Dr Carlos Garcia is a Licensed Psychologist and speaker. Carlos is the founder of Tampa Counseling and Wellness, where he provides therapy and coaching services to individuals looking to transform their lives. He completed his residency at Rutgers University and later received his doctoral degree in clinical psychology. Before becoming a psychologist, he served in the United States Marine Corps then went on to serve as a firefighter and paramedic in Florida before returning to school to attain his doctorate degree.
Carlos is a strong advocate for mental health and overall well-being. He helps his clients get unchained from their past in order to find the inner confidence and passion to start living a fulfilling and empowering life. He understands that it is only after we know ourselves fully that we can transform ourselves fully.
Welcome Carlos, thank you for coming on board with us, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Carlos Garcia and I am a clinical psychologist living in sunny Tampa, FL. My family came to this country from Cuba as immigrants when I was 2 years old and we settled in Miami, FL where I was raised. At the age of 18, I joined the United States Marine Corps because I wanted to serve the country that provided my family and me with so much freedom. Serving in the military was an exhilarating experience and one that I will never forget. I had the opportunity to serve alongside some of the bravest people I have ever met. After 8 years of service, I decided to leave the military in search of my next goal, to become a firefighter and paramedic. This was a challenging and intense job but one where I got to save people lives and make a real difference. After firefighting for 8 years, I decided to find another way to make an impact in the world, and it was through psychology.
Can you give us a little back story on how you are where you are today as the founder of Tampa Counselling and Wellness?
I think it started with my parents. They never pushed me to do or be anything. Instead, they became models of hard work and perseverance. Thinking back on it now, I always knew I could accomplish a goal if I set my mind to it and just believed in myself. Although this sounds easy in theory, everything I accomplished in life came with a struggle. My life, like so many others, was riddled in obstacles, many of which I was creating in my own mind. I was suffering and I needed to understand why.
I knew the only way I could do this was by digging into my subconscious and looking for blind spots, and the only person who could help me do this was a psychologist. Even though I help people through their own struggles now, I first had to go on my own journey of self-discovery. I had the fortune of coming across some amazing psychologist and counsellors along the way and I could not be where I am today without them.
Can you take us back to the very beginning of launching Tampa Counselling and Wellness, the set-up process of how you initially funded your company?
I founded Tampa Counseling and Wellness because I had experienced firsthand the amazing impact that therapy could have in helping people grow, heal, and find happiness. Before launching my company, I wanted to make sure I had the expertise and credentials to do what I do. I wanted to make sure I had a sound understanding of the science and theories behind human behaviour. I didn’t want to be just another self-proclaimed “coach.” Delving into the complexities of people’s psyche is a very delicate matter and one that I hold with great respect.
As for the business, I’ve always valued autonomy and independence so starting my own company was the best way to embrace that. It was one of those things where I knew I was either going to make it happen or go broke trying. I funded my company through bootstrapping. I was lucky because, for me, there wasn’t a ton of overhead. All I needed to begin was office space and a couple of comfy chairs.
How are you committed to providing a space that feels positive, comforting, and empowering for your clients?
My commitment begins by putting myself in my client’s shoes. This is not hard to do since I know exactly what it feels like to be a patient. I’ve sat in the other seat. I know what it’s like to feel lost. I suffered from my own depression for years and truly believe that it was a therapy that saved my life. It helped me find my place in the world and now I try to give that to my clients. Many of them come in feeling defeated like there is something “wrong” with them. They have tried so hard to get better but just can’t seem to.
They feel they are struggling and the world is judging them for it; moreover, they are judging themselves for it-harshly! I want my clients to feel that, in my presence, there are zero judgements. I call it radical and unconditional empathy! This means that we accept people just the way they are – good or bad. I want my clients to know that they are not alone in this world, that we all suffer, and that there is a way out. Most of all, I want them to know that even though they are struggling, they are still standing and fighting the good fight. That’s what I call resilience!
What methods are you using to help clients heal from their past, learn new ways of approaching challenges, and improve on their relationships with others?
The technical term for my method is psychodynamic therapy. It’s rooted in Freud’s psychoanalysis which focuses on looking at our underlying (and unconscious) fears, anxieties, and motivations. It is also rooted in developmental psychology which tells us that our early childhood experiences play a significant role in the development of our core beliefs, which then guides they what we think and act like adults. It is pretty cool stuff actually.
For example, our culture highly values success and achievement. If someone has status, money, and fame, we praise them for their accomplishments. Not succeeding or achieving is seen as a failure. Because this is how we’ve taught our children to think, they learn at a young age that the only way they can be accepted, loved, or valued is if they are achieving. You can see how this might create a problem. I believe this is why we live in a society where people are constantly walking around feeling “not fit enough,” “not smart enough,” “not wealthy enough,” and generally just not “good enough.”
Can you share with us a particular career highlight so far?
One of the things I feel most proud of is that I sit here today with the title doctor. Not simply because I went to school and got a degree; anyone can do that. It is because of the blood, sweat and tears it took to get here. I think about my parents having to leave their native country, with two children, in their mid-thirties, and having to start over in a completely different culture. I think about the struggles they had finding work, learning the language, and doing everything they could to put food on the table. I often reflect on the hard work it took to get here and how fortunate I am to have had people in my life that were consistently supportive and encouraging. I always feel so honoured and humbled by that.
How about any hardship, difficult times or barriers faced whilst growing professionally?
Something I struggled with for years was determining the best way to show up for my clients. Did they simply need sound advice? Did they need someone to just listen? What I realise is that everyone that walked into my office just wanted to feel heard. They wanted to feel understood. They wanted to feel like someone gave a shit. I came to learn that people weren’t coming to me because I was a doctor or psychologist, they were coming to me because I made them feel human. What if we could do that for the people in our lives?
How are you working towards your own personal development?
In some ways, I think I’m forced to do this every day in session. Each client teaches me something new. Every client helps me discover a new part of myself. I am not just helping them on their journey, they are helping me on mine.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
Just one? My life has been a series of hard lessons. I think that is what happens when you decide as a kid that you are always going to do things your own way. I always challenged opinions, conventional thinking, and often to my detriment, authority. I prided myself on thinking and living outside the box. When this is the choice, life has a few lessons it’s going to teach you. Looking back, I would do it all over again. Every one of those decisions, for better or worse, makes me who I am today and that’s someone I’m pretty proud of.
What are your preferred marketing methods for Tampa Counselling and Wellness whilst expanding your prospective client base?
My number one form of marketing is networking. I cannot stress enough how important networking is for any business, especially one in its start-up phase. There is so much value to building and fostering quality business relationships. You are your biggest marketing tool. At the end of the day, you are your company. You are your brand. It’s not your logo or your business card but the integrity and core values you infuse into your company.
What have you got planned throughout the rest of 2019?
The rest of 2019 is about continued growth both professionally and personally. Professionally, I would like to expand my company. My business is primarily counselling right now but I’d like to start incorporating some new wellness elements. The goal is to have a one-stop-shop for mental and physical health. The vision is to have a facility with additional services such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and other holistic healing modalities. I also plan to focus a bit more on my speaking career. Sadly, there is still so much stigma out there around mental health and seeking counselling. I plan to use every platform and opportunity I get to do something about that.