My first experience in the mental health field was in 1996 as a volunteer at PediatriCare (now called Circle of Care), part of an Oakland-based non-profit that focuses on helping children grieve after traumatic loss. I was working full-time in corporate retail at that time, and I realized then that my passion did not lie in crunching numbers, but in helping others.
After two years of study and counseling experience with adults and teens in clinic and school based settings I earned my MA in counseling psychology in 2001 at John F. Kennedy University in Concord, California. I chose to continue my school-based work after graduation as an intern and later as a staff therapist at the Y-Team Mental Health Program of the YMCA of the East Bay, in Richmond, California. There I supported students struggling with self-esteem issues, family crises, mental health issues, and trauma. After a wonderful and educational two year experience with the Y-Team, I took an internship at Thunder Road Adolescent Treatment Center in Oakland, California, an in-placement drug and alcohol treatment program and part of the Alta Bates/Summit Medical Center. My experience at Thunder Road made me I realize acutely how drugs and alcohol use and abuse can be quite common with teens and can have significant negative repercussions on their lives and their families’ lives. This was challenging and profound work, during which I led numerous and multifaceted groups with adolescents and families.
In 2002, I became a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and since 2007 I have been working with youth with and without substance problems. Currently I am the program coordinator of the Youth Out-Patient Drug-Free (ODF) Program at Alameda Family Services (ADF) in Alameda, California. The ODF program is a comprehensive treatment program with weekly family participation and semi-weekly meetings. By and large, I counsel teens with dual diagnoses, meaning those who have a substance abuse problem and an underlying mental health issue. My work with individuals who do not have substance abuse problems keeps me busy as well. Through Alameda Family Services I counsel teens in the School Based Health Centers in Alameda’s public schools. I also opened a private practice in 2008 that has largely address the needs of families and teens not affected by drugs and alcohol.