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Rising Stars: Meet Dr. Kristen Garubba

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Kristen Garubba.

Hi Dr. Kristen, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?
As long as I can remember, I have been a helper to others especially with those who were just a bit more challenging to love. Throughout my career, I have explored areas anywhere from hospitality to teaching to child development and finally to helping those in need. What I found throughout my experiences was that I wanted to be a therapist and helper to others with focus to those who have had difficult life experiences and who, without help, would find difficulty in their day to day functioning. Following completion of my Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family development in 2005, I took a small break to work and, in 2007, entered into my Master’s Program in Clinical Psychology to pursue my career dreams of becoming a therapist. When it came time to begin my work as a therapist during my masters, I began with a non-profit agency serving members of the Fullerton and Surrounding areas.

Most clients were reduced or no fee and my work there introduced me to individuals, couples, families, and children impacted by negative life events. While I was grateful for the experience I found there, my interest in substance abuse and trauma led me away from a community setting and towards programs focusing on victims of crime and those who were severely mentally ill but who also struggled with drugs and alcohol. Working part-time at these jobs, I knew I wanted more than being a therapist alone, so, in 2010, I decided to go for my doctorate which would allow me to continue my career as a therapist while also being able to take on the role of professor of graduate studies in clinical psychology. The process was long and while pursuing my degree, I worked three part-time jobs and attended class in the evening. Upon completion of my doctorate in 2014, I had finally obtained a full-time job as a therapist in a substance abuse rehabilitation program and was also on my way to becoming a licensed therapist. My work continued throughout the years until the rehab industry was threatened with challenges by insurance companies for payment, closure to due to illicit practices, and instances of lowered quality of care. Following this time, I transitioned to the managed care plan for Medi-Cal members where I spent time learning the system and understanding how the state played a role in behavioral health services for members.

Throughout my experience, I became restless and bored knowing I was a clinician at heart and longing for face to face work. I would get that chance when the former owner of the substance abuse program reached out to me and offered me the clinical opportunity of a lifetime. I would be the clinical director of a new program and would get the chance to build the substance abuse program of my dreams incorporating my knowledge, skills, and goals to make a better program with high quality of care and clinical excellence. That was in 2018, during which time I also began my professorship at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. It was in my time as the clinical director where I began to realize that I had been in agencies for more than ten years and that it was time to continue my clinical work on my own while also continuing to teach and train. My trauma interest also continued to pull at me which led me to pursue my EMDR training to treat trauma and its related intervention DeTur to manage urge reduction. These skills would allow me to treat the trauma and urges to use associated with addiction. After establishing a successful clinical program for the rehab and leaving my mark of excellence, I finally decided to pursue my dream of running a private practice where I would carry my skills gained in my 10+ years of training and work and focus solely on the clinical work that I enjoy so much. Currently, I run at full capacity and focus on Trauma, Addiction, Depression and anxiety. I also continue to teach at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and am the DeTur training for the EMDR professional training.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
The road has not been easy and I have had to overcome much to get to where I am today. When I graduated with my masters, it was during one of the worst economic recessions we had see and I struggled to find work as an unlicensed therapist due to limited jobs and competing with those who had licenses. Making ends meet was difficult at best and I wondered if I would ever find a job in the field. Due to this, I waited tables, served as a tutor those children in low-income homes as part of the no child left behind act, and often worked 2-3 jobs at a time. This continued into my doctorate and I was not given my first job in the field until 2011 when I obtained a part-time job in a residential program for severely mentally ill individuals while also working part-time with victims of crime and as a bartender and server.

All during this time, I was working on my doctorate, studying for exams, and attempting to live life and pay bills. In 2013, when working on my dissertation to complete my doctoral degree, I finally got a full-time job working on a rehab facility in NewPort Beach. Working and writing a dissertation is no small feat and, about ten months into the job, due to low enrollment, the job ended and I was tasked with finding a new job which I did and, due to cuts to budgeting and attendance in programs, I once again had to rush to find a job. While I have been fortunate enough to continue working, it seems there has been much instability in the job field at times and I have had to make several changes. When I finally did decide to leave my full-time job last year to open my private practice, it would be one month before the Pandemic began and uncertainty abounded. While I was still teaching, I also worked five additional jobs just to make ends meet before my practice finally took off.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
As a therapist, professor and trainer, my job serve to provide and educate on the world of therapy, clinical psychology overall, and techniques. While I provide services to many populations, I am most known for my work with Trauma and Addiction and teens with anxiety and depression. I am most proud of the hard work and dedication put in to open up my own business and make it successful while continuing my teaching career and adding to my skills and training all during a global pandemic. What sets me apart from others is my caring and compassion coupled with the ability to connect to others and maintain clients long-term which is indicative of quality care and a strong therapeutic alliance.

We’d love to hear about how you think about risk taking?
I have taken many risks throughout my life that have included last minute travel, career opportunities, and leaving to strike out on my own. I think the biggest risk so far has been starting my own business and not being sure when it wolf takes off or where it would go. Leaving behind the security of a consistent paycheck is by far one of the scariest things I have ever done. It turned out well, but when the pandemic hit, I spent a lot of time doubting my choices and if they were the right ones. When traveling the world, I have taken risks such as: strapping in and climbing the Sydney harbor bridge, traversing the Costa Rican rain forest on a zip line with no visible end at times, traversing the ocean for a 26 mile ride to Catalina on a Jet Ski and riding with dolphins as they frolic and play alongside you just inches away, and riding an elephant’s bareback in Bali as it reaches its trunk down in the water with its head disappearing and leaving you only your head above the water while the massive beast is just inches below unseen and all you can do is wait until he comes back up and relieves you of the small fear of being taken down with it. Taking risks can tend to be met with fear and excitement and I have found the Experience is always worth the price of admission.


  • Services Range from $140-165 an hour

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Photos by Crystal Domenech

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