Michele Kong headshot

About Michele Kong

Pronouns: she/her
Gen X-er
Born in suburban Los Angeles, I was raised by immigrants who moved to the US in the early 1960s.

A descendant from lineages of peoples who have been migrating and immigrating for longer than I can trace, as a result I possess certain abilities that come with such a heritage. Adaptability. Curiosity. Ingenuity. Intuition. Furthermore, a love for movement, learning and adventure.

I have only ever known a collage of languages, cultures, foods, customs, rituals, spiritual beliefs etc. Also, I eagerly learn and co-opt new ones I am exposed to. Such qualities altogether have been my tools for charting a map of my own. A knapsack of diverse experiences I reach into for connecting with people.

I enjoy long walks. When out in the woods, I have a tendency to go off trail. Even when I’m trying to follow a particular network of routes. One favorite author wrote A Field Guide To Getting Lost. Although, it’s not that I intend on getting lost. A bit of a trail blazer, I simply like less traveled paths. To discover. Meander. Because I look for what’s novel. I enjoy finding beauty hidden in plain sight.

About Michele Kong

About Michele Kong, a little about my style as a therapist…

I encourage an emergent process where one session may be rather different from another. Over time sessions start to fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This sequence here and that one over there. A new picture starts to emerge…

Since I think of therapy as a creative process, I prefer collaboration. With a personal dislike for hierarchy, I encourage conversations about your goals and intentions, as well as directions you’d like us to focus on. Meanwhile, I do my best to remain flexible in my approaches to adapt and attune to each unique individual I work with

Simultaneously, I will be keeping in mind various themes and recurring patterns. For example, we may weave between career, relationships and interpersonal dynamics as well as internal conflicts, self-concepts etc. Moreover, I like to highlight progress along the way as well as to check in on changes in symptoms etc. 

Admittedly, I am an active therapist.

I will likely stop you to point out judgments, self-criticisms and more. I’ll ask you to notice how they feel in your body. Similarly, I’ll ask you about fun times and pleasant experiences, anchoring you to those somatically as well. If positive memories don’t feel accessible, we might explore what you would shrug off, meh, ok-ish and neutral stuff… The full range of your experiences are important to look at together. Not only one end of the spectrum, or the other—also finding the middle shades between black and white. Therapy can provide opportunities to learn, experiment, stretch, inquire and even entertain life’s unanswerable questions.

Perhaps atypical for a therapist, I am usually willing to answer questions.

Meanwhile, I also maintain clear boundaries for our therapeutic relationship. What I share aims to be in service of your growth and healing. In so doing, it’s important to me to be human with you. I may share tenderness when my eyes water in parallel with your tears. We’ll also likely laugh together. I’ll reflect honest, heartfelt reactions. Certainly, I will be moved by what you share with me. In parallel, you may be pleasantly surprised by how healing it can be to feel fully received, seen, known and understood.

Affinities:

My practice has been a magnet for those who have always felt different, on the periphery, an outsider etc. If you resonate with being a highly sensitive person, we’ll likely get along. Eccentrics, disruptors, visionaries and the like are also my kindred spirits.

Of course Asian Americans, for example, like finding an Asian American therapist. Researchers define ‘match’ by ethnicity. However, there is such a wide variety of experiences that can unfortunately be flattened by any group label.

For example, a US-born descendant of immigrants may not feel fully understood enough with a therapist who immigrated to the US for a post-doctorate or graduate program, due to very different educational experiences and socialization in formative years. I have heard clients say that they felt caught in dynamics with a therapist who seemed too much like their authoritarian parents. In contrast, I have noticed a newer immigrant perhaps wish for more of a hierarchical therapeutic relationship, resembling what was familiar in their upbringing and schooling, therefore better served by another practitioner. On the other hand, a client who grew up as one of the only—or even among other underrepresented folk—may have very different dilemmas to grapple with than someone who grew up in a cultural enclave.

These are merely a few illustrations. Here I am suggesting nuances for what to consider regarding what may feel like a match for you. Ultimately, feeling a strong connection and commonalities with the therapist you choose can contribute to more positive experiences in building a trusted alliance.

Some gravitate to my particular blend of West Coast casual mixed with pointed intellect.

Many clients I work with have some exposure to yoga, meditation or other body-mind practices, already honing some awareness skills which dovetail quite well with somatic therapy. Borrowing from decades of combined practice/study of Aikido, meditation as well as yoga, mindfulness and presence allow me to offer a particular focus, calm and compassionate energy to each person I sit with. 

Often there is a lot to sort through together as a result of immigration and acculturation, grief and loss, questions of identity plus more. In addition, cultural burdens, inherited legacies and intergenerational trauma.

I have worked with people of African, Caribbean, Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern and North African, European and mixed ancestry. As well, I am a queer-affirming, trans-allied and neurodivergence-friendly practitioner. Moreover, I draw upon my experiences as a global citizen—having lived abroad in Asia, Europe and Latin America—to inform my perspectives. Often, clients gain a lot from our time together; meanwhile, I am humbled by what I end up learning from the people I work with.

Through my practice, I feel honored to become intimately acquainted with a wide range of people hailing from quite different backgrounds, cultures, languages, places of origin and multi-faceted identities. With each person I get to know, I feel blessed to share my love for learning as well as my awe and wonder about people and the world.

About Michele Kong, a little glimpse into my journey…

As a therapist in private practice, this is my second career of sorts. My path led to becoming a somatic psychotherapist only after letting go of my professional career as a visual artist. 

All pretty typical for creatives, I have worn multiple hats, schlepping, freelancing etc. I have had some really odd jobs, sometimes juggling several at once. A few of the more respected ones were: teaching children in schools, eventually adults; non-profit and arts administration. 

Once I landed a hard-won, tenure-track university position, I found that my students were almost more interested in talking with me about their personal lives than anything else. Also, I noticed that some students were tackling their art projects in ways that I wasn’t necessarily trained (at the time) to support: working through traumas, struggling with mental health conditions and other challenges. For the most part, I felt ill-equipped on these fronts and a bit of imposter syndrome.

From the outside, I seemed to have everything: ambition, moderate success etc. However keeping up with dual careers as an exhibiting artist plus whatever else paid the rent at the time, on the inside, I often felt divided. Working hard and persistently chasing new goals, I wasn’t particularly satisfied or very happy. I was exhausted and chronically under-slept. For years, I was torn in too many directions.

About Michele Kong
I eventually reached a turning point. I decided I couldn’t possibly be effective either teaching, or fulfilling my artistic aspirations, if I was struggling so much to keep up with everything. Contrary to friendly advice, I left academia. Even in the midst of a global economic nosedive, and what became the Great Recession. Both a bit of planning and optimism allowed me to leap. Perhaps some faith, and some grit too. I surely did not know where I would land.

It was a humbling journey: a romance with the unknown.

What I didn’t know in advance was that I would end up changing nearly everything in my life. Believe me, it was not easy. There were moments of hope and optimism, and in contrast, others where I felt truly lost. On one hand I tried new things, and on the other, some I really did not like. Along the way, I realized it wasn’t what I was doing, so much as how I was living.

In hindsight, I have always thrived on experiential learning, and gained so much from witnessing many creative processes. Artists learn by doing, by experimentation. Sometimes a bold stroke makes (or breaks) a composition. Other times you have to scrap the entire novel you’ve spent insufferable years on, pilfer the bits that are working and rewrite the whole thing into an epic tale. All in all, I believe creativity can be so helpful for composing your one precious life.

Invention and ingenuity often surface in the face of adversity, molded by forces of necessity, sometimes desire—if not both. 

Particularly from my own healing journey, I learned to slow down. I discovered how to pay attention to the wisdom in my own body. I started to make really different choices: following ease, aliveness and wholeness.

Along the way, I have been blessed with many guides, teachers, mentors and allies. Some of them have been therapists. A few, luminous souls. Others are wisdom keepers in their own right. I am grateful to all of the people who have assisted in illuminating the path I have been on, and I look forward to meeting the ones I haven’t yet encountered…

“We are, in the deepest sense, responsible for ourselves. We are, as Sartre put it, the authors of ourselves. Through the accretion of our choices, our actions, and our failures to act, we ultimately design ourselves. We cannot avoid this responsibility, this freedom.”
—Irvin D. Yalom, MD, author of The Gift of Therapy

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