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Vergelma is trilingual English/Tagalog/Cebuano
Vergelma Ranes-Silao, LMSW
I was born and raised in the Philippines. My late father served in the Philippine Military Command for over 30 years before he passed away. My mother is a housewife and lives back in the Philippines with my older sister who is taking care of her. I am a native of Bukidnon province, located in the southern part of the Philippines. Bukidnon is a plateau surrounded with mountains and farming is the main source of living. I was raised as Catholic and became a convert to Christianity about 10 years ago. Our primary language is Cebuano while Tagalog is our National language, of which I speak both fluently.
I finished my Bachelor of Arts in the Philippines back in 1989. I went to Touro College in Manhattan New York for my Master in Social Work and graduated in June of 2018. I am licensed in both New York and New Jersey.
My experiences inspired me to become a social worker. Living in a country which is different from my country of origin has been a struggle, and it became even harder when my children came over. My family went through a difficult situation after arriving and my sons underwent culture shock and had difficulty adjusting to life in the U.S..
During my youth and adulthood, in my country counseling didn’t exist. The only mental health care that existed was the mental hospital and we grew up having the idea that mental health care is only for “crazy people”. So, going through counseling was a shame at the time and that is one of the reasons why we didn’t seek for help at the very start, but we ended up getting it anyway. Our exposure to mental health support as a whole helped our family situation in terms of adjusting to a new culture and new community.
I also had experienced trauma in the past and this got better as I learned to manage and deal with my unexplained feelings from being a battered wife from my first marriage. In my country, being hit by husband was quite acceptable in my time. Even if I suffered, I would have to remain as what our elders referred to as, “martyr wives”. Although I hated that so much, I had stay in my marriage and coped by drinking. I decided to escape and came to America. My healing from alcoholism has been my sons’ testimony to our church, relatives and friends. From then onwards, I became an aspirant to become a social worker/therapist.
Being an immigrant, the easiest job I could find shortly after arriving to the US back in 2000 was work as a nanny and housekeeper in NYC. I later started my work as a paraprofessional. In that role I provided students with instructional and emotional support both individually and in small groups. We also take extensive safety precautions with and for students.
My first exposure to Social Work/Therapy was at a Middle School in Queens. I provided the children with behavioral, emotional and psychological support through counseling. I also worked
I also provided therapy to women with substance abuse and co-occurring disorders, providing them with individual as well as group intervention and counseling.
Black people are unique and face unique discrimination. From history to current date, Black people are the most racially discriminated against group in America. I have been able to see and understand that hidden generational trauma continues to be passed down within the Black community. I want to be part of helping with this healing by providing the support needed.
I also greatly enjoy working with other people of color including Asians and Filipinos. Like myself, I understand that many Asians are not open to counseling in general. As an immigrant of the United States of America, many people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, including Asians and Filipino’s have also suffered immigration issues, racism and oppression, mental health problems and many other issues. It is important for many to understand that counseling, mental health support and other related matter is especially important for immigrants.
As an immigrant in America, I have also dealt with a lot of racism in my life and dealing with alone wasn’t helpful. I learned to connect with important people as my line of support including my family, friends, a few co-workers and most importantly, my church.
My clinical approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I often receive positive feedback from my clients. Most of my clients have said that they feel comfortable working with me. I felt glad that they trusted me and opened up to me. While providing therapy at the middle school, most of the students would look for me, even those that were not assigned to me. This was very rewarding for me as a therapist. I feel that a client wanting to talk to me is a way of expressing their trust and helps me to connect with them and have a good relationship with them.
One thing that is unique about me is that I am good at DIY, arranging and decorating apartments both outdoor and indoor, as well as gardens and patios.