Don R. MacMannis, Ph.D.

Clinical Director

(805) 882-2424 x 102


Don R. MacMannis, Ph.D. (a.k.a “Dr. Mac”) is a psychologist and Clinical Director of the Family Therapy Institute. He has been a therapist for over forty years. His practice includes work with children, families and couples, with a specialization in parenting kids ages two to twelve. In addition to lecturing nationally on a variety of topics related to families and social/emotional development, he is the co-author of the highly acclaimed book, How’s Your Family Really Doing?: 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family. His second book, Who’s the Boss?: The Win-Win-Way to Parent Your Strong-Willed Child was released in January 2015.  Don won the title of “Best Family Therapist” in a poll taken by

Education and Training:

Don has a Bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth, a Masters in School-Child Psychology from U. of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from California School of Professional Psychology. A former President of the Santa Barbara Psychological Association, he has taught courses at Westmont College and Antioch University in the areas of developmental, behavioral, and cognitive psychology. He has also provided post-graduate training to hundreds of therapists.

Treatment Philosophy:
Don’s clinical work can best be described as highly integrative and multi-modal. He likes to tackle challenging situations from a variety of perspectives in an effort to leave no stone unturned. His style is playful but direct. Providing a safe environment for people to be open and honest, he emphasizes the positive and teaches people how to bring out the best in each other. As is appropriate to clients’ spiritual beliefs, he welcomes an opportunity to weave these notions into the treatment process.

Treatment Approach:
• Practical… teaching healthy ways to communicate, manage emotions, let go of the past, and problem-solve. Don uses EMDR, as appropriate, to heal the effects of past hurt and help clients gain new insights.
• Supportive… aiding families in periods of transition, illness, loss, or crisis
• Integrative… addressing personal, interpersonal, and spiritual issues that face clients on physical, emotional, intellectual and philosophical levels
• Community-oriented… working in close cooperation with schools, physicians, social services, and other professionals
• Research-based… integrating the latest scientific, clinical and brain research into treatment

Children and Families:
Local pediatricians refer a high percentage of Don’s clients. With young children and their families, Don will typically meet with the family in the first session. In addition to meeting alone with kids for parts of sessions, he will typically devote the majority of his time working with parents, – helping them understand and deal with their child’s issues. He helps parents to learn about the “10 Keys” to a happy family, and guides them in building skills with dozens of tips and tools.

Don also specializes in the treatment of couples who are withdrawn from one another, experiencing communication, intimacy or sexual problems, verbally or physically abusive, persistently angry, guilt ridden or depressed, or wanting pre-marital assessment. He loves to elicit the “magical shifts” that are often possible when applying the principles of the latest research. Couples therapy will often include working with each member alone for at least a session or two to help them identify and overcome the effects of past influences.

Songwriting and Public Education:
Don has a strong interest in educating parents, teachers and children. He was the music director and a songwriter for the PBS animated series, Jay Jay the Jet Plane. He has been a guest on numerous radio programs, has had articles featured in The National Psychologist, The Therapist, and Time for Kids, and has appeared on national television. His latest creative project, Kids EPs, is a series of award-winning songs and activities for children 4-8 years old. A link to his children’s music, videos and articles on parenting can be found at

School Consultation:
Don has been a consultant to schools for decades. He provides training to teachers on issues of classroom management, boosting social and emotional skills, and applying the latest findings of brain research to the classroom. He provides daylong trainings as well as on-going consultation, serving for years in this capacity to the Laguna Blanca lower campus. He recently completed a research and intervention project in the Santa Barbara and Goleta schools that was publicized on CNN. Using his award-winning songs and activities, 320 first and second grade children from sixteen classrooms were involved. The program was highly successful as significant changes occurred in the children, both under the conditions of having the CD alone, and also by participating in the school lessons. Some of the most significant improvements found for both first and second graders were in “encouraging others to do their best,” as well as following rules in the group. There were also positive changes with confidence.

Personal Life:
Don has been married for thirty years to Debra Manchester and they co-direct the Institute together. They have raised and launched two sons and his other greatest loves are music, tennis, organic gardening, hiking and travel.

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