Communication Problems

Years in Practice

25 years +


Los Angeles CA 90064 - United States


LMFT, MS, Other

Additional Expertise

Marriage and Family Therapist, Marriage Educator, Marriage/Couples Counselor, Psychotherapist, Relationship Coach, Speaker/Presenter, YourTango Expert Partner

I Practice in

My state/province only



I Believe

I am passionate about helping individuals and couples find deep, meaningful, harmonious and passionate relationships. With over 30 years of experience, I have the knowledge and wisdom to help you, too. My office is conveniently located in West Los Angeles, California, and I offer free 15-minute telephone consultations to get started. I also offer, Start Right, Stay Connected, an 8-hour workshop for Engaged and Newly Married Couples, as well as Over the Bridge, a 2-day Weekend Couples Retreat for couples wanting deep transformation. Of special interest to some couples is the option to do a one-day or two-day Private Intensive with me. If you need deep, lasting change quickly, or don't have the time or luxury of weekly sessions, this might be the ideal format for you. Feel free to inquire about all the options available to you.

About Mary Kay Cocharo

I am a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California. I have over 30 years experience working with individuals, couples and families in transition. I have two advanced certifications in working with couples: Imago Relationship Therapy and Encounter-centered Couples Therapy.  I work with spouses and parents to deepen communication, resolve conflict and rediscover the joy of being together. In addition to private sessions in my Los Angeles office, I am also passionate about leading workshops for Engaged Couples. With years of experience in premarital counseling, I am happy to offer an Imago based workshop entitled, Start Right, Stay Connected. I also facilitate a Weekend Couples Retreat, Over the Bridge, for couples wanting profound transformation. For couples who desire deep, intensive, quick resolution in a private setting, I also offer one and two day Private  Intensives. 

I have also been active throughout my career in educating and training students and interns to become practicing therapists. I have taught and supervised at various universities and training sites around Los Angeles. Prior to coming to California, I served as a team therapist and supervisor at Houston Child Guidance Center working with children and troubled adolescents. I have given numerous workshops and presentations, taught graduate courses, and supervised many interns on their way to becoming licensed.

I am an active member of the California Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, Los Angeles Association for Marriage and Family Therapists, IMAGO Relationship Institute, and the Southern California IMAGO Institute. I am a Master Encounter-centered Couples Therapist.  I am active in various spiritual settings and community endeavors. I love my profession and truly enjoy helping others to heal, grow, develop a heightened state of well-being and create more love and peace in their lives. 

Several years ago, I co-founded the The Conversation Group, an organization of like-minded licensed and pre-licensed therapists.  We work with you in a very safe and collaborative way to create conversations that open up paths to clarity, insight, and healing which can motivate movement toward the life you desire. Join our Facebook page for daily meditations and healing quotations.

Find more marriage advice here.

Mary Kay Cocharo Success Stories

Why We Love Halloween


I hope all of you had a fun and interesting Halloween! I’ve always said that Halloween is my favorite holiday: I love dressing up in costume and seeing what everyone else dresses up as. What is it about this activity that we find so enticing? I realize that as children, the main draw was going from house to house to get free candy. But now, as adults, that cannot be it! After all, with cash in my pocket and keys to the car, I could conceivably drive to the nearest CVS and buy a bag of the sugary stuff for myself! No, that’s not it.more

In Imago theory, we posit that we come into the world as perfect, complete, vibrating balls of energy. If we receive messages from our caretakers which encourage our thinking, feeling, sensing, moving, being…then we remain relatively whole. If, however, our early messages are repressive (”stay still”, “don’t cry”, ” you’re not smart enough”, “I wish you’d been a boy”, “you were an accident”, etc.) , then certain parts of our wholeness are either shut down or exaggerated. We make these adaptations to our personalities in order to survive the family of origin. These “lost parts” are called the denied self, the lost self, the disowned self, or the “shadow” in Jungian terms.

In a recent training on Characterological Growth, the participants were asked to come to the workshop as their Lost Self. One woman who had been sexually molested as a child came dressed as a beautiful, sexy, powerful woman after years of having shut down her sexual self. One man came as a daredevil after a lifetime of “playing it safe”. I dressed as a goofy, silly, outrageous girl in response to parental messages about the importance of behaving within acceptable guidelines. Get the picture?

So, back to Halloween. Is it possible that we love Halloween because it offers us the possibility and the freedom to play with our Lost Selves; to dig deep into ourselves and bring out that missing part? I invite you to think back on your choice of costumes, this year and in years past. Perhaps, in your choice of playful disguises there is a kernel of information to help you see what you may have lost along the way. It’s never too late to grow into your perfect, complete wholeness!

I have the tools to help you heal the wounds of the past and experience your full potential as an individual and an intimate partner.

Help...my husband is married to the dog!

Couples considering divorce

A couple, I will call them Jane and Paul, first came to see me after about 3 years of marriage. Jane first called to seek marriage counseling stating that they were on the verge of divorcing. She said that they had been fighting a lot and didn’t seem able to resolve their differences.
Upon meeting them I asked them to describe what it would look like if we were to be successful working together. Paul described that they would be “like they used to be”: they would be fighting less, having more fun and she would stop being so critical and angry. Jane said that she would feel more loved, have more attention and feel special.
She blurted out, “Paul would act more married to me than he does to our dog, Fluffy”!
I led them through a guided meditation where they were able to reconnect to their positive memories of having met and fallen in love. I then had them express some appreciation for one another. They left, holding hands and eager to get started in therapy.
During the second session, each reported that they had experienced “a better week”.
In this session, I taught them to express their frustrations with one another by using a structured dialogue process. I coached them to listen deeply to the other, mirror what they’d heard, validate their partner’s position and empathize with their feelings.
In this way, they were able to stop the escalating pattern of argumentation and really begin to understand each other’s worlds.
Over the course of the next 6 weeks, their communication improved and their affection for one another seemed to increase. They reported less fighting and a renewed commitment to one another. Then, on the 7th session, they came in with a crisis. Jane was enraged and unable to look at Paul. I asked him to listen carefully as she talked about her anger at him and I mirrored her words. It seemed that Fluffy had recently broken her leg and was needing more attention. Paul had gone back to his previous level of attachment and caretaking of her and Jane was feeling neglected again. She noted that he had taken off work to be with the dog (although he had refused to take the day off work to celebrate her birthday), that he was being overly affectionate and loving to the dog (whereby he was frequently unavailable and cold to her) and that he had even moved out of their bedroom to sleep with Fluffy in the guest room!
As I listened to her words and empathized with her feelings, her anger began to soften and the underlying hurt and fear came out. At this point, I asked if it would be okay for Paul to hold her. Safe in his arms, I asked her to tell him about how this situation with the dog reminded her of other times in her life when she had felt neglected and replaced. She sobbed as she recounted for him the story of how her father had left her mother and abandoned her when she was young. He held her and comforted her and she relaxed.
In the weeks to come, Paul and Jane were able to continue expressing their needs in the safety of the dialogue process. Both began to see how their individual behaviors were triggering old pain and defensive reactions in the other. Jane became aware that Paul withdrew and “got cold” when he sensed her anger or displeasure. He was able to trace this back to his childhood and the way he learned to protect himself from his mother’s potent rage. Paul was able to see how his ignoring Jane and lavishing love on Fluffy caused Jane to feel neglected and replaced. Together they engaged in healing one another in safe dialogue and empathy.
After several months, this couple moved to coming in about once per month. They report feeling “in love” again and more conscious about their relationship. They still argue once in a while, but have the tools to bring it back around quickly to a safer dialogue. They have renewed their commitment and no longer consider divorce. Both are loving and taking care of Fluffy and Jane no longer feels that she’s in competition with her. Recently, Jane and Paul told me that they might just be ready to start a family.

Transformation at the Weekend Couples Retreat


This past weekend, I and my Assistants, led five couples through a transformational experience at my Weekend Couples Retreat in Montecito, California.  They laughed, cried, played, and worked hard. Each couple was assisted by a Licensed, Certified couples therapist and supported by the other couples there. The setting, at a private estate overlooking the ocean, is luxurious and inviting. Each couple enjoyed their own bedroom and bath. The chef cooked wonderful meals and we were truly well cared for. Here's what one participant husband wrote to me this morning:more

--Hi Mary Kay. I wanted to send this note of thanks and gratitude. [My wife] and I got home and during the drive my thoughts all centered around what a transformational weekend this was for me. Thank you and all your colleagues who enjoyed the work and showed us genuine care. They supported us in bettering ourselves as couples and as individuals. [Our host] was such a beautiful host and you couldn't have picked a better spot to have a weekend. It felt like being with family. The food, the other couples, the setting...all meticulously done with the care one would show for family. It was touching. I came on Friday with a sense of openness, no expectations. As soon as we arrived, I recognized that we were "at home" among friends and accomplished professionals and fellow humans who all wanted to better themselves and lead a harmonious and loving life with their significant other. I was impressed that being professionally successful doesn't mean that you can't be vulnerable and share your desires with people who all have similar struggles! I learned so much from each and every demo session. It brought tears to my eyes to see how the work brought spouses together. Priceless!" --K

I believe that his words capture the experience of couples who take the risk to show up to work on their relationship in this format. They come, they learn and they leave different...closer with a new set of tools for improving their communication, resolving conflict, and deepening their intimate connection.

Please reach out for more information about how you can attend a future retreat.

Mary Kay Cocharo Articles