We had the good fortune of connecting with Nadia Alvarez and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nadia, how does your business help the community?
This is a big question that I had to sit with for a bit to consider. NELA Therapy is a small practice based in Highland Park and we committed to meeting people where they are and honoring the intersectional identities that they hold. We create space for people who often feel misheard or overlooked. Our client base is filled with community organizers, creatives, young workers. We are committed to social justice and practice from an anti-oppressive and anti-racist approach. By cultivating these safe places for folks they can go back into their communities feeling more grounded and secure so that they can continue to help their communities, whether it is their families or broader.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
The path to become a licensed therapist is not a particularly fast one. You go to grad to school, do an internship, then continue receive supervised hours until you meet the required 3000, test and if all goes well, you are licensed. My path was not quite as streamlined. I had plans to work abroad after grad school to take a break before potentially going on to a doctoral program or licensure. I quit all my jobs, packed my bags, had my placement in South Korea, and a week before I was scheduled to leave, some family issues derailed all my plans. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I met with my grad advisor and left with a teaching position for the following Fall.
I never planned on teaching but it was a lifeline when I felt really lost. Once I started I fell in love with it and little by little I built up a full teaching load while trying to finish my licensure hours on the side. There where stretches of time where I had to take a break from therapy and focus on teaching but inevitably I would return. I finally finished my hours close to the 6 year deadline after graduation before they start to expire and got licensed. Now I teach a full load at CSUF, my alma mater and have small group practice in Highland Park where I see clients and supervise pre-licensed therapists.
I can’t tell the story of my practice without including teaching because both are so intertwined for me and reciprocally influenced. It took me longer than most to get to where I am, but I was lucky to have great support system around me in school and in my community that I could turn when things get rough.
As a Puerto Rican and Mexican woman of color social justice, intersectionalism, and anti-oppression values deeply inform my therapy work and teaching. The classes I am most passionate about are Psychology of Gender and Human Sexuality. I approach all cross-cultural client relationships from a place of cultural humility: “A lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique whereby the individual not only learns about another’s culture, but one starts with an examination of their own beliefs and cultural identities.”
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The problem is the city has too many options so it hard to narrow down!
I firmly believe that Northeast LA has some of the best street tacos the city has to offer so that would a high priority on my list. Villas Tacos on York and Angel’s Tijuana Tacos on Eagle Rock Blvd are two of my faves. Drinks at the Goldline, The Dresden, or The Grant. Dinner at Chifa – amazing Chinese Peruvian food, Bavel – Middle Eastern food, or Soowon Galbi – Korean BBQ, Found Oyster – seafood.
I love hiking and climbing so carving out a couple days in Joshua Tree would be great and hitting the Joshua Tree Saloon for food and The Dez for coffee and snacks. Stock up on wine from Psychic Wines and have a picnic at Barnsdall Park for epic views. Head to Malibu for a chill day at the beach tanning and swimming and a visit to the Getty Villa. Go to a Dodger’s game and have a hot dog. Get a day pass for the Ace Hotel in DTLA for rooftop pool vibes.
I probably listed way more than is possible in a week but I think even a few of these things would make for a great trip.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My story has always been dedicated to my mom. She was born in Puerto Rico and the first of her family to move to the states to pursue grad school. She came from pretty humble beginnings and was dedicated to serving her communities through teaching. First on the island, then in Massachusetts, and finally in El Monte, CA. She was the teacher that the students loved. Any time we would walk around El Monte at least one student or parent would call out “Hey Ms. Rolon!” or want to give her an update on things were going. She always stopped to listen. After she passed away from ALS, her students came to pay respects. Some of whom had not seen her in over a decade. One in particular shared that because of my mom, she decided to pursue education herself and was the first in her family to get a doctorate in Education. She not only inspired my story, but inspired the stories of many others.
Elaine Liu Yaquelin Hernandez