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Meet Deborah Sweet, Psy.D. of Trauma Counseling Center of Los Angeles

Image Credit: Piper Ferguson


Today we’d like to introduce you to Deborah Sweet, Psy.D..

Deborah, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I am a native of Los Angeles. After living in 15 different places from age 1-8, losing my family at 7, and being adopted at 8, I knew even as a kid I wanted to help others know they could recover from emotional traumas. I started writing poetry, prose and songs, later worked in the music business, and finally opened a boutique therapy center to help adults recover from traumas. Sounds depressing, but it’s exciting!

I went back to school and became a psychologist and then the real work began. I learned cutting-edge modalities specifically designed to help people recover from traumas of all kinds and talk therapy was just the tip of the iceberg. Turns out there are many creative ways to feel better.

One day, after being trained in approaches designed for resolving trauma, I asked another psychologist “What modalities do you use for treating trauma?” She said, “We talk, we get in there and talk.” I had two reactions, one from a professional point of view and one personal.

Professionally, we know talk therapy doesn’t address the nervous system. To experience relief from trauma, proven trauma approaches include Somatic Experiencing, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, the Trauma Resiliency Model; EMDR; Brainspotting and more.

Personally, when therapists “got in there” and had me talk, I didn’t feel better. It wasn’t until I could learn to work with the overwhelming sensations in my body such as racing heart, short breath, tight stomach and sometimes dissociation, that I began to heal.

Having accomplished this, years later, I knew I had found a way to bring this to people. My practice was full, so I took a leap of faith and opened a center.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The road has been challenging. In my younger years, I had a career in music – music magazine writer, band, promoter, radio promotion, record label, music publishing and music management. This all lead to my dream job working for a high profile agency with celebrity bands, but my boss was a screamer and I knew no one deserves to be screamed at. I also knew this was not what my higher power wanted for me, so I left. It took two weeks and then it popped into my head. I’m supposed to be a therapist!

This was part of the impact of my adopted father who was a psychologist. I went back to school while working full-time. Working on the dissertation was a challenge, then the test to become a licensed psychologist was ridiculously difficult, but I looked at it like a game of “Survivor.” While getting my hours, a supervisor stole $4777 from me, however, I used the anger to propel me forward. Now at 55, it was worth it. I have the satisfaction of helping hundreds of people on their therapeutic journey.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I have built a team of skilled clinicians who know how to help people recover from trauma. A therapist who doesn’t know what they are doing will launch in or have the client launch into their trauma story. It is important to create an atmosphere of safety, but also to give the client tools so they don’t become overwhelmed when telling their stories. We think by “just getting it out,” it will help. But with trauma, it doesn’t quite work that way. Special modalities are needed to help people deal with their traumas.

In our boutique counseling center, we specialize in helping people with traumas such as growing up in a critical, unpredictable or alcoholic home, verbal or physically abusive parent, caretaker or sibling; neglect or abandonment; adoption; addictions; birth trauma – either giving birth or being born; divorce – either parent’s divorced or as an adult going through divorce; LGBTQA issues; loss, grief, unresolved situations; attacks, rape or disaster; car accidents (the symptoms may not appear until months later); medical procedures and more. It’s a lot, but by providing a framework, people heal.

What I am most proud of is having a team of therapists together to help people with individual therapy for a variety of issues. I addition to my team being trained in cutting-edge trauma treatment, I then provide a framework in which to offer the right modality at the right time. We offer powerful modalities designed to treat trauma, as mentioned earlier, such as Somatic therapies, EMDR, Brainspotting and more.

One of the things that sets us apart is seeking feedback. When I was a young person, no one ever asked me “How is this going?” or “How was that method for you?” Feedback is essential for good therapy. My first supervisor acted like we were “breaking the 4th wall” when I said, “Shouldn’t we ask people how this kind of therapy is working for them?” I always ask if there is anything we can do more, better or different, we want to know so we can adjust our approach.

What were you like growing up?
After being adopted at 8 years of age, my creativity began to awaken. I started writing poetry and listening to music. Music saved my life. Songs could express what I could not.

Like most people, I had multiple sides. On one hand, I was curious, smart and passionate. On the other, I was confused, angry and disheartened about losing my family.

Somewhere along the line, I heard the phrase, “The best revenge is living well.” I set out to do that, to survive the early years and move beyond. I read books and listened to motivational speakers. It took years and I am always in the process of learning. For me, that is the key.

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