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Di Ai, LMSW

She/ Her

Tier II Therapist

From a young age, I have always felt a deep sense of empathy towards others – be it for my friends, a stray cat, or people I learned about through the news. That contributed to my decision to come to New York City six years ago to study social work and to be a therapist, because The professional demands of this profession align with the qualities I wish to cultivate in my own life.

Holding a humanistic perspective, I’ll be a genuine listener and your teammate to on a path toward self-discovery and acceptance. I believe that everyone can navigate life's challenges if we harness the power of our own minds. One notable strategy I use is to identify the multitude of ways that social and cultural factors contribute to our thought patterns and beliefs. 

With a background working with abused children and their families, as well as leading stress management groups for Chinese immigrant mothers, I am equipped with the essential skills to effectively engage with diverse populations facing trauma and stress.

My professional and life journey uniquely qualify me to support immigrants (especially those of Chinese descent), parents, college students, and individuals who have been victims of abuse. I speak both Mandarin and English. 
 

I hold a profound appreciation for the resilience of the human mind, firmly believing that everyone possesses the mental strength to navigate life's challenges if we tap into the power of our own minds. 

My Story

I studied Classics and Sociology in an experimental liberal arts program in China and applied the ideas to my life journey. For instance, Confucius' teachings on leading a virtuous life dissolved my feeling of inadequacy which arose from comparing to others. Exploring queer and feminist theories empowered me to challenge societal norms, while sociological studies on self-identity helped me adjust to American culture. This journey has fueled my interest in working with clients to delve into the societal influences on individuals, foster self-reflection from micro to macro scales, and empower individuals to be the masters of their own lives.

After completing graduate studies in social work, I worked at the Brooklyn Child Advocacy Center for two years, providing trauma-focused therapy to abused children and families. This gave me a sense of how early childhood experience shapes attachment styles, stress responses, and worldviews, and how to develop clients’ innate capacity for resilience and change. Working with children inspired me to work with families. Two years ago, I began a new role teaching CBT-based stress management skills to mothers. Despite parenting not being the primary focus, many mothers reported improved parent-child relationships after learning how to care for themselves. This experience reinforced my belief that making sense of our past, needs, and emotions can break negative interaction patterns, allowing us to build relationships/families we genuinely enjoy. With my rich experience in working with children, women, and families, I hope to explore with my clients what actions can be taken to make life more positive and manageable.

Therapeutic Approaches

My therapeutic approach integrates humanistic, trauma-informed, and CBT principles. I will first approach sessions with genuine care and curiosity, offering guidance on employing some CBT skills as coping mechanisms. Then together we can delve into the underlying issues, exploring aspects such as attachment style, early experiences/trauma, hidden narratives, and societal indoctrination to address the root of the problem. I’ll also incorporate neurological findings to help clients better understand the biological factors for certain behaviors and emotions.

Specialties

Anxiety

Moderate anxiety may encourage us to improve efficiency and take action, but excessive anxiety can distort reality and hinder progress. I will first guide clients with anxiety issue to better understand their emotions, identify what’s hiding beneath anxiety, triggers of anxiety, somatic reactions etc. Then, I will use CBT and Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety Disorders (BTAD) to help visitors identify the thoughts and safety behaviors (behaviors that may provide immediate relief but are unhelpful in the long run) behind anxiety. Together, we will set goals and adopt practical skills to alleviate the discomfort caused by anxiety. I believe that anxiety is often just a manifestation of other issues and more comprehensive change requires thorough examination and self-acceptance, so we will also explore the deeper reasons for anxiety.

Trauma

The meaning of trauma varies from person to person; it could be physical and emotional abuse, social injustice, emotional neglect or selfish treatment from intimate partners or family members, authoritarian parents, bullying or exclusion from a group, and so on. People's reactions to trauma also differ, ranging from frequent flashbacks of traumatic events and panic attacks, to unconsciously practicing the beliefs developed from traumatic experiences (such as subconsciously pleasing others, inability to trust in relationships, etc.). In a safe environment, we will explore how trauma affects who we are now and how to heal the past by taking action in the present.

Intimate Relationships

Intimate relationships can bring joy and strength but may also be a source of our suffering. We may project past experiences into current relationships and be influenced by myths about love in popular culture. Sometimes, we may struggle to articulate the reasons for entering or leaving a relationship. Inspired by Fromm's "The Art of Loving" and my personal experiences, I believe that love is a cultivatable skill. Those who love must first strive to develop their entire personality. An ideal form of love is giving something vital from within to others and evoking something similar in return. Let's build inner strength to identify and leave unhealthy relationships, and unleash the ability and courage to practice love which can provide true satisfaction.

Emerging Adulthood Challenges

In ancient societies, individuals were almost predetermined in their life paths by the social class and family they were born in. In modern society, people have more freedom to determine their futures, which makes constructing self-identity a personal project. Faced with endless possibilities, emerging adults begin self-exploration, relationship-building, and career development. This period of constant changes brings about rich emotional experiences. My life experience and professional knowledge can help clients better reflect on issues such as self-identity, direction of life, independence, and ties to family of origin, etc. Let's explore in reflective dialogue, the unique uncertainties and opportunities of this stage, developing resilience to face the challenges and emotional turbulence.

Credentials 

  • License: New York States/Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) 107165

  • Supervisor: Huilin Lai, LCSW: R081942

  • Degree: Columbia University - Master of Science in Social Work (Advanced Clinical Practice)

  • Degree: Sun Yat-Sen University - Bachelor of Arts in Sociology

  • Certificate: Forensic Interviewer basic and advanced training from NCAC (2019)

  • Certificate: Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI) from Yale University (2019)

  • Certificate: The LGBTQ Institute for Family Therapy (LIFT) Certification Program (2020)

  • Certificate: MOMS Stress Management Class facilitator training from Yale Elevate Lab (2021)

  • Advanced training: Exposure Based CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder (2021)

  • Advanced training: Behavior Therapy for Anxiety-Related Disorders (BTAD) (2021)

More About Me

I find it calming to do crafts (including knitting and crocheting) by doing repetitive movements and touching different materials with my hands. I also like to bring people joy by gifting them my hand-made stuff. Additionally, as a music lover, I find joy in playing and singing along with my guitar and playing nostalgic pieces on the accordion. Last but not least, I enjoy street photography and subtle movies which make me better appreciate the beauty of everyday life.

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