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Melissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

Owner of RISE Counseling and Consulting


Melissa received her Bachelor of Arts majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice with a minor in Sociology from Mount Mercy College and her Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Mount Mercy University. Melissa is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) and has been a therapist since 2012. 

Melissa works with families and individuals of all ages. She has worked with those experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, inattention, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and adjustment-related stressors. Melissa also has experience working on personal and professional development as well as divorce and coparenting. Melissa specializes in grief and loss with over 45 hours of training on grief and loss. 

Melissa is a Registered Play Therapist & Registered Play Therapist Supervisor (RPT-S) with over 315 hours of play therapy specific training. She has also completed Theraplay Level 1 training. Melissa is certified in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) and trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). See certification details for RPT-S, TF-CBT, & EMDR below! 

In Melissa’s spare time she enjoys listening to books on Audible, all things personal and professional development, reality TV, drinking coffee, and spending time with her husband and two children.  

Melissa opened RISE in January 2022. 

Read more about Melissa on her Psychology Today profile!

You can also view her Curriculum Vitae (CV) and see all of the trainings she has completed.


Ready to get started with Melissa?

Review all of the steps on our Getting Started page, and then request Melissa on our New Client Information Form.



TF-CBT is an evidence-based conjoint child and caregiver psychotherapy approach for children and adolescents who are experiencing significant emotional and behavioral difficulties related to traumatic life events. Research shows that TF-CBT successfully resolves a broad array of emotional and behavioral difficulties associated with single, multiple, and complex trauma experiences.

1 of 25 certified in Iowa

Play Therapy

Play Therapy is not the same as regular, everyday play. While spontaneous play is a natural and essential part of the developmental process, Play Therapy is a systematic and therapeutic approach. Therapists strategically utilize play therapy to help children express what is troubling them when they do not have the verbal language to express their thoughts and feelings (Gil, 1991). In play therapy, toys are like the child's words and play is the child's language (Landreth, 2002). Through play, therapists may help children learn more adaptive behaviors when there are emotional or social skills deficits (Pedro-Carroll & Reddy, 2005). The positive relationship that develops between therapist and child during play therapy sessions can provide a corrective emotional experience necessary for healing (Moustakas, 1997). Play therapy may also be used to promote cognitive development and provide insight about and resolution of inner conflicts or dysfunctional thinking in the child (O'Connor & Schaefer, 1983; Reddy, Files-Hall, & Schaefer, 2005).

1 of 103 Registered Play Therapists in Iowa

1 of 45 Registered Play Therapist Supervisors in Iowa

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

EMDR Trained Therapist since July 2019

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Check out the blog to read some of Melissa's articles!

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