The Arise Podcast

Leticia Ochoa Adams on how Faith and Therapy can work together in Healing

Episode Summary

Leticia Ochoa Adams, Hispanic speaker and writer, talks about reconciling the tension between having faith and going to therapy and how both work together in the process of healing.

Episode Notes

Leticia Ochoa Adams is a wife, mother, grandmother and loves her family’s three pit bulls. She is a born-and-raised Texan. She is Hispanic, Catholic, Whole Life, anti-racist and is dedicated to helping people make space in their lives for their own grief or for the grief of those they love. She speaks and writes on parenting, her Catholic faith, learning how to process childhood trauma and suicide loss.

Connect with Leticia or hire her Email her at Follow her on Instagram  Or on facebook

This episode was recorded the day after the presidential inauguration and Danielle checks in with Leticia about how she is feeling regarding the transition of power.

Leticia said she feels like we’re in the aftermath of a tornado. Having grown up in Texas she is familiar with the terror of tornados—you get a warning the storm is coming and then you don’t know if it will actually hit. Then when it does hit it leaves a path of destruction. While there is relief when the tornado is over, there is so much work to do in the wake of its destruction. That is how she feels about the presidential inauguration. She is happy and feels a sense of relief at the departure of President Trump and yet she knows that the issues are still present but at least “you don’t have the most powerful person in the country instigating those issues further.”

Danielle says it was a four year long tornado.

Leticia said for her people especially, Hispanics, there is a lot of destruction left behind in their community in the wake of Trump’s presidency. She has hope because, “I know us and I know that at the end of the day we’re going to figure out a way to keep it going.”

Maggie said Leticia’s image of the tornado feels so true and it acknowledges the complexity of this moment- the sense of relief the storm is over (Trump is gone) AND the work ahead in the wake of the destruction (disrupting systems). Maggie asks Leticia, what does it look like to tend to ourselves right now?

Holding two conflicting feelings at the same time is a familiar feeling to Leticia growing up as a Hispanic girl in Texas. Add to her own childhood trauma, three years ago on March 8th, her oldest son Anthony died by suicide. It tore everything in her life down — especially her Catholic faith and her belief in God.  Leticia said it was the 8 years of therapy before hand that set her up to be in a place where she was able to withstand this huge loss. She believes the way forward for us as a collective right now is to take a deep breathe and begin doing internal work, internal healing.

“What Trump did put a giant spotlight on all these unhealed places in our communities.” Leticia said maybe we have been lulled into comfort by Amazon prime, Netflix and Uber eats… so that we no longer remembered these wounds. But now, Leticia says, is the call to remember and have a collective “come to Jesus moment.”

Danielle feels caught: Even though we have had this transfer of power, these unhealed spaces in our communities are still open wounds. She used the analogy of the change in shift of doctors at the ER; The tired, burned out doctor who was actually causing harm is replaced by a more capable and resourced doctor, but all the patients still have open wounds. She describes is like taking a band aid off and finding the wound has gangrene. “I was so used the smell but now I have to look at it.”

As a therapist Danielle fully believes what Leticia claim that “stories will lead us.” She asks Leticia to talk about faith and therapy working together.

Leticia believes the path to heaven is a path of healing. She says Jesus didn’t come so that He could give us a little book of rules of dos and don’ts; He came because God created us to love us and part of loving someone is helping them be their best selves. We collect so many tiny paper cuts of hurts throughout our lives that bring us to a space of wounded-ness. God wants to reach into those places and heal us.

Leticia says she tells people in the Catholic faith, “You can’t just pray a rosary and then suddenly everything will be fine… God is not a magician, He is the creator of the universe.” And so there is space for us even with our faith to go to therapy and look at each of those paper cuts.

The thing Leticia loves most about her therapist is that she takes out a giant white board and will color code her wounds. They will dig through her story in order to see how everything is connected and how things continue to play out in areas of her life (her past showing up in her present). Instead of being triggered and freaking out, she can actually be present in the moment and is able to figure out that place of wounding and understanding where they come from.

Because of therapy Leticia has been able to accept the things she did wrong as a mother without taking the blame for her son’s suicide. She said this is what white people need to do— acknowledge the things they did wrong without taking the responsibility of being a KKK member. Leticia says we know that white supremacy presents itself differently in this day and age but this is the way forward. The healing requires space to know what your wounds are and to take responsibility for the things you are responsible for without taking the blame for things you aren’t necessarily responsible for. In her case she says “I am responsible for the ways I failed to be a great mother, coming from a place of being human, but not taking responsibility for my son’s suicide.”

There is a tension faith and therapy and Leticia thinks it comes from an idea that suffering in our life is somehow an indication that you’re not grateful to God. There is conflicting messages: “You’re everything and you’re nothing.” The heart of it comes down to: God loves us more than we think He does and He created us because He felt like each of us needed to be in the world. There is specificity and uniqueness in our individual stories and purpose in the world. She said suffering comes from freewill, both our own free will and others. It is a matter of God loving us so much that He allows us to have choices. And one of those choices, Leticia says, it choosing to go to therapy and working on healing our wounds.

Leticia comes from a long line of Hispanic women who don’t allow others to complain and who stuff their own feelings down not expressing them; They’ve never been given space to honor their feelings. As a mother and grandmother she has worked to change that, to allow space for children and grandchildren to processing feelings, something she has learned through therapy. Therapy helps you to heal your generational line. Sometimes people think going to church and making your kids go to church is how you heal those generation lines, sometimes it’s just by letting people learn to have feelings.

Danielle names the misnomer that if you have feelings then you’re not thinking. And if you’re feeling you can still think your way through them. In the faith tradition Danielle grew up in, white evangelical christianity, they pulled apart the mind from feelings. The message she told herself as a result is: “I’m too emotional. I’m not thinking.” She was not taught to have an accurate picture at how to integrate her feelings and thoughts. Danielle found herself asking, “What does the Bible say about being a person? If I truly believe we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and we were made with emotions, why are those not wonderful?”

Danielle says that dismantling white supremacy is asking a white person to be embodied.

Leticia adds, “Yes! Come back to your body! God did not make you a being that thinks I am less than. Something else did that to you.”

Leticia been reading about the history of this country and the history of colonialism and she is pondering what people would have to be like to live in those times. On both sides of her family, her great-grandmothers were indigenous (one from Texas and one from New Mexico). The family story goes that her great-grandfather won her great-grandmother (from Texas) in a poker tournament. Her family did not see what that meant in the larger historical context—Her great-grandfather was Spanish and she was an indigenous 13 or 14 year old child. It got her thinking, “What did our grandmothers endure?!” While also asking, “what was it like to be the kind of person who thinks it cool to win their wife in a poker tournament?” When she broadens her questions from her specific family story to the larger collective narrative she asks, “What was is like for the white people who witnessed lynchings?” She believes they had to dehumanize themselves to be the kind of people who would check their children out of school to watch something so horrific happen to another human being. In the story of mass enslavement she thinks about the enslavers and wonders how much dehumanizing had to go into holding someone hostage like that? And bringing it to modern times of serval killers and mass shooters—they dehumanize others and themselves to commit the kind of acts that they do.

Leticia says, to be whole again would mean for those people [white people] to come back to themselves and to remember the God that they are created in the image of does not stomach that kind of behavior. She says if her great-grandmother’s trauma reaches her generationally, then the collective narrative and history reaches the white people who have come from a stories of enslavement, lynchings and other forms of oppression and colonialism. It has to be healed. And it first it has to be remembered.

It is a return to wholeness through remembering:
First is the call to remember.
Second is the invitation to return to ourselves, to be embodied again.
Lastly we need to accept our part without taking the blame by choosing to look at the wounds and not look away.
This is the pathway to be whole again.

Leticia recalls the story of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Everyone was worried because he was dead many days and was already stinking. But she says this is the same call for us today—for white people and all people: we have come out of the tomb, away from the trauma, torture and dehumanizing of ourselves and each others. This, Leticia says, is gift of this moment to do that.

Danielle adds that we can’t do it alone.

We must bear our own cost. White people can not give People of Color the “task” to educate and inform because there is an element of dehumanization of that with echoes of enslavement.

Leticia says this is where stories come in: we get to tell them honestly and vulnerably. She remarked on Amanda Gorman’s poem read at the inauguration—it was not edited by White comfort, she spoke her words. “That is how we [POC] show up in spaces; where we get so say our words unedited and then we get leave.” It’s saying, "here’s my story, you can have a conversation. I’m out.” She believes this idea of having others do things for them comes from the White enslavers who always have everything done for them by slaves. We can not expect People of Color to educate white people anymore. None of us have to make our stories more comfortable, we just get to tell them.

Danielle says that stories actually live on, they aren’t stagnant. There’s redemption that comes from telling them and also sometimes more harm. But the invitation is to have space to tell our stories. And for white folks to build the muscle of sitting in the discomfort.

Leticia says this is where therapy comes in for white people—“you need to deal with your own personal trauma,” to build resiliency with engaging pain and discomfort. It’s a place to process the feelings that trigger us from even things as small as an Instagram post that angers or irritates you. It’s a simple way to start, “sitting with a therapist and telling them how racist you are” will be the most uncomfortable thing you can do.

Maggie remarks how resiliency requires depth, so staying surface level won’t build that muscle. The goal is not a finished state: the process is the most important part. The goal is the journey! To engage yourself, to look inward, to bring others inside, to allow your faith to inform the way you treat other people and view the world… To see how it’s all connected to our individual and collective experiences. This is the work we need to do!

Leticia says as Christians we have the greatest example of how messy life is in the Passion. Jesus’ story has it all—the trauma, the horror, the betrayal, the bravery, loyalty, cowardliness… It was messy, just like our lives are messy.

At a certain level, Leticia says, we need to be comfortable with not seeing the fruits of our labor. MLK Jr. didn’t get to see the fruits of his labor at the inauguration in 2021 where a Black poet got to read her poem unedited by White eyes and where a Black woman became the Vice President of the United States for the first time through voting, the very thing he fought for!

Danielle says that’s the thing with therapy and process groups: there’s a rush and a sense of wanting to “get to a certain point,” to arrive. She says, “Therapy is a deposit on healing.” Sometimes you deposit on a day on a day where it didn’t feel useful, and you come away from the session feeling like you didn’t “do” anything or make any progress. But several weeks later you have this sense, “well wait a minute, that wasn’t that bad.” The Holy Spirit is at work in our stories. The healing journey is a deposit of goodness and redemption in our lives and we must be committed to the process.

Leticia remarks on the sense of wanting to arrive but she believes we have arrived already! We are here! We are a success because we exist. And the question now is what are we going to do?

Maggie said it is a matter of living with the idea that this is “to be continued.” Living in a society of instant gratification and wanting something NOW…. We need to sit in this work because we are in it not just for ourselves but for our children and grandchildren. May we not lose sight of the long game in search of fruit.

The temptation then, Leticia points out, is that if we don’t see the fruits of our labor then we won’t do the hard, meaningful and significant work that is required to produce a harvest.

Can you imagine if MLK said “Well, I didn’t see any progress today so I think I’m gonna check out and go hang on the beach for the rest of my life”?

She is reminded that If you tell people something that they are not ready to hear, you’re just hitting them in the face with a dodge ball, you’re actually hurting them. So Leticia has had to learn to check out from conversations where the other person is not in place to hear her. She says it is God who has the ability to heal someone, not us.

Maggie says it is good reminder that we partner with God, but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who will work in someone, to heal and grow us. There is a waiting and that is another space that can be uncomfortable.

Leticia is reading: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Leticia is listening to: her dancing playlist

Leticia is inspired by: Black Women!

Connect with Leticia or hire her

Email her at

Follow her on Instagram  Or on facebook