13 Badass Psychologists…Who Happen to Be Women

In honor of International Women’s Day, we present to you 13 badass psychologists who happen to be women. Without further ado:

1. Janina Scarlet, PhD

Specialty: Licensed Clinical Psychologist using Superhero Therapy with patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD

Janina's PortraitDr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full-time geek. A Ukrainian-born refugee, she survived Chernobyl radiation and persecution. She immigrated to the United States at the age of 12 with her family and later, inspired by the X-Men, developed Superhero Therapy to help patients with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Her book Superhero Therapy came out in December 2016 in the U.K. and will release in August 2017 in the U.S.

Fun fact: Scarlet is a huge fan of Harry Potter and can often be found cosplaying at comic conventions.

2. Alexandra Solomon, PhD

Specialty: Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) for individual adults and couples

Dr. Alexandra SolomonDr. Solomon is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at Northwestern University, a staff therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, and the author of Loving Bravely. She presents internationally about love and intimacy to corporate, military, and professional audiences and teaches the most popular undergraduate course at NU: Building Loving and Lasting Relationships: Marriage 101. Also, Dr. Solomon is frequently an embarrassment to her kids. Earlier this week she was on TV talking about sex. (They were less than amused.) She loves doing CrossFit and hip hop dancing.

Fun fact: Dr. Solomon has attended Jay Z’s 6 most recent concerts. If he ever decides that he needs a troupe of barely talented but enthusiastic mid-life backup dancers, she plans to drop all of this psychologist stuff like a bad habit and head out on tour.

3. Aisling Curtin, MSc

Specialty: Acceptance and commitment therapy, mindfulness, and working with gender and sexual minorities

image of Aisling Curtin, MScThis badass psychologist based in Dublin, Ireland, is not a fan of boxes for herself or those she has the pleasure of working with. Aisling Curtin, Chartered Counselling Psychologist with the Psychological Society of Ireland, straddles three separate, yet related, spheres. She writes and gives workshops to the general public for self-help, trains clinicians, and gives talks and workshops in the corporate sector. The common thread among these areas? Her passion to convert pain into purpose and passion. Together with her partner in love and life (and soon-to-be wife), Dr. Trish Leonard, another badass psychologist who also happens to be a woman, they have co-created ACT Now Purposeful Living and the global movement 5 Minute Breakouts. They firmly believe that spending just 5 minutes every day breaking out of our comfort zones can lead to long-term, sustainable, and meaningful changes in our lives. Aisling also co-edited Mindfulness and Acceptance for Gender and Sexual Minorities. Her diverse hobbies include improv comedy and writing fiction.

Fun fact: Aisling convinced her 20 first cousins and 7 uncles and aunts to cycle over 100 miles from East Cork to Kerry, Ireland, in loving memory of her grandfather—and to prove him wrong. Before he died, he thought that none of them could complete the 100-mile route he had completed almost 50 years earlier for his brother’s wedding. 

4. The Rev. Dr. Lisa Fortuna

Image of Dr. Lisa Fortuna

Specialty: Child and adolescent psychiatry, PTSD, addiction medicine

The Rev. Dr. Lisa Fortuna is a bivocational doctor and Episcopal priest, passionate about access and quality of treatment for vulnerable children in her city of Boston. She is cofounder of a refugee immigrant mental health clinic, a researcher and Director of Child Psychiatry at Boston Medical Center. Her book Treating Co-occurring Adolescent PTSD and Addiction has been helping her clients and others who suffer from PTSD or addiction since October 2015. She can be seen touring the city with school police, her clergy collar on, reaching out to youth in trouble. She’s your friendly neighborhood shrink. Wealth and fame, she’s ignored and turned down—action is her reward.

Fun fact: The Rev. Dr. Lisa vibes strong with her Latina roots and can dance a mean salsa.

5. Niloo Afari, PhD

Specialty: Chronic health conditions such as pain, obesity, and binge eating

image of Niloo Afari, PhDWhen Niloo isn’t leading Mental Health at the Veteran Affairs hospital in sunny San Diego, she’s managing a ton of research, from twin studies to trials of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). She gets joy from mentoring amazing grad students and postdocs, and serving on the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) Board. Against all odds, Niloo and her work buddies recently revolutionized mental health screening at the VA by creating eScreening. This e-health system empowers veterans to report their health information directly into the health record. And in her free time, Niloo and her partner in crime, Jill Stoddard, have armed shrinks everywhere with hundreds of acceptance and commitment (ACT) metaphors in their first book, The Big Book of ACT Metaphors.  

Fun fact: Apropos to being a psychologist, Niloo and her family got a new rescue dog who needs a lot of therapy!

6. Mavis Tsai, PhD

Specialty: Helping individuals create deep interpersonal connection and live more boldly

Image of Mavis Tsai, PhD

Dr. Tsai, recipient of Washington State Psychological Association’s Distinguished Psychologist Award, has a world-wide following as the co-creator of Functional Analytic Psychotherapy (FAP), which harnesses the power of the therapeutic relationship to transform clients’ lives. She has co-authored five kick-ass books on FAP (including Functional Analytic Psychotherapy Made Simple which comes out April 2017) and over 60 articles, and literally kicks ass as an advanced practitioner of Kajukenbo. She loves to climb; the highest peak she has summited is Mt. Kalapathar (18,500 feet!). She trains volunteers in five continents to lead Live with Awareness, Courage and Love Meetups, which enhance skills in authentic connection. Her TEDx talk “Create Extraordinary Interactions” will be available in April 2017.

Fun fact: When her husband was accosted by a pickpocket, Dr. Tsai sent him away howling in pain with three swift, hard palm strikes to his shoulder blades.

7. Sheila Achar Josephs, PhD

image of Sheila Achar Josephs, PhDSpecialty: Anxiety, specifically providing cognitive-behavioral therapy for children, adolescents, and adults

A typical day for Dr. Josephs at her Princeton psychology practice involves teaching young and old the secrets to facing their fears. From claustrophobia and social phobia to obsessions and compulsions, no fear is too great for Dr. Josephs and her clients to tackle. Her groundbreaking new book, Helping Your Anxious Teen is the first one that exclusively focuses on how parents can address the rampant stress and anxiety teens today are experiencing. On top of leading mental health workshops for parents, school counselors, and psychologists, not many people know that she can play “Moonlight Sonata” with her eyes closed.

Fun fact: Speaking of facing fears, Dr. Josephs has gone skydiving but suggests taking a more “grounded” step-by-step approach.

8. Laura Silberstein, PsyD

Image of Laura Silberstein, PsyD

Specialty: Using ACT, CFT, and CBT for adults and adolescents with depression, anxiety, and other difficulties

Dr. Silberstein-Tirch, AKA “the Lieutenant,” believes that everyone has unique superpowers, often found dormant, suppressed by the struggle with personal demons. By day, Laura works as a psychotherapist; by night, she writes, supervises, and teaches other therapists how they can harness and hone superpowers in themselves and others. She has co-authored three books on compassion, ACT, CFT, and Buddhism (including The ACT Practitioner’s Guide to the Science of Compassion). As president of the New York City ACBS Chapter, she hopes to inspire more superheroes to the cause. She serves as the Director of the Center for Compassion Focused Therapy in New York, and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology in the Bronx. Laura is a badass backcountry skier, loves running with her dog Barney, making music with her husband Dennis, and is a wholehearted advocate for social justice.

Fun fact: Laura has two different colored eyes.

9. Katherine Nguyen Williams, PhD

image of Katherine Nguyen Williams, PhD<Specialty: Child and adolescent psychologist specializing in psychological testing and evidence-based treatments

Dr. Williams provides treatment for children/adolescents with all sorts of concerns—including anxiety/phobias, misbehaviors, depression, autism, and ADHD. Her other day jobs include leading a psychology training program that helps children and families in crises, teaching medical student doctors on the practice of medicine, creating innovative training programs and seminars for experienced docs, running the Anxiety and OCD specialty program at Rady Children’s Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry, and conducting neuropsychological testing for children with learning problems while consulting with schools. (Editor’s note: Whew, that’s a lot.) In her abundant spare time, she runs a school foundation board as Co-President, commands a Daisy group as a Girl Scout Troop Leader, and directs lost sea turtles in shark-infested waters back to their homes. She’s won numerous awards and written many articles, including her most recent kick-ass treatment book Modular CBT for Children and Adolescents with Depression.

Fun fact: Dr. Nguyen Williams is a war refugee from Vietnam; she arrived in America with only her clothes, her parents, and her five siblings.

10. Michelle Skeen, PsyD

image of Michelle Skeen, PsyDSpecialty: A psychologist with a focus on creating and maintaining healthy relationships

Michelle Skeen never has done anything in moderation, and she is unlikely to start now. The author, psychologist, radio host, and mother of two-leggeds and four-leggeds has two Iron(wo)man triathlons under her belt. When she’s not running a double marathon or climbing one of the Seven Summits, she is helping clients overcome fear-based beliefs with awareness, self-compassion, mindfulness and values-based behavior. Dr. Skeen has written 5 books (with 3 more in the pipeline), most notably Love Me, Don’t Leave Me. Every day, she does something that scares her—specifically running in San Francisco with two 60 lb. dogs who hate skateboards and scooters. Her most important accomplishment is raising three children including one badass woman (who is also her co-author) and two amazing men who love and support badass women.

Fun fact: Michelle joined her daughter, who attends college in Washington DC, for the Women’s March on Washington.

11. Emily Sandoz, PhD

Specialty: Acceptance and commitment therapy, relational frame theory

image of Emily Sandoz, PhDEmily Sandoz didn’t always mean to be a psychologist. But the university distracted her from her path to Broadway and she never turned back. Her main gig is as an Endowed Professor, directing the Louisiana Contextual Science Research Group. When she isn’t tricking unsuspecting students into loving science, she plays slave to her broader research community as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science or author of books like Living with Your Body and Other Things You Hate. In her free time, Emily inspires clients to live their lives with more meaning and flexibility and trains therapists all over to do the same. Emily is also deeply passionate about karaoke (performing and spectating), creating amazing Mardi Gras costumes without sewing a stitch, and her world-famous Friday game nights.

Fun fact: Emily was born, raised, and lives in the heart of Southern Louisiana, and she would not have it any other way.

12. Ruth White, PhD, MPH, MSW

image of Ruth White, PhD, MPH, MSWSpecialty: Social work professor, mental health consultant/coach/blogger/advocate

Editor’s note: While Dr. White isn’t technically a psychologist, we had to include her badassery in this article.

Being an online professor for USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work allows Dr. White to teach while wandering the world as a (mostly) solo traveler. Committed to making the world a happier and healthier place, Dr. White recently launched a mental health consulting and coaching practice to help individuals, organizations, and communities develop mentally healthy environments and behaviors. Author of two books on bipolar disorder (including Preventing Bipolar Relapse) and editor of a text on maternal and child health, Dr. White also writes a popular blog for Psychology Today. She considers herself outdoorsy: she’s passionate about sailing and hiking.

Fun fact: Dr. White is also a model and burgeoning actor.

13. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW

image of Julie de Azevedo Hanks, PhD, LCSW

Editor’s note: Okay, Dr. Hanks isn’t a psychologist either, per se, but her most recent book, The Assertiveness Guide for Women, qualifies her to be among these other badass psychologists. It’s also a little fun and healthy to break the rules sometimes, even if they are self-imposed.

Specialty: Licensed clinical social worker working in women’s emotional health and relationships

Dr. Hanks is working on a new bucket list since she’s crossed off everything on her first list. Hanks owns and runs Wasatch Family Therapy, is a private practice consultant, a sought-after public speaker, a popular blogger and the author of The Assertiveness Guide for Women. As a media contributor, Dr. Hanks has been featured in hundreds of top-tier outlets including The Wall Street Journal, Cosmo, Women’s Day, TLC, Discovery Health, and Reelz Channel. While in graduate school, practicing as a psychotherapist, and raising her family, Hanks has worked as award-winning performing songwriter (search “Julie de Azevedo” to find it).

Fun fact: Dr. Hanks plays roller derby. Her derby name is “Dr. Spanks.”

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