Innovations in Mental Health Services

My aim is to empower people through evidence-based methods and trauma informed methods. In other words, I draw from the wealth of research in psychology and do so in an empathic and compassionate manner. 

I’ve been active in innovation and mental health since 2002 and am working to advance depression and violence prevention. That body of work is now ready for global scaling, and I am returning to working with clients because of the high levels of unmet need for psychological care that became evident during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Additionally, through my personal and professional experiences (in mental health, dentistry, and public health,) I have first-hand knowledge in terms of what people seek and how their needs can be met in a compassionate and informed manner. That is one of the reasons I am motivated to offer client services. 

Drawing from my background as a dentist, I offer the following structure to serve psychology clients in a way that integrates immediate treatment with long-term mental health promotion and prevention:

Phase I – Relief from emotional pain and getting out of distress.

Phase II – Enable optimal functioning so you can flourish and connect with joy, meaning and purpose. 

Phase III – Work with you to develop a customized mental hygiene program which includes periodic checkups to maintain your gains, prevent relapse, and early detection of threats to your emotional wellbeing and timely action to prevent or reduce severity. 


Individuals:  I offer customized therapy sessions tailored to your specific concerns, combined with proactive strategies to "brush your mind" daily.  Our first goal is to alleviate your pain and discomfort, and the second goal is to promote your optimal functioning. 

Like in a dental practice, along with daily mental hygiene, I recommend that clients adopt a preventive maintenance program. The frequency of your check-ups is based on your stress levels and life challenges and is something we decide jointly. 

Couples:  Long term research shows that stress corrodes the couple bond and contributes to gradually drifting apart and divorce. This is like how acid corrodes teeth over time and leads to dental cavities. 

I provide couples with tools and techniques which function like “fluoride for your marriage.” I work with couples to strengthen and stress-proof their marriage and rekindle the spark and deepen their love. 

In keeping with a preventive and health promotion framework, I offer “marriage checkups,” that are similar to dental checkups. The goal is to maintain healthy habits and catch any issues early, before they become bigger problems. 

Groups: I conduct group sessions where you learn lasting skills associated with positive changes in your brain structure. It is budget-friendly way to empower yourself and get support in a setting where you are with others facing similar challenges. 

Currently, I am offering groups on the following topics: 

- Overcoming medical and dental anxiety and fear
- Coping with job stress and difficult workplaces

Workshops:  I lead workshops in various settings like businesses, universities and schools, and non-profit organizations. These workshops are tailored to your needs and focus on stress management and health promotion. They aim to boost resilience, motivation, teamwork, and productivity within your team.

My Approach

I focus on understanding my clients, highlighting their strengths, and creating a welcoming and empathetic environment free of judgment.

I use evidence-based methods and adapt them to fit each client's unique circumstances. Additionally, my work is trauma informed, in that I am sensitive to people’s experiences of trauma and tailor my work accordingly. 

My approach integrates cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), mindfulness, dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and attachment theory, which is the psychology of human connection, bonding, and love. 

I also incorporate positive psychology to address meaning, purpose, personal growth and related themes. 

As an ordained interfaith minister, I respect my clients' spiritual beliefs and can integrate them into therapy if desired. 

In addition to science, my work is infused with soul – that part of life which is beautiful, transcendent and joyful. I am all about stopping to smell the roses, taking the scenic route and noticing the joy and beauty that exists in life – right there alongside the challenges. 

I recognize the influence of social, cultural, and physical factors on emotional well-being, including issues such as gender roles and cultural diversity. 

Alongside traditional talk therapy, I incorporate research-informed mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga, and tai chi. I also draw from the work of neuroscientist Stephen Porges and encourage people to explore chanting or singing as an adjunct for coping with difficult circumstances. Chanting is an age-old practice backed up by modern neuroscience. 

My background in pediatric dentistry keeps me grounded and approachable in my work.

My international background – as a therapist, dentist and public health professional – enables me to work and support people from various countries, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. 


I have a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Vermont, a DDS from Northwestern University and a master’s degree in public health (MPH) from Harvard University. I trained at the Dental Fears Clinic at the University of Washington Dental School in Seattle, WA, and did my psychology internship at Montreal General Hospital in Canada. I became a psychologist after having been a pediatric dentist and public health professional because I was looking for ways to improve the health of individuals and populations. 

My innovations in mental health were incubated at Stanford University: I was a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow in technology for humanitarian applications; I was also a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Psychology at Stanford, with Philip Zimbardo and Albert Bandura, two very renowned psychologists who were my sponsors. My approach to innovation in mental health is also influenced by organizational psychologist Robert Sutton at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, from where I received a certificate in non-profit management. 

I work under the supervision of Dr. Josie Valderrama (CA # PSY27913) and am working toward my psychology license in California. I am currently licensed to practice dentistry in Arizona and Vermont and am board certified in public health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners in the US. I have previously been licensed to practice psychotherapy in Switzerland. 

My prior experience in psychology includes having been licensed in the cantons of Basel-City and Geneva, Switzerland.  I worked in private practice serving physicians and other health care professionals, professors, and classical musicians, as well as executives from major companies including Roche, Novartis, PWC, UBS and Credit Suisse. I have taught prevention, health promotion and health psychology at the graduate level in the US and Switzerland. 

Along with numerous peer-reviewed presentations at conferences internationally, I have also published in peer reviewed journals and books on various aspects of psychology including couple’s psychology, women and depression, mindfulness, and health behavior. I wrote The Time Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Health: Tools and strategies for wellbeing. Earlier in my career, I was Editor for Emotional Health for the Novartis Foundation for Gerontology, where I was responsible for translating science-based information into usable forms that everyday people around the world could understand and use. 

My cross-cultural experiences include having lived in four countries: United States, (Quebec) Canada, India and Switzerland. I have worked with people from over 50 countries and have provided therapy to people from at least 25 different nationalities. I come from an inter-cultural family, with relatives from all major religions, and even have some relatives who are agonistic and atheist. 

In collaboration with Advanced Continuing Education Systems (ACES) in San Diego, CA and Concord Seminars in New Hampshire, I offer accredited continuing education courses for dental professionals on helping patients with dental fear and anxiety, trauma informed dental care, job stress, and prevention of, and recovery from burnout.

For more details, here is my Linkedin profile.

Fees and Insurance

$200 per hour for individuals
$ 300 per 90-minute session for couples
$ 60 per person, per group session

Sliding scale is available for those experiencing financial challenges. Please ask me about this if you are experiencing hardship. 

Payment can be made by credit card, debit card or bank transfer. 

You will receive a super bill from Valderrama Psychological PC that you can submit to your insurance company.

Health insurance in California does not automatically cover services provided by pre-licensed psychology associates. It depends on the specifics of your insurance company. 

Please note: Some people elect not to use their health insurance for psychotherapy for reasons of privacy, especially in an era of extensively linked health records. 


If you are ready to take the next step in your mental health journey, I am here to support you. Please feel free to reach out to schedule an appointment or free 15 minute phone consultation.

Phone: (415) 802-3566

Email:  DrSDShanti@HushMail.com

Thank you for considering my services. I look forward to working with you and supporting you in your journey to being your best self!

P.S. Fun Facts

I am a long-time meditation teacher and you can find my mini-meditation videos on Instagram under Dr. S.D. Shanti. Speaking of meditation, my signature program is Chocolate Meditation, which I developed in Switzerland over twenty-five years ago. Yes, the journey to inner peace can begin with one small piece of chocolate and I would be happy to show you how this works! 













Mountaintop view of clouds and trees

​Dedicated to Promoting Your Health, Happiness and Performance 

Hello and Welcome! 

My name is SD Shanti. I am a Psychological Associate (CA #94028109) based in San Francisco and serve people across California via tele-therapy. I offer care that is based on research and sensitive to people’s experiences of traumas. 

I am experienced in and passionate about helping people in the following areas:

  • Medical and dental related anxiety and phobia
  • Job stress, burnout and toxic workplace and their negative impact on physical and emotional health and stress spillover into family life
  • Cross cultural issues related to the stress of immigration, the workplace, and cross-cultural relationships
  • Coping with illness such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and autoimmune disorders
  • Coping with loss and grief

Dr. SD Shanti