Answers from the Experts: Marriage and Family Therapist
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology
Master’s Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy
Master’s Degree in School Counseling
Lia Huynh is a licensed marriage and family therapist, counselor and psychotherapist serving the Milpitas, San Jose and Fremont areas of California. Huynh earned her bachelor’s in psychology from the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1997 and earned two masters – marriage and family therapy and school counseling – in 2001 from San Francisco State University. After working with struggling youth in treatment centers and hospitals, Huynh opened a private practice, where she focuses on adolescents and adults from a diverse range of backgrounds.
She is a member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
Question: What can students do with a psychology degree?
Huynh: “A psychology undergraduate degree is pretty versatile and broad so there are a myriad of opportunities in business, public relations, sales, healthcare, teaching, anything having to do with people.
Question: What are some important things you’d like to pass onto students about the field?
Huynh: “In this field, who you are is more important than what you do. By that, I mean character traits like compassion, patience, empathy, resilience can take you further than knowing the best counseling techniques. Having good self-care and fostering good relationships so you bring your best self to the counseling room.
“Of course you need to know who Freud is and how to practice the techniques that make our field what it is, but the foundation is really what we cultivate inside. You need to be a good example for your clients and take your own advice. And keep learning.”
Question: Any moment in your life or in your time in school that stands out as the “a ha” moment, leading you into marriage and family therapy?
Huynh: “I think it was an ‘aha’ when I found out this field existed. I was in high school taking a peer counseling class and we had MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy) interns come in and do some guided meditation with us – I was like, ‘who are these people and what are we doing ?’. That got me thinking.”
Question: What are some perks of being in private practice? Any drawbacks?
Huynh: “There are many perks and many drawbacks. (The) perks (are) you get to do things your way, on your own time, be creative, you choose your clients, direct your practice into your own vision. To me, it’s fun, exciting, and meaningful because I have ownership, figuratively and literally.
“(It’s) drawbacks are it’s always on your mind. I just never shut it off. When you work for someone else, you can leave it at the office (or therapy room). Not in private practice. Also, you have the financial burden, the burden of your own reputation at stake. In private practice, you are responsible for everything, little things like taking out the trash and buying paper to bigger things like medical billing and liability insurance. (It can be) much more stressful.
Question: What are some of the best things about working with adolescents? Why were you drawn to working with that age group?
Huynh: “I love adolescents because I feel like they are at that stage where they are relatively old enough to make their own decisions (or at least want to) but young enough that they are still teachable and not set in their ways. There is more room for change. I also just like teens because they are fun to work with, there is so much possibility and potential that I love to see played out in their lives. I also went through some trying times in my teen years and was helped by people who cared enough to listen and help me through. I wanted to be that person to others.”