256: Demystifying Therapy from a BIPOC Therapists’ Perspective with Joan Choi

256: Demystifying Therapy from a BIPOC Therapists’ Perspective with Joan Choi

In this episode, I interview Joan Choi who discusses the topic of demystifying therapy from a BIPOC therapist’s perspective. Joan is a private practice therapist based in NYC who works with POC and immigrants, supporting clients through trauma, depression, anxiety, and identity development.

We discuss Joan’s journey into therapy, starting from her upbringing in Korea and the U.S., to bartending in New York, and eventually transitioning into a career in mental health counseling.

Joan shares insights into her work with clients on trauma, depression, anxiety, and identity development, emphasizing the importance of anti-bias, anti-racism, and trauma-informed care. Key misconceptions about therapy, especially within BIPOC communities, are addressed, along with tips on how to navigate the process of starting therapy, the importance of therapist-client rapport, and understanding different therapy modalities.

Joan also discusses the barriers to accessing therapy and provides advice for those considering therapy, underscoring the message that everyone deserves the chance to heal.

You can reach learn more about Joan and her work by going to: http://www.joanchoi.com

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256: Demystifying Therapy from a BIPOC Therapists’ Perspective with Joan Choi


Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:00:00] Welcome to the top global ranked and award nominated grad school femtoring podcast. The place for first gen BIPOCs to listen in on conversations about grad school, and growth. In this podcast, you'll learn about all things higher education, personal development, and sustainable productivity. This is Dr.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yvette Martinez Vu, and I will be serving as your femtor, providing you with tips and tricks and everything else you need to know to successfully navigate grad school. For over 14 years, I've been empowering first gen students of color along their personal and professional journeys, and I'm really excited to support you too.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Welcome back, everyone, to another episode of the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. This is your host, [00:01:00] Dr. Yvette, and today we're going to be covering the topic of demystifying therapy from a BIPOC therapist's perspective. Our guest is Joan Choi, and she is a private practice therapist based in New York City who primarily works with POC and immigrant clients.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: She supports others through trauma. depression, anxiety, and identity development. I'm so excited to have her on the podcast. Welcome to the

Joan Choi: so much for having me. Hello Yvette. Have Hello everyone else. I'm so happy to be here.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yes, yes. So for folks who may not know about you and your work, I would love for you to tell us a little bit more about who you are, about what you do. I know I just shared a little bit, but a little bit more and whatever you're comfortable about your background and backstory and what led you to becoming a therapist.

Joan Choi: I'll just start with me and then kind of work my way into my work 'cause of the kind of flow that makes sense to me. Um, [00:02:00] so yeah, I am Korean. And American by citizenship. Um, so my family is Korean. I grew up mostly in Korea and spent a little bit of time in the U. S. Um, and then I moved back here for college.

Joan Choi: So I've been here on my own. So I'm kind of a first gen immigrant in the sense that I moved here on my own, but not in the sense that I kind of happened to be born in the States, uh, because my dad was working here at the time. So it's a little bit of a complex backstory. Um, but yeah, I've been here on my own in the U.

Joan Choi: S. Um, for. Many decades now. And, um, I studied psychology and sociology in college. I moved to New York, um, after college because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I had no jobs lined up. Um, so I just kind of came here on a whim and, um, I worked in hospitality for a long time. I was bartending for many, many years.

Joan Choi: Um, one of my regulars was a therapist and after talking to her a few times, I kind of, um, Decided that it was [00:03:00] a track that I wanted to try out. So I started to prepare and then I was in grad school and then, you know, one day to the next I wake up and I am working in my own private practice. So in my private practice, um, which is Jones Choi Mental Health Counseling, um, I work with primarily AAPI clients and BIPOC clients.

Joan Choi: And immigrants and children of immigrants. Um, I welcome anyone and everyone from any oppressed community as my client. Um, and like you mentioned, um, most of the major concerns that I work through are trauma, anxiety, and depression. And I have a big focus on, um, supporting folks through race, racism, and racial identity related topics as well.

Joan Choi: Um. So that's kind of the work that I do. Um, it's very important to me that I am continuing to, um, learn and practice anti bias and anti racism, which is, um, an everlasting and [00:04:00] ongoing process. Um, and trauma informed care, which is another really, really important pillar of my work. Um, let's see, is there anything else?

Joan Choi: Um, yeah, that's kind of my therapy work, um, specifically. And I also Um, work as a speaker in speaking engagements related to mental health, um, and also as a facilitator slash MC, um, in a lot of different contexts. Um, so yeah, I'm, um, trying to wear many, many hats at the same time, and that's, uh, that's where my work is at right now.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah, I can relate to the piece of wearing many hats and also, uh, serving members of all oppressed communities. I, I was gonna ask, I mean, one of the questions that I was originally thinking of asking you was like, what drew you to becoming a therapist? And you kind of hinted at it by saying that you had a regular when you were, it was when you were [00:05:00] bartending, yes?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Who was a therapist, but I'm curious, uh, I mean, you were interested in psychology in college. I mean, that was clearly an interest from based on your major. How did you arrive? Like was there a moment or was there a series of events or like how did you realize wait? I think that's the thing that I want to do and then from there I'm sure it took some time, but, um, you know, what led you to focusing and honing in on things like trauma informed work, you know, I know those are big questions, but I'm just curious kind of how you arrived at this line of work, because I know that a lot of my listeners are first gen BIPOCs, and some of them are interested in psychology, and a lot of them are probably interested in topics related to race and racism, uh, trauma, um, anti oppression, anti bias work.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: So I'm just curious, like, what that was like for you? How did you get to those interests?

Joan Choi: I, I [00:06:00] obviously did have an interest in psychology and sociology, which sociology I think is really a big part of me being a therapist as well, because it really allowed me to understand the world. Um, on a deeper level, uh, much more than I used to understand before. So it really opened my eyes to things like racial identity or white supremacy, misogyny, patriarchy, a lot of these systems, right, that we're trying to work against or break through.

Joan Choi: Um, I, I kind of gained my knowledge, um, during that time in college. So in terms of becoming a therapist, so when I was a bartender, um, in many ways, not always, but in many ways, being a bartender is similar to being a therapist. And I had a lot of people Every day at work being like, Oh, you're basically a therapist.

Joan Choi: You're basically a therapist. So the idea was kind of like percolating in my mind. Um, but in back then I had this incorrect notion that to be a therapist, you had to go through a PhD program and that was just not something that I thought I had the capacity for, nor the desire to do. Um, so it was just kind of like, Oh, maybe I could.

Joan Choi: I could be interested in doing that as a career, but, [00:07:00] um, let's, you know, I probably can't because, you know, the kind of like barriers through education and also education is very expensive, right? So, um, I, I just kind of discounted it off as a possibility for myself until that regular and I started to talk and she was like, actually, you know, I just have my master's and, you know, it takes this many years and she kind of walked me through the process.

Joan Choi: And, you know, I think it happened at an opportune time that. You know, that was like several years after graduating college, several years of feeling lost and not knowing what I wanted to do, but, but also at the same time, not, um, not willing to succumb to the pressure of just kind of joining any corporate setting.

Joan Choi: Um, so I was really in. wanting and needing a path forward. So when I got the information that it actually takes this many years, um, and not what I had expected originally, um, I just kind of fell into it. I like started with studying for the GMAT and then I got that out of the way. Um, and then I went through the application process and, you know, it just kind of happened naturally.

Joan Choi: So I think there was probably some buildup throughout those [00:08:00] years. And that kind of is why the things happened so. Um, free flowing for me. Um, but yeah, it, you know, when people ask, I, I really always just kind of say, like, I kind of fell into it because it really is how it feels. But then I remember, I'm like, actually, I did major in psychology and sociology, right?

Joan Choi: I did have these things that kind of pointed towards this direction. Um, and as to the work that I started doing as a therapist, um, you know, in grad school, and I went to a program that kind of, pride themselves in being multiculturally competent and putting a lot of focus on culturally competent care.

Joan Choi: And, you know, it wasn't, that wasn't completely false, right. There is some of that for sure, but at the end of the day, it was an Ivy League institution ran by and for white people. Um, and I started to kind of see the, the reality of, of the field of therapy very quickly. And also back then I also started my own therapy.

Joan Choi: [00:09:00] Um, Surprisingly, until then I was like, I don't need therapy. You know, I'm, I'm not, it's not that serious. I'm, I'm, I'm not, I'm not the kind of person who needs therapy. Um, and then, and you know, I started school and I was like, actually, never mind. That's just simply not true. Um, so I started just finding my own therapist and I had all these experiences with, um, white therapists.

Joan Choi: Cause at the time I didn't know, I didn't know that I, what I actually needed was a person of color or, um. You know, anyone who's not a white man, right? And that's kind of what I ended up with as my first therapist. And I was like, something feels really off here. Something just doesn't feel right. I, I, I'm not, I'm not feeling the way that I think I should feel, you know, working with a therapist.

Joan Choi: So that started to kind of plant some seeds into my mind. And then, you know, as I was. Um, finishing the program, I was doing my internships, I just saw so many gaps, um, and the people that were falling through the gaps were people of color, um, it was the oppressed people, it was people who, uh, didn't have all the privileges [00:10:00] that, that many people who are therapists or seek therapy have, um.

Joan Choi: So I was kind of always interested as I was developing my education and career, um, in, um, making sure that I was available for people who actually needed a therapist like me. Um, which means if I'm just simply putting it right, white people, white clients have enough therapists that they can go to. Um, people of color don't, they really don't have enough therapists.

Joan Choi: Um, and it's gotten much better, I think, since I graduated school. But back then it was, it was, um, much more harder to find someone who aligned with their identities. So that was, um, partly intentional. You know, I wanted, I knew that I wanted to go in that direction. And then once I actually started working, um, my client self selected me.

Joan Choi: Right. So I think the market, the clients knew that they wanted an Asian therapist or a Korean therapist or, or whatever of my identities and intersecting identities. Drew them to me. [00:11:00] Um, so it was kind of like a combination, right? So it was like me wanting to do that. And then clients, um, a API clients, my pop clients, um, were the majority of the people that were kind of contacting me for, um, consultations and sessions.

Joan Choi: So it was kind of like a happy marriage of what I wanted and what the people needed, and we were able to kind of, um, fit together like that. Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: That's great. That's great to hear. Um, I want to backtrack a little because, uh, you mentioned that when you were first Trying to figure it out. You had a misconception around, Oh, therapists need to get a PhD and I don't want to get a

Joan Choi: Yeah.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: it's too much work, too much time, too much money. And I can imagine there might be a lot of other misconceptions that go around about therapy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Not just like how to become a therapist, but also what therapy is, how to get started. And these are the barriers that get in the way of more BIPOC folks getting therapy. BIPOC folks becoming therapists and more BIPOC folks getting access to BIPOC [00:12:00] therapists. It's just, it's all like part of this like vicious cycle of the many reasons why we're not able to get the support that we need.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But in your, from your perspective, what are some other misconceptions that you've noticed that, especially among BIPOC communities and even immigrant communities that you maybe you've noticed that have come up and what are some ways if if anyone's listening right now and and does have that misconception of like, oh, I don't need therapy or or therapy is only for this type of people or this type of person and I'm not that like, what would you say to them to help them overcome some of

Joan Choi: Yeah, yeah. I mean, there are so many misconceptions, right, about therapy because again, it is so wholly a field that was created by and for white people for so long. Um, and so, you know, like two main things that are coming up for me is one, therapy is for white people. Um, so I'll [00:13:00] just start there. Is there, you know, a lot of, a lot of people who just think like, oh, that's just like, not for me, right?

Joan Choi: Um, immigrants or BIPOC folks, um, they just feel like therapy or going to therapy is, is, um, I mean, I really just don't know how other way to say it. They really just say that it's like a white people thing, right? White people go to therapy. We don't go to therapy. My, my family never goes to therapy. No one I have never known goes to therapy.

Joan Choi: Um, and I think that's kind of, um, bolstered by. How majority white the field is, right? And so when you look at the field and you look at you go to any psychology website and you scroll down and Most people are white right or a lot of people who and things have gotten better I think in recent years, but a lot of people who talk about being in therapy are white as well because you know Unfortunately in in BIPOC and oppressed communities.

Joan Choi: There's still a lot of stigma About what it means to be in therapy. Whereas I think white people have the Privilege and liberty to be able to proudly say that they are in therapy. Um, the same does not go for BIPOC folks who are in therapy, right? It's just kind of a [00:14:00] mischaracterization or, um, uh, I don't think we're allowed.

Joan Choi: the same Frameworking or responses, um that white people get when when they claim that they're in therapy It's like a good thing. Um, but with people of color do it. It's what's wrong with you There's a big problem with you Which leads me to my next misconception, which is something that I also held even going into grad school I remember one of the um application questions to get into grad school was do you believe that everyone should be in therapy?

Joan Choi: Describe why and I remember very clearly

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh, I want to hear

Joan Choi: and I remember writing it, I remember who I was with at the time that I was writing it, I remember being so, just like, so cocky about it, being like, you know, maybe it could be beneficial for everyone, but, like, just long story short, like, I don't think I need to be in therapy, and I don't think, um, you know, it's [00:15:00] meant for, like, a quote unquote, like, um, some kind of people, but not everyone, and certainly not me.

Joan Choi: Uh, meaning that I You know, was at the time, um, not truly aware of my own traumas, but also the generational trauma that that's been handed down to me. Um, and the daily, um, uh, the daily injuries, interpersonal injuries, the daily hurt and harm that's done to, to all POC and BIPOC folks, um, and oppressed communities, immigrants, children of immigrants.

Joan Choi: Um, I was simply not aware of that to the degree that I am now. Um, so the misconception of therapy is only for quote unquote in, you know, I hate using this word, but you know, crazy people or people who are feeling really, really bad, or some people who have had awful things that have happened to them that's kind of able to point out on paper, right?

Joan Choi: Like this happened to them, so they need to be in therapy, um, which is simply not true, right? Of course, you know, people who've experienced extreme traumas, [00:16:00] um, can definitely benefit from therapy, um, but you know, I, I have a lot of clients who first came to me saying, you know, I have this thing that I want to work on.

Joan Choi: And, you know, once that's addressed, you know, I can be good to go. And then what they find is that therapy is like any other maintenance of your health, like going to the gym, um, where you don't have to have this big problem for you to keep going to therapy. Um, anyone can go to therapy. Anyone can benefit from therapy.

Joan Choi: We all, you know, in this, In this world that we live in, in this late stage capitalism, there is harm being done on a day to day level, and I think everyone can benefit from and deserves, truly is the most important part, deserves to receive the kind of support that you can get in therapy. So that's the kind of misconception that I think I would like to break through the most of.

Joan Choi: Like therapy is quote unquote for a certain kind of people, and I don't fit that bill. Um, because I think, you know, I believe in the, the collective [00:17:00] healing of all of all oppressed people. And, and for, for, for that to happen, we all need to start doing it together, right? And for each other and for ourselves. And, um, you know, I would just, I just really think that we deserve that, you know, for ourselves and, and our ancestors.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: One of the tricky things that I know has, it's been tricky for me because I have, um, I have had access, uh, thankfully to therapy and having a therapist for many, many years, um, 20 plus years now since my dad passed away. So that was a while ago. But, um, I'm always curious because for me, it's happened so soon.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And it was because someone in a school district advocated on my behalf to get these services. Um, I didn't really have to think about the point of starting and to me healing is a lifelong process so it's hard for me to even get to a point where I can think about ending. Of course, there are moments where you know something's [00:18:00] not a good fit, or maybe you're doing better and you might not need as regular of a tune up as, as before.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: But in, you know, from your perspective, at what point do you know that you need to start therapy? And at what point do you know that maybe it's a good time to stop or to put a pause on it? That I find that hard. So I don't know. I don't know what your perspective is on that because I know for me it has been difficult to to pinpoint that for myself and others.

Joan Choi: You know, as to a starting point, it's, um, I mean this is kind of a cop out answer, I guess, but, but I, I think any point, literally at any point, you can start, you know, I mean, if you're going through extreme hardship, of course it can be really helpful and supportive to kind of get therapeutic care in those moments if, if that is accessible to you.

Joan Choi: Um, and also when. know, you're not experiencing extreme hardship at the moment, and you have a little bit more space or [00:19:00] capacity and time. Honestly, the literal time that we have in sessions, which is limited, right? It's 45 minutes to an hour, um, per week. Some people at maxi their therapist twice a week, but you know, that's not as usual.

Joan Choi: Um, so there's, limited time that I can spend with my clients. And when I start with clients who are, you know, a little bit more stable, right, or, or feeling better or more connected with themselves, that can also be a really good time to start therapy because You know, we're not kind of, uh, crisis managing, right?

Joan Choi: Which can, which can be helpful, of course, and needed, of course, but it doesn't really allow time for reflecting on things that have happened in the past, right? Or because your nervous system is so dysregulated, if something, you know, big is happening, um, You know, that can kind of take you out of your body and then not allow you to connect with it as more.

Joan Choi: So when, you know, depending on where you're feeling or where you're at or how you're feeling or what's going on in your life, I think therapy [00:20:00] can be beneficial in different ways. Um, and you know, I think that's actually, now that I'm talking about it, um, I think people kind of, uh, how do I say, feel like they need to pick the right time to start or like, oh, when this happens, I'll start.

Joan Choi: And to that, I think I'll say, You know, again, if it's accessible to you, just start now, you know, it's, there's no reason to wait. There's no reason. There's no perfect timing. There's no perfect time. Um, it's really just about starting and seeing where it takes you. Yeah. And as to ending, um, I believe in taking breaks from therapy.

Joan Choi: I believe in decreasing your frequency. If you feel like, um, you don't need that kind of weekly check in or support, um, I believe in You know, going from one therapist to another after however many years or time that you've spent with the one to kind of get a different perspective. I also believe in sticking with the same therapist for decades, right?

Joan Choi: I [00:21:00] know people who do that as well. Um, therapy and people's therapeutic journey can look so different for everyone. Um, you know, I know people who say like, yeah, I want to work through this one thing and then They, they stop therapy and then years back, years later, they're actually, they come back and say like, Oh, you know, that was really helpful.

Joan Choi: And now I want to address all of these other things and nothing absolutely terrible is going on, but, but I can see the value of it. Um, therapy can be very flexible. Therapy can look different for everyone. It can fit different needs. Um, so I, I guess I kind of want to, um, play with the boundaries of therapy and what that can look like for people and really just tell everyone that it can look however you want it to look.

Joan Choi: Do

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Oh, thank you for saying that because I would love to be able to use this episode as a resource that I can send to folks who I think might benefit from, from going to therapy as a hint hint. But [00:22:00] also for folks who've never been exposed to this, and maybe for the first time have access to a therapist because they're a student and they have, you know, student health care or whatever it is for for the first time, they have the resources to be able to find a therapist and start therapy.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm curious, like, what is that process like? Like, how do you know what to look for in a therapist? And also, I was gonna say, what does a typical therapy session look like? But you just kind of broke that down into like, there is no typical way, as in, like, it can look very differently depending on the modality, but, um.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I guess more, more so, let's start with how do you even find a therapist? Like, how do you know what to look for in a therapist? There's so many out there. You just go to psychology today and it's just, it's a bunch. Go to departmental sites at universities, there's a bunch.

Joan Choi: yeah, yeah,

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: that down?

Joan Choi: yeah. I mean, I think it depends on your priority at the time. [00:23:00] Actually, let me backtrack. I personally think, and I do think there's some research to back this up. Don't quote me on it. Let's do our own research on that. But I also personally believe that the, The, the rapport between the therapist and the client, um, and the person to person fit, um, might be one of the most important things as in like any other interpersonal relationship, I, um, I need to be able to connect with you.

Joan Choi: Right. And I don't think that's going to be a given, um, when a therapist and a client meets the connection, an automatic connection is not assumed, um, that's something that you would need to see if, if that's either there or buildable. Um, so being able to feel connected to and safe. Um, To some degree, right?

Joan Choi: Because you know, you're meeting, just meeting that person for the first time. So of course you're not going to be able to fully go there. Um, but especially after having however many sessions, right? If you, you, I really think it's how you feel about and towards the therapist is going to be really, really an [00:24:00] important indicator of, of the work that you too will be able to do.

Joan Choi: Um, and I'm kind of thinking back on, you know, when I, in the past, I've worked with, um, white male therapists and it just, For me at the time, who I was, um, I was not able to feel safe in that environment with that person. It has nothing to do with how good of a therapist was he or not. Um, it was truly about who I was and what my needs were at that time.

Joan Choi: Um, so I think that's kind of like the key thing that I want to emphasize first. And then with that said, Um, there are so many different factors, right? There are modalities, um, there are fees, there are whether people are in network or not, there are scheduling availabilities, there are remote or in person, there's so many like logistical things that that kind of are each Bye.

Joan Choi: Bye. Bye. And one of them is another barrier to people being able to find therapy because I've found someone that I really like but our schedules don't align. I really found someone that I like but they only do in person and I want to go virtual. So there's so many of these factors that need to align for someone to be able to start with [00:25:00] a therapist which is, you know, unfortunately the reality of the field right now.

Joan Choi: Um, so I guess I just want to kind of Modalities can be, can be important, um, you know, there's behavioral therapy, there's other therapies that are more, um, trauma oriented, there are more somatic, um, approaches, and this might not be a satisfying answer to folks, but I also think that might be a matter of, one, kind of doing your own research.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: I'm sorry, can you say that again? Because I, um, you got cut off there when you said there were there are different modalities. So you mentioned behavior,

Joan Choi: Okay. So, yes, there are a bunch of different modalities, um, including behavioral or somatic or, um, more trauma oriented. And You know, I don't, I [00:26:00] don't think the average person who, who hasn't gone, you know, studied it might really know the differences between them. So I think one, just kind of doing some light research on that and seeing what initially catches your eye could be helpful.

Joan Choi: Um, and, and also with that said, I, I, I will say that there are so many different modalities. There are so many certifications and trainings that people do. And the one thing I'll say is that there's actually a lot of overlap between these modalities. You know, something, they might be called different things or they might be used in different ways.

Joan Choi: Um, but there is a lot of overlap between the modalities. So I don't think it's a matter of if I do this, then that means I'm completely missing out on that. And you know, it's, it's not, I think it's a lot of it is kind of like free flowing in between the modalities. Um, so all of this to say, um, Let me just kind of try to summarize if that's helpful.

Joan Choi: Um, um, I think the person to person rapport is very important. Um, looking into what your needs are at the time, what are you, what is it that you want to work through and making [00:27:00] sure that the therapist has experience working in that or interested in working with that. Um, if you want to go a little bit deeper, you can look into different modalities and see if there's one that piques your interest and then go with that.

Joan Choi: Um, and then I would also encourage people, you know, and as I'm saying this in the back of my mind, not everyone has access and let me just. Very strongly acknowledge that not everyone has access to all the different modalities. Um, but, you know, within this realm of imagination, I think experiencing different ones can be, um, can be fulfilling as well. Because we also change as people, right?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Are there any red flags? Oh, right. Yeah, I just something that came up as you were talking about the different modalities and different ways to find a therapist. I'm just curious, like, are there any red flags to

Joan Choi: Mm. Mm.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: or mindful of when you're looking for a therapist?

Joan Choi: Um, red flag.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Or maybe is it just, you know, go with what, [00:28:00] what, what feels right for you? Because I know, you know, internally, sometimes some of us can

Joan Choi: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So two red flags immediately come up. Um, one is that the person is not trauma informed. Um, and sadly, uh, Trauma informed care, providing trauma informed care and what that entails is not actually taught in many, in many graduate programs. Um, I'm, that's not something that I remember being taught in a classroom.

Joan Choi: That's something that I remember learning outside of my classroom through, um, other healers or therapists who kind of work in this anti oppression realm. Um, so not being trauma informed, um, as in not knowing what trauma is, and not knowing how it can show up and not knowing how to support people who have trauma, um, is going to be a really big red flag, I think, especially for BIPOC folks and immigrants and children of immigrants because if anything there's generational trauma involved and, and that will need to be [00:29:00] held by someone who understands what that means and what that looks like.

Joan Choi: The other red flag is And this goes both for white therapists, white clinicians, or clinicians of color, which is not having a deep and full understanding of the kind of oppression to privilege spectrum and where they fall, right, because I'll speak for myself, I as an Asian therapist, I am not white, I don't have the white privileges, but I also know that as an Asian person in America, um, We as a group also have contributed to oppressing other communities, right?

Joan Choi: And it's really important that I know where I stand on that. Um, and, um, understanding the impact that my community has had on other people. Um, and so, you know, understanding of racism, racial identity, white supremacy, and internalized white supremacy, and how, um, different groups of people of color can do that [00:30:00] to each other.

Joan Choi: Um, is very, very important. And, and that's not something that I know just because I'm a POC, right? There are plenty of people of color who don't have full grasp of that. It's not just white people who, who might not understand that. Um, and I took intentional time learning from black people, indigenous people, and other people of color to fully understand, um, the harm that I've done as well.

Joan Choi: Right. And people who look like me have done so not having an understanding and, and ongoing learning of that, I think. Uh, could be a really, really big red flag for people, um, especially people of color. What do I do?

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Great. Thank you. I want to ask now to thinking about your former self before you were a therapist, if you could go back in time, what do you wish that you had known about therapy that you know now? It's that that question I ask all the time. Yeah, like what would you tell your former self about [00:31:00] about the field or about the profession or about what it's like to get therapy for yourself.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Um, yeah, what would you tell yourself about it? And if not, then maybe think about the current generation of youth who is new to therapy. Perhaps what advice would you give them, especially members of the BIPOC and

Joan Choi: Yeah. You know, I think the first thing that immediately came up, um, is that I, I deserved it, right? Because I think that's kind of what kept me from going for a long time is that I didn't think it was not, it wasn't that bad. You know, you don't, it's not that serious. You know, you don't need to go to therapy.

Joan Choi: There's so many worse people, uh, worse things that are happening to people, you know, and, and you're not one of them. Um, so I, I think I really just kind of. didn't allow myself to, to go there, um, or to be that vulnerable. Right. And I think that was so in my mind, I was saying like, Oh yeah, you don't deserve it.

Joan Choi: Or like, [00:32:00] it's not for you. But I think internally what was happening is In addition to that is this kind of avoidance of wanting to be that kind of vulnerable, right? Or, or go inward that deeply. Um, and I think if I were to go back to my younger self, I would, I would let them know, let her know that, um, it's doable.

Joan Choi: You know, I can do it. I can, I do have the ability to get that vulnerable. In the right space, you know, with the right therapist, um, and, and that I deserved it. And, and I think the deserving, you deserve it, uh, you deserve to heal, you deserve the space to process, you deserve space where everything is about you.

Joan Choi: Um, you're not taking care of anyone else. You are focusing on yourself and your thoughts and your feelings. Um, that is, I think, the message that I would want to send to. all younger people of oppressed communities or BIPOC folks because, you know, they do deserve it, right? And, and I don't know how often they get to hear that, that they deserve healing, that they deserve deep healing, [00:33:00] that they deserve to be able to unburden from the generational traumas that have been handed down to them, that they deserve to break these cycles.

Joan Choi: Um, so yeah, I think that's, that's what I would say.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Thank you for that reminder. It's a beautiful reminder. You have no idea how many, how many years I spent feeling so much guilt over knowing that I was, you know, in years past, the only member of my family who had access to therapy. And I would compare myself to folks who had it much worse than me. Uh, so I appreciate you saying that because I know it resonated with me.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: And I also know that it's going to resonate with a lot of people listening. I, I guess we're getting close to wrapping up, so I wanted to see if there's any other closing words or anything else that you wanted to share today with us, and if not, let us know how folks can connect with you, can find you, can support you in your work, can hire you for [00:34:00] their next speaking engagement, or even, you know, if you're going to have any openings, oh, and also where you practice, too, because I'm assuming you're practicing in New York.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Yeah,

Joan Choi: I'll start like, I guess the final word because I mean, it just kind of immediately popped up when you asked is, um, and I'll just kind of use a comparison is if you're looking for a therapist or starting to kind of explore that part of your life, just remember that it can be hard finding the right therapist.

Joan Choi: It's really very similar to dating, uh, and in many ways similar to online dating in this day and age where it's so many options to go through and so many barriers and so many logistics that you have to work through that have to align for things to work. And, you know, and, and I, as a person who experienced it on that end, and also as someone who hears about it constantly as on the end of being a therapist, um, the, the entry to it.

Joan Choi: The barrier of entry to starting therapy and then finding the right fit can be so big and be so discouraging to people. [00:35:00] Um, so like I might say to folks who are dating, um, I would say to people who are looking for a therapist, um, don't give up, take breaks if you need to. Um, but know that it is It's possible, you know, there, there will be a person that is a good fit for you.

Joan Choi: It is, uh, unfortunately a matter of sometimes having to weed through the ones that are not a good fit for you. Um, but advocate for yourself. If someone's not a right fit, you don't have to be there anymore. You don't have to, you don't owe them an explanation. Um, if someone feels unsafe or whatever it is, um, advocate for yourself, stand up for yourself and take care of yourself in that way. Um, so that's what I would say to people about therapy, um, and as to me and my work, um, people can find me at www. joanchoy. com. You can also look up Joan Choi Therapist, and Psychology Today will lead you in the right direction. Um, my email [00:36:00] address is Silly, silly long, so I'm not going to read that out here because I'm not going to remember it.

Joan Choi: Um, and yes, I am available for speaking engagements. I am available for emceeing and facilitator gigs. I am available, um, as a couples and individual therapist. Um, I'm always opening a welcome to referrals and if I myself don't have space, I am always happy to redirect clients to folks who, um, might align with what they're looking for.

Joan Choi: So I do encourage folks to reach out, um, and, um, hopefully I'll be able to help in one way or another.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: Wonderful. Well, we'll make sure to include the links in the show notes so folks can easily access you and your work. And I just want to say thank you for coming on the show today for sharing your wisdom, your knowledge, your insights, sharing everything that you shared today,

Joan Choi: Yeah. So

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: much, Joan.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: [00:37:00] Thanks so much for joining me in the Grad School Femtoring Podcast. If you like what you heard, here are four ways you can support the show. The first is to make sure you're subscribed and leave a review on Apple Podcasts. If you email me a screenshot, I'll send you a surprise freebie. The second way is to get your copy of my free Grad School Femtoring Resource Kit.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: which includes essential information to prepare for and navigate grad school. You can access it at the link in today's show notes. The third way to support my show is to follow me on social media. You can find me on Instagram with the handle at grad school, femtoring and on LinkedIn by searching my name.

Dra. Yvette Martinez-Vu: The last way to show your love is to order a copy of is grad school for me. My graduate school admissions book for first gen BIPOCs. Thanks again for listening and until next [00:38:00] time.

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