Michael Azarani, PhD
Michael Azarani, PhD
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.
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.
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)!
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.