Welcome to the King Kalakaua Center for Humanistic Psychotherapy, the longest running private psychotherapy practice in Honolulu. For a bit about our history, see below. We also are the biggest private psychotherapy center in Honolulu.

Presently we are nine strong, including one psychiatrist, Sheila Wendler, M.D., four psychologists, Rene Tillich, Ph.D. and Laurie Sanford, Psy.D, Cecily Sakai Psy.D, and Janet Philips Ph.D and one nurse practitioner, Shelly Silverman, APRN, MSN, and two social workers, Vishaka Jokiel L.C.S.W and Mike Gatti L.C.S.W. Longer autobiographies of each staff are available under each name. In the next paragraph you will experience a quick encounter with each of our therapists and a summary of what King Kalakaua Center has to offer to the people of Honolulu.

Medications and Psychiatric consultations:

Sheila Wendler, M.D. will provide psychiatric consultations and medication as needed.

Sheila’s extensive knowledge of medicine and psychodynamic understanding of emotion, anxiety and depression guides her skilled treatment of human distress. She also brings a ready smile, great warmth and deep compassion to her work to alleviate human suffering.

Individual Therapy:

All of our clinicians provide individual psychotherapy to adults.

Vishaka Jokiel, L.C.S.W.

Vishaka provides her individual clients with a consistent warm empathetic presence.

When needed she can be firm and she has intuitive quicksilver insightfulness. Her counseling style is honest, clear, direct and compassionate. She uses strengths based, client centered and humanistic approaches. She works with anxiety, depression, loss, grief, addictions and family members of addicts and the whole range of human suffering.

Mike Gatti, L.C.S.W.

Mike is a bright intellectual with an impish sense of humor. He provides his clients with illuminating thinking to help them understand their issues even as he stands steadfastly in their corner with them supporting and cheering their journey. He has experience working with all manner of human pain including the seriously mental ill and addictions.

Shelly Silverman, APRN, MSN

She is another of our lively intellectuals. She brings her great medical knowledge, her knowledge of life and human nature, her caring and infectious sense of humor to her work helping individuals clarify their situation and find clear action solutions. She has worked with the severely mentally ill as well as anxiety, depression and loss.

Janet Phillips, Ph.D,

Soft spoken and gentle Janet brings a combination of great empathy and clarity of thought to her work with individuals. She has that rare ability to be there, seeing the world through her clients eyes and simultaneously standing outside and understanding the larger context. By communicating that understanding to her clients in a warm understandable way, she helps.

Laurie Sanford, Psy.D,

Laurie brings to the center a bright ever inquiring mind combined with a life time of experience as a therapist, here and on the main land. She brings to her work with individual clients great skill and gentleness. She works with all problems with a special affection for the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.

Garyn Tsuru Ph.D

Garyn is a quiet thoughtful clinician who picks up on subtle cues and explores them at length with the client in the individual sessions.  He is an associate Professor of psychology at the University of Hawai`i, West Oahu campus and a perceptive psychological tester.

Rene Tillich, Ph.D,

Rene, another one of the center’s intellectuals, brings over 40 years of experience doing therapy in Hawaii to his work with individual clients. Rene expresses a somewhat direct Germanic style of doing therapy, softened by empathy and caring for the clients’ emotions and their dreams, both sleeping and waking.

Sheila Wendler, M.D

Sheila brings lots of intelligence, considerable knowledge of psychodynamic therapy and intense commitment to her work with individual clients. She has much experience working with anxiety, depression, grief and loss and many other issues and cross cultural issues, particularly difficulties in adaptation to a new culture.

Couple’s Therapy:

Most of our therapists participate in working with couples in marital therapy. Because we have so many therapists available, King Kalakaua Center can provide one therapist to work with a couple or two therapists to work with a couple. We have pioneered the work in Hawaii of two therapists with a couple or two-on-two couple’s therapy. In this approach, each partner in the couple has their own individual therapist.

Therapy precedes with alternating sessions of individual therapy, each partner alone with their individual therapist, and couple’s therapy, both partners in the room together with both therapists. These sessions can alternate as both couple and therapist think best.

We believe that in most, though not all, cases the two-on-two approach is more effective than the one on two approach. The two on two approach allows each partner to deal with couple’s issues in the joint sessions and also allows the partners to reconsider and readjust their way of seeing the situation during the relative safety provided by the individual sessions. We have been using this approach for many years now and find it effective in helping couple’s to heal.

In what follows we will give you a glimpse of what each therapist brings to our two on two couple’s approach. Since I work together with almost every King Kalakaua Center therapist who works with couple’s, these glimpses are based on my experience with each person as my co-therapist.

Sheila Wendler functions as a connector in couple’s therapy. With her flashes of warmth and intense concentration, she helps the couple and particularly her individual client move emotionally closer to her and by extension to me, her co therapist.

Shelly Silverman functions most strongly as a teacher in couple’s therapy. She advises clients on medical problems, life planning, problem solving and other issues always with a smile and often with a joke and a laugh.

Laurie Sanford is an expert in couple’s therapy who disarms the clients and gently moves them into emotional growth, often without the client fully realizing where they are going.

I have not yet had the opportunity to co lead with Janet Philips. My guess from knowing her is that she would be gentle and supportive of the clients while throwing in an astute and thought provoking interpretation from time to time.

Vishaka Jokiel functions as a connecter, intuiting and asking clients what they are feeling while at times digging deeper, interpreting the sources of feeling or actions.

Mike Gatti is a strong definer. He helps the couple to see and understand the context in which they are embedded and even helps them to find a way to reframe that context.

Garyn Tsuru is a teacher and reframer in his work with couple’s. He is especially sensitive to cross cultural issues and helps couple’s to bridge cultural differences.

I am Rene Tillich, writing about myself. I see myself primarily as a digger who loves to identify and discuss deep sources of feelings and actions.

Of course, as good therapists, individual or couple’s, we all try to be skilled at all of these functions: connecting, teaching, depth of awareness, warmth, compassion, supporting, defining, interpreting, reframing and digging.

As you can see a good therapist’s work is never done.

Family Therapy

Family therapy is couple’s therapy with children and/or grandparents present. Just as in couple’s therapy, the therapist sees the family as a system so in family therapy, the therapist sees the family as a system which needs helps in adjusting so that it works better.

Laurie Sanford and Rene Tillich were both trained in family therapy. Rene is working together with both Vishaka and Sheila doing family therapy. Laurie is working with Garyn. They are bringing insight and a warm connection to work with a family. Our model is to work together with the family and also do individual work with family members.

Cross Cultural Therapy:

Hawaii is cross cultural heaven because of the many cultural groups represented. King Kalakaua Center therapists have knowledge of a variety of cultures.

Garyn, Shelly and Mike speak Japanese, can work with Japanese speaking clients and feel sympathetic and connected to Japanese culture. All three have lived in Japan.

Sheila speaks Portuguese and Spanish and welcomes clients who speak those languages. Born in Brazil, she has an intuitive understanding of Latin culture.

Rene’s parents emigrated from Germany to this country and both loved the culture of the European continent. Rene has inherited that empathy for European culture from his parents.

Laurie has deep Jewish roots and understanding of Mediterranean culture.


Just as we believe talking to a therapist helps people become more actualized so we believe therapists talking to each other helps them to become more actualized therapists. In accordance with our beliefs, we have weekly staff meetings where we discuss cases and ourselves. All the therapists at King Kalakaua Center have case discussion time individually with Laurie or Rene. Most of our therapists spend time with both Laurie and Rene.

Our two on two model of couple’s therapy encourages therapists to work together and discuss the clients whom they share.

Over all we think of King Kalakaua Center as a community of people who talk to each other about what they are doing and see personal and professional growth as a lifelong process.

The Future

We want to welcome two therapists to King Kalakaua Center for Humanistic Therapy.

Steve Katz, M.F.T., is joining us and brings his wisdom, lively energy and insightfulness from his career as a teacher and actor to his work with individuals, couple’s, families and possibly groups at King Kalakaua Center.

Joan Tillich, DCSW, joins us as a consultant to help with case discussion. She started the first private practice run by a social worker in Hawaii. She treats individuals, couple’s, families and also children in play therapy. She is a skilled and creative therapist who uses psychodynamic, humanistic and existential theories of awareness in her work. For years, Joan worked together with her Samoyed dog, Muffy, doing play therapy with children. Joan is a powerful imaginative therapist who uses metaphor to communicate to her clients, both adults and children, in a unique only Joan way.

As King Kalakaua Center’s staff of talented and enthusiastic therapists continue to bring caring humanistic therapy to the people of Honolulu, all of us want to express our gratitude to the many therapist and others who believe in us and refer to us and to the people who believe in us and entrust us with their care.