Santa Barbara psychologist
805 . 448 . 7866

Santa Barbara psychologist

Superior mental health is an essential ingredient for developing and maintaining physical and spiritual well-being. Dr. Sharon Tobler is a Santa Barbara, California psychologist offering a wide range of counseling and psychotherapy services to individuals, couples and groups coming not only from Santa Barbara, but also Goleta, Santa Ynez, Carpinteria, Montecito, Buellton and Ventura.

As a therapist, she treats not only the typical reasons why clients seek therapy, such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem and stress reduction, but also individuals and couples who desire relationship therapy or more commonly called marriage counseling or marital therapy. A more complete range of services is listed below.

Services Offered

Help with:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stress reduction
  • low self esteem
  • communication skills
  • relationship challenges
  • couple enrichment / therapy
  • separation & divorce
  • addiction / codependency
  • phobias
  • anger management
  • issues of control
  • conflict resolution
  • life transitions
  • blended families
  • sexual concerns
  • LGBTQ issues
  • post traumatic stress
  • chronic pain/illness
  • terminal illness
  • grief & loss
  • spiritual crises
  • supervision of mental health professionals
  • consultations to businesses

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Santa Barbara psychologist


Santa Barbara therapist and counselor, Dr. Sharon Tobler Dr. Tobler grew up overseas. She lived in Europe, the Far and Middle East. She returned to the United States as a young adult to begin her undergraduate work at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Tobler is a clinical psychologist licensed in four states: California, Florida, Maryland, and Virginia. She received her doctorate in 1984 from the University of Maryland and saw private clients in the Washington, D.C. area until 1995 at which point she relocated to Southwest Florida to devote a portion of her career to writing. In 2014, she moved to Santa Barbara, California where she currently practices and writes.
She is well versed in psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral and humanistic theory.

Additionally, she has been trained in gestalt and imagery, a subset of the humanistic model.

Dr. Tobler is an eclectic psychotherapist with a bio-psychosocial perspective. Each client’s unique temperament and situational challenge is carefully assessed to determine the combination of therapy skills that will most benefit the individual person and condition. 

keys to mental healthShe wholeheartedly agrees with the numerous research studies demonstrating that the mainstream methods of treatment are about equal in effectiveness; and that the true keys to successful therapy are: client motivation, therapist competence, and the quality of the client-therapist relationship.

Dr. Tobler is informal yet professional. She is interactive and remarkably candid. Her sense of humor is appreciated. In addition to treating individuals, she has been working with couples and groups for as long as she has been in practice.
She has authored two self-help books: 
Princes & Toads: Men Worth Keeping ... Men to Throw Away, New and Revised Edition
Princes & Toads: Men Worth Keeping … Men to Throw Away, Companion Workbook

member APA Clinical Member, APA (American Psychological Association)
  member AAMFT Clinical Member, AAMFT (American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy)

relationship counseling

Certified Leader, PAIRS (Practical Application of Intimate Relationship Skills) PAIRS is an international foundation dedicated to teaching the necessary skills to create and maintain satisfying, healthy and loving relationships.
Santa Barbara psychologist


Hollister Professional Park
Sharon Tobler, Ph.D.
Goleta Valley Medical Plaza

5333 Hollister Avenue, Suite 295
Santa Barbara, CA  93111
phone: 805 . 448 . 7866

Free On Site Parking.

Santa Barbara psychologist


Princes & Toads

Princes and Toads by Sharon Tobler, Ph.D.Dr. Tobler has authored two self-help books:

Princes & Toads: Men Worth Keeping ... Men to Throw Away, New and Revised Edition

Princes & Toads: Men Worth Keeping … Men to Throw Away, Companion Workbook

Since in real life you can’t turn a toad into a prince with a kiss, Princes & Toads, a user-friendly guide, offers sound advice to help you tell the difference between the two. It is packed with sharp-witted, self-contained tell-it-like-it-is “nuggets” that inspire self-confidence and self-respect. Although its title implies that Princes & Toads is for heterosexual women seeking men, its content is really about how to have a healthy and loving partnership irrespective of gender or sexual proclivity.
What makes this nugget format unique is that it may be used in a multitude of ways:

The Companion Workbook goes beyond an intellectual understanding of Princes & Toads offering concrete things that you can do and think about in order to improve your odds in preparing, hunting, deciding, keeping and committing to your partner.

Order Princes & Toads and the Companion Workbook


Santa Barbara psychologist

Choosing a Therapist

How do I know that it is time to look for a therapist … “When you are stuck.” M. Scott Peck, MD

How do I find a good therapist for individual or couples therapy…
Before you begin your search think about whether you have a preference for the gender of the therapist; also what personality characteristics would be most or least appealing. Do not be as concerned with the method of treatment, theoretical orientation or letters after the name, as you are with whether the therapist is competent and how comfortable you feel with him/her. The therapist should be licensed if the state requires it. How motivated you are to do the work is also an extremely important variable regarding successful outcome.

Take your choice seriously. This is not someone you will see once a year for a physical. This is someone with whom you will form an intimate psychological bond. A person you will learn to trust in order for you to succeed. Word of mouth is always the best way to find your therapist. If that isn’t possible, visiting the person’s website is a good second choice. Make contact with as many therapists as you wish at no cost to you by calling and/or emailing them. How they respond to your phone call or email will give you the first hint as to whether this is someone with whom you will want further contact. It is my opinion that you will get a stronger intuitive sense about this person if you stick to the phone as opposed to emailing, however, you may prefer the more impersonal method. Does he/she take days to respond to your inquiry? Does he/she respond directly or does the receptionist return your message? How willing is he/she to spend a few minutes with you over the phone prior to suggesting a time to meet? Does it appear that he/she is more interested in “serving” or “selling”? After you have spoken with as many therapists as you wish over the phone, narrow it down to one or two with whom you will choose to meet.

Remember that during the initial session, you are interviewing the therapist as much as he/she is interviewing you. Do not hesitate to ask pertinent questions. You are entitled to respectful, honest answers. Rely on your intuitive judgment to determine whether this therapist is skilled and genuinely caring. If you have any doubts, interview at least one other individual.

Entering psychotherapy is a very courageous act. I commend you for taking the step and in spite of all its challenging components, I believe a successful psychotherapeutic experience is transforming and one of the most inspirational pilgrimages of this life.

Santa Barbara psychologist

Relationship Advice


What are the chances of the relationship surviving if there has been a cheat?
Relationships that have experienced a betrayal have a high mortality rate because trust is the bedrock of a healthy and loving relationship. An affair is an indication that something has gone wrong in the primary bond. The trust has been severed.  It is your job (as a couple) to figure out what went awry and whether the trust can ever be restored. Generally it is advisable to seek professional help. A therapist who specializes in marriage counseling would be best. The rule of thumb regarding what each partner needs to do to heal the relationship is that the betrayer needs to “clean up the mess” and the betrayed needs to forgive (not forget... that is not possible). 

How long will it take to get over the betrayal?
A year would not be an unreasonable time frame; sometimes longer. The key is to assess whether generally the quality of the partnership has improved. Be patient if you BOTH truly want to save it. If one of you is not motivated to do the work, I suggest letting the relationship go. If you do not, you are setting yourself up for chronic pain. Letting it go creates acute pain, but in time the suffering ceases. Chronic pain is just that ... incurable and lasting forever.

How important is it for me to forgive?
Critical .... because if you don’t, it will eventually take a toll on your physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. An unwillingness to forgive is a recipe for chronic anxiety and/or depression as well as physical disease. Forgiving does NOT necessarily mean staying in the relationship. Forgiveness is about no longer being controlled by the person who committed the betrayal. It is NOT about excusing the bad behavior.

How do I know if I am addicted to a person?
There are at least 9 hallmarks:

  1. It is all consuming, sometimes to the detriment of completing day to day tasks.
  2. A feeling of panic at the thought of not having this person in your life.
  3. A compulsion to be in the relationship at any cost.
  4. Urges and impulses so strong that you act on them despite embarrassing or dangerous consequences (examples: countless calls or texts, showing up at his worksite, putting up with abusive behavior).
  5. Your self esteem drops.
  6. Feeling controlled (your actions, your thoughts, your feelings) by the relationship.
  7. The idea of terminating the relationship or actually doing it results in physical and emotional withdrawal symptoms just like withdrawing from a chemical substance, that are relieved when contact is resumed.
  8. You do or tolerate things that you are ashamed to admit to others.
  9. After the mourning period is complete there is often a feeling of liberation, almost a physical high which is not the case when a loss occurs that is not addictive in nature.

The reason most people become addicted is because of an inward sense of emptiness or despair coupled with an experience from the outside that temporarily relieves the pain or produces a high. The result is a conviction that this outside connection will remedy the internal distress.

If I date my prince long enough, will I be able to change him?
NO you cannot change him! Only he can change himself. You also cannot be his savior .... or his mother.

How much does my family of origin experience have to do with my relationship with a partner?
A lot  …  Family of origin history does dramatically affect every aspect of your life. A romantic relationship is often a replication of the relationship you had with your primary caregivers. It can either heal or further harm you depending on how you choose to engage in the partnership. Becoming CONSCIOUS is the solution. You must uncover the old wounds and take action to heal them otherwise you are doomed to repeat the hurts of the past. You have the ability to overcome extreme family of origin adversity and it is your responsibility to reprogram your adult self; blaming will get you nowhere.

How important is good communication?
Critical! Most people have not been taught how to effectively communicate. No one can read your mind ... you have to learn to speak up if you want to be heard. The three skills you need to master in the art of communication are ... listening, talking and negotiating. When you have listened well, you are able to paraphrase what was said. Effective talking is: direct, clear, honest, succinct, specific, tactful, respectful and precise. Tone matters! A successful negotiation is one in which both parties win. When there is a winner and a loser, the loser will resent. Resentment is the killer of relationships.

What are some of the warning bells that this relationship may not be viable?

  • dating exclusively for more than 3 months and you have not met the family and/or friends.
  • have not heard your partner’s feelings toward you
  • no talk about the future
  • calling you less
  • you are only doing want he/she wants to do
  • he/she still has regular contact with the ex
  • you are putting more into the relationship than your partner
  • your self esteem has diminished rather than improved

Can I have a successful relationship with a narcissist?
Narcissism is a mental disorder in which the sufferer lacks the ability to experience empathy and is wholly and totally self-absorbed, often to the point of exploitation of others in order to achieve his own ends. He expects constant admiration and attention. He feels absolutely entitled. These features are not conducive to the establishment of a healthy and loving relationship. Narcissism, like all the other mental disorders, is on a spectrum ranging from mild to malignant. You have to decide how malignant the narcissist you are considering is.

What are the most frequently cited issues of contention in long term relationships?

  • money
  • sex
  • family ( children, stepchildren, parents, in-laws, siblings)

What are some of the things I need to determine before deciding to get married?

  • ask friends and family for their assessment of your prospective partner
  • mutual life goals
  • values
  • the career path
  • finances
  • do we want kids. Two votes for Yes ... One vote for No
  • will the partner be a good parent
  • in sync regarding how we care for aging parents
  • do we want pets
  • housekeeping styles
  • partner’s family
  • how partner treats his/her family, your family, friends, pets, children, service people ....
  • level of eduction
  • intellectually suited
  • spirituality in sync
  • taking care of partner
  • partner taking care of you
  • play
  • like as well as love
  • integrity
  • good heart
  • responsible
  • reliable
  • courageous
  • considerate
  • caring
  • honest
  • sexual attraction
  • commitment
  • personal growth goals
  • the list is endless ... your partner cannot possibly meet all the criteria, set your priority list and decide whether he/she meets enough of your most important standards.

These nuggets are but a few from my NEW & REVISED Edition of Princes & Toads.


Santa Barbara psychologist

Women Seeking Men

you are not going to meet the prince … if you stay at home.

singlehood is not a second class position ... it offers many opportunities to discover who you really are outside of your roles as daughter, mother, wife, etc ... It provides freedoms that you do not have when you are in a relationship.

do not be a woman who makes a career of falling in love with narcissists …  As long as you are attached to one, you will not be happy.

all of his POTENTIAL ... and $4.75 will get you a cup of coffee ....

it really is OK to ask him out … if he doesn’t think so, move on.

generally speaking ... bad boys and boy toys make great dates but not great mates.

bars are meat markets … only go there if you are looking for meat.

do not waste ... your valuable time on someone who is not into you.

if he is a hunk … he may be more interested in devoting his time to what he looks like than who he is. Sometimes this is not the case. Some people are just naturally beautiful, however, it is good to assess which it is before diving in too deep.  If you want a man of substance pay special attention to what he has developed inside.

if all women insisted on good men ... men would be forced to take the road of wanting to be a better man ... Many men make the choice to grow because they love a certain woman who will not tolerate his bad behavior.

playing hard to get is manipulative and dishonest.

most men who act like jerks ... do it because women let them!

do not sacrifice any part of yourself … to any man. It will thwart your self-love.

toads ... may be exciting, charming, smart, and very hard to resist ... but they are still toads.

never break a date with a woman friend to go out with a man. It is your women friends who will remain by your side through trials, tribulations and heartbreaks.

you will chase him away ... if you start talking about marriage and kids too early .... stop being so concerned about getting married and start being more focused on the quality of the relationship. If it is meant to be, he will propose.

don’t settle!

when he has proposed ... and you have accepted .....stop concentrating so much on the wedding day and start focusing on the marriage to be.

getting involved with married men is a disaster …This is a waste of your precious time. In this triangle there is always waiting and you are the one doing it. He may tell you that he is getting a divorce, has lived in a separate bedroom and not had sex with his wife for 10 years. Despite all his proclamations, he generally will not leave his wife to be with you. And if he does, he comes with a huge amount of emotional baggage. And do not convince yourself that he is safe to date if he is physically separated. Bottom line, he is still married.

do not deny or ignore the road signs … If you see some red flags, do not conclude that you will be able to change him or that those disturbing characteristics will disappear as the relationship progresses. They will not! He will only change if he sees the problem and does not like what he sees. Everyone has “issues,” however, so you will have to decide whether those “issues” you uncover are deal breakers.

before you get too far into the relationship, determine whether he is available … The signs are evident at the beginning if you are looking for them.

if your pattern is to become involved with unavailable men … you may want to explore your own fears regarding intimacy and commitment.

it is a foregone conclusion that if you decide to venture into the world of prince-seeking you will experience fear … We fear being seen, we fear rejection, we fear being smothered, we fear the unknown. Fear is a constant companion. The trick is to be sure that it is not ruling you. And how do you manage fear? By doing what you are afraid of.

be careful not to confuse money with love … Just because he is spending money on you does not mean that he cares. Notice whether he is spending time, energy, and effort.

if you do not trust your prince, it may be time to consider moving on.

if you were dumped … it is very tempting to take it personally. Don’t!  Use the experience as a learning tool to discover what your part was in the relationship’s demise, so that you will not make the same mistake in the future.

if he appears to be “too good to be true” … he probably is.

These nuggets are but a few from my NEW & REVISED Edition of Princes & Toads.


Santa Barbara psychologist


all the data needed to determine ... whether your person is a keeper, is in very soon after you meet ... often by the end of the first date.

our greatest personality assets … are always our greatest character liabilities. What we do best in the world, or how others mostly perceive us, is always a behavior that becomes our curse. For example, if you are known as a “Saint” type, you are also probably a “Doris Doormat.” The goal is to resolve the challenge of Doris without giving up the “Saint.”

it really is true ... that you won’t love or be loved until you love yourself.

how do I develop Self-Love? ... by setting baby step self-love goals and accomplishing them. I cannot emphasize enough that starting with attainable goals is paramount since the key to development of self-love is the successful accomplishment of these goals. The other necessary ingredient is eliminating negative self talk. These two components are also the keys to stepping out of a depression.

you will have significantly more respect for yourself ... if you resist becoming involved with someone you know will not be good for you.

you are significantly more likely to pick a bad partner ... if you have low self esteem.

how can you expect your partner to love you ... if you don’t love yourself.

hearts are like eggs ... they cannot nourish until they have been broken. Cherish your broken heart.

guilt is a wasted emotion ... holding on to guilt may cause physical, emotional and spiritual harm; adult decisions are driven by conscience.

you do not love someone when you believe you cannot live without him/her ... you are dependent. M.Scott Peck, MD (The Roadless Traveled) says it very well: “Dependency may appear to be love because it is a force that causes people to fiercely attach themselves to one another. But in actuality it is not love; it is a form of antilove. It has its genesis in a parental failure to love. It seeks to receive rather than to give. It nourishes infantilism rather than growth. It works to trap and constrict rather than to liberate. Ultimately it destroys rather than builds relationships and it destroys rather than builds people.”

feeling lonely ... is a sign that you are not enjoying your own company.

in the realm of romantic relationships ... two halves equal two halves.

most of us would rather stay in familiar misery ... than risk venturing into unknown bliss.

the more you fill yourself up .... the more you have to give.

the greatest life lessons are usually learned from perceived failures ... so always think of a failure as an opportunity.

do not be afraid to suffer ... it is one of our greatest teachers.

developing a meaningful and healthy relationship takes time ... you cannot hurry mother nature.

the only one being hurt by a grudge ... is the one holding it.

the truth will set you free ... but first it may make you miserable.

think of boundaries as sandboxes ... your sandbox is your sandbox, his/her sandbox is his/her sandbox ... you do not belong in each other’s sandbox without an invitation.

it is never acceptable ... to fight in front of the kids.

children learn what they observe ... not what they are told.

positive reinforcement ... promises more long lasting success than punishment.

words empower and disempower ... delete: try, can’t and should from your vocabulary. say: allow more often. Notice how different it feels when you say: “he takes me for granted”, verses, “I allow him to take me for granted”.

anticipatory anxiety is almost always worse ... than the feared object or experience.

mastering the art of letting go is a valuable life-lesson … as life really is a series of hellos and goodbyes. The ability to let go of whom or what was in the past provides space for who or what is in the present or future.

do not be afraid to make decisions … They are life-lessons.

no decision … is a decision. Just like not acting is an action.

of all the misconceptions about love, the most powerful and pervasive is ... the belief that falling in love IS love or at least one of the manifestations of love. 

the most positive reason for falling in love is … that it provides the opportunity to transition from the love myth to genuine love.

falling in love is an unconscious act … staying in love is a conscious one.

the longer you stay in a bad situation ... the harder it is to get out.

the norms that you live by for the duration of the relationship ... are being formed from the minute you meet.

the rules of the relationship ... are already etched in granite by the time you walk down the aisle.

do you prefer acute or chronic pain? ... if you choose to leave a bad situation, the pain will be acute, but in time the pain will end. If you stay in a bad situation you are promised chronic pain.

a very important question to ask yourself when you begin to assess the prospect is ... “Would I want my best friend or sibling involved with this person?”

remember that when you marry ... you are marrying your partner’s family.

believing that your partner causes you pain and pleasure is a myth ... those feelings are already a part of you. That person simply brings out what is already inside.

the only thing others will observe is your behavior .... no one knows what you are feeling or thinking.

feelings just are .... you cannot control them .... but you CAN control your thoughts and behaviors which will have a profound impact on your feelings. Positive thoughts and behaviors beget positive feelings, the opposite is also true.

there are 5 major feelings ... mad, sad, glad, scared, bad (shame). All the other words we use to express feelings are derivatives or combinations. You need to be able to recognize and express your feelings in order to have a successful relationship.

unacceptable behavior is just that ... unacceptable ... do not compromise yourself.

in relationships there are only perceptions, not realities … The goal is to meet and understand each other’s perceptions.

LAT or Living Apart Together … is a current trend in which committed (married and unmarried) couples make a decision to live apart when living together is also an option. Whichever decision you make, be sure that it has been made consciously and with forethought. 

LAT is not for everybody … however, it is my opinion that for some, making the choice to live apart is the difference between staying together and ending the relationship.

These nuggets are but a few from my NEW & REVISED Edition of Princes & Toads.