Sam Wasfi is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who focuses on client collaboration to help you get unstuck from unhelpful, often generationally-triggered, behavior patterns. Sam teaches those he works with to attend to their emotional and spiritual needs in order to become less reactive and more intentional.
What’s one thing that you’ve learned through your own therapy?
Vulnerability is a beautiful rose; to behold its beauty you must withstand the pain of its prickly thorns.
Prior to my own therapy, I understood vulnerability as the willingness to allow another to see my inner world/life in the face of potential criticism or rejection. Turns out I was only halfway there to really understand and appreciate what this actually entails.
My own therapy helped me to experience firsthand that vulnerability is not only the courage to reveal my own fears, shame, pain, and needs to the person I love, although that is very hard, but also the daring attempt to rely on that person for comfort without the guarantee that it will be provided in return. That second part is what really gets you, what really got me at least. It’s hard work.
Here’s the thing, when a couple is vulnerable in that sense, there is a small window of opportunity to transform the relationship into something beautiful. Once you are naked, metaphorically speaking, nothing is covering your seeming imperfections and your partner can love you as you.
The truth is, we all have a yearning to be genuinely seen, deeply understood, and above all- truly loved as we really are. To be loved as the real you and not the “ideal” you, is a need that is wired on a neurobiological circuitry from the moment we are born.
In the experience of vulnerability there lies a knowing that true love depends on its survival. This is what I learned from my own therapy sitting on the couch next to my wife.
Is there an example from your daily life where you practice what you preach?
Many of the clients I see are conscientious, success-driven, and high-achieving. As a result, some experience perfectionistic tendencies that may include a self-critical voice that can be subtle and sometimes, not so subtle. This experience can not only disconnect people from being open to the present moment but also act as an insidious movement towards eroding self-confidence.
I have encouraged my clients to speak to themselves as if they were speaking to someone they love, care for, and are responsible for taking care of. I encourage compassionate curiosity, which facilitates learning and growth rather than judgment and criticism—this often activates the nervous system before depleting a person’s energy, motivation, and bypassing opportunities for growth.
This is something I apply to my daily life as well. In moments when I feel that I didn’t show up to a relationship, event, or activity in a way that aligns with what I value, or I just simply wasn’t my best self, I move toward compassionate curiosity.
I observe my thoughts and notice the language guiding them. I make an effort to acknowledge where I believe I have missed an opportunity and explore my feelings, attitude, and beliefs about the experience. There’s generally a learning opportunity at that moment when it’s not clouded with negative inner-chatter.
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
As a child growing up with very stressed parents who were doing their best with what they were given, I needed to turn toward those outside of my immediate family for guidance and emotional support. I also needed to turn toward understanding how people healed from childhood trauma- how they reclaimed their life, identity, and purpose.
My mentors and personal healing and development guided me into leadership roles for the majority of my twenties. I was mentoring children and youth and doing home visits regularly to help families create a greater bond while discussing difficult issues.
The majority of the time I was drawing from personal experience and studies, but lacked a systematic way of both understanding and treating family issues as a professional might. As my academic pursuit in my thirties merged with a passion to work with families, I was very motivated to become a therapist.
It made sense to combine my personal life experience and community service with the in-depth knowledge of research and applied psychology.
Sam Wasfi is licensed with the California Board of Behavioral Sciences as a Marriage and Family Therapist. He has an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies with a minor in Psychology, and a Master’s of Science in Counseling—both from California State University, Fullerton (CSUF).
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.