Hi, I'm Ali.
I help people cultivate the self-compassion + communication skills
it takes to create and sustain satisfying relationships
that are key to a fulfilling life.
I’m Ali Miller, therapist and communication specialist in Berkeley, California. I provide psychotherapy, couples counseling, group therapy, and communication trainings to help you cultivate the self-compassion and communication skills it takes to create and sustain authentic relationships that nourish you and our world.
I know from personal experience that disconnection hurts and that connection heals. And that relationships are challenging! I’ve seen how relationships become so much more satisfying when we have the skills to embrace our own feelings and needs, make powerful requests, hear others with empathy, and navigate conflict with confidence. I want this for you - for all of us - and I know it takes support. I’m so glad you found me.
How I Got Here
Like many therapists, it all started with my own discontent. Feeling pretty dissatisfied with life in my college years, I found solace in studying the liberation movements of the nineteen sixties. As a Sociology major, I wrote my thesis on alienation and social change, and graduated with a passion to help create a more connected, less alienated world. After some earnest soul-searching, I moved across the country to the land of the free - San Francisco - and I began training to be a therapist. I learned many therapy modalities, particularly resonating with Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Approach. I immersed myself in Buddhist meditation practices and other eastern spiritual teachings and fell in love with these awareness-and-compassion-based approaches to this complicated human life.
After graduating from therapy school I encountered Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and it completely changed the way I practiced therapy.
It was 2006, and I was preparing for my psychotherapy licensing exam. A friend recommended the book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by psychologist and peacemaker, Marshall Rosenberg, and I took her up on her suggestion. As I read the book, I underlined nearly every sentence and dog-eared nearly every page; all the words and concepts resonated so strongly.
He wrote about ideas like:
All human beings have the same universal needs
Everything we do or say is an attempt to meet needs
Our feelings alert us to our needs, and
Everybody's needs matter - including mine!
I could relate to so much of what Rosenberg was saying about how we contribute to disconnection by thinking and speaking in the alienating ways we've been conditioned to.
When things didn't go my way and difficult emotions arose, my attention tended to get swept away by beliefs about what was wrong with me or others. As I started to practice NVC, I noticed how it helped me in shifting my thinking from blaming myself or others to having more compassion for myself and others. Given the culture I grew up in that was dominated by judgmental (right/wrong, good/bad) thinking, I was so relieved to learn that there was another way —a more compassionate way to relate to myself and others.
I quickly found an NVC workshop to attend, and then another, and another, and another. I joined two weekly practice groups, went on retreats, and soon I was part of the most compassionate, thoughtful, loving community I’d ever known. I was home.
I took every opportunity I could to immerse in NVC learning environments and began assisting my beloved teachers. After a little while I led my first workshop (I was so nervous!). I was pleased with how it went, and the participants said they were, too, so I kept leading more.
Now I lead NVC workshops for couples and for therapists. I also share NVC with educators through Mindful Schools with Oren Sofer and through the Introduction to Connected Communication Online Course with Newt Bailey.
NVC shifted the way I practice therapy from an approach that was subtly problem-focused (What’s wrong?) to an approach that is firmly needs-focused (What are you longing for? How can we support you to have more of your needs met?).
My extensive training in NVC has allowed me to listen with empathy to even the hardest-to-hear messages, always looking for the beautiful human needs behind anything anyone ever says or does. Rather than looking for what’s wrong, my ear and heart are tuned to what needs are alive in you and calling for your loving attention.
When I share NVC concepts and techniques with my clients, most of them find that it supports them in developing self-compassion and in relating to the people in their lives with more compassion and understanding. Inner and outer conflicts get resolved, more inner peace arises, and changes are made in service of needs — not out of fear, self-criticism, or inner demand.
If you’re longing for a kinder relationship with yourself, more satisfying connections with others, and a more fulfilling life, I’d love to support you on your journey, whether it’s through individual therapy, couples counseling, group therapy, or through one of my NVC workshops.
I have been licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist since 2006, registered with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences (MFT 44090). I earned a Master's Degree in Integral Counseling Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), which emphasized the integration of western psychology and eastern philosophy/spirituality. Since 2006 I’ve been learning and practicing Nonviolent Communication (NVC) through various workshops, practice groups, programs, and retreats. As a lifelong learner, I regularly participate in therapy-related trainings and meditation retreats to support my personal and professional development.
I have been a therapist since seeing my first client in 2002, and since then have worked in various settings including community mental health, addiction treatment, junior high & high school, clinical research, and writing training materials for other therapists. I joyfully put up my shingle in private practice in 2007, and I have been honored to support a diverse range of people since then. This is my life's work, and I put my heart and soul into each step of the way, especially each encounter with people who are seeking my support.
I specialize in helping people who are struggling in relationships develop the self-compassion and communication skills it takes to have satisfying connections. In addition to being a therapist, I also teach Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to therapists, educators, couples, and in various community settings.
What is NVC?
Nonviolent Communication (NVC) was developed by psychologist and peacemaker, Marshall Rosenberg, who was inspired by many wise folks including Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Carl Rogers. It is a process that supports people in speaking and listening in a way that fosters both authenticity and connection. Rooted in a belief that all human beings have the same universal needs and that everything we do and say is an attempt to meet needs, NVC offers a set of principles and communication skills that contribute to more compassionate and honest relationships, as well as a more empowered way of existing in the world.