“My first priority in working with clients is to provide a unique space where they can feel safe to share all parts of themselves openly and honestly.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
Before I began my career as a psychologist, I studied fine arts, with an emphasis on figure drawing. I was initially enchanted by the human figure and capturing its bare beauty on paper. However, as time passed I found myself becoming more intrigued by the multi-dimensional narratives of those who served as models, over my one-dimensional sketches. I realize now that my attraction to art was not only about art itself, but also the acquisition of skills such as observation, patience, perceptiveness, and emotionality—skills that have been instrumental in my development as a psychologist. It is clear to me now that my experiences unveiled a deep desire to honor the beauty of vulnerability, creativity, and uniqueness in hopes to foster self-reflection, exploration, and therapeutic change.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
My first priority in working with clients is to provide a unique space where they can feel safe to share all parts of themselves openly and honestly. Within therapy, I see the therapeutic alliance as the birthplace for growth and change. Therefore, developing a trusting, collaborative relationship is vital. To facilitate this, I encourage clients to feel free to discuss any material they want in session. Additionally, I frequently check-in and process clients’ feelings towards our working relationship to get a better sense of who they are, what works for them, and what is best suited to help them with the issues that brought them into therapy. I also believe in the connection between the mind and the body and aim to help clients understand how their emotions manifest within their bodies in hopes of cultivating awareness and mastery as we embark on our journey towards healing.
How does collaboration with other providers play into your work?
Throughout my training and practice, I have emphasized multidisciplinary collaboration. I believe there is a strong connection between the body and mind so it has been invaluable for me to consult with primary care doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, nurses, and physical therapists in order to fully understand and treat clients from a holistic approach. Additionally, collaboration between providers helps foster a unified team designed to work together towards the same goals of healing, with the client’s best interest in mind. If clients feel comfortable with consenting to interdisciplinary collaboration, I encourage opening these avenues of communication to ensure they are receiving the best care possible.
What excites you most about the evolving mental health landscape?
Through my clinical work, I have consistently integrated multicultural theory into conceptualization and treatment, as it is impossible to ignore the influence of clients’ multiple identities on our work. As the mental health field evolves, I am excited to see the landscape move away from over-pathologizing clients’ issues and move towards understanding clients’ history and diverse identities. I find that this approach prioritizes strengths and highlights the intersection between the client, their relationships, and their societal contexts. As I incorporate this lens into my practice, I actively encourage clients to deepen their self-exploration, so that they can apply the insights gained in session into their everyday lives.
Is there any research-based work you’ve done that you found particularly exciting and how has that informed your practice today?
I view research as a catalyst for change, and because of this, research has been integral to my development as a psychologist. My research has a strong focus on improving evidence-based practices and social justice initiatives. The work I have published so far attempts to expand cultural competence for clinicians and develop helpful mental health practices for marginalized populations, such as sexual and gender minorities, religious minorities, and chronically ill and disabled individuals. I hope to use research as a tool to amplify the voices of those who are often voiceless in society and scientific literature. The most valuable aspect of my research has been my first-hand experience of the bidirectional relationship between research and practice. In my work, I have been fortunate enough to witness how research can inform practice, and how the issues clients face can also inform new avenues of needed research.
“I believe in the connection between the mind and the body and aim to help clients understand how their emotions manifest within their bodies in hopes of cultivating awareness and mastery as we embark on our journey towards healing.”
Jessica practices at Alma