Leah Brew, Ph.D.
Professor, Department Chair
Dr. Leah Brew (she/her/hers) is currently Chair and Professor in the Department of Counseling. Her primary interests have been related to biofeedback, basic counseling skills, supervision, law and ethics, cultural sensitivity, and social justice issues.
My positionality and demographics are that I am a multi-racial, cis-gender, straight woman who is married to a straight, cis-gender, Colombian man, and we have one child, Sophie. My mother was Japanese (she passed in 1991), and my father is an Air Force Veteran who is White-American with most of his heritage coming from Eastern and Northern Europe. We moved/emigrated from Okinawa, Japan to Texas when I was one year old. I have experienced racism throughout my life, and this forged the path I am on today.
In Texas, kids bullied me in elementary school. As an adult, I frequently heard the question, “what are you?” I was prohibited from being seated in some restaurants or trying on clothes in some clothing stores. I had no choice but to understand myself as a racial being, and I was ashamed of my Japanese heritage. When I learned about culture in grad school, I finally had words to put to my experience. This was the impetus for my exploration about culture, educating myself about my biracial identity, and learning about cultural competence as a clinician. In 2020, videos and increasing news releases about the murders of Black folx by police and the amplification of the Black Lives Matter movement accelerated my growth. I was exposed to more resources to learn about the historical and insidious effects of racism. These were the primary factors in my seeking to understand diversity, oppression, and social justice for all marginalized groups.
Another important experience in my life was having the privilege of cat-sitting for a neighbor who would travel to conferences as part of his doctoral program; I learned about higher education and what a doctorate was from him. I did not know anything about college since neither of my parents attended a university. Learning about higher education through my neighbor opened a door I may not have seen otherwise. That same year, I had a teacher, Mr. Bratcher, who saw my potential rather than how I was performing in school, which was poorly due to low self-esteem and bullying. His high expectations helped me to see that I was smarter than I believed. He also required me to read a self-help book, and that book helped me understand that I was not alone in my suffering. After reading that book, I vowed to help others.
I also had frequent headaches as a child because of my experiences with racism and other challenges in my life (e.g., avoidant attachment style). My headaches continued until I attended graduate school, where I learned about the mind-body connection and how biofeedback could be used to reduce stress. I was required to participate in biofeedback treatment as part of my training, which eliminated my stress-related headaches. I then became a biofeedback therapist to help pay for school while seeking my doctorate.
These experiences set my path of wanting to seek a doctorate so I could help others through writing books, doing therapy, and teaching. I wanted to heal young people who struggled with racism, bullying, and low self-esteem. Helping others through teaching and writing is precisely what counseling professors do. So, I am grateful to be in this meaningful profession and hope that our graduate program can change lives just as my graduate experience changed mine. I am now proud of my Japanese heritage.
I usually teach the same courses throughout the year. I regularly teach our COUN 511A Pre-Practicum course, where students learn the basic skills of building a strong therapeutic relationship with clients, primarily through empathy. I also teach COUN 528 Group Process and Practice, where students learn about themselves as group members and get to “try on” being a group counseling leader. I commonly teach COUN 523 Counseling & Culture, where students learn about counternarratives in history to understand how our country was founded on racist ideals. Students also learn about their own cultures, various cultural groups, and how to view clients through a cultural lens, all in an effort to be more culturally competent counselors. I teach COUN 526 Professional, Legal, and Ethical Issues in Counseling, where students learn to navigate ethical, moral, and legal decision-making.
Engaging in service activities seems to be part of my make-up. Being socialized as a woman from a collectivistic frame and being raised to always be responsible for others coalesce to push me into inadvertently doing a lot of service work. I see work that needs to be done, and I do it. Consequently, I have been Department Chair and the CACREP Accreditation Liaison since 2008. I will highlight a few other activities that are important to me.
When I moved to California for this position at CSUF, there was no counselor licensure in the state. I was quickly recruited to work with a group of professionals to get the LPCC. After seven years, three bills, and lots of communication with legislators and the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS), the Governor signed legislation in 2009. I am now licensed in California as LPCC #45. Subsequently, I was appointed by the Governor to be the LPCC representative of the BBS and remained in that position for eight years. During that time, I had the opportunity to adjudicate cases, help develop legislation (with a large community of stakeholders), and take positions on legislation that others wrote that affect LPCCs, LMFTs, LCSWs, and LEPs.
I have had service roles within professional organizations, such as serving in the role of President of the Western Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (WACES) and of the California Association for LPCCs (CALPCC). I had a small private practice for a few years when I first was awarded my LPCC. I currently participate in many different service activities within the University, most often to improve diversity awareness for our campus community.
Most of my scholarly work was completed before I became Department Chair. I have published books, book chapters, and journal articles in my areas of interest: counseling skills, supervision, law and ethics, and cultural issues. My current scholarly interest is focused on anti-racist practices, and right now, I am studying daily to increase my cultural competence. I am reading books and articles, watching movies and documentaries, and listening to podcasts to educate myself about diverse groups and how to use my privilege to be a better advocate for others. I have plans to publish again once I retreat from some of my service responsibilities.