Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT

LA-CAMFT Member Article

03/31/2020 10:00 AM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

Leila Aboohamad,

Lost After College: Where Do I Belong? What Do I Do?

You are standing in your cap and gown, that precious diploma clasped firmly in your hand. Or you just graduated from a trade school or career academy with a certificate which entitles you to practice in your chosen field. You had a great time learning new skills, being with friends in classes which ranged from fascinating to tediously boring. But, you knew you were working toward a goal: graduating with legitimate papers which would allow you access to a career or job in the real world.

You may have been the shining star in your Theatre Arts major, appearing in every play, usually in the lead role. Life was good. Your dreams were coming true and you were eager to join the ranks of the successful working actresses in Los Angeles. Your Dad was a very successful producer at one of the major studios, so he was able to get you signed with one of the top international talent agencies.

So why did she enter my office, depressed, discouraged and mentally and emotionally beaten up by the pursuit of success in the world of entertainment? It seems like the cards had been stacked in her favor. Why did her first marriage fail so miserably? Why was her “best friend” a manipulative hanger on who was with her only to benefit herself? What happened to that wonderful four years in college where her star had shone so brightly.

This lovely young lady had grown up in a highly dysfunctional family which had left her deeply scarred by the trauma. Acting was a great way to escape from the painful memories of what she had endured throughout her childhood. Another great escape was to hide in her “love” relationships. Her college boyfriend and later first husband cheated on her and would undress pretty coeds on campus with his leering eyes. She had grown so familiar and “comfortable” with unfeeling, insensitive and boorish men like her father, that she thought their behavior towards her was “true love.”

How could I help her? What did she need from therapy? She needed to find her true self, hidden beneath the childhood wounds suffered in her family of origin. She needed to find her place in the world as an individual with great sensitivity, tremendous talent and a kind heart. She needed to heal the trauma of her early years so that she could recognize that she had always been a wonderful spirit who had been badly misused in her family.

I work with many gifted and talented individuals who need guidance and healing so that their light will shine in all areas of their lives: career, love relationships and friendships. As I look back at my 30 years of practice as a psychotherapist, I smile and am thankful that I was able to help so many unhappy, discouraged, lost souls by teaching them to discover that beautiful person beneath their pain. They grew in confidence, listened to that voice of intuition and knew exactly how and where to use their gifts in successful careers.

I use Family Systems theory as the basis of the therapeutic journey. Children are like sponges, absorbing everything they see, feel and hear. I remember what Virginia Satir wrote in Conjoint Family Therapy: “The marital relationship is the axis around which all other family relationships are formed. The mates are the “architects” of the family. A pained marital relationship tends to produce dysfunctional parenting.”

One very important tool I use in my exploration into the family system is the Life Script Questionnaire. The Questionnaire has 72 questions about the parents as the child experienced them as a child and in the present as an adult. There are questions about the client’s reactions and responses to growing up in this family and the society at large. Who named you? How did your parents criticize/compliment you? What did you decide about life when you were little? Did you have a favorite movie, TV show or book? When you are feeling badly, what is the feeling you most often have?

My individual client will perhaps for the first time really look at the family in which he/she grew up and begin to understand how and why he/she made certain choices regarding education and careers. The client will begin to understand the difficulties encountered in entering adulthood and finding the perfect manner and area where his/her talents and light may shine. I encourage and teach my clients how to truly love themselves, identify their strengths, special gifts and talents and have confidence in their ideas.

I encourage them to “step out on the promise” as one very famous TV actress shared in a lecture about having the courage to follow one’s dreams. She did and gave great joy and laughter to the fans of her two very popular “sitcoms.” And each of us can do the same . . . heal that inner child so that our light shines forth in precisely the right manner for ourselves and for everyone else with whom we come into contact.

Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, California. She specializes in helping individuals and couples create successful, committed loving relationships. She has studied and practiced spirituality and mindfulness for over 35 years. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults helping them to identify and share their special gifts and passions with the world. Website: www.leilalmft.com.

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