Whether across the globe or in my own backyard, I am passionate about experiencing new cultures and different perspectives. Twenty countries on five continents and counting!
I’ve acted on stage professionally since I was 11 years old, and the theater changed my life! I mean, who knew playing the Wicked Witch of the West could be so sweet?
I’ve lived in local homestays in Morocco, Ghana, India, China, and Japan. Oh the delicious culinary secrets I brought home with me!
I became a Peace Corps Volunteer in Indonesia to help others in less fortunate situations. In the end, I learned how much help I myself really needed!
Erica holds a BA in Theater and Writing from Metropolitan State University of Denver and a MA in Marriage and Family Therapy from Regis University.
Erica is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with extensive training and education in attachment-based, trauma-informed, evidence-based therapeutic modalities, including Internal Family Systems (IFS), Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFCT, EFFT, and EFIT), Brainspotting (BSP), and Somatic Experiencing (SE).
Because my own experiences inform my work, being a source of safety and security for those who perceive their worlds to be dangerous is a truly happy consequence of what I do. And showing compassion and care for those who perceive themselves as unworthy is a deeply meaningful part of my work. Being a therapist means I must practice accessing my wisest self, so I can be that person for both myself and my clients. Witnessing my clients achieve impactful change in their lives is the ultimate reward, and I am constantly inspired by their resilience.
Humans, as a bonding species, are biologically wired for connection. We thrive on attachment. Pure self-reliance and emotional independence are hardly the hallmarks of strength we’ve been conditioned to believe. Rather, as science tells us, denying our need for supportive connection is an obstacle to growth and adaptation and undeniably impedes our ability to flourish.
At our core, we are only truly safe when we have a felt sense of emotional security in relating to the vulnerable parts of ourselves and those who are irreplaceable to us. Only when we can find compassion toward our darkest needs and fears do we naturally extend that same compassion to others.
As a therapist, I see my job as more than healing individual distress, but to advocate for a more humane, empathetic, and altruistic society that can reattune to who we are as a social bonding species – a community wherein, what we previously were taught to view as unacceptable, strange, or frightening, we can find affinity.
I was a highly sensitive child who grew up in a well-intended but terribly misguided, dysfunctional family. Amid the addiction, health crises, criticism, dismissiveness, anger, aggression, unpredictability, and utter lack of empathy swirling about my environment, I resorted to frequent outbursts and temper tantrums to express my distress.
My family had no idea what to do with me. They reached out for help only to encounter a deficient system and short-sighted professionals. It was my pediatrician who casually suggested I had bipolar disorder, which led to a therapist who eagerly agreed and an official diagnosis at the end of my first session. Immediately came the psychiatrist and medication. My parents were offered no alternative but to follow careless advice. I was seven.
For the next ten years, my parents dropped me off at therapy like kids get dropped off at the mall or a movie theater, and my psychiatrist experimented with various meds and dosages on my developing brain and growing body. Instead of checking out the guinea pigs in the pet store, I was one. Instead of learning about life and emotions and human interaction from imaginative storylines unfolded on the silver screen, I learned ways to cope in a clinician’s office.
My schoolwork suffered, and I was labeled “special needs.” Ostracized and bullied, I developed suicidal depression at thirteen and was introduced to institutional protocol. By freshman year, I was in an Adolescent Day Resource Center (code for prepubescent war zone), engaging with kids fresh out of juvy, foster homes, rehab, mental hospitals and the like. Their home lives made mine look ideal. They were the closest thing I had to friends. As difficult and strange as that was, being a highly sensitive person allowed me to see them, to hear them.
Sophomore year I transferred to a public high school, and things started turning around. I found a sense of support and community in the theater department and began discovering my self-worth through a sense of belonging. Senior year I weaned off medication and moved out of my parents’ house when I turned 18. My grades skyrocketed to As and Bs, and I began to thrive for the first time in my life! It dawned on me that my bipolar disorder diagnosis and medication only facilitated my family to effectively gaslight my emotional experiences and scapegoat me by chalking it up to what I now knew was a childhood stealing misdiagnosis.
Joining a community of people who valued my gifts is what ultimately healed me. I excelled in college, worked as a professional actor, traveled the world, and volunteered teaching English and Theater for Peace Corps in Indonesia. In these environments I was not chastised for my gifts as a highly sensitive person, but incredibly valued.
My ability to empathize and attune in varied settings, pleasant or otherwise, allowed me to develop a honed sense of curiosity for what was strange and unfamiliar and an ability to see what is universal in all of us. I found great fulfillment in connecting with and making people feel seen, understood, and valued in their most vulnerable moments, which I learned the hard way are not meant to be experienced in emotional isolation. Our ability to regulate our emotions depends on our connection to others through sharing vulnerabilities, not suppressing them. Vulnerability without solution is its own form of trauma.
What heals us is emotionally accessible, responsive, and attuned people in our lives. We all need that to thrive, and it’s never too late to get it. I made it my mission to be a safe haven and secure base for those who have been taught that their attachment distress is not normal, worse, that it is somehow wrong.