How We Can Help

Hello and welcome to our web site. If you are reading this, you may be struggling with depression, sadness, or anxiety. You may be in the middle of a difficult break-up, or the discovery of infidelity.


Perhaps you are planning to marry, looking to improve your marriage, or trying to decide whether or not to remain in your current romantic relationship.


We have had the privilege of helping many people work through these and other challenges in order to build happier, healthier lives.


Our specialties include couples therapy, addressing infidelity, adjusting to break-ups, relationship skill-building, communication enhancement, navigating divorce, self-esteem building, and pre-marital counseling.


— Elisabeth Joy LaMotte, founder


Learn More

What We Do

Help You Improve Your Relationships
We teach concrete relationship skills that help clients build stronger, happier, more intimate relationships with family, friends and romantic partners.

If you are experiencing a difficult break-up, a divorce, or the painful discovery of infidelity, we will help you work through the many levels of loss that are common to such challenges. We help our clients find opportunities for growth in spite of these painful scenarios.

If you want to improve your marriage or seek pre-marital counseling, our approach considers each partner as an essential player in the relationship’s strengths and weaknesses. We teach relevant psychological theories to help you work on both yourself and your relationships.


Help You Achieve Your Goals
Whether you are looking to build self-esteem, become a better communicator, manage anxiety or relieve depression, we work with clients to set concrete goals and take clear steps to achieve them. In addition, we help clients gain insights necessary to improve their lives.

We suggest resources so that the therapy is happening not just in our office, but outside of the office, in your lives. To this end, specific books, films, web sites and articles are suggested and tailored to the needs and interests of each client.


Periodic Group Seminars on Relationships
We periodically run group seminars on relationships. The next group will take place on Sunday, June 11th, 2017. To learn more about these seminars, and find out details about the next session, click on the button below. 

Upcoming Group Seminars


Niki Novak LMFT is now a participating provider in the Blue Cross network.  Blue Cross members seeking individual or couples therapy can learn more about Niki through the about and contact tabs. You can also reach out to Niki directly to schedule an appointment:

We are pleased to announce that Spencer Northey joined our practice in March. She is seeing clients at our Capitol Hill location on Sunday afternoons. To learn more about Spencer, visit the about tab for a full bio.

In the News…


Elisabeth’s article about using films as a catalyst for change was featured on the Washington Post home page.  The comprehensive, unedited version of this article is posted here.


One of the signature aspects of our practice is that we suggest books and films that are specific to our clients’ interests and concerns.  For many years, we have integrated these resources into our therapy, and our clinical experience has been that the use of appropriate films and books enhances the effectiveness of therapy.  New research has validated the clinical benefits of our approach.  You can find out more in this report from the New York Times.  In February, 2016, Elisabeth was honored to have the opportunity to present strategies for this approach at the annual conference of the American Group Psychotherapy Association.


In April, Elisabeth commented for Huffington Post habits of resilience among married couples. In March, she was honored to present at the American Group Psychotherapy Association Annual Meeting. In January, Elisabeth was interviewed by the Huffington Post about things that matter less that you think when it comes to committed relationships and about what couples therapists notice in a first therapy session. In December, Elisabeth was interviewed about qualities that lead to lasting relationships and also about frequent sources of tension for couples during the holiday season. In October, Elisabeth was interviewed about reasons for constant marital conflict.  In July, Elisabeth was interviewed by the Huffington Post  about common co-parenting challenges divorced parents face.  In May, she was interviewed about things married men dread hearing from their wives.  In April, she was featured in an article about the signs that you’re not ready to marry and  signs that your marriage is worth saving.  In March, she was also featured in an article about the signs of a strong and satisfying relationship and ways to find closure in the wake of divorce.   She was also recently interviewed about difficult but important topics to discuss before committing to marriage.  Elisabeth spoke with W radio, one of the most popular radio stations in Latin America, to discuss internet dating and the psychological components of the common exit strategy of “ghosting”.  She was also interviewed by the Huffington Post about why women sometimes develop a pattern of choosing unsuitable partners.   Her post about men in couples therapy was also featured on the divorce page of the Huffington Post.  In November, Elisabeth’s article on the importance of endings is featured in The National Psychologist.  In October, Elisabeth was interviewed by the Huffington Post for an article about common complaints among men in couples therapy.  In September, Elisabeth was featured on the NASW website for her article about “ghosting” and Elisabeth was interviewed for an article in Urban Family about how divorce impacts the friends of the divorcing couple.    In August, 2015 Elisabeth’s article on divorce was featured in the New Social Worker.  In January, 2015, Elisabeth was quoted in the Washington Post Express discussing couples moving in together.

We are pleased to announce that Niki Novak LMFT and Spencer Northey LMFT are now holding office hours at a new location: 316 F Street NE, Washington, DC 20002.  Please contact Niki or Spencer directly to schedule an appointment. or

Latest Posts

Cinematherapy/Bibliotherapy Blog

Questions of the Month



Our Approach


Cinema/Bibliotherapy Blog

Questions of the Month

Elisabeth Joy LaMotte: Founder & Executive Director
Niki Novak: Director of Training & Development
Sarah Spencer Northey

Contact Us!

  • For more information about the Center and our therapists, contact Elisabeth LaMotte at 202-333-7424, or
  • For Niki Novak: 202-596-6454, or
  • For Spencer Northey: 202-656-7818, or


  • Hillbilly Elegy

    “I don’t believe in epiphanies. I don’t believe in transformative moments, as transformation is harder than a moment. I’ve seen far too many people awash in a genuine desire to change only to lose their mettle when they realized just how difficult change actually is.”

    What factors facilitate authentic change? And what traits of character and various factors allow some people to overcome adversity while others become paralyzed? The urge to create a change is always a part of therapy. If therapy is successful, clients should be able to identify a substantive change by the time they conclude.

    Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance traces the author’s unexpected trajectory from poverty to Yale Law School. Vance’s series of childhood homes are broken, patched up, broken again, bandaged back together only to become shattered yet again. Instead of buckling in the face of hardship, Vance shows fortitude and undergoes a transformation.

    Vance introduces himself as a quintessential hillbilly: “Americans call them hillbillies, rednecks, or white trash. I call them neighbors, friends and family.” Through each upheaval, Vance remains a likeable and steadfast character whose bond with his unconventional, crude, loving grandmother “Mamaw” represents his emotional anchor and internal salvation. Mamaw’s colorful cultural compass animates this page-turning read:

    “Jacksonians say hello to everyone, willingly skip their favorite pastimes to dig a stranger’s car out of the snow, and – without exception – stop their cars, get out, and stand at attention every time a funeral motorcade drives past. It was the latter practice that made me aware of something special about Jackson and its people. Why, I’d ask my grandma – whom we all called Mamaw- did everyone stop for the passing hearse? ‘Because, honey, we’re hill people. And we respect our dead.’”

    Hillbilly Elegy has received endless praise and spent many months on several bestsellers lists. Vance’s ability to tap into the cultural zeitgeist that influenced the 2016 Presidential election is an obvious factor catapulting his book to must-read status. Equally striking is Vance’s intuitive understanding and ability to write about how a psychological parent does not need to be the actual parent. A supportive, loving presence in a child’s life can make up for what may be lacking elsewhere and can provide the necessary parenting that facilitates an authentic change. Mamaw is clearly Vance’s primary psychological parent, even during the many years when he does not live with her. He routinely dashes over to her home as a respite from his mother’s drug addiction and volatile love life. His most significant transformation takes place during the years when he convinces his mother to allow him to move in with Mamaw. While financially disadvantaged and utterly uneducated, Mamaw is always willing to spend money on Vance’s educational necessities:

    “If Mamaw could drop $180 on a graphing calculator – she insisted that I spend none of my own money – then I had better take schoolwork more seriously. I owed it to her, and she reminded me of it constantly. “Have you finished your work for that Selby teacher?” “No Mamaw, not yet.” “You damn well better start. I didn’t spend every penny I had on a little computer so that you could fuck around all day.” Those three years with Mamaw – uninterrupted and alone – saved me. I didn’t notice the causality of the change, how living with her turned my life around.”

    Mamaw’s essential influence is enhanced when Vance enlists in the Marines. He loses a lot of weight, develops discipline, and builds a modicum of financial stability. His self-esteem flourishes during his service, and he is able to parlay his grandmother’s love, his innate intelligence, and his military experience to become a remarkable student.

    Change is not a simple process, nor is it always a straightforward trajectory. Many therapy clients long for an epiphany, and once in a while this wish is fulfilled. Even Vance senses a modest epiphany during his deployment. During an Iraqi mission a small boy approaches him and holds out his open hand. Vance gives him a small eraser. The boys face ignites with delight and Vance acknowledges a shift, despite his disbelief in epiphanies:

    “That moment, with that boy, was pretty close for me. For my entire life, I’d harbored resentment at the world. I was mad at my mother and father, mad that I rode the bus to school while other kids caught rides with friends, mad that my clothes didn’t come from Abercrombie, mad that my grandfather died, mad that we lived in a small house. That resentment didn’t vanish in an instant, but as I stood and surveyed the mass of children of a war-torn nation, their school without running water and that overjoyed boy, I began to appreciate how lucky I was: born in the greatest country on earth, every modern convenience at my fingertips, supported by two loving hillbillies.”

    Vance’s engaging and insightful observations as he documents his transformation is inspiring, enlightening and humbling.