Spotlight on Staff – Naomi Drexler
AHP clinician Naomi Drexler always knew she would become a therapist. Therapy was the “fabric of her world” from the very beginning. Not only were her mother and other family members therapists, but also her family was a place where feelings were ever present. Within the cocoon of her family and the town of Berkeley, Drexler learned to develop a language of emotions for herself and other people around her.
Drexler also knew she had a natural capacity for listening to others, and, further, felt comfortable offering them her attention. She recognized that she would be a part of the therapy world in some capacity, but she wanted to explore other possibilities—political philosophy and English literature at Oberlin College—before making a decision about her career path. Drexler returned to the Bay Area as the Executive Assistant to the Budget Director in the San Francisco Mayor’s office, supporting staff and working on public policy and social justice issues.
After two years with the Mayor’s office, however, Drexler, who attended budget meetings at which community-based organizations discussed funding and services, realized that she wanted to be on the other side of the table. She wanted to a job where she could directly serve the communities about which she was passionate.
Immediately Drexler volunteered at La Casa de las Madres, where she facilitated an informal arts group for children living in the emergency domestic violence shelter with their mothers. Drexler also facilitated an expressive arts group at Drawbridge, a program for children living in supportive housing with their mothers who were in substance abuse recovery. These experiences cemented her desire to move into social work and to pursue therapy as a profession. Drexler was accepted into the clinical social work program at Smith College, and since she hoped to work with marginalized populations, she committed herself to developing her capacity to think critically about social justice issues.
“I really . . . learned about trauma and how schools can function as therapeutic facilities,” Drexler said of her first graduate school internship at an elementary school. Luckily for AHP, Drexler’s second year internship was at the AHP Services Center on Market Street. Drexler fell in love with AHP—the kind of clients she saw, the work she was guided toward—and realized that the agency was a unique place. She explained that AHP is “filled with people with incredible hearts,” people who come together for the clients, people who value and consider the multiple facets of their clients’ lives. “Every person who works at AHP is conscientious about the work they produce—people care here and want to support their clients as much as possible.” And the amazing thing, Drexler said, is just how much healing is packed into just 20 weeks, the typical course of therapy that AHP offers clients. “It’s hard to believe that you can make a difference in such a short amount of time—but you can!” Speaking as someone looking at AHP with fresh eyes, Drexler urged AHP frontline staff to remember that as community mental health clinicians, they, and their charges, the clinical interns, are making a big difference.