Years in Practice

10 years +


Oakland CA 94618 - United States



Additional Expertise

Author, Counselor/Therapist, Marriage/Couples Counselor, Psychologist, Speaker/Presenter, YourTango Expert Partner

I Practice in

All areas, please inquire



I Believe

Satisfying relationships and personal happiness are things you can consciously and purposely build.

About Heidi Hartston, PhD

I earned my PhD in psychology by studying how worry and fear can overtake your decision making and make your life too small, stagnant or point it in an empty, depressing direction. In my previous position at Stanford University and 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 happiness, exploration, self-discovery and relationships because of it.

Old experiences or deeply rooted fears can generate self-doubt and pre-consciously guide your decisions, making you choose 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.

A very influential scientific research finding to me was the idea that by teaching yourself to think differently you can effect change so deeply it even shows on neurophysiological brain scans. Essentially, you can edit the pre-conscious internal conversation that affects your expectations and choices, and genuinely change the way you respond to both alarm and opportunity.

Another important research finding is that fears about broken relationships, broken heartedness, break ups, trust violations and unfulfilled love, can feel just like an intense drug-addicted withdrawal. 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, obsession with fixing or filling the void, activate the very same addiction brain physiology and addiction cycle patterns. And of course, just like with drug addictions, quick fix actions to mute the pain usually have consequences that lead right back to the pain state.

Addictive behaviors like shopping addiction, sex addiction and emotional eating are of great interest to me because of the addiction cycle that keeps these self-sabotaging behaviors going (even despite a wiser inner voice inside us that knows better). First there is intolerable pain, emptiness, longing or fear. Then comes a jump towards quick solution (usually a mirage, not a real solution) which helps you feel temporarily ok, or even better than ok. And finally the consequences arise and the pain is re-created.

I have been focused on what causes people’s lives to become detoured by worry, guilt, depression, relationship conflict or addictive behaviors, and what helps them recover to build stable, happy, love-filled and satisfying lives. There are effective tools that really work. And you can learn them.

How I can help you:

By teaching you effective psychological tools to uncover the beliefs or fears that keep you stuck and then positively rewriting your expectations and 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 email me with questions or check my website for more information.



You can see me on you tube here:


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.