My Background and Inspiration for Becoming a Psychotherapist
I wanted to study psychology because I am curious about humans and what motivates us to be the people we are. When I was an undergrad in Women Studies, I realized there was a desperate lack of therapists who I could connect with and feel safe enough to talk about all aspects of my life. My epiphany, combined with my curiosity and intrinsic desire to heal myself and contribute to the health of others, compelled me to enter the field of psychology.
Like many families, mine was not without its challenges growing up. Fortunately, when I was fourteen years old, I had a transformational experience through therapy that made me realize that I wasn’t alone—that my feelings were valid and there were things that I could do to feel better. As I grew up and overcame my struggles with the past, I wanted to help others feel seen, heard and empowered to transform their own lives as well. Now, working as a psychotherapist, I am honored to be able to make a positive impact on the world—one person at a time.
One aspect of therapy that motivates my work is the opportunity to intervene and examine how intergenerational trauma effects the way we learn and grow. Unaddressed trauma from poverty, war, and social subjugation can linger and be passed down to subsequent generations. Personally, and professionally, I know just how badly trauma can impact a family—how behaviors become ingrained and perpetuated from parents to children. Trauma changes the way a family looks and sends mixed messages to children—confusing them as to whether it is okay to be vulnerable, show emotions, or advocate for themselves. All of these factors influence who we are and how we interact with the world and each other.
I believe that an integral part of how we engage the world is based on our earliest attachments and how we learned to love and trust in relationships with others, as well as ourselves. From our very first years, our caregivers and parents teach us how to interact with the world and those around us. Throughout my work as a psychotherapist, I have seen many clients who are suffering as adults because, as infants and then as children, they did not have a healthy connection with their parents. None of us are taught how to be perfect parents; therefore, many of us find ourselves accidentally repeating our parents’ harmful patterns.
We can only recognize and change unhelpful patterns of behavior by getting to the root cause of distress. Whether regarding relationship issues, personal mental health concerns, or intergenerational/ developmental trauma, I strive to help individuals find a better, alternative way of living. By identifying the core of our suffering and understanding the motivators behind our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, we can begin to untangle the control that trauma, anxiety, depression, or relationship problems have over us. When we liberate ourselves from the past, we are empowered to navigate life’s challenges, form healthy relationships, and, ultimately, love ourselves unconditionally.
Although many issues that come up for my clients are associated with aspects of attachment and painful personal histories, sometimes our world’s uninviting and downright oppressive nature can do just as much harm. So how do we overcome societal intolerance surrounding class, race, religion, and sexual orientation? How do we challenge those constraints or live within a context that we are mostly powerless to change? With so many aspects of life being out of our control, how do we prosper in a world that seems at odds with our survival and happiness?
That’s where the power of therapy comes in and why I love helping and supporting people to become their most authentic self. I have the honor to sit with people and validate and assist them amid the hardship that society, relationships, personal histories, and genetics present. And in helping others feel confident and secure in their own skins, I hopefully can be an agent of change in the world.
I am also drawn to therapy because I love learning new things. Throughout my education and training, I continually embrace opportunities to learn new skills and keep up with current research. I am lucky that my job allows me to grow as a person and develop a deeper self-awareness while simultaneously improving my ability to effectively help others.
Outside of the office, I love spending time with my little family. I am hopeful about social change and I strive to help my son build and create awareness and empathy as he’s growing up. I’m also an artist and an avid knitter, which I find to be very meditative and healing. Art is one of my self-care tools. Knitting and art allow me to be both creative and logical. In some ways, I find that knitting is not so different from my approach to therapy. Healing is sometimes an incremental process that requires us to focus on the moment, tending only to the task at hand and not becoming overwhelmed by the hugeness of the journey. Using that same mindset of taking small steps to reach a specific goal, no matter how large or daunting, I believe that you have to power to heal and reinvent yourself in whatever form you choose.
Andrea Mikonowicz is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Women Studies and from Pacifica Graduate Institute with a Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology. She is a certified EDU-PLAY Therapist, a Global Appraisal of Individual Needs Clinical Interpreter and Administrator, Domestic Violence Counselor, Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach Clinician, and EMDR Clinician. She is also a Level-One Theraplay Practitioner and Marschak Interaction Method Administrator, a Certified Trauma Resiliency Model Practitioner, and a Gottman Bringing Baby Home Educator.