“I use research-backed methods (EMDR, TF-CBT, IFS) along with traditional talk therapy and creative interventions because they're effective.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
I was in the fashion industry and looking for a second career when I encountered the question, "What do you love and what makes you angry?" I love children and had learned of the prevalence of child sexual abuse. It angered me and I had to channel that anger to help heal people from trauma and abuse. Through the years, I expanded my skills and practice to include those who experience depression, anxiety, medical trauma, and growing up with narcissistic parents. It is my calling to be a trauma and abuse counselor. In order to be effective, I trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, internal family systems, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, somatic experiencing, trauma art narrative therapy, working with daughters of narcissistic mothers, and talk therapy. From 2002 to 2018, I worked in nonprofit organizations, specializing in helping trauma and abuse survivors. I then committed to working full-time as a therapist in my own practice.
What should someone know about working with you?
It isn't enough to ask, "How does this make you feel?" People seek my support because they want help with triggers. They want to heal. They want to understand what's going on so that after gaining insight, they can take steps and have better outcomes. From the beginning, I establish your baseline of symptoms so we can both see that what we do results in a positive impact. I'll guide you through exercises that you'll practice daily so you don't feel helpless against triggers and stressors. These become part of your toolbox so you will be empowered in between counseling sessions. While you practice skills that help you gain control over your responses to stressful events and painful memories, I continuously check in so we can assess your progress. I assess when you're ready to dive deeper into processing the events that brought you to counseling. I use research-backed methods (EMDR, TF-CBT, IFS) along with traditional talk therapy and creative interventions because they're effective.
What do you do to continue learning and building competencies as a provider?
One of the earliest pieces of advice I received about becoming an effective therapist was, "Be curious!" I'm curious about my clients and their worlds (both external and internal). Helping them means understanding their thoughts and perceptions as well as being curious and skilled in asking the right questions. Curiosity also leads to constantly asking, "What else can I do to help people heal?" In the first three years of my career, I was curious and very baffled as to why my clients still reported hypervigilance and distressing reactions to triggers even after months of talk therapy. My “aha moment” came when I learned that we need to work with the body as well as the mind. My curiosity and interest in helping my clients led me to train in EMDR, IFS, TF-CBT, and somatic experiencing. I also pursued training in working with children of narcissistic parents. I only pursue training that is most helpful to my clients, so my practice is focused on healing the mind and body.
How do your own core values shape your approach to therapy?
I believe that hope is a crucial part of life and therapy; without hope, it's difficult to trust that there's something better than our current struggles. Hope informs my practice. My hope as a provider of therapy comes from various sources. I know that EMDR works because I've used it since 2008 and I've seen how it can accelerate healing. I know that helping people resolve their internal conflicts paves the way for progress. I also know that helping people understand and attend to their bodies, thoughts, and feelings often results in improved ways of living daily.
As a second-generation immigrant from Asia, I'm attuned to the nuances and difficulties of living in a multicultural society while having one foot in the culture of our families. I believe in the resilience of my clients. While it is my responsibility to remind them of this, it is also a privilege to instill hope when they forget that they're strong. I am a hopeful therapist because I know what I do helps people heal.
What are you most excited about within the evolving mental health landscape?
I'm excited about teletherapy, even though I was a skeptic! I didn't believe that one could effectively help people online but I'm so glad to be wrong. It's beautiful to see and feel the connection between my clients and myself during therapy sessions. I feel for them and they can sense my empathy and support as deeply as if we were in the same room. To my surprise, my clients are more relaxed online than in person. It makes sense, because they're in their own spaces, spaces they're familiar with and feel safe in. This puts them at rest and they mentally, emotionally, and literally lay things down. I’m also very excited that all the interventions I use (including EMDR) translate so well and so effectively to video counseling. It is reassuring to me that there are HIPAA-compliant platforms, like the most secure version of Zoom. I'm confident that sessions remain confidential and that no one, including counselors, can record video sessions.
“I believe that hope is a crucial part of life and therapy; without hope, it's difficult to trust that there's something better than our current struggles.”