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Who am I?
Credentials and Quick Biography

Chera Portrait May 2012

Before you pick up the phone to make that first phone call or click your mouse to send that first email to me, I felt it was very important to write this section of the website in order for you to know as much as possible about who I am. To make it easier for you, I've broken this page down into the following sections.

 

my personal life

The horse girl...

Anyone who knows me will tell you that my life is inextricably woven with a deep passion for the horse, which has been (and continues to be) my teacher and my counselor since I was 13 years old. Strangely, despite the fact I grew up in a horse-free suburb of Minneapolis, MN, I knew intuitively that I had a connection with horses at a much younger age. And I'm not talking about a run-of -the-mill "all young girls love a horses" kind of passion, either. I tamed my first horse at age 13 and over the years developed my own way of working with them. Throughout the years, I've been an avid student of horse anatomy, behavior, and biomechaniccs. I have competed in dressage and ridden under Olympic judges--one of them, Hilda Gurney, wrote that my stallion, SS Miami Vice, appeared to be smiling as I rode my test! This is quite an accomplishment considering Miami was once called a "man-eater" as a result of being abused as a show horse with whips and chains as a colt.

Chera and SS Miami Vice at the Oregon Dressage Society Championship Show
Here I am with my soulmate stallion, SS Miami Vice, warming up for our test
at the Oregon Dressage Society Championship Show

But Miami is not the only horse I've saved. Below is a picture of me with a black gelding named "Cobi," (short for "Black Cobra"), another abused show horse. He was brought to me for "horse therapy" after bucking, spooking, and throwing his new human from his back, breaking her ribs and destroying her confidence as a rider. You can see in the photo below that Cobi responded positively to my treatment by allowing me to stand on his back after just 10 sessions.

Chera standing on Cobi's back
Cobi demonstrates his newly-developed trust for humans by standing calmly at the halt
while Chera climbs and stands on his back. Notice the reins are looped loosely around
the saddle and that Cobi's ears are listening for any further requests from Chera.

Today I've worked with over 500 horses and helped many people develop their own natural style of communicating with horses. To demonstrate, below are two examples of newspaper articles written about my unique ability to communicate with feral BLM horses (wild mustangs from Eastern Oregon mountains).


Chera on Rhoanne Medford Tribune Article
Trainer known as 'horse whisperer'
http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=
/20001029/NEWS/310299997&emailAFriend=1

 

Chera and Thunder, BLM Mustang
Taking the wild out of horses
http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=
/19990708/NEWS/307089990&emailAFriend=1

 

Needless to say, learning to communicate with a living being that does not speak English has had its challenges, but it has also been fruitful with lessons I can apply to my relationships with humans. For example, the horses have taught me the importance of letting go of my personal agenda in order to be fully present with others. This was a difficult lesson to learn, but well worth it, because now I am comfortable allowing my clients (horse or human) to show me where they are at and where they need to go in therapy. In fact, I dare say that to do otherwise would cause me to overlook the salient issues of my clients, taking them down my road instead of their own life's journey. Worse, neglecting to be in the present with my clients puts me into more of an authoritarian position, thus lowering the client to a position of being a mere student or sickly patient. In this case, I would be telling the client what was wrong (in my cold, separate, professional opinion) and then proceed to tell the client how to fix it, case closed, rather than setting aside all preconceived ideas and judgments about a client and the client's behaviors.

You can read more about how my experience as a horse behaviorist has played a large role in my identity as a therapist by visiting my "What is Person-Centered Counseling?" page.

The past few years...

The past few years... of my life I have devoted my energy to studying the life experiences and evidenced based models of care for gender variant individuals, focusing specifically on the male to female (MtF) transgender group. I decided to do this after finding out there was a "hidden" population of MtF's in our community who were isolated and under-served, meaning there were no clinicians within hundreds of miles of us who had the necessary skill set or professional competence to help them. Sadly, despite the fact the local clinicians have good intentions (they do not want to see clients they do not feel clinically, medically, socially, or ethically prepared to help), this gives the unintentionally hurtful message to this population that these clinicians are willing to see everyone but them, creating for these poor people the familiar sense of being marginalized and ostracized. For this reason and for the fact that I seem to connect almost effortlessly with this group, I have decided to devote my practice to helping and advocating for this group.

the alphabet soup behind my name

Some of you are likely wondering about the letters behind my name, which we jokingly referred to as "alphabet soup" in graduate school. To help you understand what they mean, I've explained them below.

1. MS (Masters in Science): This acronym represents the degree I received after completing Southern Oregon University's Masters in Mental Health Counseling graduate program June 2011. Although there is no acronyn for it, I also earned my Bachelors degree at SOU (major in psychology and minor in criminology). Both times I graduated Summa Cum Laude, which is the highest GPA award one can earn.

2. NCC (National Certified Counselor): This acronym signifies that I have taken and passed the NCE, which is the licensing exam used by the OBLPCT (Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists).

3. LPCI (Licensed Professional Counselor--Intern): The LPC is the license provided by the OBLPCT and is now accepted nationwide. The letter "I" signifies that I am pre-licensed as an intern. To complete licensure in the state of Oregon, I need to contine accruing client contact hours under the supervision of an approved Oregon LPC supervisor. As explained above, under the NCC description, I have already taken and passed the required licensing exam. My Oregon registered intern number is R2447.

4. PCCI (Professional Clinical Counselor Intern): The LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) is California's version of the LPC. I am proud to say that I am one of the first few LPCC interns in the state of California (#65), as the state legislature has only recently begun to offer this license (in fact, it was the last of the 50 states to do so). California does not allow its applicants to take its licensing exams until after the necessary client contact hours have been accumulated, so for that reason I have not taken them, yet. My Califorina registered intern number is PCI 65.

5. WPATH Certified Transgender Therapist: Although I have been a member and listed mental health provider for WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health) for a few years, it was not until November 2015 that WPATH held its first ever provider certification training in Chicago, which my husband and I attended with much anticipation. It was a wonderful four days of meeting with endocrinologists, family practitioners, plastic surgeons, public health workers, and, of course, other mental health providers, like me. The main focus of the certification training was to teach us the standards of care for evaluating and assisting transgender clients through the transition process. WPATH has long been a powerful advocacy group and is the creator of the Transgender Standards of Care, a powerful, resource used by all types of health professionals.

my experience and education

Experience...

  • Began teaching upper division psychology courses for Southern Oregon University starting 2013 to present.
  • Incorporated Spirit and Logic, Inc., private practice, in California and Oregon in 2011.
  • Began California LPCC (Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor) and Oregon LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) trainee/internship at Siskiyou County Behavioral Health, Children’s System of Care July 1, 2010 to September 30, 2011, providing primary individual psychotherapy to a consistant caseload of 18-23 clients with various forms of Axis I conditions.
  • March 2009-February 2010 volunteered 3-5 hrs/wk as a counselor at the Siskiyou County Probation Department, both individual and group, adults on probation and adolescents in the Juvenile Hall, Person-Centered and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) models for addiction recovery and community reintegration.

Chera Sabankaya SOU Bachelor Degree Commencement 2009

Commencement Speaker/Summa Cum Laude Graduate
Bachelor Degree (Major in Psychology/Minor in Criminology) SOU 2009

Education...

  • Graduated Summa Cum Laude June 2011 from Southern Oregon University with a Masters Degree in Mental Health Counseling (CACREP Approved)
  • Graduated Summa Cum Laude June 2009 from Southern Oregon University with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a minor in Criminology
  • Practicum experience as undergrad at Hope Equestrian Ctr in Medford, OR, providing CBT with horses for children with Autism Spectrum and other mental disorders
  • President of SOU’s Psi Chi Chapter, National Honor Society for Psychology Majors at Four Year Colleges (2007-2009)
  • President of SOU’s Psychology Club (2007-2009)
  • Founding President of SOU’s Active Minds Chapter, Nationwide Nonprofit Group designed to fight against the stigmatization of mental illness through awareness and education (2009-Present)
  • Paid researcher surveying 100+ members of Jackson County Oregon’s transient population regarding sense of self and use of community resources for its 10-Year-Plan to end homelessness June 2007
  • Graduated with Honors June 2006 from The College of the Siskiyous (COS) with an AA in Psychology;
  • Worked as a horse behaviorist for over 20 years, conducting seminars and clinics on horse psychology, rehabilitating horses with unwanted behaviors, worked on SARE grant in 2000 teaching Ranchers of Idaho, Oregon, and California low-stress stockmanship.
  • Began writing a book about the dynamics of respect, development of fight, flight, and freeze response, and social dominance, making parallels between the linear social structure of horses and possible insights that can be made about humans who batter and their relationship with their victims.
  • Founded and incorporated Spirit and Logic, Inc.: Center for the Study of Human and Equine Behavior Studies and Abuse Prevention March 2005. (After California licensure, Spirit and Logic, Inc. will provide both in and outpatient individual and group experiential therapy to youth and adults on our 700+ acre ranch with 300 horses in Weed.)
  • Researching as capstone at SOU the interocular transfer of novel visual stimuli in the horse in an attempt to better understand horse’s asymmetrical response to stimuli and develop more effective and humane methods of training horses with which to educate the horse industry
  • Cared for medically fragile and autistic children at inpatient facility in 1989-1990; kept chart notes and discussed progress with family members, who determined my unique ability to communicate with their children had a positive impact on their children’s quality of life
  • Volunteered in a mentoring program while in high school (1989) helping at-risk children in elementary schools talk about their problems and frustrations before their lives took a turn for the worse (the program director purposefully assigned the most difficult children to me as a result of my maturity, enthusiasm, loyalty to the program, and ability to empathize).

my life goals

I am pleased to say that I have already accomplished some of my life goals, such as developing a holistic method of working with horses, earning my Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling, and teaching at the university, but there are still plenty more to keep me busy... Perhaps the most important project we are developing now is our own transitioning center, where transgender and gender variant individuals can come to prepare for or recover from surgery or just come to experience a safe, educational, and emotionally supportive environment while transitioning. I met with a plastic surgeon at the WPATH conference November 2015 who said such a facility would be a welcomed service for their patients who receive gender conforming surgery at their hospital up in Portland. The facility will be a luxurious high-end lodge built up on the densely wooded knoll behind our barn. From one side you can see our lake, the meadows, mountains, and our herd of almost 300 horses, while the other side provides an unobstructed view of the majestic Mount Shasta, which is snowcapped year around.

Of course, we plan to make strategic use of the healing environment of the mountains, with its bountiful wildlife and fresh, clean, dry air, but the focus of our program will be the immersion of the clients into the world of communicating with horses. In our view, the horse teaches us so much more than we could ever teach it, which is the reason we do not call our interaction with horses "horse training." This ideology has played a crucial role in my professional development as a therapist. (You can read more about how my relationship with horses has affected my clinical work by visiting my "What is Person-Centered Counseling?" page.)

In the meantime, I will continue to advocate and develop my competence as a therapist for transgender individuals, coordinating as many awareness campaigns and support groups as possible.

This section will always be continued...

 

 
 
 
© Chera Sabankaya 2011-2016
   

Spirit and Logic, Inc. is a Registered Trademark

Last Updated January 4, 2016