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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Copyright 2016 Terms & Conditions Site by Papyrus

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 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 psychologist 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 that 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.

Copyright 2016-2020

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, texting, and/or emailing them. How they respond 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 call as opposed to the more impersonal modes of communication. Does he/she take days to respond to your message? Does he/she reply directly or does the receptionist respond to your inquiry? 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 made contact with as many therapists as you wish, 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. 

Copyright 2016-2020

Santa Barbara psychologist


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 others will get you nowhere.

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). "Cleaning up the mess” consists of making oneself completely transparent 24/7, as well as successfully conveying to the betrayed, his/her awareness of the devastation caused by the duplicitous behavior.

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! It is often believed that if one forgives the betrayer, one is condoning the act committed. This is not the case. Forgiveness has nothing to do with forgiving or not forgiving the bad act.

The purpose of forgiveness is to be free of the pain that was caused by the betrayal. Each time you ruminate about the betrayal, the betrayer holds power over you. Forgiveness eventually frees you of this control. You have opened the prison door and let yourself out.  An unwillingness to forgive is a recipe for chronic anxiety and/or depression as well as physical disease. Forgiveness does not determine whether you stay or leave the relationship. Either may occur.

What is the difference between a want and a need?
A want is something you would like to have. A need is something you have to have. The line between psychological wants and needs can be very thin. In assessing whether something is a want or a need, ask yourself whether you can be “ok” if you do not get it. If you can be, it is a want. If you feel physical or emotional pain which does not go away in a relatively short period of time when your request is denied, it is a need; however, examine whether that "need" is truly a need or actually is a wish for the partner to "fix" a past hurt that would be better served by learning to "fix" it yourself. (Remember that a partner is only expected to give you about 25% of your nurturance, the rest is for you to find within yourself. - David Richo, Ph. D.)

If your bona fide needs are continuously rejected or ignored in the relationship, you will chronically suffer. I suggest asking yourself whether remaining in that relationship is worth it. 

How do I know if I am addicted to a person?
There are at least 8 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/her worksite, wasting valuable hours scouring over social media, 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. Those symptoms are immediately relieved when contact is resumed.
  8. You do or tolerate things that you are ashamed to admit to others.

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.

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
  • contacting you less
  • you are only doing what 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

How often are FWB’s (friends with benefits) relationships successful?
Not very often. The only way they work is if both are on the same page and too often this is not the case. One becomes emotionally involved and things get complicated. If you are going to engage in such a relationship, know that you are playing with fire.

What is the difference between dependency and interdependency?
You do not love someone when you believe you cannot live without him/her, you are dependent. A relationship is not healthy when one or both partners are dependent on the other. The goal in a healthy and loving partnership is to be interdependent. An interdependent relationship is one in which both partners are psychologically healthy. They nurture each other, but not beyond twenty-five percent. They stretch beyond their emotional comfort zone for each other, but do not compromise their own integrity. They are quite capable of functioning independently, yet they are mutually reliant. They share power equally. They take responsibility for their actions. They do not depend on each other for self-love and self-respect. Differences are acknowledged and supported. Mutual respect is given. Being overly independent (i.e. asking each other for nothing) is not healthy either. The goal is to find the balance.

What is codependency?
It is the disease of “caring too much”. The codependent attempts to control the other’s life through enabling, covering, manipulating, and managing. The reason for the codependent’s behavior is to keep at bay his/her own feelings of discomfort ranging from embarrassment to paralyzing fear. If the codependent has the illusion of controlling the other’s behavior, those troublesome feelings are not aroused. This dyadic relationship is unhealthy for both. It prohibits emotional growth. It is toxic. The only way out, is for the codependent to give up the controlling behaviors and to face those, at times, extremely disquieting feelings resulting from that loss of control. When that is accomplished, there is relief, restored energy, improved self-esteem and significantly less resentment, for both parties.

Can I have a successful relationship with a narcissist?
Narcissism, with its many variations of how it is manifested, is a mental disorder in which the sufferer lacks the ability to experience empathy and is wholly and totally self-absorbed. He expects constant admiration and attention. He feels absolutely entitled. In order to achieve his own ends, he will do so overtly or covertly, exploiting others along the way. These characteristics 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 the mild to the malignant. You have to decide how malignant the narcissist you are considering is. Although narcissism is more prevalent in men, women also suffer from this disorder. (Beware: the "covert" narcissist is often more "dangerous" than the "overt" narcissist for obvious reasons.)

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

  • money
  • sex
  • family ( children, stepchildren, exes, 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
  • LAT (Living Apart Together) … Yes or No
  • partner’s family
  • how partner treats his/her family, your family, friends, pets, children, service people …
  • level of eduction
  • intellectually suited
  • religion/spirituality in sync
  • taking care of partner
  • partner taking care of you
  • play
  • like as well as love
  • integrity
  • good heart
  • kind
  • 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.

In my Companion Workbook, I answer many more questions such as:. 
How to self-soothe, how to relax, combating loneliness, letting go of perfection, lifting out of depression, changing negative thought patterns, ending love relationships, ending addictive relationships, releasing grudges, letting go of guilt and shame, and examining the dangers of expectations. I also have an extensive list of affirmations to be practiced when working on improving self-love. 

Copyright 2016-2020

Santa Barbara psychologist

Women Seeking Men

“The handsome peacock is indeed impressive, but don’t just envy his beautiful feathers, take a good look at his feet too.”  —Rumi

“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”  —Maya Angelou

“Jump!” —Joseph Campbell

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 malignant 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 is permissible to give your prospect a second chance … but you are a fool if you give him a third.

you cannot change him … no matter how smart you are, or how motivated you may be to do so. He is the only one who can change himself.

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

from the moment you meet your date … be yourself! If he does not like who that is, do not take it personally and move on to your next prospect.

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.

for those of you who have not dated extensively … go out with as many men as possible. Each rendezvous will be a good learning experience.

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 striking, 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.

consider a date from hell … an experience and good practice.

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

having your heart broken in the past … is not an excuse to avoid venturing out again.

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

the best ways to meet men are to … tell your friends, relatives, co-workers etc., that you are ready to be introduced to someone. Also, join organizations that interest you (athletics, politics, wildlife conservation).

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.

don’t … settle!

opposites attract … but like kinds generally make better long-term mates.

you will chase him away if you start talking about marriage or 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.

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 matures. 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 the “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.

beware if you are putting more into the relationship than you are getting out of it … Most likely time will not change this dynamic.

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 mistakes in the future.

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

your prince cannot save you … or parent you either.

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

Copyright 2016-2020


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.

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

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

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 … how much you love yourself is equal to how much you can love and be loved.

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 lifting 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.

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 teach people …  how to treat you.

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.

lies erode trust …  even the white ones.

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.

human beings have between 60,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day; 95% of which are negative and repetitive … To get out of this quagmire, one must learn to live in the present moment..  Living in the past elicits depression, while living in the future gives rise to anxiety. When one can remain in the present moment, both of these very unpleasant feelings are escaped.

mind-reading is a myth … If your partner guesses your thoughts and feelings correctly, it was an accident. It is your job to express your thoughts and feelings.

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

a silence can be sacred or toxic … know the difference.

addictive relationships can be as harmful … as addictions to substances.

think of boundaries as sandboxes … your sandbox is your sandbox, the other's sandbox is the other's 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”.

relationships change whether we want them to or not … we resist change because we fear uncharted territory.

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.

meaningful change takes time … so be patient.

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. In truth, 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.

there are 5 major feelings … mad, sad, glad, scared, bad (shame).

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

intimacy … is usually avoided because we are afraid of being vulnerable. We believe vulnerability is a sign of weakness. On the contrary, vulnerability takes courage!

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

trust is the foundation from which … a loving and healthy relationship is built.

commitment … is the bedrock of genuine love.

commitment … promotes vulnerability, a critical ingredient for relationship intimacy.

commitment … increases motivation to resolve relationship challenges, rather than “calling it quits”.

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.

inner strength and control are not synonymous … The underlying feeling driving inner strength is joy. The underlying feeling driving control is fear.

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.

timing is … everything.

believing that others cause you pain and pleasure is a myth … those feelings are already inside you. They are just brought out by others.

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.

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

the opposite of love is not hatred … it is indifference.

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.

a topic often avoided in long-term relationships (or marriage) is death … it’s going to happen. Not discussing it does not delay it. Your mate is the best person with whom to talk over your wishes. Draw up a living will.

resentment … is the killer of relationships.

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

Copyright 2016-2020