My Story

I love my job.

I have known that I wanted to be a psychologist since I was in the third grade. I never questioned that choice, and even after all these years of working as one, I’ve never wished I would have taken a different route. I love being a psychologist. It is a huge part of my identity, and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I would do it even if I won the lottery. It is very hard work, but incredibly rewarding.

You can check out my degrees, and the letters after my name, and all that boring stuff right over there on the side bar. (Or below this, if you're on your mobile device. You are, aren't you?) But I'm thinking your main concern is whether I'll be able to understand you and help you. So I thought I'd tell you something about myself that may help you decide whether I seem like the kind of person you'd like to work with.

A few years ago, I found myself feeling derailed, as if my life had gotten off-track. It’s as if I woke up, looked around me, and wondered, "How did I get here? This isn't how I envisioned my life would look. What happened?" I realized I'd just been floating and letting myself get carried along with the current, rather than living with intention. And I had no one to blame but myself. No one forced me or even told me, "this is what you're supposed to do, and you're not allowed to deviate from it." I'd just done what everyone else was doing. And it wasn't that my life was bad –quite the opposite. It was this curious paradox of having a wonderful life, but not living it the way I wanted to. Strangely, part of the problem was that I'd pretty much accomplished all of my main life goals. This naturally led me to think about my trajectory so far and took me to a big, scary "now what?"

Then there was also how I felt. Happy but... something was not quite right. It wasn't a matter of not being grateful for my life and what I had. I counted my blessings all the time. It was a calling to continue evolving into a better person. It's not that I wanted a better life, but rather, I wanted to be a better me. Or I wanted to do a better job of being the real me, and not some other person that looked like me. I took a step back to get a better view and I wondered, "Where is the Michelle I used to be?" I barely recognized myself. I felt like if I ran into a childhood friend and told them what I was "doing" they would think, "Really? Huh. I guess I just imagined you'd be doing something different." Like being more creative, making more music and art. Bringing more originality and inventiveness into my work. Getting involved in political activism. Doing more volunteering. Going on some more adventurous experiences. Playing more. Learning more new things. Spending more time with friends. Allowing myself to be more spontaneous again. Owning myself more, my unique interests and quirks, not shying away from them, not setting them aside to do what everyone else was doing or was saying was important to do. It was a matter of honoring my values and my beliefs about how I want to be, toward myself and toward others. I realized I needed to make some changes. (Or rather, I wanted to make some changes.) I wanted to foster new relationships and nurture my existing ones, prioritize my interests, get more involved in my community, be more civically engaged, more dedicated to my spiritual health, continue to take good care of my body, pay more attention to my financial goals, and –this was a big one– I felt a drive to design exactly the job I wanted. I had always been working under certain constraints. I wanted to break out of those and sculpt a job that was the precise concoction of all the different things I’d seen make people feel better and happier, practices that I believe in and trust to be important. I needed to grow outside of the traditional bounds of psychotherapy, to have the freedom to get creative and take chances, to create daily work that would be truly exciting, in which I would excel and thrive –and so would my clients.

I had to curate my life.

Coincidentally, I was looking to move out of NYC, specifically to be able to slow down, not live such a hectic life, and be able to engage in better self-care and attention, something I was constantly encouraging my clients do, while neglecting to do it for myself. And that's when I found Asheville.* It was the perfect opportunity to tackle my big overhaul. It was as if I’d been holding on just long enough to get here. But now I'd reached the optimal time and place. So I took a long hard look at my life, and myself, and how the two lined up, and I worked to figure out what was missing, what felt right, and what didn't. I wrote. A lot. I thought. All the time! I talked. I cried. I felt growing pains. I did art therapy. I practiced yoga. I meditated. I listened to music. I made plans. I came up with The Mandala of Happiness! And that was a game changer. It clearly showed me the secret to being happier! (Let me know below if you’re interested and I'll send you your own Mandala of Santosha©.)

I then set about molding every different aspect of my life… until slowly it started to take shape. It was strange. It was scary. It was exhausting. It paid off. Now my life –and my personhood– looks and feels so much more like the life I would describe if someone asked me to imagine a full and satisfying existence. And I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is that such a big part of my revamped life is my psychology practice, knowing that I’m working at my full capacity to help and serve others, and being able to provide people with something that is creative, transformative and –most importantly– that works!

Sometimes the things we struggle with become the inspiration for how we can help others.

...But that's me and what I wanted. That's what I continue to work toward, what I always want to move toward. What is it that you want? What don't you like about your life? What do you want to change? What do you want to keep? Who are you? Who are you supposed to be? Who do you want to be?

 

Call me now to tell me about your goals:

828-82-PSYCH (828-827-7924)

Or let me know when would be
a good time for me to call you...

 

Let's talk!

 

*Disclaimer: I still ♥ NY! I lived there for many, many years, and it will forever be a special place to me, one that I’ll always visit and hold fond memories of. It's not that NYC wasn't right for me. It's that Asheville is perfect for me!

 

Call. In one year you'll wish you'd started now.

Just the facts.

I am Michelle Álvarez, Psy.D.

I am a Licensed Clinical Psychologist.

My career in one sentence.

I've been working as a therapist for more than 15 years, in a maximum security prison, the VA, large private hospitals, small clinics, community health centers, an advocacy center for abused children, nursing homes for the elderly and, more recently, private practice.

My career and education highlights.

Disclaimer: This part sounds really braggy, no matter how I write it. Just know that I feel extremely fortunate to have had all these opportunities, and that I work really hard to live up to them.

I attended school from Pre-K all the way to High School in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where I was born to Dominican parents. I graduated as a member of the National Honor Society, and received a bunch of awards for academic excellence and achievement, as well as extracurricular engagement and leadership. (I didn't attend my graduation because I was already in Denmark (see below) –so they kept calling my mom to go up on stage!)

I studied fine arts at Designskolen in Kolding, Denmark. (That means School of Design, for those of you who don't know Danish.)

I graduated cum laude from New York University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Art History. For my art degree, I focused on Subsaharan African art methods, history, and psychology. And I got to go to the African country of Côte d'Ivoire to conduct coursework and apprentice.

Having made it in New York, I figured I could make it anywhere, so… I went to China. I taught English in Suzhou for six months, and I surprised myself by picking up a bit of Mandarin along the way. (Sadly, it's all gone now. Though I could probably still order eggplant and tofu.)

I was awarded a fellowship for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. So off I went to… the University of Indianapolis. Yes. From China to Indiana. Very random.

I elected to pick up a master's degree along the way as well ('cause why not?), was selected as Distinguished Scholar, and graduated with honors.

During my time at UIndy, I completed two specializations: Child & Adolescent Psychology, and Geropsychology (Geriatric Psychology. Psychology for older folks). Because I wanted to make sure that I could work competently with absolutely everyone alive.

I also interned at the maximum-security Indiana Women's Prison, and at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center.

During my time at the VA, I became a core member of the Indianapolis Healing Arts Project, a wonderful group devoted to providing veterans with the opportunity to share and create art. Due to my work in that group, I was invited to present at the National Vietnam Veterans Museum on the topic of veterans art and the research surrounding it. I was also requested to write a foreword for Trauma and Metamorphosis II, a book featuring Vietnam veteran artists. And I was awarded the Veterans Affairs Certificate of Honor and FOB Healing Arts Scholarship.

But I was still in grad school full-time. So after passing the comprehensive examinations, and successfully defending my program proposal dissertation -on the therapeutic use of art with combat veterans suffering from PTSD, I jetted back to New York City to train at The Fifth Avenue Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy. Well, I didn't "jet," exactly. I drove a U-Haul truck. Through NYC traffic. Actually, one of my proudest accomplishments out of this whole list.

Upon graduation –finally officially a doctor!– I was offered a position at one of the nation's premier hospitals, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in association with Columbia University Medical Center and the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York. I worked with people of all ages there, and I was also part of a treatment team addressing the needs of sexually and physically abused children at the Child Advocacy Center.

Eventually I moved on to a psychologist senior staff position at The Floating Hospital. (It used to be a boat!) I had the opportunity to work extensively with New York's homeless population, as well as the community at large, and I collaborated regularly with the Administration for Children's Services.

And then I moved to Asheville. And surprised myself by opening a private practice, which I absolutely love.

I'm also a certified yoga instructor (RYT-200) and the creator of TALKyoga©, which was the product of a lightbulb moment in which I realized the powerful potential of combining yoga and talk therapy to help people set and reach their mental, emotional and spiritual health resolutions.

On my "days off" I go to a nursing home for the elderly and provide therapy to the folks there.

And on my “nights off" I freelance as a consultant for Different Strokes! Performing Arts Collective, a theatre company dedicated to spreading awareness about diversity and equity, and inciting change and social justice. I get to go backstage and provide my expertise on issues such as the grieving process or dysfunctional family dynamics, in the form of simulated therapy sessions with the actors “in character.” In other words, I conduct family, couples and individual therapy sessions not with the performers themselves, but with the roles they play. Basically, y’all, I do pretend therapy with make-believe people. Man, I am really obsessed with being a therapist… I need to get out more.

And that's it. That's the end. Or if we want to be deep about it, then it's only the beginning…

 

Let's talk more

2 Wall St, Suite 107
Asheville, NC 28801

hello@drmichellealvarez.com

828-82-PSYCH (828-827-7924)

Got Questions? Ask Me!