The Trap Therapist team got an opportunity to sit down with Mercedes Samudio, LCSW a South Central LA native who is now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Mercedes has a Bachelor of Psychology from University of California – Los Angeles and a Master of Social Work from State University of Southern California. Read more about her below!
- Dylesia Barner, Founder of Trap Therapist: Tell me more about what you do professionally? (license(s), specialties, target populations, certifications, etc.)
Mercedes Samudio, Owner of Shame-Proof Parenting: I am licensed as a Clinical Social Worker in California, but refer to myself as a “parent coach,” because I work with parents to increase their role confidence and identify where shame is infiltrating the parent-child relationship and preventing connections. Parents are inundated with information about how to raise children, but struggle with making connections between that information and practical application. They often measure their performance as a parent by societal expectations instead of what’s happening in their family. And instead of creating a world where everyone is equally as responsible for child development as parents, we blame parents for the actions of their children. Parents who are too controlling in order to prevent society from calling them “free range,” are referred to as “helicopter.” I help parents make sense of all that, while also working with clinicians who treat parents so they don’t exacerbate the shame their clients already feel.
- DB: Where were you born and raised?
MS: South Central LA.
- DB: What were you like growing up?
MS: To avoid chaos and keep everyone else happy, I was a people pleaser, which manifested as me being scared, quiet, and an overachiever. Looking back now, I know that I was depressed due to growing up in a verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive environment. My step-grandmother raised me, because my biological father was in jail and my biological mother was a substance abuser.
- DB: What was growing up like?
MS: In my community, there were drugs, and drive-bys. I had older cousins in gangs, so they protected the family. My step-grandmother was very strict, but she said she did it because she loved me. That resulted in me growing up and associating love with pain and assuming that love that didn’t feel relentless wasn’t real. We also had a very poor school system, but I was a great student and was able to attend a medical magnet school and obtain a full-scholarship to UCLA.
- DB: What generational curses were present in your family that you had to break to get where you are today?
MS: Tough love, and enmeshment. I had to reconceptualize loyalty, because my family believed if you weren’t doing for the family, you weren’t about it. As I became increasingly successful, that became increasingly taxing, because I was one of few people who had “made it.”
- DB: What are three things from your upbringing that inspired you to become a psychotherapist and an entrepreneur?
MS: My whole childhood is why I do what I do. It inspired me to take AP Psychology in high school – because I wanted to understand myself and others. That led to my desire to heal myself, which ultimately led to my desire to heal others. Regarding entrepreneurship, I grew tired of having limitations and wanted to create my own wealth.
- DB: How does your practice reflect who you are as a clinician and the changes you would like to see like in your area of specialization?
MS: My practice reflects my hope to change the way we see parenting and raise children.
- DB: How does being from an urban, low-income area define you? How does it define your approach to treatment?
MS: It gives me an insight and empathy that people raised in other environments don’t have. I understand what it means to have your nails done and be on welfare, but struggle to be compliant with treatment. I’m able to incorporate cultural elements into sessions and view more systems and intricacies than others.
- DB: Who was your role model growing up and why?
MS: My focus as a child was more so on not getting in trouble or hurt than on who to look up to. At that time, I engaged in a lot of escapism, using Harry Potter, Batman, and comic books to flee the reality of my situation. When I got into high school though, I started to look up to fierce black women like Oprah, Beyonce, and Angela Bassett. I knew the way they represented in their respective fields was how I wanted to show up in the world. Now, as an adult, my role models are Beyonce and Michelle Obama.
- DB: What do you believe is the most common reason people from “the trap” stay stuck?
MS: Mindset mixed with a lack of opportunities and concern about how others view them. It’s hard to ask a child to disregard or transcend what an adult tells them, so if they hear “she’s going to be just like her mom” enough times, they’re likely to follow that path, whatever it may be.
- DB: Can you think of a “turning point” in your life that made you who you are today versus who you stereotypically should have become? What was it? And what personal decisions did you have to make to honor the grace it offered you?
MS: Getting to college was the best decision I made and served as a turning point for me. Had I not gone, I probably would’ve become a teen mom, got on drugs, etc. The moment I stepped on the campus of UCLA as a student, opportunities for advancement began to show up and there was no way I was going to become a stereotype.
- DB: What support and/or resources did you use to change the trajectory of your life?
MS: College! What I tell any teen I talk to is “JUST GET TO COLLEGE!”
- DB: What is the most significant professional accomplishment you’ve made to date?
MS: Choosing to heal. For me, that process included going to therapy, learning about myself, overcoming survivor guilt, and accepting that I deserved healing. I decided that I could be healthy and that others could too, which ultimately paved the way for my professional accomplishments.
- DB: If you had to sum your childhood up by picking five nostalgia-inducing people, places, or things (can include songs, television shows, movies, etc.), who/where/what would you pick and why?
MS: The ice cream man! We’d get him to stop and then say we didn’t want anything. We got a kick out of that! Also, the community pool and TV shows like Fresh Prince, Martin, and Living Single. Movies like Friday also remind me of childhood, because I remember all the words and jokes. And the new show, Insecure, because the areas on the show are all from back home.
- DB: What is something you still do that can be explained by where you were born/raised?
MS: California banned plastic bags, so when I fly someplace and purchase something, I store them in my luggage, fly them all the way back home, and keep them under my cabinet like we did when I was growing up.
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