Traci Lowenthal, Psy.D.
Traci Lowenthal, Psy.D., had worked at a law firm for 15 years before she decided to pursue her dream and attend graduate school. Burned out in the legal field, she knew her ideal profession was to be found somewhere else—somewhere where she could experience the passion and excitement which hallmarks every successful career.
As a young adult, Lowenthal received therapy to work through family issues for which she needed guidance and support. She attributes her personal and career success to the wisdom she received in counseling which ultimately led to life-changing experiences. It also inspired her to dream of one day becoming a therapist herself.
After a decade and a half devoted to the legal profession, she found herself at a crossroads in her career path. It was then that she decided to test the waters of a career in psychology by seeking out real-life experience in the field of counseling. Initially, she volunteered as a Rape Crisis Counselor for Riverside County, California and also volunteered as a group facilitator for Cancer Caregivers. Lowenthal believed that if she could work in these two emotionally challenging areas of counseling, then she would be more than capable of following her dream to become a psychologist.
Congratulations on surrendering the mediocre career experience for the one that inspires you daily to do great and meaningful work! Many of our readers are pondering (much as you did) the idea of becoming a counselor or therapist. Since this is a second career, how would you describe your academic history?
I like to say I took the “scenic route!” I attended junior college sporadically for 10 years before receiving my AA degree at the age of 29. I transferred immediately to the University of La Verne’s accelerated adult program for 3 years. I worked full time but attended school at night and on the weekends. When I graduated with my BS at the age of 32, I transferred immediately into the PsyD program. That program was 5 years in length, not including two part-time post-doctoral fellowships that I was chosen for. From 1999 through 2007 I was essentially a full time student.
That sounds like a very challenging educational endeavor! What do you remember specifically about the process?
Working full-time, getting married and having a child were all things I did while attending school. Thankfully, when I began graduate school, I was able to stop working. The most challenging time was writing my dissertation less than a year after having my first child.
What is it about your job that ultimately makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?
Knowing every day that what I do eases other peoples’ suffering. I have watched so many people enter my office in a state of anxiety, depression or despair. I then get to witness those same people blossom and begin to believe in themselves and to see their own worth. It is truly a privilege to watch someone begin to understand what they are capable of.
Your specialty is working with LGBTQ clients. What would you like to leave as your legacy in this specialty area?
I would love to contribute to a society where being trans* is not so different! A place where the overall society does not respond negatively or from a place of fear or ignorance. I would like to add to the overall knowledge around LGB and trans* issues so there is not so much of a need for therapy for those individuals.
If I were to say that my secret desire is to have a life like yours, what wisdom would you impart to me?
Create a strong support system for yourself. You will need family, friends and significant others to remind you of why you embarked on your journey and what you are capable of. Set your goals. Imagine your future. Have a vision board or other tool to enable you to know where you are headed on the most difficult days.
If you could say anything to our readers, what would it be?
Therapy is truly a wonderful opportunity to learn to know yourself better. To learn about your own internal dialogue and your own way of thinking. So many times we hinder our own progress through our negative internal thoughts. We are often capable of so much more than we know. Further, individuals who identify as something other than straight or cisgender are amazing, warm, wonderful members of our society. They have just as much to offer as anyone. Let’s look beyond orientation and gender identity. Let’s start looking at humans.