Michael Azarani, PhD

Michael Azarani, PhD

Licensed Psychologist

Pronouns: They/ Them

MitakuyeOyasın: An Indigenous Therapeutic Philosophy

Throughout my training, I have had the honor of learning from various Indigenous psychologists, elders, brothers, and sisters. Through their wisdom, I was able to learn how my Indigenous identity, stories, culture, and teachings can be effectively integrated into western psychotherapy for the good of every client (regardless of their ethnic or racial background). One such teaching is captured by a phrase taught to me by my Lakota relations: Mitakuye Oyasin. Roughly translated, Mitakuye Oyasin means that we are all relatives and interdependent on one another. This relationship goes beyond that which exists between people and extends to the land and all things upon the land. As such, my approach to therapy is informed by this teaching and centralizes on the formation of the relationship, and the knowledge and healing that extends from such relationships.

With this philosophy as my guide, I integrate various evidenced-based theories with traditional Indigenous knowledge to develop unique interventions and treatment plans tailored to the needs of my clients. Given that different people have different needs, my approach is fluid and informed by the moment-to-moment experience with my clients, which extends from developing the real relationship in session. In this way, I view the relationship that develops in session as a way to understand relationships to all things within a client’s life. My approach values the therapeutic relationship as one of the most effective ways to facilitate healing and change.

Theoretical Assumptions: A Psychodynamic Approach to Change

My approach to therapy is rooted in the belief that clients, regardless of their past experiences, have the potential for growth and change. It acknowledges that biological predispositions, temperament, and early experiences with significant relationships and cultural/environmental systems shape the internalized models they use to understand themselves and others. When provided with safe and secure environments, consistent and sufficient care, and empathic emotional support from caregivers, clients can develop secure and flexible ways of understanding themselves and their relationships with others. These ideal developmental experiences lay the foundation for the development of one’s healthy psychological resources. 

Ideal developmental conditions provide people with the resources to navigate the overwhelming experiences, pain, and suffering that characterize every human life. When faced with stressful experiences, these people have many adaptive strategies to cope, maintain their self-esteem (i.e., self-worth) when faced with threats, have a sense of self grounded in a realistic understanding of their strengths and weaknesses, empathize with others, and build and maintain mutual, trusting, and fulfilling relationships more easily. 

However, many people do not experience ideal developmental conditions. It is not uncommon for people to experience emotional or physical neglect, abuse, abandonment, and other individual and structural stressors that contribute to coping strategies born out of the need for adaptation and survival, which may become maladaptive. In other words, their coping strategies become rigid and overgeneralized in their use, even when they contribute to difficulties in day-to-day living. 

These maladaptive coping strategies may become so automatic that they function unconsciously and contribute to irreconcilable and competing desires. These competing desires create an internal sense of conflict experienced by the individual as a symptom, such as anxiety. 

From my perspective, healing is achieved through uncovering and understanding the unconscious conflicts that contribute to one’s symptoms. Since I presume that the development of these conflicts is largely (but not exclusively) interpersonal, I believe one’s internal models must be activated in the relationship with the therapist and worked through over time in the “here-and-now” experience of the therapy relationship. This allows clients to develop new ways of understanding and coping that provide them with opportunities to change how they interact with themselves and others outside of the therapy relationship. 

Notably, I reject the idea that being healthy means one never experiences suffering. It is natural and expected to feel suffering and, at times, become overwhelmed with the demands of life. Many who present to therapy will have normal stressful reactions to structural injustices, and I can only describe these reactions as expected. 

Thus, Psychodynamic therapy cannot rid you of unhappiness. Still, it can help you learn how to change your relationship with stressful experiences and provide opportunities to develop a deeper awareness of self, new healthy ways of coping with difficult experiences, negotiating internal conflicts, building more secure relationships, strengthening your self-esteem when confronted by threats, and improving other aspects of psychological functioning that support us through difficult experiences.


Racial, Intergenerational, and Historical Trauma

Throughout my training, my lived experience as a queer, non-binary, mixed Indigenous-Mexican and Iranian person has informed my passion for work with Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC). I have focused my training and experience on cultivating knowledge, skill, and expertise on the myriad of issues, struggles, and structural barriers, which impact the lives of BIPOC clients. With this knowledge, I have worked with many BIPOC communities to begin healing journeys from the trauma extending from systematically reinforced racism that has been reproduced and perpetuated across generations. Through the therapeutic philosophy described above, I have sought to help BIPOC clients develop a personal practice of survivance: an Indigenous healing concept that describes a process of both surviving and thriving in colonial spaces.

Queer identity

I have also developed a passion for working with queer-identified people across various gender and sexual identities in both individual and group modalities. Similar to my work with BIPOC communities, I have worked with many queer-identified clients to process and heal the various traumas, which uniquely manifest amidst their intersecting identities. I believe it is important for queer-identified clients to have a safe space to express their embodied experience (whether directly related to queer identities or not) in a way that is both healing and affirming. Regardless of one’s ethnic or racial identity, I believe that developing a personal practice of survivance can also serve the needs of queer-identified people. I hope to provide you with a space to develop such a practice that is informed by your unique needs, contexts, and histories.

Other Areas of Interest and Competence

In addition to the above areas of specialty, my training as a generalist has allowed me to cultivated competence in working with a variety of presenting concerns. Such areas include the following:

    • Depressive Disorders
    • Anxiety Disorders
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
    • Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders
    • Note: with focused training in domestic violence and sexual assault; Adjustment disorders
    • Body image concerns
    • Identity development
    • Psychodiagnostic Assessment
    • ADHD Assessment


    After growing up in Austin, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Music and Psychology from Texas State University (Eat ‘Em Up, Cats). While at Texas State, I learned that I had a deep passion for psychology and a special interest in pursuing clinical practice. So, I began my journey to becoming a practitioner and went on to complete my Master’s in Professional Counseling at the University of Oklahoma (OU). During my tenure as Mater’s student at OU, I developed a specialized interest in multicultural counseling and chose to further develop my interest as a Doctoral student at Oklahoma State University, where I earned my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. I have worked as a generalist in community and university counseling settings providing individual, group, and couples counseling to adults, as well as providing psychological and psychodiagnostic assessments to young adults.

    When I am not in the office, I enjoy spending time cultivating relationships with friends and family, and spending time exploring new eateries, cafes, and bars. I enjoy spending time with a good book and audible combo, and marathoning TV shows on various streaming services. I also enjoy video games and am partial to RPGS (including the tabletop variety). If folks ever want to start up a conversation with me, Pokémon is always a solid place to start (a childhood passion, which will never extinguish)!

    Clinical Supervision


    Supervision is arguably one of the most critical components of a therapy trainee’s experience. It supports the development of practice schemata—the procedural, theoretical, and empirical knowledge—necessary to foster continued growth and mastery of critical competencies essential to psychotherapy. However, supervision, like psychotherapy, is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor and, therefore, must be approached with the individual needs of the supervisee in mind.

    A Relational Experience

    As a psychotherapist, I believe a clinician’s embodied experiences and identities are essential therapeutic tools. One’s subjectivity functions as the filter through which we come to make sense of the client’s lived experiences, and it helps us identify applicable and appropriate interventions. Understanding our subjectivity helps us recognize how relational dynamics and systems of power and privilege impact our embodied identities and shape our experiences. Without knowledge of how we relate to such systems, we risk missing essential relationship dynamics and opportunities to deepen our cultural understanding of clients, especially those different from us. Therefore, I believe counselor development necessarily requires the refinement and understanding of one’s subjectivity in relationship to the world and others, and it is critical for supervision to make room for this development. 

    I believe my supervisory responsibility is to generate a strong and trusting collaborative relationship with my supervisees such that they feel comfortable bringing their subjectivity to supervision.  One way that the supervisee’s subjectivity manifests in psychotherapy is via the difficult experiences that are inevitable in the therapeutic endeavor. Difficult experiences and feelings will always accompany therapy. Exploring and understanding these vulnerable clinical experiences helps us understand client dynamics at varying degrees of relationship, be it internal, interpersonal, or socio-cultural/political.

    Therefore, supervisors need to foster strong relationships with their supervisors. Building trusting relationships requires supervisors to value supervisees’ individual and cultural experiences. This means supervisors approach supervision with respect and sensitivity to diversity and differing worldviews. So, good supervision embraces the supervisee’s lived and cultural knowledge in connection with the scientific understanding of psychology. Connecting these two areas of knowledge supports the development of competency and therapeutic mastery.

    A Developmental Experience

    Therapists do not step into psychotherapy with refined knowledge of the process. It is normal and expected for supervisees to lean on the guidance of their supervisors, who provide opportunities for graded complexity and greater autonomy as supervisees master different aspects of psychotherapy. This is the essence of a developmental perspective. I believe that supervisees’ developmental level must be intimately understood for supervisors to recognize normative tasks consistent with varying degrees of competence and support progression to mastery. This means that supervisees at varying degrees of training will need different support, and I believe it my responsibility to understand how to normalize difficult but normative experiences while using appropriate supervisory interventions to support supervisees’ development across critical clinical competency areas in the domains of self- and other-awareness, motivation, and autonomy.


    Supervision with each supervisee is as unique and diverse as those who enter training. No individual approach will suit the needs of every supervisee, and I believe it is my responsibility to develop an intimate understanding of my supervisees’ identities, worldviews, needs, and goals to tailor an approach that supports them best. Although we, as supervisors, straddle commitment to the supervisee and commitment to public safety, I believe that everyone benefits—clients and supervisees alike—when supervisors approach supervision from a relational perspective. Therefore, my aim in supervision is to develop trusting relationships where supervisees can share their most vulnerable and challenging experiences of counselor development. I look forward to providing that space to those looking for support, and I am committed to helping you develop the skills, knowledge, and attitudes you need to become the type of therapist you want to be.