Tia Khachitphet, MSW ’15, is making a difference with her passion for helping youth when they are most vulnerable. She grew up in a mental health-conscious household, where her mother worked as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and her sister is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Tia’s interest in mental health was sparked when she learned her cousin, who had seemed to be on a path for success, had gotten into legal trouble. She became curious about the influences someone encounters, which leads them to make the choices of committing a crime. Tia learned how someone’s life can be drastically affected by an adverse decision, which motivated her to get involved.
Tia earned undergraduate degrees in both psychology and criminology while working with juveniles and the district attorney as an intern. After earning her master’s degree from the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work, she furthered her experience by working in a crisis department followed by an outpatient clinic, but she knew her talents could be more effective elsewhere.
That opportunity came in 2017 when Tia began working at a school-based mental health clinic. Here she effectively treats youth in her community. She primarily works with at-risk high schoolers, although she sees some younger children during the summer. She expressed how perfect his job is for her, as she works with a great team who enable her to intervene with youth when they are most prone to making detrimental life decisions.
“It's amazing to see some of the things they are able to process [through EMDR] and get out of it,” Tia said. “They are able to realize things they need to do all on their own to help with certain situations which makes them more likely to take ownership and empowers them to make changes on their own.”
Tia is proud of her registered therapy dog: Baylor. She has noticed that Baylor’s presence has been helpful while working with her clients, helping them relax and feel more comfortable. Tia said Baylor will be published in a 2020 calendar in recognition of his service in mental health.
Tia uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, solution-focused therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in her practice. She is really impressed with EMDR and proud of how effective she has been using the treatment with her clients.
“It's amazing to see some of the things they are able to process and get out of it,” Tia said. “They are able to realize things they need to do all on their own to help with certain situations which makes them more likely to take ownership and empowers them to make changes on their own.”
Tia loves that her agency is school-based, enabling her clients to easily access her services. The population she works with often had difficulties with transportation as mental health is often not their top priority. Even with the location, she still encounters obstacles ranging from the clients’ schedules, to not enough time to complete her required paperwork. However, Tia enjoys the impact she has on her clients and looks forward to continuing her service.