Yiyao Ding, LMSW
Tier II Therapist
Struggling in life and needing support is part of being human. As Audre Lorde powerfully put it, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation”. Healing through therapy, although sometimes stigmatized, is a commendable decision that can benefit all of us. Remember no issue is petty. Let’s find ourselves some respite in this ever-changing and lonely city. I welcome every one of you.
A member of the American Psychology Association in college, I conducted research focusing on increasing acceptance of queer people and improving cross-cultural/intergenerational understanding. I went to social work to learn about human psychology from a more systemic and comprehensive perspective. I interact with people in marginalizing situations to listen to their stories. In my postgrad life, I am furthering my knowledge through extensive training on trauma, interpersonal/family relationships, difficult emotions, social systems, and attachment. These efforts have given me the privilege of working with hundreds of clients over thousands of hours.
Partnering with me, you can create a space where you feel comfortable connecting with your tender parts, discovering your strength and resiliency, and, most importantly, being your genuine self with no apology. If you are unsure about what you are looking for, let’s embark on a journey of self-exploration. Together, we celebrate differences, courage, efforts, self-empowerment, and imperfection. I believe therapy is a reciprocal process founded on human connections. We will grow together.
I speak English, Mandarin, Japanese, and Spanish.
Partnering with me, you can create a space where you feel comfortable sharing, connecting with your tender parts, discovering the strength and resilience already within you, and most importantly, being your genuine self with no apology.
As a Chinese immigrant living in the US since mid-adolescence, I remember myself crying over family rejection due to my transgender and non-straight identities, trudging through lonely outsider moments as an international student, being sexually harassed on the street, and being racially discriminated against at the workplace. I also remember the warm support from friends, mentors, family members, and therapists. I could not have survived on my own. I feel grateful to my chosen community.
I believe that therapy is one way of healing. I enjoy returning to life to access creativity, compassion, and curiosity. My exposure to many different cultures through studying abroad and language learning has cultivated within me acceptance, sensitivity, humility, and appreciation of diversity. In my spare time, I indulge in my love for costume design, crocheting, embroidery, swimming, anime, and traveling. I write articles and facilitate workshops, advocating for BIPOC LGBTQIA+, especially non-binary and transgender, rights and social justice. I am learning to notice life’s positive moments and be more vocal about my needs.
Would you like to share your story?
From a strength-based, trauma-informed, relational, and decolonizing perspective, I utilize evidence-based techniques from CBT, DBT, Motivational Interviewing and Mindfulness. I provide EMDR, informed by IFT and Art Therapy, to clients with a variety of concerns. I conduct family and couple therapy under the guidance of Ackerman’s eclectic and comprehensive paradigm, informed by EFT, Narrative Therapy, Family Structure, Bowenian Theories, and Solution-focused Therapy. In addition, I draw on expressive and creative therapy skills through art, movement and play. In our work together, you will deepen your self-understanding, which in turn will help us tailor the approach to meet your preferences, characteristics and cultural background. I call this collaboration “the bespoke tailoring experience” in finding a better fit.
I have training and experience in working with gender, sexuality, men’s issues, intimate/family relationship issues, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, addiction, cultural adjustment, and neurodiversity. I have worked with people of all genders and ages, with a focus on queer adolescents and adults.
I specialize in the following areas:
Gender and Sexuality
Have you ever paused to think about how you came to know your gender and sexuality? Most of us are forced to accept our sex assigned at birth. This one-letter marker then determines how we should live our lives, including and not limited to who we are supposed to love, what personality traits we should have, what we are allowed to enjoy, and how we should present ourselves appearance-wise. The gender binary (Male or Female) and heteronormativity are arbitrary systems of control, which do not respect human diversity. These systems engender prejudices and discriminations that disproportionately affect queer folks; they can also harm the well-being of everyone. No one can fit perfectly into the ideal cisgender or heterosexual prototype. When I conducted research on toxic masculinity in Japan, ranking low globally in gender equality, I discovered that not only do cisgender women suffer from the lack of political and workplace power, but many cisgender men also find adherence to masculinity suffocating.
“Can I be not attracted to someone sexually or romantically?”, “Can a man be affectionate and openly share his emotions?”, “Why is using public restroom such an uncomfortable experience?”, “I feel bad about having anger or being confrontational as a woman”, “I don’t identify with any of the labels. Who am I?”, if you have had even just a passing doubt about any gender/sexuality-related norms, I welcome you to validate it and explore its meaning. It takes considerable courage to challenge the status quo. This is a space where you can free yourself from the “should”s and experiment at your own pace.
Attachment Trauma and Personal Growth
You probably have done one of those attachment-style quizzes online. Let’s explore your personal experience beyond the generalizing terms, “avoidant” or “preoccupied”, as how we relate to others reveals our strengths, conundrums, and areas of growth. My interest in attachment trauma is deeply rooted in the understanding of how early relational experiences impact an individual, especially in cross-cultural and LGBTQIA+ contexts. I believe in the transformative power of addressing attachment trauma as a crucial catalyst for personal growth and life development. By acknowledging and working through these attachment wounds, individuals can reshape their family/interpersonal relationships, rewrite their self-narratives, embrace healthier patterns, and embark on a journey of profound personal growth.
Intimate Relationship and Non-monogamy
Do you know the numbers of cat owners and Americans who have experimented with non-monogamous relationships are the same (Haupert et al., 2014)? They both constitute 20% of the entire US population! Intimate relationships can take many different forms, just as people have diverse backgrounds and needs. Sometimes, those differences clash, and we start to doubt whether we should stay in the relationship. We may express our uncertainties through defensiveness, distancing or blaming, which leaves us feeling wounded and unseen. Let’s dispel the myth of “meant to be” and normalize conflicts, as relationships need to be nurtured like plants. The real beauty usually comes from work after the fairy tale’s happy ending. Your decision to participate in couple therapy already reflects your dedication to the relationship. Let’s join efforts to create a space where we listen, feel, and connect to each other.
Mindfulness-Informed Emotional Regulation
Emotions are not our enemies. They are hardworking messengers of our well-being. Unfortunately, many of us were taught to hate or fear our emotions from an early age. The resulting strained relationship frequently wages internal war that strangles us in misery. So I completely understand our urge to get rid of emotions. It doesn’t feel good to be anxious or hopeless. But have you noticed that emotions are like a pool ball? The more you try to avoid them by pushing them down into the water, the harder they bounce back. So why not learn to play with them? The key is not to eliminate emotions but rather to repair our relationship with them. Emotional regulation is essentially a process to re-learn our emotions from scratch, so we can better appreciate them. It is like decoding a difficult message, and the answer is usually inspiring and nurturing.
Tapping into our emotional vulnerabilities can be empowering and will be conducted at your pace. We will learn emotional regulation skills from mindfulness and somatic practices to facilitate this process.
License: New York States/Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) 110074;
Supervisor: Huilin Lai, LCSW: R081942
Degree: Columbia University - Master of Science in Social Work (Advanced Clinical Practice)
Degree: Middlebury College - Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Minor in Art History/Architecture
Certificate: The LGBTQ+ Institute For Family Therapy on supporting parents and children from The Gay Center (2021)
Certificate: Addiction Treatment from Yale University (2020)
Certificate: Telehealth for Mental Health from PESI (2020)
Advanced Training: EMDR Basic training from EMDR Institute (2021-2022)
Advanced Training: Integrating IFS, EMDR, and Art Therapy (2023 and ongoing)
Advanced Training: Ackerman One-year Dual Program in Family Therapy with a focus on family engagement and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ children (2021 - 2022)
Advanced Training: Ackerman’s series of Couple and Family Therapy Workshops focusing on sex, racial and sexual minorities, chronic illness, grief and trauma (2021 - 2022)
Advanced Training: Child Prevention’s series of workshops on safety and risks, child development, parent-child coaching, neurodiversity and advocacy (2020 - 2021)