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Meet Stephanie Villasenor of Villasenor Counseling

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Villasenor.

Stephanie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I guess it all started when I was a kid. I had OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and severe separation anxiety from my mother. At school, I cried everyday until I was about nine years old. At that age, I hadn’t really overcome my anxiety, it was just expressed in different ways. In high school, I learned about mental health disorders from none other than MTV! (who says TV can’t teach you anything?)

You see, I grew up in a household that did not believe in mental health disorders and considered therapy to be a one-way ticket to the mental institution. This is why I shocked my parents when I chose psychology as my major when I attended Loyola Marymount University. I loved my time at LMU, but it wasn’t until the summer before my senior year that I knew I wanted to be a mental health therapist.

That summer, I got a job at a group home for children that have been removed from their families due to abuse and severe emotional disturbances. Full disclosure, I thought I was going to be working at a summer camp, until my first day! It was definitely challenging, but rewarding more than anything. I started my master’s program soon after graduating from Pepperdine University.

After I graduated, I worked in community mental health. Just so you know, this work is tedious and extremely draining. I loved the clients I was working with, but I felt so constrained. I couldn’t really give my all when I was fighting with myself every morning just to get to the office! I kept telling myself that once I received my license as a therapist (you have to complete 3000 hours of therapy, complete trainings and pass two difficult tests) things would get better.

But not in community mental health… a friend of mine (Indigenous circle of wellness) opened her own practice and offered her office space. I jumped on that and began building my practice! Now, I am able to provide the very best work I can to the clients that hand-pick me!

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?
Oh not at all! First of all, school was such a challenge. The thing is, papers and tests are challenging; but add the fact that you are learning all about the brain, the way people think, feel, act. You start to diagnose yourself with all sorts of disorders!

Then, when you start actually providing therapy, you realize that your clients are putting so much faith in you. I can’t count how many times I left a session crying because I couldn’t change my client’s life situation (for example, a death). And these are struggles that I continue with, I have just learned to embrace it and remind myself that I help them cope and overcome those life situations.

But in the beginning, even before I was a therapist, the most difficult thing I face was to hear about the abuse endured by the kids I worked with at the group home. There are too many feelings all mixed together about that.

As far as opening my own practice, the struggles continue! As a therapist, I never learned about the business aspects of owning a practice. For instance, marketing is a whole new challenge for me! Full disclosure, I didn’t even know what an Instagram handle was until I opened my practice! I guess the difference is that I kind of enjoy these struggles… kind of.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Villasenor Counseling – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I own a mental health counseling practice. I provide individual, couples, and family counseling services. I love working with people from all walks of life, but most of my experience is working with the Latinx community. I work mostly with women and teens. I would have to say that I specialize in helping clients process and overcome trauma, anxiety, and depression.

I also am very passionate about helping women and teens recognize their self-worth and build self-esteem. As far as what I am known for… must be my sense of humor in the therapy room. It is important to me that my client feels safe and comfortable during session. That starts with the relationship between therapist and client. I often use humor to build rapport with my clients, and it helps to open up about serious issues (ironically enough, I find that humor helps us talk about serious things).

I am most proud of my clients. I’m about to get super corny, but it’s really the reason I even have a business! My clients come every week and put in serious effort, to be honest with me, and, most importantly, themselves. I’m proud of the progress I have made with building up my business, and clients my are my proof that it is worth it. Clients are the therapists’ legacy.

Sets me apart… I think of my personality. I don’t have a “therapist voice” that I turn on once I’m in the room with a client. I am the same person in and out of the room. I’m curious and trust that my clients are the experts on their own lives. I don’t like to come in and assume that I know best… not to say that other therapists do this!

Also, I use very simple language (probably exemplified in this article!). I understand in a simple way, so I explain things in simple ways… that is just the way my brain works!

So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I plan to continue growing my practice! I am open to working with new people and growing my client list. I hope to expand my practice and eventually offer teen and parent groups. I would love to have my husband join my practice as a consultant and tutor for kids and teens with IEPs (individual education plan). He is a special education teacher, and I would love to provide parents (especially in the Latinx community) with more information about ways to help their children get the best education possible.

I want to eventually offer retreats that would incorporate nature into the therapy process. I’m excited to also volunteer with organizations like “girls today, women tomorrow.” I love working with teen girls and helping them feel more confident!

Another event that I’m looking forward to is the annual Latinafest in August! I participated last year, and it was such a great way to meet other Latina business owners and provide the community with mental health information. Another thing I am looking forward to is helping other therapists own their own practice.

I just recently added consulting to my offered services. My goal is to help other therapists realize it is possible to own your own business and provide information about the necessary steps for this. I would love to see more of my therapist friends enjoy their work and their lives even more than they do now. Another thing I am currently working on is a children’s book.

The goal is to help young children understand boundaries and understand how to recognize danger. I am also working on a parents booklet to go with this, so parents can have more of an understanding of how to talk to their kids about things like private parts being private.

It is such an important topic to go over with young kids, but it can be very awkward. The goal is not to strike fear into children and their parents, but increase awareness and help create a flow of communication between children and parents.

There are so many things I want in the future!

Pricing:

  • Individual sessions: $120.00
  • Family/couples: $150.00
  • therapist consultation appts: $150-300.00

Contact Info:

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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