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Meet Risa Williams

Today we’d like to introduce you to Risa Williams.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Risa. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I’m from Los Angeles and a native to West LA. I started out as a ballet dancer and studied with the New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet and other companies around the country. Ballet training gave me many things, including strength, an outlet for stress, discipline, and a love for classical music. At 19, I gave up dance to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts for Dramatic Writing after winning the California Young Playwright’s Award and receiving a full scholarship for writing.

After graduate school and working in the industry for a while, I became interested in studying psychology, mainly as a way to improve my writing and to develop better characters. However, after learning about Cognitive Behavioral Theory and Positive Psychology, I saw how useful tools and techniques could be for changing your state of mind. I liked the idea that you could do mental exercises to change your negative thought patterns to more positive ones and how this could improve your overall mood. It seemed like a different, more hands-on approach to traditional therapy and one that worked for me to help me reduce my own stress. I decided to get a Master’s in Psychology and to pursue becoming a therapist who specialized in these types of mental tools and exercises.

Now, I’m a licensed therapist with a private practice specializing in anxiety coaching. In my practice, I help people soothe their anxiety by giving them creative exercises to do to change their thought patterns. I draw inspiration from cognitive-behavioral techniques, mindfulness and meditation, and positive psychology.

I am also a writing professor and teach at various colleges and universities throughout LA, too. I was able to combine my love of film and psychology in a book I co-wrote with Ezra Werb called, Cinescopes: What Your Favorite Movies Reveal About You (Quirk, 2006), which was based on the idea that if you told us your top ten movies, we could predict your personality! It was a fun way to celebrate peoples’ favorite films and give them a little insight into why they like them.

I always feel lucky when I can find a way to combine my varied interests into one creative project. I’m currently writing a new book, The Fun Anxiety Workbook, which will provide readers with many of the creative exercises I give clients to help them manage their anxiety and stress.

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?
As a therapist, the difficulty is to make sure you are constantly doing your own inner work. You have to keep looking at yourself, your thought patterns, your assumptions – even if they aren’t fully conscious, and challenging yourself to grow and to work on yourself on a daily basis. This is true of being a professor as well. You have to keep adapting, being flexible and challenging yourself to grow. I enjoy working with clients and teaching students because I’m constantly exposed to new people and new ideas, which I find interesting to learn about.  

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Risa Williams: Therapy and Anxiety Coaching – what should we know?
In my therapy practice in LA, I specialize in anxiety coaching sessions using Teletherapy, which is 50 minute sessions via the phone or Skype. This allows clients to call in or Skype their sessions from different locations and I have found that clients feel less anxiety this way, because they can feel comfortable in the setting of their choosing. It reduces the anxiety of having to drive to a therapist’s office and navigate that situation. Many of my clients travel a lot for work, and/or work in creative careers, so they like this flexibility – some people do their sessions from backstage, on their lunch breaks, or from their own offices. I also have in-office sessions available for clients who prefer to meet this way.

In anxiety coaching sessions, I provide clients with mental tools and exercises that they can utilize between sessions. So, there’s always something they are working on. Sometimes, it’s journaling, sometimes it’s making lists of goals, sometimes it’s writing down tasks they have to do in a simple way that reduces their anxiety. Sometimes clients draw as part of their exercises, do simple breathing meditations, or write in a journal. I try to come up with exercises that engage my clients’ creativity in order to reduce their anxiety and give them more perspective on the situation they are struggling with.

I believe in a direct, goal-oriented approach to dealing with anxiety, and, that by providing tools and exercises to clients, you are empowering people to gain the confidence they need to change their own negative thinking patterns. We’re in the middle of an anxiety epidemic in this country right now, with 39% of the population reporting an increase in anxiety over the last year. It’s clearly something that people need help with! It’s my intention to empower people to manage their anxiety with creative mental tools and techniques.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Because of my background in the arts, I bring a lot of creativity to my therapy practice and to the classes I teach. I also utilize humor, I find that getting people to laugh and pull back from the heaviness of anxiety tends to make them feel more empowered.

As a native of LA, but also as someone who has lived in many other places and had many different careers, and also, as a mom of two young kids, I can easily relate to people from many backgrounds, with many different aspirations. I like to have new conversations, try new foods, visit new places, and meet new people. My curiosity about the world has definitely helped me as a writer, performer, and therapist.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 316 E. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale, California 91207
  • Website: http://www.risawilliams.com/therapy
  • Phone: ​​(424) 285-5706
  • Email: risawilliamstherapy@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @risawilliamstherapy



Image Credit:

Cinescopes: Reelz Channel, Cinescopes Cover by Quirk Books, Risa Williams’ Writing Class at Woodbury University

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