124. How California’s Scenic Beauty Fuels This Therapist’s Unique Practice with Christine Kay Wong

124. How California’s Scenic Beauty Fuels This Therapist’s Unique Practice with Christine Kay Wong

In this episode of The Traveling Therapist Podcast, I have a delightful chat with Christine Wong, a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Los Angeles. Christine opens up about her journey from being a traditional therapist to becoming a traveling therapist within the diverse landscapes of California. We dive into her passion for exploring California’s scenic gems, her innovative approach to integrating travel with her private practice, and her fascinating dissertation work focused on self-care for Chinese Americans. Join us as we explore how Christine balances her professional responsibilities with her love for travel, and the unique ways she enriches her practice through her experiences.

Key Points:

  • Hybrid Therapy Practice: Christine shares her approach to maintaining a hybrid therapy practice, offering both telehealth and in-person sessions, and how she incorporates travel into her work routine without compromising on client care.
  • Walk-and-Talk Therapy: We delve into the concept of walk-and-talk therapy, where Christine meets clients in serene, secluded parks, combining the therapeutic process with the benefits of being outdoors. She discusses how this method can provide a refreshing alternative to the traditional office setting.
  • Dissertation on Self-Care: Christine provides insights into her dissertation, which examines self-care practices among Chinese Americans. She highlights the cultural nuances and historical contexts that shape these practices and the importance of addressing these unique challenges within the community.

About Christine Kay Wong: 

After a decade in the real estate industry representing homeowners in the San Gabriel Valley and Greater Los Angeles, Christine Kay Wong shifted gears to align her career with her core values. She took a leap of faith to pursue a degree in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University, and is now a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Strategic Coach. Christine is dedicated to helping individuals and families embrace self-care and wellness, addressing challenges such as childhood traumas, grief, cultural stressors, and corporate burnout.

As the dedicated owner of Momentum Mindfulness Family Counseling, Christine passionately guides her clients toward empowerment and healing. She is currently immersed in her dissertation on self-care in generational trauma. Outside of her professional pursuits, Christine enjoys long walks, audiobooks, and progressive house music. She also loves tennis, ping pong, and exploring the California coast, finding joy and inspiration in hearing stories of vulnerability and resilience. Additionally, Christine delights in diverse dining experiences in the San Gabriel Valley, enriching her appreciation for various cuisines.

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Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of the traveling therapist Podcast. I'm really excited today to have Christine Wong here with me. You guys know, I just love sharing all these different stories. And Christine, it's got a really interesting story. So Christine, I'd love for you to tell everybody how you went from just being like a typical therapist to a traveling therapist. I

love going to just random towns in California, especially the Central Coast. I'm primarily in LA and I, and I love being in the city, and I love being in the San Gabriel Valley and and loving my Chinese cuisines. But I think ultimately, I love being in California and being in, you know, anywhere from the desert to the ocean side and just being in that culture of, like, you know, slowing down and then really fast pace all together.

I love it. I mean, California is amazing for that, because you can get the the best of, like, three worlds, really, desert, mountains, ocean, you know, I could spend, like, probably years in California, just going to all the different places, because it's so beautiful. And I, I actually love that story, because a lot of times, you know, people will write me and they'll say, God, I can't, I could never become a traveling therapist. And I always try to, like, emphasize it. It's different for everybody. Like, you don't have to be a full on digital nomad like me that lives in Airbnbs. It just, you know, all over the world, you could totally just travel California or your state that you're in. You could be like, just a local aficionado of, you know, towns around where you live, you know. And that's still a traveling therapist, you know. So I just actually love that you're sharing that today. Here's

the thing, I'm living vicariously through, you Kim, I love, I love the life that you live. I love that you're kind of, you know, incorporating all this variety in your life. I think that's a beautiful thing, and it kind of stretches our mind and stretches our ability to, you know, really understand ourselves in different environments. So I think I live through, you know, watching you through like podcast, and also in all the, all the reel that you get to make, and, and guys, yeah, I love that.

I love hearing that, you know, much I hate making those reels. I mean, it's like, it's fun, but it's also like, you know, it's really awkward, like putting your life on social media, you know, it's, it's a whole other like thing, but, but thank you for saying that. I really appreciate it. So could you tell us, like, a little bit about your practice and how you structure, you know, traveling to different places in California. Do you work when you're when you're traveling to different places? Like, how does that work for you and your life?

I think primarily right now, I have more of an online private practice. I do do hybrid. I see a few clients in person. And for the most part, I think telehealth has been phenomenal in a sense, where not a lot of people like to drive in LA and so if they're in the comfort of homes having a telehealth session, that seems to work just as good. And I enjoy just being, you know, meeting different people, being in different towns, and just being part of the environment and feeling the presence of what it's like to have a clam chowder in Cambria, looking at the ocean and being, you know, in Indian world, and watching tennis and having amazing, you know, this the whole camaraderie of fanatics of tennis, right? And being in that space awesome. And, you know, I think I always think about my private practice. I think about my clients. I think about how I can improve the private practice, make sure that I incorporate new, you know, features to the practice. I think one new thing that I was able to, you know, incorporate is like a walk and talk therapy, which I was about to start, but there's a few clients that do really like it, and I like to kind of, you know, provide that for them, especially if the ones that live closer to me, and they seem to enjoy that walking and talking and being in that space of what it's like to get two things right, like be outdoors, but also be in a, in a in a confidential space of, let's talk about real life things are that are, you know, they're struggling with right now?

Yeah, oh, I love that so much. You just like, meet them in random places. Or do you start at the office and and go from the office and then come back to the office? I'm always, I love the topic of walk and talk, because it really is kind of controversial on Facebook. People be like, You can't do that. Client confidentiality, all that. And I'm with you. I'm like, Let's go for a walk like it's so much better than sitting in a stuffy office somewhere, in my opinion. You know, there's local

parks that are really secluded, which is nice, and ultimately, just getting on the same page right with the consent forms and making sure that, hey, if someone randomly says hi to us, right? What are we to do in that moment? Right? And I always make it a funny joke, and I said, you know, please, I'm going to go at your pace, so don't, don't start running a marathon, because it's going to be hard for me.

You know, that's so funny. Yeah, yeah. Oh, that's great. Yeah. Just for anybody listening. I get this question all the time, like in the insurance billing side of things that I do, like, how do you bill insurance for walk and talk? So this total side note, if, if you're leaving from the office and coming back to the office, you can bill Location Code 11. And if you're doing it just somewhere randomly, you can bill Location Code 99 on your claim form. Just like, total side note,

love it. We all need it. Yeah, because I get that question

a lot, like, how do I bill for this? But I love that. I really do. So, you know, I'm curious how you talk to your clients about, you know, I've got, especially people with hybrid practices, because, like, when I first went all telehealth, my clients were not on board with it. And then, you know, I tried to do a little hybrid thing in the beginning, but I was getting a lot of pushback, because they knew, if they knew they could see me in the office, they would like, wait until I was going to be in the office, you know. And eventually I had to, like, pull the plug and say, I'm not going to have an office anymore. But I'm just curious, like, how does that work? Do you have clients that will only do in office? Are they, like, on board with the fact that you might be in Cambria or somewhere, and then they'll just, you know, convert over to the hype to the telehealth instead. I just wonder how you manage that, or what you have found with clients, because I get that question a lot too. It's like, my clients don't want to be on video with me, you know. So I'd love to hear your thoughts on that, or how you've navigated that.

I think I've gotten really lucky. I think majority of my clients like telehealth, and the ones that do like the hybrid, they are okay with, you know, seeing me once a month or twice a month, and because they don't themselves, don't want to drive, and they might have this conflicted, over packed schedule of raising children and having to do the picks, pickups and drop offs, and that seems to work out. I don't know what the future will hold. I might completely transition, but it's, it's one of those things where I like to kind of keep things open so that they can make the choice themselves and see what fits best for them. Yeah.

So do you ever worry? Like, okay, like, I really want to go for three weeks down to Palm Springs and, you know, but I know I see this client in office every two weeks. Like, do you ever worry about that? Are you just like, hey, this is me. This is how I do it. And, you know, yeah, see me or don't see me, like, that kind of thing.

I think the thing, the difference of it all, is that when I do take these trips, I tend to like the three day trips a lot home and be home right away, right and and I it typically works out where it's a three day trip, whether it's like a Saturday, Sunday, Monday, or a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, just something where the week is still available for sessions. I try to make it so that it's available for my clients. And I think that's important for them, especially different levels and different needs. And I think over time that might change, I might take a more nomadic approach and be like, Hey, I'm in Iceland right now. I don't know, right? And

I'm going to be there for like, a month. So make it work. Yeah,

yeah. And I think, you know, when I, when I cross that bridge, I'm happy to to, you know, be, I think being upfront about it is important. I want to just always, you know, be on the same page with my clients and let them know that it's, it's maybe a personal self care month for myself or whatever that needs to be in seeing engaging with them and seeing how that would would be accepted, or that for them in their in their stage right now. And if it means, like, you know, having another therapist on deck to see if that could be, like, the buffer in between. Oh,

that's nice, yeah, just like, have somebody else see them if they need, need somebody, that's awesome. Yeah. So when you take the three day weekends, do you ever see clients? Or is it like, do you just like, block, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, off? Always. Like, how do you make that work? If you're like, No, I don't see clients.

I walk in so that I can really enjoy my myself. Like,

like me. It's like, well, let me just fit in two people in the morning. Yeah,

that by the time I get there on the first day, it's really, you're adjusting right? And so that's yeah, like in day is really when you're gonna get to live it up a little bit. Yes?

Yeah, no, I, I love that, yeah. I mean, I feel like if I was traveling just like three days, I would totally not see clients for that time. Yeah. That makes sense to be Yeah, yeah. So do you ever go out of the state, or is it more just staying kind of local, so you can just do these, these quick weekends, and then come right back. Is that pretty much how you manage it?

Yeah, that's that's been this past year a lot, especially just having the private practice, you know, in the past, of course, you know, going to different countries, and seeing the sites as a kind of done this, like Central Coast, and it's really made me feel like more appreciative of the state that I live in and and just seeing the new things that I've probably never even you know, thought of, thought to go, you know, and experience that in its full form. And I think that will continue to be the case for a little bit. Yeah,

I love that. So when you say you kind of miss home a lot, is it like kids and a partner and all that, or is it, you know, just, you just like your home a lot and you want to get back to it? I

think I just, I have a this deep, deep appreciation for this town that I live in and and just being part of the culture and I, and I, you know, I always joke with my friends like, you know, if I, if I drive a little bit too far, I'm always dreaming and thinking about dumplings. And dumplings are, like, kind of Chinese culture and all these things and, and I'm just like, where's the local boba shop? You know? Just, you know, yeah,

I love it. So really, your Your hometown is your heart. But anyway, so it's, it's good for you to come back to it. Me, my hometown. I'm like, whatever. Yeah, you know, I don't really have any Go ahead. Would you say sorry? It

just helps me to be grounded, to be in this that I'm in and and to feel like I can call a friend and see go to the local park that I like to walk in and just be in this like, state of, like, I'm grounded versus I'm I'm worried about navigating different areas and different, you know, directions and, yeah, yeah,

no, that makes perfect sense. One of the other episodes we had on here was about, like, vicarious trauma, and how, you know, just even traveling constantly like I do really disrupts a nervous system, and, you know, can definitely make me feel really discombobulated sometimes, you know. And recently, I even said to my boyfriend, I was like, I just need to stop for a little bit. I need to, like, settle down and just, like, get, like, like, you said, grounded again, just like, kind of, like, reestablish, like, some consistency for a bit, because I can tell my, my nervous system is a little out of whack, just like trying to get places, dealing with a new Airbnb each time and each each one has a different issue that's wrong with it. You know, just learning a new place, all of that is in a new city. So I totally get that. It makes perfect sense to me. Yeah.

I mean, I think even, like, I know that you follow the the thriving therapist group and and they're doing the Costa Rica retreats. And I'm, I'm fascinated by that, because I'm like, I would love to be part of something like that and really learn from amazing, you know, therapists all over the country, and just see how do their practice and how to they incorporate travel and and trainings and different things like that. So I love that you you're in. I always feel that you know anything that Kim's involved in, it's always pushing the box, pushing the law. Thank you. This is incredible.

Thank you so much. Yeah. I mean, if anybody listening doesn't know what we're talking about, Megan gunnel, one of my dearest best friends. She does conferences and retreats. She's got one coming up in Costa Rica this coming February, and it's going to be, I think they've got like 10 speakers, ces for each one. It's at El mangrove resort, lman group resort. I always say that wrong, right on the ocean there. It is gorgeous. But you learn so much, and then, like you're saying, you get to really, like, interact and make tons of friends. Like a lot of us, travel to each of these events together because, you know, we made bonds in other places together like that. Is so fun. I love it. And, you know, being flexible as a traveling therapist, I can just go stay there for a couple weeks. You know, it's amazing. Yeah, well, I want to just talk a little bit too about something else that you're doing, which I think is really cool. So you're, you're doing these trips, you're managing a hybrid practice, but you're also working on your dissertation, right?

And the last phases of my dissertation,

oh my gosh. Can we talk about that? Like, the time? Like, I would. I don't know anything about, like, PhDs and dissertations, but when I hear people say it, I'm like, Oh my gosh. I just don't even know. It feels like it must be so, so involved and just amazing for you to be going through this process. I'd love to talk about it, especially your topic, which I think is amazing.

Yeah, it's so I meet with my dissertation chair probably every other week, and we're final stages, and the topic is essentially self care, especially for the Chinese American communities. So what I'll do in this research is kind of under get an understanding of what it's like to be a Chinese immigrant, what it's like to kind of deal with filial piety, of kind of always respecting your elders, right? And and kind of how the Chinese immigrational journey coming into the US, you know, in the in the late 1800s to build a railroad and the transcontinental railroad, and understanding what that sacrifice looked like, and to see that theme in today, where there's a lot of corporate burnout, right? And there's a lot of buzz air and not understanding emotions and and maybe omitting emotions because we weren't taught emotions when we're younger. Yes, you know, American born, Chinese perspective and how to kind of bridge that gap of. Uh, learning different ways to have self care, have a lot of grace and compassion for yourself, and not allow that to be tied to performance, but it'll be a lot well, you know allowing that. You know that grace within yourself, that self acceptance and understanding that our values are our values, our values is not just an A plus, our values are more than that. Our values come down to what our relationship with ourself looks like, what our self esteem looks like, and and how we how we can build that up simultaneous. Yeah,

so important. Oh, my gosh. Heck, do you have some preliminary findings, or are you just like in the initial research stage and all of that. I'd love to hear what you find from all of this. Yeah,

going process, I'm still looking through a lot of the research and trying to bridge a lot of gaps and also recognize, you know, just these common themes. I think so much of the culture has, you know, through the research has been about this notion of respecting our elders. And at times, when we do that, we find that in our in our the immigrational journey, there's been a lot of things that have kind of went underneath the rug and just brushed underneath the rug and and it's hard to know exactly what happened and where, where our ancestors, you know, came from, because so much of that record is gone and and so little was spoken of it, and it's been, yeah, just to look for some research, especially with the Chinese American community. And I think that contributes to the theme of, you know, when, when things are hard and things are tragic and even shameful, it's hard to talk about them. And I think that goes hand in hand with this focus of grief and trauma, and how, because it's just so traumatic, and then, because there's just so much grief, it's best we don't talk about it, right, right? There's been so many findings of, you know, people looking in their history and saying, you know, I didn't know I had a brother, or I didn't know I had, you know, so and so was actually my uncle, you know? And, yeah, wow. Journey of of how so much needed to be protected and just so that they can try their best for the American dream, and also, just like the uncovering of so many people that did die building the railroads, that so many people died from that project and and so little was uncovered, in a sense, where, you know, who was my father in this or where was my grandfather, and whatever happened to them when they finally came to the US and came to California and and how did they come? How did they go from San Francisco to Los Angeles and and just all that journeying and, and I think that sometimes gets lost

absolutely. Yeah, I remember learning about it myself when I was a kid, and just the tragedy surrounding all of it, it just blew my mind then, and still continues to blow my mind. And I'm so glad you're doing research around it. I'm sure it's going to be super meaningful and helpful.

I take a lot of breaks in the research because I think it definitely tugs at my heartstrings every so often

that, oh my gosh, yeah,

I'm with it. I try to not get too performance about it. And you know, the pages will come along as they come along.

Mm, hmm, yeah. I love that. I love that. Just do it in on your own time, taking care of yourself along the way. Obviously you're researching on self care, so doing it slow and at your own pace and and and allowing yourself the grace to to process what you're even researching is amazing to me. Yeah,

thank you.

When you meet with your dissertation chair, or do you do that remotely? So is that something like a traveling therapist could probably be doing remotely if they wanted to. So

I She's based in Colorado, and so we're always talking and editors also in Denver, Colorado, and so it's just this, like zoom world, right, where we get to have these breakout sessions and talk about things and go deep on, how do we fill, fill the gaps to the research, and how do we kind of look for that specific keyword so that we can uncover more more, you know, studies and articles and things like that?

Yeah, so everybody listening, you could still pursue something like this, even if you're a traveling therapist. So do you have to go eventually? I mean, I don't know anything about the process, but I have heard that eventually you have to go, like, present it to a board of people. So I would imagine you have to, like, fly in for that, do that in front of everybody, I'm guessing, yeah, okay, along the lines,

like a capstone, and also the oral defense and just making sure that they just really need to know and grill you to see if you really read all those research articles so that you about,

gosh, that is amazing. I admire that so much. Yeah, on top of everything you're already doing, like writing a practice and trying to travel and do all of that too, it's really cool. Yeah, it's, it's,

I think it's sometimes it can feel very you know. Very dry the whole process. But I think as long as we stick to the value system internally, it's going to help us with, how do we go forward and keep going? Because there's been many times when I paused and I said, you know, I don't know if I can do this. I don't know if this was worth my time, you know, because it's been like a four or five year journey. But I think the reality of it is, I think about the contribution, because I know that this could benefit a lot of people, just to have that awareness of what it looks like and identify these themes that we don't talk about it so much in our community, and we need to, yeah, yes,

I love that. Thanks so much for sharing about it. And I'm sure if there's anybody listening that wants to connect or learn more about it, would it be? About it, would it be okay if they reached out to you and connected? Yeah, okay, that's great. So how do people find you if they want to connect with you?

You can find me through my Instagram. It's my my full name, Christine, K Wong, and you can certainly reach out and DM and you can start the conversation there. Love

that. Thank you. Yeah, that's great. So is there anything else we didn't talk about that you think would be helpful to anybody listening? I personally would love to know what is your favorite place in California to visit, because, you know, I'll probably be back there eventually. So I just love to hear, like, tips and and, you know, places that people love. Well, my

two favorite places at this time is probably Cambria, which is like the coastal town next to Napa. And it's, it's super calm and super relaxing, very just you see the beautiful ocean, and there's amazing wine and seafood, and just being in that space of like, meeting other people that are also just in the relaxation mode,

yeah, oh, I love that. Oh, I've been to Napa just briefly, but I've always thought I would love to come back to that area and spend some time there.

There's an incredible restaurant out there. It's called lens, and they make their fresh pies and fresh jams, and they're famous for their, I think it's called Oli berry jam, which is, Oh, amazing. It's like the first, the first time I ever had it. It was, like, most delicious thing ever.

What's it? Oli Berry? I don't know.

I'm like, a Blackberry and a blueberry mix, but it's really very

I love that. Oh my gosh, yum, yeah. I love I love California, so beautiful. And I went to Carmel by the sea one time. And I just love that area so much. I've never gotten to go back. We were going to go, but then it was like we were trying to book an Airbnb at the last minute. It was like the prices were astronomical, so we didn't go. But I love that little town. I you know, I was there for, I think, 24 hours one time, and I was always like, I want to come back here and spend time in this area. Just that, like coastal area over there, is so pretty.

It's just, it's a different vibe compared to, I feel like Southern California and how busy it can be, whereas that Central Coast is just, it's on another frequency. It's so nice. Oh,

I love that you're making me want to go, like, right now.

Yeah, I'll see you there in March.

Okay, I'm gonna have to remember that. Yeah, no, that. That's awesome. Who knows where we'll even be in March? You know, it's like, you just don't even know where the where my life is going to take me. We're in Williamsburg, Virginia, right now. My dad and stepmother had like, a health thing, and we're here, like, trying to figure out what to do with them, like assisted living or, you know what. So we're just all, like, taking shifts, sleeping here and just making sure they're okay, so that that's been interesting. But I'm also grateful to be able to just be here, you know, be able to, like, arrange my schedule to be here and help them out with this. So, yeah, you just never know where life's going to take

you. Yeah? And that's all you gotta we gotta enjoy every moment of it. Exactly.

Yeah, exactly. Well, Christine, thank you so much for being a guest. I hope you'll come back when the dissertation is done and tell us all your findings. Certainly will. Chinese Americans need this, you know, they need, they need this research. So I think it's super important, and I'm glad you're doing it. Yeah,

thank you, Kim. I appreciate it. You're

welcome, yeah. Well, thanks so much. And you guys reach out to Christine if you have questions about her research, or tips for California, I guess where she's staying. Follow her on Instagram. I if I'm not already, I think I already am, but I've got to make sure I am after I get off of here. But yeah, yeah, yes.

Thank you so much. You appreciate it. Bye.

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