About Barbara

berkeley child therapy

Barbara Howell, LMFT

SF East Bay Child Therapy

Berkeley Oakland Child Therapy East Bat

"Play is the work of the child."

-Maria Montessori

AboUt Me


  • Play therapy

  • Parent-child therapy

  • Expressive arts therapy

  • Sand tray therapy

  • EMDR

  • Mindfulness

  • Neuro-developmental Art Therapy

  • General Psychotherapy

  • Child Therapy 

  • Maternal Mental Health and Parenting Therapy


Many adults wonder, "What's so therapeutic about playing?"  As a therapist with years of training and experience, I can attest that play is serious business and a powerful tool for healing.  Children, unlike adults with our better developed verbal skills, use their imagination and creativity to experience and communicate their feelings and thoughts.  It's the primary way kids learn about themselves and the world.  Whether it's playing a game of checkers, creating a world in a tray of sand, having a "sword fight," caring for a baby doll, or playing hide 'n seek, children will explore their inner world and share their hopes and joys, as well as their sadness, worry, or conflicts.  For children who are struggling, engaging in play with an attuned, responsive, caring, and skillful adult can help them to understand difficult feelings and experiences and learn new ways of coping, so they can move past them as more aware and resilient people. 

In my work with children, I also use expressive arts interventions to provide opportunities for exploring feelings, thoughts, strengthening self-awareness and self-esteem, and developing new ways of coping and problem-solving.


I have specialized training in maternal mental health.  With permission, I am available to collaborate with teachers, Special Education providers, social workers, psychiatrists, and other significant adults in order to support clients and families.  I am also available for home visits, as appropriate

-Barbara, SF Bay Area Child Therapist.

Parent-Child Therapy

(Filial Therapy)

I believe that nothing strengthens the bond between a parent and child like playing together.  Filial Therapy is based on that premise, combining play and parenting skills to help address a family and child's challenges. With coaching and support from the therapist, caregivers learn how to provide structured, child-centered and attachment-focused special play time with their child. In the process, parents become an agent of healing for their child, based on the power of the relationship that is enhanced by this special form of play.  

In this approach, the child takes the lead and directs the activity; the parent becomes a participant and enters the child's play world. Imagination, empathy, limit-setting, and structure support both child and parent or caregiver through the experience toward a deeper relationship. With consistent, parental-led special play time therapy sessions, the child develops self-worth, a sense of mastery, coping skills, and the ability to share their inner world, with all of it's joys and challenges, with the most important people in his or her life.

Pregnancy and Postpartum Therapy

Becoming a parent is one of the most profoundly transformative and complex experiences we can have.  For many, these events are joyful and grounding. At the same time, pregnancy and motherhood can be tremendously stressful on our bodies, minds, and relationships.  Hormonal shifts and physical changes, feelings of isolation and loneliness, sleep deprivation and confusion, loss of identity, conflicts in our closest relationships, guilt and a sense of inadequacy. It's no wonder many women experience some degree of "baby blues"!

Sometimes, these feelings can become overwhelming, leading to more severe depression and anxiety.  Family and friends are not always able to provide the support needed, and medical providers are not generally focused on a new mom's mental and emotional state.  To make matters worse, shame, guilt, and feelings of hopelessness and exhaustion can keep us from reaching out for the help that we need and deserve.

If this describes your experience, please know that you are not alone! All pregnant women and new moms are at risk of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety.  I provide therapy to women at all stages of becoming a parent--from those who are trying to conceive to the parents of young children.  I treat a variety of symptoms from pregnancy and postpartum "blues" to birth trauma and Postpartum Anxiety and Depression.  The good news is, with therapeutic support, you can feel better.  With help, many women find that they can experience more love, compassion, and tenderness towards themselves, their babies, and their partners.

                                                                 Individual Psychotherapy            

Taking the first step and reaching out for help from a therapist is leap of faith. We risk being our most vulnerable with someone we don't know--that might sound crazy to some people!  Why not just reach out to friends and family when we're in need?  Well, there's no doubt that our loved ones can play a vital role in supporting us through difficult times.  But what if there are times when maybe they can't support us in the ways we need most?  That's when therapy can be a safe place for exploration, connection, growth, and healing.

If you are struggling and you've decided to try therapy, I want to invite you to give me a call.  I provide a welcoming, supportive place where clients can explore difficult thoughts and feelings, solve problems, connect more authentically with themselves and others, and heal from painful experiences. I'm passionate about helping others to develop a greater sense of well-being. Through conversation, collaboration, and creative exploration, we can work through the "road blocks" that keep you from living life more fully and joyfully.


  • Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology, John F. Kennedy University

  • Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, CA #86611

  • EMDR Basic Training through Alliant University with Dr. Laurel Parnell

  • EMDR Special Training for Children and Adolescents through JFK University with Dr. Joan Lovett

  • Child-Centered Play Therapy through Growth Through Play Therapy Training Associates

  • Sandtray Therapy for Play Therapists, (covering sandtray therapy for children, adolescents, and adults) through Growth Through Play Therapy Training Associates

  • Neuro-developmental Art Therapy through The Child Training Institute, Jewish Family and Children's Services

  • Maternal Mental Health certification through the Perinatal Advisory Council, Los Angeles County Perinatal Task Force, and Maternal Mental Health NOW

Barbara Howell, LMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist CA #86611