What would your clients and colleagues say is your therapist superpower?
The feedback I have received from clients and colleagues is that my superpower is creating awareness. My colleagues have described me as the queen of psychoeducation because I make sure my clients have a truly clear understanding of what they are experiencing. My goal has been to increase my client’s awareness and understanding of who they are, who they have been, and who they will become. When first coming to treatment, my clients often report that they are lacking in understanding and feeling fear about what they are experiencing. Through treatment, they express a reduction of fear and uncertainty because they are highly aware of what they are experiencing and how to take action to make changes. I believe that by increasing my client awareness, I help them become the experts on who they are – and that reduces the need for external validation.
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
My backup to becoming a therapist has a lot to do with my desire to help others and my lived experiences. I grew up in a household made up of single mom struggling to raise her children through poverty, limited support, and her own mental health struggles. I knew school was my only option, so after becoming pregnant at 16, I decided I would become a teacher. I worked hard, but after being in a car accident that left me paralyzed at age 21, my career goals changed. My mental resilience was put to the challenge and as I healed physically and mentally, and I wanted to help others do the same. I found that social work gave me multiple options to help others find their own strength and resilience. I found that some of the strongest people filed through so much alone and I wanted to be the person in their corner helping them find the light at the end of the tunnel.
What does a typical session with you look like?
A typical session with me begins with a check in on any experiences and/or homework they had during the week. I proceed to assist my clients in understanding how their experience could be related to past lived experiences, culture, physical health, mental health and relationships. After providing some insight, I help my clients to process their experience through multiple interventions and strategies to make changes for the future. I typically have all my clients leave their session with a homework assignment to reinforce the work done in session.
How do you approach the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy?
As a Mexican-American, I am highly driven to reduce stigma surrounding mental health in the Latinx community. Physical health is more widely accepted in the Latinx community and there is a lack of understanding that mental health is different. I have found that giving mental health issues a physical image decreases the ambiguity and abstract concept that increases stigma. Therefore, I often focus on educating clients on the physical components of mental health issues such as the origins in the brain.