Epiphany Center Kicks Off National Mental Health Month
May 14, 2014
May is National Mental Health Month. This year’s theme, Mind Your Health, calls us to be aware of the importance of caring for our mental health as a key part of our overall vitality and creating a full and productive life. To kick things off, we had a rare chance to speak with one of the country’s leading authorities in the mental health field, Dr. Linda Perez, PhD, Epiphany Center’s longtime Director of the Family Treatment Center. Read on to learn how this dynamo with dual careers keeps her cool and stays grounded.
Dr. Linda Perez, Epiphany Center’s Director of the Family Treatment Center as well as a professor at Mills College, has over 30 years of experience working in the area of early childhood trauma and mental health. A PhD from the University of California at Berkeley with internships at Stanford and Harvard, she is one of the leading experts supporting early development of medically fragile, high-risk preterm and prenatally exposed infants.
“I love working with the infants and their parents, especially now as we know so much more than when I began working in the field over 30 years ago. I’m lucky to have witnessed the recognition of the importance of developmental understanding and treatment as a key to fostering infant health,” says Dr. Perez. “In addition, it’s encouraging to see that therapy has become increasingly accessible and accepted by the at-risk population. There’s less of a stigma, so more are seeking help.”
Dedicated to Service
A licensed clinical psychologist, she oversees Epiphany Center’s Family Treatment Center where children experiencing stress due to disruption of family unity, reunification, or other traumatic situations are treated. Even though her role is partially supervisory, she firmly believes in continuing to spend time working one-on-one with the children and their parents.
“I think this belief stems from my social justice leanings and early work in the 1960’s serving in free clinics,” she says. In general, the at-risk population rarely has the chance to see a licensed psychologist, as opposed to an intern. Dr. Perez wants to ensure the most vulnerable have the opportunity to benefit from a professional.
This June marks Dr. Perez’s 23rd year working with the families at Epiphany Center. “I had been pursuing my post doctorate at Harvard and Stanford, working with high-risk neonatal babies, so I volunteered at Epiphany and was later hired,” she recalls. Asked what she attributes her long career caring for Epiphany’s at-risk families to, she says, “Compassion. The commitment to compassion at Epiphany Center is palpable when you walk in the door. I feel fortunate to be part of it. Sister Estela, Sister Fran, and the staff have created a unique sense of protection for the women here.”
“As a psychologist, you don’t try to fix anyone. It’s about acceptance, empathy, attunement, and willingness to be present, to facilitate change, not to do the work for them,” says Dr. Perez. “It’s an art to be available and open to clients and remember clients are who they are and know where it ends.” Petite, trim, and bubbling with energy, Dr. Perez clearly embodies wellness. “I ensure I’m grounded and available to my clients by taking time for myself to eat healthy, exercise, meditate, and do yoga.”