“When I have a client who identifies, for example, as queer, one who says they are depressed, or one who expresses no identity or experience at all (!), I want to avoid assuming what I know and instead seek to understand what that means from their perspective.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist?
Since my first Intro to Psychology course, I have known that this is what I was meant to do. I love connecting with people and working with them as they discover who they are and what they want and need. As a result of my personal, educational, and professional experiences, I developed a social justice and multicultural lens through which I see my life and my work. This worldview is largely why my therapeutic approach is very collaborative and individualized; each experience is different because of who I am and where I come from and because of who my clients are and where they come from. This is also true of my experiences working as faculty at different universities, instructing and training future clinicians at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In all experiences, I see my job as offering guidance and support as individuals realize their goals in their own unique ways and in ways that fit their current and historical contexts, identities, and strengths.
What should someone know about working with you?
The intake process is more structured and involves going through questions I ask everyone to better get to know you, where you come from, and what's bringing you in. After that, our sessions will be less structured and driven by what's foremost on your mind. This will likely connect to what brought you in and/or help us learn more about you, your thoughts, and your feelings. What we do is largely determined by your own goals. If your goals include learning skills, such as emotional regulation or communication strategies, you might try these skills during and between sessions and pay attention to what made it difficult or easy to practice and whether you would prefer to try something different. Or, you might be asked to start paying attention to contextual factors (e.g., lack of sleep, increased stress, etc.) associated with different moods. I regularly check in to see what you think has and has not been helpful in the process so we can optimize the experience as best we can.
Have you done any research-based work that you found particularly exciting? How does it inform your practice today?
As someone who identifies as multiethnic, who is seen as different ethnicities by others, and who sees myself as identifying more with one culture than another on any given day, my dissertation was on exploring the lived experiences of individuals who self-identify as multiethnic and how and why they define themselves this way. Many people might think multiethnic means having two parents from different countries, but I discovered several different definitions among participants with this identity. From this study, I learned that people attach different meanings to identities and states of being, many of which we are not aware of. When I have a client who identifies, for example, as queer, one who says they are depressed, or one who expresses no identity or experience at all (!), I want to avoid assuming what I know and instead seek to understand what that means from their perspective. Their definition is, after all, the one that matters!
“Their definition is, after all, the one that matters!”