Tacianna Indovina, Ph.D., has been working at Explore What’s Next, located in the Buffalo region of New York, since October 2018. Her position at Explore What’s Next allows Tacianna to specialize in helping teens, young adults, and couples cope with interpersonal relationship struggles, loss, trauma, and anxiety in their day-to-day lives. Tacianna has been very passionate about therapy since she was in high school, and her passion lives on today – stronger than it has ever been before. I had the wonderful opportunity to ask her some questions regarding her work, her education, and her home life:
Tell me about your job at Explore What’s Next – is it a good fit for you? Why?
It’s super awesome to work with a community of like-minded, assertive, and independent people. I also love that I have the flexibility to schedule appointments for times that work best for me. And I love that I have the opportunity to meet with such a wide variety of people. I have a really good relationship with my boss, Dr. Aletta. At Explore What’s Next, I’m able to figure out my niche – building a collaborative environment with the people I see and being able to give them a sense of community. The flexibility is great, especially now that I’ve just had a baby. This practice allows me the flexibility to work on myself as a professional – not just as a practitioner.
You mentioned that Dr. Aletta has been a good mentor to you – in what ways has she really made an impact?
I feel so privileged to have Dr. Aletta as a mentor! She really values helping me and her associates develop as psychotherapists. She prioritizes guiding me in my pursuit of professional development interests. For example, I want to expand my practice to not only do therapy but also more evaluations and she has helped me set that up. I’m interested in specializing in perinatal, postpartum, and maternal wellness. She has encouraged me to find workshops and seek out training that can help feed my professional interests.
What makes Explore What’s Next unique?
We’re out of network providers, instead of taking insurance directly – this gives us the opportunity to work with people on their goals without feeling the pressure of conforming to insurance companies. We have a lot of flexibility in terms of what we’re talking about, how we’re talking about it, how long we’re talking about it… this gives us the chance to really be collaborative and client-focused. Our experience feels safer and more private to people who are more sensitive to the idea of their information being shared with outside sources.
Tacianna Indovina, What are some things you and your co-workers have in common?
I found it amazing that when I was interviewing at Explore What’s Next, I not only got to meet with Dr. Aletta, but I also got a chance to meet with all the other therapists and associates. It was really important for Dr. Aletta that we all get along and all have similar missions – being collaborative, client-focused, trauma-sensitive, etc. There’s a lot of diversity here, and we have different interests, and that helps us reach a wider variety of clients. We have people that working with young children, some with tweens, and some with young and older adults, couples and groups. I would say that we all have similar values, yet different focuses and interests. While we embrace our differences, we’re still able to come together and work as a community.
The vast majority of your co-workers are female … how does that affect (positively or negatively) the therapy environment for clients?
Being mostly women might provide a sense of safety for both sexes, but for the most part, we don’t even notice it. We have quite a few men seeking therapy who contact us for the same reason women do, depression, anxiety, relationship, and career issues. Christine Frank. who works out of our downtown location, holds a Men’s Group that is quite successful and unique in the Western New York area.
Dr. Warren Keller is well respected in the community for his work with children and families. His focus is custody evaluations for family court as well as evaluating and treating child emotional and behavioral issues.
Are you listed on any professional websites outside of Explore What’s Next, and do you belong to any other professional organizations?
Photo by Keith Walters
I’m an adjunct professor at the State University of New York in Geneseo – the school I used to attend, actually. I’m on a couple of boards, one of them being a program called Safe Bae – dealing with women who have been sexually assaulted, but their cases have been ignored and they haven’t been given justice – even though all the evidence was there. I’m on the board for them, and I do their research. I first found out about them when I watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix called Audrie & Daisy and The Hunting Ground. Watching these really got me passionate about working with sexual assault survivors and working to prevent sexual assault. I think sexual assault prevention could be much more integrated into our schools, community, and familial systems. The SafeBAE co-founders said they want to evaluate the programs they do, so I joined their team as a researcher with the hopes of getting them funding and more exposure.
Within the American Psychology Association (APA), I’m on the board for the section of College and University Counselling Centers. I’m a part of a private practice group and supervision in training group with APA. I also do work with the Psychological Association of Western New York (PAWNY). (Not like from Parks & Rec).
You’ve got some very good blogs on the Explore What’s Next site! I was enjoying the one about “Imposter Syndrome”. How do you think living with Imposter Syndrome can hold a person back from being truly successful?
It can be a huge barrier! A lot of decent therapists struggle with Imposter Syndrome. It may not ever truly disappear, but I think it changes over time. If we’re constantly telling ourselves we’re not good enough, we hold ourselves back from doing things – like going out and trying new things. We’re only noticing the mistakes we’re making, and not the successes we’re having. When people compare themselves to “the best”, they begin to feel deficient, which makes them less willing to grow.
In your experience, do you think Imposter Syndrome is something very difficult for people to overcome?
It can be really hard to overcome. But I don’t necessarily think that overcoming it is even the goal. I think the goal is to be aware of when it’s creeping up and to be able to keep it in place. Imposter syndrome comes a lot with people who want to be the best – and being able to notice when it’s coming up and realizing that there’s no evidence to feeling this way can help subside it. Try to re-frame the way you’re thinking about yourself. Even when things might be part of our life for the long run, therapy can help us think about things in a way that is more constructive.
How is it different/similar to other anxiety disorders?
If people are struggling with generalized anxiety, the idea of Imposter Syndrome can be even more pervasive. Their underlying insecurity can be so distracting from what they’re trying to accomplish. One of the things that makes Imposter Syndrome so scary is that it’s really hard to identify. Even strong, badass people can feel insufficient at times, and the people around them would never know.
Education – Where did you go to school?
Photo by Keith Walters
For Undergrad, I attended the State University of New York in Geneseo. I studied psychology there, with a minor in conflict studies and a focus on applied conflict management. I loved college. I was sad to leave.
How did you choose the State University of New York in Geneseo as your school?
I was a little nervous to get too far away from home at that point – I think Imposter Syndrome was creeping in a little bit. Geneseo was about an hour from where I grew up, and it’s a good school. There’s such a strong community feel there. When I went to visit the campus, everyone was so kind and considerate. They have a strong psychology program, and I felt really safe there.
Tacianna Indovina, When and how did you know you wanted to be a therapist?
I knew in high school and college that I wanted to do therapy, specifically couples therapy.
I possess dual citizenship for the United States and Brazil, and my many travels to Brazil have deeply influenced my professional and personal growth. Brazil is afflicted by profound poverty, illness, disenfranchisement, unchecked bureaucracy, and crime. Walking through the streets in Brazil, I saw slums and cardboard structures where people slept. School-age children sold fruits or candy in the streets. Drivers did not stop at red lights at night for fear of assault. On those same trips, however, I also witnessed acts of kindness such as people buying clothes for strangers, donating the means to purchase a small home or start a business, and doctors working for free at neighborhood clinics.
The Culture Of Brazil
By immersing myself in this culture, I saw different sides of the same picture. I began to feel a deep appreciation for human resiliency and factors that unite humankind regardless of circumstance, like empathy, vulnerability, and genuineness. This disposition helped me overcome personal struggles, be vulnerable, trust in others, and relentlessly pursue goals. It allowed me to feel more comfortable in relating to others in my personal and professional lives despite potential differences, therefore putting me at ease asking questions about their lives and developing relationships.
Seeing the resilience amongst people who are in situations much different than mine was motivating. I value relationships and empowerment and the idea of building relationships and helping people was enticing. I learned through my studies that the therapeutic process is much more complicated than that, but my interests began there.
I decided to focus on conflict management because I knew that would give me a leg up on understanding conflict within interpersonal relationships. I’m an extrovert, so I get my energy from being around people. That’s part of the reason why creating and building relationships for a living sounded like the most wonderful job of all time.
What was your schooling like?
My experiences have been great. I was really supported, and I felt really collaborative with the people around me. I’ve been really blessed to be able to work with people who are like-minded and helpful.
During my undergraduate career, I interned at Mt. Hope Family Center in Rochester, NY where I worked with at-risk youth. I loved it and had so much fun with the children! Although I have specialized in working with late teens, adults, and couples since then, the internship experience was transformative as I learned how to cope with hearing sad stories and how to begin to learn how assessment and treatment works.
During my graduate training, I had my practica at Ball State University’s Counseling Center along with a community mental health agency.
What was your thesis on, and why did you choose it as your thesis?
My specialization was in couples and family counseling. I really like working with young adults, so I looked at the likelihood of a young couple’s help-seeking within a college setting. I’ve been in a steady relationship for fifteen years, so I’ve always been really fascinated why relationships don’t work out – for good and bad reasons.
What did you learn from it?
I learned about sliding-not-deciding: when couples slide into decisions without stopping to think about big relationship milestones. For example, a couple might think, “Well, we spend a lot of time together, we might as well move in together. We like dogs, so we might as well get a dog. People expect us to get married, so I guess we should get married. People keep asking us when we’re going to have kids, so I guess we should have kids.” I wanted to encourage couples to really think about the big decisions rather than sliding into huge relationship milestones. I also wanted to encourage couples to seek counseling sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, relationship counseling is often too little too late. It can be really valuable for couples to seek counseling – especially in college when it’s often free.
Who was your advisor?
There’s a lot of people that made an impact for different reasons. My dissertation advisor was Stefanía Ægisdóttir – a badass woman from Iceland who was so incredibly helpful. She is a brilliant statistician who helped me in all the research I had to conduct. I had a really supportive committee, and there were a lot of supervisors at the counseling center who were really great mentors to me. I’m very blessed to have such good experiences with great supervisors.
How did you celebrate your Ph.D.?
I slept! My grandma and uncle came all the way from Brazil to see me graduate, which was huge. We had a special time together at my graduation, and then we all went out to dinner and had a great time.
Personal – I hear that you’ve just had a baby! Congratulations. How does your background in therapy relate to being a mom?
It’s going to be hard, but I’m going to try not to be “therapist mom”! I think my background in therapy has helped me cope with the difficulties that come from being a new mom. It’s helped me normalize how I feel. One of my associates at Explore What’s Next, Nicole, was trained in a program called Bringing Baby Home – designed to help couples adjust to bringing their new babies home. I’m going to be doing that workshop with her soon. I look forward to seeing how it will help me, and hopefully, it will give me an opportunity to help other couples with this as well.
What has being a mom taught you about being a good therapist?
It’s really helped me be more patient – with myself and with other people. It’s helped me tap into more of my gentle side, while still being upfront and honest with the people I’m with.
Tacianna Indovina, What is it like to live in Buffalo?
Photo by Henrique Félix
I really like Buffalo! We’re the home of the buffalo wing! I don’t like the snow… but I love the summers here. I look forward to the change of seasons. I love being outdoors. I’m lucky enough to live fairly close to Niagara Falls, so I love to go up there and hike.
What are some things that you love most about living in Buffalo?
I love the community here. We’re close to Canada, so we’ve got that Canadian hospitality spirit that I really like. I love to be outdoors in the summer months, and in the winter I like to curl up and binge watch Netflix. My husband and I love to play card games, and sometimes we play in tournaments.
Are there any outside clubs and affiliations that you’re involved in?
I like trying new things – especially new exercises. I love taking classes at the gym – like kickboxing and cycling. But I prefer not to commit to any clubs before I know I love something.
What are some of the ways you give yourself the best self-care – with a busy job and a new baby?
I have a really strong support group among my family and friends, so I love to have phone dates with them and meet up with them whenever I get the chance. That really recharges me and fulfills me.
What are some of the accomplishments – professional, educational, or personal – that you’re most proud of?
Being a mother has been a huge accomplishment – being able to see that I could get through something so monumental.
Getting my degree was also really important to me, especially because I struggled with some Imposter Syndrome as well. But once I saw that I could do it and I was going to get through it, I became really motivated.
Getting this job at Explore What’s Next has also been really helpful. I always wanted to work in private practice, but I didn’t know when I would be able to do that – so I feel really blessed to have this job and work with the people that I work with.
After interview notes from the author
I found Tacianna Indovina, Ph.D., openness and charisma shine through every word she speaks. In the short amount of time I got to spend with her over video chat, I was struck by her humility and her charm. I felt as though I was catching up with an old friend. Even though the interview was about her, she asked me questions with a genuine interest to learn more about me. I left the conversation feeling revived and refreshed.
As someone who has grown up in a home where mental health is not often talked about, I have always approached the idea of therapy with somewhat of a passive attitude. But the conversation I had with Tacianna left me feeling differently. Therapy is not just for people who are broken or have scars (which, let’s face it – we all have scars). Sometimes therapy can simply be the chance to have open and refreshing conversations with people you know you can trust. Approaching deep and sensitive topics can be difficult for some. But it is only through vulnerability that we give ourselves the opportunity to grow and prosper.
written by: Julia Rael
Julia is a young, enthusiastic writer whose love for music is threatened by only one thing: her love for coffee. She is currently a choral music student and barista in Los Angeles, where she likes to spend her free time bullet journaling, hiking, and laughing at her two English Bulldogs – Emma and Charlie