|MEET ABCT'S FEATURED THERAPIST|
Featured Therapist Interview
Dr Janie Hong (she/her) received her PhD from the University of British Columbia and is a licensed clinical psychologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a founding partner at the Redwood Center for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Research, where she maintains a small private practice for adult clients. Dr. Hong is also a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. At Stanford, she provides individual therapy for adults through the Adult Neurodevelopment Clinic and supervises and trains postdoctoral fellows and psychiatry residents in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). With her patients, she works to establish an individualized CBT model of how a patient's problems relate to one another, identify treatment goals and interventions, and monitor treatment progress in response to the interventions. She currently works exclusively with patients in California via telehealth.
Dr. Hong's research and clinical work has focused on expanding our templates of mental health to include diverse populations. From the start of her career, she has wanted to understand the ways a person's ethnic and/or cultural background shapes beliefs and behaviors. She aims to incorporate a person's cultural beliefs into treatment (without inflating stereotypes) and prevent feelings of shame for not meeting Western mental health models. Over time in her practice, she has found the work she has done with culturally diverse individuals can also apply to neurodiverse individuals and those with other diverse identities. She is deeply committed to helping diverse individuals articulate how they may differ from prevailing behavioral and emotional norms, teaching them skills to work within these norms and showing them ways to advocate for their differences.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
I see every patient as someone who deserves the time to be understood as more than just a diagnosis or set of diagnoses and to have a treatment plan that is transparent and has clear goals. In therapy, the patient and I work to not only target symptoms and problems but also consider cultural context and how they are wired to think and navigate the world. I also adapt the way treatment is delivered to meet the learning style of my patients (e.g., visual-spatial learner vs someone with auditory strengths) and often incorporate different technologies to meet this need. It is also important to me to remain evidence-based and use standardized measures to track progress and to gain feedback on how to improve the treatment plan. My hope is every one of my patients feels truly seen and leaves therapy feeling clearer about their needs and more resilient.
How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?
One of the first things I teach my patients is problems, symptoms, even pain are all data to help us understand the obstacles blocking them from their goals. They are not signs of how the person is weak or broken. We then take a curious stance to understand why the person may be vulnerable to these obstacles and how the very vulnerabilities they have can also be tied to their strengths. For example, someone who is high in anxiety sensitivity may be prone to panic symptoms but may also be someone whose strength is their sensitivity to their emotional needs and ability to experience a depth of emotion that many others cannot appreciate.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
In addition to my private practice, I see patients at and am helping to grow the new Adult Neurodevelopment Clinic at Stanford University School of Medicine. There, we serve neurodiverse adults, particularly those who are on the autism spectrum, who are struggling with high anxiety and/or low mood. I am passionate about training and am in the midst of developing opportunities to train postdoctoral fellows and other trainees in evidence-based treatments for this underserved population.
I am also on the steering committee for the Northern California CBT Network, leader of the ABCT Asian American SIG, and most recently joined the ABCT CE committee.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
Well, since the pandemic started, like most working parents, we are just trying to survive "shelter-in-place" orders, distance learning of 2 young kids, and managing work responsibilities in a virtual context. I am cherishing the moments of fun I have with my family (rather than specific activities) and I have learned that a "dance party" with a 6 year old can be fun.
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients?
What makes CBT stand apart is that it teaches patients how to approach problems. Patients learn to develop and test hypotheses about their problems; they learn to gather and monitor data; they become experts in assessing the data and iterating on the process based on the data collected.
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
My hope is behavioral therapies will evolve to focus more on individual factors (e.g., identity, neurodevelopmental differences, learning style) and we will become more creative in how to help our patients learn and meet their therapy goals. I would like to see us step further away from single diagnosis treatments and focus more on strategies that reinforce new learning and help patients better understand their unique learning needs and strengths.
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
I joined ABCT as a student member in 1998- so, 22 years. I have gone to the conference nearly every year since then.
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
I have distinct memories of being in the hotel lobby at my first ABCT conference and pointing out all the different people I had read about in my abnormal psychology textbooks. At that point, the thought of having a conversation with anyone of them felt out of reach. Then, at every milestone of my training and career, I had the fortune of being mentored by incredible people who cherished and are still actively involved in the ABCT. Now when I go to the ABCT conference, I am surrounded by beloved colleagues and past mentors. I am no longer an outsider looking in. ABCT is my professional home.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions!