Fran Miller, PH.D.

Licensed Psychologist | 503.704.7974

“When you reflect on the infinite number of happenstances that coalesced to produce you, then you understand how unique, how precious, how sacred you really are. Your task is to cultivate that precious, sacred nature and help it to flower.”   Robert Aitken, Roshi   

We all are continuing to find our way through the pandemic; some of us are making our way with good fortune, and some of us with grief and loss. I am continuing to use doxy.me for telehealth (a hippa-compliant website), and it has been working out better than I thought. Perhaps soon I will be able to do some in person sessions. One of the advantages of telehealth is that I have been able to add clients who are out of the immediate Portland area.

I have 26 articles on this website’s Articles Page that have a wealth of information on a variety of topics. In addition, soon I will be adding two or three articles related to our experiences and challenges with the pandemic. My articles are also a good way to get a sense of my professional work, interests, and areas of expertise.  

I am a licensed psychologist with an independent practice at two locations in Portland, Oregon.  I specialize in integrating psychological and spiritual growth, and work with people of all religious and spiritual beliefs, Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern. My own background is Protestant, Catholic, and Zen Buddhist.  

The focus of my clinical work includes formation and clarification of identity, development of self-esteem, anxiety, depression, post trauma, loss and grief, creativity, artists’ issues, career development, religious, existential and spiritual issues, mindfulness practice, and meditation.   

If you are interested in psychotherapy, please call or text me at 503-704-7974. Please remember to include your insurance company if you are using insurance, and give me some of he following information: your age, education, work, family circumstances, and emotional status. That will help me determine if I would be an appropriate therapist for you.

Click categories below for a quick view

Negative Emotions, Balance; Bondage, LIberation

Most of us have thought patterns that are caught up in worrying, planning, fantasizing, or dreaming about the future; regrets, remorse, memories, or nostalgia about the past; or negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, fear, irritation, frustration, anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness, and isolation. 

From the psychological perspective one goal is to learn how to move away from negative emotions to find balance, gratitude, and appreciation. The effort psychologically is to refocus and reframe negative thinking, restructure negative sentences, formulate the opposite of negative emotions such as forgiveness, courage, calm, peace, hope, and connectedness and to develop appreciation and gratitude. 

From the Eastern philosophical or Buddhist perspective, we are held in bondage by, or bound by negative thought patterns. From this perspective it is the discrimination of attachment and aversion that binds us. Attachments take the form of opinions, judgments, analyses, projections, expectations,and preferences. Mindfulness practice teaches us to focus our attention on the sensory input of the present moment -- what we are seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, sensing, and feeling and to let go of the discrimination of attachment and aversion. 

In Buddhism, greed, hatred, and ignorance are called the Three Poisons. The Four Great Wisdoms are loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Through regular, ongoing mindfulness practice and through daily meditation we can literally train our brain which results in the transformation of negative thought habits and feelings into positive emotions, qualities and virtues. The Heart Sutra, which is recited daily in Buddhist monasteries throughout the world, begins: “Avolokiteshvara, practicing deeply the prajna paramita, clearly saw that all five skandas (form, sensation, perception, mental reaction, and consciousness) are empty transforming all suffering and distress.” I don’t know of any other religion or philosophy that claims to transform suffering and distress, but the Heart Sutra also states, “This is truth not mere formality”!

Tae-hsin made his bows before Seng-ts’an and said, “I beg the compassion of Your Reverence, Please teach me the Dharma Way of emancipation.”  
Seng-ts’an said, “Who is binding you?”  
Tae-hsin said, “No one is binding me.”  
Seng-ts’an said, “Then why should you search for emancipation?” Hearing this, 
Tao-hsin had great realization. 

Quoted by Robert Aitken in The Morning Star

Creativity

One of the primary goals of psychotherapy is the manifestation of the unique individual self. Creativity is an integral part of each persons unique self, and it can evolve simultaneously with the integration and development of the self. 

Components of working on creativity include: exploration of creative blocks, development of self esteem, focus on creative talents, decisions regarding artistic media, formulation of specific projects, support for perseverance with your artistic projects, and sharing in the enjoyment of creative productions. 

I am rewarded by the process of the emerging self, and I enjoy supporting and encouraging the expression of creativity. Blocks and barriers can be overcome and the results of the creative process are exciting to both the client and to myself as therapist. I would enjoy working with you on your psychological development as well as your creative expression.

Courage Facing Fears

It is important to take time in therapy to consider the importance of naming, facing, and dealing with our fears. In “My Struggle to Become a Zen Monk” Morinaga Soko said, “Real courage is enduring and holding firm in the face of one’s own faint-heartedness.” In therapy there are two aspects of working on fears: the practical and the cognitive/ emotional. It is important and necessary to consider what changes or actions need to be taken with regard to a particular fear as well as the way one is over-focusing on the fear. 

It is helpful to learn how to practice the meditation of opposites, a personal mantra, which will help you to focus on positive and calming thoughts rather than dwelling on and expanding your fearful thinking. We can also learn that instead of trying to eliminate all of the sources and causes of our fears, that we can develop the strength to face them, accept them, and live our lives without our fears holding us back.

Loneliness, Alienation, Isolation and Connection

Loneliness is pervasive in our society even when we spend most of our time with other people, and it is exacerbated by the increased use of social media. Alienation is the feeling of being separate from the objective world and different from others. Alienation can also be the experience of feeling separate from different aspects of the self. Isolation is the feeling of being set apart from others without the ability to bridge the distance. In therapy we explore your personal history, associations, and factors related to loneliness, alienation and isolation. Both religious faith and the pursuit of Eastern philosophy and practice can be extremely helpful in overcoming these three negative emotions. In Buddhism, Indra’s Net is a representation of the interconnectedness of all things. The understanding and experience of Indra’s Net or inter-being in realization can lead to peace and a lasting experience of compassion and connection.

Loss, Grief and Bereavement

Loss may be experienced as a result of changes in job or relationship, because of moving to a completely new area, or because of the death of one or more people that you are close to. Working with loss, grief and bereavement is a particularly sensitive and meaningful focus of therapy. Emotional responses can vary greatly between people and even within oneself over time. In therapy we take time to review events, explore your life preceding loss, explore your emotional responses, and find helpful ways to release and manage emotions. In time the therapy can address the movement of your life forward, goals and plans for the future, and re-engagement with current relationships.

Acute Stress Response

Acute stress results when exposed to events of actual or threatened death, severe injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others that involves intense fear or helplessness. Therapy consists of taking time to review and debrief the acute stress experience, explore emotional responses and implications for one’s own life, dealing with resulting fears, develop positive actions and habits, and progression towards returning to normal life and relationships.

Anxiety, Depression, and Obsessive Thinking

When clients express difficulty with anxiety we take time to explore the factors that are causing or related to the anxiety such as relationship or work concerns, previous trauma or loss, issues of health or illness, and concerns about safety and security. We will focus on the methods that are shown to be helpful in reducing anxiety: progressive muscle relaxation, breathing techniques, visualization exercises, journaling, mindfulness practice, and meditation. With symptoms of depression, we also explore each factor that may underlie the depression, for example: childhood issues, previous family dynamics, current family relationships, previous trauma or loss, relationship and work concerns, concerns related to health or illness, religious or spiritual issues, and issues related to futility or life’s ultimate meaning. We also focus our attention on the methods and therapeutic techniques that can help to reduce depression, such as: cognitive behavioral techniques, formation of a clarity and strength of identity, development of self esteem, journaling, focus on The Basics which are sleep, nutrition, and exercise, increasing strength and fitness, the development of a mindfulness practice, and meditation. (See Mindfulness and Meditation)

Obsessive tendencies are patterns of thinking that cause low self esteem, stress, anxiety, and difficulty with decision-making. We spend some amount of time on the formation of personality characteristics and the history of obsessive tendencies. Particular attention is given to the development of a clear and strong sense of self, to becoming aware of cognitive patterns, and to the development of the skill of cognitive restructuring. We will implement a simple four step method that is often recommended for overcoming obsessive tendencies.

Identity and Self Esteem

Many people come to therapy without a clear sense of their own identity and with low self esteem.  We will evaluate your level of self esteem and work to develop a clear and strong sense of self as almost a prerequisite to the rest of therapy.  Your identity and self esteem are the foundation for your behavior and your life.  They determine your level of emotional difficulty or well-being.  Some of our effort includes working on a questionnaire I have developed with eight categories of your positive characteristics and eight categories of negative characteristics. You will learn both to change and to accept your personal qualities.  We will work on negative thinking and self criticism, learn how to restructure your thought processes, and develop your own personal mantra with the “meditation of opposites”.  (See the Home Page section on Facing Your Fears.)

Group Psychotherapy

Group therapy is offered during specific time frames and when there are a sufficient number of participants to form a group. Group participation can be billed to insurance companies.

Group Topics: 

  • The practice of mindfulness and beginning a meditation practice.
  • The integration of religious, existential, and spiritual issues with group therapy. 
  • Therapists’ Support Group emphasizing mindfulness and meditation.

Adolescent Psychotherapy

I see teenagers who are “acting in” rather than “acting out”; in other words teens with issues of identity, self esteem, anxiety, depression, social anxiety, and obsessive tendencies. I am particularly interested in seeing adolescents who are gifted or who are working earnestly on academic achievement and preparing for higher education.

Marital and Family Psychotherapy

Marital (couples counseling) and family therapy are billed as Family Psychotherapy (90847). In marital therapy the issues addressed include history of the relationship, family history of each partner, personality dynamics, communication patterns, non violent communication skills, empathic listening instruction, education and practice of negotiation techniques, and the importance of resolution. In family therapy, family dynamics, members’ roles in the family, personality issues, and communication patterns are all addressed. “Family Rules” are sometimes implemented when needed for family discipline.

Individual Psychotherapy

I provide individual psychotherapy to a variety of age groups: teenagers who are “acting in” rather than “acting out”; in other words teens with issues of identity, self esteem, anxiety, depression, social anxiety, and obsessive tendencies. I work with adults, couples, and the elderly. Issues that are often addressed are identity, self-esteem, anxiety, depression, social anxiety, obsessive tendencies, critical incident stress, post traumatic stress disorder, relationship history, current relationships, decision-making, transitions, health related issues, the development of physical fitness, creativity, and religious and spiritual issues.