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Sylvia Israel
, MFT (MFC #31245), RDT/BCT, TEP, is the founder and director of IMAGINE! Center for Creativity and Healing.


Clinical Training and Experience

I received my graduate training in clinical psychology and drama therapy at the California Institute of Integral Studies. I also have a master's degree in Theater Arts from San Francisco State University.

I hold a Marriage Family Therapist license from the state of California (MFT #31245). I am a Registered Drama Therapist/Board Certified Trainer (RDT/BCT, granted by the National Association of Drama Therapy) and a Certified Psychodramatist (CP, granted by the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama). I am a psychodrama Trainer, Educator and Practitioner (TEP).

I have advanced training in using action methods with trauma survivors. My work is also greatly influenced by family systems, cognitive therapy, object relations and Jungian psychology. In addition to theater, I have experience in dance/movement, art and voice.

I teach at California Institute of Integral Studies and at Sonoma State University and formerly at JFK University and College of Marin. In addition, I provide professional training to therapists and others interested in action methods at IMAGINE! and have presented at numerous community agencies and professional conferences.

I have worked in psychiatric hospitals, schools, community agencies and in chemical dependency and eating disorders programs.

I am past-President of the Northern California Chapter of the National Association of Drama Therapy (NADT) and past-Chairperson of the Drama Therapy Registration Committee.

A Little About My Background

Growing up, the myth in my family was that people were either born artists or they weren't...and we weren't. In my late twenties, I moved to a Northern California coastal town where the prevailing belief was that everyone is an artist. I began taking art classes and joined a community theater group. I soon was coming to the Bay Area to study improvisational theater with Ruth Zaporah.

In my theater work, I experienced a part of myself that had long been buried. I remember saying to my teacher, This is more fun than I have ever had! My enthusiasm took me to San Francisco State University's theater department where I learned about drama therapy. I knew intuitively that drama therapy would be a way for me to help others experience the joy I was feeling while keeping my own creativity alive. What I discovered was that drama therapy would deepen my connection to myself, others and the world, and continually push me to my growing edges.

For years, I looked for a space where I could offer verbal therapy and also actualize my vision of providing workshops and groups using dramatic and expressive methods, as well as train others. When I finally found the space, the workshops and group offerings had a place to call home. IMAGINE! Center for Creativity and Healing was born. The possibilities at IMAGINE! are limitless. I am excited to grow along side of it.

About My Work

In addition to my work at IMAGINE!, I have an office in San Francisco. My work blends verbal therapy, psychodrama, drama therapy and other expressive arts therapies. I specialize in specialize in grief and loss, blocks to creativity, trauma and childhood abuse recovery.

From my personal and professional experience, as well as from my meditation practice, I have seen how challenging and rewarding it is to accept ourselves fully. Often when we have a strong emotion, we identify with it -- we believe that we are the emotion. Our growing edge is to "wake up" to all of who we are -- the parts we like and the parts we wish were otherwise -- seeing it all and remaining non-judgmental and loving.

Dorothy Satten, a psychodrama trainer, teaches to think of ourselves as our own first born child. Whether we have been a parent or not, we can imagine that if our first-born child misbehaves, we may disapprove of his/her actions, but we would never put her/him out of our hearts. We must learn to regard ourselves in the same way. The Dalai Lama says that this heart-opening is the first step towards world peace and the healing of our planet.

I have found that before we can look at difficult situations, thoughts or feelings, it is helpful to re-source ourselves by identifying, nurturing and internalizing those inner qualities, people or spiritual beliefs that strengthen us. Before exploring a difficult time in one's life, I often ask clients to pick objects or scarves to represent one or more strengths. In a group, we create a circle with these objects. A circle is a symbol of wholeness. This circle of strengths is what we are each cultivating; this feeling of wholeness gives us the capacity to be present with all of who we are. It is only then that we can truly open our hearts to others. My work as a therapist hinges upon creating a safe environment, a container, in which this exploration and sitting with all of who we are can occur.

Collaborators' Bios                            

I am deeply privileged to have had the opportunity to collaborate with those listed below.

Christopher Doyle, MFT (MFC 34717), is a Registered Drama Therapist, actor, director, and playwright and past Board Member of the National Association of Drama Therapy. He is adjunct faculty at the California Institute of Integral Studies and has a private practice in Santa Rosa.

Nina Garcia, LCSW, EdD, RDT/BCT, TEP trains psychodramatists nationally and internationally. She is co-author of Sociodrama: Who's Your Shoes?, past Executive Editor of the Journal of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama and past Chair of the American Board of Examiners. Nina teaches at New York University.

Judith Glass, PhD, TEP is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY15523), is a Psychodrama Trainer (TEP) in private practice in Oakland and teaches at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS).

Julia Gombos, MFT (MFC 22623), has 18 years of clinical experience in private practice working with individuals, couples, families and groups. She has trained in Authentic Movement with Janet Adler, PhD, ADTR, for over 10 years and teaches Authentic Movement.

Linda A. Haumann, MA, Certified Psychodramatist, attained her Coaching Certification at the Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael. Linda uses psychodrama in the 12-step recovery field helping people address issues of codependency, eating disorders, alcoholism and other addictions. Her focus is assisting people gain healthier, happier lives through compassionate change.

Jean Hayes, PhD, MFT, (MFC 5862) has been committed to working in experiential therapy with individuals, couples, families, children and groups for over 30 years. Currently, she is expanding her expertise to work with adopted children and their families.

Tannis Hugill, RDT, ADTR, is a registered drama and dance therapist and performance artist. She has studied authentic movement with Janet Adler for 10 years and has been teaching for five. She lives and teaches in Vancouver, Canada.

Judith Jones, MFT, RDT, has been doing drama therapy with individuals and couples in her private practice in Berkeley, CA since l990. She provides training and supervision in this work for students, interns and allied professionals.

Gail Hromadko, MA, MFCC (MFC 31927), specializes in issues of sexual identity and early recovery. She maintains a private practice in Palm Springs, CA.

Warren R. McCommons, MA, RDT-BCT, has worked as a Drama Therapist in private practice and at Alta Bates Hospital for 15 years. He is a past Executive Board Member of National Association of Drama Therapy and past President of the Northern CA Chapter.

Janna Mitchell-Gable, MA, RDT, born in England and transplanted to California, works as a Drama Therapist with dually-diagnosed adults. She is founder of Recovery Theater, a theater group that develops performances about addiction and recovery.

John Olesen, MA, a Certified Psychodramatist, has 15 years experience leading therapy and support groups in hospitals, clinics and private practice. He is a graduate of the Psychodrama Program of the US Comm. on Mental Health Services and author of Groups: A Manual for Chemical Dependency and Psychiatric Treatment.

Fritzi S. Schnel, CMT, CHT, received a BA in Theatre Arts in 1969 and has been teaching classes and workshops since 1991 using improvisation, voice and humor as tools for self-expression and healing. She has over 20 years experience as a bodywork therapist and is dedicated to sharing the divine experience of laughter and creative freedom.

Jo Sopko, MFT (MFC38054), a Registered Drama Therapist, has been involved in Buddhist meditation practices for over 25 years. She specializes in working with children and families dealing with issues of sexual abuse, abandonment, violence and loss.

Francesca Toscani, M.Ed, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Certified Practitioner and Trainer of Psychodrama. A clinician for 15 years, she conducts training internationally on the use of experiential methods in a variety of settings. Francesca weaves an archetypal Jungian orientation and creative arts in all of her work.

Michael Vurek, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in private practice. He helps individuals, groups and couples use cognitive-behavioral therapy skills, with an emphasis on understanding and coping with anxiety and depression. He has worked with art, dance, and drama therapists to blend cognitive-behavioral and creative arts approaches.



Marin's only dedicated Drama Therapy / Psychodrama Center