Local psychologist brings service to the Central Coast
—Dr. Susana A. Lopez, a psychologist based in Atascadero with over 10 years of experience in the field, was curious as a young girl. Her curiosity was piqued in her Paso Robles High School psychology class, where learning about how the connection between the brain and the body affects people’s actions caused her to notice the lack of resources available to family and community members.
“I always wanted to go and be a therapist and help people that I saw… that need quality psychological services in a culturally competent manner,” said Dr. Lopez.
Dr. Lopez was born in Mexico and raised in the Paso Robles area since she was one year old. During her schooling at PRHS, Dr. Lopez was involved in the AVID program, short for Advancement Via Individual Determination, which is designed to help underrepresented students excel in their academic performance in high school and beyond. After graduating in 2001, she became the first in her family to attend college and graduated from Cal Poly with a bachelor’s degree in three years. She received her Masters in Psychology in 2006, and proceeded to work with the county for an outreach program with the Latino community and then interned at the Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles gaining experience in medical trauma. Dr. Lopez said she “missed the research and learning about assessment,” and thus attended UCSB for their unique program that combines clinical counseling and school psychology, graduating in 2014. Post graduation with her Ph.D., Dr. Lopez trained at UCLA for two years, focusing on trauma, stress, and resilience with families. Her training with family-oriented trauma and stress is a major factor in her psychology practice to this day.
“It was a long road, but I wouldn’t change that just because now that I can offer the service and see people reaching the goals and being happier… it just makes it all really worth it,” said Dr. Lopez.
Dr. Lopez, her husband, and two young daughters moved back to the Central Coast after she completed her training and received her license. Her private practice in Atascadero opened in March 2017, is open two days a week, and offers help for a variety of issues, but mainly focuses on children and family dynamics. Using a goal orientated approach to help clients have a happier lifestyle is the main approach Dr. Lopez takes when connecting with her clients.
“[I] focus on working with individuals who have experience with trauma, like medical, sexual abuse, or chronic… helping families and children with behavioral difficulties, parenting coaching, and children with anxiety and depression in adolescence,” said Dr. Lopez, who continues to remotely work for UCLA as a director of training for STRIVE (Support to Reunite, Involve and Value Each Other) and as a senior research assistant.
One of Dr. Lopez’s long-term goals is to have a nonprofit open to the community that offers psychological services for all cultures and ethnicities, with services such as physical therapy, chiropractic, psychological therapy and more. She focuses on “[trying] to take away the stigma of mental health, whether it’s how I describe it to my clients or the process of therapy”.
Dr. Lopez cites having family and community support has encouraged her to follow her passion in the field of psychology.
“[I’m] really grateful for the people I have met in the community who have helped me to get to this point. I have a lot of local mentors from teachers, from administration in the public school system to local community advocates who have always encouraged me to keep going. Even coming back, I am so overwhelmed by the welcoming by them,” said Dr. Lopez, who is looking forward to collaborating with the community to continue providing quality psychological care to the Central Coast.