About Michelle Álvarez
I wanted to be a psychologist since I was in third grade. Now, after more than 15 years working as a one, I love it even more than I expected. I’ve been lucky enough to have had quite a diverse range of professional experiences. I’ve worked in a maximum security prison, the VA, large private hospitals, small clinics, community health centers, an advocacy center for abused children, nursing homes for the elderly, private practice, and even backstage in theatre productions targeted toward creating awareness and social change.
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, to Dominican parents, and attended school there all the way until I graduated High School. I studied Fine Arts at Designskolen in Kolding, Denmark. I graduated cum laude from New York University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Art History. For my art degree, I focused on Subsaharan African art methods, history, and psychology, conducting coursework and an apprenticeship in the West African country of Côte d'Ivoire. After college, I taught English in Suzhou, China (about an hour away from Shanghai by train).
I came back to the US after being awarded a fellowship for a doctorate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Indianapolis. I completed two specializations there, Child and Adolescent Psychology and Geriatric Psychology, ensuring I could competently work with folks of any age. I also picked up a master’s in Clinical Psychology along the way, because who needs sleep? I interned at the maximum-security Indiana Women's Prison, at a community health center, and at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. I was even able to put my experience and passion for art into use as a core member of the Indianapolis Healing Arts Project, a fantastic group devoted to providing veterans with the opportunity to share in the art of their peers.
After I passed the comprehensive exams and defended my dissertation –on the therapeutic use of art with veterans, it was back to the familiar territory of New York City, for postdoctoral training at The Fifth Avenue Center for Counseling and Psychotherapy.
Upon graduation –finally, officially a doctor!– I was offered a position at one of the nation’s premier hospitals, New York-Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. There I was able to work with people of all ages and was part of a treatment team addressing the needs of sexually and physically abused children at the Child Advocacy Center. Eventually I would move to a senior staff psychologist position at The Floating Hospital. There I had the opportunity to work extensively with New York's homeless population, as well as the community at large, and to collaborate regularly with the Administration for Children's Services.
I love NY, but in search for a better quality of life, a few years ago I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where I felt compelled to combine all of my professional and life experiences and come up with something unique. I developed a technique that I dubbed TALKyoga©. It’s a seamless integration of psychotherapy with yoga and mindfulness techniques. (Like most Ashevillians, it seems sometimes, I’m a certified yoga instructor.) I use this powerful holistic method to help people set and achieve their mental, emotional, spiritual and physical resolutions. I named my practice Santosha, a Sanskrit word that means contentment and satisfaction. It’s apropos. Even after all the incredible professional opportunities I’ve been fortunate to experience, I have never felt as fulfilled in my career as I do now.
I’m able to help people of all ages, in both English and Spanish. We work through issues such as:
• Trauma and PTSD (relationship violence, sexual assault, combat…)
• Life transitions (move, college, divorce, marriage, parenthood…)
• Anxiety and stress
• Depression and mood
• Racial and minority identity
I also provide Immigration and Deportation Hardship Evaluations.
Recently I was interviewed on NPR about the barriers of POC’s access to quality mental health in Western North Carolina. I’m working with colleagues on changing this, by developing A Therapist Like Me, a non-profit organization to help fund quality mental health treatment for minority-identified individuals, by putting on a city-wide conference, GROW AVL, to increase competence in the therapist community, and by taking steps to create increased awareness, knowledge and action around systemic inequity and social injustice.
On my "days off" I go to a nursing home for the elderly and provide psych services to the folks there.