Alumni Spotlight: Eric Tian Qi Lindberg, Class of 2017

"It's a mission of mine to raise the visibility of biracial and multicultural people in the profession," says Eric Tian Qi Lindberg. "What better way to advertise my mixed heritage and mixed identity than my name?"

A lot has happened for Lindberg since he graduated from the Wright Institute Counseling Psychology Program. He has become a father, welcoming his first son, Oliver, last summer. He is gaining experience as a clinician in private practice, growing his client base each month. Since 2019, Lindberg has held the position of field placement advisor in the Counseling Psychology Program, working with fellow Wright Institute alum Stuart Lee to guide students in their practicum experience.

Before he delved into a career in psychology, Lindberg worked as a teacher and as a job counselor for high school students. He took environmental classes at Merritt College, and earned a certificate in environmental management and technology, as well as one in green building. "At the time, I had the desire to do something to 'save the world.' I wasn't sure what that looked like, but I knew I had to try," says Lindberg. After losing focus in the green building industry, Lindberg began to rethink his options and began to consider the prospect of becoming a college counselor.

"Things changed after my mom got sick," says Lindberg, who lost his mother to cancer in 2014. "In my grieving process, I felt that she wouldn't want me to stand still in my life just because I lost her." After some time, Lindberg began looking into counseling programs. "It clicked for me that the best way to help people would be on a deeper level than just as an academic counselor."

While he explored several graduate programs in psychology around the Bay Area, the Wright Institute stood out after Lindberg visited the campus. "When I walked in, it sort of felt like Hogwarts!" he laughs. "It had a more homey, welcoming atmosphere than any of the other places I had seen."

Lindberg quickly settled in and found a home in the Program. "While I was a student, I felt like my professors were my heroes," he says glowingly. "To me, they were the model of everything that was possible in the mental health field. It is exciting every day that I get to call my heroes my colleagues now."

When it came time to apply to practicum, Lindberg thought he was 'done with schools' after spending so much time working in a school setting in his previous career. "At the time, my vision of being a therapist was just to work with adults in a clinical setting," he recalls, "but when it came time to be matched up with sites, I didn't get an opportunity at my top choices."

Lindberg was then placed at Albany High School, working with high school students once again. It ended up being a greatly rewarding experience. "That's one of the pieces of advice I aim to echo in my interactions with students," says Lindberg. "Even if you think you won't like something, it doesn't hurt to put in an application. It might be worth trying out, and you might even love it."

After graduating in 2017, Lindberg worked at Stars Community Services in San Leandro, a community mental health organization that operates across California. While he was there, Lindberg learned about the need for self care to be taken seriously. "After meeting my most acute clients, it finally clicked that my professors were right, and I needed to take self care seriously in order to avoid burnout early in my career," he recalls. "Instead of quitting after six weeks, I made it to 18 months before changing my clinical focus."

Earlier this year, Lindberg sat on a panel for the first-year course Multicultural Awareness and Sensitivity, and offered to explain his naming convention. "In that moment, I reflected on the lack of connection to my Asian heritage, an absence that I've felt for half my life," he says. "After that panel, I kept thinking back on how I'd lost my mother, and wanting to feel closer to her. I knew it was time to find a way to reclaim my Asian heritage."

In April, Lindberg assumed his Chinese name, and now professionally goes by Eric Tian Qi Lindberg. "The name 'Tian Qi' was originally given to me by my mother in an off the cuff discussion many years ago," he says. "There are many different interpretations of the literal meaning, including 'celestial' or 'thoughtful'. To me, the meaning of having that name is much deeper."

In addition to the personal impact that assuming the name has, he is also aware of the positive ways it can impact the students he works with. "Claiming my name is in itself an action that can be inclusive of biracial and multicultural students," notes Lindberg. "I've already heard feedback from students who have said they feel seen and heard through that action."

As a new father, Lindberg has limited time on his hands and has to be more conscious than ever about how he spends it. "I'm constantly finding ways to restructure my time. The older I get, the more the phrase 'time is money' applies to me," he says. "As I have less time to do my hobbies, the more and more special that time becomes."

Chief among those hobbies is drumming, which has been a major part of Lindberg's life since he was in middle school. "Every time in my life that I'm not drumming, I feel like something is missing." In some ways, drumming can represent the ways different skills in therapy can be implemented. "You can rearrange drum sets in countless ways, using whatever tools you need at the time. I'm constantly switching new pieces and techniques in and out," says Lindberg, "but if you don't understand the tempo or the context, it doesn't matter what you have in front of you. The same is true when working with clients. You can learn every possible approach, but nothing is more important than understanding your client within their unique context."

Lindberg's position as the Counseling Psychology Program's Field Placement Advisor has him working closely with fellow Wright Institute alum Stuart Lee, the Program's field placement director. "When Stuart and I first met [while I was applying to the Program], we both discovered that we had many similarities," says Lindberg. "We grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same high school, chose psychology as a second or third career - our fathers even worked for the same company for decades. It's great to be able to continue to work with him every day and discover even more connections."

"My being in this position feels like I'm coming full circle," says Lindberg of the field placement job. "I initially wanted to be a college counselor before I became a therapist. Now, in some ways, I'm both." Lindberg's success in the role can be partly attributed to his closeness to the students' experiences, as he graduated from the same program they're working through, just a few years ago.

"Sometimes, when I'm advising students, I feel like I'm giving myself advice," he says. "Like them, I'm still early in my career, but I know I have all the tools I'll need for the future."

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