I love a challenge and an adventure. I enjoy learning and being immersed in different cultures, languages and people from all walks of life. I consider myself to be very spiritual and connected to others. Putting all these together and you’ll understand why I made the recent move (December 2016) to Israel. I currently spend my time between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the two big cities which couldn’t be more different from each other. I love them both and for very different reasons. But this blog is not about that.
I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I spent my first 24 years living there and graduated from San Francisco State University in 2008 with a BA in psychology. I knew I wanted to be a therapist since I was 11 years old, which is when I began listening to the radio show Loveline. I marveled at the way Dr. Drew would just know that a person had been abused in their childhood based on a question about their relationship (like crying during sex). I became fascinated with human behavior and also what child abuse was and how it impacts survivors as adults. I read books, watched movies and in high school I even took psychology courses at community college to learn more. During high school I also had my first experience with developmental trauma (although I didn’t realize it was this until much later in life) when my mom brought a beautiful baby girl home from the hospital (my adopted sister) who was born with drugs in her system.
I spent the next 17 years basically co-parenting my adopted sister and brother (there’s a whole complex story as to how they came into our home that is too long to get into) with only a brief separation when I went to graduate school in Orange County, 2008-2011.
At Chapman University I was thrown into a very different world. Spending 24 years in the diverse and liberal Bay Area I was shocked that Orange County was a lot less diverse and a lot more conservative. It also is not as close to Los Angeles as I had thought. I did a lot of growing up here and really I call it my third home. I made wonderful friends and had the privilege of working three jobs during this time. It was here that I knew I wanted to eventually have a private practice while also doing therapy at group homes (which is where I worked). As a group home staff member I worked with children who had been removed from their families due to abuse and neglect but who also could not live in foster homes because of their extreme behaviors (running away, biting, punching, property destruction, etc). I did the day to day basics of waking kids up and helping them get ready for school, feeding them dinner, making sure they were bathed and doing social activities with them. When I reflect back I had to use a lot of self regulation to get through those tiring days when I had to stop multiple fights or tell a child for the 20th time to brush their teeth. I also noticed that much of the problem was that these kids had no attachments to their families (immediate or extended). It was as if the families had given up on these children and their behaviors reflected that. They acted out of impulse and pure need to survive as their attachments had been disrupted. They did not trust adults for the most part and their peer relationships were a challenge. I feel like my kindness and structure (as well as that from other staff) made a huge difference in their ability to grow (I saw a couple kids who were able to leave and return to their families or age out and move out on their own in a structured adult facility with a lot more freedom) and change.
I returned to the Bay Area after finishing school and worked at a non profit as a community based therapist while gaining my hours towards licensure. I worked with foster youth and youth who recently were reunited with their families. I provided therapy for these children in their homes or at school. I learned more about developmental trauma and the importance of the first five years of life. I learned how trauma was stored in the body and the importance of using a variety of sensory techniques (smells like those from essential oils, physical activity like walking, music for calming, etc) can help move a child (and an adult) from a state of alarm to a calm state. The biggest thing I learned was that trauma interrupts certain parts of development which can leave survivors stuck emotionally but that therapy can help move people along and unstuck.
I became licensed in 2015 and immediately began private practice part time. I loved the freedom of scheduling and being able to integrate treatment in a more holistic, sensory integrated, and relationship based manner without dealing with the paperwork that medi-cal/insurance makes us deal with (such as requiring a diagnosis, only being able to work with certain diagnosis or clients who met certain requirements, etc). I was literally living my dream, the one i created back at age 11. I was happy and overall content yet restless at the same time.
So why did I give this all up to start all over again in Israel? Well that sense of adventure was the primary driver as well as my feeling connected to the land, the (my) people, the country when I came for a visit in the summer of 2015. I sat in the living room in jerusalem meeting an Israel activist and lawyer, Anat Hoffman and turned to my rabbi and said “I want to make aliyah“. So yes Israel is my home but the Bay Area and California in general is my other home. It’s where I grew up both literally and figuratively. So even though I live in Israel I cannot limit myself to only helping those who live in Israel, which is why I expanded my practice to doing online therapy. I am still active and connected to the Bay Area and my home state as a whole. At the same time there are others out there with the adventurous spirit who love to travel (or have to for work) as well as those who have moved and become expats (especially with this past election people feel very upset) so why can’t they have access to a therapist who knows their culture and speaks their language. Especially for us African-Americans who have our own unique culture and history in the US. I felt it was important to offer all of myself to those need who are in need. To heal the child’s pain that we adults have in ourselves which we spend much of our lifetime trying to protect, that wound(s).