We at Health and Healing Therapy want to give you the opportunity to get to know our therapists, what their clients struggle with, how they help, and who they are. We believe that connection and comfort with your therapist is vital to growth and healing, so we hope that knowing more about us can put you to ease and assist you in making a decision about whether we are the right therapy practice for you. To do so, we have interviewed each of our therapists about themselves, their careers, and their thoughts around therapy.

Stepping into the spotlight, we have our lovely therapist, Khoa Ngo! In the first part of her interview, Khoa talks about therapy offering new perspectives and possibilities, the importance of compassion with yourself and others, and her desire for her clients to find peace.

Why do you think it’s important for people to participate in therapy?

A lot of people come to therapy for different reasons, and I think everyone could potentially use therapy. We all have aspirations that we want to grow and become better people, or maybe there’s something in our lives that we just want to be better. But in this country especially, most people seek therapy when they see there’s a problem or when they’re really unhappy with a part of their life. I think therapy is important because it often offers a new perspective that people have never looked at before, or a perspective that others may have tried to get them to see, but because of the relationship they have with those people, it acts as a barrier to seeing those possibilities. In therapy, I think a lot of times you are able to let those defenses down in order to see the possibilities. So, I think it’s important to participate in therapy just because there are lots and lots of different ways to look at things, and it opens up people’s possibilities so that they can see things in a new way that might help them in life.

What does a therapy session with you look like?

Well, it depends. If it’s a child – who is usually ten years old or younger – part of that therapy session will be spent with a parent. We’ll do some type of relationship work or parent coaching of how the parent can support their child in whatever they’re going through or whatever they’re trying to help their kid grow in. Then, with the child, we might talk for a little bit, but the session usually involves games. We’ll learn in a more playful environment, whether it’s talking during the game, or playing a game that teaches different skills. Things like coping skills or talking about your feelings. With really little ones, we might watch something on YouTube, like a little show, or sometimes I look at various books, review them and talk about it. That’s what it looks like for kids. For adults and couples, it’s a lot of identifying emotions. Getting them to talk about their problems and what they’re going through and identifying a lot of the underlying thoughts and emotions present that might be causing certain behaviors. Exploring the underlying things that we don’t normally think of and lead us to acting without thinking.

What is the best advice you’ve given in a therapy session?

With littler kids, it’s typically for their parents, and it’s usually to not be so hard on themselves. A lot of the time, that’s applicable for adult clients, too. Oftentimes, people are way too hard on themselves, and so it’s important to tell them to take it easy, find compassion for themselves, that they’re doing a good job, and that coming to therapy is actually a good sign itself that they’re doing an amazing job because they’re caring for themselves. So, yeah! I also talk a lot about compassion with couples – trying to give their significant other the benefit of the doubt. A lot of the time in relationships we tend to focus a lot on all the things our partner is doing wrong, or on how we feel wronged by our partner, so I encourage couples to approach each other with an awareness that their partner may be hurting just as much as them or at least isn’t intentionally trying to do harm. That’s probably the best advice I give them: to try to give their partner the benefit of the doubt on things that are hard.

What is one of the hardest parts of being a therapist?

Sometimes it’s hard to keep a more objective point of view. I believe most things are subjective, but keeping your opinions to yourself can be difficult. Occasionally, you just want to be frank and tell someone, “don’t do that!”, “don’t say that!”, or “that person isn’t good for you to have in your life.” Sometimes it’s hard to hold back when you want to give advice on something because that’s not the point of therapy. It isn’t about giving advice, but sometimes it’s really, really hard to not say, “okay, do this.” *laughs* Another difficult part is staying in the moment. It can be really hard on a day where you’re seeing many clients in a given, so much so that sometimes it’s difficult to stay in the moment.

What do you like the most about being a therapist?

I like to learn about other people’s lives, inner thoughts, and their story. Along with that, the second part would be just helping them see their lives in a more positive light, or changing their point of view on certain things going on in their life. Still, first and foremost, I like to hear their stories, their personal perspectives, and things like that.

What are common challenges that your clients face? What is an area or are areas of specialty you have?

I would say that a common challenge is probably clients judging themselves too harshly – it goes with what I answered earlier. A lot of people are really hard on themselves. They think they should be a certain way, or they think something’s wrong with them, or they think the way that they’re feeling about something is wrong, or that the way they’re reacting to something is wrong, which means that something’s wrong with them. And so, I think many of the clients that I see feel like something’s wrong with them. “They’re not very kind to themselves” would be a good way to put it, I guess. A specialty of mine would be couples therapy, as well as parenting interventions – those would be my top two. In addition, I help people with depression and anxiety.

What do you want/is your hope for your clients?

My hope is for my clients to find a sense of peace somewhere in their lives. A sense of peace or confidence, I guess – either one. For some people, there’s so much chaos in life, and I think it’s important to find a little peace and confidence because they kind of go hand in hand. If we feel good about ourselves, we tend to be able to find that peace a little bit better with the things that are in our lives.

What do clients say about working with you?

That was the hardest question! I don’t know. I don’t know what they say. Without sounding full of myself, the only things that they’ve said to me about working with me is that I’m very helpful and that they feel like I understand them. They say that I give them a sense of feeling understood, and, for a lot of people, they’re feeling that for the first time. They feel like they’ve walked through life without anyone ever understanding what they’re going through, or listening to them. That’s another thing – they say they feel really listened to, and that coming to therapy with me is just generally helpful. I remember my toughest client – I just asked him once, “why do you come?” *laughs* He was difficult, but he was very consistent in coming, and the one time he forgot, he felt so terrible. He was very stuck in a really rough place, and when I asked him, he said, “it’s helpful.” So, I think my clients see me as helpful and good at making people feel understood and heard.