MPH, RN, MSN, FNP-C
My name is Nancy. My pronouns are she/her. My story began with my Vietnamese heritage and war: my grandparents were countryside folks, some highly educated, and others farmers, with very little individual capacity to love during strife and survival during a long civil war. Unsurprisingly, my parents were young poor refugees whose only commitment was to survive and fight for opportunity. So here I am, one of the bearers and witnesses of these generational traumas, with the opportunities they fought for, trying to understand how to unburden the body of its grief and learning to find peace and love. My grandfather told me he wished he didn't live with so much anger in his heart and bitterness in his spirit. He didn't know it, but he taught me to patiently love those with the most broken hearts without trying to save them. His stories taught me that my body and heart is a web of strength, ingenuity, grief, despair, and love and that my own freedom from suffering will free others before us.
Many of us share in this story of perpetual lovelessness and feel resentment, anger, and shame. These unwieldy weeds of pain further perpetuate our own sense of disconnection, however the present moment is our opportunity to change these narratives. How do we connect with the essential need to feel connection, peace and love? How do we be vulnerable to our own hearts and learn to give ourselves compassion we may have never experienced? Having experience in primary care and mental health, it is my mission to provide a system of healing focused on your story, investigating the areas of deep suffering, and redefining how you want to create your life.
Our Story and Philosophy
Nancy Pham is a family nurse practitioner from Yale University with specialty training in psychiatry from UC Davis and a background in public health research from UC Berkeley. She uses she/her pronouns.
While working primary care, she started noticing that most of her patient's concerns were deeply rooted in suffering and trauma and manifesting secondarily as physical ailments. Her patients were living in chronically fearful and unpleasant states and she didn't know how to get support them as their anxiety, depression, and fears controlled their day-to-day behaviors. While she could convince some patients to start therapy, most were hesitant. Unwilling to give up on her patients, she pursued specialty training in psychiatric care. Even though medications did reduce the patients' sense of overwhelm -- she recognized it was imperative for them to feel safe and seen in order to start exploring their inner most needs. She started practicing therapeutic approaches based on Buddhist philosophy of loving presence, radical honesty and deep listening in conjunction with CBT and her patients started to feel safe and vulnerable. She continued exploring ways of returning to wholeness and was guided by indigenous teachers in original medicine, coupling it with internal family systems/parts work, and psychosomatic techniques to provide a gentle way to work with the wounded parts of us. However, some people have had so many incidences of devaluation and pain in their lives, their egos have become extremely rigid to protect them, and it takes a different approach to reach into the vulnerable parts inside. She knew psychedelic care could help, but again, she wanted an elegant, gentle approach with low-dose treatments and therapy... a reminder the patient isn't alone in the universe either, we're all side by side. So she tried this... and it works, creating new connections to themselves and the world.
She believes that the philosophy of western society, in all of its great scientific achievements, has also done a disservice to human kind. The separation of the mind, body, and spirit has left the world in fragments, which no amount of medications can heal. Preventative care is based on prescribing pills and an underlying assumption that people are unwilling to change. She believes otherwise. She couldn't find a system within the current medical model that provided care filled with understanding, safety, and compassion so she decided to hold it within herself and show the world it can exist.
What is "health" and how did we get here?
Dr. Gabor Mate, leading trauma physician, eloquently describes in his book, The Myth of Normal, "If we could begin to see much illness as itself not as a cruel twist of fate or some nefarious mystery but rather as an expected and therefore normal consequence of abnormal, unnatural circumstances, it would have revolutionary implications for how we approach everything health related. The ailing body and minds among us would no longer be regarded as expressions of individual pathology but as living alarms directing our attention toward where our society has gone askew, and where our prevailing certainties and assumptions around health are, in face, fictions. Seen clearly, they might give us clues as to what it would take to reverse course and build a healthier world."
The story of dis-ease starts before modern medicine. Safety starts with structure, thus we need to understand the systems that have existed and which we have all inherited. A psychologist Elder taught me about the origin of families, which is our first glimpse of safety in an unknown world. All of our ancestors once existed in tribal communities, which connotes a loyalty and responsibility to a group, but later, around the early 15th century, a Latin concept of "familias", or "servants of the household" took hold and belonging shifted to a hierarchical model. This shift in framework illustrates a colonial mindset of servitude/slavery and control within our most crucial units of life. As western society expanded, so did this notion, which shapes our everyday existence. When we bring this framework of control and slavery to a political system, for example the American democracy, it's normalized.
As western philosophy gained traction, we started to see certain advancements, but they often came at the expense at something else: usually colored bodies, the land and water, and our sense of connection. With western medicine, the mind and body were separated (dualism) and they continued to be broken into symptoms. We forgot what wholeness looks and feels like. We forgot how our ancestors existed before modern medicine and the wisdom that stories and herbs hold. Currently, we are watching mental, physical, and public health issues rise at a rate that is beyond any realm of normal, often as the adults and elders on this earth are experiencing more loneliness than ever before and young people feel like this world isn't safe for them. We inherited a culture we did not ask for and those with power refuse to listen, or more importantly, connect.
So how do we overcome this? We decolonize the mind and body.
We decolonize the mind by understanding that what we thought may not be true and learn to quiet the ego mind. Our society can't fathom a harmonious world, but they have existed and can teach us how to bring balance back into this world. It is important to acknowledge that indigenous communities who occupied the lands before colonization held their own elaborate democracy comprised of leadership and wisdom led by women and strength and character upheld by the men, a government with the commitment to peace (thus no slavery), and a society with a commitment to living in balance with nature.
We decolonize our bodies by exploring shame deep within and releasing things that do not support us to be whole. We need to be detectives of our own thoughts, emotions and bodies. If we explore these parts (Internal Family Systems) inside of us and cultivate ways of developing physical, psychological and emotional safety, we can learn to thrive in our unique humanness and live freely.
This work is not easy... actually, this work is very painful, but I am here to support you. The hardest part is recognizing the problem and having courage to make the change. In our role, I am not functioning as your primary care provider. I can coach and guide you with creating the structure needed to make changes. With curiosity, SMART goals, mindfulness practices, we can help you live in your physical body with grace and acceptance.
I particularly enjoy working with patients on treating depression, anxiety, bipolar, psychosis, anxious/avoidant attachment issues, childhood emotional neglect, transitions, loneliness, burnout/empathy fatigue, life dissatisfaction. I do not offer stimulants, benzodiazepines, or opioids. I do not offer treatment for those with personality disorders or chemical dependency since these parts need a larger community of experts for support and would benefit from DBT and intensive support groups.
Types of Therapy Offered
Third Wave Cognitive Behavioral (CBT) Therapy
Internal Family Systems