Chiara Polzonetti, LMFT

License #126322
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Individual Therapy, Family Therapy, Group Therapy, Play Therapy, EMDR
Anxiety, Bipolar, Career/Academic Stress, Children, Depression, Grief/Loss, Life Transition, Men’s Issues, Racial/Cultural Identity, Relationship Issues, Self-esteem, Teens, Trauma/PTSD, Women’s Issues
Insight-oriented (Psychodynamic), Non-directive (Humanistic), Behavioral (CBT, DBT), Trauma Focused
Around Noon, Afternoons, Tuesday, Saturday
Taking new clients
Telehealth, In-person
English, Italian
Ethera Irvine
Out of Pocket, Sliding Scale, Superbill
Individual: $140
Family: $160
Sliding Scale: $110

Meet Chiara Polzonetti

I spent more than thirteen years in academic doing research. I started as an experimental psychologist. I graduated with a Laurea degree in Psychology from the University of Rome, La Sapienza, and became licensed there after a one-year internship in a hospital focusing on patients living with the results of neurological and neuropsychological impairment. Post-graduation I was awarded a fellowship to study the effects of stress through automatic bodily signs such has having sweating hands, to prompt a person to practice self-care.

To pursue graduate studies, I immigrated in the U.S.A. and initially I was a researcher at UIUC for four years in the field of non-invasive brain imaging. I then continued the same professional path and relocated to UCI, with the promise of focusing more on applied research. At UCI I had the pleasure to work in a behavioral-research group specializing in studying interventions to support children with disruptive behaviors, one of these interventions involved a laboratory-school model for behaviors’ modification. It was then that I fell in love with working more with people rather than numbers. I braved a career change and received my M.S. in Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy at CSUF. I completed my internship at the OMID Multicultural Institute where I provided multiculturally immersed therapy to the underserved in our community. Now, as a LMFT I’m continuing to study and learn. I am trained in EMDR therapy and have advanced my knowledge about anxiety and stress.


How have your personal experiences helped your work with your clients?

I remember growing up spending a lot of time on my own and while me-time remains something the feels rewarding, it is in the interconnectedness with others and with the society at large that I get excited.

I believe that for every story of difficulty and trauma there is also a story of adjustments and balance. Being a woman and an immigrant taught me an important lesson: there is space for hope amidst uncertainties, and it can be found in the realm of meaningful inter-connections.

Part of my story had me travel to different countries and living in two different continents. This has been now daily part of believing in multicultural, person-centered therapy as a platform for almost any first step toward healing. My considerable experience in life is the type of learning that accompanies me with the work with clients. It is that sort of personal wisdom that I am not always aware of, but that is there with me anyway.

What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?

My path to become a therapist was nonlinear, unexpected, long, and yet so clearly coming to full circle when I noticed that without a doubt, “I’ve arrived.”

I have spent about 14 years of my initial career path in research and academia. I love research and learning, and I was infatuated with the world of academia and research. I got to witness and join the wonders of highly motivated, sometimes gifted, and very driven individuals. And I got to pay the cost of that. For years, I worked hard to continue with that path and mostly enjoyed. It was the part of relentless perfectionism, unpleasant competitiveness and disconnect from everything else in the world the ultimately made me unwell. I was finally standing with a fist in my pocket wondering “Is this what I had in mind when I started?” It took me some time but eventually I surrendered to be taken into a different career path. After taking that leap, I could love my work again and felt connected to others and to myself again.


What does a typical session with you look like?

I have been told that a session with me is “absolutely safe” and that I’m very patient. I also see that creativity and play can be part of being in session with me, and the researcher in me doesn’t hesitate to explore the unexplored. Yes, this can feel uncomfortable. I will not press, but I will still point what seems noticeable and will have my client and I sit with it.

I am passionate to work with difficulties in interpersonal relationships related to stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. Whenever possible I like to incorporate an element of “play” to help a person creatively express oneself without words and it can include movement. By focusing on everyone’s innate capacity to survive and adapt, I am given the gift to accompany you across your experiences and witness your transformation. I find this profoundly inspiring and uplifting.



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Therapy Styles

Short Term (Solution-focused, etc.) 
Ideal for those who are coming in with a specific problem they’d like to address and gain clarity on. Typically, short term therapies are present focused and do not dive deep into your past.

Structured therapies are goal and progress oriented. Therapists may incorporate psychoeducation and a specific “curriculum.” In order to stay on track, therapists may provide worksheets and homework.

Insight-oriented (Psychodynamic, Existential, etc.) 
Exploring the past and making connections to present issues can help clients gain insight. Getting to the root of the issue and finding deeper self-awareness can help with long-term change.

Non-directive (Humanistic, Person-centered, etc.)
Going with the flow and seeing where it leads.

Behavioral (CBT, DBT, etc.)
Focuses on changing potentially unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors by addressing problematic thought patterns and specific providing coping skills.

Trauma Focused (EMDR, TF-CBT, etc.)
Recognizing the connection between trauma experiences and your emotional and behavioral responses, trauma focused therapy seeks to help you heal from traumas.