Can you tell us a bit about your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
My path toward becoming a therapist was a bit unconventional, especially through the lens of my cultural background. As a Japanese-American, one side of my family operates within a very traditional, conservative Japanese mindset while the other, all born and raised in Hawaii, have more of a Pacific Islander way of life. I was raised with two frames of thought when it came to discussing emotions or personal problems: (1) It’s not okay, never do it, keep your emotions to yourself, and (2) insert super awkward silence followed by a quick change of subject to something positive—without addressing the subject matter whatsoever. Therefore, I never really had a way to share my emotions while I was growing up. To be honest, I didn’t even know therapy or counseling was a thing!
Fast forward to college, when I took a series of office jobs and eventually found myself working as an administrative assistant for a therapist. experience was highly transformative because I went from not being okay with expressing or addressing my feelings to conducting intake information and scheduling therapy sessions for those actively seeking help and wanting to share about their emotions and personal difficulties.
I was fascinated by these clients’ openness and willingness to talk about their emotional and mental health. My curiosity about psychology grew quickly and I started borrowing books from my employer. I eventually became even more involved and started writing blog posts for her website and helped her with marketing the business too.
Inspired by the fact that I couldn’t stop thinking about my work at the therapist’s practice, I ended up changing my major from public health to psychology. From the very first psychology class, I immediately felt like I was “home” and in the right place.
CLICK HERE to watch my full VLOG about my journey to becoming a therapist.
What does a typical session with you look like?
Therapy sessions with me are experiential, process-oriented, and solution-focused.
My role is to acknowledge the distress you are experiencing and to explore what life has been like for you. By holding a safe and secure space, we can focus on connecting the dots between your experiences (both past and present) and your thoughts, emotions and how you’re feeling about yourself in the present moment.
It’s common for individuals to find out that there is much more to their experience than what they’re already aware of. As we uncover, we start putting all of the puzzle pieces together in a way that makes sense and provides clarity.
From there, I like to explore specific techniques and take-aways that can be realistically incorporated into my client’s days and weeks, so they can focus on things that matter most to them. This gives them a chance to show up in the world like the person they’ve wanted to be; living life their way, and treating themselves and others, from a heart-centered place. Together, we problem solve and navigate how to do this in the midst of the distressing thoughts, emotions, and situations that arise.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
I wish people knew therapy can be helpful even for those who are not used to talking about their struggles. I think this misconception can often lead to a hesitation in reaching out for therapy to begin with. But there’s no need to wait until it’s “bad enough” to warrant seeking help.
Another is the belief that one is not deserving of help, when compared to the hardships of others. For anyone experiencing any level of emotional pain, your experience matters, your pain is valid, and you deserve to have an outlet to express your feelings just as much as anyone else.
It’s important to understand that when you notice a feeling of distress, your mind and body are sending you an alert that this is something important and needs to be addressed. If left unattended, this distress could make itself known by coming out in other ways that could have negative impacts on your life including at work, school, in relationships, or even basic self-care needs.
So reach out before it’s “bad enough” and get the support you deserve.
What is your specialty and how did you choose it?
I specialize in treating depression and bipolar disorder. Oftentimes I get asked why I work with these two diagnoses, and the answer is this: these clients are among the strongest yet most misunderstood and mislabeled individuals. My mission is to provide a safe, nonjudgmental space for them to be truly seen, heard, and accepted. My hope is that each individual will get to a place where they don’t feel crappy or guilty about their experience and can see themselves as a person who can be successful, valued by others, and deserving of a fulfilling life.
Before becoming a therapist, I spent time volunteering for the Orange County chapter of the Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance, where I connected individuals and their loved ones with support groups for depression and bipolar disorder. Through that experience I saw the strength and perseverance of these individuals and families. I started providing therapy for individuals living with bipolar disorder and depression during my traineeship while in graduate school, and I just knew that this would be my focus in private practice.
As I progressed through different therapist positions at nonprofits and multiple community mental health agencies, my interest in providing therapy to individuals and families living with depression and bipolar disorder grew—so much so that I made sure to have as many of these clients on my caseload as possible. I became known for being the go-to therapist to consult with regarding depression and bipolar disorder, and I absolutely love the work I do with my clients.
Short Term (Solution-focused, etc.)
Ideal for those who are coming in with a specific problem they’d like to address and gain clarity on. Typically, short term therapies are present focused and do not dive deep into your past.
Structured therapies are goal and progress oriented. Therapists may incorporate psychoeducation and a specific “curriculum.” In order to stay on track, therapists may provide worksheets and homework.
Insight-oriented (Psychodynamic, Existential, etc.)
Exploring the past and making connections to present issues can help clients gain insight. Getting to the root of the issue and finding deeper self-awareness can help with long-term change.
Non-directive (Humanistic, Person-centered, etc.)
Going with the flow and seeing where it leads.
Behavioral (CBT, DBT, etc.)
Focuses on changing potentially unhealthy or self-destructive behaviors by addressing problematic thought patterns and specific providing coping skills.
Trauma Focused (EMDR, TF-CBT, etc.)
Recognizing the connection between trauma experiences and your emotional and behavioral responses, trauma focused therapy seeks to help you heal from traumas.