Co-founder of the Institute for the Development of Human Arts
I was a child of divorce, a kid who grew up in a lower class neighborhood in Sacramento, CA raised by a single mom, a first generation German immigrant grandmother and a Filipino-American grandfather. By the time I was 3, I had already suffered sexual abuse and complex trauma, the immense consequences of which I’ve spent the whole first quarter of my life processing through. By the age of 17, I was severely depressed, had flashback memories, had little support, and experienced the loss of my best friend. My first attempt to get help from the mental health system left me with several diagnoses, a prescription for antipsychotics, and even more feelings of isolation along with a sense that there was something deeply flawed about our system for supporting others.
My pain moved me and motivated me...
to get the hell out of my hometown and claw my way towards a better life. I was fortunate enough to become a scholarship kid at NYU where I got a degree in Applied Psychology. Right out of school, I worked as a crisis counselor doing home visits for a New York mental health agency. I thought I would change the system from the inside and make it better…but that didn’t quite work out as planned. What I saw shook me deeply. I witnessed people struggling with very human problems like poverty, grief, loss, racial injustice, immigration, trauma, violence, and more. All of these experiences got obscured and re-labeled by a dysfunctional system that did very little to truly help people and was filled with harmful power dynamics, pathologization, risky and traumatizing 'treatment', and instilled shame around big emotions. Eventually, I burned out.
Somewhere between processing my own trauma, an undiagnosed auto-immune disease, overworking, and facing the daunting idea of trying to fix a broken system, I had my own mental breakdown. I began experiencing extreme and altered states – a process that felt both deeply terrifying and also felt like a deep spiritual transformation. I came face-to-face with my deepest shadows, questioned my sanity, and sometimes, wanted to die. But, instead, I let the pain die.
What remained beyond that catapulted me into a whole new way of living, paving my own path to wellness.
I became an activist working with local mental health communities and organizations. I changed my diet, my career, studied herbalism and holistic health, moved up to Woodstock, NY to breathe easier and prioritize self-care over stress. I shifted my boundaries, my spiritual practices, my hobbies, my communities and relationships. I took a more holistic approach and changed my very relationship to myself, my body, and my mind, by trusting this terrifying and rewarding process of deep change.
Underneath it all, I can say that all difficult and painful experiences also hold deep wisdom.
Pain is my oldest and wisest teacher leading me towards a deeper and fuller sense of self, deep emotional processing, profound spiritual transformations, an intimate connection with the natural world, a deeper intuitive capacity, and new meaning in all aspects of my life.
Continuing my education, I became certified as a peer counselor and worked with others suffering from extreme and altered states, trauma, 'psychosis', and other forms of emotional distress from a place of mutuality, compassion, and understanding. I also supported grassroots advocacy initiatives, organizing with The Icarus Project NYC and facilitating workshops on mental health alternatives.
Looking beyond the status quo as an avid whole-health seeker, I pursued my studies amongst incredible teachers, training in open dialogue, person-centered approaches, intuitive development, psycho-spiritual wellness, energy work, meditation and embodiment practices, herbalism, and other holistic therapeutic modalities. You can find out more about my credentials and training below.
In April of 2016, I founded an organization called The Institute for the Development of Human Arts with Dr. Peter Stastny, MD and a community of incredible leaders in the mental health field. At the Institute, we advance critical dialogue between mental health professionals and the people most impacted by the mental health system. We lead, design, and facilitate mental health trainings and events that challenge the current paradigm within a supportive learning community. You can find out more about the Institute and our upcoming continuing education trainings, community events, and other opportunities at IDHA-NYC.ORG
Working with clients from all walks of life, I know that transformation is not only possible, but inevitable.
Let's walk together...
- B.S. in Applied Psychology from NYU Steinhardt
- Co-Founder of the Institute for the Development of Human Arts with Dr. Peter Stastny, MD. – providing transformative opportunities for critical dialogue, mutual support, and advanced education for those in the mental health field.
- NY Certified Peer Specialist – providing advanced, experience-based support and empowerment to those undergoing extreme states and distress.
- Prior Home Based Crisis Counselor : providing support, resources, and advocacy to children and families undergoing emotional distress and mental health crises
- Prior Peer Specialist- Parachute NYC: providing both one-on-one crisis support and network-based counseling, with the Open Dialogue Approach for acute distress and psychosis
- Learning Development & Training Strategist - Consultant for The Mental Health Association of New York , designing and writing core curriculum
- Prior organizer for grassroots community -The Icarus project NYC and other organizations to provide resources and trainings to the public on mental/emotional wellness and alternatives.
- Speaker and presenter at The Ultra Laboratory - Morocco, Bluestockings NYC, Stanford, and NYU, among others.
- Conducted trainings and workshops at East Village Access, Woodstock Healing Arts, The Jivamukti Forest Sanctuary, and more.
Trainings & Practice:
- Certified Peer Specialist - NYCPS
- Certified Realization Process Embodiment Practitioner, (Judith Blackstone, Ph.D)
- The Open Dialogue (OD) Approach and network-based therapies
- Trauma-informed care
- Intentional Peer Support (IPS)
- Totality therapy with Shakti Milan
- Intuitive Herbal Medicine with Asia Sueler (One Willow Apothecaries)
- Intuitive Development, Energy Medicine, and Holistic Wellness with Veena Saraswatti
- Dynamic Meditation, studied at Osho Ashram (Pune, India)
Walking with people through their pain, wandering through the forest, making herbal medicine, cooking with friends, practicing circus arts, aerial silks, and creative movement, organizing community movements, encouraging mental health and social justice advocacy, practicing daily meditation, wandering the world with my loving partner, practicing intuitive energy work, experiencing breakthroughs, full moon rituals, reading philosophy, asking questions that don't have 'right' answers, taking trains to new places, living in the Hudson Valley, making Reishi tea, storytelling, sitting in coffee shops, talking to trees, taking deep belly breaths, and reveling in small moments of realization and bliss.