What made you decide to become a counselor?
I was originally a music education major, but quickly became burnt out on the high demands of the field. I was stuck in my search for a new passion or interest to study, so one day I told myself "whoever sits next to me in class, I'll ask their major and switch to that." Luckily it was a psychology major, and next semester I took an intro psych and forensic psych course and fell in love. A year later, my sister made her first suicide attempt and was diagnosed with bipolar II. Seeing her struggle to get help and the frustration of navigating broken mental health systems operated by the LMHA, it made me passionate about meeting people where they are at and being part of the change I wished to see. I felt that experience was a sign from the universe that I was on the right path. Now, I can't imagine doing anything else.
If you could teach the world one skill or technique to improve their lives, what would it be?
Have you personally been in counseling and if so, what did you learn about yourself?
I have, on a few occasions. Unfortunately I did not greatly benefit from those experiences as the therapists were not a good fit, and at the time, I was not aware I had options or even that "fit" was an important concept in counseling. My takeaway is a greater appreciation and emphasis on building rapport and fit when working with clients.
If you could recommend one book to all your clients, what would it be?
That is tough. Probably Man's Search for Meaning
Who is your ideal client?
Someone motivated for change, and open to learning/trying new things.
What inspires you to help others?
My family legacy. My uncle Roy was the first hispanic police officer in Houston, and his brother Elias was the first hispanic firefighter. Their father was one of the founders of LULAC which helps latinX individuals fight for equity and civil rights. They accomplished this during times of great prejudice and rejection of Mexican-Americans, but they fought past it just to be able to help those in need. Growing up, I was inspired by the stories of their accomplishments and passion for people that I became adamant about devoting my life for others.
How do you personally practice self-care?
Meditation, reflection, social connection, and exercise
How do you relate to Mindfulness? How do you incorporate it in your sessions?
I resonate with Shapiro's work on the axioms of mindfulness: intention, attention, and attitude. It is such an intuitive and elegant description of mindfulness that helps me put the concept into perspective. It allows me to do brief check ins with myself throughout the day to see where my thoughts and feelings are and how they got there. I often incorporate this perspective with clients, but do so with visuals and metaphors to make it more relatable. Sometimes I liken mindfulness to the shaking of a snow globe and observing the flakes fall without attaching meaning or emotion to them. I also sometimes refer to cold weather and point out that some people love the cold (reaction), some people hate the cold (reaction), and some people notice it's cold and grab a jacket then go on about their day (response).
If you are hosting a dinner party, who are the 3 people you would invite and why?
- Miguel Pro: A catholic priest who became a martyr when he was executed for his beliefs. He lived a very interesting life that included wearing costumes to disguise the fact he was a priest to continue to help and serve people at a time when catholicism was persecuted in Mexico.
- Albert Einstein: He had such a beautiful mind and way of observing the world around him through an open perspective. I like that he did not shy away from the existential despite being an expert in a data driven quantitative field.
- Margaret "Molly" Brown: She was a pioneering individual that used her wealth to help others. She was brave and determined and seems like she would be a fascinating conversationalist with all her travels and experiences.