Adriana Alejandre ‘12 (Psychology) is paving the way for Latinx mental health.
As a therapist and podcaster, Alejandre provides resources and a space for her community to discuss mental health and help one another. Her son was born her Freshman year at UCSB and she raised him as a single mother throughout grad school. Alejandre now has five offices for her own counseling and trauma therapy practice and her podcast, Latinx Therapy, reaches a global audience.
We caught up with Alejandre to learn how she got to where she is today and what to expect from her in the future.
Why did you choose UC Santa Barbara?
I went to visit campuses that I was accepted to and I only liked UCSB. I loved the lagoon, I loved campus, how the air smelled. I loved that they had my major. The community felt like a place where I belonged. The faculty and the excellent reputation of the school were motivators as well. I went in as a Business Economics major, and was weeded out as the pre-req. I ended up in Communications, which wasn’t a fit either. I took an Abnormal Psych course and I really liked it and understood it. My minors were in applied psychology and education.
What lessons and experiences at UCSB helped build the foundation for your career today?
I volunteered at a few research facilities for Dr. Michael Furlong. The discipline in academia and research established a foundation for what I do now. Ultimately, the biggest thing was that I became a mom during my freshman year. That really established my work ethic and taught me how to prioritize my lifestyle and my academics. I had some really amazing teacher’s assistants that really supported me throughout my pregnancy and after, as I was a single mom in college. I lived in family housing with a cousin and it was extremely difficult. At that point I commuted weekly from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara because my parents would help take care of my son. It was that personal experience, but also the mentors and professors I had who helped me to get therapy services and just supported me so I wouldn’t fall behind. They picked me up when I was really down. That experience led me to really want to help others too.
What did you want to do after graduating from UCSB?
I didn’t exactly know what kind of career I wanted. I took the year off to prepare for the GRE and gain more experience. I became a research assistant for the children’s hospital and a non-profit mental health agency. That was when I really learned that I wanted to become a therapist and help people in my community experiencing things that I experienced. Upon graduation, I did know I wanted to go to graduate school and a bachelor’s degree was not where I would stop.
You started your private practice Counseling and Trauma Therapy and your podcast soon after. How did these two come about?
I was licensed officially to practice therapy in 2017. Within that year I was so full. I was the only Latina, Spanish speaking trauma therapist in my area that specialized in these specific things. People would travel from Bakersfield and downtown LA, so I was full. I had a waiting list and I didn’t think it was fair for those on the wait list or to myself either. I wanted a community of other Latinx therapists who I could learn from, grow with, and network with. So, I created a Facebook group first to gather people from all over the world. I wanted to collaborate with them as a bilingual therapist. From there, I started realizing how much we’re actually missing out on in providing for our Latinx clients. I thought, well I’m too shy to start a YouTube channel, but podcasts are popping so I could edit myself, I don’t have to be on camera, and I could interview other mental health professionals. I could give that episode as homework to my current clients but I’ll also be networking with others so I can give referrals to these people on the wait list.
That’s the foundation for how the podcast came about. I was just really frustrated with the disconnection I had to my community. I wasn’t willing to wait around for others to create a community.
How has Covid-19 affected the podcast?
We’ve had a lot of press covering the podcast, thankfully, and hopefully having people be aware of it because it is in English and in Spanish. Because of so many opportunities that the podcast has opened up to me, I haven’t been able to podcast as consistently. I was doing speaking engagements at universities and traveling pre-Covid. Now during Covid, I’ve been able to edit episodes that I recorded in 2018 and 2019. I had to pause recording because of travel, and I was also getting married, so it was a lot going on. Covid is allowing me finally the time to get back into podcasting. It is still featured as a top podcast in Mental Health for iTunes and Apple podcasts. It gets thousands of downloads whenever I release an episode, so I feel very grateful that the community is still following and listening. I still plan on releasing more content for my community during this time of Covid.
What is one career or personal milestone that you are most proud of?
Career wise, a milestone would be becoming the entrepreneur and leader in the mental health field that I am now. I own five offices and a global podcast. I’m a speaker, a clinical consultant, I’m certified in Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). I got my masters as a single, young parent. I don’t know which one to choose!
At this point in your life, what is the most important advice you can give to someone who hopes to succeed in your chosen discipline/career path?
Create your vision and mission and don’t be too hard on yourself throughout the process. It’s quite the journey. There are so many pieces within the field. I think that therapists usually are so hard on themselves that they don’t realize it. When things get hard, just reflect back on that vision and mission.
What inspires you?
My community definitely inspires me. Noticing there’s still a lot of work to be done, that people are still hurting. Techniques and tools that exist make me want to get these out there and create communities. I want to bridge the access to mental health professionals, to destigmatize therapy. My community is hungry for this, clearly, with the following that I have. My community inspires me so much.
What do you hope to see happen for your podcast and offices?
For the podcast, I hope it becomes a global trusted source as a mental health resource. In terms of the Latinx Therapy headquarters and offices, I hope they become an even bigger hub for Latinx therapists to get mentoring. I want to run more consistent groups there when it is safe to do so. I want it to be a place for students that want to become therapists and licensed folks can learn how to provide culturally sensitive and attuned services.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
Latinx Therapy is not only a podcast, but also a network and directory where the public can find a Latinx therapist. 99% of the directory speaks Spanish.