Yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and decrease depression and insomnia, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

(Photo Courtesy of Candice Wu)

(Photo Courtesy of Candice Wu)

Although yoga has been used for thousands of years, its recent popularity in American culture has increased by millions.

Candice Wu, a licensed professional counselor (LPC) at Center Therapy Chicago, is all too familiar with the mental and physical perks. As a fresh face to the therapy world, she’s been blending yoga with clinical work since June 2014, after receiving her master’s degree in clinical psychology.

“I studied tantra and meditation and yoga, as well as spiritual healing modalities,” said Wu, who is also a yoga teacher at Meditate Yoga & Meditation Center. “It wasn’t until after I stepped into the work as a therapist that I began to really embrace those aspects.”

“As a therapist, it’s very important to do research and evidence-based practice. Tapping into some ancient practices that may not be as quantitatively researched can also be very helpful to people in their healing. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I felt like I’d embraced those parts of me and integrated that into a whole picture where I could feel empowered to help my clients with nontraditional ways of psychotherapy,” she said.

While some psychology students go on to get Ph.D’s to be a licensed psychologist, Wu found her home in therapy.

“I knew that I was giving up being a psychologist, which means I wouldn’t be able to teach higher ed as a full-time faculty member, and I wouldn’t be able to do psychological assessments or get the doctor title, however, it was more beneficial for me to continue training in the more holistic aspects.”

One of her practices includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing EMDR, which has been used for patients who have been in traumatic situations and for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially for veterans. About six years ago, Wu began EMDR therapy with her own therapist and felt she knows herself “more deeply” because of it.

For psychology students who wonder about creating their own path in psychology and therapy, Wu recommends brainstorming with other health care professionals.

“Do some informational interviewing with therapists and psychologists and counselors in the field. Making connections in the field is the most helpful thing because this field is built on relationships.”

Shamontiel L. Vaughn is a professional journalist who has work featured in AXS, Yahoo!, Chicago Defender and Chicago Tribune. She’s been an Examiner since 2009 and currently writes about 10 categories on Examiner.com.