What is your role at Integrated Care Clinic?
I just recently passed my licensing exam and am now a Licensed Psychologist, which I’m very excited about! Outside of the change in title from postdoctoral fellow to Licensed Psychologist, though, not much else will be different. I will continue to see clients with various presenting concerns, though I specialize in the treatment of general and social anxiety. I use cognitive-behavioral skills to help clients identify distortions in their thinking and examine evidence to discover more helpful and accurate ways to view the world. I love helping clients strive for balance in their life in many domains: with thoughts, food, self-care, relationships, work, and more. I also specialize in treating teens and adults who are struggling with eating disorders in both individual and family therapy contexts. Finally, I work with couples who are struggling with conflict, communication, connection, or parenting effectively.
Let’s break the ice: if you had to eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Gosh, that’s a tough one, because I love to eat! I would say if I had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be anything fancy or expensive or gourmet… it would be mac n’ cheese! It’s ooey, it’s gooey, it’s cheesy and melty and chewy… it’s perfect.
Where did you go to school for undergrad? What did you study?
I attended the University of Florida for undergrad (just like both of my parents and many other members of my family!) I majored in psychology and also got two minors in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences and Education, which both fit very neatly with psychology in my view. I also worked as a Resident Assistant on campus for two years, which also fit very well with my interest in psychology, as my role (outside of maintaining general law and order on my floor) was facilitating interpersonal relationships among the students and helping with conflict resolution.
Where did you go to graduate school?
I got my Doctor of Psychology degree at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. (Yes, I really have lived in Florida my whole life!) In my program, I got both my Masters in Psychology and my doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. During my (limited) free time in graduate school, I helped to run a support group for parents of children who were getting their limbs lengthened through the Paley Institute, served as a mentor for incoming first-year students, and served as a teaching assistant for various professors.
Why did you decide to become a psychologist?
I would say I was drawn to the profession of psychology from a young age, by my own interest as well as other people providing me the feedback that I was very easy to talk to and that I was usually the person friends and family would go to when they needed someone to listen. I did the International Baccalaureate program in high school, where we had to pick an elective to take at the “higher level” (for the second year in a row), and I chose psychology because everything about the theories fascinated and made sense to me! After this exposure to the field of psychology in high school, I went on to major in psychology in college, and continued to get more and more involved, joining the Psychology club on UF’s campus and joining Psi Chi, the international honors society in psychology. From this point, I knew I wanted to be a psychologist and continued directly into grad school after undergrad, which led me to where I am now! Whenever I share this story, though, I always do it with the disclaimer that I feel very lucky, and feel I’m in the minority of people who figure out what they want to do right away. My journey happened to be very smooth, but I think it is the exception, not the rule!
What are you most passionate about?
I would say that, broadly, I’m passionate about making the world a better place. I feel very lucky that I’m in a job where I can honestly say every day that I get to live out my passion, and I think change at the individual level is vital to change at the larger societal level. My passion extends beyond my work, though; I also consider myself an activist for sustainability and animals! I’ve loved animals from a young age, and my activism started in fifth grade when I became an ambassador and fund-raised for my local Humane Society. My love of talking to people makes it really easy to get out there and raise awareness, call my representatives, and educate people on various issues, both psychology and activism related!
Do you have any pets?
I do, and they bring so much joy to my life! I have two rescue dogs who both came from less-than-ideal circumstances. Penny is a small poodle mix with a lot of spunk, and Lala is a 40-pound dachshund basset hound mix that basically looks like a giant wiener dog who was hit with a growth ray. I began fostering Lala in the hopes of finding her a forever home and then fostering another dog, but… I fell in love with her and became a “foster failure” as they said when I adopted her! Now that I’ve finally passed my licensing exam, I’m thinking about taking another foster dog, but I know it can be a slippery slope after my last experience… Fun (well, not so fun) fact: Penny was lost for 6 days in Miami one time, off of the busiest street in the city. I searched for her for six straight days (in Spanish!) and found her! She is my little survivor! It was definitely one of the scariest experiences for me, and put my perseverance to the test!
Tell us your favorite joke!
OK, this is my best joke of all time, guaranteed to make people of all ages, stages, and political persuasions laugh:
Why did the scarecrow get a promotion?
Because he was outstanding in his field!
What are the client ages you work with?
I work with a wide range of clients, ranging in age from 11- their 40’s and 50’s! The largest portion of the my caseload, though, is probably clients in their early, middle, or late twenties who are struggling with issues like transitions (from school to working life, or from living at home to living on their own), relationships with others, finding balance in their lives, and more. Though major transitions can affect someone at any stage of life, I find that working with people in their twenties is especially rewarding because to me, this is a phase of life where people really begin to solidify their identity, their values, and the type of person they want to be. It is an honor and a privilege to walk alongside people on this journey and help them blossom into the best versions of themselves, whether that is one who is much less anxious, who has a healthier relationship with food, who can set healthy boundaries in relationships or who finds the thing that really lights a fire within them.
What clinical rotations have you done, and how have these shaped you as a clinician?
Throughout my training, I completed many different rotations, including a rotation working with toddlers with autism, one at the community mental health center at my school, and one rotation at Florida Atlantic University’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center. During my time in the community mental health center, I was chosen as one of two co-leaders for a six-month rotation in a process group, which I really loved! Each of these rotations all had one thing in common: they were totally different from each other! The community mental health center served a low-income population, which comes with its own unique set of concerns and challenges (e.g. unreliable transportation, normal anxiety about paying bills, living paycheck to paycheck, etc.) that impact mental health.
Tell us about your internship.
I did my internship at the Psychology Services Center (PSC), the low-income community mental health clinic associated with my university. The PSC was home to many different clinics which all worked with very different populations and provided different services. I loved this internship because it allowed me to engage in a wide variety of activities with multiple populations and always kept things interesting! My main rotation was in the NSU Counseling Center for Older Adults (NCCOA), which primarily served adults aged 60 and over and offered therapy services as well full batteries of tests to screen for memory issues, cognitive impairment related to normal aging, and neurocognitive impairment related to disease, stroke, or other events. Through this rotation, I had the opportunity to spend one day a week working as the psychiatric consult in the medical clinic for older adults on campus, which gave me invaluable experience working as part of an interdisciplinary team. I also ran a support group for patients with Parkinson’s and their caregivers, and scheduled relevant speakers in the community to come and share information related to Parkinson’s Disease with the group. The other two clinics in which I provided therapy were the Adult Services Program (ASP) and Child and Family Services (CAFS), where I provided therapy to adults, children, and families. I told you I got to participate in a wide variety of activities! Another part of my internship that I loved was being in a supervisory role to other students in the doctoral program, meeting weekly with a group of students to observe them giving live therapy to patients and to provide them feedback and help them with cases. I also had the privilege of running a weekly case consultation group for NCCOA, where I led group discussions on how to approach various aspects of a student’s case.
What hobbies do you have? What do you like to do in your free time?
One of my favorite hobbies in people-watching, which makes sense given my profession! I’ve always been fascinated by people, and I love to sit at an outdoor table downtown and observe people going by. I also love to do activities outside (like biking, walking the dogs, taking a walk on the beach, etc.), which I haven’t been able to much of in the summer months (well, not comfortably, at least in this heat!) I love St. Pete because of the bike-friendly infrastructure and the Pinellas Trail which is right near my house and which I can just hop on and take a ride! I like being outside because it allows me to really tune into my surroundings and facilitates by ability to be mindful, since there is no lack of things to see, hear, touch, and smell! I find it very refreshing and grounding to spend time in nature, and typically my clients also find this helpful!
What do you plan to learn next in your career? Any areas you’d like to learn more about?
I love working with couples, and I would love to take a Gottman Method training and gain more knowledge and experience in the Gottman Method, which is an evidence-based treatment for couples. I saw John Gottman, the founder of the Gottman method along with his wife Julie, speak at a live event in South Florida when I lived there and I was so inspired by his work with couples! Even in my individual work, I am aware that the quality of our relationships with our partners plays a large role in how we feel and function throughout the day, and I would love to be able to help couples not only manage conflict more effectively, but find ways to reduce the wedge of distance that can sometimes be put in place when we put our relationship on auto-pilot, and really help couples strengthen their connection with, and feelings of being truly known and accepted, by their partner.