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Meet The Family Thrive Experts: Alicia Samaniego Wuth, PsyD

Alicia is The Family Thrive’s Director of Community. She is a clinical psychologist and was a research scientist at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, CA. She served as lead therapist on an American Cancer Society research grant focusing on improving learning and school functioning in Latino children with cancer. In addition to her role at The Family Thrive, she’s also a practicing therapist in Denver, Colorado specializing in children and adolescents.

What does “family” mean to you?

Family is an emotional space where one feels safe to be vulnerable and accepted to be one’s authentic self. A family bond is created when individuals show interest, compassion, empathy, and create deep meaningful connections with one another.

What does “thriving” mean to you?

To thrive is to show resilience, even in times of uncertainty, doubt, or sadness. It involves staying clear-headed, emotionally present, and curious especially when our goals or plans are interrupted or changed.

Thriving is trusting a process where, no matter how hard things get, we will always find meaning in the end. To thrive is to persist even if we have to re-examine our purpose, our values, and find a new path.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was fascinated with babies and desired to be a “baby doctor.” I like to think I achieved this goal! Instead of focusing on the physical health of children, I have honed my interests to focus on the psychological, mental, and emotional wellbeing of children and their caretakers.

I also loved expressing myself through art and creative endeavors and for a time I desired to be a children's book illustrator. This still comes through in my practice as I use art as a psychological tool to help kids express themselves when they may not have the words for their inner emotional experiences.

When did you know you wanted to be a healer? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

In high school, I volunteered at a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. This experience had profound effects on me as I observed clinicians instill in these children self-esteem, hope, and confidence through the power of their words.

I realized that how we use our words has lasting effects that engage, challenge, create connections, build self-esteem, and instill hope in others. At this same time, I realized that parents need help in this area as well because without conscious awareness, practice, and intention, parents recreate what has been done to them.

This helped me to see that children need to be treated as part of a family unit, because a child cannot be understood until fully integrated within their environment.

When did you know you wanted to work with children?

In high school, I also realized that children are literally the future of the world. As I matured into an adult, I felt that as an adult I have a duty to help prepare the next generation.

I see working with children as healing multigenerational wounds because if children's emotional wounds are healed and understood early on, they have the power to grow up feeling empowered and to, in turn, help the next generation.

What’s the biggest difference between working with children and working with adults?

The biggest difference I find in working with children versus adults is that utilizing play as a primary form of therapy expression is very effective in helping younger children to express themselves. I find it fascinating to observe a child's play and observe their expressions.

Children project onto their play what they know and experience in their every day. This becomes highly effective in quickly tapping into whatever struggle the child may be experiencing.

In your practice, what do you see as the biggest factors in children leading mentally and emotionally thriving lives?

I find that children who have emotionally available parents who provide them with structure and boundaries develop a feeling of safety and protection.

I also find that children who have a balance of activities they deeply enjoy, rather than what the parent desires, with balanced free time, lead mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

Additionally, children who feel heard, feel validated, and personally seen, live mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

As a mom and as a psychologist, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

I recommend playing with your children daily. I recommend allowing the child to lead the play and restrain from enforcing rules (such as in a board game or in a structured sport). Instead, focus your efforts on making observational comments, rather than questioning your child's actions through play.

To deepen the connection and help your child to continue sharing their story and ultimately connection with you, be emotionally present with your child and try to find a time when you are also feeling energized.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is inherently family care.

When parents take care of themselves, this radiates outward and has lasting positive, emotional, and mental impacts on their children and families at large.

To do this, I encourage parents to be mindfully aware of how they breathe throughout the day. Are there moments when they notice their breath becoming more rapid, shallow or perhaps they notice they hold their breath?

I encourage parents to become mindful of their breathing and breathe with intention throughout the day. This will help them become more balanced, regulated, and in turn, emotionally present with their child(ren).

What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

I enjoy running as well as going on walks. I came to this practice first in college when I was exploring ways to help regulate worry before examinations. I found that the practice is not only physically exhausting but also emotionally energizing, and leaves me feeling hopeful, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next task.

Without my conscious awareness, it also forced me to confront how I was breathing in order to develop an appropriate rhythm and feeling of centeredness. This is also consistent with meditation practices!

What lies ahead for Alicia?

Right now I am focusing on being both emotionally and physically present for my child while also working part-time as a psychotherapist.

If you liked this article and want to get to know Alicia better, RSVP for the next Parent Connection Tuesday here in The Daily Thrive. Each Tuesday, Alicia and Justin Wilford lead an hour session of guided conversation, relationship building, and supportive connection.

Meet The Family Thrive Experts: Alicia Samaniego Wuth, PsyD

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Alicia is The Family Thrive’s Director of Community. She is a clinical psychologist and was a research scientist at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, CA. She served as lead therapist on an American Cancer Society research grant focusing on improving learning and school functioning in Latino children with cancer. In addition to her role at The Family Thrive, she’s also a practicing therapist in Denver, Colorado specializing in children and adolescents.

What does “family” mean to you?

Family is an emotional space where one feels safe to be vulnerable and accepted to be one’s authentic self. A family bond is created when individuals show interest, compassion, empathy, and create deep meaningful connections with one another.

What does “thriving” mean to you?

To thrive is to show resilience, even in times of uncertainty, doubt, or sadness. It involves staying clear-headed, emotionally present, and curious especially when our goals or plans are interrupted or changed.

Thriving is trusting a process where, no matter how hard things get, we will always find meaning in the end. To thrive is to persist even if we have to re-examine our purpose, our values, and find a new path.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was fascinated with babies and desired to be a “baby doctor.” I like to think I achieved this goal! Instead of focusing on the physical health of children, I have honed my interests to focus on the psychological, mental, and emotional wellbeing of children and their caretakers.

I also loved expressing myself through art and creative endeavors and for a time I desired to be a children's book illustrator. This still comes through in my practice as I use art as a psychological tool to help kids express themselves when they may not have the words for their inner emotional experiences.

When did you know you wanted to be a healer? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

In high school, I volunteered at a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. This experience had profound effects on me as I observed clinicians instill in these children self-esteem, hope, and confidence through the power of their words.

I realized that how we use our words has lasting effects that engage, challenge, create connections, build self-esteem, and instill hope in others. At this same time, I realized that parents need help in this area as well because without conscious awareness, practice, and intention, parents recreate what has been done to them.

This helped me to see that children need to be treated as part of a family unit, because a child cannot be understood until fully integrated within their environment.

When did you know you wanted to work with children?

In high school, I also realized that children are literally the future of the world. As I matured into an adult, I felt that as an adult I have a duty to help prepare the next generation.

I see working with children as healing multigenerational wounds because if children's emotional wounds are healed and understood early on, they have the power to grow up feeling empowered and to, in turn, help the next generation.

What’s the biggest difference between working with children and working with adults?

The biggest difference I find in working with children versus adults is that utilizing play as a primary form of therapy expression is very effective in helping younger children to express themselves. I find it fascinating to observe a child's play and observe their expressions.

Children project onto their play what they know and experience in their every day. This becomes highly effective in quickly tapping into whatever struggle the child may be experiencing.

In your practice, what do you see as the biggest factors in children leading mentally and emotionally thriving lives?

I find that children who have emotionally available parents who provide them with structure and boundaries develop a feeling of safety and protection.

I also find that children who have a balance of activities they deeply enjoy, rather than what the parent desires, with balanced free time, lead mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

Additionally, children who feel heard, feel validated, and personally seen, live mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

As a mom and as a psychologist, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

I recommend playing with your children daily. I recommend allowing the child to lead the play and restrain from enforcing rules (such as in a board game or in a structured sport). Instead, focus your efforts on making observational comments, rather than questioning your child's actions through play.

To deepen the connection and help your child to continue sharing their story and ultimately connection with you, be emotionally present with your child and try to find a time when you are also feeling energized.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is inherently family care.

When parents take care of themselves, this radiates outward and has lasting positive, emotional, and mental impacts on their children and families at large.

To do this, I encourage parents to be mindfully aware of how they breathe throughout the day. Are there moments when they notice their breath becoming more rapid, shallow or perhaps they notice they hold their breath?

I encourage parents to become mindful of their breathing and breathe with intention throughout the day. This will help them become more balanced, regulated, and in turn, emotionally present with their child(ren).

What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

I enjoy running as well as going on walks. I came to this practice first in college when I was exploring ways to help regulate worry before examinations. I found that the practice is not only physically exhausting but also emotionally energizing, and leaves me feeling hopeful, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next task.

Without my conscious awareness, it also forced me to confront how I was breathing in order to develop an appropriate rhythm and feeling of centeredness. This is also consistent with meditation practices!

What lies ahead for Alicia?

Right now I am focusing on being both emotionally and physically present for my child while also working part-time as a psychotherapist.

If you liked this article and want to get to know Alicia better, RSVP for the next Parent Connection Tuesday here in The Daily Thrive. Each Tuesday, Alicia and Justin Wilford lead an hour session of guided conversation, relationship building, and supportive connection.

Alicia is The Family Thrive’s Director of Community. She is a clinical psychologist and was a research scientist at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, CA. She served as lead therapist on an American Cancer Society research grant focusing on improving learning and school functioning in Latino children with cancer. In addition to her role at The Family Thrive, she’s also a practicing therapist in Denver, Colorado specializing in children and adolescents.

What does “family” mean to you?

Family is an emotional space where one feels safe to be vulnerable and accepted to be one’s authentic self. A family bond is created when individuals show interest, compassion, empathy, and create deep meaningful connections with one another.

What does “thriving” mean to you?

To thrive is to show resilience, even in times of uncertainty, doubt, or sadness. It involves staying clear-headed, emotionally present, and curious especially when our goals or plans are interrupted or changed.

Thriving is trusting a process where, no matter how hard things get, we will always find meaning in the end. To thrive is to persist even if we have to re-examine our purpose, our values, and find a new path.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was fascinated with babies and desired to be a “baby doctor.” I like to think I achieved this goal! Instead of focusing on the physical health of children, I have honed my interests to focus on the psychological, mental, and emotional wellbeing of children and their caretakers.

I also loved expressing myself through art and creative endeavors and for a time I desired to be a children's book illustrator. This still comes through in my practice as I use art as a psychological tool to help kids express themselves when they may not have the words for their inner emotional experiences.

When did you know you wanted to be a healer? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

In high school, I volunteered at a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. This experience had profound effects on me as I observed clinicians instill in these children self-esteem, hope, and confidence through the power of their words.

I realized that how we use our words has lasting effects that engage, challenge, create connections, build self-esteem, and instill hope in others. At this same time, I realized that parents need help in this area as well because without conscious awareness, practice, and intention, parents recreate what has been done to them.

This helped me to see that children need to be treated as part of a family unit, because a child cannot be understood until fully integrated within their environment.

When did you know you wanted to work with children?

In high school, I also realized that children are literally the future of the world. As I matured into an adult, I felt that as an adult I have a duty to help prepare the next generation.

I see working with children as healing multigenerational wounds because if children's emotional wounds are healed and understood early on, they have the power to grow up feeling empowered and to, in turn, help the next generation.

What’s the biggest difference between working with children and working with adults?

The biggest difference I find in working with children versus adults is that utilizing play as a primary form of therapy expression is very effective in helping younger children to express themselves. I find it fascinating to observe a child's play and observe their expressions.

Children project onto their play what they know and experience in their every day. This becomes highly effective in quickly tapping into whatever struggle the child may be experiencing.

In your practice, what do you see as the biggest factors in children leading mentally and emotionally thriving lives?

I find that children who have emotionally available parents who provide them with structure and boundaries develop a feeling of safety and protection.

I also find that children who have a balance of activities they deeply enjoy, rather than what the parent desires, with balanced free time, lead mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

Additionally, children who feel heard, feel validated, and personally seen, live mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

As a mom and as a psychologist, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

I recommend playing with your children daily. I recommend allowing the child to lead the play and restrain from enforcing rules (such as in a board game or in a structured sport). Instead, focus your efforts on making observational comments, rather than questioning your child's actions through play.

To deepen the connection and help your child to continue sharing their story and ultimately connection with you, be emotionally present with your child and try to find a time when you are also feeling energized.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is inherently family care.

When parents take care of themselves, this radiates outward and has lasting positive, emotional, and mental impacts on their children and families at large.

To do this, I encourage parents to be mindfully aware of how they breathe throughout the day. Are there moments when they notice their breath becoming more rapid, shallow or perhaps they notice they hold their breath?

I encourage parents to become mindful of their breathing and breathe with intention throughout the day. This will help them become more balanced, regulated, and in turn, emotionally present with their child(ren).

What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

I enjoy running as well as going on walks. I came to this practice first in college when I was exploring ways to help regulate worry before examinations. I found that the practice is not only physically exhausting but also emotionally energizing, and leaves me feeling hopeful, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next task.

Without my conscious awareness, it also forced me to confront how I was breathing in order to develop an appropriate rhythm and feeling of centeredness. This is also consistent with meditation practices!

What lies ahead for Alicia?

Right now I am focusing on being both emotionally and physically present for my child while also working part-time as a psychotherapist.

If you liked this article and want to get to know Alicia better, RSVP for the next Parent Connection Tuesday here in The Daily Thrive. Each Tuesday, Alicia and Justin Wilford lead an hour session of guided conversation, relationship building, and supportive connection.

Alicia is The Family Thrive’s Director of Community. She is a clinical psychologist and was a research scientist at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange, CA. She served as lead therapist on an American Cancer Society research grant focusing on improving learning and school functioning in Latino children with cancer. In addition to her role at The Family Thrive, she’s also a practicing therapist in Denver, Colorado specializing in children and adolescents.

What does “family” mean to you?

Family is an emotional space where one feels safe to be vulnerable and accepted to be one’s authentic self. A family bond is created when individuals show interest, compassion, empathy, and create deep meaningful connections with one another.

What does “thriving” mean to you?

To thrive is to show resilience, even in times of uncertainty, doubt, or sadness. It involves staying clear-headed, emotionally present, and curious especially when our goals or plans are interrupted or changed.

Thriving is trusting a process where, no matter how hard things get, we will always find meaning in the end. To thrive is to persist even if we have to re-examine our purpose, our values, and find a new path.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a child, I was fascinated with babies and desired to be a “baby doctor.” I like to think I achieved this goal! Instead of focusing on the physical health of children, I have honed my interests to focus on the psychological, mental, and emotional wellbeing of children and their caretakers.

I also loved expressing myself through art and creative endeavors and for a time I desired to be a children's book illustrator. This still comes through in my practice as I use art as a psychological tool to help kids express themselves when they may not have the words for their inner emotional experiences.

When did you know you wanted to be a healer? Can you tell us about that time in your life, and what it felt like to come to that realization?

In high school, I volunteered at a clinic for children with developmental disabilities. This experience had profound effects on me as I observed clinicians instill in these children self-esteem, hope, and confidence through the power of their words.

I realized that how we use our words has lasting effects that engage, challenge, create connections, build self-esteem, and instill hope in others. At this same time, I realized that parents need help in this area as well because without conscious awareness, practice, and intention, parents recreate what has been done to them.

This helped me to see that children need to be treated as part of a family unit, because a child cannot be understood until fully integrated within their environment.

When did you know you wanted to work with children?

In high school, I also realized that children are literally the future of the world. As I matured into an adult, I felt that as an adult I have a duty to help prepare the next generation.

I see working with children as healing multigenerational wounds because if children's emotional wounds are healed and understood early on, they have the power to grow up feeling empowered and to, in turn, help the next generation.

What’s the biggest difference between working with children and working with adults?

The biggest difference I find in working with children versus adults is that utilizing play as a primary form of therapy expression is very effective in helping younger children to express themselves. I find it fascinating to observe a child's play and observe their expressions.

Children project onto their play what they know and experience in their every day. This becomes highly effective in quickly tapping into whatever struggle the child may be experiencing.

In your practice, what do you see as the biggest factors in children leading mentally and emotionally thriving lives?

I find that children who have emotionally available parents who provide them with structure and boundaries develop a feeling of safety and protection.

I also find that children who have a balance of activities they deeply enjoy, rather than what the parent desires, with balanced free time, lead mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

Additionally, children who feel heard, feel validated, and personally seen, live mentally and emotionally thriving lives.

As a mom and as a psychologist, what is one piece of parenting advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

I recommend playing with your children daily. I recommend allowing the child to lead the play and restrain from enforcing rules (such as in a board game or in a structured sport). Instead, focus your efforts on making observational comments, rather than questioning your child's actions through play.

To deepen the connection and help your child to continue sharing their story and ultimately connection with you, be emotionally present with your child and try to find a time when you are also feeling energized.

What is one piece of self-care advice you’d give to The Family Thrive parents?

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Self-care is inherently family care.

When parents take care of themselves, this radiates outward and has lasting positive, emotional, and mental impacts on their children and families at large.

To do this, I encourage parents to be mindfully aware of how they breathe throughout the day. Are there moments when they notice their breath becoming more rapid, shallow or perhaps they notice they hold their breath?

I encourage parents to become mindful of their breathing and breathe with intention throughout the day. This will help them become more balanced, regulated, and in turn, emotionally present with their child(ren).

What is your own most important self-care practice? Can you tell us a little bit about how you came to it, what it looks like, and how it helps you?

I enjoy running as well as going on walks. I came to this practice first in college when I was exploring ways to help regulate worry before examinations. I found that the practice is not only physically exhausting but also emotionally energizing, and leaves me feeling hopeful, rejuvenated, and ready to take on the next task.

Without my conscious awareness, it also forced me to confront how I was breathing in order to develop an appropriate rhythm and feeling of centeredness. This is also consistent with meditation practices!

What lies ahead for Alicia?

Right now I am focusing on being both emotionally and physically present for my child while also working part-time as a psychotherapist.

If you liked this article and want to get to know Alicia better, RSVP for the next Parent Connection Tuesday here in The Daily Thrive. Each Tuesday, Alicia and Justin Wilford lead an hour session of guided conversation, relationship building, and supportive connection.

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