Dr. Shirley was born and raised in Los Angeles. However she attended 3 years of high school in her parent’s native Argentina where she was inspired by a psychology course and knew then and there that she wanted to pursue a career in psychology. As an undergraduate from UCLA, Dr. Shirley began working in group homes, counseling teenagers and their families, including the diverse Latin community. As a doctoral student at UCLA, she investigated child abuse for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and saw some of the worst cases of child abuse and neglect.
This led to her curiosity of how childhood trauma affects us as adults. Studying with some of the most prominent scientists in this area, Dr. Shirley discovered that our earliest attachments to the adults around us influences the development of our brain and how we feel about ourselves, others and the world. To form a secure attachment to someone requires feeling safe, seen, heard, comforted and understood by another. Ruptures in this area can cause us to develop defenses to ward against the vulnerability of feeling unsafe in the world.
However, something was still missing. Knowing and understanding the origins of our self-esteem and our defenses, gave us awareness but awareness alone does not solve the problem. Besides, there were many people who didn’t remember their childhoods, so how can you be aware something you can’t remember? Then Dr. Shirley discovered the holy grail: The body remembers what the mind forgets. Stress and trauma, if unresolved, gets stuck in the muscles and nervous system—the body. This led her to study Somatic Experiencing developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine and the results are not short of miraculous.
Dr. Shirley combines talk therapy: connecting the experiences from your past; with body awareness: understanding what your body is telling you, to heal the imprints of stress and trauma. Thus, letting go of the defended you and becoming the authentic person you want to be. This mind-body connection puts you in the driver’s seat.
This is Dr. Shirley’s “Connect the Dots” method.