Angela Farrar Small, MSW, LICSW, M.Div.
Seeing my clients holistically is important to me. I like to empower my clients to use their whole selves—body, mind, and spirit—in the process of healing. Understanding the social forces affecting clients is important as well. As a social worker and therapist, I see people as a mix of their social environments and their inner experiences. No matter how painful life can be or how fragile they feel, people have amazing resiliency and capacity for growth. For me, therapy honors the best of clients’ strengths and experiences, and builds upon them so they enjoy a more fulfilling life.
My emphasis is working with midlife adults and elders, but I work well with young adults too. I offer therapy for adults experiencing depression, anxiety, chronic illness, chronic pain, grief and loss, codependence, caregiver stress, life stage transitions (such as divorce or retirement), multicultural concerns, spirituality/religious concerns, body image problems, and concerns about relationship with food.
I learned about resiliency in my family. My single mother and I experienced financial hardship, discrimination, and the painful impact of my father’s alcoholism in my early childhood. However, my mother did not let those circumstances define us. Education, hard work, and the love of family and friends fueled our progress. My mother became a nurse and joined the Air Force, a big (mostly positive) change. Moving a lot made me adapt to new places and people quickly. As I grew up, I was the friend in high school and college that everyone felt comfortable confiding in. It was natural that I would go into a career of helping people.
I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology and my Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) in San Antonio, Texas. Partly because of my mother’s nursing career, and partly from my own interests, I went into medical social work. As an African-American woman serving a primarily Latino neighborhood in San Antonio, I found myself automatically practicing multicultural social work. I came to appreciate the many ways that people cope and get well.
My first job out of my MSW program was in hospice. Hospice patients often have philosophical questions and spiritual concerns about suffering and life’s meaning. I wanted to learn theology and spiritual care to better address the spiritual aspects of life and death. After moving to the Puget Sound area, I earned a Master’s degree in Divinity (M.Div) at Seattle University. I worked as a minister with a congregation of European-American elders for a few years, another multicultural experience for me. I grew a lot, but went back to my first love of counseling individuals and families impacted by illness.
Later, I decided to increase my knowledge and skills as a therapist while incorporating my previous experiences in the medical field and in ministry. I went back to school to earn a master's degree (M.S.) in Mind-Body Medicine. I benefited from my mind-body education by improving my own health and managing my weight and stress better.
Everything I learned in life and in school was tested when my husband died very suddenly. I went through a hard grieving process, but I also found my strength. Mind-body medicine, spiritual practices, my own therapist, and a loving support system helped me grieve in healthy ways and maintain wellness, despite the terrible loss. I feel more skilled as a therapist and prepared as a person.
I have a style that balances quiet compassion with active engagement. My clients know I’m listening to them, but also know that I’ll verbalize my curiosity, support, and perspective. I’ve been described as warm, caring, and a good teacher. Clients are free to be completely themselves, and I’ll be genuinely myself too. It’s such a privilege and a pleasure to join with clients to co-create their improved quality of life.
I blend several interventions in therapy, based on the client’s goals and preferred way of working. I use solution-focused therapy, motivational Interviewing, mindfulness-based therapies, guided imagery, spiritual development and spiritual direction, holistic health information, and stress management skills.