We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Sandoval and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, how do you think about risk?
When I think about risk, what first comes to mind is feeling terrified. I think about my heart beating at an alarming rate and my palms sweating uncontrollably. I think about thinking of the worst case scenario and fantasizing about a million different ways things could go wrong. I think about running away. I think about failure and feeling unworthy.
I would say that my relationship with risk has drastically changed throughout my life and has shaped my identity. Growing up in a Latinx family, in a predominantly white, conservative town, I learned it was harder to be different. It was too risky to ask questions, challenge authority and cause conflict. It was easier to be traditionally obedient and conform to the expectations of others, until it wasn’t. Do what I’m told and fit in – this is how I learned to please others. This took a toll on my sense of self and mental health. When you experience systemic oppression, or are directly or indirectly told your whole life that you are undeserving of success and happiness that is uniquely your own, it’s natural to unconsciously absorb these narratives. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school was when I decided to risk it all and move out of town. I then associated risk with freedom.
Risk has played a huge role in my career as a therapist. From deciding to change career fields, to getting rejected by the first grad school I applied to, to starting my own practice during the pandemic. I’ve learned I have to trust the process during the tough times. I feel incredibly grateful to love my job and feel privileged to work with such incredible people everyday. Earlier this year, I was approached by a publisher who asked me to write a book. I was immediately struck with feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness, coupled with the fear of criticism and failure. It seemed too risky, but after some self-reflection and hard conversations with my support system, I took the risk and accepted the offer. The experience of writing The Verbal Abuse Recovery Journal: Prompts and Practices for Healing was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. As a private practice owner, I understand that risks are a part of the job but I also now see them as creating opportunities for information. When you take a risk, whatever the outcome, it can be used as information to keep going or shift gears.
Most importantly, risk now plays a role in my mission. My private practice, Collective Space Therapy, stands with Black Lives Matter. A foundational philosophy of my practice is an active commitment to social and racial justice on an individual, community, institutional and global scale. With an anti-oppressive framework, I hold a vision for providing modern mental health services that reflect the values of ethical and sustainable wellness. Audre Lorde said, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” This resonates with me to my core. We have to take risks not only for ourselves, but for justice, peace, and humanity.
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?
Since the inception of Collective Space Therapy, my vision has been to cultivate a practice that reflects the values of anti-oppressive, ethical and sustainable wellness.
With extensive training and experience working with individuals experiencing low self-esteem, depression and trauma, I’ve concentrated on providing a collaborative, creative therapeutic approach to talk therapy with a ‘the personal is political’ philosophical lens. I believe therapy needs to be politicized. As a therapist, I learned that an anti-oppression frame supports an empowerment-centered change process needed to deal with the effects of oppression and trauma in client’s lives. This frame is about examining and unlearning the effects of Colonization, capitalism, imperialism on our mental and emotional well-being. It’s about healing generational traumas by reclaiming ourselves and our community. When we get to the root of healing, sustainable wellness can be achieved.
To me, Collective Space Therapy is more than just a private practice. It’s about collective connection. At its heart, it’s an ethical, collaborative catalyst that fosters healing and empowerment. I believe that sustainability not only means addressing the long-term impact on our mental and emotional wellness, but that it’s imperative to also provide services that meet the demands of everyday life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
One week in Lost Angeles?! So many things, so little time. I would definitely take them to the Culver City stairs, aka Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook. It’s a great place to exercise while seeing a gorgeously unique view of the city. We would visit EightyTwo, an arcade bar, for some nostalgic fun and walk around the Arts District. During the evenings, we would eat our way through the east LA taco trucks and dance our way through various venues including Los Globos, Echoplex, and The Lash. At some point, I would probably reminisce about how awesome The Satellite was in Silver Lake – RIP. I’d take them to a movie at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, shop at all the best thrift stores, and spend a relaxing day at one of the Korean spas. Afterwards, I’d graciously ask them to extend their stay so we can continue to explore.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I am not self made, I am family made, community made, ancestor made. I am made up of everyone I have ever known. Shoutout to every person who I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with in this lifetime. I am who I am because of you. Many thanks!
Veronika Reinert : Motionscape Photography Yamhed Torres: @sandieganpro