Addiction, Anxiety Issues, Couples/Marital Issues, Dating/Being Single Support, Depression, Divorce/Divorce Prevention, Relationships, Self-Esteem, Stress Management, Trust Issues, Worry



Additional Expertise

Counselor/Therapist, Marriage/Couples Counselor, Psychologist, Speaker/Presenter

About Heidi Hartston, PhD

Worry and perfectionism can shrink your life and sabotage your confidence.

I earned my PhD in psychology by revealing how worry and perfectionism can overtake your thinking, causing your life to become too small. Worry and perfectionism can lead you to do things you feel you have to, in order to avoid disaster, rather than making choices for yourself and taking chances that could have big rewards for you. It can scramble your decision making, catching you up in analyzing, questioning, fearing disaster and trying to choose “right”. And it can sabotage your self-confidence, making you feel somehow less capable and deserving than other people.

In my previous position at Stanford University and as a clinical psychologist in private practice I’ve worked closely with people who have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) (the Olympic champions of worry) who said their lives have been a big detour into chronic safety-seeking and flaw finding, and they feel they’ve missed out on important life experiences like happiness, exploration, self-discovery and relationships because of it.

A good relationship can be a powerful helper. But relationship disconnection or loss can potentially trap you in a negative spiral.

Our connections to other people, especially intimate relationships, have amazing potential to help us heal and be happy. But when our relationships go wrong, break ups, trust violations or loneliness can feel as intolerably painful. (Researchers have even proven the physiological similarity between relationship heartbreak and the intense withdrawal symptoms addicts suffer through.)  When you are separated from the thing (the drug, person, food or dress) you think you need in order to make your life work, the painful cravings, empty feelings or desperation to fill the void can activate addiction patterns. You may even find yourself buying, eating or doing something you promised yourself not to. And of course, just like with drug addictions, actions that quickly mute the pain usually have consequences that lead right back to the pain state.

Personally, I’ve experienced emotional unavailability and avoidance from people I needed connection with. And I’ve experienced using shopping, eating or restrictive eating as a kind of a “middle man” in the relationship, buying things and food instead of sharing words and feelings.

Since shopping, eating and sex are imperfect relationship substitutes they can potentially become repetitive, self-sabotaging and “addictive” problems, even despite a wiser inner voice that knows better.

Research shows that by using specific psychological tools (from cognitive behavioral psychology, acceptance and commitment therapy, meditation and depth therapy) you can make changes that are so deeply rooted they even show on neurophysiological brain scans. This means that even if you have been through very rough experiences you can learn to edit your internal conversation and genuinely shift your feelings and adaptation ability. These tools are easy to use and they can have a huge positive and very freeing effect on you.

I focus on what causes your wiser-self to become detoured by worry, perfectionism, guilt, depression, relationship conflict or addictive behaviors, and what helps you recover to feel stable, happy, lovable, loved, and content. There are effective tools that really work. I can help you can learn them.

I can help you:

Undo the sabotage of perfectionism and worry

Repair and strengthen relationships.

By teaching you effective psychological tools to uncover the beliefs or fears that keep you stuck, exploring your hidden patterns and expectations and rewriting your inner conversation (self-talk), I can help you can make profoundly positive changes in your life and relationships.

In my private practice, in Oakland, California, I work with individuals and couples. I can tailor a tool box specifically for you, making use of scientifically validated, practical tools you can learn.

We can work together in person or you can inquire about consults via phone, webinars or other options.

You can see me on you tube here:


You can email me with questions or check my website for more information.



My previous work: Previously I have served as an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) medical school, where I supervised psychology interns and medical residents and taught psychotherapy techniques. I researched OCD and “Compulsive Shopping Behavior” as an NIMH supported research fellow in the adult OCD clinic at Stanford University, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. I wrote about and presented my findings at professional level conferences to psychologists and psychiatrists. And I had the privilege to be featured in the BBC TV documentary “Buyology”. I have also taught college level courses in psychology and bio-psychology at San Diego State University and at San Jose State University.

Heidi Hartston, PhD Articles