Real Therapists for Real People: Erica Russell, LPCC

Erica Russell’s Personal Journey of Becoming A Therapist

Erica Russell CampingMy name is Erica Russell and I am excited to have a chance to share a little bit about myself. I was born and raised in the Evergreen neighborhood in San Jose. Growing up, I always loved school and was probably a bit of a “nerd”. I was never great at traditional sports, but loved dancing and theatre. After finishing high school, I moved down to Southern California to study at UC Irvine. Initially, I wasn’t sure what career path I wanted to pursue, so I started out by majoring in Drama. I took my first psychology class during my freshman year to fulfill a general education requirement and really fell in love with the study of the mind and behavior. I switched majors the next year to Psychology, and as I started researching professions, began to feel as though therapy was the direction I was meant to go in all along. I loved the idea that a career as a therapist could be both challenging (every person and every concern is so unique), and fulfilling, as it would be a privilege to help people on their path towards personal growth.

I decided to stay in Southern California to complete my Master’s degree at Pepperdine and then moved back to the Bay Area in 2010. I miss the beautiful beaches and the amazing friends I made, but it’s great to be closer to family, and I love how diverse the Bay Area is in terms of people and opinions. I married my college sweetheart, Justin, in 2013, and we recently purchased our first home in South San Jose. When I’m not working, l love camping, spending time with friends, binge watching TV shows, reading, trying out new restaurants, and just recently, trying to get back into dance.

Sometimes I think it’s funny that I specialize in treating clients with anxiety disorders when I can be such an anxious person myself. In high school and college, I really struggled with assertiveness, and I’ll probably always be somewhat of a “worrier”. However, I think having my own experiences with anxiety have just motivated me to learn more and more about how to manage it. I like that when I’m presenting a strategy to a client, I can fully stand behind it because it will often be something I have practiced myself. It’s also nice to be able to relate, at least on some level, to what my clients are experiencing. At my graduate school, students were encouraged to participate in their own personal therapy to really appreciate the client’s perspective, and I felt that this experience was so helpful and transformative for me. My therapist specialized in cognitive behavioral therapy as well, and I really connected with the ideas of setting clear goals, honing awareness of negative thinking patterns that were only adding to my anxiety, and learning to shift towards more helpful thinking and behaviors.