We had the good fortune of connecting with Emily Ma and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Emily, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks and putting yourself out there can be really scary! Taking a risk requires vulnerability and venturing into the unknown. Throughout my life, I would not describe myself as a “risk-taker,” in fact I would describe myself as quite the opposite! As the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, I was raised to believe that being “successful” entailed becoming an accountant, a doctor, or an engineer. I chose my undergraduate major based on what my parents wanted and what I saw classmates from college do. I stayed in my comfort zone for years, working in marketing and heading on the track towards business school. After years of doing what I thought I was “supposed” to be doing, I felt stuck and dissatisfied with where I was in my life. The work didn’t feed my soul. I realized that throughout my life, nobody ever asked what I was interested in, or what was important to me. I started listening to my inner voice and connected to my values and beliefs. I conducted informational interviews and came across a degree that captured my personal and professional interests of social justice, human behavior, and anthropology: clinical social work. I took the leap and started volunteering, providing grief support to children and adults in Los Angeles, and becoming involved with Our House Grief Support Center, before eventually obtaining my MSW from USC. Although it was uncomfortable to leave what I knew, I am so grateful to have taken the risk. My clients remind me of my “why” I do the work every day: connecting to our shared humanity and exploring what it means to be human.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a psychotherapist/registered associate clinical social worker practicing in Los Angeles and online throughout California. I work with adults and specialize in grief and loss, navigating cultural/ethnic identity, life transitions, relationship challenges, and trauma. I am a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and have also completed trauma-informed yoga training, and work from a holistic healing framework. In my practice, I am committed to taking an anti-racist/anti-oppressive lens in my work and challenge and educate myself to continue to grow. Something I am really proud of is hosting several workshops in the past year such as raising awareness regarding anti-Asian violence, educating clinicians on how to provide grief and loss support to clients during COVID-19, and understanding grief and loss through an AAPI cultural lens. I’m still building my private practice, which is very new, and am learning as I go with the guidance of my supervisor, Jenny Moon, LCSW. One of the most challenging points of my career was definitely COVID-19. During the pandemic, the clinic I worked for saw a record number of increased referrals. Providing services to underserved communities that lacked financial resources, access to technology, and reliable internet was definitely challenging during the pandemic. Luckily, I had the help and support of many creative individuals in my workplace to come up with unique ways to meet the needs of our community such as providing outdoor services and establishing curbside pickup food drives. An important lesson that I’ve picked up along the way is that we are never alone. We do not work or heal in isolation, and receiving support from others uplifts us all. What I want people to know: tune in to your body and mind. You have the wisdom and the answers inside, just listen.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Culver City: Museum of Jurassic Technology is a hidden gem in the city for oddities and makes for a unique cultural experience. Food: Dai Ho in Temple City, CA. Authentic Taiwanese noodles. Get it spicy. The Heights in Lincoln Heights – so underrated! Amazing sandwiches and an excellent selection of craft beers.
Hang out: Culver City steps. It’s a natural Stairmaster workout, and you get 360
views of the city.
Highland Park Brewery: Some of the best burgers ever. It’s simple, but the oozing cheese crisp that resembles a fruit-roll-up takes it over the top.
Civil Coffee: The Figuerora coffee is reminiscent of horchata and it comes with a cookie.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Person: Geng Wang (entrepreneur, life of the party, and friend from study abroad). Geng used to work on Bonnie & Clyde sunglasses and now helps brands grow through Social Media marketing. Organizations: Our House Grief Support Center, UpRising Yoga