Suzanne Manser, PhD
I grew up on the east coast, in rural Pennsylvania. I lived in Philadelphia during college and through graduate school before moving to Boston. I worked at Massachusetts General Hospital for five years while establishing myself as a psychologist. My first private practice was in a beautiful old building in Cambridge. I loved Boston. However, after one particularly cold and snowy winter, I was ready for a change. I moved to Santa Barbara sight unseen and opened a private practice blocks from the beach. I fell in love with pelicans. I also fell in love with my husband, got married, and had two children. I enjoyed 14 beautiful years there before feeling ready for another change. We moved to Portland, OR in 2018. I opened my third practice (a little further from the beach) and promptly fell in love with the nature and neighborhoods of Portland.
Although my career has been centered on private practice, I have worked in a number of other settings along the way: a research center, university psychological services centers, university classrooms, outpatient hospital clinics, a day treatment program specializing in Dialectical Behavior Therapy, inpatient psychiatric units, and a psychiatric emergency room. In these settings I have worn a variety of hats: therapist, supervisor, director, researcher, teacher, speaker, and board member. I bring the wisdom of everything learned from these experiences to every session I spend with my patients. I also bring myself and respect and appreciation for the person sitting across from me.
My pronouns are she/her/hers. Acknowledgment of Privilege: I am a thin, White, straight, cisgender, able-bodied woman with access to higher education. I have been given unearned advantages due to these aspects of my identity.
Licenses: OR 2906; CA PSY 20075
You are the sky. Everything else — it’s just the weather.
— Pema Chödrön
I work collaboratively with each patient to help them define and move toward their goals for therapy. We work to develop insight about why they are the way they are. I also offer concrete strategies to make changes in how they relate to their feelings, thoughts, body, and/or themselves. Changing these relationships is how they move toward their specific goals.
There are two components that underlie most of my work: connecting to meaning and self-acceptance. Connecting to meaning is about identifying what you find fulfilling and bringing more of it into your life. It requires and fosters a connection to yourself. If you know what you hold most meaningful about life and can connect with it, we will be more effective in helping you move through hard moments and hard feelings.
Self-acceptance means that you don’t judge yourself for being human. You can have flaws and make mistakes and still be acceptable. You can have parts of yourself that you want to change and still accept them as they are today. If you accept yourself, your inner critic has no leverage. And it is attainable. The only obstacle is your belief that you have to be better, perfect, or enough (but not too much) before you are acceptable. I will help you work to uncover the knowledge that everything about you is acceptable right now.
My Clinical Experience
Private Practice, Portland, OR. 2018 – present
Private Practice, Santa Barbara, CA. 2005 – 2018
Private Practice, Cambridge, MA. 2001 – 2004
Adult Eating and Weight Disorders Program, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 2001 – 2004
Two Brattle Center, Cambridge, MA. 2001 – 2003
Post-Doctoral Fellow, Eating Disorders Specialty, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 2000 – 2001
Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 1999 – 2000
Psychological Services Center, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA. 1998 – 1999
Psychological Services Center, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. 1996 – 1998
Lecturer, Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA. 2004 – 2007
Director, Hosford Counseling & Psychological Services Clinic, Department of Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA. 2004 – 2006
Instructor, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA. 2001 – 2004
Fellow, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 1999 – 2001
Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology: Eating Disorders Specialty, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 2000 – 2001
Predoctoral Fellow in Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 1999 – 2000
Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA. 2000
Bachelor of Arts in Psychology summa cum laude, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. 1993
Diagnosis, Assessment, and Treatment of Adults with Eating Disorders, Department of Psychiatry, Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland, OR. 2020
Intentional Holidays: How to Build Connected Intentions, Eating Disorders Round Table, Portland, OR. 2019
Eating Disorder Recovery, California Unified Collegiate Recovery Conference, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA. 2015
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: What it is and how to use it, Santa Barbara County Psychological Association, Santa Barbara, CA. 2015
Understanding Eating Disorders, Academy of Healing Arts, Santa Barbara, CA. 2011
Understanding Eating Disorders, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, Santa Barbara, CA. 2007
Eating Disorders: Phenomenology, Dynamics, Assessment, and Treatment, Antioch University, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA. 2007
Eating Disorders in Adolescence, Dunn School and Family School, Los Olivos, CA. 2005
Diagnosis and Phenomenology of Eating Disorders, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA. 2004
Recognizing an Eating Disorder, TJX Corporation, Framingham, MA. 2003
Eating Disorders: Phenomenology, Assessment, and Treatment, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. 2002
Identifying Eating Disorders and Providing Treatment, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA. 2001
Eating Disorders include Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge Eating Disorder. The myth is that they are about ego and vanity. The reality is that they are attempts to feel emotionally safe and acceptable as a human. A person with an eating disorder uses food – eating too little, too much, getting rid of it, keeping records of it, focusing on it to an extreme degree, and/or being very, very regimented about it – as a tool to feeling emotional safety or comfort. Their ability to control food and make their body look the way they want it to become primary sources of self-esteem and worth. Their inability to control food and their body as they want to becomes a primary source of shame.
I have been working with people with eating disorders since 1999. Part of the work is understanding how the feelings, thoughts, and behaviors associated with the eating disorder create emotional safety for you. Then we will find healthier coping mechanisms. We will work on self-acceptance, cultivating other sources of self-esteem, and creating an identity that doesn’t revolve around the eating disorder.
Anxiety has many forms, but at its core it is a fear of what could happen. This fear is so significant that it prevents you from living life as you want. It may take the form of persistent worrying or planning, overthinking, rigidly avoiding feared situations, and/or a strong physiological reaction (e.g., an increase in heart rate, flushing, or shortness of breath). Rigidity in the way you think or behave, a need to be in control (especially of things you can’t actually control), and hypervigilance are other signs of anxiety.
I have been working with people with anxiety for over 20 years. Instead of worrying about or preparing for every situation, or whichever specific situations you focus on, we will cultivate trust that you can handle whatever comes up when it comes up. I will give you tools and strategies to manage anxiety-provoking situations. You will learn how to make room for anxiety, move away from unhelpful thoughts, and stay in the present.
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT)
The primary therapeutic lens I use is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT focuses on helping us connect to what is meaningful in life and detach from what is unhelpful. It offers specific strategies for living a fulfilling life, managing painful emotions and unhelpful thoughts, and staying psychologically flexible. Mindfulness is one of the core components. ACT is an empirically validated treatment for eating disorders, depression, and various forms of anxiety, amongst other disorders (i.e., it has research to back it up).
I began my career steeped in the psychodynamic approach, and I still use it to develop insight about why we became who we became, but I didn’t find it useful enough in creating real-world change. When ACT was developed and I learned about it over 15 years ago, it resonated immediately. It is a holistic, practical approach to the challenges of life. I’ve seen it change lives in sustainable ways, mine included. It is the way I have come to approach myself and my life.