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Private Practice Kickstart
with Miranda Palmer, LMFT
& Kelly Higdon, LMFT

Dating Therapy: How One San Francisco Therapist is Changing the Dating Conversation

We love sharing stories of the many unique paths that bring people to private practice, and the very unique private practices that therapists build. Today, we are bringing you a fascinating niche from San Francisco that we think could spread around the country: DatingTherapy

What is your name, where is your practice, and what is your specialty?


My name is Bart Hatler and I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, CA. I specialize in dating therapy and couples counseling.

Why did you decide to become a therapist?

I’d always been fascinated by psychology and the study of these things called “emotions” and wondered what people needed to do to have satisfying, rewarding relationships. I wasn’t sure I wanted to become a therapist until I was studying depth psychology at USM in Santa Monica.  I think we were reading about Jung and The Inner Child.

I suddenly realized that being a therapist didn’t mean just sitting and listening to people talk about their “problems” all day.  It meant understanding the path and steps needed to create happy relationships and a happy self, and then helping people sort through and discover what had gotten in the way of creating that in their lives.

I realized being a therapist was a combination of being able to connect and empathize with people, which I happened to be good at because of my own unique set of challenges and circumstances along with who I am.  And it meant being a bit of a detective, uncovering and discovering together what had happened in their lives that had interfered with the things they wanted to have and experience.

At that point, everything opened up for me and I’ve been in love with this rich, rewarding path ever since.

Why did you choose your specialty?

I guess when I was a kid I struggled with seeing my parent’s pretty unhappy and unhealthy relationship.  It was painful to see them argue or misunderstand each other. On some level, I was always curious about how they could be happier and maybe how I could help, even though that isn’t really a kid’s job.  But the ache of their unhappiness fueled my curiosity and questions.

Then as I got older and started having my own romantic and intimate relationships, I realized:  relationships are complicated, hard and confusing! I started exploring, reading, trying to understand how to navigate the world of feelings and emotions.  I started reading books on personality styles and communication skills as a high school-aged guy. That seed of interest eventually evolved into formally studying couples counseling and relationship therapy.  

When I moved to San Francisco, dating therapy emerged. I became fascinated by my own relationship and dating struggles. Many people don’t realize that therapists are not immune to dating struggles, in fact, it can be even trickier for therapists who are dating in private practice.

Everywhere I looked I saw friends and colleagues struggling with dating in San Francisco. We were all constantly being bombarded by the new frontier of online and app dating. It seems like every month there is a new “best app for dating” or some guru telling people “the rules” for landing a relationship. All of it felt like noise, advertising, and way too simplistic for what I was seeing in the real world.

My detective brain began to turn on and I began researching and studying what the heck is going on here. What are the new rules, if any? What is the best approach in this new, modern dating culture? What is really keeping people stuck from finding lasting love and healthy relationships?

What is your favorite part of working with your dating therapy niche?

I really dig getting into the nitty-gritty of uncovering what, when, where and why people get thrown off their paths towards loving, fulfilling relationships.  Relationships are so important for all of us. And when clients start to put the pieces together and can see more clearly WHY they are where they are, they finally have some leverage in their lives and that builds hope.

What do therapists tend to miss when working with their clients who are dating?

In the dating world, the thing that is missing most in my mind is curiosity about individuals’ real point of leverage, where they can have the most potential and power.  If someone has been struggling to find a good partner or relationship, I think there’s a reason why. And with curiosity and willingness to become a detective into one’s own story, I think we can discover what’s been creating the block to love, what I sometimes call “Dating Damns”.  Once we do that, we can figure out their meaning or purpose and realign the heart, mind, and emotions in a new way that will bring in new love and new relationships.

We discover the dammed up spots, untangle them, and get love flowing again, or maybe flowing for the first time in the person’s life.  Then new things can start to happen, both inside and outside.

What advice do you have for other therapists or aspiring therapists?

There are so many different ways to do therapy, the greatest contribution any therapist or counselor can make is to bring their unique gift, their personal vantage point and offering to the table.  Each of us has a special, unique set of skills, lessons and our own unique contribution to the collective “Hero’s Journey”. Clarify what inspires you most and what you believe in most wholeheartedly and create a way to share that with the world.  

How can people connect with you?

I love connecting with people in my office, but prior to that first in-person meeting. I am available via email at [email protected] and by phone at (415) 797-8297.  You can also go to my website and look over what I have written there and book a free consultation.  I’m also on Instagram @CreateTheLoveYouWant and on Facebook.

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Dating Therapy: How One San Francisco Therapist is Changing the Dating Conversation

Miranda Palmer, LMFT

Miranda Palmer, LMFT is passionate about empowering therapists to be extraordinary. Palmer trains therapists how to develop private practices that not only thrive financially, but that provide excellence in clinical care through free private practice marketing trainings, the Business School Bootcamp for therapists, and free study group for licensing exams for pre-licensed therapists.


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APA Reference
Palmer, M. (2019). Dating Therapy: How One San Francisco Therapist is Changing the Dating Conversation. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 18, 2020, from