Deb Nelson In San Rafael, CA

I am a licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in chronic pain and illness, older adults and stress-related disorders. 

My work utilizes the client's strengths to accomplish their self-identified goals. I typically use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), mindfulness, positive psychology and motivational interviewing. Other interventions may include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT I), and biofeedback. Recognizing the importance of working with the whole person, I frequently collaborate with other health care providers and family members (where appropriate) to help facilitate the individual's recovery and growth.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Pain Management (CBPM)

Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I)

Psychotherapy support for pain medication reduction

Support for caregiving issues

Developing mindfulness to reduce pain and stress

Positive Psychology to identify and increase personal strengths

Motivational Interviewing to break road blocks to well being

Interdisciplinary collaboration


American Association of Pain Psychology -- Member

American Psychological Association -- Division 38, Health Psychology – Member

California Psychological Association -- Member

Marin County Psychological Association – Member  and two-term President


Pain Reprocessing Therapy

Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) is a system of psychological techniques that retrains the brain to interpret and respond to signals from the body properly, subsequently breaking the cycle of chronic pain. Pain Reprocessing Therapy has five main components: 1) education about the brain origins and reversibility of pain, 2) gathering and reinforcing personalized evidence for the brain origins and reversibility of pain, 3) attending to and appraising pain sensations through a lens of safety, 4) addressing other emotional threats, and 5) gravitating to positive feelings and sensations. The training program is a 4-week program and the technique’s successful results have been published in JAMA.


Primary Care Behavioral Health

I have received a certificate of completion in a 6-week Primary Care Behavioral Health course.  This certificate program is from the University of Massachusetts, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. Course topics included: primary care culture and needs; evidenced-based therapies and substance abuse in primary care; child development and collaborative pediatric practice; behavioral health care for chronic illnesses; care management and an overview of psychotropic medication in primary care; behavioral medicine techniques; and families and culture in primary care.


My dissertation, titled “Older Adults’ Perceptions of Pain Medications,” is a qualitative study examining the emotional heuristics older adults use when choosing whether to take their pain medications.  The methodology involved in-home interviews with 11 older adults (ages 63 to 86) and the final product is the dissertation as well as a 30-minute DVD highlighting relevant themes.  The dissertation includes recommendations for pain management specialists as well as for psychologists for improving pain management in older adults.


2019                Training -- "Older Adults and Pain Management"Institute on Aging, Post-Doctoral Training  

2018                Presenter -- “Staying Social -- It’s More Than Just Fun, Marin Villages Senior Group

 2018                Presenter -- “Managing Difficult Sibling Relationships” Presentation developed for Senior Access and specifically                                     for sibling caregivers negotiating conflict while caring for parents

 2016                Presenter -- “Managing the Impacts of Stress of Your Health”, Senior Access and Smith Ranch Homes

 2014                Presenter -- "Mental Health, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke"   Sponsored by Marin Health and Human                                                 Services, Sutter Health and  Episcopal Senior Communities 

2013                Poster presentation – American Pain Society Annual Meeting

2013                Poster presentation – Society for Behavioral Medicine Annual Meeting

2012                Presenter and panelist – National Summit on Opioid Safety, Co-sponsored by: Group Health Research Institute,                                      Project ROAM, and Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP)


Cognitive Behavioral Assessment & Treatment of Patients with Chronic Pain

Working with Caregivers

Elder Abuse

Working with Victims of Domestic Abuse

Neuropsychological screenings for dementia (Montreal Cognitive Assessment)

Child Abuse

Family Therapy

Positive Neuroplasticity Training


2013 -- Present, Marin County Psychological Association, Two-terms as President

The Marin County Psychological Association is a chapter of the California Psychological Association. Our mission is to help improve the lives of our community members through engagement with other local mental health organizations and promoting and maintaining high standards of professional conduct for psychologists.

2005  -- Board Member, Apple FamilyWorks

A Marin County-based agency that serves the mental health needs of families and individuals facing a broad spectrum of challenges.

1996 – 2002 – Chairperson, Volunteers for Fairfax

Community-based volunteer board.  I was responsible for projects ranging from creek clean ups to a $250,000 playground renovation funded by state bond money and local donations.


9/07 – 5/13                  Psy.D., Clinical Psychology

                                            California School of Professional Psychology

                                              at Alliant International University (APA accredited)

                                              San Francisco, California

8/06 – 5/07                  Coursework taken in Masters Program in Counseling Psychology

                                            Dominican University of California,

                                             San Rafael, CA                                  

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