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Sumathy Applewhite, LMSW
I was born and raised in the San Jose, California. My father is the youngest of 4, ethnically South East Indian (from a small town called Tamil Nadu now Chennai) but born and raised in small village called Slim River, Malaysia. My mother is the eldest of 3 and born in San Jose, CA to an Irish father and a German mother. Growing up my parents owned a delivery service called Ladybug Messenger Service.
I am multiracial. I am never recognized as Indian, German or Irish. In childhood, this created confusion with my own racial and ethnic identity, and I struggled to find an ethnic group that considered me part of them and vice versa. In my formative years, this often left me confused and hurt however as I have grown, it has allowed me to explore my identity through creativity (fashion, language and other forms of expression). In adulthood, it has allowed me to be exactly who I am without racial/ethnic social expectations.
Upon high school graduation, I wanted to set a new identity for myself without expectation and create my own story so I decided to move to the Midwest. I attended the University of Kansas and earned a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Psychology in 2004.
I attended the Columbia School of Social Work and earned my Master of Science Degree in Social Work in 2008.
I’ve known that I’ve wanted to be a therapist since high school. I wanted to be what I didn’t have as a multiracial, only child, growing up with parents who abused drugs and alcohol on a daily basis and would often get violent with each other. I have always wanted to be someone that could support others in their journey and struggles with racial and sexual identity and who they are without the labels, which would have been priceless for me during my journey and struggles with the same.
I’ve worked with disenfranchised communities my entire professional career. I have worked in the welfare system, the prison system (Rikers Island), charter school systems (Achievement First Charter School Network, Great Oaks Charter School Network, and Uncommon Charter School Network) as part of administration and as a School Social Worker. I ran a College Access Program for over 600 students at William Cullen Bryant high school called GEAR UP as an employee of St. John’s University whom the grant was awarded to. I currently work exclusively with the LGBTQIA+ community as a care manager and counselor to individuals 50 years of age and older through an organization called SAGE, dedicated solely to LGBTQIA+ justice, care and advocacy.
I believe Black people deserve therapy. I could list the myriad historic and current barriers to access to basic human rights for Black people in America; but we know them. Therapy and mental health is an ambivalent topic in black communities. The stigma of therapy in any cultures and communities must end. Engaging in therapy is committing to changing your relationships (with yourself and others). It affects every aspect of who we are. Every human being deserves the right to heal. On a separate and personal note, my chosen family is Black: my spouse and children are Black. Equity and access to opportunity for my kids is more important to me than anything else on this earth. They must know that regardless of the color of their skin, they deserve to take care of their mind, body and spirit as it is integral to a happy, productive and a satisfying life.
I have experienced sexism far more than racism because I’m light skinned with freckles, and no one at face value knows what race/ethnicity I am. They do know almost immediately however, that I am an ambitious female with an exceptional education and nothing is scarier to people/systems that only know how to function with women and/or people of color at the bottom.
My approach is foundationally Psychodynamic. However, depending on the needs of the client, my approach can extend to Family Systems Therapy, Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Therapy.
My clients have expressed that their sessions with me leave them feeling cathartic and as feeling a real human connection with someone who cares about their well-being. I take a genuine interest in every individual that I work with as human beings and not just as a “client”. I work very hard to ensure that therapy feels authentic with a natural and productive flow.
I’m obsessed with 90 day fiancé- all franchises. I also participated in musical theatre from childhood into college.