Face of Malibu: Dr. Ericha Scott

Dr. Ericha Scott is an award -winning trauma psychotherapist who has spent more than 32 years healing, working with co-occurring addictions and complex trauma. With a doctoral degree in clinical psychology, Scott was recruited to Malibu 10 years ago to be the clinical director of an esteemed dual diagnosis program. She is licensed in California as E. Hitchcock Scott, Ph.D., LPCC917.

Scott is the widow of Randy Tufts, PhD, who remains the love of her life. She said of their marriage, “It was the most difficult and the most self-less commitment I have made in my lifetime,” and if presented with the same choices at the same crossroads, she would do it again.

The Malibu Times got a chance to sit down with the woman who was the first American to be accepted into a prestigious photography school founded by Jean-Pierre Sudre in southern France.  


Why did you decide to specialize in trauma and addiction therapies?

In 1983, I was teaching college photography and working as an assistant artist-in-residence for a museum when my life became unraveled due to unhealed trauma. I began work on myself to identify, address and resolve issues related to addiction in my family of origin. Surprisingly, within a year, I was offered a position as an addiction counselor. I was only 30 at the time so I decided to try it for one year to see if it was a good match. At the end of that year, the outcome studies for the hospital where I worked revealed that in a hospital of 200 patients, my clients had the lowest relapse rate of any therapist in the hospital.


Which type of person benefits from art therapy the most?

Everyone — from functional members of the general public to those who are seriously mentally ill and/or addicted — is able to benefit from the creative arts therapies. The differential would be the goals set for each specific population. Art is a language of image and, like the spoken word, can be adapted to most people.

Research reveals that there are certain diagnoses that show evident positive results such as complex trauma, PTSD and substance use disorders. There is also evidence from New Zealand that when patients in treatment for cancer are offered only one individual art therapy session a week, those sessions significantly reduced pain caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.


Was there a moment in your 32-year career that you felt like you couldn’t help someone?

Sadly, more than a few of my clients have failed multiple programs. I can think of clients over the years that had failed as many as five to 17 treatment programs from intensive outpatient to residential. There are times I sit in awe of the fact that these clients have survived so much failure. Right from the start, I acknowledge and nurture their ability for resiliency. With incredibly complex and tragic cases, there have been moments when I think, “Oh, my goodness, where do I start?”


What is the greatest challenge in treating depression?

The greatest challenge in treating depression is the double bind. The double bind of depression is that to feel better, action needs to be taken by the client, and when a person is depressed, especially if they have vegetative symptoms, they do not have enough energy to be proactive. In addition, a depressed person does not think and feel as if any action on their part will be helpful.


Why did you choose to be a board member for The Global Art Project for Peace?

My deceased husband was a volunteer for The Global Art Project and took me with him for a few events. As a clinical art therapist, he thought that the vision statement and the international project would interest me. He was correct. In addition, I was struck by the founder’s story. Katherine Josten started the Global Art for Peace with an idea in 1993, only $1,500 dollars and an old Selectric typewriter. From that humble beginning, she has reached over 145,000 people in 93 countries worldwide. What I most like about her story is how it demonstrates that anyone can make a positive difference, no matter how limited their circumstances.


Do you have any regrets in life?

I trust that my life has unfolded according to a higher purpose and that even what has, at the time, appeared to be failures on my part have — most often — contributed to where I am today. Of course, I regret the loss of my beloved husband, and there is not a way to rationalize his illness and death to minimize the grief I have felt.


What’s an interesting or unique fact about you that people don’t know?

I could sail a boat by age 10, and about that same time, I was asked to steer a single engine plane while an adult family friend leaned out of the door to take photos of the Florida coast. One of the most outstanding events of my life — at age 10 — was when I stood outside in the stillness of the eye of Hurricane Cleo for about 10 minutes. 


How was it having your portrait painted by Johanna Spinks?

It was surprising to me how comfortable I felt in her studio. It was as if I was having tea with a close friend. Johanna has a gift for helping her guests feel at ease. I have been the curator of exhibitions of a small town museum and I was the director of the board for an avant-garde photography gallery in Dallas and I think I am qualified to say that Johanna is genuinely talented. 

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