Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. January’s clinician is Angie Carman, LMFT.

Angie Carman, LMFT. Photo by Priya Patel.

This Oahu, Hawaii native joined Acacia’s team when our Irvine location opened September of 2018. Her passion for mental health glows bright, and we are so glad she shares her light with us!

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Angie: I enjoy [possibly] being the one person in my clients’ lives who can be non-judgmental, affirming, and allow for them to really choose to be their own authentic self. I also enjoy seeing my clients have an “aha” moment in session. When they are able to implement positive coping strategies on their own throughout the week and tell me about it during our session, I feel so proud of them. I love being my clients’ cheerleader.

Knowing what we feel about, during, or after something allows to make informed decisions on how we want to respond.

Could you tell us why therapy and discussing feelings is helpful?

Angie Carman, LMFT. Photo by Priya Patel.

Angie: Growing up, I never understood why therapy was so important until I realized I wasn’t able to acknowledge my own feelings, especially when I was stressed or overwhelmed. Feelings are like little post-it notes you write yourself when you need to address something; it’s so important to recognize that there may be negative feelings, neutral feelings, and positive feelings. Regardless though, they tell you ‘something’s happening! I need to be present and notice’. Knowing what we feel about, during, or after something allows to make informed decisions on how we want to respond. When we are not as aware, we tend to be more reactive, which can have long term consequences. I once heard someone say, “Feelings remind us we’re alive!”

What are your interests outside of therapy?

Angie: I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. Community is everything to me and I love being a part of such amazing people. I also enjoy dining at new spots; I’m a foodie so yelp is my best friend.

When they (clients) are able to implement positive coping strategies on their own throughout the week and tell me about it during our session, I feel so proud of them.

If you could share one piece of wisdom with your college-aged self, what would it be?

Angie: I would probably remind myself that I am loved and known by others and by my higher power. I felt like I was getting tied up in the logistics of my life, and knowing what I know now, I would have told myself to be more present. Also, to learn Spanish.

Angie Carman, LMFT. Photo by Priya Patel.

If you could switch places with anybody for a week, who would it be and why?

Angie: This is a hard one! I love my life and I feel like I wouldn’t want to switch places with anyone. However, for the purpose of this question, I guess if I had to, I would switch places with Kendall Jenner just to see how the Kardashian/Jenner clan lives and to possibly use a platform to make a statement about the value of addressing one’s mental health!

Rooted in authenticity, Angie encourages others to embrace & celebrate individuality. Her mindful approach invites clients to experience feelings while staying present in each moment. Thank you, Angie, for sharing strategies that help cultivate growth!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Angie’s bio on the Irvine page!

Authored (a lot) by Angie Carmen and (a little) by Danielle Sharkey.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. January’s clinician is Micah Caldwell, LPCC.

Caldwell, LPCC

This Milwaukee, Wisconsin native joined Acacia when our La Jolla office opened in January 2019. We love his innovative approaches to therapy, and you will too!

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Micah: Probably my favorite part of being a clinician is having the opportunity to introduce someone to therapy for the first time. Therapy can be an uneasy experience for a lot of folks. It takes a lot of courage to walk into a strange place to talk to a strange person to spill your guts about everything going on in your life. So I really enjoy the challenge of making each person feel comfortable and safe. I also love being an “agent of change”. You know those intense, late-night conversations you have with your friends? I don’t know what it is about that environment, but it becomes this breeding ground for deeply revealing, life changing moments. Therapy sometimes feels like that and there are few experiences that compare to sitting in session with someone and seeing the light bulb go off.

Caldwell, LPCC

How would someone know if they could use therapy?

Micah: Well personally, I think everyone could use a little therapy. I’m a big believer in preventative mental health care. In the same way that you go to your doctor for an annual checkup, I think folks should visit a therapist for their mental checkup. To stretch this analogy a bit further, I think mental health care can reflect physical health care in other areas as well. If you have an acute mental health situation, we can equate that to an infection. Maybe you just need a few appointments to stop the spread, get it under control, and fully heal. And likewise, if there are chronic mental health issues that require ongoing care, such as recurrent depression or anxiety, then a longer-term therapeutic relationship might be the right fit. But at a minimum, I’d say someone could use therapy if they are experiencing an emotional or psychological issue that is impacting their ability to adequately function daily.

You know those intense, late-night conversations you have with your friends? I don’t know what it is about that environment, but it becomes this breeding ground for deeply revealing, life changing moments. Therapy sometimes feels like that.

How do you balance being a full time clinician with your personal life?

Micah: I often extol the virtues of having a good life-work balance to clients, so I try to practice what I preach. Historically, I’ve struggled with this because I prioritized the job over my own well-being. But now, I work like a “professional athlete”. Whether it’s an Olympic marathon runner or a football star, athletes need to train and work hard in order to grow and hone their skills. But just as importantly, those athletes require rest and relaxation. If they push themselves too hard and don’t give themselves the time to recover, they’re going to injure themselves and then they’re totally useless! How can they perform that way? They can’t. Same thing for me. I take my work very seriously and dedicate myself when I’m there. And once my work is done, I genuinely relax and leave my clinical work at work. That way, I can actually enjoy both aspects of my life.

You’re a pretty creative person, do you utilize creativity with the therapy space?

Caldwell, LPCC

Micah: I do! I like to give clients a lot of creative homework because I think it inspires people to explore new dimensions of life that perhaps they’ve forgotten about or have never considered. So, for example, that might involve encouraging a client to play an instrument they haven’t touched in years or to pick up painting because they’ve always wanted to try it. I will also be starting my first therapeutic Dungeons & Dragons RPG group in the next month, which I’m really thrilled about. It is pretty much impossible to play the game without being creative, so I’m excited to weave play therapy, communication skills, and adventure all into one cohesive experience. I find that I can never have enough creativity and I want to incorporate it even more into therapy, particularly in-session, but it often requires time for development, so it’s an ongoing endeavor.

I like to give clients a lot of creative homework because I think it inspires people to explore new dimensions of life that perhaps they’ve forgotten about or have never considered.

If you could only recommend one life change to every client who walked in the door, what would it be?

Micah: Eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. It’s amazing how much taking care of your physical health can impact your mental health. If you take care of those basics, you are laying a good foundation for yourself. 

Micah’s dedication to living a balanced life inspires all those around him. His playful approach to traditional therapy encourages clients to tap into their creativity both in and out of session. We can’t wait to see what he does next!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Micah’s bio on the La Jolla page!

Authored (a lot) by Micah Caldwell and (a little) by Danielle Sharkey.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. November’s clinician is Sheena Edmonds, LMFT.

Sheena Edmonds, LMFT. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

Sheena is a La Verne, CA native who also claims Miami after spending time there during graduate school. She made her way back to California and joined Acacia’s Westwood team this past April. We’re happy to have her!

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Sheena: I enjoy the variety that comes with being a clinician; each day is different and I really enjoy the challenge of having to be flexible in order to meet each person’s needs in the moment. I enjoy getting to know people and being able to help them work through various life stressors.

Sheena Edmonds, LMFT. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

What is your therapeutic approach?
Sheena: I believe in having the client be in charge of his/her/their treatment. Therefore, my therapeutic approach is mostly Client-Centered. I take on a holistic/integrative approach to treatment and will use different treatment modalities (Solution-Focused Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, or Cognitive-Behavioral therapy) depending on the needs of each client.

What really happens in therapy?

Sheena: Everything! Therapy is where people come face to face with the parts of themselves that are difficult to face. It is where people come to learn how to deal with their relationships in a different manner. It is where people come to vent about frustrations occurring in their lives. Therapy is where change happens; it is where growth happens.

So now I try to be as open and as collaborative as possible in my therapeutic relationships with my clients; I want them to have the experience that I didn’t.

Will you tell us an interesting or most memorable story from college?

Sheena: I don’t really remember a lot about college as it was the most difficult time in my life. College is the first time I sought therapy for myself after my younger sister passed away. It was at this time that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career as a therapist as I did not have a positive experience. So now I try to be as open and as collaborative as possible in my therapeutic relationships with my clients; I want them to have the experience that I didn’t.

What’s your favorite thing about Acacia?

Sheena: I like that Acacia is accessible to the population we serve, whether that is via video sessions or being within walking distance of the college campus.

Sheena Edmonds, LMFT. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

Sheena’s empathy for others and her individualized treatment approach help make her the approachable and trusted therapist she is. Her drive to help clients have positive therapeutic experiences is admirable, and we are so thankful to have her on our team!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Sheena’s bio on the Westwood page!

Authored (a lot) by Sheena Edmonds and (a little) by Danielle Sharkey.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. October’s clinician is Solomon Ndungu, LMFT.

Solomon Ndungu, LMFT. Photo by Katie Sabini.

Although once a Bostonian, and apparently a New England Patriots fan, Solomon was born and raised in Kenya. He made his way to Santa Barbara and joined the Acacia Isla Vista team just about a year ago and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Solomon: Being a witness to another human being’s life as they explore their strengths and overcome their challenges. 

Why do you enjoy working with college communities?

Solomon: I am young and have always been young at heart which feels like I connect easily with folks in college.

I have always valued being influenced and inspired by others through their living authentic lives. It has given me the courage to do the same.

What other type of work do you do?

Solomon: I also work in software. Along the lines of data analysis.

What are the biggest similarities to therapy?

Solomon: The software program is in healthcare with a goal of improving outcomes which feels very similar to what we do in therapy: using the information shared to improve outlooks in people.

What are the biggest differences?

Solomon: I am often working on my computer while with the software company, while in therapy it is one on one with clients all the time.

Who was the most influential person in your life and why?

Solomon Ndungu, LMFT. Photo by Katie Sabini.

Solomon: I have always had many. No one person carried it all. Some of my friends because they were daring. My parents because they resourceful. My brothers and cousins because they did not suffer fools. My teachers because they saw more of whom I could be than I did. Some celebrities because they were unapologetically themselves. I have always valued being influenced and inspired by others through their living authentic lives. It has given me the courage to do the same.

Just for fun: If your therapy had a theme song, which would it be?

Solomon: I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack. The song encourages everyone to enjoy this very short gift of life we have. To be daring, to take chances, to step out there and dance.      

Although Solomon is a Patriots fan (this author is an Eagles fan), we’ll put our differences aside to unite as the Acacia team. His unique background and diverse sources of inspiration shape his methodological yet authentic approach to therapy. We’re so glad Solomon “dances” with Acacia!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Solomon’s bio on the Isla Vista page!

Authored (a lot) by Solomon Ndungu and (a little) by Danielle Sharkey.

I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, even if the rest of my family didn’t think it was a good idea. I moved away from home as soon as I could and even found a part-time job to pay for my own education. It was rough back then. I remember going to class bright and early before attending shifts in the afternoon. I would always bring books with me so I could study during my breaks. When I got home at night, I would burn extra hours to study for any upcoming tests, or go over any material I wasn’t confident with.

So I studied, worked, cried a little, but eventually graduated. Mission accomplished, Itold myself. Nothing could go wrong.

How wrong was I!

Nursing school was hard, and I soon found that nursing itself is even more difficult. Our bodies can only expend so much energy before they collapse. The countless hours I poured into work is a constant reminder of the looming nurse shortage that plagues the United States (1), and how understaffed we were. And the patients – no matter how genuine I tried to be – sometimes resorted to verbal abuse. Everyone was so busy there was no one to talk to, and I often found myself too tired to feel any source of fulfillment or joy. I was depressed, though I was too scared to admit it to myself after everything I had gone through to get there.

One night, I came across this article (2) on Thrive Global that explored the high percentage of hospital-employed nurses who are suffering from depression. The report also revealed how half of us are even considering quitting the profession.

And for the first time ever, I realized I wasn’t alone in this fight.

Since that day, I began looking at my colleagues differently. I wondered if their hearts, too, are bothered by the same dark feeling mine was shrouded in, or if they truly enjoy going to work surrounded by this depressive atmosphere.

It’s true what my fellow Acacia writer Hanna Boleman (3) expresses in her piece: “Pain is subjective, relative, and experienced by everyone.”

I’m not sure when it happened exactly — when I started initiating some mindful conversation in the staff room to quell the silence. I remember telling them about my initial fears of getting into the profession, how my parents were pressuring me to get another degree, and how I firmly told them that this is what I wanted. I guess, sharing my thoughts must have triggered something in them, too, because suddenly I know more about their struggles and personal triumphs, big and small. These have helped me comprehend my own thoughts and process the events around me.

And this all made sense, in hindsight, given the challenges those in our profession are facing. In their industry outlook for nurses, Maryville University (4) notes that not only is there a shortage among nurses in hospitals and schools, but we’re also facing an increasingly complicated healthcare system and an impending lack of doctors. On top of that, the job is only getting harder, while the required standards in our work are only getting higher. Faced with all these circumstances, it’s easy to give up. But we nurses are some of the most stubborn people on the planet. After all, how else do we get the most uncooperative patients to eat their meals? How do you think we even passed nursing school in the first place?

With no one to reach out to, we started reaching out for each other. Sharing my pain, and seeing them persevere despite theirs, has helped all of us rise above the dark clouds that haunt our professional and even personal lives.

It’s okay to be embarrassed about being depressed some times — I mean, I was, too. But the only way you’re going to be able to combat this isolating disease is by realizing that not only are there people who are willing to listen and help, but you also deserve to receive that support. It doesn’t have to be your colleagues; it could be your family, friends, or even online acquaintances. Accept all the support that’s given to you, and when you have it, share it with everyone else. And if you happen to wear the symbol of medicine on your scrubs like I do, Asclepius knows how much we all need it.

Author, Arabella Walsh


(1) Tyczkowski, B. L., & Reilly, J. (2017). DNP-Prepared Nurse Leaders: Part of the Solution to the Growing Faculty Shortage. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 47(7/8), 359–360. doi: 10.1097/nna.0000000000000494

(2) Harris, C. (2018, October 10). Why Depression Is Causing Nurses To Leave The Profession. Retrieved from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/nursing-depression-burnout/.

(3) Theory of (Pain) Relativity, Hanna Boleman

(4) https://online.maryville.edu/online-doctorate-degrees/doctor-nursing-practice/

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. October’s clinician is Erica Castro, PMHNP-BC.

Erica Castro, PMHNP-BC. Photo by Brenda Baresi.

Erica Castro joined the Acacia Davis office just this summer and has been a wonderful addition to the Acacia team and the Davis community. Along with our individual therapy model, we’ve been searching for clinicians that can offer medication management services, a service our communities have been looking for! Erica, along with other Psychiatrists and Nurse Practitioners are adding to our wellness practices and bringing some additional sunshine to the offices – I mean, look at this pure sunshine:

Erica Castro, PMHNP-BC and Bishop, therapy pup in training. Photo by Brenda Baresi.

What do you enjoy most about being a Nurse Practitioner?

Erica: I love being in a profession where I practice both art and science using both heart and mind. I am constantly challenged by the complexity of applying the constantly evolving field of pharmacology to real life and empowering patients to utilize medication as a tool in their healing process. I feel privileged that my profession allows me to hear people’s stories, witness their resilience and growth and be entrusted with the care of my clients’ minds, bodies and hearts.

What got you into this particular field? 

Erica: I had several family members growing up who struggled with mental illness and I witnessed how a combination of effective treatment and a supportive community can be transformative and I always knew that I wanted to be in a helping profession. I studied psychology in college and thought that I would become a psychologist but after several years of working in a residential facility, I realized that the nurse practitioner role would give me the most flexibility in that it would allow me to both prescribe medication and provide psychotherapy.

Seeking mental health treatment for the first time can be scary when you don’t know what to expect, but there is nothing to lose by having a conversation with a clinician how therapy and/or medication may be helpful in your particular situation.

There is still a stigma around therapy and there is definitely still a stigma around taking medication, can you speak to how you may approach this if it were to come up (in and out of sessions)?

Erica: I usually try to educate clients about how our Mental health concerns are so complex because they can be affected by our thoughts, environment and life experiences but they are ultimately brain disorders. I usually find that when clients understand that some people are more genetically prone to experiencing things like depression, anxiety and addiction and how research shows that medications can be a very helpful support in a comprehensive treatment plan involving therapy, social support, and self-care they are more open to considering medication.

If you could share one piece of advice for students looking to start therapy or medication management, what would it be?

Erica: Seeking mental health treatment for the first time can be scary when you don’t know what to expect, but there is nothing to lose by having a conversation with a clinician how therapy and/or medication may be helpful in your particular situation.

Erica Castro, PMHNP-BC and Bishop, therapy pup in training. Photo by Brenda Baresi.

And just for fun, if you could switch places with anybody for a week, who would it be and why?

Erica Castro, PMHNP-BC. Photo by Brenda Baresi.

Erica: I would totally trade places with any National Geographic photographer. Especially one who travels to the remote and untouched corners of the globe that most people never get to see!
Erica Castro has a lot of wonderful wisdom to pass down and has been such a wonderful impact on our Davis community. Erica and Bishop, the therapy pup in training, have a couple things in common: they are both amazing additions to Acacia and both want to explore the world!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Erica’s bio on the Davis page!

Authored (a lot) by Erica Castro and (a little) by KorbyQuan Reed.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. September brings a deeper look into the world of Dr. Keith Higginbotham, Co-Owner of Acacia, hosted by Soraiya Khamisa, Director of Acacia La Jolla.

Dr. Keith Higginbotham. Photo by redmonddigitialmedia.com.

Hello and thank you for tuning in I’m Soraiya Khamisa, Director of Acacia La Jolla. I’m happy to introduce our first ever podcast version of the Acacia Spotlight, where we highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today.

Dr. Keith discusses his personal origin story, why he started Acacia, and even plays a game of Brett-y or Not, where he attempts to guess whether a business idea came from fellow Co-owner Dr. Brett Donnelly, or from someone else.

Tune into our Acacia Spotlight with Dr. Keith Higginbotham below or on the Sincerely, Not Okay Podcast page!

Soraiya Khamisa & Dr. Keith Higginbotham at the Acacia Director’s Retreat (2019). Photo by KorbyQuan Reed.

Stay tuned for more Acacia Spotlights!

Hosted and authored by Soraiya Khamisa, LCSW.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. September’s clinician is JoJo Lee, LPCC.

JoJo Lee, LPCC. Photo by Delara Taie.

JoJo Lee is from “a very small and crowded but fun and vibrant city named Hong Kong” and in April of 2019, made her way to our Acacia La Jolla team. Funny she would describe her home city as such because Acacians often describe JoJo as fun and vibrant as JoJo has a strong air of positivity and awareness, making her the perfect conversationalist.

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

JoJo: (**I can be professionally nosy and get into others’ businesses. :p**) On a serious note, being a clinician allows me continuously to broaden my worldview and to reflect on my judgement by listening to my clients’ concerns, understanding their struggles, and witnessing their growth and resilience. It is such an honor and rewarding experience for me to be part of my clients’ mental wellness journeys. #growthstartshere

What’s your favorite thing about Acacia?

JoJo: EVERYTHING! From the refreshing interior design of each room, the welcoming smiles from all staff, to the inclusiveness of Acacia’s culture, and the laughter during therapy sessions, it automatically brings me joy every time I walk into the office. Acacia even has its own podcast, “Sincerely, Not Okay”!

I decided to challenge myself more by stepping out of my comfort zone, speaking up of myself even when my voice was shaking, reflecting on my judgement, and leaning into the areas/cultures that I was not familiar with.

JoJo Lee, LPCC. Photo by Delara Taie.

Got an interesting or most memorable story from college? A moment of triumph? A funny party story? Your favorite place to escape to on campus?

JoJo: The truth was… I felt like I never had enough sleep during my undergrad life. Library became my oasis to take naps. I also trained myself to fall asleep within 10 seconds. Does that count as a moment of triumph?! It was not until I went into graduate school and realized that studying could be stimulating and invigorating. I decided to challenge myself more by stepping out of my comfort zone, speaking up of myself even when my voice was shaking, reflecting on my judgement, and leaning into the areas/cultures that I was not familiar with. I truly appreciated every moment I spent in my graduate school life, including moments when I cried  over getting legs full of bug bites during an international course in Bahama or when I laughed so hard that I teared my eyes during group projects. All these memories become my most valuable life lessons.

How would someone know if they could use therapy?

JoJo: Just like everyone’s annual physical check up, I believe it is helpful to also get a mental “check up” periodically. Especially if you recognize your sleeping, exercising, or eating pattern has changed noticeably, these may be the “warning signs” that your body is telling you to take a time-out and assess if you need additional support. Although our friends, family, and significant others can be a great support system, they can also be our stressors at the same time. Often times, it gets us “stuck”. Therapy can be our extra tool to explore any alternative options to get us “unstuck” and to live in a more balance life.

What are your interests outside of therapy?

JoJo Lee, LPCC. Photo by Delara Taie.

JoJo: Outside of my therapist role, I like to continue being a “nosy” citizen in the community by volunteering in multiple non-profit organizations, checking out others’ dogs in the dog parks/beaches, strolling at the San Diego Zoo to check out more animals that I cannot own, swiping on Yelps to try out new restaurants, and occasionally going for a hike to check off the “exercise” box on my to-do list.

The energy, laughter, and perspective JoJo brings to the table, both with her clients and fellow staff, is unmatched. We love that we get JoJo on the Acacia team, now if only La Jolla would share her with the rest of the offices… hmm…

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out JoJo’s bio on the La Jolla page!

Authored (a lot) by JoJo Lee and (a little) by KorbyQuan Reed.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. August’s clinician is Camille Carlson, LMFT.

Camille Carlson, LMFT. Photo by Marlee Dorsey, LPC.

Camille Carlson, LMFT, is a therapist at Acacia Minneapolis, joining the team in 2018, just about 10 months ago. Originally from Apple Valley, Minnesota, Camille Carlson made her way closer to Minneapolis and looked to join a team working with college communities. Despite the cold weather (we just had to put at least one weather reference, it’s Minnesota!), Camille has warmed up the office, quickly becoming an essential member of the team!

I appreciate college students’ energy, gusto, and super awesome desire for change in themselves and in a global sense. I say to at least one client per week, “I just love this generation,” as they give me so much hope with their passion and relentless spirits.

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Camille: I try to remind myself every morning before work what a privilege it is to get to do the work I do. I feel so grateful to have the opportunity to share my clients’ joys, despairs, and everything in between. I truly believe that the most important thing we have is our connection with others, and being a clinician offers me a chance every day to support and facilitate the idea of connection as an agent of both acceptance and change. Beyond our therapeutic goals, my foundational goal of every session is for my client to leave the office feeling more connected with another person than they did when they came in. I love being a therapist the most when this happens.

Camille Carlson, LMFT. Photo by Marlee Dorsey, LPC.

Why do you enjoy working with college communities?

Camille: College students are at such an awesome time in their lives to be making therapeutic changes. Many are on their own for the first time, and really learning who they are, what they value, and the kind of life they want to live. These are major discoveries and changes to be making in the midst of a highly stressful academic time. I focus on identity and values with many of my clients, and college poses the perfect opportunity to take a look at these aspects of the self as a step in managing any other presenting concerns. They also keep me young! I appreciate college students’ energy, gusto, and super awesome desire for change in themselves and in a global sense. I say to at least one client per week, “I just love this generation,” as they give me so much hope with their passion and relentless spirits.

What college clubs or activities were you (or would you like to be) a part of?

Camille: I was a member of the Psi Chi Psychology Honors Society and Psychology Club in college. I was also involved with the Green Team and helped focus campus efforts on sustainability. I was a gymnast for 16 years until I graduated high school, and would have LOVED to continue on a college club team but my school didn’t have one 🙁

If you could switch places with anybody for a week, who would it be and why?

Camille: Probably one of those people who travels the world taking amazing pictures for a living! I love adventure, traveling, hiking, and exploring, and to be able to capture those experiences in breathtaking photos would be such a joy. Especially if these adventures included waterfalls, I’m a sucker for a good waterfall. 

Camille Carlson, LMFT. Photo by Marlee Dorsey, LPC.

Have you had a moment as a therapist (or even in therapy) that has made significant reflection or discovery in your life?

Camille: I don’t know that this qualifies as a specific moment, but a series of moments over time that has lead to reflection and change. I think one of the most important things my clients have taught me over time is that everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. This perspective has changed how I view people in general, from those I know closely and personally, to those I’m just passing on the street. What may look like questionable choices to the unknowing passerby may be a trauma response, a learned behavior, or the only way this person knows to cope. I see “the other side of the story” in my office every day, and have been granted the opportunity to empathize and understand people from a perspective I wouldn’t have outside the therapy room. This has reminded me to stay warm, kind, and as non-judgmental as possible because I know the battles people fight daily, even if I don’t know yours specifically.

Lastly, we asked another therapist, Andrea Deuring, MA, about what she admired most about Camille…

Camille has the best boundary setting skills of anyone I’ve ever met. Ever. When she talks in group consult about setting healthy and helpful limits with clients, I think to myself, “How does she do that so effortlessly?” And the most wonderful part about it is that she’s truly doing what’s best for her clients, while doing what’s best for herself. Damn, girl.

With Camille on the Minneapolis team, we only predict sunny (sorry, one more) days ahead!

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Camille’s bio on the Minneapolis page!

Authored (a lot) by Camille Carlson and (a little) by KorbyQuan Reed.

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. July’s clinician is Dr. Jayce Long.

Dr. Jayce Long. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

Originally from a small western Kentucky town called Paducah, Jayce made his trek over to the west coast to continue working as a clinician in our Acacia Westwood office. Jayce has been with Acacia since January 2019, came with a stellar recommendation, and has been a welcome addition to the Westwood team ever since!

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Jayce: To know people deeply is an honor and privilege. To be a part of helping others connect to our deepest desires, to be known, recognized, and witnessed, brings me joy. Getting to know and loving ourselves deeply is a prerequisite to loving others and sustaining intimacy.

What is your therapeutic approach?

Jayce: I primarily use psycho-dynamic approaches. This means I tend to focus on underlying emotional and relational patterns that come up in the therapy, then promote healthier ways of being and relating through a safe and connected therapeutic relationship. I also enjoy integrating acceptance and skills-based interventions (e.g., Mindfulness), and welcome discussion of daunting existential issues that are looming in the back of each of our minds. —- At the end of the day, theories and therapeutic modalities are meant to help individuals get what they need. My focus is to cultivate a meaningful therapeutic relationship in order to help them figure it out.

Dr. Jayce Long. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

When did you know you wanted to be a therapist?

Jayce: It was a slow unfolding process that started as an introspective young adolescent and then culminated into a sense of confidence during graduate school. I declared my psychology major the summer before attending my first undergraduate semester. This led me to follow interests in research of adolescent identity and spiritual development. As a Masters student studying these areas, I was introduced to applied psychology while taking classes along MFT doctoral students. This sparked my curiosity in the practice of psychology. After finding a doctoral program that fit my emerging passions in research and practice, the sense of knowing was solidified. It is an honor to be doing something I enjoy and feel in which I have great passion.

If you could only recommend one life change to every client who walked in the door, what would it be?

Jayce: Getting to know and loving ourselves deeply is a prerequisite to loving others and sustaining intimacy. Fight shame, embrace humility and vulnerability and surrender to life together with other imperfect beautiful humans.

And this one is just for fun… if you could switch places with anybody for a week, who would it be and why?

Jayce: Nothing savvy or wise here, just a guilty and joyous pleasure. As a huge University of Kentucky basketball fan, I would have to say the starting point guard for our Wildcats during a Final Four run. I was an athlete before I was a psychologist, Kentucky basketball is part of the lifeblood of the state, and this would fulfill somewhat of a childhood dream, so there you go!

Dr. Jayce Long. Photo by Leah Vergel de Dios.

Trust us, we are honored to have Dr. Jayce Long working alongside our Westwood team and with the college community – and if we ever start an Acacia basketball team, we know who to call.

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Jayce’s bio on the Westwood page!

Authored (a lot) by Dr. Jayce Long and (a little) by KorbyQuan Reed.

Ever feel dissatisfied but struggle to understand why?  

You have friends. You’re busy with school; with work. You’re active in a club, sorority, sports. You’re even dating someone right now and things are going pretty well with you two. By all accounts your life should be fulfilling, but it’s not. Something’s wrong but you can’t put your finger on it.

What if the problem is you’ve been lying to others, and to yourself? (Not any one major lie–mind you–just a few white lies. Or so you might tell yourself.)

What if you’re actually lonely?

And what if the solution to your loneliness is staring you right in the face?

What if I told you that those lies and this loneliness are somehow connected?

In March of 2018, I began working for Acacia Counseling & Wellness. For several years prior, I had been working at another clinic where I slowly began to feel similar to you. Mundane. Listless. Dissatisfied. Lonely.

On the surface, I loved that job. There were co-workers I loved like family. I had been through hell and back with multiple clients who made substantial progress — many of whom I’d been working with for multiple years. Laughter was heard daily among colleagues. On the surface, I loved it.

Yet I realized I had been lying to myself on some level. The work was no longer something I enjoyed and I had run my race well-before coming to this conclusion. There was a problem, however: I was operating on autopilot. I was lying to myself and I didn’t even realize it.

I had to make a decision and it wasn’t going to be easy.

The decision required me to speak an uncomfortable truth, to myself and to others.

It required courage.

It required vulnerability.

It required intimacy. You read that right — intimacy.

I mentioned I work at Acacia now. Acacia is a mental health clinic specializing in serving the college age population and those in academia. Shortly after meeting with my first few clients at Acacia (most of whom are students), I began to hear a refrain. Certain phrases would repeat among clients of various backgrounds stepping through the door and into my office: “I just feel so alone,” “It’s really hard to make friends,” “Dating is so difficult.” These phrases continued to remind me of Erik Erikson and his psychosocial stages of development.

In his psychosocial stages of development Erikson states that age 18-40 (i.e. early adulthood) is a stage of life defined by the struggle between Intimacy and Isolation. He posited that if a person does not succeed at the primary task of any life stage, that individual is doomed to the failure of their given stage and cannot progress to the primary task of the next stage of life. This is how you get Peter Pan syndrome.

Failure during the early adulthood stage would look like isolation, loneliness, depression, fatalism, and nihilism.  This is Rick Sanchez from Rick & Morty, as evidenced by his nihilism and depression.  Another example is the wicked witch of the west from The Wizard of Oz, as her fatalism and isolation would indicate.

According to Erikson, failure occurs in early adulthood when a person attempts to calculate, control, and subjugate intimacy to their own will rather than to encounter intimacy with truth/authenticity, courage, and vulnerability. In the real world, the person that fails at this stage wants a guaranteed connection with a potential romantic partner. They might, for example, play their cards right to ensure a sexual encounter, however, this does not work out so favorably in the real world. A more innocuous example might be this: you spend plenty of time with your friends, but somehow you don’t really know them. This approach distorts a person toward Isolation — the failed state of this stage.

The character Phil from the classic film Groundhog Day takes this calculated, dishonest approach toward Nancy, a lust interest. He uses information he gathered from Nancy over the previous days to ensure sex with her later. This superficial effort hindered Phil from cultivating true intimacy with Nancy. It did not foster a serious relationship. He wanted all the rewards without any of the risks.

And true intimacy is risky, isn’t it? Someone can reject you. They can say “no.”

Covering your emotions is also risky. After 9 years of doing this work I’ve observed that it actually carries more risk than intimacy. You risk becoming nihilistic like Rick Sanchez. You risk becoming fatalistic and sadistic like the wicked witch of the west. Like Peter Pan, you don’t grow up and remain stuck in a feedback loop. Like Phil, you risk multiple deaths and worse; you risk lacking meaning.

Successfully moving through early adulthood means developing a sense of commitment, love, care, safety, and intimacy. Success is developing a sense that relationships are complex, and learning to value tenderness and loving freely.

It takes courage to show vulnerability. To expose oneself to the world and the perspectives of someone who is unlike you – someone whom you might even despise: that breaks your heart.

Practice courage.

Practice vulnerability.

Practice intimacy.

Identify a feeling (hint: usually it’s one word – i.e. sad, happy, angry, disgusted, surprised, hurt, afraid, etc.). Walk with that feeling for a bit. Where is it taking you? What do you want to do with that feeling? Try staying with its movements. Journal about it. Often this enlightens more than it obscures.

Who needs to hear you, your feeling, your message? Seriously consider telling them. You’d be surprised what can come from that conversation. Light is better than darkness. If you’re having doubts, consult with a trusted friend, a therapist, a religious community leader, a mentor. Don’t have a mentor? Find one. Find two. Older people tend to love sharing their wisdom. You will one day be in their place wishing you could do the same.

Ask yourself: “Can I love? If it doesn’t hurt at times, am I really loving this other person?”

Put down your phone. Close your laptop. Some communications specialists speculate that roughly 70-90% of human interaction is non-verbal. We didn’t evolve to have our social needs met through a black sleek rectangle (2001: A Space Odyssey anyone?). Set it down.Take a walk. Say hi to a stranger. Give them a compliment (and mean it).

Schedule times to talk with friends. Really talk. Without alcohol, cannabis, or illicit substances. Really encounter one another soberly; with courage, vulnerability, and intimacy.

Say something that shines light onto the dark parts of yourself. Intimacy is exposing the lies in ourselves and speaking truth to them. You can’t grow and encounter true intimacy unless you choose the narrow, risk-ridden path.

For the sake of true intimacy, rejection is worth the risk of being vulnerable. Rejection in the face of your vulnerability is a bullet dodged. Acceptance in response to your vulnerability moves the world another step away from the abyss and toward truth.

And if this is all too daunting for you to do alone, consider coming in to see me (or any therapist).

My door is open. The table is ready. Let’s talk.

Author, Vas Todoriko

Acacia Spotlight looks to highlight the clinicians, staff, and programs that make Acacia what it is today. July’s clinician is Michelle LeBeau, LCSW.

Michelle LeBeau, originally from Manhattan Beach, California, is a clinician in the Acacia Isla Vista office and has been on the team since October 2018. Michelle is one of the many super-therapists at Acacia and has such a thoughtful presence in both the office and with her clients – one that has impacted many for the good. When the spotlight turned to Acacia Isla Vista, our original office, Michelle was a no-brainer to speak with!

What do you enjoy most about being a clinician?

Michelle: I love witnessing and supporting a person through their personal growth and healing journey.

What really happens in therapy?

Michelle: The person comes in and talks about what is on their mind or what they are currently working on; and together therapist and client work to problem solve or create change where desired. It is a time for someone to take up all the space for themselves. A time to learn about who they are and why, and what it is they want to become. Through talking, art, or other modalities, the therapist works with the client to help aide them through their own innate ability to heal and grow. Sometimes it’s being called out on something the person is not seeing, and sometimes it’s being held with unconditional acceptance and support. I also want to say it is a place where you get to say anything and everything you want or need to, and can expect to be treated without judgment, criticism, or being ignored. Confidentiality will be kept as mandated by law, and trust and boundaries are established so that the person can feel safe in their own feelings, body, and experiences during sessions.

[College] is very nostalgic as being some of the highest highs and lowest lows. While it was a time of rigorous academic learning, it was also a time of radical self-exploration. It was a learning process of discovering who I am and how I wanted to be in this world.

How would someone know if they could use therapy?

Michelle: Everyone can use therapy! Honestly, therapy is so helpful for anyone at some point or throughout their lifetime. Therapy can help you with something you feel stuck in, something you want to heal from, some area you want to grow in, for learning how to navigate being with yourself and being yourself around others. Therapy is whatever you make it to be. It really works best when the person is ready to be authentic and open and honest with themselves and the therapist. It is a safe space to explore your world and give yourself “me time” for an hour a week. I know I can use that!

Since a majority of our clients are college students, do you have an interesting or memorable story from when you were in college?

Michelle: HAHA! I don’t have one particular story to share, however that time frame is very nostalgic as being some of the highest highs and lowest lows. While it was a time of rigorous academic learning, it was also a time of radical self-exploration. It was a learning process of discovering who I am and how I wanted to be in this world. Learning to become a responsible adult took me a lot of trial and error and I look back with gratitude for the events and people that helped shaped who I am today.

Michelle LeBeau, LCSW. Photo by Amy Shirley.

If you could share one piece of advice for students looking to start therapy, what would it be?

Michelle: To ask questions and do a little research. Most therapists have websites or info online somewhere, or a number to call or text your questions to.  I think it’s important to find the right fit between therapist and client. Find out what interventions they use, ask questions about cultural competence and experience, and see if their style aligns with what you want to work on. If you have a specific issue, there may be a therapist that specializes in that area. You are in charge of your own journey and outcome, the therapist is there to help you. Therefore, try to be comfortable to speak up about what your needs are and what you hope to get out of this. If you don’t feel like it is a good fit for you then say so, and that therapist may be able to help you find someone that could be right for you with referrals and community resource suggestions. If you are considering therapy, then please push yourself to try it!

We wanted to check in with another key player in the Isla vista office to get their impression of our super therapist Michelle and if there is one person in the office that sees all the interactions, it’s the Office Manager Trieasha Dillard who says…

I would describe Michelle as a very warm and welcoming person. She is down to earth and very easy to talk to and work with. One thing I admire about Michelle is how passionate she is about her job and her clients. You can tell that she genuinely cares about her client’s well-being and that this not just a job to her.

Stay tuned for more Acacia Clinician Spotlights! And check out Michelle’s bio on the Isla Vista page!

Authored (a lot) by Michelle LeBeau and (a little) by KorbyQuan Reed.