Get to know Ulash Thakore-Dunlap, LMFT - Full-Time Faculty, Counseling Psychology Program

See Ulash's professional biography here.

Shayna Quilty (SQ): I’m curious how you first heard about the Wright Institute, and what keeps you invested?
Ulash Thakore-Dunlap (UTD):
I first heard about the Wright Institute when I was lobbying on capitol hill representing the Asian American Psychological Association. I was sitting at a table with representatives from California and sitting next to me was Dr. Gilbert Newman, Dean of the Clinical Psychology program at the Wright Institute. Dr. Newman put me in touch with [the Director of the Counseling Psychology Program,] Dr. Milena Esherick, when I asked if there were opportunities for me to teach at the Wright.

What keeps me invested is the intimate connection of our faculty. The support of the administration and the faculty allows me to do really good work with the wonderful students.

SQ: I read your bio on the Wright Institute website and saw that you also maintain a private practice. Do you identify more as a therapist or as an instructor?
Both. I came into this field as a school counselor and a business and economics teacher. I went back to school to get away from that, and then began working in community mental health in a school. I can’t take that instructor part away from me.

I had a professor who often talked about the importance of “giving psychology away.” That phrase really stuck with me, and I’m always looking for ways that I can take his advice and share the knowledge that I’ve gained. I give psychology away in my clinical work and teaching.

SQ: What drives your interest in your other work with children and adolescents?
When I was teaching in London, so much of the behavioral and social-emotional development was getting in the way of students’ academic learning. I was interested in psychology and counseling, but I didn’t have the option to pursue this in England, so I took the opportunity to revamp myself when I came to America.
I wanted to keep working with adolescents, because that’s my passion. I really like the rawness of adolescents; they’re so honest, and that’s really hard for some people, but I find it authentic.

SQ: How did you decide which licensure track to pursue? Why is it the best fit for you?
My track was school counseling, but in my first year of practicum I realized that school counseling is really academic. I added on the MFT so I can do case management, advocacy, therapy, and systems work. I feel like my MFT has served me really well in California because I get to do one-on-one therapy, groups, advocacy, and teaching.

SQ: Can you tell me about a challenge you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are professionally?
I think the biggest challenge I faced as an immigrant is the lack of mentoring around how to build a community from scratch. You have to create your own village. It took me a good five years to create that community of colleagues outside of my graduation class. I identify as Asian American, and when I was in my program I didn’t have a group, so I’ve created a community nationally. That takes time and initiative.

SQ: What’s your favorite course to teach at the Wright Institute, and what do you love about it?
I have many favorite courses, but I really love Common Therapeutic Factors. I love it because I’m practice-based so I can incorporate my clinical experience to teach things like how to build rapport, what is an open vs. closed question, and how to sit in the room in a culturally sensitive way. I love it because it’s really practical.

SQ: What has been your most memorable moment at the Wright Institute?
I love it when I get to have a one-on-one connection with the students after the graduation ceremony. They’re with their loved ones - their families, their friends, their children - and for me that puts it all into place. We’ve launched them, and get to see the smiles on their faces as they enjoy this huge accomplishment they’ve achieved. That always helps me get grounded as the new students come in.

SQ: That’s such a beautiful sentiment! Thank you for sharing all of this with me.

Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute’s Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program.
Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute’s Master of Counseling Psychology program.