Staff Spotlight: Elizabeth Ngo

Elizabeth Ngo, LMFT, is an adolescent family therapist with Skyland Trail’s adolescent program. Elizabeth received her M.S. in marriage and family therapy from Mercer University. She is passionate about the systems that influence us and strengthening them to provide safe spaces.

Can you tell us a little about your background and what inspired you to become an adolescent family therapist?

I believe all systems impact individual well-being, especially the family system. We do not realize how much the family influences our core beliefs, interactions, and behaviors with others. Given my beliefs in how change occurs and the importance of family, I felt drawn to be a family therapist for this age range because we go through a lot of change during this time. Family should be the constant during the chaotic time of adolescence, so I want to strengthen the family component to provide a safe space for change to occur.

What therapeutic approaches or techniques have you found most effective when working with teenagers?

Being a family therapist, I practice the structural family therapy model more than anything, especially with adolescents and their families. This is the prime time to implement and correct the structure. I also like using solution-focused techniques because I like to look for those exceptions.

What strategies or resources do you recommend to parents who are dealing with challenging adolescent behavior at home?

Set realistic and firm expectations. Implementing structure is very important, especially because this is a time of exploration. Without expectations identified, it makes it difficult to implement structure later on as your teen is not expecting it.

Cultural competence is vital in mental health care. How do you ensure that your practice is inclusive and respectful of clients from diverse backgrounds?

Curiosity is a key to practice inclusivity and cultural competency. When we take the time to learn about our clients and their families, it strengthens the rapport and provides more understanding of what is important to their culture. This, then, can aid in how we provide treatment and interventions to the families.

Self-care is vital for therapists. How do you personally maintain your well-being and resilience while working with clients?

MUSIC. I try to go to as many concerts as my bank account will allow. I love musicals, concerts, vinyl, and everything in between. I have also grown to enjoy being out in nature, especially in this cooler weather. I like sitting by the river and listening to the sounds around me.

Can you offer advice for aspiring adolescent therapists who may be considering a career in this field?

You’ll be surprised by how much adolescents look up to and value the healthy relationship they have with you. You are probably one of the few people they feel safe around, who is all accepting and non-judging. My advice would be: Be yourself and remember that it’s okay to have fun and be goofy with the teens.

Can you share a favorite quote, piece of advice, or cheerleading mantra that inspires you?

Remember: you’re doing a great job, even on those difficult days!