When I was tested for the honors program in third grade, my parents received a call asking whether English was spoken as a second language in our home because my answers “weren’t quite wrong . . . they just weren’t . . . conventional.” Indeed, my out-of-the-box thinking has been a blessing and a curse throughout the years: the source of connection and of isolation, the barrier to understanding concepts and the key to illuminating alternative solutions.
As a therapist, my experience as a misfit helps me to collaborate with clients on our own personal version of “normal.” I use Narrative Therapy, Expressive Arts, and humor to sift through society’s expectations, clients’ inner critics, and all the “shoulds” that interfere with achieving our personal goals.
I attended UC Santa Cruz to study literature, and I often stayed after class to share with professors about the ways that reading stories helped me make choices in my own life. I originally wanted to be a professor so that students would come to me to talk about their own lives, but then I realized that if I wanted people to talk to me, it might be better to become a therapist. I completed the Expressive Art Therapy program at California Institute of Integral Studies: picture Hogwarts, with magic questions instead of wands. I presented a thesis on the healing power of puns and wordplay, I was religious about my Tuesday karaoke practice, and I developed strong opinions about chalk pastels.
The day after receiving my Masters Degree, I had an interview with a woman named Jean (wearing jeans and a jean jacket) for a counseling job in an eating disorder treatment center. Working with these women taught me so much about stigma, about how difficult it is to change, and about the role of family, community, and context in struggle and recovery. They taught me the power of the unspoken, the unknown, and the unresolved.
In this organization, I also realized how important it is for me to work with a team; my perspective is awesome and important, but it’s only one piece of a huge puzzle. Since moving on from my first job in mental health, I have collaborated with teachers, dieticians, psychiatrists, and other diverse professionals, which has expanded my understanding of mental health and the relationship between mood, choices, physical health, and social interactions. By the time I got my Marriage and Family Therapy license, I had spent time working in the school setting, in substance abuse recovery, mental health clinics, and eating disorder treatment centers. I began looking for an organization with all my favorite qualities from each workplace, and I found BACA. I love working with kids, teens, and their families; I learn so much from helping everyone come together to commit to growing and trying new things, while keeping the unique traditions and inside jokes that define their family identity. Because of my experience working with families, I have a particular appreciation for the balance between growth and consistency, between the individual and the system, and between connection and exploration, and I’m so excited to be part of an agency with appreciation for attending to this balance in its own “family.”