After 18 Years, I'm Back

Published on March 9, 2018

My dad was killed while on duty as a highway patrol officer near Lamphun when I was 8 years old. My parents were divorced long before that and I was mostly raised by my grandparents in Phichit. The police ruled my father's death a suicide but I can remember cigarette burn marks on his body at the funeral.

In Thailand, in the eyes of society, a girl without parents living with her uncle and grandparents is destined to either be a waitress, a prostitute, or both. When I was 10 my mom, who had been working for several years at NASA in Maryland, was finally able to get visas for my sister and I.

Moving to America was hard for me. I didn't speak a word of English and was thrown into elementary school. I had my patented Thai-school-girl bowl cut and weighed about as much as a feather.

I can remember being in gym class and the captains picking teams for volleyball. One of the captains was Filipina and I remember thinking that she would be nice to me because she looked like me but instead she said something along the lines of, 'I don't want her, she can't even speak English'. Although I didn't understand her exact words, I knew they weren't nice so I threw her on the ground. I was in the Principal's office the next day with my mom who defended me so well for them failing to integrate me properly that I was taken out of PE and put into music.

Once I got English down, I thrived. Those around me failed to realize the opportunities they were afforded. I eventually became an honor student and got a tennis scholarship to Towson University in Baltimore. My mom helped me move into the dorms at age 16. By age 20 I had graduated and been accepted to the John's Hopkins University. At this point I had quit tennis and was working three jobs to pay the bills. Two years later, and still not old enough to drink, I graduated summa cum laude with a Masters of Science in Clinical Community Counseling.

Since then I have worked in the mental health field in a lot of different settings and was even a licensed Montessori teacher for a while but still had a nagging to return to the country I was from. With the amount of student loans I was carrying around, however, this proved no easy task. Eventually, in 2014, I was offered a job as a school counselor at Nakornpayap International School in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Just five hours from my hometown of Phichit and my grandparents who helped raise me like their own.

When referring students and families to counseling services in Chiang Mai, I couldn't help but notice the lack of qualified counseling services offered in the Thai language. By opening Golden Leaf Counseling, I aim to give back to the country and community that raised me and helped me become the person I am today. Although I'm qualified to work with most demographics, my expertise and skills lie mostly with working with children and families.

Thanks for trusting me in helping heal the people you love.

Category(s):Mental Health in Asia

Written by:

Amy Pattarapan Pothong

With a Master of Science degree, Summa Cum Laude in Clinical Community Counseling from the Johns Hopkins University, USA, I have been working in the field of counseling and clinical psychology for over 15 years. I have worked in school settings, outpatient clinics and even as a licensed Montessori teacher. My emphasis and passion have been supporting children and families, however, I have also worked extensively with individuals and groups.

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