Bonner Dobbs, PsyD

Clinical Psychologist, ASSESSMENT DIRECTOR and Director of training

Dr. Bonner Dobbs runs our Assessment Team and Psychology Training program where he supervises and supports doctoral students and clinical psychologists who provide psychological and neuropsychological assessments.

He began his education by earning a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 2010 before beginning his graduate training in 2011. Early in his training, Dr. Dobbs developed an interest in working in rural Alaska and therefore sought training and experience with a wide range of people and settings. Over the next 6 years he worked in community mental health centers in inner city Los Angeles, elementary schools, prisons, and a private practice. In these contexts, he was able to gain experience working with everyone from children to the elderly and with issues from adjustment disorders to severe and persistent mental illness.

Dr. Dobbs sought out further training working with severe and persistent mental illness and substance abuse during his predoctoral internship in San Francisco where he worked in community mental health serving low income individuals as well as a dual diagnosis, crisis stabilization short term residential program. Upon graduating with his PsyD in 2017 he relocated to bush Alaska where he worked as a behavioral health clinician in a tribal health organization. Dr. Dobbs has been with LightHeart since July of 2020 after relocating due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Dobbs’ graduate training emphasized systemic and psychodynamic conceptualizations that draw from a range of empirically validated interventions. Dr. Dobbs was drawn to this as he believes that the relationship formed with his clients is the single most important ingredient in the therapeutic process. Furthermore, he believes that people can only be understood as part of their environments and therefore sought a place to integrate these two beliefs. In terms of therapy, this may look like exploring depression in terms of client’s brain chemistry, the relationship patterns that contribute to and maintain that depression, the manner in which those experiences interact with the larger environment, and how all of that plays itself out in the therapeutic relationship. On a practical level, this may look like exploring the common habit of withdrawing from interpersonal relationships during depression, how that depression might be a reasonable response to implicit, negative feedback from one’s family or society, and exploring how these dynamics may manifest in the here and now of therapy when he client starts to pull away from him.

Dr. Dobbs places a strong emphasis on exploring and understanding the therapeutic relationship as he believes that engaging and experimenting with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that emerge in therapy are helpful when attempting to process and change these things outside of therapy.

Dr. Dobbs has also worked as an adjunct professor since 2018 and presently teaches introductory clinical skills and motivational interviewing to doctoral level students.

Due to his training and experience of practicing in rural Alaska, where referring clients was not an option due to the geographical isolation, Dr. Dobbs is comfortable working with a wide range of clients and client needs. He has significant experience working with folks with trauma and substance abuse as well as depression, anxiety, domestic violence, and severe and persistent mental illness. Dr. Dobbs always seeks to provide a warm, safe environment as he believes that unconditional acceptance is the foundation of effective therapy. Dr. Dobbs does his best to tailor his approach to the individual needs and desires of his clients while remaining true to his professional and personal identity. For some folks, this means he takes a very unstructured, open ended approach that can allow for the experience of being able to breath and relax into therapy. For other folks, this means he takes a more structured approach that includes skill building and homework. He believes that every client presents with unique strengths and challenges and it is the shared job of the client and therapist to create a therapeutic experience that is rooted in their relationship and that can flexibly respond to whatever may emerge in their engagement.