Meet Your Instructor: Dr. Christina Villarreal

This semester Dr. Christina Villarreal will be teaching a course in Personality Theory at UC Berkeley Extension’s Post Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions on Tuesday evenings from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm.  The Post-Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions is ideal if you need to complete undergraduate course prerequisites or if you want to become more competitive for graduate or professional school in counseling and psychology. Designed for career changers with bachelor’s degrees, the curriculum consists of a range of upper-division psychology courses that are required or strongly recommended by graduate and professional schools in social work, counseling, and psychology. The program also offers you guidance in planning your academic program of study and in initiating the graduate school application process.

Personality psychology, in contrast to abnormal and clinical psychology, is the study of normal and exceptional personalities, their assessment and development, and the processes that define them. Personality psychologists have been influenced by the “grand” theories of personality that tend to have more historical significance than relevance for current personality theories and research. Contemporary personality theories are more specific but still fall under broad paradigms or approaches. Research some of these approaches, including trait, biological, psychodynamic, phenomenological, behavioral and learning, and social-cognitive theories.

San Francisco Mental Health Expert Succeeds In A Variety Of Roles

I recently had the privilege of being featured in an interview with journalist Michelle Guilbeau for CBS SF Bay Area for their spotlight column on career development.  I appreciated the opportunity to share my educational path and career choices for those who are interested pursuing careers in the field of mental health and wellness.

“Christina Villarreal, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, adjunct professor at UC Berkeley, executive personal coach/consultant, digital media expert, blogger and public speaker. She completed a B.A. in psychology from Emory University and opted to complete a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy at The University of San Francisco. Afterwards, Villarreal decided she wanted to further develop her clinical and forensic assessment skills and teach at a graduate school level, so she earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at The California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. Here, she had a wide range of experiences, including year-long clinical rotations at some of the Bay Area’s most prestigious teaching hospitals: The San Francisco VA Hospital, UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital, and the flagship Kaiser Hospital in Oakland. Villarreal conducted research and completed her doctoral dissertation on the gender and cultural influences on sexual risk behavior among Latinos in the U.S.

(Photo Courtesy of Christina Villarreal, Ph.D)

What are the responsibilities of your current role? 

Currently, I function in a variety of professional roles. As a mental health expert/psychologist, I help people manage a variety of problems, including mood disorders, interpersonal/familial difficulties, sexuality issues, job related stress, and improve social functioning and health/wellness. I also provide forensic assessment, consultation and expertise in legal settings and for media purposes (televised interviews, digital journalism, newsprint/magazines.).

“As an executive/personal coach, I work largely with the Bay Area’s tech community, helping high-achieving millennials and Gen X’ers improve their emotional intelligence, work-life balance, dating goals, time management/organization, leadership growth, and career development/transitions. I publish digital articles that reflect the mental health and life management issues my clients are working through in my practice. I also serve in an advisory/consultation role for tech startups aiming to develop mental health tools or wellness resources within their company. Lastly, I am an instructor at UC Berkeley in their post baccalaureate program in psychology.”

What is your favorite part of your daily duties?

“I really enjoy the process of helping people tap into their full potential and achieve their life goals. It’s an honor to be given opportunities to reach wider audiences and educate the public about improving mental health and wellness.”

Do you feel your education prepared you for your current role? 

“My education allowed me to gain the necessary knowledge and expertise to practice in a variety of roles within my private practice as a mental health professional, coach, author, and educator. After years of practicing as a psychologist, I opted to seek additional coursework and training as an executive coach through The College of Executive Coaching in order to better serve high functioning individuals reach their respective career and life goals.”

Do you have any advice for people who desire to pursue a similar career? 

“I encourage people to work hard and stay focused on what is most important to them, and to talk as often as possible to people who are practicing in the roles they hope to achieve.”

Michelle Guilbeau is a writer, reviewer, teacher and business owner living in Chicago, Illinois. She also has experience in school administration, literacy coaching and is proud founder of and Michelle enjoys sharing her knowledge of Chicago, food, travel, education and parenting issues with her readers. Her work can be found

Follow @nxtlvlgoddess on Instagram to learn about an amazing new community

Thank you for including me as a featured member, founders of Next Level Goddess- a new Instagram community of individuals who inspire, educate, and empower one another.  I look forward to learning more from the group and it’s members, and seeing it flourish and grow!

We're proud to celebrate NLGs who have personally inspired us to be our most splendid selves 👊🏻 Writer, mental health professional, educator and a woman of fierce independence, Dr. Christina Villareal dances to the beat of her own drum. She commits her time to opening the eyes of others to live to their fullest potential. Straying from conventional therapist-client methods, she vulnerably shares and speaks from her own experiences when appropriate. By creating an atmosphere of complete non-judgement, she's helped me see that no one can take control of my narrative without my consent. A goddess through and through, she embodies the belief of sharing the wealth that is the human experience. Her words can be found on x Rosa #NLGcommunity #nxtlvlgoddess

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5 key components to finding a therapist quickly and efficiently: tips from a Clinical Psychologist

You finally realize it’s time to find a therapist. For many people, this task is daunting; you need help, but have no idea where to begin. The following list includes key components to finding a therapist that can help you with your mental health needs, quickly and efficiently.

1.) What do you need?
First you should consider why you are seeking to begin therapy, and what you need right now. If you are seeking help because you are in a crisis situation (you are having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, for example) call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (if you are in the United States.)

If you are not in a crisis but have never seen a mental health provider before, once you find a therapist, you will schedule an intake appointment with them for a full assessment to determine a diagnosis, if any, and develop a clear treatment plan should you decide to work together. If you are taking any medications be sure to bring these with you to your first appointment. You’ll also want to bring the contact information for past therapists (if any) and your primary care physician so that your new therapist can better coordinate your mental health care.

2.) How much can you afford to pay?

If you have health insurance, start by calling your insurance company and inquiring about your mental health benefits. Do they cover outpatient treatment? Is there a co-payment involved? Is there a deductible? How many sessions are covered? If your insurance only covers certain therapists, the insurance company should be able to provide you with a list of approved providers. Most insurance companies will provide coverage for you to see therapists who are considered “Out of Network” but there will likely be a different co-payment associated with an Out of Network provider.

Many therapists accept different payment options, so it is important to determine what types of payment they accept during your first phone consultation. Some therapists only accept patients who are paying out-of-pocket. In this case, most will provide a receipt so that you can submit it to your insurance company for reimbursement, if possible. You should also ask whether they will consider a lower fee (often referred to as a “sliding scale” if their cost is above your means.

3.) What style of therapist is right for you?

Different therapists come from different schools of thought about how therapy works and what methods produce the best outcomes. These schools of thought are called “theoretical orientations.” For example, someone with a Cognitive-Behavioral (CBT) orientation believes that thoughts and behaviors are directly related to feelings and symptoms, and will conduct therapy aimed at changing problematic ways of thinking as a means to improving your symptoms (usually through in-session exercises and homework). In contrast, someone with a Psychodynamic orientation believes that symptoms are related to processes outside of the patient’s awareness that come to light through interactions with the therapist.

There are many other orientations, and some therapists subscribe to more than one. Think a little about what might be most comfortable or the best match for you (i.e. the more “hands on approach” of CBT, or a more “process-oriented” approach of psychodynamic therapy.) Your first phone conversation with a potential therapist is a good time to ask about their theoretical orientation, and how they describe their approach to conducting therapy. Beware of therapists who describe themselves as “eclectic” and are unable or unwilling to clarify their style of working with patients. In my opinion, these therapists do not follow any one school of thought, and their approach to helping you may include a hodge-podge of treatments that ultimately, may prove to be unhelpful.

4.) When and where will the therapy take place?

Make sure that the therapist has office hours and availability that match your schedule. Many therapists work out of different offices, so be sure to ask about all of their locations. How far are you willing to travel? Do you need a therapist who is accessible by public transportation? Are you willing to travel farther for a therapist who has special expertise or is an especially good match personality wise? Remember, therapy only works if you are able to make it to your appointments consistently and on time.

5.) Where can I find a variety of therapists?

Many people want to be able to read about, and see a photo of potential therapists before making phone calls. Using online search engines can help streamline this process. There are excellent online resources to help you find a therapist, including psychologytoday, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the American Psychological Association.

You can also call professional schools of psychology to ask for recommendations of people trained or in training within their programs, as a way to make therapy more affordable. Bay area doctoral programs in psychology include The California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, Argosy University, San Francisco Bay Campus, and The Wright Institute. Psychology interns are closely supervised by licensed psychologists, and are often very motivated and effective in providing psychotherapy.

Check with friends and family in your area- they will likely know of a therapist that has been helpful to someone they know.

Finding the right therapist for you can feel like a huge project, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Do not underestimate your intuition when talking to potential therapists on the phone. If you feel comfortable and relaxed, chances are you will be able to connect with them in person, and you’ll be on your way to improved mental health.