Catalina “Cathy” Olivares
I was born in Nicaragua. My mother is Nicaraguan my father is Puerto Rican. I emigrated at the age of 12 to move to the United States. My mother was a biology and physics Professor at the University of Nicaragua. My father was a Mechanical Engineer. While raising me, both of my parents focused on the importance of education. I identify myself as Nicaraguan first, and Hispanic second, because the term Hispanic cannot cover technicalities associated with its connotations. Nicaraguans are a mix of Indigenous peoples, North Africans and Spaniards. Puerto Ricans are mixed as well and descend from Africans and Native Taino people.
I attended Nyack College for my Bachelors degree. I graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in 2006. I graduated from Nyack College with a Masters in Psychology and concentration in addictions in 2010. In all transparency, one of the reasons I studied addictions was to better understand a close family member who had a history of addiction and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Throughout my life, I have been an informal “helper” and my friends and peers would seek me out for help and suggestions about how to handle their life issues. Although I didn’t feel particularly skilled at helping them, they would tell me that I was a good listener and would help them build their own insight. This led to my passion to help and understand others.
I have worked at a wide variety of helping programs and agencies through NYC. I have been an individual and group therapist, working with people who suffer from mental health issues like Anxiety, Depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and those with Personality Disorders. I gained seniority with experience over time. I have also worked with clients dealing with Anger issues and Parenting challenges. I worked with children and toddlers, assessing and identifying and treating them for behavioral, developmental and mental health concerns. I have strong skill and expertise in working with children and youth and have even worked with educators to help them navigate classroom management with children with behavioral challenges.
I have been trained and currently use various approaches clients including Motivational Interviewing, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), Solution Focused Therapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Child-Parent Psychotherapy. With many years in the Social Work field, I remain passionate about getting to know and understand the diverse individuals with whom I work with and advocate for. My background also includes supervisory and leadership experience in the non-profit sector as well as providing individual and group therapy, crisis intervention and work with adults in an out-patient community mental health clinic. I utilize a person centered approach and I am absolutely committed to serving my clients. I also worked with clients with a history of addiction and incarceration.
My main interest in working with communities of color, is because of my experiences in my own family. We are a diverse group which is culturally Asian, Black and Hispanic. I can recall being told about the concern about how providers will react or view a family member seeking mental services. There is a great need in our community, not only because there is a stigma on mental illness but because of the everyday pressures and constant disadvantages as a person of color. Disadvantages we have encountered throughout history and continue through today. Mental health often isn’t taken seriously, we continue to experience racial trauma as the result of systematic racism. The stereotypes of the “angry Black woman” when a woman of color speaks up for herself she is seen as overreacting . Also Black women not receiving proper pain management or medical care because of this idea in the medical community that they have high pain tolerance or are being dramatic. I have seen and been exposed to this first hand. I also feel concerned and want to help my community work through colorism. We often hear in the Hispanic community which consists of (BIPOC) black, indigenous, people of color, statements like “ I’m not black, I’m Hispanic” which is internalized racism. Our culture often sees mental health therapy as a “white people thing” we are supposed to keep everything to our selves and not seek help, mental illness is your own fault, will not recover, or you’re not Christian, or spiritual enough to. Others simply feel embarrassed about seeking mental health care.
I have dealt with ethnocentrism and racism in my own life. First as an immigrant for not speaking the language or speaking with an accent and for the brown color of my skin. My first experience was in high school my school counselor advised me to get a job and forget about college. She implied that Hispanic immigrants children and especially women end up pregnant and cleaning other people homes or working as a cashier in supermarkets. I graduated in 1994 feeling extremely discouraged about my future prospects. In 2002 the moment my residence was accepted I opened the newspaper and enrolled in the first college that I saw advertised. I remember thinking I am more than what my counselor said I would be. Other experiences have been for being darker skinned Hispanic woman, with people making insulting comments or questioning my relationships with friends and my intellect. I continue to experience racism in NYC with experiences like yellow taxis not stopping for me, or hearing the word “spick” yelled loudly at me while visiting Bear Mountain with my daughters, niece and nephew. I have learned that responding with anger brings no resolution, but educating when possible leaves a better sense of dignity and peace.
As a therapist, I believe in creating a warm, nurturing, safe, culturally sensitive and collaborative therapeutic environment. As each person’s life challenges are unique, my approach to helping every patient is customized to meet their specific needs. My empathetic, non-judgmental approach enables my client and I to openly explore and make sense of their specific needs. Together we find long-term solutions that ensure great satisfaction in their life. I am a 44 year old BIPOC Hispanic women that has experience many struggles but have the strength to overcome them and the resilience to keep going. I have two amazing strong daughters who each day motivate me to keep going, they are the sunlight in my life.