Stephen Buehler, Detailed Biography & Key Influences

  • 20,000+ hours of consulting with healthcare leaders, teams and providers about wellness, collaboration, workplace bullying, disasters and organizational crisis for over 15+ years

  • 20+ years of study, practice in the psychology of individuals, groups, families & relationships; disaster mental health & crisis response expert

  • 300+ critical incidents, community disasters leading just-in-time emotional support services to hundreds of teams, and follow-up services for disaster affected populations

  • 25+ years of training and professional development in psychology, with intense interest in Gestalt Psychotherapy, Formative Psychology®, family systems theory, play therapy and psychodynamic theory

  • Lifetime of experience in athletics, yoga, movement and somatic practices, chronic pain, integrating body awareness at gross and subtle levels

Stephen's ideas and practices have emerged directly from his life, work, education and growth experiences. The individuals, ideas and circumstances described below have been formative to Stephen and the concepts of  Please note, Stephen does not necessarily agree with everything expressed by the individuals below, nor do they likely agree with everything Stephen has expressed. 

Somatic Psychology, Movement & Body Awareness

Key influences & experiences

  • Gestalt Psychotherapy - phenomenological inquiry, contact, field theory, organismic self-regulation

  • Formative Psychology® - pulsatory continuum, somatic dialogues, primary experience, layers

  • Feldenkrais Method® - slow movement, deep sensing, whole body dynamics, integrating emotion 

  • Rosen Method, movement, breath integration, energy practices; discernment in collective spaces

During his graduate education at CIIS, Stephen received didactic instruction, clinical supervision and experiential learning in Gestalt Psychotherapy from Prof. Lu Grey from 2000 - 2003. Stephen's experience with Gestalt also grew in the learning community known as Church St, where Stephen trained for over a year.

Stephen also attended many hours of interpersonal and experiential groups through the Gestalt Institute of San Francisco from 2001 to 2003, which included extended training experiences with Serge Ginger, PhD (founder of the École Parisienne de Gestalt), David Schiffman (led Gestalt workshops at Esalen for over forty years) and Joseph Zinker, PhD (who trained with Fritz Perls in the 1960’s).

After finishing his master's in counseling psychology, Stephen engaged in personal development work, consultation groups and practice retreats with Peter Wright, regularly and extensively. Stephen’s close association with Peter lasted for a decade, and Peter has significant influence in Stephen’s awareness & ideas. Peter describes his work ...

My primary focus is to help you know yourself better, to know your behaviors and your beliefs, so that you can take steps toward creating new possibilities and a more satisfying life. We do this by engaging in a process of tuning into actions, gestures and sensations, what I refer to as your Somatic Dialogues. These dialogues are the basis of your sense of identity or self-narrative, and the frame of your experience. Recognizing and engaging the actions that generate these internal dialogues offers an opportunity for you to introduce variations. With practice these variations become new behaviors, offering more choice and the possibility of greater satisfaction.

Peter’s lengthy association with Stanley Keleman, a pioneer in body-mind awareness practices and somatic theory, also profoundly impacted Stephen. In Stanley's Formative Psychology® model he describes that …

Changing anatomical shapes are the continuity of human existence. These shapes give rise to emotions, thoughts, and experiences; feeling follows form ... When we influence our body shape, we influence how we are present in the world.

After two years attending programs with Stanley at the Center for Energetic Studies in Berkeley, CA from 2013-2015, including experiences of personal consultation with Stanley, Stephen learned to more deeply feel and influence the organizing patterns of his own experience. And from those insights, he also learned the importance of helping people to identify patterns of self-use, and to learn to modify and regulate their experiences. To learn more about Stanley and his work, please go to

Stephen also learned from other body, movement and awareness teachers. A student of yoga for over twenty years, Stephen's awareness of breath, body and subtle energy has grown through experience with Christy Brown, Nikki Estrada, James Higgins and many others. 

The slow, mindful movement of the Feldenkrais Method® has also supported Stephen’s awareness and embodied inquiry. Working with Sonja Sutherland, an Assistant Trainer in the Feldenkrais Method® who studied extensively with Stanley Keleman, as well as working with Feldenkrais Trainer® Carol Kress for years was also extremely valuable. Also many years prior, extensive Rosen Method bodywork offered Stephen very impactful experiences with Theresa Garcia.  

Also helpful were many years of mediation and inquiry in the zen, vipassana and nondual streams … and periods of study with archetypeqigongenergy medicine, prayer, play, ritual, breathwork, pranayama and yogic grounding teachers.

Psychodynamic Theory, Group Dynamics, Communication Practices

Key influences & experiences

Stephen's education in counseling psychology was very oriented to modern psychodynamic theory. Students read and discussed core tenets of psychological theory from Sigmund Freud, Heinz Kohut, Melanie Klein, Robert Stolorow, Donald Winnicott, John Bowlby, Margaret Mahler, Daniel Stern, Nancy McWilliams and others. The program also taught the practice and perspectives of couples and family therapists Virginia Satir, Murray Bowen, David Schnarch and Carl Whitaker, all deeply influencing Stephen. Later personal study in attachment-based ideas suggested by Stan Tatkin was impactful for Stephen.

Stephen's appreciation for a psychoanalytic framework of human psychology fully bloomed about 25 years ago when his professor and former clinical supervisor highlighted the relational, communicative power of projective identification, as described by psychoanalyst and author Thomas Ogden. 15 years later, Stephen co-facilitated Balint Groups with dozens of physicians over several years. These emotional process groups were the invention of psychoanalyst Michael Balint, MD, where UK Balint Society describes ...

… group members may gradually reach a deeper level of understanding of their patients’ feelings and their own. They may realise that certain patients or emotions may resonate with what is going on in the own inner and outer lives. This may be causing problems which the doctor can learn to avoid or even to turn to therapeutic advantage …

Also impactful were Stephen’s experiences as a participant in T-Group from 2014 to 2016. The format and goals of these experiences were modeled after the Stanford MBA class known by the students as “Touchy Feely” … and the impact on Stephen’s interpersonal framework was profound, especially in having authentic, vulnerable and humble dialogue with people from very different backgrounds and perspectives.

Stephen has also benefited from many years of exposure, use and training in Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication model. Stephen has learned a great deal from John Kinyon and Robert Gonzales.

Social Science, Biology, Anthropology, Systems Theory

Key influences & experiences

For 30 years, Stephen has cultivated a "lay" study of many areas of scientific and academic inquiry. In particular Stephen has enjoyed learning about biology, human anatomy & physiology, systems theory, neuroscience, anthropology, evolution, social psychology, group dynamics … and many other related disciplines.

Personal Context, Bias & Learning Path

Key influences & experiences

  • Childhood in Midwestern US & Texas; most of adulthood in California 

  • Cisgendered, US-born, heterosexual white male, relative ease & privilege

  • High adverse childhood experiences (ACE's) score 

  • Autoimmune disorders 25+ yrs, mental health frailties since childhood

  • Chronic pain (degenerative arthritis) for 25+ yrs, functional impairment in many joints

  • Interpersonal violence, boundary problems in maternal & paternal families-of-origin

  • Alcoholism, mental illness, suicide in maternal & paternal families-of-origin 

Stephen was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA not long after the Detroit Riot of 1967, and lived in the midwest as a child before moving to Texas in the 1970’s. He lived there with his younger sister and parents for many years, enjoying a social and kinetic boyhood of bikes, boy scouts and tackle football.

With his parents divorcing when he was twelve, Stephen, his mother and sister moved to suburban Detroit, Michigan. There Stephen attended a prominent all-boys Catholic high school and then went to college at the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor. Stephen’s father stayed in Texas, remarried and enjoyed a joyful life with his wife and daughter over the next decades.

Stephen’s mother’s family in Michigan held privilege and wealth in the 1930’s-60’s as they owned a manufacturing company that produced supplies to the pre- and post-war booming automobile companies. In the 80's Stephen’s mother, however, was an oft-worried provider for her two children. Stephen’s father’s family in Indiana were engineers and blue-collar tradesman, working with their hands to build machines, furniture and houses. 

After graduating from U of M, with a general studies degree, Stephen worked in advertising for some years, then moved to Los Angeles to work for a large management consulting firm that specialized in HR solutions for the Fortune 500.  Stephen sold projects worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to executives, created precisely analytical reports, presented to Boards of Directors, rewrote the valuation model for stock options equity compensation, and other ego-affirming activities. Stephen left consulting in 1999, however, very disappointed with the industry. He entered graduate school at CIIS in the Fall of 2000 to obtain a master’s degree in counseling psychology.

After graduate school, Stephen worked for many years with severely abused children. As their psychotherapist in the residential treatment facility (a “group home”) Stephen offered weekly play therapy to his clients (the children), and regular family therapy with their prospective foster or adoptive families. 

With such a unique set of professional experiences, Stephen then began working in employee assistance programs, over fifteen years of which was at Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California.  Stephen provided short-term individual, couples and family support to thousands of people; leadership coaching and consultation to hundreds of managers and teams; team, group and facility-wide events and workshops to tens of thousands of executives, physicians, leaders, nurses and other frontline healthcare workers. Healthcare workers in general suffer from very high levels of burnout, trauma and empathic distress, so Stephen's work focused on the systemic causes of these conditions. Stephen personally deployed to over 300 critical incidents (moments of unexpected trauma in the workplace) and natural and man-made disasters. Stephen's last five years in the role included widespread trauma from wildfires, floods and COVID. He retired from Kaiser in the summer of 2023, and focused on his private psychotherapy practice. Stephen launched on May 26, 2023.



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