Get to know Ritchie Rubio, Ph.D. - Full-Time Faculty, Counseling Psychology Program

Click here to read about a conference presentation that Dr. Rubio gave recently.

Shayna Quilty (SQ): How did you first hear about the Wright Institute?
Ritchie Rubio (RR):
My family had been moving around in the US and internationally, and then we came back to the Bay Area. I was really keen on establishing myself as an academic more than a clinician because it’s harder to balance being a clinician with my family. A mutual friend suggested that I contact my close friend, Dr. Torrez, who was teaching at the Wright Institute. We were classmates in our doctoral program, along with Dr. Chen. Dr. Torrez let Milena [Esherick, PsyD] know I was interested in teaching at the Wright Institute. The Counseling Psychology program is in sync with my interests in multiculturalism, social justice, and wellness. I started teaching one class, and gradually became a core faculty member, and came on board full time in January 2017.

SQ: What keeps you engaged at the Wright Institute?
The diversity of experiences that I get to encounter here from faculty, staff, and students. I love the discussions I get to have with students who are involved in a variety of things. Many students come from, or are involved in, all kinds of professions. When we have discussions, it’s just amazing. We get to hear different paradigms and perspectives, and that keeps me engaged and keeps me on my toes. Another thing that keeps me engaged at the Wright Institute is witnessing how students grow in their appreciation of expressive arts interventions that I routinely integrate into the courses I teach. Finally, my colleagues are very nice and friendly. It truly is a family here.

SQ: Can you tell me about someone or something that motivated you to get involved with mental health work?
I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, even when I was a teenager, doing theater, puppetry, and art groups. Already in high school and university I felt like I belonged to the mental health field working specifically with infants, children, and youth. To me it’s less about intervention, and more about engaging conversations and getting involved in people’s lives and coming up with shared experiences that will help.

SQ: How did you decide to pursue the PhD in Clinical Psychology track? Why is it the best fit for you?
I knew I wanted to do clinical work and research. The way I view intervention and research, it’s a cycle. I have really immersed myself in three big aspects of psychology: research, teaching, and clinical work, because for me they are interrelated. I feel that it benefits students when an instructor is able to approach a topic from clinical experience while also having a deep understanding of the research that does or doesn’t support an approach. I present what the research says, what my lived clinical experience has taught me, and help students understand that they can decide what would be most valuable for them and their clients.

SQ: How would you compare your experience in the mental health field in the US with the experiences you had working in New Zealand and the Philippines?
My general orientation is multiculturalism so I’m constantly challenging and questioning the Western paradigms of psychology, and it’s important for me to look at how clients view themselves. For example, in New Zealand many people speak Māori, which includes a word for “family” that goes beyond the concept of biological relatives to include people who have been adopted as part of the family. So when I was doing therapy, I would have to clarify who was considered part of the family. With the LGBTQ population, for example, you hear about families of choice along with families of origin. In the Philippines, some interventions are based on storytelling. I found myself not doing therapy in an office, but in the field, like by the river for example. Also, you get to be in the person’s life once you have shared about yourself; self-disclosure is expected and necessary. In the US there are lots of ethical guidelines that limit self-disclosure, which makes the practice quite different.

SQ: Can you tell me about a challenge you’ve had to overcome to get to where you are professionally?
One challenge was figuring out how to strike a good balance between family and career. Within the first few weeks that I was dating my spouse we were already talking about family; it was important to both of us. We had to figure out who could stay home when we had a child. Of course many families use day care, but we wanted to make sure one of us could be at home. Given everything I know about childhood development, the formation of healthy attachments was really important to us so I decided to be a full-time dad for the first three years of our daughter’s life. That compromised a lot in my career, because that was right after graduation. That experience was enriching and fulfilling; I wouldn’t exchange it for anything career-wise. What was interesting to me was that when I returned to the workplace it was hard to get potential employers to understand why I had taken that “time off” immediately after graduation.

SQ: Tell me about a peak experience or high point you’ve had at the Wright Institute.
Being offered the full time faculty position was the high point for me. That was what I wanted all along, so it was very exciting for me when that became a reality!

SQ: If you could give one piece of advice to the students in the Counseling Psychology Program, what would it be?
Always be aware and accept your growing edge. Some clinicians reach a point where they become complacent about their competence and their abilities. For me, learning is a lifetime experience. Constantly seek supervision and explore how you can make yourself better. Always maintain some degree of professional self-doubt.

SQ: Yes, keep learning! Thank you for this advice, and for your time.

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.