Breaking the Invisible Walls - Amita Khare
Amita Khare is a passionate Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her private practice, Amita has been serving her community through her social work, mindfulness workshops, positive parenting talks, and various women's empowerment initiatives. Amita is also an active board member of SVC-CAMFT, the Sacramento chapter of MFTs.
Based in Sacramento, California, Amita symbolizes the spirit of never-too-late. In pursuit of her passion, she went back to school to get her Master’s degree in counseling, after taking a long break to raise her kids. Through Zenith Counseling, her independent counseling practice, Amita continues to use her passion, experience, and talent to serve others.
Through this celebration, we bring you Amita's amazing and inspiring story. Amita believes that if you pursue your passion and follow your heart, you can break all those invisible walls and achieve anything you want.
What’s the best advice you can offer to Clapself readers on leading a meaningful life?
Pursue your passion and follow your heart.
That's all I would say. It doesn't get simpler than that. As long as you are pursuing your passion and following your heart, you'll achieve whatever it is that you are working toward. You'll find your happiness and success.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a therapist? Are there any particular life experiences that brought you to this helping profession?
I was always interested in social work as long as I remember.
Growing up in India, I witnessed social injustice, inequality, and unfair treatment of women. I aspired to be a social worker or a journalist when I was in college, which did not happen. I started working as a paraprofessional for the Early Mental Health Intervention program after moving to the United States. It allowed me to help at-risk children and families while raising my own kids. This experience fueled my passion and I decided to pursue a career as a therapist. It felt like I finally found the means to help people.
I believe in hope. I believe that people deserve second and third chances.
What tips would you give to people coming to therapy for the first time?
Therapy can sound scary and sad, but it doesn't have to be.
Think of therapy as a medicine for your mind. When you get sick, you go to a physician. Similarly, when your mind gets sick, you can get help from a professional.
Therapy helps you look at your issues in a different light so that you can find your way. A therapist is your coach or a guide who helps you navigate the path of life and achieve your goals. The therapist brings in objective observations, viewpoints, and provides tools to help you alleviate your symptoms.
Many people are afraid to go to therapy because they assume they have to share their whole life story with the therapist. On the contrary, you are in charge of your session and you can decide what to share.
Therapy can change the course of your life for better, help you improve your relationships, and live the life you love. At Zenith Counseling, that's the comfort I always aspire to give to my clients.
How do you describe your therapeutic approach and what is unique about it?
I believe in building trusting relationships with my clients because that is the foundation of therapy. I use evidence-based therapeutic approaches such as mindfulness, Cognitive Behavior therapy, and Dialectic Behavior therapy. These are proven therapeutic models that help bring positive change.
I also incorporate art therapy techniques, and sand tray therapy. I strongly believe in my client's strengths and their ability to take steps towards a happy future. I provide practical tools to my clients which they can use daily and move towards their goals successfully. I specialize in children, families, and women’s issues. You can find more information about my approach on my website.
Almost all my clients have told me that their outlook on therapy has changed completely after attending my sessions. It is a unique experience where they can relieve stress, relax, and laugh while working on their life challenges.
Life happens to all of us and everyone needs self-care. How do you practice self-care?
Self-care is essential to balance your emotions and be productive.
Generally, I am a busy body. I am engaged in various activities on the social and professional levels. Self-care for me is listening to music, gardening, going for a hike or a walk, and chatting with friends. I love bodies of water so when the day gets intense, there is a great chance that you will find me by a lake or a river.
Self-care and boundaries are highly valued in my profession. As a therapist, I hold space for my client’s distress. I have learned to create a professional boundary and try my best not to bring the work home. This has become a bit challenging during this pandemic because like most people, I work from home conducting sessions via telehealth.
I try to have a healthy routine and practice mindfulness to help me keep my mind and body balance.
What are the best and hardest aspects of your work?
The business aspect of private practice is challenging. You don’t learn that in school, so you have to invest all your energy in learning unfamiliar (and scary) terms like SEO, website analytics, etc. Generally, therapists are not business oriented people. Our passion for the practice teaches us to be one. I am thankful for starting a practice because I have learned a lot in the process of setting it up.
For me, every session where I connect with my clients at a humanistic level and help them understand their struggles and assist in finding a way out is rewarding.
It is highly satisfying to see a client being confident about their choices in life and re-living with joy. The 'Ah-ha' moment in a session, which occurs organically as we progress in therapy, is highly rewarding.
To see a child thriving and happy, and to see a parent with a big smile because of their child’s academic and behavioral progress is rewarding. The biggest reward is when a client says, "I think I don’t need therapy anymore. I am feeling great!" That says to me that I have done my job, to the best of my ability.
Your website tells us that women empowerment is very dear to you. How are you able to use your expertise to help women?
For me, women empowerment is waking up to realize your rights, strengths, and abilities. Believing in yourself that you are lovable and capable and that you don't have to prove anything to anybody.
Contrary to popular belief, women's empowerment is not against men. Taking pride in yourself can happen without putting others down.
My belief in women's power enhances my work. I strive to help women find their authentic selves, recognize their strengths, and use them to achieve the life they want and love.
Shakti- Women's Symposium April 2019 (above, below)
What cultural or social pressures did you have to fight against?
I was raised with traditional, conservative values where once a girl is married, her whole life is centered around her husband, kids, and home. I was taught that raising children, taking care of my husband and my home, maintaining relationships and cooking are the limits of my existence. I was told that it is OK for me to take up a light part-time job or volunteer but not at the expense of my household’s inconvenience. My kids and my husband should be my priority.
It took me years to see that even though my family is my priority and I love to take care of my children, that is just a part of me. I realized that I have so many other traits that can be used for the betterment of myself and to help society. It almost felt like I was trapped within the invisible walls of stereotypical expectations, assumptions, rules, boundaries, and responsibilities.
The problem is that these walls (of stereotypical expectations) become normal: they erect themselves before you know it, and are very hard to breakthrough.
When I went back to school to get my master’s a lot of people thought I was going crazy. “What’s the need to do this at this age? Aren’t you happy?” They said.
Yes, I was happy. But it’s not about just being happy. It’s about feeling fulfilled, using your talents, and achieving your dreams. No matter the age.
Which people or books have had the most influence in your life and why?
The most influential people are my parents and my husband. My mother exemplifies the cultural norm of her generation; a woman sacrificing her dreams and talents for her family.
As a child, I was happy that my mom stayed home. Every day I came home from school to home-cooked goodies and meals. Later in life, I realized that my happiness was at the cost of my mother. This motivated me to pursue my dream because I did not want to be like my mom in that regard. After marriage, my husband has been a source of motivation. He always pushed me to try my best, go for my goals, and to follow my dreams. He supports all my volunteer work and is always by my side.
The early influence on my worldview was Dr. Anil Awachat, who is a prominent writer and social activist based in Pune, India. His books on the plight of the labor class shook me to the core and woke me up. He narrated the unhealthy working conditions, the financial hardship, and apathy of the general population in the heart touching stories and articles. That opened my eyes to the word I never experience. It lit the flame of my interest in the helping profession.
What has been the most defining moment of your life thus far?
The most defining and wonderful moment in my life is the birth of my two sons. They changed my worldview and my vision for life. They taught me to be a parent, a better person, and shaped my professional outlook. My sons are my world.
What do these two words mean to you - success and love?
Success is elusive and flitting.
Success also takes a different form for every individual, at various times. Achieving one goal and calling it a success is not enough for us. We are always looking to be successful in all parts of life, which is setting ourselves for failure. So deciding which success is more meaningful for you, without comparing yourselves to others can bring contentment and joy.
Love comes in all forms, sizes, and shapes. It enriches us and fulfills us. Love makes our life worth living, our pain lighter, and our joys deeper. We drive ourselves crazy looking for true love and many times find it right beside us.
Love is a give and take, if you give with your heart, you shall receive.
You pursued your passion despite all odds. Did you have to fight self-doubt at any stage?
Of course. Many times. First of all, I went back to get my master’s in counseling after age 40. I was unsure about the college experience and studying after so many years while managing home and children.
It took frequent reminders that this is what I wanted to do all my life and it’s not too late. There were times when I thought of not obtaining the license because at that time the idea of studying for the licensing exam and appearing for the exam was exhausting.
With encouragement from close friends and my family, I was able to push through the challenging process of internship and pass the nerve-wracking exam. I am glad to cross one item off my bucket list, licensed therapist!