Digame is a monthly series featuring prominent Latinx leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and public figures uplifting the community and making a difference.
Adriana Alejandre first experienced depression when she was a pregnant teen and had a hard time to coping. She grew up in a Mexican-Guatemalan household and was raised with the idea that you don’t discuss such topics, that it stays “entre familia.” While pregnant during her first year at UC Santa Barbara she discovered therapy and began putting word to her complicated emotions and her life was changed. She went on to get her license as a trauma psychotherapist in 2017 and created a Facebook group to connect with Latinx mental health professionals. The group grew and she eventually established the Latinx Therapy directory which then became a podcast and now has a following of more than 100K on Instagram (@latinxtherapy).
She opened a Counseling and Trauma Therapy Center in Burbank, California and last year she launched Alejandre Foundation dedicated to destigmatizing mental health and increasing mental health equity in the Latinx community through education, programs, and creating accessibility to therapy services through scholarships. The foundation also launchedTherapy Dinero program which provides grants for eight therapy sessions at $100 per session to individuals and families in the Latinx community, regardless of immigration status.
Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?
There are many Latinas that inspire me. As a graduate student and upon graduating, Dr. Carrie Castañeda Sound has been a Latina psychologist that I look up to because of her balance as a parent, a professor/researcher and therapist. I admire her wisdom and contributions to the field. In addition, Monica Ramirez, the founder of Justice for Migrant Women, is someone who I can relate to and look up to. Monica is an activist, organizer and civil rights attorney who has founded and co-founded many important organizations to help various vulnerable communities within the Latinx community and aims to change policy to protect her community. I am in awe of both of them as mothers and professionals and look forward to contributing to the community in helpful ways like they have!
If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?
The Latina icons that come to my mind and are my grandmothers. I never met them, but I can feel the strong lineage in my being. My Mexican grandmother passed before I was born but raised 10 children, all who I admire and love dearly. My Guatemalan grandmother was of Mayan descent and raised my mother on her own with very limited resources. These two are some of the strongest women that are icons in my heart and live gratefully because of them.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice for me came with validation and from the question: Does it hurt you or harm you to keep it inside? I had someone validate the pain I was going through and advise me to speak with a mental health professional. This was a long time ago, but it was because of this moment that I am where I am today, and am living life as liberated as I can today. I bring this question in many situations in life.
If you could pursue a career in an industry other than your own, what would it be and why?
If I am still able to, I would love to pursue a career in medicine to become a doctor. I think this field lacks representation, but the main reason why I would want to become a doctor is to learn how to create ways to make medicine more accessible to my community.
Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?
I think there were many people that knew my potential before I did. I had teacher assistants who didn’t let me give up in college when I became a single mom, then I had bosses and coworkers that would encourage me and answer any and all questions I had about growing emotionally, entering graduate school, entrepreneurship. I feel very blessed for the adults I had around me. The very first person though who always believed in me was my father. Since I was a little girl, he always told me I could do anything I wanted to as long as I studied and worked hard for it. He also told me that if something didn’t exist, then I was capable enough to create it and to ask questions until I get to where I wanted.
What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
I wish people understood that even though I am a mental health professional and social entrepreneur, I still have big feelings and really enjoy being asked how I am doing. Social media creates certain biases and perceptions that are not completely representative of one’s life, and although I am working on being more transparent and vulnerable to reduce the comparison-trap, I think when people see big follower numbers, they forget that there is someone behind the account that genuinely cares and also has experiences going on.
What motivates you?
Seeing mi gente heal. With so much pain constantly around our present, and from our past environments, it really motivates me when I hear how liberated people feel and how their healing journeys are going. Everyone who shares their stories opens the doors for other to relate to them and contributes to destigmatizing mental health collectively. Knowing that our stories matter and can help others is a great source of motivation for me.
How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?
I realized mental health existed after realizing I experiences and have a lot of trauma in my history, family and lineage. Becoming a single, teen mom really made it clear that I had a lot to work on and wanted to so that I can learn to be a good mother and this process required healing, unlearning and relearning. I ended up creating Latinx Therapy because I learned how isolating being a therapist is, and how Latinx therapists are the minority in the field, I dreamt of creating resources that could be accessible for both professionals and our community across the nation interested in mental health. One of the biggest reasons why I believe Latinx Therapy has been so embraced is because our community has been wanting to talk and learn about mental health as it relates to our lived experiences. I am very grateful for all the love from our community.
What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?
My personal achievement is that every single year I gain more patience as a mother. Parenthood has been very difficult especially because I didn’t have a patient mother, but each year my son’s closeness and communication is my validation. I am very proud of how far I have come. In terms of professional achievement, I am proud of creating the non-profit, Alejandre Foundation, where we will be providing money to Latinx individuals that need access to mental health therapy services. It has been a dream of mine to build this community-made program and we are here now fundraising for the first cohort.
What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it??
I would like to write a trauma book. My ADHD symptoms became a big barrier during the start of the pandemic but I am feeling more confident in my voice and in my organization to prepare for this book. Slowly, I am reducing my caseload so that I can create more time in my schedule so I can focus on my writing. As my son gets older, I find that I can have more time for my projects and hope to begin a flexible process to prevent burnout late 2022.
What pop culture moment made you feel seen?
The most recent one would be when Becky G won the Favorite Female Artist of 2020 for the American Music Awards. This made me feel seen because of her speech, I remember she shared her struggles and pride as a granddaughter of immigrants. For myself, as a daughter of immigrants, I share the sentiment of protecting immigrants and embracing the opportunities I have because of them.
How do you practice self-care?
I practice self-care by taking time alone to reduce my stimuli, specifically my auditory stimuli. I need silence in order to recharge and have energy for socializing and normal day to day activities and find that sitting with my thoughts or looking out of my window from my room is my favorite self-care activity besides taking naps!
Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:
There are many accounts I’d love to shout out. For today, I will focus on Dra. Lichita (@drlichita) who creates posts that I can culturally relate to. She creates content in a poetic way that speaks to my soul as a first gen Latina living in a world that has values rooted in patriarchy.
Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:
I have known of Belen Ledezma’s (@amorysolecito_art) work for sometime and love her talent. She is studying to become a therapist and creates amazing commissioned art pieces of people from our community.