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 July, Elisabeth was featured in the Psychotherapy Networker discussing the importance of respecting clients in therapy. In May, Elisabeth was interviewed for an interesting HuffPo story detailing candid reasons women called off their engagements. 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.

Elisabeth appeared on Fox 5 to discuss why breaking up is getting harder to do in Washington. She also appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss parenting and divorce. She was quoted in Redbook Magazine about divorce, and in Fox News Magazine about breakups.


She was also interviewed on WTOP and by Washingtonian Magazine for an article about couples and exercise and Washington Post Express for an articles about breakups cohabitation and 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


  • Tender is the Night

    Deepak Chopra famously said: “When you blame and criticize others, you are avoiding some truth about yourself.” The tendency to focus on the flaws of others in order to deny scary or painful dimensions of the self comes up often in therapy. Sigmund Freud described this process as projective identification. Projective identification — often called a projection– is commonly understood as the process of hyper-focusing on a particular flaw in another so that this same flaw can be avoided in one’s self. However, a deeper, more complicated definition of projective identification sometimes arises in couples therapy, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnificent novel, Tenter is the Night, illuminates this extraordinary, lesser known human dynamic.

    A projective identification, in its truest, most psychologically sophisticated sense, is an unconscious contract between two people through which they agree that a particular trait or grouping of traits will be transferred from one person to another. With such an agreement, one person therefore internalizes the pathology of another, and agrees to hold it for them to relieve their pain and emotional burden. For example, when an alcoholic whose primary conflict is marital intimacy enters treatment, their spouse might begin taking pills to ensure that some form of mind-altering substance remains between them, as a buffer to their marital intimacy. I have also noticed this phenomenon among military spouses who experience post-traumatic stress in the place of their husbands who serve. The couple might unconsciously agree that the soldier cannot afford the tremendous anxiety, so the wife takes it on.

    Tender is the Night tells the colorful tale of the exceedingly glamorous couple Nicole and Dick Diver, whom the reader first encounters through the naive and adoring eyes of Rosemary Hoyt, a young American starlet on the brink of fame. Rosemary is vacationing with her mother in the late 1920s on the French Riviera when she discovers the Divers on the beach. Their collective aura is captivating and seductive, as she finds herself drawn to them both. It turns out that the couple has a secret: Dick was once a promising young psychiatrist and Nicole was his wealthy, institutionalized patient. Dr. Diver fell for the young heiress while treating her, and has found himself in a dual role — part psychiatrist, part husband.

    Fitzgerald wrote Tender is the Night after he spent time at a psychiatric institution where his wife Zelda was a patient diagnosed with schizophrenia. As Fitzgerald writes of Dr. Diver’s work with young Nicole, Fitzgerald seems to driven to work through his own experience:

    Dick tried to rest – the struggle would come presently at home and he might have to sit a long time, restating the universe for her. A “schizophrene” is well named as a split personality – Nicole was alternatively a person to whom nothing need be explained and one to whom nothing could be explained. It was necessary to treat he with active and affirmative insistence, keeping he road to reality always open, making the road to escape harder going. But the brilliance, the versatility of madness is akin to the resourcefulness of water seeping through, over and around a dike. It requires the united front of many people to work against it.

    Ultimately, Nicole is cured and Dick – whose career is in shambles and whose alcohol use is extreme – descends into a state of madness. Though they do not discuss nor seem consciously aware of the acute transaction, Nicole essentially hands her illness over to her doctor/ husband, who internalizes the illness in this final act of his treatment before they part ways:

    Nicole relaxed and felt new and happy; her thoughts were clear as good bells – she had a sense of being cured and in a new way. Her ego began blooming like a great rich rose as she scrambled back along the labyrinths in which she had wandered for years. She hated the beach, resented the places where she had played planet to Dick’s sun. “Why, I’m almost complete,” she thought, “I’m practically standing alone, without him. And like a happy child, wanting the completion as soon as possible, and knowing vaguely that Dick had planned for her to have it, she lay on her bed as soon as she got home and wrote Tommy Barban in Nice a short provocative letter.”

    Tender is the Night is, of course, much more than a window thrown open to illuminate the psychological complexity of projective identification within marriage. Fitzgerald is among the most important American writers, and the trajectory of his own struggles, and his wife’s, make the book even more absorbing. The Divers and the Fitzgeralds share a magnetic aura, volatility, and additional parallel details including a wife’s shocking attempt to drive her husband off the road. Readers who are curious about how unconscious marital transactions unfold will be riveted by this remarkable novel.

    (Henry King’s 1962 film by the same name, starring Jason Robards as Dick, Jennifer Jones as Nicole and Jill St. John as Rosemary is also worth a view!)