Gail Shak, Ph.D. - Licensed Psychologist, Burlingame, California
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Gail Shak, Ph.D.
405 Primrose Road
Suite 205
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 375-1588
License: PSY 10401


All children adapt to the family members and environments that they are given. However, sometimes this process of adaptation entails the development of invalid or negative beliefs. These unhelpful beliefs about ourselves and others can lead to unhappiness or prevent us from later living the most satisfying and effective lives possible.

Anxiety, depression, self-defeating behaviors, the sabotaging of our efforts in relationships, and the denial of the very things we want most in the world — success, intimacy, pleasure, or peace of mind — are often a direct result of the invalid or negative beliefs developed in childhood that are carried into our adult lives.

People entering therapy genuinely wish to master their problems, and come into treatment motivated to do so. The job of the therapist is to understand this, and to provide an experience of interpersonal safety, where the client can feel the freedom to be more open, confident, expressive, and insightful.

Through honest exploration and increasing awareness, you and your therapist can work together to change the patterns in your life that are no longer benefiting you.

Psychotherapy offers a supportive and confidential environment in which you can gain awareness of how things got to be the way they are today, and go on to overcome your problems.

The trusting relationship built between you and your therapist is, perhaps, the most important element in the success of therapy. So you deserve to have a therapist with whom you feel comfortable — a therapist you think feels like a good fit for your personality and your needs.

What Should You Look For in a Psychotherapist?

Given that the relationship built between a client and therapist is so important to successful therapy, there is more to consider than just a therapist's experience when looking for a psychologist.

There are some basic characteristics shared by therapists who are consistently able to help their clients make positive and lasting changes in their lives. These include:

  • The ability to communicate with compassion, honesty, and respect;
  • The capacity for flexibility in the use of therapeutic treatments;
  • An awareness of one's own limitations; and
  • A dedicated commitment to meeting your therapeutic needs and goals.

You should feel free to talk with several prospective therapists before deciding with whom to work. You are the one best qualified to choose the psychologist who is right for you.

My Approach to Therapy

My work with clients is based on my optimism about people's abilities to master their problems in life, and on respect for the individual and his or her own therapeutic process.

In both individual psychotherapy and couples counseling, I actively involve clients. I work together with them to identify obstacles and, in the process, continually focus on strengths.

My role in individual psychotherapy is to understand your therapeutic goals — what you are trying to accomplish in therapy — and to support you in your endeavors. My responsibility is to tailor specific approaches that help you achieve your goals and to create a climate of safety. My intention is to be authentic and expressive with you in the process, to provide objectivity and accountability. Should we work together, you can depend on me for insight, experience, and respect.

In addition to offering individual psychotherapy, for over 25 years I have helped countless couples learn the skills necessary to understand themselves, communicate effectively, and resolve conflicts.

Whether your relationship difficulties have grown out of parenting challenges, loss, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or workplace stress, there is hope for you and your relationship.

The couples counseling I provide helps partners acknowledge that each one of us approaches relationships from a unique perspective. As partners in a relationship we need skills to better understand our own needs and desires, as well as those of our partner. I have had couples counseling training with Dr. John Gottman (a renowned expert in this field), and incorporate many of his techniques into my couples counseling work.

If you're interested in more information about how I approach my work or the services I offer, I encourage you to contact me with your questions or to schedule an appointment. I may be reached by phone at 650-375-1588, or by e-mail at I look forward to speaking with you!

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