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Meet Jeana-Marie Viteri

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeana-Marie Viteri.

Jeana-Marie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
From a young age, I was always very sensitive and attuned to the people around me. I was the kid crying at sad moments in Winnie the Pooh, or “reading the room” and knowing that there was tension (before even really knowing what that meant). I was teased a lot, even by loved ones, for being overly emotional about people, situations, etc. But it was a part of me that I couldn’t turn off, and I wasn’t really sure that I even wanted to. As I grew older, I became “the mother hen” of sorts for my friend groups. People would share their issues and confide in me often – knowing that I would listen and be supportive, but most of all that I would do all that I could to help them out.

When the time came to graduate high school and move onto college, I had solidified in my mind that I needed to become a professional helper – a therapist. I left New Jersey and moved up to Massachusetts, where I attended Boston University for undergrad. Having grew up in suburban NJ, this was a huge change for me, but I took to city life quickly and thrived. The nightlife, public transportation, restaurants, culture – it all spoke to me in ways I can only understand now in hindsight. The city had a pulse to it and I felt so much at home. These cultural experiences continued to influence and color my experiences over the next 8-10 years as I studied abroad in New Zealand, graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and went on to attend a doctorate program at Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (now William James College).

My graduate school experience rocked me to my core. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to juggle school full-time, along with part-time practicums/internships, as well as many side jobs in retail, academia, and the occasional babysitting to help make financial ends meet. But I did it. And along the way my cultural and psychological understanding and compacity expanded 10-fold. I actively sought out experiences that would enable me to learn and explore new cultures outside of my white, Italian/Scottish, Catholic bubble. During a few of my practicums, I worked with Cambodian refugee survivors of the killing fields and learned how to communicate psychologically with the help of interpreters, as well as what it meant to experience my own vicarious trauma.

I also vehemently volunteered to work on what was the deaf unit at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital during my last practicum year in graduate school. On a psychological level, I wanted to understand how psychosis manifested with individuals who are deaf, but on a personal level, I wanted to learn how to communicate and bridge a gap. Looking back, these two opportunities lit an insatiable flame for me. I became so enthralled with learning more, seeing more, meeting new people, going new places. I embraced change (as scary as it was at times) and decided to try my luck at an A.P.A. internship, knowing full well that I may need to leave Boston, my adult home for the last decade.

I matched at The Help Group in Sherman Oaks, CA and readied myself to become a Californian. The first few years in California were challenging for me – all my family and friends were back East, and I felt very much like a small fish in a big pond. It was during this time that I found myself watching a lot of Anthony Bourdain television shows. I marveled at the places he traveled to, cried during the heartfelt moments when he connected deeply with people he encountered, smirked at his sarcasm and wit, and listened carefully and attentively to his words of wisdom. I knew I had already set a path for myself in the field of psychology (which I firmly intended to see through), but I began to develop a bit of an “itch”. I chose to ignore that feeling for awhile and continue on with my studies…I needed to get licensed after all!

By 2016, after a few more years, moves, and tests, I was officially a licensed Clinical Psychologist in the state of California. However, it took me another two years before I put my own “shingle” up as a private practice business owner. While I was busy learning how to be a business owner and cultivate my love for helping others, it was then that Anthony Bourdain passed away. By that point, I had already been jokingly telling others for years that I basically wanted to be like him (sans the drug years). His passing was such an incredible blow. This man, for so many people, had symbolized humanity, authenticity, creativity, curiosity, and cultural connection. I couldn’t imagine our world without his presence….a man I didn’t even know but had touched so many parts of my life that fill me with joy and wonder. It was his passing that ultimately brought that dormant “itch” to the forefront.

As a psychologist, one of the core things that I often discuss in therapy with my clients is the importance of self-care. For us in the field, self-care has become synonymous with other 4-letter words, mostly because we tend to work ourselves way too hard. Since graduating and becoming licensed, I had struggled to remember how to have hobbies and downtime. So much of my days for the last two decades had been filled with readings, papers, therapy, clinical work…I couldn’t even remember what I liked to do? When Anthony Bourdain passed, something clicked. I felt like I needed to honor a man who had changed my life by re-connecting ME  to my life. While building my private practice, I began to cultivate the other parts of myself – the creative side of me that loves art, photography, meeting new people, and FOOD! I began documenting my excursions on Yelp and Instagram (handle: itzspicymeatball) with no real goal in mind other than to have fun, be present in the moment, enjoy a creative outlet, and eat really good food (I am in L.A. after all). What has transpired over the last few months has brought me to tears. I have met so many amazing people, foodies and restaurant owners alike, and have been introduced to various new cultures and cuisines. I even teamed up with Leo Matias and the amazing crew at Cilantro Lime to develop a new dish for their 2019 4 Da Gram Menu.

The journey is never over, as I’m sure Anthony Bourdain would muse. But I do feel like the melding of psychology and food has been an important one for me – a left and right brain connection, or perhaps bridging together the gap between my head and my heart. However you want to conceptualize it, it has led me to be a better person for myself and an even more authentic and genuine clinician for my clients. Perhaps an even better cook too!

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?
Learning to be a mental health professional is an incredibly vulnerable process. Not only are you learning psychological theories and interventions, but you are also constantly over-analyzing yourself and the people around you. I think I had jokingly diagnosed myself with like six disorders in my first year of graduate school! All kidding aside, learning to be a psychologist required me to humble myself and take a good hard look at my own challenges and growing edges. I had to face difficult personal issues and “baggage” and learn how to cope with/make peace with them. After all, if I am to ask my clients to be vulnerable and open in session, I better know what it feels like to “do the work”.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
In my private practice, I provide therapy and Neurofeedback training for adults, as well as psychological/neuropsychological testing for children, teens, and adults. Through testing, I can help client’s better understand their learning style/needs and emotional capabilities, as well as provide diagnosis refinement and recommendations to best support their growth and success.

What sets me apart from other psychologists or mental health professionals in the field is my use of Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback is a non-invasive procedure and considered to be a type of biofeedback which helps individuals who wish to enhance their brain regulation for improved performance. I currently train utilizing the Cygnet software through EEG Info. Neurofeedback is often a great first treatment option for many individuals who do not require more invasive treatment. However, it can also be especially helpful for individuals who suffer from chronic conditions and symptoms that have not been responsive to other treatment interventions. In particular, Neurofeedback has been utilized to treat a variety of conditions including hyperactivity, inattention, behavior problems, sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, brain injury, seizures and other medical and emotional difficulties. Research has shown that this type of brain training is also beneficial for individuals seeking to enhance overall performance and skill sets (i.e., company executives, athletes), as well as work through and process past traumatic experiences.

So how does Neurofeedback work? After a thorough intake where we discuss your symptoms, I will create an individualized treatment plan which will address your unique needs and experiences. Small electrodes are then placed on your head to measure your brainwaves in real-time. While watching a movie or calming scene (or even while playing a videogame), your brainwave activity is “shaped “in order to learn self-regulation abilities.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’ve never considered myself a very lucky person – I don’t often win at scratch tickets or at casinos. But I do believe that things in my life have happened for certain reasons (both good and bad) – otherwise I wouldn’t be the person I am today. We are the sum of our experiences…and whether you want to call it luck or fate, it has all helped shaped my successes, failures, and learning experiences.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Kerry Corcoran

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