Therapy with Tumini Sekibo-Kaliku, PsyD

Tumini Sekibo-Kaliku is a Psychologist in San Diego, California specializing in anxiety-based disorders, trauma, and parenting concerns. We asked Dr. Sekibo-Kaliku more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.

Dr. Sekibo-Kaliku’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

Well, that's a long story. The short form is that it happened in my first psychology course during A-levels (this is a 2-year bridge between high school and college in the UK education system). I took a general course that introduced me to the various psychological schools of thought, and that was all she wrote! I like to say I've majored in Psychology since I was 16!

I recall discovering that there were always various view points of the same phenomenon, and that each paradigm of psychology (behavioral, psychodynamic, biological, etc) could conceptualize the same phenomenon differently and this was ok. It seems like a given now but back then I found it mind-blowing to discover that there was more than one helpful way to see and do life. I am so grateful that I had that opportunity to awaken to a wealth of diverse viewpoints. As a therapist now, I get to apply any combination of those paradigms to help people change their lives as they see fit.

What was your previous work before going into private practice?

I worked in community mental health. I started at my University's community counseling center, and then interned for about three years at Vista Del Mar Child & Family Services in Culver City, CA. I really enjoy serving families of vastly diverse backgrounds. Community mental health is considered primary care, so as a psychologist in training I was exposed to a substantial breadth and depth of mental health issues that allowed me to narrow down to the specialties I now focus on (Trauma, Anxiety, and Parenting).

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

1. Good food and even better comedy
2. The outdoors (anywhere there's nature), even if all I do is sit

Dr. Sekibo-Kaliku’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

I have quite a few but if I had to pick one, it is that we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. Usually, that information is incomplete or even incorrect but it is the evolutionary impulse of every human to reach for more from where they are, no matter how they define more. I am yet to find an exception to this.

Whether we are poised for change or suffering in pain, it is my intention to remind my clients that they already have what it takes to rise.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

Adult Jewish males! By no plan of my own. I don't know if it's me drawing them or they drawing me but I find that Jewish men are the most willing and ready to pick up what I'm putting down in sessions. I acknowledge the cultural fit for Western therapy models. Modern talk therapy is a model of healing that was birthed from Jewish resilience, and for that we can all be thankful.

I especially enjoy doing the deeper emotional work with Jewish men. Even though my approach to therapy is considered a third wave (Easternized) paradigm, I find that the focus on change is very helpful for conceptualizing how far one has come and what path is now clear to follow. I think this Exodus-inspired "hero's journey" approach speaks to that evolutionary impulse inside all of us. Whether we're applying it to historical trauma or a specific phobia, it restores a level of control to the narrative that a Jewish heritage just primes you to appreciate.

And no, I'm neither Jewish nor religious.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety-based disorders (e.g. OCD, phobias, social anxiety)?

My current special is in treating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders. I find that there is a lot of confusion about what OCD is and isn't, and most people do not realize that recovery is within reach. I use Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) to condition more helpful behavioral responses to obsessive thoughts. Clients often begin to see improvement within the first four sessions! ERP is also the gold standard for treating other types of anxiety, like agoraphobia, social anxiety, and specific fears.

Can you tell us more about your work with clients recovering from trauma?

The effects of trauma have been revealed as one of the most serious threats to general health in our time. This is because of the way trauma can alter the brain and hijack the body's adaptive responses. This is also a process that can be brought under one's control with the appropriate techniques and strategies.

Most people struggling to recover from trauma are unaware that they often use unhelpful behaviors and patterns of thinking that perpetuate traumatic stress, even after the fact. I find that with proper psychoeducation, behavioral analysis, and value-based goal setting, clients can take back control of their life more effortlessly than they expect.

Can you tell us more about your work with parents?

Parenting is a life's journey that can be fraught with unexpected challenges. Some frequent issues include, anxiety and uncertainty, parents' own trauma, cultural and generational divide among family members, as well as specific child behaviors that add stress to a fledgling family system. Many of us are clear that the way we were raised leaves a lot to be corrected, and may even know what we want to change. Without proper guidance, it can be difficult to know how to make such changes in practice.

I provide parent coaching sessions to parents who want to learn better responses and strategies to help their child or family develop age-appropriate skills and behaviors.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

My favorite stage of any treatment is that point where the client has their first few break throughs and are now bringing me evidence that the treatment works! I relish the opportunity to point out (especially with Anxiety) that the world did not change overnight but they have. Here I get to remind them that they are simply choosing the more helpful responses they have allowed themselves to learn, and this is what makes all the difference!

There is nothing more rewarding than the satisfaction I witness when this clicks and a client understands that they really always had what it takes.

Therapy sessions with Dr. Sekibo-Kaliku

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

The first session is introductory and generally focuses on gathering information about symptoms, personal history, and current functioning. This may help clarify diagnoses and inform a treatment plan. After that, sessions are much less formal, as I like to focus on the "here and now" responses and strategies you can start to apply as you move toward change. This often looks like sharing specific examples of recent or ongoing challenges, and exploring the most helpful paths forward.

Usually session 2-6 provide opportunity for psychoeducation and insight building, during and after which we can focus attention on applying new skills and cognitive strategies to galvanize change.

How long do clients typically see you for?

6-9 months is typical for anxiety treatment. It is also common for treatment to evolve from anxiety interventions to address ongoing life challenges. In these cases, clients can be seen for a year or more as necessary.

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey (even better for adults)

2. The Warrior Heart Practice by HeatherAsh Amara (for difficult emotions)

3. Adult Children of Emotionally Immature Parents by Dr. Lindsay Gibson (for obvious reasons)

4. The Awakened Family by Dr. Shefali Tsabary (for next level parenting)

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

Yes I do. Depending on what is indicated, homework is usually an attempt to encourage contemplation and practice of the skills we are building in therapy.

These may be self-monitoring exercises like journaling, meditation and mindfulness, self-directed exposure trials, or simply moments of reflection.

How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?

This is your life we're working on, so I primarily rely on your self-report and encourage frequent feedback. I may also administer progress measures, such as symptom checklists, at various intervals of treatment.

How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?

Many clients seek therapy when they notice sever enough negative consequences of their behavior or condition. Feedback from others is often a good enough indicator.

How can I prepare for our first session?

There is no specific prep necessary, Your willingness to participate in this journey to change is enough. I encourage new clients to consider what treatment goals they may like to set for themselves. E.g., How will you know you are getting better? What would you like to see different?

How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

We would have met treatment goals, and/or have changed focus enough to warrant a revision of the treatment plan. I encourage clients to discuss their thoughts and feelings about progress early, so that we can create a termination or transition plan that supports ongoing recovery.

Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?

I think most people seek therapy after having turned to partners and loved ones. I encourage this approach. A therapeutic setting has the specific intent of prioritizing the change you want, within the life domains that are in your control. This is helpful when you realize you could use more specialized or expert care than friends and family can provide.

What advice would you share with therapy seekers?

The therapist-client relationship is the active ingredient in treatment success. It may take several attempts with several people to find the right fit. Be patient in your search. It will be worth it when you find a therapist you like.

Visit Dr. Sekibo-Kaliku’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and book an initial call!