Community Focus: Interview with Dolat Bolandi, LMFT

Friday, December 18, 2020 12:22 PM | Anonymous

back to the Winter 2020 Newsletter

Interviewed by Dominique Yarritu, LMFT, SCV-CAMFT News Editor

Dolat Bolandi, MA is a marriage and family therapist with 20 years of experience working with individuals and families specializing in maternal mental health, parenting, and cross-cultural issues in a variety of settings. She has a private practice in Los Gatos, runs groups, and teaches classes in the community. She can be reached at

:  Welcome, Dolat! It’s a real pleasure to meet with you today. How do you feel?
Dolat:  I’m good. To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect, I’ve never done this before! Since I’ve talked to you, I feel that every time we connect, things just flow naturally, and even things bubble up that I didn’t even connect to before, so… I trust that process. I decided I’m not going to prepare; I’ve looked at the questions, as a backdrop, so I’m just going to trust the process and the more genuine me will be prevalent.

:  Welcome, Dolat! It’s a real pleasure to meet with you today. How do you feel?
Dolat:  I’m good. To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect, I’ve never done this before! Since I’ve talked to you, I feel that every time we connect, things just flow naturally, and even things bubble up that I didn’t even connect to before, so… I trust that process. I decided I’m not going to prepare; I’ve looked at the questions, as a backdrop, so I’m just going to trust the process and the more genuine me will be prevalent.

Dominique:  Welcome, Dolat! It’s a real pleasure to meet with you today. How do you feel?
Dolat:  I’m good. To be honest, I’m not sure what to expect, I’ve never done this before! Since I’ve talked to you, I feel that every time we connect, things just flow naturally, and even things bubble up that I didn’t even connect to before, so… I trust that process. I decided I’m not going to prepare; I’ve looked at the questions, as a backdrop, so I’m just going to trust the process and the more genuine me will be prevalent.

DY:  Wonderful, that’s what we want!
DB:  Thank you for doing this, it’s a good service for the community.

DY:  You are welcome. I’m really loving it. It’s great to know about our colleagues, about what they do, their approach, so I’m really looking forward to our time together. Let’s start, shall we? Where did you graduate from, when did you start to practice, and where you’re located?
DB:  I graduated from Santa Clara University; my office is in downtown Los Gatos. When did I start  practicing? Over 20 years ago. I was, gosh… I still think I’m new… It took such a long time to learn to do this; that just blows my mind every time I say this. I was actually pregnant when I was an intern so that’s 20 years ago. That’s how I know how long I’ve been practicing [laughs]. And, by the way, I have a story about everything so you can stop me when you need to!

DY:  It’s ok, I love stories. What did you do before being a therapist?
DB:  I was a software developer, a computer engineer. I wrote code to the machine. Like hex numbers (decimal sequence used in programming language) and stuff. I can’t believe I actually did that! I worked in high tech companies for 10 years. What was more natural for me was to support people, so I moved to sales support. I had the technical knowledge, so I could assist in presenting technical material and also help train the sales reps to talk about the products.

DY:  And from there, what made you decide to become a therapist?
DB:  Well, I was always interested in human behavior and trying to understand what’s behind people’s motivations. I really enjoyed watching foreign films without subtitles and trying to actually read between what they’re saying. That was one of my favorite things to do even when I was younger. Understanding what’s behind things is innate in me. I became interested in the work of therapy while working in high tech, thought I could apply it to potentially becoming a manager. I took my first class and I will never forget: when it was over I was like “is it really over?” I was so mesmerized. I just fell in love with it. I took classes not thinking that I would ever change careers because it was too crazy: I was in Silicon Valley, top notch kind of place for my field and I had such good benefits and everything. So I just kept taking classes because I enjoyed it and I was in my own therapy. It became more serious, and once I had my baby, I worked part time for a year, and then, they wanted me to travel a lot and I thought “well, let’s just cut the cord.”  I quit, stayed at home, and went to school.

DY:  So you go from being a software engineer to being a health care provider. What do you think translated from your former job to being a therapist?
DB:  That’s a really good question. I’m definitely comfortable with people, that’s my temperament, and I was already in a support position, especially in the last 5-6 years of my job. Then, interestingly enough, I’m just realizing now, I was a test developer at my first job. So, I literally had to go to hex numbers, and from the numbers, I had to guess where the problem was. Gosh, I never thought about it like this. So, it was really looking at or behind what was not functioning, what was causing problems, what may not seem as coherent, or obvious. Just like listening to the unconscious.

DY:  Yes, and like so many changes, transformation doesn’t happen overnight: throughout your account, I can see the progression between what appears to be two very different jobs.
DB:  Also, the way I wrote code was like art: I was creating something. I was criticized for not following certain orders, you know. I mean, my code worked, I was employed but I followed a very intuitive flow. I was going into reverie. It was fun.

DY:  Fast forward to today: what do you like most about your current job?
DB:  I love that I continue growing while doing it. I’ve always been committed to my own healing. I like being my own boss in private practice. I enjoy collaborating with like-minded colleagues who are passionate about the human experience and creating change for the better. I love the fact that in especially post-partum time and pregnancy, I can actually see people get well. What I especially enjoy about working with perinatal time is the depth of work that happens that is harder to access as directly in other times. It’s such a transforming experience: the mother literally has to open up for a very vibrant and needful young part of her to show up, which very much invites the mother’s vulnerable and needful part to be in the forefront. People can make some serious fundamental changes during this time that normally you don’t have access to. It’s a unique version of a transformative crisis.

DY:  It may also be more acute?
DB:  Yes! And for me, right now, the empty nest phase is the same process. When you’re launching your children, just to separate psychologically and let go, you feel many squeezes that the child feels as well, and then it’s like “who am I now?” I found these two experiences to be very parallel. And I could see it coming in waves: squeezes and releases getting to a point when it’s clear you need to let go. Very much parallel to giving birth. So, right before giving birth there’s the nesting experience, people are scrubbing the floor… for me, I was cleaning this closet here. I couldn’t stop cleaning that closet, not knowing why. Fast forward after I dropped my first baby in DC for college, I came back and the following morning, I was cleaning the same closet, not knowing why again. When I finished cleaning that closet, I realized it was the same nesting activity. So, it was helpful for me to compare it to the process of giving birth. It’s individuating.

DY:  Exactly, like giving birth to a transformed mother. So after all these years, how do you find the inspiration to continue doing this job?
DB:  There is a commitment that is much deeper than I know, I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t want to sound too hokey here, but I do believe that it was given to me: I was very blessed to have had therapists who would not change their schedule or cancel on me. Because when there were breaks, I could feel the impact of it. I also really connect and love my patients dearly: there’s such a deep privilege in connecting with somebody soul to soul. Does that make sense?
DY:  Yes, definitely.
DB:  And another thing, I believe, is important: I continue to study. I am part of a consultation group and we actually study. We read theory and we apply cases to it. I also do individual consultation three times per week. For me, that’s a big part of remaining inspired: when I see what’s happening behind the scenes and I can apply the theory, it’s really invigorating, it’s hopeful, and I don’t feel so beat up. Negative transference, for example, once I can digest it, make sense out of it and offer it to my patient, it gives me so much hope.

DY:  Hearing you say that you continue to consult so actively and that you are constantly learning is very comforting for me as a new licensed therapist.
DB:  One of my first teachers actually said, “the day you think you know what you’re doing is the day you need to give this up.” And this is the beauty of this craft. When I can see more clearly, through the help of a consultant, the relational role that I play with some of my clients… Then there is more room to separate and be able to think; that brings freedom for everybody!

DY:  What’s the focus in your practice?
DB:  I do mainly perinatal, pregnancy, and post-partum; I also enjoy doing cross-cultural and addiction/recovery work.
DY:  So, what led you into perinatal?
DB:  I had an Object Relations class the year before I became a mother, and I was really fascinated by the mother-baby theories, like the Mahler developmental model, and I also loved Winnicott’s theories. When I had the baby, I literally went back to my notes asking myself “what’s the good enough mothering?” I did love the Object Relations ideas and then, when I had the baby in my hands and was observing the concepts, that was so intriguing for me. I could integrate the knowledge into the actual experience. And then, of course, I had my own struggles with postpartum. People were saying “of course, you’ve got a new baby” but sadly I discovered that I was not being listened to. So, that became my dream: I didn’t want another woman go to through the same thing. We are wounded healers! I was so aware, I was open, I wanted help but it was not available to me. Things have improved now, but it’s difficult for women and we still have a long way to go.

DY:  I also enjoy Winnicott's theories! How do you integrate this knowing into your practice?
DB:  What I’ve learned is: when you have a baby, the body goes through physical trauma and it’s considered normal. Mentally, however, you, the mother, are supposed to remain intact, wake up one day and be the queen of breastfeeding, sex six weeks after, and sleep through the night; which at best is crazy making. This is what I love about Winnicott: the mother needs to attune to the baby’s states so, for example, the baby disintegrates and cries. Think of a new baby’s cry: it’s a cry of life and death “if you don’t come to me I’m going to die.” So, as a therapist [mother], I have to feel and pick up what’s going on with the patient and that’s how I can read the patient [baby] and know how to take care of the patient [baby]. You have to feel it inside of you. Now, if I, the mother, have difficulties with difficult emotions like anger and rage, which babies have a lot, this will be very challenging to manage. Some women, for example, may need to shut themselves off to it. Therefore, in my work with women, I don’t want to repress the symptoms. I want to help contain and work with them.  And, I think children continue to give the  opportunity for growth throughout the different stages of development. Teaching the mother to love what is… stay present…

DY:  Dolat, what’s your approach to therapy?
DB:  Depends on my setting. One year after I was licensed, I stumbled on a job at El Camino Hospital. I had the chance to be a part of helping develop the MOMS (Maternal Outreach Mood Services) program, had the freedom and the creativity to put many of the pieces together. For example, one of my favorite group work was putting Mahler’s developmental stages on the board: we looked at each person’s baby, how old the baby was, and we looked at the mother’s anxieties, the anxiety symptoms: they matched the babies’ development stages. When I explained what was going on, the mothers knew they were not crazy. At the hospital I know we are at the ER of mental health, we’re not going to do surgery: we’re going to do X-rays, stabilize people and steer them to specialists. I used more mindfulness and CBT-kind of concepts but I always had an eye on attachment, I always looked at the baby and the mother together. In my private practice, I also help stabilize clients in crisis, but I definitely have more chance to work in depth. For example, I work with highly successful women (attorneys, VPs, etc.) who have to sometimes go on disability because of their extreme anxiety: these women have to realize that they’ve been so independent and have had to be successful in a man’s world, which is more of a left-brain skill. Now with a baby, there’s nothing left-brain about it. The entanglement inside the mother needs to open up. So it [the symptom] is a vehicle, it’s not broken-ness.

DY:  That’s more of a psychodynamic and psychoanalytic approach that you have in your practice!
DB:  Yes, I go in and out of it. For the psychoanalytic piece of it, people have a more eclectic view of this, but I become the mother of the mother (I don’t tell this to the client): I become the container for the mother as she’s the container for the baby, and people do get better.
DY:  This reminds me of the Russian dolls! Did your focus change over the years?
DB:  I dabbled in different things, so I saw kids, I did work with parents, and perpetrators of domestic violence, but I was never attracted to it. Perinatal is what I love and I stuck to it.

DY:  What makes you vibrate to psychodynamic or psychoanalytic theories?
DB:  Can you actually see that I vibrate? There’s something very attractive to me in trying to understand the unconscious process: it feels like it answers questions that may not be easily answered. When I work with someone, I stay present to what’s going on in the relationship, present in the moment, in the transference and especially in the countertransference; I am an instrument. When I work in the relationship, I work with people trying to understand what inside of them closes them off to aliveness, and I can help have a pulse on that. Once those arenas become more known, I don’t claim that they get opened up or healed as I believe we continue to become whole throughout life, but once someone can start receiving and connecting to more aliveness, then the spirit of who they are has a way to shine through. They have a fountain inside of them that feeds them even more. I read this somewhere: the surgeon says “you know, I do the stitching but I don’t do the healing.”
DY:  That’s very  beautiful.
DB:  So, that’s kind of how it feels. There’s a kind of alignment and people can be connected to their higher self [laughs]. I don’t know how to say this so people don’t think it’s too hokey!

DY:  We’ve had a theme for each newsletter this year and this time, I wanted to speak about psychodynamics. There’s a place for all approaches, and there’s a renewed interest for approaches that are more depth-oriented; you’re talking to it. I saw on your website that you did workshops for quite a bit. Do you still do workshops?
DB:  I’ve always liked teaching. When I was at El Camino Hospital, I kept seeing women making it to the hospital, in crisis, and so much could have been prevented. So, I created Mind the Gap groups to teach mindfulness and attachment. We did a lot of exercises like Mahler’s “when do you know your perfectionism kicks in?” I do Mind the Gap workshops when I can get a cohort. I also teach meditation and do meditation groups: we listen to ancient scriptures or poetry without knowing their meaning and I use my therapist skills to facilitate and link up what comes up for the group.

DY:  That sounds quite fascinating. You have a pretty full practice: what do you do for self-care?
DB:  Definitely my own mental health care; I see it as an important part of what I have to offer. I do yoga regularly, and I love to play Daf, which is a Middle Eastern drum. I love gardening and I was getting regular massages before COVID... And I meditate regularly.
DY:  That’s quite a nice palette of various activities that you do to take care of yourself. Do you  read much?
DB:  Yeah, but one of my problems is I can’t stay on one book, I have to have many open books…

DY:  You’re more holistic, maybe…
DB:  Thank you! You set me free… Right now, I’m reading the book The Sacred Art of Recovery, written by Ramy Shapiro, I love this book. And then, I’m also reading one of my favorite books, The Healing, a story about slave midwives, written by Jonathan Odell.

DY:  We're at the end of the interview. So, here’s my last question: is there a quote or a saying that you like and would like to share with us?
DB:  “May we be among those who renew the world” from Zarathustra. I thought about our talk and I thought this just describes the whole point of therapy: when I’m not stuck in my old patterns, then I can really be among the renewal of life today.
DY:  Dolat, thank you for your time and for the drumming! This was a lot of fun.

Dominique Yarritu, LMFT is the editor of the SCV-CAMFT News newsletter and is a newly licensed marriage and family therapist who focuses her practice on adults and couples using a psychodynamic and Jungian approach. She is a doctoral candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Depth Psychology with an emphasis in Somatic Studies and is currently training in somatic experiencing. She sees adults and couples in private practice at Family Matters Counseling Services and she can be reached at


Odell, J. (2012). The healing. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
Shapiro, R. R. (2009). Recovery—the sacred art: The twelve steps as spiritual practice. Woodstock, VT: SkyLight Paths Publishing.

back to the Winter 2020 Newsletter


SCV-CAMFT               P.O. Box 60814, Palo Alto, CA 94306                  408-721-2010

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software