Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland
Build life skills that empower youto become your best self.
If you’re on this page, chances are you’ve been thinking about making some changes in your Life… for the better.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ Since you’re considering getting some help, you’re already doing something different. Real Optimal Living is here to assist you.
If you choose to work with Dr. Michele — through either Life Coaching (to attain a specific goal) or therapy (for more general emotional and behavioral issues) — the aim is similar: Real, optimal living. Together, you will work to build sustainable skills to help you move towards a personally fulfilling Life.
We will work collaboratively to help you become aware of your strengths, use them to mitigate challenges, problem solve, and make choices that are personally satisfying and ultimately rewarding.
Examples of challenges include: anxiety, depression, stress management, dating, marriage, and relationship issues, parenting, infertility, divorce, grief and loss, workplace stress, life and occupational transitions, and work-life balance.
Dr. Michele is a cognitive-behavior therapist who believes that one’s thoughts affect one’s feelings, which affect one’s behavior. She uses deductive reasoning to understand you, places great value in authenticity, and considers context and culture in individualizing interventions.
Contact Real Optimal Living to explore whether working with Dr. Michele would be beneficial for you in becoming your best self.
Dr. Michele works with a wide range of emotional and behavioral issues using a highly personalized approach tailored to each client’s individual needs. The goal is to help them attain the personal growth they seek, in a manner that they can sustain.
Because most of her clients lead such active lives, Dr. Michele recognizes the need for distance therapy or “telepsychology.” This involves using technology (i.e., telephone, video-conferencing) for the sessions beyond the initial intake appointment. That first appointment is held in-person. Thereafter, the client chooses whether subsequent sessions will be via telephone or Skype. This factors in convenience, eliminating the transportation time to and from the Real Optimal Living offices, particularly in a city like Los Angeles. It also permits extended morning and evening appointment times.
Email Dr. Michele about your interest, and she will follow-up with a telephone call. You may share what issues you would like to work on, and how Real Optimal Living might assist you. If you decide to continue, download and complete the Intake Assessment Form, email it to Dr. Michele, then schedule an in-person initial intake session. Dr. Michele will convey whether she believes that she has the resources to assist you, and you may choose to continue working with her via telephone or Skype.
Distance counseling is best suited to individuals 18 years of age and older. It is not crisis counseling or appropriate for emergency services.
Telepsychology is not for everyone (e.g., those who are feeling suicidal or homicidal, engage in self-cutting behavior, eating disorders, serious substance abuse issues, have severe post-traumatic stress symptoms, or who have been diagnosed with a severe psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia). If you are in crisis or suffer with a significant mental illness, please call your family physician, local hospital, or 9-1-1 as soon as possible.
If you feel that distance counseling may be helpful for you, please feel free to contact Dr. Michele.
What is telepsychology?
Telepsychology is defined by the American Psychological Association (APA) as providing psychological services using telecommunication technologies, such as telephone, mobile devices, interactive videoconferencing, email, chat, text, and Internet (e.g., self-help websites, blogs, and social media).
Doctor Michele uses telephone and/or videoconferencing (e.g., Skype) as the method of communication with her clients. It is a way to provide Life Coaching and therapy in a convenient manner for active clients.
What is cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT)?
Cognitive-behavior therapy differs from many forms of psychotherapy because it is a solution-focused approach to treatment that is oriented toward solving problems and learning skills. The goal of CBT is often to help clients get better and stay better. It’s effectiveness has been extensively researched and demonstrated in thousands of clinical trials, including: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and personality disorders. It is also an effective adjunctive treatment to medication for serious mental disorders.
In CBT, the therapist and the client work together as a team to identify and solve problems. Therapists help clients overcome their difficulties by changing their thinking, behavior, and emotional responses.
What is Life Coaching?
Life coaching addresses specific personal projects, business successes, general conditions or transitions in the client’s personal life, relationships, or career. The approach is to identify what is going on in the present, discover what obstacles or challenges there are to success, and choosing a course of action that will result in the Life you want it to be.
In Life Coaching, the client is the expert in their Life who truly knows who they are and what they need. The therapist is the expert coach who helps the client discover what their own personal “best” might be.
How can Life Coaching or therapy help me?
A number of benefits are available from participating in therapy. Licensed therapists can provide support, problem-solving skills, and enhanced coping strategies for issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship challenges, stress management, body image issues and creative blocks. Many people also find that counselors can be a tremendous asset to managing personal growth, interpersonal relationships, family concerns, marriage issues, and the hassles of daily life. Therapists can provide a fresh perspective on a difficult problem or point you in the direction of a solution. The benefits you obtain from therapy depend on how well you use the process and put into practice what you learn. Some of the benefits available from therapy include:
- Attaining a better understanding of yourself, your goals and values
- Developing skills for improving your relationships
- Finding resolution to the issues or concerns that led you to seek therapy
- Learning new ways to cope with stress and anxiety
- Managing anger, grief, depression, and other emotional pressures
- Improving communications and listening skills
- Changing old behavior patterns and developing new ones
- Discovering new ways to solve problems in your family or marriage
- Improving your self-esteem and boosting self-confidence
Do I really need therapy? I can usually handle my problems.
Everyone goes through challenging situations in life, and while you may have successfully navigated through other difficulties you’ve faced, there’s nothing wrong with seeking out extra support when you need it. In fact, therapy is for people who have enough self-awareness to realize they need a helping hand, and that is something to be admired. You are taking responsibility by accepting where you’re at in life and making a commitment to change the situation by seeking therapy. Therapy provides long-lasting benefits and support, giving you the tools you need to avoid triggers, re-direct damaging patterns, and overcome whatever challenges you face.
Why do people go to therapy and how do I know if it is right for me?
People have many different motivations for coming to psychotherapy. Some may be going through a major life transition (e.g., relationship challenges, divorce, new job, career change, sandwich generation), or are not handling stressful circumstances well. Some people need assistance managing a range of other issues such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, addictions, relationship problems, spiritual conflicts, and creative blocks. Therapy can help provide some much needed encouragement and help with skills to get them through these periods. Others may be at a point where they are ready to learn more about themselves or want to be more effective in achieving their goals in Life.
In short, people seeking psychotherapy are ready to meet the Life’s challenges and ready to make effective changes in their lives.
What is therapy like?
Because each person has different issues and goals for therapy, therapy will be different depending on the individual. In general, clients can expect to discuss the current events happening in your life, their personal history relevant to their issue(s), and report progress (or any new insights gained) from the previous therapy session. Depending on their specific needs, therapy can be short-term, for a specific issue, or longer-term, to deal with more difficult patterns or their desire for more personal development. Either way, it is most common to schedule regular sessions with the therapist (usually weekly).
There are typically more results from therapy the more actively the client participates in the process and works to generalize what transpires in therapy back into their real lives. Therefore, beyond the work done within the therapy sessions, the therapist may recommend strategies the client can implement outside of the therapy session to support the therapeutic process — such as reading a pertinent book, journaling on specific topics, noting particular thoughts or behaviors, or acting on your goals. People seeking effective psychotherapy are ready to make positive changes in their lives, are open to new perspectives, and take responsibility for their lives.
What about medication vs. psychotherapy?
It is well established that the long-term solution to mental and emotional problems and the pain they cause cannot be solved solely by medication. Instead of just treating the symptom, therapy addresses the cause of distress and the behavior patterns that curb progress. Clients can best achieve sustainable growth and a greater sense of well-being with an integrative approach to wellness. Determining whether medication is best — with or without adjunctive therapy — is a decision best made between the client and their physician or psychiatrist. In some cases a combination of medication and therapy is the right course of action.
Do you take insurance, and how does that work?
Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland only accepts cash and credit card payments for services (i.e., she does not accept insurance). However, the client may investigate whether they have mental health coverage through their insurance carrier, and how they may be (partially or fully) reimbursed for their cash payments for psychological services. A benefit from paying the therapist directly is that there is no third-party-payor, which helps enhance the confidentiality of therapeutic services.
Regarding insurance coverage, the client should contact the behavioral or mental health division of their insurance company. Check coverage carefully. A few helpful questions may be:
- What are my mental health benefits?
- What is the coverage amount per therapy session?
- How many therapy sessions does my plan cover?
- How much does my insurance pay for an out-of-network provider?
- Is approval required from my primary care physician?
- If I pay for psychological services out-of-pocket, how much — if any — of my payment would be reimbursed?
- What documentation do I need to provide to be reimbursed for my out-of-pocket payments?
Does what we talk about in therapy remain confidential?
Confidentiality is one of the most important components between a client and psychotherapist. Successful therapy requires a high degree of trust with highly sensitive subject matter that is usually not discussed anywhere but the therapist’s office. Every therapist should provide a written copy of their confidential disclosure agreement; the client can expect that what is discussed in session will not be shared with anyone.
This is called “Informed Consent”. Sometimes, however, the client may want the therapist to share information or give an update to someone on the healthcare team (e.g., physician, psychiatrist, attorney), but by law the therapist cannot release this information without obtaining the client’s written permission.
However, state law and professional ethics require therapists to maintain confidentiality except for the following situations:
- Suspected past or present abuse or neglect of children, adults, and elders to the authorities, including Child Protection and law enforcement, based on information provided by the client or collateral sources.
- If the therapist has reason to suspect the client is seriously in danger of harming him/herself or has threated to harm another person.
Michele Cooley-Strickland, M.Ed., Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist with over 20 years of clinical experience. She is a community-based clinical researcher, preventive interventionist, and UCLA faculty member. Dr. Michele has successfully treated children, adolescents, women, and men with a variety of emotional and behavioral disorders. Dr. Michele is a cognitive-behavior therapist — believing that thoughts affect one’s feelings, which affect one’s behavior – who places great value in authenticity, and considering context and culture in individualizing interventions. As an “optimal realist,” Dr. Michele believes that each client possesses inherent strengths, yet may benefit from the expertise of a competent therapist who values action and accountability in assisting clients in becoming their best selves.
Dr. Michele is licensed to practice psychology in California (CA 28297) and in Maryland (MD 0273).
She earned a Master’s degree of education in clinical and school psychology from the University of Virginia and a doctorate of philosophy in clinical psychology from the University of Virginia. She completed her clinical internship at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Research, Publications, and Professional Service
Dr. Michele has been an award-winning psychologist, professor, and researcher for almost two decades, giving over 100 regional, national, and international presentations and publishing nearly 45 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, and clinical psychology treatment intervention manuals. A partial list of her publications may be found here: http://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/152/michele-cooley .
Dr. Michele has been the principal investigator of grants funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). She has been active in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), having served on several advisory committees and over 35 special emphasis panels and standing grant review committees for the NIH, Centers for Disease Control, and National Institute on Justice. Dr. Michele has participated on many panels and task forces for professional organizations, including holding elected positions. Professional organizations she has served include the:
- Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy
- Society for Prevention Research
- Anxiety Disorders Association of America
- Johnson and Johnson’s Pediatric Roundtable
- American Psychological Association (Current Professional Member)
Other professional contributions include service as an editorial board member or reviewer of numerous scientific journals.
Television and Radio Appearances
Dr. Michele has appeared as an expert psychologist on KTLA and the Extra! television show as an Extra! Life Changer. She has been a recurring guest on the Living Well with Dr. Peg radio program. Dr. Michele has also appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC’s Today Show, CNN, and CBS Early Show.
Dr. Michele is a blogger dedicated toward helping people become their “best selves.” See http://realoptimalliving.blogspot.com/
To schedule an individual, couples, or youth Life Coaching or counseling appointment or to obtain additional information about any of the services Dr. Michele provides, please fill out the form below or give me a call.
We are committed to your privacy. Do not include confidential or private information regarding your health condition in this form or any other form found on this website. This form is for general questions or messages to the practitioner.
If you’re a new client, please complete the following forms and bring them to your first therapy session.
If you would like me to coordinate care with another provider (for example, your psychiatrist, primary care physician, etc.), complete this form to authorize release of psychotherapy information:
Note: To download Adobe Acrobat Reader for free, click here.
Mental Health Links
The following links are listed to provide you with additional online mental health care information and counseling resources.
Associations & Institutes
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy
American Counseling Association
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Association for Psychological Science
Canadian Mental Health Association
Center for Mental Health Services
National Institute of Mental Health
Mental Health America
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Child Abuse and Domestic Violence
SAMHSA’s Children and Families
SAMHSA’s Protection and Advocacy
Questions and Answers about Memories of Childhood Abuse
The National Domestic Violence Hotline Website
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
DSM-IV-TR: Diagnoses and Criteria
Dissociation and Traumatic Stress
Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute
Journals & Magazines
Anxiety, Stress and Coping
Depression and Anxiety
Drug and Alcohol Review
Early Child Development and Care
Journal of Gambling Studies
Journal of Happiness Studies
Journal of Mental Health and Aging
Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy
Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Language and Cognitive Processes
Loss, Grief & Care
Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities
Metaphor and Symbol
Personality and Individual Differences
Psychology of Men & Masculinity
Stress and Health
Studies in Gender and Sexuality
Trauma, Violence & Abuse
Medications and Health Supplements
Drug Interactions, Drugs.com
Drug Interactions, DIRECT
Medication, Internet Mental Health
Mental Health Care General Links
Internet Mental Health
Let’s Talk Facts, APA
Mental Health Counselor Resources, About.com
Mental Help Net
University of Michigan Health Library
Web Sites You Can Trust, Medical Library Association
Note: Not responsible for the content, claims or representations of the listed sites.
The law protects the relationship between a client and a psychotherapist, and information cannot be disclosed without written permission.
- Suspected child abuse or dependent adult or elder abuse, for which I am required by law to report this to the appropriate authorities immediately.
- If a client is threatening serious bodily harm to another person/s, I must notify the police and inform the intended victim.
- If a client intends to harm himself or herself, I will make every effort to enlist their cooperation in ensuring their safety. If they do not cooperate, I will take further measures without their permission that are provided to me by law in order to ensure their safety.
Technology today makes it possible to provide counseling and coaching services safely and conveniently through electronics: Text, email, and video. For any type of counseling, coaching, or therapy, it’s crucial that your privacy is protected. Doctor Michele uses technology that applies the strictest of confidentiality protocols.
Doctor Michele’s telepsychology services take place through a secure website which provides different options for interacting and communicating in a protected environment. You can schedule your own appointments, adjust them, and fill in relevant forms all at your own convenience. The platform Doctor Michele uses, WeCounsel, is specially designed for this form of online services. It has many advantages over traditional “Skype” counseling. Skype typically isn’t encrypted and isn’t secure for confidential conversations. Trained and accredited distance counselors know to use only use secure platforms.
WeCounsel offers the highest video and sound quality…all at the convenience of using your own computer or through an app on your phone. It’s easy to share documents in a safe environment, schedule appointments, send encrypted messages, and make payments on the secured site accessible through https://portal.wecounsel.com/directory/doctormichele
If you’d like a test-run of a session, we can arrange an appointment for a 15-minute session in which you can become familiar with the environment of Doctor Michele’s online practice room.
Lastly, sensitive e-mail conversations can be conducted through HushMail.com, which offers a safe, convenient way of sending encrypted messages, forms, and other written communication to each other.