Services Offered

Individual Therapy

Psychotherapy is often called “talk therapy”, because that’s essentially what it is; an ongoing therapeutic conversation between therapist and client.

Family Therapy

Family can influence our perceptions, our modes of interacting, and our styles of communicating. In family therapy, I apply therapeutic principles while engaging the

Help with Parenting

Let’s face it. Parenting is just about the most difficult job you can have. In this busy world, parents often find themselves living in a state of chaos,

Couples Therapy

It is my belief that all couples can benefit from couples counseling!
The purpose of couples therapy is to restore a better level

Child (Play) Therapy

I specialize in individualized child therapy that utilizes play, talk, art and other therapeutic techniques designed just for kids. My experience includes but is not limited to working

Gender and Identity Support

Since 2006, I have been working with gender-expansive and transgender youth and adults. I feel my primary purpose in working with such clients is to affirm their identities

Darlene Tando, LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker

I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice office near Hillcrest/Balboa Park, where I offer therapy with adult individuals, couples, family, and play therapy for children. I earned my Bachelors Degree in Psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara and my Masters in Social Work at San Diego State University. I am a member of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

Prior to private practice, I worked at a Residential Treatment Facility for severely emotionally disturbed children, and then at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, offering family and individual therapy to dependents of navy personnel.

I specialize in therapy with children, and utilize a variety of techniques to help them engage in the therapeutic process. I have worked with many children with abuse histories, emotional/behavioral problems, and numerous families facing overwhelming stressors. In addition to helping children recover from abuse, I am also proficient in working with children with social skills problems or delays, ADHD, and anger issues. I assist parents in learning parenting techniques to meet their child’s particular needs. Family therapy is available to those who would like all family members to be involved in healing or changing problematic patterns of interacting with each other.

Although I specialize in working with children, I also work with adult individuals and couples. I find that my warm and empathic approach that works so well with children also helps to create a safe, therapeutic environment for adults which promotes progress in therapy. I have worked with individuals who are struggling with anxiety, depression, life changes, and relationship problems.

I believe in the healing power of laughter and focusing on the strengths of the client. My services with adults can range from short-term problem- solving interventions to more in-depth psychotherapy or relationship exploration.

About Therapy

In this section, you will be able to explore:

Therapy Basics

Therapy has often been called the “talking cure,” since the exchange of words between the client and therapist can appear to be the most obvious form of communication that is going on. In reality, therapy can offer a much richer experience than the simple exchange of words and advice. The thoughts and feelings you share and the professional techniques the therapist uses are not nearly as important as the relationship you build together. Because the relationship with the therapist is so essential to the effectiveness of the process, it is very important that you find someone with whom you feel a comfortable connection, a therapist who makes you feel understood.

As therapy progresses and your trust in the therapist’s non-judgmental acceptance of your thoughts and feelings is established, you will actually use the relationship as an opportunity to reshape significant emotional experiences and work through problems in your life. In therapy, you intentionally make yourself vulnerable to another human being and you may talk about some things that are very painful for you. However, it is the very process of trusting that it’s safe to release your feelings (the good and the bad) and knowing that the therapeutic relationship permits you to safely explore deeply felt sources of conflict and dissatisfaction that will finally allow you to make lasting, positive changes in your life.

Read More

What Makes a Good Therapist?

Ultimately, the best evaluation of a therapist’s worth is YOU. If you believe you are getting good service and find your relationship with your therapist helpful overall, then it probably is. If you have a nagging feeling that something just isn’t right between you and your therapist, listen to it. Talk with your therapist about this. If you and your therapist discuss your feelings and that voice is still nagging you, perhaps you need to find another therapist that suits your needs better.

The styles between therapists are going to be very different. Each individual therapist will favor the type of therapy that he/she uses over other theories, but it doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. Studies of the different schools of thought in therapy, the different “theoretical orientations”, show that it isn’t the theory your therapist believes in and uses in therapy that makes the therapy good, it is the relationship that you and your therapist build. If you have a good relationship with your therapist, you are likely to get more out of your therapy than if you don’t have a good relationship. The style your therapist uses may not make any difference to your experience of therapy at all.

Read More

Defining LCSW

L.C.S.W.: Licensed Clinical Social Worker

The LCSW is a state licensure designation for practitioners with a master’s or doctoral degree in social work. Clinical Social Work, a practice specialty of Social Work, utilizes social work theory, knowledge, methods, and ethics to restore or enhance the functioning (social, psychosocial, or biopsychosocial) of individuals, couples, families, and groups. Clinical Social Workers apply specialized clinical knowledge and skills to assess, diagnose, and treat mental and emotional conditions. Treatment methods include individual, marital, couple, family and group counseling/psychotherapy.

Read More

When To Seek Therapy

Therapy is the most helpful to you before a crisis gets out of hand. Prevention is always better than dealing with the aftermath of a crisis. So if you are able to, seek out treatment BEFORE the crisis begins. But, if you are like most people and have waited until a crisis has happened, therapy can still be very helpful to you.
Recognizing the need for professional help is a good first step towards improvement. Therapy can be of real benefit, providing help for a wide range of problems such as depression, loss, marital strife, parent-child concerns, or emotional distress. It can also help fulfill aspirations for personal growth or self-improvement. Therapy has one clear and definite purpose: that something of positive value and constructive usefulness will come out of it for you.

Read More

Our Therapists

My practice consists of myself and one other fabulous clinician!

My gender blog won “Best Single Topic Blog” for the 2013 National Association of Social Workers Media Awards!

Visit my Blog!


My Book

The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child’s Authentic Self

F + W Media, Inc. has a series called “The Conscious Parent’s Guide To…” about a number of different topics. They wanted to publish one on gender identity, and asked me to write it! I was happy to have the opportunity to write about how to best support gender expansive kids to a more wide-reaching audience. I truly hope it helps a lot of families.

The book is ideal for parents/guardians of gender expansive kids, but could also be useful for extended family members, therapists, teachers; anyone involved in a gender expansive child’s life. Click here to order your copy: The Conscious Parent’s Guide to Gender Identity: A Mindful Approach to Embracing Your Child’s Authentic Self.

In addition to the overview in Chapter 1 about conscious parenting (standard in all the “Conscious Parent’s Guide” books, there are ways to incorporate being a mindful, conscious parent throughout the book. This is so much more than just being “present”, it’s about recognizing your little human as a separate being, with their own unique will and spirit. I write about how to best connect with your child in order to be most receptive to what they are trying to tell you.

I write about the differences between gender and sex, gender identity and sexual orientation, gender expression vs. gender identity, and what gender “expansiveness” really is. This not only helps those involved in a gender expansive child’s life understand these concepts, but can help knowing how to explain them to others.

I discuss the concept of getting to know one’s child for who they are from the beginning, rather than making assumptions that later need to be shifted or undone. I write about parenting gender expansive children, and the difference between being transgender and “just” gender expansive. In the book you will find practical tips for interacting with and advocating for your gender-expansive and/or transgender child, while learning how to trust yourself and appreciate life at the same time.

Later in the book there is more specific information for families who have a child in need of social or medical transition: how/when to navigate interventions, coping with outside influences/reactions, siblings, extended family, schools, etc. There is a specific chapter dedicated to “helping your gender-expansive child with teasing”, based on the concepts I present at gender conferences. There is also a specific chapter dedicated to dysphoria, which is important for everyone involved in a transgender child’s life to understand.

The appendixes include some resources I hope you will find helpful, including ways of looking at natal sex/gender identity/gender expression/sexual orientation on spectrums, or on more of a fluid shape. There is a list of “Classroom Rules” to help classrooms promote diversity. There is also a worksheet for children who may need some help in understanding when a friend or loved one is going through transition. Last but not least, there is a sample letter from parents informing their loved ones about their child’s social transition.

Let me know how you like the book, and leave an honest review on Amazon!

Be Inspired