals you seek.  

Alternatively, you may discover that the reasons you have not made a change are valid and worth preserving.  You may come to accept that some pain in life is the price you must pay in order to achieve a more compelling goal you weren't fully aware you had. Yet, that acceptance can paradoxically be freeing also, and a catalyst to the development of other goals.

This work can seem counterintuative to some clients (and therapists) who want to rush ahead with change efforts without an understanding of the obstacles to that change.  However, these processes are, in my opinion, some of the, if not the, most exciting and frutiful concepts in psychotherapy to have developed in the past 20 years, and one in which few clinicians have been trained. 

When our alliance is strong, when we are both clear on what obtainable goals you wish to move toward in your relationship or personal life, and when you feel the necessary level of motivation to go after those goals, we will utilize a number of very powerful methods to bring abut the changes that will very likely lead to progress toward your goals. Progress in the important areas of your life, not goal attainment, is the most decisive factor in any quest for increased states of happiness.  

Reaching a goal brings happiness.  Making consistent progress toward valued goas brings satisfaction and fulfillment - happiness that lasts and creates resilience in the face of life's challenges. 

We will not know in advance which tasks will work to bring change and more balance to the conflicted and competing parts of your mind discouraging change, therefore, some trial and error will be necessary before we find the particular methods that bring about the specific changes you seek. As therapy progresses you will know which tasks have worked for you so that you can use them or similar tasks in the future for lifelong personal health, well-being, and relapse prevention. 

Call today at (916) 549-5772 or email me here to schedule an appointment or discuss how I can help you make the changes you seek. If your ready to get started right away, click here to schedule an appointment.

I look forward to supporting your success.     


The Persian poet, Rumi, wrote centuries ago, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the obstacles that you have built against it." Much the same can be said for happiness. We build barriers against seeking happiness that we're unaware of in order to protect ourselves from painful feelings we've experienced in the past and/or expect to experience in the future if we let oursleves fully seek the challenges that bring us the most value, connection, joy, and well-being. 

Sometimes we seek happiness too feverishly in order to avoid any pain in our life, worried that emotional pain may be our undoing.  A satisfying life involves much happiness, as well as the recognition that life will bring disappointments and lessons from our struggles to help us move forward and master the changes and challenges thrown at us.

Negative emotions hold the clues to making the changes needed for more consistent states of happiness. We will work to understand and reduce or eliminate those emotions that derail your goals and happiness, allowing you greater emotional freedom and joy, and the ability to continually move forward to solve the challenges you encounter.

What Counseling Can Offer

Individual counseling I provide uses strategies with proven results that may help you:

  • Become clear on the goals you want to pursue.
  • Discover hidden parts of you that have been trying to protect you from feeling worse or to reach lesser goals, but have blocked your motivation to make progress toward your most important goals.
  • Transform the inner conflicts and excessive fears that hold you back.
  • Create harmony and peace of mind.
  • Generate excitement and use the energy of negative emotions to propel progress toward the goals that bring you the greatest happiness and satisfaction.
  • Reduce or eliminate the negative feelings that are dominating your life.
  • Increase confidence to manage well the challenges in your life.
  • Get along better with others and strengthen your deepest relationships.
  • Install healthy habits and reduce unhealthy ones.
  • Have more fun.

Good therapy helps you uncover and transform obstacles to your personal goals and emotional well-being through experiences that ​​that change your brain's emotional functioning. These changes alter your perspective and beliefs and foster motivation to do the sometimes difficult things you can do to build a life of greater happiness, satisfaction and purpose.  

Get caring and skilled help to create lasting emotional change that can transform your life.  You can feel better now and get better permanently with change processes that bring greater emotional resilience, control, and freedom.  

Get my Free Report

State of the Art Therapy
How to Know You've Found It 
Steve Mackey, LMFT  
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Midtown Sacramento Office 2020 Capitol Ave, Suite 5, Sacramento, CA 95811

Free 2-hour street parking on Capitol Ave. from 20th St. and up.

Office Hours: Tuesday - Thursday.  Evening Appointments Available Click here for Directions

When life seems so painful you don't know what to do or where to turn.  I can help. Call (916) 549-5772 for a free 20-minute consultation.

                 (916) 549-5772

Contact me by email 

Steve Mackey is a cognitive-behavioral, exposure based, and motivational coherence-based mental health counselor and psychotherapist who offers individual  counseling and psychotherapy services for issues related to anxiety, depression, fear, mood problems, low self-esteem, anger, habits, and relationship struggles  for adults at 2020 Capitol Ave., Suite 5,  Sacramento, CA 95811, serving the Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom, Roseville, Citrus Heights, Orangevale, Carmichael, Davis, and Galt communities. For more information contact  916 549-5772.

The information provided on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Visiting this website does not constitute a therapist-client relationship.  Information found on the internet is not a substitute for individualized evaluation and treatment by a mental health professional.  All written and visual materials are the exclusive copyright of Steve Mackey, © 2011-2016.

Suicide & Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

  ​The Art and Science of Change