Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist 101236
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, 'I'm possible'!
- Audrey Hepburn
Hello! My name is Sabrina Santiago. I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist #101236. I have a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy from Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology. I am also a certified provider of the PEERS social skills programs for Teens and Young Adults developed by UCLA.
I have been working with individuals of all ages and those with special needs, primarily with Autism Spectrum Disorder, since 2014 doing Play Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and have assisted with Social Skills Programs aimed at helping children gain a better understanding of social cues and how to effectively interact with peers. During my time with clients I have watched them grow, learn to effectively communicate, increase regulation across and establish strong bonds with their caregivers and peers. Everyday I learn something new from my clients and they never cease to impress me with their intelligence and willingness to engage with others.
I have had an ongoing interest in the field of psychology since I was young; it is fascinating the amount of diversity there is in how people process information. During my time at UC Irvine, I found myself drawn towards working with individuals who were struggling with mental illness. I saw how difficult it could be for someone to handle the stress-related challenges specific to their disorder(s). I also recognized how these challenges can affect dynamics within the family system, and the stigmatization that comes from living with a mental illness.
When working with individuals and families, I primarily use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness. These modalities allow me to help clients better understand how their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are linked together, and subsequently how these things affect the self and others. With children, I primarily use Play Therapy; this allows them a safe space to feel understood, and the ability to express themselves creatively. By using this modality, I am able to help children learn more effective communication, coping, and self-regulation skills.
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
- Henry David Thoreau
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works on the basis of understanding how cycles of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all interconnected and affect your daily life. By identifying unhelpful cycles and replacing them with beneficial ones, the quality of daily life is increased and you are able to better navigate life’s stresses.
Another fundamental aspect of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to recognize and understand the rules you have for the world and the beliefs you hold about yourself. Using CBT techniques will help you to identify each of these and shift negative ones into positive ones.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been proven to assist with a variety of mental health issues and can be tailored to meet each individual’s needs. This style of therapy can be helpful for children as young as 5 and into adulthood.
I specialize in working with individuals of all ages on the Autism Spectrum/Aspergers and in all levels of impactment. When working with these individuals I tailor therapy to meet their needs and assist them in finding ways to make interacting with their world easier and manageable. I also aim to empower these individuals and help them realize that they themselves are amazing.
I've had extensive experience in working with children, including those ages 3.5 and up. I make sure to work with these individuals in a way that allows them to feel safe and understood. Using play and incorporating the child's interests helps create a connection and allows me to model appropriate social interactions and coping skills.
I also specialize in working with teens. When working with these individuals I strive to meet them where they're at and validate their experiences. By doing so they feel heard and are more open to talking about and collaborating on ways to tackle their struggles.
Play is the language with which children first begin to learn about their world. Play helps develop social skills as well as problem solving skills. By using play you are engaging with the child in a manner they can understand and are allowing them to express themselves in an organic way. Through play children are able to work through issues in a non-demanding way that reduces feelings of shame, anxiety, and anger.
Play Therapy is useful in treating a variety of challenges such as social difficulties, communicating thoughts and feelings, Anxiety-based issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Mindfulness is based on Buddhist Meditation and focuses on becoming in tune with your mind, body, and environment. Mindfulness assists individuals with identifying how their environment and situations are affecting them emotionally and physically. Through Mindfulness techniques individuals can learn to calm their bodies and thoughts and in turn help them navigate through stressful situations more easily.
A metaphor I often use when describing Mindfulness is that you are sitting under a tree by a stream. The tree is your mind and the falling leaves are your thoughts. Currently all of the leaves fall in your lap, including unhelpful ones. Mindfulness helps you pick out the unhelpful ones and place them in the stream and let them gently flow away.