Skip to main content
All Posts By


Why cultural connection is so important to our sense of self

I was born in Vietnam in the 1980s and immigrated to California when I was three. I do not have many memories from that age – but my sense is that I was highly confused about what was happening in my life.

Why was I here and not in Saigon?  Where was the rest of my family?

As I grew up in San Diego, I quickly adapted to what was expected of me.  However as an immigrant in  predominantly white communities, not knowing basic things about my cultural identity created a gaping hole in my sense of self. I felt like I was floating through my life, untethered.

Who was I, really? It felt impossible to know because I didn’t really understand where I came from. I honestly didn’t know much of my own life story, nor that of my parents and my grandparents.

The summer before I started college, I visited Vietnam for the second time since I immigrated to the States. I was 18 – and it was that summer when it became very clear that I needed to take every opportunity to connect to my Vietnamese-Chinese culture. If I didn’t, I would walk through my life half-blind.

During my first year of college, I enrolled in language courses, established a second major in Southeast Asian Studies and made plans to study abroad in Vietnam.

I’m in my 30s now. I’ve lived in Hanoi for a period of time, relearned Vietnamese, and gotten to spend time with my family living there. I’ve drawn my family tree and recorded family stories.

There is still much more for me to learn. But ultimately, those years of intense immersion gave me the sense of cultural identity that I needed to feel solid in my roots.

Most people do not have the luxury to spend four years in formal cultural studies. But we can all make small steps. We can read history books and watch documentaries. We can talk to our family and write down their stories. We can travel to our home country.

My workshop for AAPI Women is one of those small steps.

This 6-week workshop “Exploring Our Cultural History, Family & Identity” was created with the intention of supporting Asian women in connecting to their roots.

Instead of going through this alone, we can share the uncovering, the stories, and the questions together.

➡️ If you identify as an Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian, or multiracial woman, I warmly invite you to this small circle of like-minded individuals coming together for the same purpose.

To Register:
1) Call 858-754-8884 or
2) Schedule a 5-10 minute interest call.

➡️ To Share: If you have a friend, colleague or community group who would benefit from knowing about this workshop:

1) Share this Instagram Post 
2) Share this Facebook event
3) Share the event webpage

Finding a therapist in the age of COVID

Within the last few months, psychotherapy has gone almost entirely online.  Instead of meeting in a cozy office, clients and mental health practitioners across the country are adjusting to meeting through their electronic devices.

Because a therapist’s license covers them practicing within their state, clients now have greater selection of who they can work with.  Instead of being limited to one’s neighboring area, clients now have the freedom to work with any therapist who is licensed with their state board.  While some may appreciate the broader range of choices, others might feel overwhelmed by having too many choices.

As a practitioner whose services has transformed from 100% in-person to 100% online in the last 3 months, I have appreciated the benefits of telehealth during this challenging time in history. The biggest advantage to telehealth is the convenience factor.  With commuting no longer an obstacle, clients are more able to fit a therapy appointment into their work day or into their family life.  Clients who typically have transportation challenges can easily see a therapist within the convenience of their own homes.  During the age of COVID, safety is the other great advantage of teletherapy. Both clients and therapists do not have to carry the added anxiety of exposure when seeing one another.

Because our normal social support may no longer be accessible or are overloaded themselves, this is a opportune time for people to consider starting therapy – a dedicated time to talk about your concerns, thoughts and feelings & receive focused support.

Choosing which therapist you work with is an important step of the therapy process.  Here are some criteria you may want to consider when choosing your therapist:

1.  Connection

Do you feel comfortable sharing about yourself with the therapist?   Do they listen with understanding and empathy?  Is it easy to communicate? Or is it awkward?  Those who are new in therapy or have social anxiety might need a few sessions to feel out the client-therapist connection.  Others might know right away it’s not a good fit.

Sometimes the connection isn’t quite there.  And it’s neither person’s fault. It’s okay to trust your gut when you feel that the connection isn’t quite there and tell the therapist that you will continue looking for a better fit.

2.  Cultural Preferences

By “culture”, I refer to categories that people identify with, such as generational culture (i.e. age), ethnic culture, sexual identity, etc.  Due to your life experiences or the issues you’re needing support with, you may prefer a therapist who has shared lived experiences or identify with a specific culture.

3.   Specializations

Some therapists may have special training in using specific techniques or treating specific issues.  For instance, many people who seek me out have already experienced “talk therapy” and now want to experience therapy from a very different approach (which in my case includes somatic-based therapy and hypnotherapy). Some clients are already aware of their unique challenges and would prefer a therapist who is an expert in that area. Those seeking therapy for their child or relationship concerns may want to find a therapist who works with those specific family units.

4.  Finances

For many people, finances are the primary factor in making their choice.  Many people need to use their in-network benefits in order to receive therapy.  Some people are not insured but cannot pay private practice rates; thankfully there are options such as Open Path and community clinics (such as the Center for Community Counseling and Engagement in San Diego) that offer affordable and quality services. If you find a private practice therapist who you would really like to work with but cannot afford their full fee, there is no harm in asking if they have a sliding scale or reduced fee.

5.  Location

Even though the majority of therapists are currently working online, you may want to eventually see your therapist in person.  Or you are aware that your insurance benefits will not cover telehealth indefinitely.  These are two examples in which you may want to find a therapist who is local instead of someone who lives in another part of the state.

Many therapists offer free initial consultations over the phone – this is a great opportunity to ask questions and to get a feel for the therapist.  The therapist will also be utilizing the phone call to assess if they will be able to support you with their needs or if perhaps another practitioner will be better able to help you.

I hope you found this article helpful as you navigate finding a therapist!

Setting Goals From A Place of Self-Compassion & Realism

How do I really feeling about New Year’s Resolutions?

On the one hand, it’s a convenient time to “reset” from the chaos of the end of the year. By now, many of our bodies are feeling depleted and in great need of attention.

At the same time, I often see goal-setting backfire. Many times, people don’t meet these well-intentioned goals and end up feeling worst about themselves.


1. Goals are often created on a foundation of self-loathing. I know that is a strong word. You can also call it rejection of the self or the I’m-not-good-enough syndrome.

Creating a goal because you can’t stand yourself is dangerous. Because in the end, you risk loathing yourself even more for not meeting the goal or finding that even when you do meet it, you still can’t stand yourself.

For those of you who are low in self-compassion, I recommend that you focus on that before anything else! Once you have some tolerance, patience and maybe even love for yourself, making and meeting personal goals will be a much kinder process.

For example, notice how these two goals are rooted very differently:

“I am going to eat healthier this year because I can’t stand my disgusting body” versus “I am going to eat healthier this year because I want to be able to enjoy my body more and treat it better”.

Practice the latter!

2. People expect too much change in a short period of time.

My observation is that big change is actually an accumulation of very small changes over a long period of time. If your life isn’t drastically different compared to this time last year, it’s okay. Don’t sweat it. Notice what small changes you did make and celebrate those mini-milestones.

Personally I like to measure change in 5 and 10 year increments. Most of my accomplishments this year were only possible because I started making intentional choices and incremental changes 10 years ago.

Looking at life from a wider bird’s eye view can make you appreciate how much work you’ve really done and how far you’ve traveled to get to where you are.

Personally, I am stepping into the New Year with great optimism and a heart full of gratitude.

Thank you to everyone who make my work possible. To a year of clarity and possibility in 20/20…