My name is Michael Petaja.
My experience is supported by over 20 years in the mental health field. I have been in private practice for over a decade primarily focused on family system issues. Work with my clients as well as with individual healing has been an ongoing evolution. My understanding of what promotes holistic wellness emotionally, spiritually, physically, and interpersonally continues to grow. My processing focuses on the conditioning that shapes our perception of life so that we may experience a more authentic, free, and harmonious journey.
I have a psychodynamic approach that’s rooted in attachment theory, bio-social recovery model that explores the origin of our primitive world. During the clinical process we address the multi-generational transmission by compassionately unraveling the defensive patterns that at one time kept us safe. My experience is that the majority of children’s symptomatology stem from the friction that emerges when meeting their parent’s unconscious programming. Systematically the whole family works together to generate awareness and understanding that allows them to return to the more natural and loving fluid harmonious state. 
Opening our higher consciousness allows the flexibility to rewire our brains through kindness and corrective emotional relationships. This is in an alchemetic process. Throughout my years as a provider the majority of the children I serve enter therapy hijacked by their sympathetic nervous system and repeatedly engage in a fight, flight strategy governed by their individual processing. This activation threatens and triggers their parents and everyone ends up stuck in this repetitive dysfunctional dance. Through loving awareness together this pattern can be freed and joy, expansion, and peace will return.
I facilitate family, couples, and individual sessions. My process in a non-pathology-based approach to integrate self compassion with awareness so that we can recapture our true selves and co-create a life we are designed to embrace.
I am also specialized in meditation and collaborative law to support families going thru transitions with divorce. It’s essential for the child’s well-being that this process is done mindfully to alleviate alienation or loyalty bonds.
We are all interconnected on a deeper level. Only love is real.


Michael A. Petaja
Mental Health Therapist
7 West 6th Avenue, Suite 4E 
(406) 461-0551

I am a dedicated Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor with 15 years of experience treating trauma in the mental health field.


  • Strong background working with emotionally challenged children, parents and couples
  • Particularly proficient in working with pattern recognition and strategy upgrades toward the satisfaction of vital needs
  • Skilled in reorganization, hope restoration and optimistic support
  • Able to construct a platform of trust where individuals create their own improved life strategies
  • Oriented toward the patient’s ability to heal through awareness, innate strength and natural balance
  • Developed communication skills that help gently remove layers of trauma and reprocess events with the informed, whole being


  • Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor


  • Masters in Health and Human Development with emphasis on Mental Health Counseling
    Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, 2005
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications
    University of Montana, Missoula, MT, 1995

Professional  Development

2002 and 2005: Extensive training with Bruce Perry on Trauma and Brain Development
Bozeman and Helena, MT

2005: Court Appointed Special Advocates and Legal Consultation Training
Bozeman, MT

2002: Volunteer counseling, Health and Human Development Clinic
Bozeman, MT

2006: Guardian and Interim Trainer on Attachment with Foster Children
Helena, MT

2008: Treating Bipolar Children – Healthcare Training Institute
Missoula, MT

2006: Treating and Diagnosing Sexual Abuse – Healthcare Training Institute
Helena, MT

2005: Treating Sexual Behavior Problems -Toni Cavenaugh Johnson Ph. D
Helena, MT

2007: 100hr Extensive training with Daniel Hughes on Attachment
Bozeman and Helena,MT

2009: Training in Adverse Childhood Experiences
Helena, MT

2010: Assessment and Management of Suicide Risk
Helena, MT

2011: Training in Resolving Core Feelings through Play

2009: Training in Couples Therapy Communication Strategies
Helena, MT

2012: Training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Missoula, MT

2012: Creative Interventions
Helena, MT

2013: Training Mirroring: Theory and Practice
Helena, MT

2013: Bipolar Interventions for Episodes
Helena, MT

Professional Experience

2008 – Present: Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor, Private Practice

  • Work with all age groups
  • Providing quality care for family systems while meeting the individual needs of each client
  • Work primarily within a psychodynamic approach, utilizing some cognitive behavioral strategies
  • Providing psychotherapy to individuals, couples and families in the Helena community since 2006
  • Areas of experience include: attachment and relational issues, adoptive families, depression, grief and loss, anxiety, adjustment disorders and recovery from trauma

1999 – 2008: lntermountain, Helena, MT

  • Residential therapist for inpatient treatment of troubled youth

2001 – 2003: Counseling and Psychological Services, Montana State University, Bozeman,   MT

  • Counseled college students while attending graduate school

1997 – 1999: Nabisco Incorporated, Eugene,  OR

  • Corporate sales representative for Southern Oregon and Northern California

1988 – 1994: Montana and Tennessee National Guard

  • Specialist E-4 in Administration Department, Honorable Discharge

Community Service Volunteer

2005: Court Appointed Special Advocates and Legal Consultation Training, Bozeman, MT

  • Learned and practiced  advocacy

2002 – 2003: Health and Human Development Clinic, Bozeman, MT

  • Provided counseling

2012 – 2013: Professional  Legal Council  for  Morrison,  Sherwood,  Wilson  and Deola, Helena, MT

  • Professional  witness

2002 to 2004: Reach Incorporated –  High-functioning Differently-abled Individuals and Groups, Bozeman, MT

  • Community Recreation, Playtime

2001: Dribblers, lntermountain, Helena, MT

  • Soccer Coaching
  • 2011:  Anderson Supreme Court Case for COSA
  • Professional Witness Testimony

*References available upon request.