Viva Tapper: A scientific & spiritual perspective

“We need many more people doing this work,” says Dr. Viva Tapper, 59, about her practice as a doctorally degreed Advanced Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.

Working from her beautiful and serene home office overlooking Discovery Bay in Port Townsend, Dr. Viva’s work days are filled to the brim with a steady flow of people in need of evaluation, counseling, support and medication management for a variety of mental health issues.
Finding her way

Dr. Viva loves her work and the opportunity to use her education and spiritual insights to serve as a mirror and mentor for others. Before beginning her medical studies, she spent 10 years working in the motion picture industry with her former husband, a well-known costume designer. Despite the famous and fascinating people she came to know, a very different path beckoned. She entered a seminary to study theology and pre-med, eventually changing courses to pursue nursing. The 1990s were a busy decade as she earned her bachelor’s degree followed by five years of rigorous graduate work at the University of Washington.

She loved the university and one of the highlights of her graduate studies was when she and another Ph.D. student were invited by the World Health Organization to participate in a Collaborative Scholars Program in Beijing, China. At that time, China’s nursing schools did not have mental health studies as part of their curriculum. The UW students gave an extensive three-week presentation regarding their nursing program, which was very well received by the Beijing Ministry of Health.

After graduation, she and her husband, psychologist Dr. Bruce Tapper, opened a clinic, Partners in Well-Being, in Port Townsend in 1995. Although still colleagues, Viva Tapper now has her own private practice.

Centering on conscious compassion

Dr. Viva’s clinical method is well-grounded in science but she also has a profound respect for people who are motivated to understand themselves. She believes this knowledge is the first all-important step in creating better relationships. Sessions are an opportunity to be a mirror to others as they evaluate their symptoms and decide if they want to change. She invites the patients’ primary care provider to work together as a team to resolve presenting symptoms which may need to be differentiated from physical issues.

Dr. Viva has prescribing privileges for adults and children but also employs a variety of non-medication modalities to assist her patients. Sleeping problems are a common issue and stabilizing the person’s circadian rhythms (the body’s natural sleep and waking cycles) must be resolved before other therapy can be implemented. She makes a point to be nourished and well rested as she suggests that “her cup must be filled” before being able to be of assistance to others.

Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is a treatment often employed for conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and obsessive-compulsive disorders, post traumatic stress, addictions, ADHD, psychosis and personality disorders. Teaching personal control through breathing techniques and relaxation skill building are aids to mood stabilization and impulse control. She encourages her patients to design their own degree of fine tuning that allows them to remain focused on their goals by achieving that middle place between chaos and flatness called the optimal pattern amplitude.

Another technique, hierarchical desensitization, is helpful for individuals with phobias. The Gottman Model is used for couples counseling. Non-violent communication skills improve life for the patients and their relationships to others.

A spiritual journey

Although she welcomes and honors seekers from all spiritual and secular traditions, Dr. Viva’s Christian faith and the belief that God wants us to know Him has been what sustains her.

Two years ago, she found herself waking up in Harborview Medical Center after a car accident that left her with a serious eye injury, three broken limbs and the inability to walk for six months. She was overwhelmed by the generosity of her community. This incident confirmed her belief that adversity offers an opportunity to learn compassion for others and to understand the degree of resilience and strength that comes from God. Although the accident was a life-changing event, most of what she believes about the purpose of her life as a healer began with a startling and completely unexpected event nearly four decades ago.

A struggling 21-year-old single mom living and working in Los Angeles, Viva went into the hospital for routine surgery and during the initial stage of anesthesia, had a cardiac arrest. Finding herself hovering over her body while viewing the pandemonium in the operating room was the first of four dimensions of experience which she says was more real than anything in her earthly life. Subsequently, she began flying through darkness, feeling very alone and without personal control at first.

She cried out to God, perceived a tiny, bright star and then began to feel the love and perfection of belonging. Moving with great and exhilarating speed, she found that her numerous questions were answered before she could finish asking them. Described as a faceted diamond monolith, Jesus incorporated her into the shared wisdom and purpose of human experience. Additionally, there was a review, of sorts, about the history of mankind, past to future which consisted largely of war and strife but also people helping others.

As is often described in the Near Death Experience (NDE) literature, she found herself traveling down a tunnel with the Golden Light of God at the end. She had an image of her home with the Light and had to make a difficult decision whether to stay in this perfect place or return to her previous existence. Her responsibility as the mother of a 3-year-old dictated the choice, and she found herself slammed back into the body that already had been pronounced dead. One can only imagine the shock of the operating room staff as she waved them back to the table.

Six weeks after the NDE, her life and relationships changed dramatically. She married, moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, and began the intriguing path that has brought her to her current work.

Dr. Viva has a special interest in spiritual counseling and would like to spend more time researching and writing about NDEs. The chronic problem of good and evil from a Christian psychiatric perspective is an ongoing area of study.

For individuals who are looking to support themselves but challenged to seek psychiatric services, Dr. Viva suggests using the same criteria as choosing a specialist in any field. The right psychiatric provider can offer a valuable, safe and clear environment to see ourselves better and our pathways more clearly. Most insurance covers psychiatric care and payment plans are available for those without coverage.

Dr. Viva also invites credentialed professionals with excellent grounding and integrity to contact her about partnering in this much needed work.
She has participated in the UW’s rural Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner preceptor program and hopes to mentor another intern again.
Viva Tapper, Ph.D., ARNP, B.C., is a Doctor of Nursing Science and Research and is an Advanced Registered Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner licensed in the state of Washington with prescriptive authority for children and adults. Dr. Viva also treats couples, families and groups in relationship building. She has a private practice in Port Townsend. Contact her at 360-379-8482 or To learn more about Dr. Viva Tapper and her work, visit on the web at
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