I’m often asked, “How did you decide to become a therapist?” I, too, am interested in why someone chooses this particular career. I understand the curiosity. I believe I became a psychologist out of a combination of circumstance and choice, an adaptation to the curve balls thrown my way.
Leaving for college, beginning my freshman year at UC Berkeley, of course was exciting, anxiety provoking, and yet complicated by the deteriorating health of my mom. This was a familiar fear; I watched her battle several bouts of cancer throughout most of my life. As difficult as leaving was, this launch into this next part of my life filled my mom with pride. After splitting my time in Los Angeles and Berkeley, I lost my mom in my sophomore year. The fear became reality. Throughout her years of treatment, my mom’s wish was for me to keep going, to live my life, to never take a day for granted. Living these words, this wish, was a way for me to honor my mom. I returned to school, and I kept going. My love for music was undoubtedly my outlet. I grew up playing the violin and viola, and cherished my time playing in the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. This community and the shared love for music fed my soul and was my outlet for my pain and grief.
Fast-forward to my senior year when I decided to take a birthday trip to the mountains; I’ve always loved the outdoors. The weekend started with a guided snowmobile tour, and ended with me waking up in the ICU after a bad accident and a 3-day long coma. I felt bolts sticking out of my head, tubes coming out of my body, the tracheotomy and wired shut jaw forcing my silence, and my right arm paralyzed, strapped to my body. I began to realize the extent of my injuries; my world was turned upside down. Among many other breaks and injuries, I was told the brachial plexus palsy, which accounted for my paralyzed arm, was likely permanent. The doctors were still figuring out whether I would spontaneously recover functioning of my arm, or whether surgery was an option down the line. It was now a waiting game, wrought with constant, burning, neuropathy in my hand.
After one month in the hospital, split between Northern and Southern California, I returned to my childhood home in Los Angeles where I finished my senior year, typing my honors thesis, powered by my left hand. I officially became a lefty. During this time, I took a few trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where I would undergo surgeries to help regain functioning of my arm and hand, though I was told it was a long shot. After one 8-hour long surgery, a wrist fusion, and several months of waiting for nerve regeneration, it was clear I would regain minimal functioning of my arm, and none in my hand. This loss was insurmountable. My coping mechanism, playing in an orchestra, playing my instruments, was taken away. It was now time to accept my new normal.
Though the outcome of my surgeries was not optimal, the process along the way was certainly meaningful. It was easy to feel alone in my injuries and loss, not too many people could relate to this experience. Yet, as I began to notice others in waiting rooms and lobbies with the similar arm contraption and limitations, I began getting to know them. I started talking about what happened to me, and learning about what happened to them. I was beginning to find community through adversity. I began to build relationships, and as we stayed in touch the differences in our journeys and in our rehabilitations became apparent. Some of these journeys ended in heartbreak, divorce, some never recovered from job loss. This sparked a curiosity in me, a motivation to learn more. I began to ask, why had some people succumbed to this injury, while others were able to pick up the pieces and move forward? How were some able to adapt and not others? What accounted for this resilience?
The support I received through occupational therapy, physical therapy, and psychotherapy was instrumental to my recovery, turning inward allowed me the time to process this life changing event and figure out a way forward. Despite these resources, I truly believe the critical factors to my recovery were the support of my family and friends, and perhaps most importantly, gratitude. I was able to walk, talk, think; I was lucky to be alive. This gratitude fueled my adjustment and adaptation to this new way of moving through the world with my different able-ness. I felt compelled to do for others what my doctors had done for me. I was inspired to learn more about healing and the power of connection and resilience. With this conviction, this passion for post-traumatic growth, I applied to graduate school in clinical psychology.
Over the next seven years, through my work in community mental health clinics, hospitals, residential facilities, and with veterans at the West LA VA, I learned more about the intersection of physical and mental health. Working closely with stroke survivors and those coping with chronic illness was pivotal in understanding the challenges of rehabilitation, particularly when it is compounded by trauma and addiction. My position as clinician and administrator in a residential dual diagnosis facility, treating trauma survivors recovering from addiction, solidified my expertise and passion for this work. I am fortunate to focus on the meeting space of trauma, chronic physical and emotional pain, and addiction in my private practice. Though pain, grief, and loss are all part of my story, it is one of survival and purpose. My purpose is to connect with people in their suffering and gradually experience healing, hope, and the growing capacity to savor life.
B.A. in Rhetoric; Honors with High Distinction
M.A. in Psychology
Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology
Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center; Pediatric Department
Neurocognitive Late Effects Clinic
West Los Angeles VA Healthcare Center
Rehabilitation and Health Psychology rotations
APA-Accredited Pre-Doctoral Internship
American Psychological Association (APA)
Phi Beta Kappa