We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty
- Mary Angelou
Dr. Amy Nikitenko, Psy.D
Dr. Nikitenko is a clinical psychologist with 12 years of professional experience, licensed in Texas and California.
Dr. Nikitenko earned her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, where she specialized in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychological assessment. Dr. Nikitenko has experience with a diverse population including children, adolescents, and adults with severe mental illness, co-occurring disorders, and trauma histories.
Dr. Nikitenko's work has ranged from crisis intervention in the Emergency Department to intensive outpatient therapy in the following modalities: dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), CBT, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), solutions focused brief therapy (SFBT) and mindfulness-based interventions for individuals with anxiety, depression, trauma, postpartum difficulties and life transitions.
Whether it’s setting up camp in the great outdoors with her family, or trekking through the wildness, she’s always up for an adventure. And when she is not in nature, she’s busy getting crafty with DIY projects. This curiosity and creativity are some of her favorite tools to use in therapy to create an engaging and compassionate environment.
Aetna, BCBS, Private Pay / Self Pay
You made it! You showed up for yourself and are taking a big step for your mental health. I’m proud of you. Now let’s figure out where you want to go and work collaboratively to get there. We will navigate the obstacles and triumphs together and build your coping skill toolkit piece by piece. My hope is that you start to find a feeling of contentment, a dash of hope, and learn what makes you feel grounded and happy. Therapy isn’t an easy button, rather a journey worth investing in and you don’t have to do it alone.
How I Work
As a clinical psychologist, I believe everyone is doing the best with the skills and resources they have. Sometimes, we need a supportive place to process, gain understanding, develop new skills and strategies to find contentment, hope, and happiness. My goal is to provide a safe, warm and engaging environment for clients to embrace their strengths and identify their needs and wants in creating a more intentional and grounded life.
I utilize evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and mindfulness-based interventions to help clients achieve their goals. This means we will explore thoughts, behaviors, feelings and start to connect the dots. Building awareness, leaning on curiosity and empathy, the hope is to cultivate resilience in your life, enhance your self compassion, and find what mindful means to you.
We will navigate the obstacles and triumphs together and build your coping skill toolkit piece by piece. My hope is that you start to find a feeling of contentment, a dash of hope, and learn what makes you feel grounded and happy.
What made you decide to become a counselor?
There were a few things I was stubbornly set on as a child, I knew I wanted to be a doctor and fainted at the sight of blood, I loved school and had no fear of being in a classroom for 20+ years and I enjoyed listening to people’s stories and understanding how their life unfolded from past to present. My research led me down the path of mental health care…I discovered there were two primary doctors for that. A psychiatrist was linked with medicine and a biological model and the psychologist, well they were fascinated with how words, connection, and feelings impact our functioning. I knew THAT was what I needed to become.
If you could teach the world one skill or technique to improve their lives, what would it be?
The practice of self-compassion. So many people learn and develop compassion for others and neglect themselves. This deficit in life results in so much pain and a lack of wholeness. I wish I could give my clients an easy button (sadly it doesn’t exist) and this is the closest thing to that. Granted it takes continuous ongoing perseverance, persistence and practice.
Have you personally been in counseling and if so, what did you learn about yourself?
I have been in therapy before in various seasons of life. I learned how important balance is, in my actions, my feelings, and my thoughts. I learned the value of giving myself permission to feel/to savor the good and courage/resilience to ride the waves of the difficult or unpleasant (sometimes I call the difficult feelings the swamp).
If you could recommend one book to all your clients, what would it be?
The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown
Who is your ideal client?
The client who shows up with whatever is in their metaphorical backpack and wants to start unpacking it. The client who has courage to explore their feelings, thoughts, and a willingness to set itty bitty goals to move toward creating the life they want.
How do you personally practice self-care?
Planning, organizing, crafting, audiobooks, camping, movement, meditating
What inspires you to help others?
The belief that we, as humans are resilient. Sometimes it comes from fortunate circumstances, sometimes because of trauma, and lastly because of the desire to learn and grow and be “enough.” My favorite word in difficult circumstances is “yet”. I feel hopeful to help others be happy “enough,” content “enough”
How do you relate to Mindfulness? How do you incorporate it in your sessions?
I appreciate both the formal and informal practices of mindfulness and incorporation both in my life and therapeutic approach. Mindfulness is a way to ground and center myself, practice compassion and gentleness for myself, or catch myself before I react in a way that doesn’t align with my values.
At times, I will ask clients to practice being aware of feelings they are experiencing, utilizing nonjudgementalness in the practice of loving kindness or self-compassion, or encouraging pausing to allow for space before reacting. In therapy, I may incorporate a guided meditation to start or close our session. Other times, I may stop to do a check in employing mindfulness, and in some cases lean on mindfulness in a body scan or progressive muscle relaxation exercise when our nervous system is taking over our experience.
If you are hosting a dinner party, who are the 3 people you would invite and why?
Brene Brown, Tara Brach and my husband. The first two are psychologists, authors, and teachers who I look up to for many characteristics/skills/knowledge and I strive to emulate many of these in my life/practice. The last, is my rock and someone who understands me on a deep emotional level so I would want to share this amazing experience with him.