Approach & Experience
I am a licensed clinical psychologist practicing in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles.
I work with children, adolescents, and adults in a comfortable office setting, offering comprehensive psychological assessment and treatment. I have a wide range of clinical expertise and am committed to continually broadening my learning and training as a psychologist.
In addition to working with interpersonal, relationship, self-esteem and identity issues, I have extensive experience helping individuals struggling with issues of depression, anxiety, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and complex trauma, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and perinatal mental health issues. I also work with individuals struggling with OCD and other comorbid disorders at PCH Treatment Center in Mar Vista, California.
My belief is that anyone can benefit from psychotherapy as we all have our own unique worries and concerns that influence our lives on a daily basis. I draw from a combination of therapeutic orientations that include Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (including Exposure and Response Prevention and Prolonged Exposure Therapy), and Mindfulness.
I work collaboratively with my clients to explore and understand the psychological roots of emotional suffering by focusing on self-reflection and the examination and resolution of inner conflicts.
Working as a team, I guide people to modify their patterns of thinking and support them to tolerate and cope with negative emotions. Through this process, individuals can gain a deeper understanding of themselves, improve coping with daily struggles, and live a more satisfying and fulfilling life.
Psychodynamic psychotherapy focuses on exploring parts of the self that may not be fully known and how these parts influence the individual’s life and relationships. Several techniques underlie this practice including the exploration, acknowledgement, and expression of the full range of emotions in a safe and nurturing environment. Without the awareness and experience of emotions, people are more likely to act on them in dysfunctional and destructive ways. By becoming aware of one’s emotions and increasing the ability to tolerate distress, individuals can make better and wiser life decisions.
Another technique of psychodynamic psychotherapy may be the exploration of past experiences in order to understand the ways in which the past tends to influence and continue to create distress in the present. In doing so, therapists help to identify recurring themes and patterns of self-concept, thoughts, feelings, and relationships.
Another major focus of psychodynamic psychotherapy is that of interpersonal relationships, as psychological difficulties may arise when individuals have problematic relationships with others. Very often, the therapeutic relationship itself is explored and discussed as a model to help individuals form more functional and intimate interpersonal relationships outside of therapy. Patients are also encouraged to speak freely about whatever comes to mind, as opposed to other therapies in which the therapist has a predetermined agenda.
The goal of psychodynamic psychotherapy is not simply a decrease in symptoms, but a more comprehensive understanding and improvement of one’s self and relationships.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a structured treatment that focuses on solutions, encouraging patients to challenge distorted cognitions and change destructive patterns of behavior. Techniques include identifying troubling situations or conditions in one’s life and then becoming aware of the resulting thoughts, emotions, and beliefs related to those situations. Cognitive behavioral therapists will work to identify negative or inaccurate thinking, which might be contributing to problems in one’s life.
The work is to then challenge these cognitive distortions in order to develop more balanced thoughts. Once individuals are able to do this, they are more likely to experience more positive emotions and exhibit more functional patterns of behavior.
Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP)
ERP is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy used for the treatment of anxiety disorders and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Individuals are exposed directly or through imagination to images, objects, thoughts, and situations that make them anxious and/or those that trigger obsessions. They remain in contact with the anxiety trigger until their anxiety decreases on its own without engaging in rituals, compulsions, or avoidance behaviors. Over time, exposure to triggers leads to less and less anxiety and eventually, exposure to the obsessional cues arouses little anxiety at all. This process is referred to as "habituation." Additionally, patients learn to resist compulsions to perform rituals and are eventually able to stop engaging in these behaviors.
Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE)
PE is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy developed by Edna Foa and is used for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The aim of PE is to help trauma survivors emotionally process the traumatic memory in order to decrease symptoms of PTSD. Treatment includes psychoeducation about trauma and its effects, relaxation breathing, repeated in vivo exposure to situations the survivor has been avoiding due to trauma related distress, and repeated imaginal exposure to the trauma memories.
The Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Ph.D. Clinical Psychology, MA Clinical Psychology
Columbia University, New York, NY
Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Program
The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
BA in Psychology With Honors
Minor in Judaic Studies
Postdoctoral Fellowship: VA Long Beach Healthcare System, Combat PTSD Clinic and Women’s Mental Health Clinic, Long Beach, CA
Predoctoral Internship: Manhattan Psychiatric Center, New York, NY
Clinical Externship: Center for Psychological Services, Adelphi University, Garden City, NY
Clinical Externship: The Jewish Board of Family and Child Services, Kaplan House, New York, NY
Clinical Externship: St.Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, NY
Fellowship: Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research
*Maiden Name Sonnenberg
Sonnenberg, M. (July, 17, 2013). Analysis of a Mindfulness/ Psychodynamic Group Therapy for the Treatment of PTSD and Complex PTSD. Postdoctoral Project and Presentation at Postdoctoral Seminar, VA, Long Beach Healthcare System.
Sonnenberg, M. (Feb. 27, 2013). Interpersonal Dependency and Narcissism. Presentation at Grand Rounds, VA Long Beach Healthcare System.
“Analysis of Interpersonal Dependency in Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissism” May 2012
Floyd, T., & Sonnenberg, M. (June 22, 2011). Presentation of a Comprehensive Test Report. Case Conference Presentation, Manhattan Psychiatric Center.
Sonnenberg, M. (March 1, 2011.) Case Study: Trauma and Dissociation in a Young Adult. Case Conference Presentation, Manhattan Psychiatric Center.
Sonnenberg, M., & Bornstein, R. (April 2008). Contrasting personality profiles in arrogant and depleted narcissism: preliminary test of a PDM distinction. Poster presentation at APA Division of Psychoanalysis (39), New York, NY.
Kelleher, J., & Sonnenberg, M. (Dec. 2007). Galantamine treatment of comorbid nicotine dependence in patients with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Poster presentation at St. Vincent’s Hospital Research Conference, New York, NY.
Alaedini, A., Green, P.H., Sander, H.W., Hays, A.P., Gamboa, E.T. Fasano, A., Sonnenberg, M., Lewis L.D., Latov, N. (2002). Ganglioside reactive antibodies in the neuropathy associated with celiac disease. Journal of Neuroimmunology, 145-148.