I have always had an affinity for and curiosity about people’s life experiences and how they manage joys and challenges. Not surprisingly I now teach and research in the counseling field as well as provide psychotherapy to clients from diverse backgrounds.
Originally born in Baja California, Mexico, my first language is Spanish and I also attended school in Mexico through 4th grade. As a 1.5 generation immigrant, I have grown up integrating cultures. Although this has not always been an easy task, it is one that enriches my life and gives me a unique perspective into many different worlds.
After finishing high school in Santa Ana, California, I attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts for my undergraduate studies. Smith College is a small, private, liberal arts, women’s college. The culture shock I experienced initially was amazing and yet I very much enjoyed my time at Smith. I was the first in my family to go to college in the U.S. and I embraced the challenge wholeheartedly. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. Some of the most important lessons I learned at Smith College include expanding my worldview and learning to appreciate other’s worldviews, and the empowerment of women’s education.
For my doctoral studies I trained as a scientist-practitioner at the Counseling Psychology program at the University of Texas at Austin. In Austin I continuously sought to infuse issues of diversity in to my clinical, research, and teaching experiences. I completed my Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology in August 2002.
I returned to California to complete my APA-approved internship at the University of California Irvine’s Counseling Center. I have lived in this area since then. These days I welcome the joys and challenges of raising twin girls!
In my teaching I draw from constructivist, feminist, and multicultural theories. In other words, I meet students “where they are” and provide more or less support in my instruction as necessary. Also, I consistently integrate diversity issues into the curriculum. I make the material applicable and relevant to everyday situations and my teaching is experientially-based. I strongly believe teaching is a collaborative effort and that students play an active role in their learning. An aspect I truly appreciate about teaching is mentoring students. Graduate school can be an intense period of intellectual and personal pursuit that at times may be confusing and overwhelming. As a teacher I see this as a unique opportunity to assist students to achieve their full potential.
I have experience teaching both undergraduate and graduate studies. Currently I primarily teach Systems of Family Counseling, Beginning and Advanced Practicum, and Group: Process and Practice. I also greatly enjoy teaching the new section of Advanced Practicum with a Latina/o Counseling Emphasis, which is geared for trainees conducting counseling with Spanish-speaking and Latina/o clients. I look forward to further expanding my expertise in this area.
My primary research interests include Latino immigrant families, women’s issues, and multicultural issues in practice and teaching. I have several peer-review publications that address: acculturative stress in Mexican migrant farmwork college students; serial migration and undocumented Latina/o families; in-depth case study with a Mexican family; and family psychology of Mexican immigrants.
Further, I regularly present at numerous professional conferences including the American Counseling Association and the American Psychological Association. I serve as a reviewer for several professional journals, books, and conferences as well as a member of several dissertation committees within local Universities.
I am a licensed psychologist, bilingual and bicultural. I worked in community mental health for several years where I conducted family, group, and individual psychotherapy primarily with Latina/o clients. I have also conducted extensive individual and group psychotherapy, focusing on multicultural counseling, with college students in major universities in Texas and California. Additionally, I have experience in crisis intervention, assessment, and supervision of therapists in training.
Recent Peer-Reviewed Publications
Smart, R., Tsong, Y., Mejía, O. L., Hayashino, D., & Braaten, M. E. (2011). Therapists’ experiences treating Asian American women with eating disorders. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 42, 308-315. doi:10.1037/a0024179
Mejía, O. L., & McCarthy, C. (2010). Acculturative stress, depression, and anxiety in migrant farmwork college students of Mexican heritage. International Journal of Stress Management, 17, 1–20. doi:10.1037/a0018119
Cervantes, J. M., Mejía, O. L., & Guerrero, A. (2010). Serial migration and the assessment of extreme and unusual psychological hardship with undocumented Latina/o families. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 32, 275–291. doi: 10.1177/0739986310366286
Mejía, O. L. (2009). Struggling with research and practice with a Mexican American family: The case of Robert. In M. E. Gallardo & B. McNeill (Eds.), Intersections of multiple identities: A casebook of evidence-based practices with diverse populations (pp. 29-58). New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Cervantes, J., & Mejía, O. L. (2009). Family psychology of immigrant Mexican and Mexican American families. In J. Bray & M. Stanton (Eds.), The handbook of family psychology (pp. 668-683). Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.