Better Know a Freedster: Asha Gray
Asha Gray, LPC, offers an eclectic therapy model. We asked her to share her thoughts on all things counseling, from misconceptions to pet peeves, plus a few fun facts that might surprise you:
I will have been here for 5 years on January 8th exactly. I moved here from Chicago.
How did you get into therapy?
I wanted to be a veterinarian my entire life. My undergrad degree is in animal science. I actually worked at the Lincoln Park Zoo as a zookeeper. I got all the way through junior year of undergrad, when I had to take physics and I couldn’t pass. I really feel like I spent too much time watching Law & Order: SVU that year with my roommates, and then I got this idea that maybe I wanted to be an FBI agent. So I decided, if I wanted to do something else, I didn’t want to take a spot from someone who really wanted to be a veterinarian. I applied to the police, the state forensic labs, and grad school to study psychology, and psychology panned out first. Honestly I didn’t want to be a therapist at first; I only wanted to do assessment because it would lead me into the courts or the FBI. I ended up with an internship at a domestic violence shelter and I did a lot of therapy there by accident, and I’ve never stopped doing it. Sometimes I think about the FBI, but as I get older, it becomes much less shiny. This is the world that the veterinarian dream led me to.
What do you look for in a therapist?
If I have a very specific problem, you need to know how to fix the problem that I have. There are a lot of therapists who will just let you vent and vent and you’ll find you go through 20-30 sessions and all you are doing is venting, but you haven’t learned a skill. That’s fine if it’s what you’re looking for, but I can go to my friends and vent. When I go to a therapist, I look for someone who is willing to give me direction. And I want someone who is going to care about me as much as I honestly care about them. I also look for someone who is funny, because I want to have some fun when I’m in there.
What’s the biggest misconception about talk therapy that you want to clear up?
The fact that people think therapy has to last forever. If you have very specific goals and issues you want to have worked on, therapy shouldn’t last that long. Be specific with your therapist about what you want to work on, and you should be able to work through it quickly. That and you don't have to be "crazy" to go to therapy. That’s a big one! Doctors go to doctors. Therapists go to therapists. Sometimes you need help outside the people in your closest sphere. Going to therapy doesn’t make you crazy, it just makes you normal.
What do you wish clients knew about your sessions?
When you come in for a session, I will always ask you, “what can I do for you today?” I’m very goal-centered. I give people homework. It’s kind of like school sometimes. I am extremely nerdy, which I don’t think people expect. I drop nerdy references. I have nerdy clothing. I try to make my sessions fun and comfortable. I know it’d be hard for me to spill my guts to somebody, so I want to make this as easy for you as possible.
Do you have any pet peeves about the talk therapy world?
That it’s not as accepting as I wish that it was. Often I go to a conference and I’m listening to someone talk about couples counseling or relationship counseling, and they are giving me a lot of information based purely on monogamous couples. I’m like, okay, what about anyone in the ethical non-monogamous community? They don’t touch on that. They don’t get anywhere close. In the world of psychology, the whole goal is to figure out how the human mind works, and there is rarely anything about non-monogamy, as long as it isn’t nonconsensual or hurting anybody else or yourself, that is in any way deviant. It’s not in any way devious, so why is it a problem?
What do you say to folks who don’t think talk therapy is for them?
It might not be. Nobody has to go to therapy. I would say consider doing some thinking about why you feel that way. Is it not for you because you automatically think “I must be crazy if I go?” Is it not for me because “in my culture, people don’t go?” Or was it a bad experience before? For people who are fitting in that so called “non-normative box” – because they are transgender, ethically non-monogamous, kinky, or LGBTQAI - and they saw someone who didn’t know how to talk to them, I would suggest finding someone who does know how to talk to you, because your next experience might be better.
What’s your preferred superpower?
I would want to have a mixture of Mystique and Morph, because I think Morph could actually use the powers that he took, while Mystique could just change shape. I would like to change shape and use the powers that I took.
What would your last meal be?
I love caramel more than anything. So some mythical dessert that involves caramel and is not cold and is maybe crunchy.
What’s your patronus?
It would be a cat of some sort, probably a snow leopard. There was a snow leopard named Elliot that I used to feed at the zoo.
What special purchase are you saving up for?
I want to go back to Harry Potter World. I have a wand and I have spells I don’t think I cast. I have to go back!
What’s your life motto?
“We’re all stories in the end, just make it a good one.” It’s from Doctor Who. He says it to Amy Pond when she’s sleeping. This motto is specifically poignant for therapy because we are really all stories in the end. Therapy can be a place we learn the skills to make the changes in our stories. If you thought of your life as a story, how would you change yours?