Keith: Welcome to Disability Empowerment Now, Season 2. I’m your host. Keith Murfee-DeConcini. Today I am talking to Gabrielle Ficchi, a licensed therapist with a disability who specializes in disability service. She is also the Founder of New Perspectives LLC. Gabby, welcome to the show.
Gabrielle : Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
Keith: Thank you. So, we go way back. Almost 10 years. We met in the commission of disability issues for the city of Tucson, and you actually succeeded me as the chairperson. You were previously involved with the Direct Center for Independence.
You were involved with the U of A as a teacher or an assistant teacher and you just started a new venture, or maybe not as new, as a licensed therapist who specializes in disability service. Did I leave anything out?
Gabrielle: No, that's it. But you pretty much exhausted the list there. That was a pretty good job. I can't believe when you said 10 years, I was like, well, he's right.
Keith: Yes. Yes, and the reason why I knew that off the top of my head is because I was looking at an old resume of mine for a different project entirely and yeah I saw that. You recently moved from Tucson. Did you get, acquired is the wrong word, but for the lack of a better word, with the University of Phoenix?
Gabrielle: Yes. So I am lucky enough actually to be living in both Tucson and Phoenix right now. I have clients in both places for my mental health practice, and when I first started the practice in January of 2022, most appointments were still virtual.
We were still pretty deep into a pandemic, and so I could see people from anywhere in the state, virtually. And now that we've gone to more in person appointments, I had a lot of individuals in Phoenix who wanted to sit down face to face.
So I do teach for the University of Phoenix now, and I was fortunate enough to become Vice President of Care for the Caregivers, which is an organization that is focused on providing services to families who have a family member with a disability.
So once I became their Vice President and I had more people in Phoenix wanting services, it made sense to have a place up there as well. So the last couple months have brought about a lot of new exciting ventures.
Keith: So I know your disability, but I don't want to say it. Would you be comfortable in telling us your disability?
Gabrielle: Yeah, sure. So I was born with Cerebral Palsy, and Keith and I are both really familiar with what that means.
Keith: Yes we are.
Gabrielle: But basically in my experience, it means that I am affected in two of my legs and one of my arms. So I'm primarily a wheelchair user. And yeah, I was born with it. I was ambulatory for a little while when I was younger, and then realized that my wheelchair gave me a lot more independence.
Keith: So, tell me about the name New Perspectives LLC and how you named your practice or your company that.
Gabrielle: That's actually a really good question. Nobody's actually asked me that yet in any kind of public forum.
Keith: I am really really shocked because when I was doing background research on you, that's the first question that sprung to mind.
Gabrielle: Yeah so basically I came up with that name because when I set out to provide services for the disability community, my motivations were sort of multi-prong.
So I, as an individual with a disability myself, went through a period when I was younger, where I had a really hard time adjusting to and accepting being a disabled person.
And I looked for professional help and therapy in that arena and went to several different therapists and their views of disability were unfortunately really negative. Then I met an individual who also had a disability that was a counselor and he changed my perspective. And so that's when I kind of decided I wanted to do this for the community.
But as I'm sure you know, I quickly realized that helping individuals in our community is only one piece of the puzzle. Because if I was sending them home or back to environments where their families weren't supportive and weren't supporting these sort of new ideas of disability, then I wasn't gonna get very far.
So I say that my goal is to provide everybody within the situation, in the environment and a new perspective on the disability experience and really moving towards disability pride and embracing disability is part of your identity, which for most people is still a new concept and a new perspective.
So that's kind of where the name came from.
Keith: Yeah. I'm again shocked that I'm the first one who's actually asked you that question. So tell me what brought you to the University of Phoenix to teach there?
Gabrielle: So, I was teaching for the U of A at the time, and I was fortunate enough to get all of my degrees through the University of Arizona.
And so when you do that, you're pretty well connected to the department that you're in, right? Because I was an undergraduate and then a master's student and then a PhD student. So I was really fortunate to get some teaching experience pretty early. I was looking for opportunities to kind of expand and I realized pretty quickly that most counseling departments don't consider counseling and disability as a subset of things you should be learning about.
And so that's kind of become my mission when I get to teach for other counseling entities or programs, is to really expand on providing services that are really rooted in sort of the social model of disability and explaining what that means and bringing everybody kind of along on this disability justice journey.
So, whenever I get to teach future therapists and counselors, I think it's really great to have that opportunity. And they were hiring in their counseling department and as of now, most of the classes I teach for them are online. And so that gives me the flexibility to do it from anywhere, as I'm sure you know, a lot of us with disabilities need that flexibility in our work environment and I think that presents a really good opportunity.
So I've been doing that with them since 2019.
Keith: So how is it living in two different locations relatively close to each other? But it's still a lot of travel time back and forth. How is that going?
Gabrielle: Well, that part's actually very, very new. We are still waiting for construction in our Phoenix apartment, so there's actually not an accessible shower there right now.
So I'm in Tucson a lot more than I'm in Phoenix. But, I was traveling back and forth to Phoenix for Care for the Caregivers events for the last couple of months already and I love sort of being in that community. We were, again, doing so many things virtually during Covid, and so to be able to be in their space and in their company has been great.
But it is, it's certainly a lot of travel and you again, as a disabled person, like you come with a lot of stuff, so you come with a lot of equipment and a lot of things. And so the back and forth is a lot, and that's kind of what sparked this idea of having somewhere in both places could be really beneficial.
Keith: So you keep saying we, and of course I know who you are talking about, but who's we?
Gabrielle: My partner, Matt and I, so we are together, have been together for going on well, 11 years, if that's at all possible already.
Keith: What does he do?
Gabrielle: He works with adaptive athletics at the University of Arizona.
So he's been with them for a really long time and really loves that program and has had a lot of different opportunities working with them. So that's been great. And it's us and our two dogs that we treat like our children.
Keith: I know.
Gabrielle: Yes, you do. You're very well aware and you know it's fine.
I think a lot of times when people talk about relationships and disability, there's this idea that they're somehow really different for disabled people than they are for everybody else. And really it's just like, not quite, you know, it's, we're just living life day to day, dealing with most of the issues everybody else does.
And then you throw in the occasional fight for equality that you know all too well. Yeah. But the day-to-day stuff is pretty similar.
Keith: Does he have Cerebral Palsy also, is that something a bond that you have?
Gabrielle: He is disabled himself as well. He actually has a spinal cord injury. But I do think that we met a very long time ago, and that's certainly what brought us together.
Matt and I actually met at a program for individuals with disabilities. It was a summer program that really focused on independence and helping you achieve independence. It's the same place that I met the counselor that I spoke about earlier and it really was the place that, it was the first place that I had found community.
And I think that that speaks to how important it is for disabled people to have our community. It doesn't necessarily have to be the same disability. I think there's a lot of, still a lot of issues as far as silos in our community, right? So it's supposed to be that if you have Down Syndrome, then you go for all the things from people with Down Syndrome.
And if you have CP, then you go that way. And if you have spinal cord injury, you go that way. But really I think what that experience taught me is that we are all part of the same community and actually the largest minority in the world. So there's a lot of us, and when we come together, we can do some really awesome things and you can find people that support you and share in your experiences both the highs and the lows.
And I don't think it's a coincidence that that's where we found each other and started our relationship because it really was the environment where you could just be yourself and be fully accepted for who you are. And that was, that was my first introduction to that really. And we both ended up working there for several years.
And now we both work for a program that grew out of that program and it's called Empower Spinal Cord Injury. And it's for individuals who recently acquired some sort of spinal cord injury, and we help them on their journey to independence and finding what they want. So I get to be the counselor for that program, the therapist for that program.
And Matt gets to be a peer mentor for that program every summer. So we're still doing it and we love it. And it's like I said, what brought us together so.
Keith: So how long has Matt worked for the Adaptive Athletic Department at the U of A?
Gabrielle: He's been involved with them basically since he got here in one capacity or another. And he, if I got here in 2008, he got here in 2007 I believe. So it's been a long time. We really have. It's, you know, it's our community and it's home. And the U of A is kind of like, or Tucson in general, was kind of an extension of that summer program. Right? Because it was also one of the first ever places that I've been where you could see other people with disabilities on a pretty regular basis and they are, last I checked, we were ranked second in the country for disability accommodations.
Keith: Okay, who's the first then?
Gabrielle: Well, it's been a while since I looked, so I'll preface it with that. But when I looked it was University of Illinois, then us.
Keith: Oh, you're talking about the U not Tucson.
Keith: Okay good.
Gabrielle: Yeah the U of A, as far as universities. So it was just this idea that again you could, you could come together and you could have a community of people and we've definitely clung to that and it's just, it's been great. So he's been involved since he got here and he got me involved with the Disability Resource Center pretty early.
And it was kind of our home away from home.
Keith: Yeah, it makes sense that at least at the time when last you checked the number one spot in terms of University accessibility would be the University of Illinois, because one of my degrees is in Disability Studies and the University of Illinois, which I did not attend, really birthed the mothership program of Disability Studies from a graduate level perspective, so I am not at all surprised about that.
So you have had a lot of different jobs, pretty much all related to disability in some way. Did you always want to be a licensed therapist or did it just happen?
Gabrielle: So I figured out after that experience, in going to the camp, which at the time was called Shake-A-Leg. I figured out after that experience that individuals with disabilities supporting individuals with disabilities was kind of an untapped, much needed resource. And so that's kind of when I decided I was going to be a therapist and I was 18. So it's been a pretty long time that I've been pretty sure.
So I did my first two years of college in Florida and then when I found the U of A, they actually had a program in Rehabilitation Counseling that was specifically geared towards individuals with disabilities, and I was like, I didn't even know that was a thing. Like I didn't know Disability Studies were a thing I didn't know Rehabilitation Counseling was.
I was like, this is the greatest thing I've ever seen or heard of and this is where I'm supposed to be. So it kind of grew from there and then, I realized pretty quickly because I've been a therapist now in Tucson for almost 10 years. I got my first certification as a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor in 2012 and then went on to get my Professional Counselor License.
And I was working for different agencies in Tucson and different agencies around town, and I realized pretty quickly that if I wanted to help specifically the disability community, I was probably gonna have to venture out on my own because there is no, like, if you have a disability, go here for therapy.
So that's kind of what I'm on a mission to create. So that was kind of a long-winded answer to your question. Yes, I wanted to be a therapist, but I didn't always know what that looked like until I figured out what sort of path was gonna get me closest to helping the people that I wanted to help.
Keith: So I can’t help but notice the several plaques on the wall. Can you tell us more about those plaques?
Gabrielle: Sure. So the two biggest ones are my Master's and PhD diplomas. The one in the middle there is my Certified Rehabilitation Counselor plaque. And the one on the end is my Licensed Professional Counselor plaque. And then on the end, I don't know how far you could see, but on the end there's a National Rehabilitation Association Certificate because I'm a member there.
And then on this end there is a, I'm certified to teach parenting classes within the disability community. So that's the other certification to my right.
Keith: That's very impressive and why I wanted to get that out there is because you really know your stuff. You have made this your cornerstone of your life and that's very important to highlight.
So getting back to becoming a licensed therapist, how has your previous jobs motivated you or what have you taken from them into your practice as a licensed therapist?
Gabrielle: That's a great question. I think my longest job before this was at the Independent Living Center that you alluded to at the top of the call, and I think what I've really taken from that job is, the first of all, the independent living perspective that I infuse into all of my counseling and all of my work now, which for anybody that's not familiar, the basic premises are that individuals with disabilities should be in control of their own lives, and they should basically have a say and live as independently as possible.
And even if you need to do that with some sort of assistance, independence doesn't have to mean doing something entirely by yourself. It just has to mean being in control of how it's done. And I think so often individuals with disabilities are sort of sheltered or overprotected in the sense that they're not given the opportunity to make a lot of those autonomous decisions.
And so I've really taken those principles of how do we help this community be more self-sufficient, independent, self-confident, and how do I do that as a provider for them? And I think one of the biggest ways to do that is instilling a sense of pride in being a disabled person and what that means. I mean, that's a really new perspective because until I found Independent Living, every perspective of disability outside of myself was medical.
It was like, well, you were born with this and we can fix this leg with this and we can do this surgery and this thing. But it wasn't about like, this is the person who I am. It was just about like, how do we fix the diagnosis or address the diagnosis? And so that shift in perspective, I've really taken with me and tried to apply it to my work.
They made me a better advocate. Just like seeing what people go through and also what we can do when we come together. Working in Independent Living was my first experience on a disability protest, both locally in Arizona and nationally in DC. And just to see the power that 200 plus disabled people have when they come together to make real change and like paying attention to our laws and our policies and really fighting for what we need, those are skills I've taken with me that'll be invaluable to helping my future clients.
And then the job I had after Direct, I actually got to run a children's clinic here in town. I was their Clinical Director, so that taught me a lot about you know, I knew all about the policies and what you had to do as a therapist and what needed to be in place, but that took that experience and like amplified it to like, not only does it all have to be in place, but I have to be responsible for it.
So that was a very different subset of how to be a leader and how to supervise people and how to make services that focus on the person. Right. I mean, I'm sure you're well aware, but in mental health and in healthcare in general right now we're so focused on how we get paid. And who's paying and where the money's coming from and that, so that experience really just taught me to prioritize the person.
And so I've taken sort of both of those and meld them into my practice. And so my clients now get. Sort of a crash course in disability advocacy, and they get to, you know, really understand the history of where they came from and they hopefully get a therapist who really wants to see them and cares about their wellbeing over, you know, all the bureaucratic red tape as much as possible.
So I've learned a lot and I think too, there's a lot to be said about like, when you're an individual like us with an overt disability, there's a lot of opinions that come with like, when you're gonna start your own business. And I think I just knew from, you know, my nine years of working before this that I had enough of what to do and what not to do to hopefully make this successful. And so far, knock on wood, I've been pretty fortunate.
Keith: So could you talk about the differences and similarities between Rehabilitation Therapy and Talk Therapy?
Gabrielle: Sure. So they're, they can be kinda combined. Basically, Rehabilitation Counseling really focuses on the disability experience and so I think that's the main difference, right? It really taught me to look at what role the disability plays in somebody's life. A lot of it is also centered around career and employment practices and things like that. So that's why I went on to receive my License Professional Counselor Certification, and I can kind of put that together with rehab counseling, if you will, so I can focus on the disability, but also have, you know, the fundamental aspects of Talk Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Person-Centered Therapy and sort of meld the two together to give my clients kind of the best of both worlds.
But I think one of the biggest challenges there, one of the biggest challenges I've noticed this year is that people with disabilities aren't used to mental health services being for them. So I'm also turning into a bit of a market. I'm not a marketer by any means. I'm not very good at marketing at all.
And so to get people to understand like this is here for you when it hasn't been there in the past has definitely presented a little bit of a challenge, but that's what putting those two things together kind of lets me do.
Keith: So in addition to our joint work on CODY Commission on disability issues, how long were you on the commission?
Gabrielle: After you left, I finished my term as chair and then just didn't re-up my term. So I believe our terms. But my biggest, you'll remember this I'm sure, but my biggest kind of ax to grind as far as disability issues in the city was transportation. And it's one of the things that comes up consistently that affects our community because so many of us aren't going to drive a car for various reasons.
And so we need equitable and sustainable ways to get around. And by the time I left CODY, I actually convinced our local power transit system to develop an app so you can now track your rides with power transit and schedule your rides in an app, which you had the ability to do for the city bus for a very long time.
But they left us out, so that was kind of, I call that my biggest accomplishment on CODY, and we all really came, we all really came together to make that happen. I think one of the biggest lessons I learned while serving on that committee was just how true the statement is that if you don't have a disability or work in disability, you're not really aware of disability issues.
Keith: Unfortunately yes.
Yeah, Right. Like how does that happen? There's so many of us. But the recognition is still so small.
Keith: So in addition to our joint work in CODY we share several people poutsie of the disability community until very recently, one of your best friends, her name begins with an A, she was my physical therapist at Movement for Life.
Gabrielle: Really? I did not know that.
Keith: Yes and I only give you her initial because I don’t know how she would feel abou tme name dropping her and her profession and her job location, but ine person I do know who is going to geek out over this name drop that I am about to do is that we had the same former physical trainer, Barrett. And we have stayed in touch and he is one of my best friends, and I have gotten to know his family, I would say very well, over the past few years, probably as many years as I have known you actually. So more than a few, but yeah. Hi Barrett.
Gabrielle: Hiii! It's been a while for me but.
Keith: So how do you like being a licensed therapist and what are some things you enjoy most and what are some challenges that you find in your own practice compared to your previous jobs?
Gabrielle: Well, you know, what I like the most is just being able to sort of, help who I know I can be most effective helping. Right? When you work for an agency, you are assigned the people that you work with and that you help. And not that I didn't love working with those people, but I always knew that my sort of niche, if you will, was with this community.
So being able to open myself up to them and really help individuals on the journey that I've been on, both from a personal and professional level, has been really, really gratifying, but with that, I think one of the biggest challenges is that therapy is expensive.
Keith: Really, I had no idea.
Gabrielle: Yeah. Right, and it's really hard for me, I think, to know how badly this community needs the help and to want to help everybody, but at the same time remind myself that I have to make it my living. Right, if it was up to me, I wouldn't charge anybody in our community for therapy, but that's just not a sustainable way to do it, for myself or for the business.
So that's definitely been the most challenging because I think in our community we have so many additional expenses that most people don't think about. Right. Like, we pay to make things not just easier, but doable. Right. So when you're paying for those expenses, adding therapy becomes more of a luxury even though it's so needed. So that's been challenging for sure, but just being able to really tailor my approach and tailor people that I help has been super gratifying.
Keith: So Matt I would assume is very happy at the Adaptive Athletic Program at the U of A, and you have just started teaching in the counseling program department at the University of Phoenix. Do you see, and of course you have your practice here in Tucson, do you see that you would make that journey between both cities a semi to functional part of your lives together?
Gabrielle: I think, yeah. I mean especially, you know, like I have clients here that are really important to me and you know, I would never dream of abandoning anybody for sure. And I think too, I feel the same way about the people in Phoenix, you know, there's a lot of people there to help, as I've said, that I've been working with over the last several months that, you know, if you want therapy in person, that means I've gotta be there. And for a lot of people that's gonna be a more effective approach.
And so I think it's just a way that, you know, we're gonna try our hardest to make it all work.
Keith: So the reason why I bring up that personal antidote is because you mentioned at the top of the episode that both of you just moved to Phoenix, and you said right now in your place in Phoenix, there is no accessible bathroom or shower, and as much of an issue that accessible transportation is to our community, another issue that is really important, is accessible housing and so could you talk more about that?
I feel like we are back on Cody together.
Gabrielle: I know, right? Housing and transportation, Keith, they just keep, they just keep coming. We will be in Tucson still as our primary residents until the issues get fixed. Again, when I say expenses that other people don't have to account for, I mean, I think that's a pretty prime example, right? Like most of the time when you go into an apartment, you don't have to think about money to convert a tub or you know, like make a bathroom accessible. But in our community, guess what, you do.
So I think there's this idea of, I think what plays into that mostly is universal design, right?
Keith: What is universal design for the people listening that don’t know?
Gabrielle: Yeah. So universal design is the idea that things are designed for the most people to be able to use and benefit from basically from the beginning.
Like it's designed for everybody's use with everybody's needs in mind. So in the housing market, for example, if apartments or housing options were built excessively from the ground up, we wouldn't be stuck with the added expense and issues, I guess, of trying to make things work for us. I mean, between, we've also, you know, looked at the housing market in Tucson to go to a bigger house here and the expenses of, okay, I have to not only buy the house, but I have to add an extra X, Y, and Z for this construction and this construction and this construction. And then by the time you are done with the conversation, suddenly you can't afford what you thought you could afford. So it's this idea that if it was there from the start, we would have an equal opportunity to these housing arrangements like everybody else. But accessible housing is, you know, people do the bare minimum.
They're like, well, if you're looking at this apartment complex, we have like the two units that we're required to have, or whatever it is, and then we're done.
Keith: Yeah. Yeah. Unfortunately that is very common and that is extremely unfortunate. So, getting back to your practice, which I keep coming back to again and again, I hope you don't mind.
Gabrielle: I don't mind. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about it.
Keith: So what was it like starting up your therapy practice smack dab in the middle of a global pandemic?
Gabrielle: Well when I look back now, I wonder if I went a little crazy.
Keith: Really? Do explain that?
Gabrielle: I mean, you know, it just doesn't sound like, it's like, well we're in a global pandemic and we don't really know when or if it's gonna be over and we don't really know what it's gonna look like a couple months from now, but sure, let me go into business for myself.
So, but I think also it made it like the perfect time to do it because so many of the job prospects, even for those of us that were fortunate enough to keep our jobs like myself, you didn't know what that was gonna look like from one day to the next and so it was kind of a really good motivator to be like, If I'm gonna do this, now's a pretty good time to do it.
Also, the need for mental health kind of skyrocketed during our pandemic. So I really wanted to be in the position to help as many people as possible, and the business gave me what I needed to do that, and it started actually completely, virtually because of the pandemic, which I think opened me up to more people and more possibilities.
And so it was, it was scary, but it was also really gratifying and really rewarding and a little bit of trial and error. But I assume that comes with most business ventures and I think it's the idea that, you know, I had heard that a lot of disabled people, I mean, end up working for themselves for, you know, one reason or another.
And I'd always said, oh, you know, I'd be more comfortable staying in an agency and my paycheck is guaranteed and my clients are guaranteed and then I was like, or I could make my work more meaningful to me.
Keith: Yeah, there's the rub that so many of us wrestle with.
Gabrielle: Yep. Yeah. But even, I'll tell you a story when I went to open my business bank account, okay, I went, I won't say the bank, but I went to a very well known bank that I've been with for years, and they were noticeably concerned, looking at a disabled woman trying to open a business account and started asking questions that I can only assume are not routine and
Keith: Wouldn't have been asked of your husband or your partner if he had been the one opening the account.
Gabrielle: Right. Or maybe because he's also a wheelchair user, who knows? But the idea being that like, she just kept being like, is there anybody coming to help you?
And I was like, no, nope. Like, we're good. We've been here. I know exactly what I'm doing, which is why I've come to you with all the documents already filled out. Yeah. And then she asked me if I filled them out by myself. Yup, sure did.
Keith: Yeah. Well, a small comfort and I do not know how this will play out in the actual episode, but at least it was a woman, a fellow woman asking you those questions and not a man.
Gabrielle: I'm pretty sure she was just flat out concerned that a wheelchair user was doing this on her own. But those are just the preconceived notions of disability that we had to deal with on a pretty regular basis.
Keith: And so is it just you right now, and I think you already answered that, are you going to expand the practice to include other therapists, or even other therapists with disabilities. Or are you very comfortable at least right now? Let’s say in five years, if you could guess, what’s the game plan? Do you like just working on your own or would you like to have a team around you?
Gabrielle: That's a great question. So right now, actually, a good friend of mine and fellow therapist is actually working with me in the practice and she has a son who has a disability. So my vision for New Perspectives is that I would love to see us grow. I would love to see us be a team of therapists, but I'm very specific in that the therapists coming on have to have some sort of direct disability experience because that's what makes us different. And that's kind of the whole point of the project. And I think I want people with disabilities to be able to come here and feel comfortable. That does not mean, and I will just preface this by saying like, not all of my clients identify as having a disability. However, if you are struggling with a mental health issue, right, you're also part of our community. So we definitely serve people on all ends of the spectrum, and I love what I do, but as far as expanding and growing, it will be with people that are either disabled themselves or have that direct connection or experience so that we can offer sort of that collective sense of belonging and comfortability.
And you know, that I'm confident that the perspectives they're portraying on disability are positive, because there's no need to go to a therapist that portrays a negative view of your disability. I've done that, and it's not helpful.
Keith: And I'm sure I have too in the past. So normally I wouldn’t ask this, but since you brought it up as one of the things you have to wrestle with in that if you didn’t need money, you wouldn't charge anyone in the community for mental health services. In case anyone is listening locally who wants to seek out your services, what is the going rate that New Perspective charges?
Gabrielle: That's a great question. So I think as far as accountability in therapy, there's always going to be some sort of cost associated, even at low cost, right? Because when you buy into your experience, you're more likely to, you know, participate in all these things. But as far as what we charge at New Perspectives, it's all done on a sliding scale based on your income.
So anybody that's listening that would be interested in services, I just encourage you to reach out to us because our starting point is gonna be where you can start with us, and it's going to be as flexible as possible to maintain the business, but also get you the services that you need.
Keith: So if someone wants to contact you or learn more about New Perspectives, what would be a good way to do that?
Gabrielle: Yep. So our website is the best place to start and then New Perspectives LLC.org. You can get a little bit of background information on the company. You can see testimonials from other people. You can book your first free consultation. Any consultation for therapy is totally free of charge.
There's therapy services, there's consulting services. If you have a disability specific issue that you need some help navigating, but you don't wanna commit to therapy, you can come to us for consulting as well, but all of those initial appointments are totally free. So that's your best place to start.
Or you could find me on social media platforms @Dr.GabrielleFicchi, and that's where I try to post. I haven't been as good at it lately. I've been taking a little bit of a break. But like I said, a lot of my work focuses on helping families, like whole families who have a family member with a disability.
So I try to post advice to parents raising a child with a disability, advice to family members and motivational content for the disabled individuals themselves. So, that's obviously for anyone joining you can follow along there.
Keith: So in wrapping up this interview what are five action steps let's say you would give any inspiring advocates just starting out on their journey and that want to know how to be effective advocates. What would you say to them?
Gabrielle: That is a really good question. I think the first place anybody should start is finding your local community. So this work of disability advocacy is not meant to be done by yourself. There's a lot of us. There's a lot of causes that we're fighting for. There's a lot that we need in terms of disability equality.
And so there's a lot happening. So my first piece of advice would be to find the issue that means the most to you and find some way to connect to it. Whether it's meeting people in person, whether it's joining a letter writing campaign, whatever it is, but finding what's important to you.
My next piece of advice would be to start examining your own perspective of disability and where you are in that journey versus where you wanna be.
It wasn't until I started working in this community, pretty much full-time, that I realized that as much as I had thought I was so evolved on my disability journey, there was a lot more I needed to know. So I think you have to kind of do a lot of self-reflection on where you are at. I would also get involved with your local Independent Living Center.
It's a good place to find that community of people. I would have, whether it's close friends or family, that you are comfortable talking to about this. I realized as I got older, my parents did a lot right in raising me and in helping me realize I could do whatever I wanted to do or be whatever I wanted to be, but I wasn't having a lot of open conversations around my disability experience.
So I think that's super important, finding those trusted people. And then lastly, I would just say like, find where you wanna fit? I mean, for Keith and I, it's been a lot of different things. Like we met on CODY and we did a lot surrounding disability issues. I've been a part of a lot of different clubs or organizations.
I found a lot of my community through academia, but where do you personally fit? I know a lot of people find community through adaptive sports. That's another really popular one. But find, find your people, and work together.
Keith: So I would like to think that this podcast is listened to by both people with disabilities and people who have yet to discover their disabilities, and I would be naive to assume that those two communities would get the same thing out of each episode. And so having the last word on all of the topics that we have discussed, and I hope you come back for another interview later on, but what would you hope that people with disabilities would get out of listening to this episode and what would you hope that people who have yet to discover their own disabilities get out of this episode?
Gabrielle: I hope that if you are a disabled person listening that you take the conversations that we've had today around disability pride and your disability journey, and you find where you fit in it. And I hope that my journey has kind of helped people see sort of where they are versus where they wanna go. So I hope you've gotten that sense of community and are inspired to take even one of the five steps that we mentioned or any of the steps that we mentioned and find your place in that.
And if you do not identify as someone who has a disability, I think one of the main takeaways here is that disability perspectives are more than valid. And so there's a lot of preconceived notions you and I have both shared stories of obstacles and hurdles and preconceived notions today, and I would just hope that people question them and look at them with open eyes and really value the perspective of the Disability Community over what we think we know.
Keith: They're not only very valid, but they're all so very diverse because the disability community is incredibly diverse in and of itself. It always has been, and it always will be.
The last question I would ask is knowing you for years and I'd certainly learned more about you in this interview, but do you have any interest in writing books, or writing your story and giving the new perspective that way?
Gabrielle: I would love to eventually. I have gotten the opportunity to write some articles about my story and things, and I think it's just important that any of us get our perspectives out there because like we've said, a lot of them are new and I think there's a big shift in the, not just the Disability Community, but how people outside of the community are interacting and looking in our community. I would really love to eventually, and we've talked about it a few times, but I think both of us are a little stuck on even where to start the process.
I would love to write a book with my mom because a lot of my work centers around parenting a child with a disability because it all starts there, right? Like their attitudes towards disability are gonna stem from what they grew up believing about themselves and my mom always instilled a lot of independence in me, and I've learned that I'm sort of the exception as opposed to the rule sometimes.
So I would love to write a book, co-author a book with her about our experience that can help other families. And so that's kind of a project that we've talked about doing for a little while now. So I would love to do that.
Keith: So that would be a co-author memoir type?
Gabrielle: Yeah, yup!
Well Gabrielle, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I can't believe it's been at least five years since we've actually been in the same room together, if not longer. But time is wonky now, thanks to the Pandemic. I do hope you will come back on the show and tell us more about how your practice is evolving and everything you learn and feel about the critical issue of mental health when living with a disability.
Well, mental health in and of itself for everyone, is a critical issue. But particularly when you have a disability, be it physical, emotional, mental, all of the above, it's, you'd said something I really want to go back to.
You mentioned that you wish that mental health services for people with disabilities didn't feel like a luxury and that is extremely important. Did I quote you right?
Gabrielle: Yeah, I think right now, they are, like I said, with, with all of the additional expenses our community has to spend, it becomes a luxury to spend additional money on yourself. So I wanna get to a place where, you know, people that need it have access.
Keith: That's a beautiful thought to end on. Again Gabrielle, thank you so much for coming on the show and I do hope that you come on another episode and that I'd see you and Matt in person sooner rather than later.
Gabrielle: Yes, that would be great.
Keith: Take care. Bye.
Keith: You have been listening to Disability Empowerment Now. I would like to thank my guest today and you, the listener. More information about the podcast can be found on visit on disabilityempowermentnow.com. The podcast is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on the official website. This episode of Disability Empowerment Now is copyrighted 2022.