Meet Dr. Sherry C. Wang: 2021 Pathlight Conference Speaker

Licensed psychologist, Sherry Wang, PhD, will be speaking at our upcoming Pathlight Conference on Mental Health: Transformative Solutions in Mental Health Treatment, which takes place virtually on August 24-25. Dr. Wang will be leading a session on “Working Clinically with Asian Americans in the Midst of COVID-19 and Anti-Asian Racism: What Providers Need to Know” available on demand for conference registrants through December 31, 2021.

Dr. Wang is an Associate Professor of Counseling Psychology at Santa Clara University. She is a licensed psychologist, researcher, and anti-racist educator. She identifies as a cisgender woman (she/her) and her worldview is influenced by her bilingual and bicultural background as a Taiwanese immigrant and Asian American. You can read more about her here and learn more insights about her session, passions and inspiration below!

At our Pathlight Conference, you’ll have the opportunity to learn from Dr. Wang and other experts in your field, earn up to 15 continuing education credits and more. Registration ends on August 20. Register today and don’t miss this opportunity.

Tell us about the topic you’re presenting about and why you’re passionate about it.

My topic is on “Working clinically with Asian Americans in the midst of COVID19 and anti-Asian racism: What providers need to know.” I’ve been speaking about this issue in the media since February 2020 when I began to anticipate the racialization of COVID19 and the scapegoating of Asian Americans.  This is a topic that is personal to me because of my identities: as an Asian American, as an anti-racist educator and clinician, and finally, as a researcher who conducts HIV research understand how infectious diseases are particularly used to stigmatize and scapegoat People of Color.

Why did you feel called to work in mental health care and can you tell us about how you got into the field?

My own experience as a Taiwanese American provided me with the cultural lens to see that there were so many nuances within the Asian American community that mainstream perspectives were missing. I pursued a focus on immigrant and refugee mental health for my doctoral training, expanded that work into racial justice work, and have since focused on doing anti-racist clinical practice, research, and teaching.

What type of treatment is your focus, and why do you enjoy helping this patient population?

My theoretical orientation is an integration of multicultural, feminist, and interpersonal process theories. My treatment is meant to be empowerment-focused, strength-based, culturally-rooted, and attentive to the multiple levels of societal oppression that marginalize individuals and communities. I work against the assumption that intrapsychic distress is solely due to the individual; instead, I believe that distress can often be appropriate, responsive, and even healthy when it is contextualized from a context-sensitive worldview.

Why do you think there is such a need for this type of treatment today?

Psychology is not immune to oppression; therefore, even as clinicians, we are susceptible and actually, complicit in using a deficit-oriented, deductive approach to treat peoples’ symptoms as though they are problems to solve. A trauma-informed, empowerment-based approach that is rooted in recognizing societal oppression alongside individual experiences helps clinicians and clients contextualize their experiences to distinguish the ways in which they negotiate privilege, power, and oppression. In doing so, clients can decide for themselves, what their limits are, the responsibilities they have to themselves and others, to decide on the kind of impact they want to make on their own lives and toward the larger society.

How do you support your own mental health and unwind after a long week?

Self-care comes in many forms. I am a new, first-time mom to twin girls born in 2020. Whereas I used to unwind by travelling domestically and internationally, my needs have shifted! I am now grateful for extra sleep whenever I can, a hot shower (even a bath, if time and resources allow—given the drought), a hot meal, and family! COVID19 has certainly made it clear that friends, family, and our health cannot be taken for granted!

Who is your biggest inspiration in your career and why?

I have been inspired by all of my mentors throughout my training. One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was to seek out multiple mentors and role models so that I don’t end up relying on and expecting my learning to come from one person. This was such a helpful piece of advice because mentors also have their varying strengths and perspectives. It is because of this diversity that I am always able to get a range of viewpoints that I otherwise would not even think of!

What tangible skills and tools will attendees take away from your session that they can apply in their own day-to-day?

Attendees will hopefully recognize the power that they have to advocate for their clients using a trauma-informed lens. Most clinicians know how to work with clients who have experienced trauma. However, applying that to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) may be novel and foreign. Therefore, this session is an opportunity for clinicians to recognize how their expertise can be harnessed to advocate for the Asian American community.

Register now to the Pathlight Conference!

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