Why did you become a therapist?
Both of my parents passed away early in my life and I didn't come from a culture that supported processing this (great as they were in other ways). A huge part of my journey was to acknowledge, and then heal my own grief and pain. In my 20's I wasn't ready to work on my grief as it was all too raw, so I traveled the world instead.
It seemed like running away but I've since learned that sometimes running away leads to safety. Being ready to look at your life, and face the painful things that have shaped your beliefs or your triggers is tough, and sometimes you have to run away first, to get to a point where you feel safe enough to return and make sense of what has happened to you.
I ended up settling in New York and joined Columbia University School of Social Work on the international development track. While there I worked at a domestic violence clinic and then a psychiatric hospital. That was when I became aware of therapy as a tool that could help me understand my pain and finally begin the process of healing. I switched to the clinical therapy track and have never looked back.
How did you end up specialising in trauma therapy?
After Columbia, I started working in an outpatient clinic in the Bronx and a lot of my clients had been through really traumatic life experiences. This led me to enrol in an EMDR training to help the clients I had. At the training I volunteered to be a guinea pig for a session and I was blown away by the results. I realised that there was so much of my past experience that I had not acknowledged, or had no idea was affecting me and it has become the prism through which I see a lot of my work.
From that training, I met other practitioners focusing on somatic (body) work for trauma and realised a lot of my physical ailments were the result of how my body was holding my past experiences. I learned skills for releasing this and became passionate about doing this particular work with others.
What do you like about therapy?
I've always been someone that liked deep conversations and was terrible at small talk. Essentially therapy is all about the deep conversations while also requiring creativity and problem-solving. Everyone is different, so obviously the solution for each client's problems is different. In the modern world it seems there are so many miracle cures that offer an easy solution to your problems. To me, that is always a lie. Everyone is different and the creative part of therapy is to help clients to find what works for them. The desire to do this has led me to study many different ways of healing, from psychological therapy, to spiritual practices, to body work and this breadth of learning informs my work.
What are your qualifications?
I have an LCSW, which stands for Licensed Clinical Social Worker. This qualification is specific to the USA and is similar to a psychologist degree in the UK. It requires two years of study at a masters level, plus 3 years of work in a clinic for those with psychological problems, plus an examination on your skills. I am also required to update my LCSW every 3 years and to continually update my skills through continuing education in order to stay registered.