I had the pleasure of talking with one of Star Meadow’s newest therapists, Alyx Aiello, who focuses her work on the impact of trauma, especially the intersection between religious trauma and marginalized groups.
Alyx was born and raised in Portland and received her bachelor’s degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and her master’s in Clinical Psychology from Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and sees adult clients with a wide range of concerns including her specialty areas of religious trauma, those with experiences with cults and high-control groups, LGBTQ+ clients, and more general concerns like depression, anxiety, and self-esteem challenges. Keep reading for a Q&A with Alyx, and if she sounds like a good fit for your needs, reach out to schedule an appointment!
Q: Tell me a little about your clinical specialties or particular areas of interest?
A: I think depression and anxiety are really common for marginalized groups and that’s something I’m very comfortable working with. Figuring out their comfort of presentation, whether that’s just presenting themselves as someone with a sexual orientation that isn’t straight or a specific gender presentation, whatever that means for them. I’m interested in helping people achieve their gender euphoria.
As far as modalities, I’m very eclectic, but generally gestalt and existential.
Q: Can you tell me a bit more about what you mean by religious trauma?
A: There’s a lot of folks who come into my office who struggle to have positive beliefs about themselves based on the harmful experiences they’ve had with religion. Fear of doing something wrong and fear of being bad or that you are a bad person because of XYZ. Doubting every choice and decision and even sometimes not trusting yourself.
It feels like a highly gendered trauma to me. What is religious trauma and what presents as religious trauma in different people I think probably has to do with the gender that either they are or they presented at the time of the trauma.
One of the things that I want to stress to future or present clients is that I am not anti-religion. I’m just not. I believe that each person has to make their own choice and if that choice for them is to stay within or even just believe some of the things that they were taught or believed from the religion that hurt them- that’s okay! We can work with that too! You don’t have to be an atheist or even an agnostic, you can come from anywhere and still deal with the trauma and move forward. I want to make it so it doesn’t feel like they have to completely divorce themselves. Especially if it’s a cultural experience because I know for a lot of people it really is, so I want to be culturally sensitive. I’m so excited to help them figure out what that looks like, but above all, help them believe that they are good inherently and that there’s nothing wrong with them just the way they are.
Q: What’s a typical session with you look like?
A: I use humor a lot, I’ve noticed it helps people feel more comfortable and it’s just part of who I am as a person. As far as formality, I don’t use a ton of self-disclosure, and I really encourage clients to speak the way that they speak. So, if they swear, that’s great, I don’t mind at all. However they communicate is what I want!
Some clients like a week-to-week check-in, that’s what they come in for and I appreciate the benefits in that. Other clients have long-term, overarching treatment goals that they want to work on, and getting lost in the week-to-week stuff can be challenging. I try to have clients talk about their week for 10 minutes or so, then recap the last session to learn how it went for them. Then we dive into the meat of the treatment goals and end with a 5-minute cooldown, thinking about “how are you going to take care of yourself after this session?”, especially if it’s really intense. I try to respect each client’s preferred structure and work with that, but I if I had to suggest something to a client the structured approach would be my preference
Q: Are you conducting sessions in person or by tele-health?
Q: What do you believe about therapy?
A: Therapy is work. It can be really hard work, but also has the potential to be tremendously rewarding, in my experience. I believe my job is to help clients in that work with pacing, taking on a manageable amount, and overall making things as easy and fluid as possible. Therapy is also safe. This is your time. Oftentimes, therapy is some of the only time and space just for the client, and I want to honor that as much as possible with a safe and validating atmosphere.
Q: A phrase or quote clients will likely hear me use is _____.
A: I actually have it on my wall- Kristen Neff “self-compassion wants well-being”, and so when my clients are really like resisting and saying “I don’t deserve nice things” I’ll say “do you want to be well?”.
Q: When you come into my office I hope you feel _____.
A: I hope you feel safe! I strive to provide a safe, warm, and validating space for each client who comes my way. I want you to feel that you’re able to fully express yourself in session and be received with warmth and empathy.
Q: Can you tell me about you as a person outside of the therapy room?
A: l love animals, exploring the PNW, and bouldering. I like traveling and I come from a big family!
Alyx is now scheduling new client appointments!
Schedule an appointment with Alyx Aiello today!