Dr. Rita Romero PhD
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During the 16 years I have been running San Diego Woman Magazine, I have been honored to interview some of the most amazing women. Dr. Rita Romero certainly fits into this category. Dr. Romero has received many well-deserved honors from the patients she has helped over the years and the community here in San Diego and was selected as one of the top three best rated psychologists in San Diego both in 2022 and 2023. We now honor her as a Woman of Distinction for San Diego Woman Magazine.
As CEO of San Diego Psychotherapy Associates, Dr. Romero is a licensed psychologist heading up a practice with four psychologists in various specialties to help meet the needs of San Diegans. “I am a licensed psychologist myself and have an amazing staff of female psychologists, not to mention an incredible support staff. We feel privileged to walk hand in hand with many patients on a weekly basis hearing intimate details about them and their relationships, supporting or teaching them how to resolve past traumas when appropriate; how to effectively confront current challenges, utilize existing strengths or develop new coping strategies to successfully navigate this adventure called life”
Born on the outskirts of Los Angeles in a little town called San Gabriel, Dr. Romero has had the pleasure of recently returning for reunions with classmates, some of whom never left this small town. “Being back home, I thought how important it was for me to leave in my early 20’s when I was in that stage of questioning the status quo, and 20 years of child held beliefs, or I may have just stayed stuck there in the comfort of familiarity. I love San Diego and completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees here with 12 years in Northern CA.
I asked Dr. Romero if she always knew she wanted to become a psychologist. “Yes, human behavior has always intrigued me. I was fascinated studying what challenges or blocks us and what motivates us to move past those blocks. I also grew up with a brother who was mentally ill; it was traumatic for him and my family. However, with the right professional guidance and support, I found it is possible to transform trauma into resiliency, growth, and empathic understanding of others who face challenges.” Having experienced the intimate details of growing up with a family member with mental illness, Dr. Romero feels more in tune with the struggles that some of her patient’s experience. I feel very fortunate to have found a career that gives me such a sense of meaning and purpose. “Carl Jung, the influential Swiss psychiatrist, refers to humans being born with a life force, a life energy that needs to be expressed. My work as a psychologist is a perfect way for me to express that energy both for my own and others’ transformation”.
Dr. Romero says many patients come into therapy because they are feeling overwhelmed emotionally and physically by trying to balance the multiple professional and personal demands we all have. She says, “I know from personal experience how easy it is to become so focused on professional goals you can comprise personal relationships and health which is what I did while pursuing my Master’s degrees (and this was before I was married or had children.) Later when returning for my doctorate and now being married with two children, I was more invested in developing better strategies to balance the multiple roles.”
“As women, I think sometimes we can get so caught up in doing for others that we sometimes sacrifice our own health”, Dr. Romero referenced a study done in 2013 by the Pew Research Center. The study’s findings said that women, more than men, have difficulty balancing all the roles they undertake. “I don’t know why, but we think we can do it all! And we are three times more likely not to advance because we don’t get the balance right. In addition, Fortune Magazine made the bold statement in their editorial section in 2022 suggesting that we need to stop asking women how they balance their professional and personal roles because the truth is they don’t.”
She discussed the guilt women often feel that they are not doing enough. We struggle with the thoughts that often pervade our minds; you’re not spending enough time with your kids, you’re not spending enough time with your spouse, and you’re not putting enough into your work. She finds it humorous that on the internet “If you do an internet search with either the terms ‘guilt and the working mom’ or ‘guilt and the stay-at-home mom,’ the exact quote comes up in response. The stay-at-home mom feels guilty because she doesn’t do enough. The working mom feels guilty because she doesn’t do enough.” Maybe we want to realize we can let go of some of that guilt!
Dr. Romero says “I find it’s been important for me to keep balanced by noticing when I am putting some new responsibility on my plate to remember to take something off the plate! “ Also, Dr. Romero has learned through her own experiences and now shares with her patients the importance of developing our own list of “non-negotiables”, being things that are essential for our own well-being and we are not willing (or should not be willing) to give up. Non-negotiables may be exercise, meditation or quiet time, social time with friends and family, journaling, playtime etc. “I learn a lot in dealing with my clients. I’m not just helping them, but I learn a lot about myself.”
Dr. Romero and her husband share household duties, but she admits that for women, we often want help but have a little more difficulty giving up control of how things are accomplished. “I encourage my female patients to let their partners help them. But that means really letting go and not micromanaging everything even in our heads. That attitude has helped me in parenting as well, letting go and letting them do it their own way and stop worrying about the manner in how they do it.”
Dr. Romero spent her twenties getting her education and credentials, and in her late 20’s realized along with some other female colleague, they had forgotten to put some energy into finding partners. “Yet, who I would have picked in my twenties might not have been as wise a choice as the partner I chose in my early thirties. My husband, Dan, is a combat veteran with the philosophy ”If they are not shooting bullets, no need to stress “, and I have been told that I can be a type A, so he is a good support and balance for me. I have fallen in love with his family members, whom I”ve adopted as my own sisters and cousins. Dan and I always carve out a little time for intellectual exchange, playtime, and intimacy and make a conscious decision not to take our relationship for granted.
Dan was a single dad when I met him. We met at a party in North County San Diego and I had just begun talking to this new handsome man when he suddenly pulled out of photo of his 2 year old daughter announcing to me “I am a package deal!” I was shocked but also found it endearing he was so committed to being a daddy that he needed to announce to a woman whom he just met who he may or may not date what they may be buying! Yet, we did later marry and I became a stepmom to the little girl in the photo named Rachel . We gave birth to our son Christopher several years later. Parenting can be so time consuming, challenging and rewarding! It was my priority to spend individual time with each of them growing up. My daughter and I used to lay in bed looking at the ceiling, and she would share her thoughts and feelings. I think it helped that I wasn’t looking at her so I wouldn’t pass judgment. My son is the one that taught me he could share anything with me, but I didn’t get to respond as a mom for 24 hours. It was an excellent idea because it meant I could shut off that alarmed voice and think about what he told me before I reacted.
I think it’s important we listen to our inner dialog. Is it an inner tyrant and I need to let it know that I will do the best I can because that is all I can do; or do I need to add a new more compassionate voice? Do I need to develop or reach out to my tribe, my support system, or do I just need to just sit and do nothing or learn to say no to others’ requests of me?
I needed to know more about her incredible practice, San Diego Psychotherapy Associates. “Anxiety is our specialty with about 85% of our patients suffering from some form of anxiety, trauma or depression. We see both men and women. Our patients range anywhere from age 13 to seniors. I think the oldest patient I ever had was in her nineties, phenomenal, still working on herself. I believe we still want to be the best version of ourselves, no matter our age.
I asked Dr. Romero what is essential when selecting a psychologist. “To be in this field, we get all this education and training, but the reality is one of the most important things when you select a psychologist is not only do they have a good education, training and reputation but is it a good match for you personally? You won’t open up to the therapist if you don’t feel mutual respect. I suggest to those considering therapy that you don’t just pick a therapist/psychologist off a list. Do your research and then a conversation with the psychologists you are considering even if on the phone to ensure that you feel like they will respect you and are invested in your well-being.”
“When potential patients come into our office, we discuss their goals and what they are looking for in a psychologist. We will then assess what their treatment might look like. Together we will design the best plan. We have an opinion on what might be needed, but we want to provide a plan that they feel will work for them. Each plan is individualized and based on our patient’s needs.”
Since San Diego Psychotherapy Associates has both male and female patients, I had to ask if there was a noticeable difference when working with men vs. women. “Generally speaking, men are most invested in finding the answer and want a clearly spelled out strategy to fix the problem. Women tend to want you to get to know them as they share themselves with you and make sure you understand them before working on that solution. They want you to enter their world and understand what it’s like from their perspective.
I asked Dr. Romero what suggestions she would provide to those wanting to become a psychologist. “My first suggestion would be to enter therapy yourself. Find out why you are choosing this career. Is this for selfish reasons? Is it because you really feel like you could be helpful? I genuinely believe that this is a field that you should not even attempt to join if you have not cleaned up your own psychological and emotional well-being. When you go into therapy, you learn a lot about yourself, which is so important. Then find a mentor which is such a gift in choosing a career. Talk with as many people in the field as possible to get different perspectives. I’ve had several new people in the field who call me, and we will explore their motives for entering the field. Remember that listening is perhaps more crucial in this field. By being quiet and listening, we often allow our patients to discover their own answers and learn what resonates with them.”
Dr. Romero is not only a fabulous individual but an outstanding psychologist who truly understands the issues many of us face. She is real, she cares, and she has answers to help us navigate through some of the toughest challenges we have as women.
If you are considering treatment by a psychologist, follow Dr. Romero’s suggestions. Interview potential doctors and decide who is the best fit for you. For more information about Dr. Romero and San Diego Psychotherapy Associates or to schedule an appointment, contact them at the number below.
Phone: 760 846 0361
Address: San Diego Psychotherapy Associates
5425 Oberlin Drive, Ste 105
San Diego, CA 92121
Telehealth Visits are also available
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