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Meet Dr. Gregory Canillas of Soul 2 Soul in DTLA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Gregory Canillas.

Dr. Gregory, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I currently serve as President & CEO of Soul 2 Soul, a company that provides couples and parenting retreats. Our mission is to help people to create better, healthier romantic and parental relationships. We employ a holistic model that utilizes the most cutting edge research from family systems and psychodynamic theories to assist individuals, couples and parents to experience more fulfilling, harmonious relationships. We do this by offering transformational couples and parenting retreats. Soul 2 Soul provides retreats to both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual couples.

As an undergraduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I majored in Psychology and American History. I saw the connection between our familial and collective histories and its impact on the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental health issues. Upon graduation, I pursued an M.A. and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology (with an emphasis in Multicultural/Community-Clinical Psychology) at the California School of Professional Psychology (Los Angeles),

Additionally, I serve as an Associate Professor at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (Los Angeles). I also serve on the adjunct faculties at Pepperdine University and National University. In November 2018, I was appointed to the American Psychological Association’s Joint Task Force to Revise the Professional Practice Guidelines for Working with Sexual Minorities.

I frequently present at regional, national and international conferences on LGBTQ issues, foster care, domestic trafficking of children, relationship issues, intimate partner violence, spirituality, substance abuse and psychological treatment of ethnic minority populations. I have presented over 150 workshops nationally and on four continents.

Previously, I served as a Program Director at several nonprofit organizations, overseeing the child and adult therapy programs and pregnant/parenting teen programs. I have also previously served as a Children’s Social Worker with the Department of Children and Family Services as a Clinical Psychologist with the Department of Mental Health and later as the Clinical Director of a family preservation program. Previously, I also served on the UCSC Alumni Council and the Commission on Youth and Families (Long Beach, California), a body that advises the Mayor and city council on issues of importance to children, adolescents and families in that city.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
My undergraduate experience was a bit bumpy. I am an LA native who went away to UCSC. Santa Cruz is a small college town and the campus life was “different” from growing up in the city. Animals (e.g., deer, cows, skunk) roamed the campus; the nearest mall was 40 minutes away. It was an adjustment. I hated it at first. Eventually, I settled and developed friendships that connections to friends and faculty that are still strong several decades later.

Graduate studies were a bit more academically challenging. It felt like a “trial by fire”; almost like joining a fraternity or sorority. Familial support was mixed. My family was proud of me for getting accepted into a doctoral program (first in family)but did not understand why I would pursue studies in psychology. (“Black people don’t see psychologists. Nobody is going to come to see you!!!”). It is kind of laughable now, especially since many of the naysayers have since sought services for themselves and/or their children.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Soul 2 Soul – what should we know?
Our Mission
We help people to create better, healthier romantic and parental relationships. We employ a holistic model that utilizes the most cutting edge research from family systems and psychodynamic theories to assist individuals, couples and parents to experience more fulfilling, harmonious relationships. We do this by offering transformational couples and parenting retreats.

Our Vision
We envision a day when healthier outcomes for children, couples, and families are the norm. We envision a day when people seek to acknowledge and break generational curses. We envision a day when people relish in having more open, honest, validating and fulfilling relationships.

The Retreats are for both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual couples. As Marriage Equality became law in 2015, there aren’t many companies that specialize in premarital workshops for newly engaged, newly married or couples in long-term relationships or parenting workshops for LGBTQ+ individuals. I think that is one of the things that sets the company apart from others. Additionally, I have a considerable amount of professional and lived experience that influenced the curriculum that is used in the Retreats. While not therapy, the Retreats are a “deep dive” into the issues that most couples do not deal with before getting married, but will ultimately impact their relationships (e.g., communication, family of origin issues, sex, finances, spirituality). At the end of the Retreats, couples leave informed and empowered to make decisions that hopefully will increase their relationship happiness.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
The ability to think outside the box and to approach problems creatively. As an academic and published poet, it is how I approached my teaching and how I run my business. I am not the typical psychologist, and that shows up in the topics presented in our retreats and how information is disseminated. Our retreats are fun, creative, informative and illuminating. For example, we have very open, no holds barred conversations about sex: a taboo topic for most people. But it is a topic that often, if unexplored, leads to problems in relationships.

I ALSO value relationships. I value human connection. It has been a force in both my personal and professional life. I have strong ties to many of my family members and I am still friends with people from elementary, middle, high school, undergraduate and grad school. Most of my former graduate students stay in contact with me after they graduate and move into their careers. I continue to mentor them and many of them have become “chosen family members.” The belief in close personal relationships is really what drives Soul 2 Soul.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Steven Williams (Beach photos), Hallo Smith (all black photo), Adam Bouska (No H8), Me (Soul 2 Soul Goodie Box)

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