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Meet Dr. Samantha Pieknik, Psy.D.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Samantha Pieknik, Psy.D.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Dr. Pieknik. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
As a child, I was always interested in people. I loved listening to others, hearing their stories, and I found people to be so interesting and unique. My first name actually means, “listener!” After experiencing some losses within my family at a young age, I ended up going to therapy to adjust to these changes in my life. I was so intrigued by the entire process, and after coming out of it feeling stronger, I wanted to give others the gift of therapy as well!

I majored in psychology in undergrad and had a special interest in working with children and teens. I wanted to get involved in the field in some way, so I got a part-time job as a behavior therapist working with children and teens on the autism spectrum. I decided to pursue my doctorate in clinical psychology, and work with children and teens struggling with anxiety and depression; or those who feel like they don’t quite “fit in.” I have a special passion for working with individuals on the autism spectrum who also experience social anxiety, generalized anxiety, and depression. My goal is to let my patients be their true authentic selves, and to let them know that being unique is cool!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I’d say there is generally a lot of stigma in psychology/mental health, so explaining what I do to others can be off-putting in social situations. For example, telling people I just meet that I am a clinical psychologist can often lead to the other person saying things like, “Wait, so are you diagnosing me right now?” Honestly, the answer is “No,” because it is important to me to have a work/life balance and boundaries. While sometimes it feels like I am on the clock 24/7 because I love my job, it is just as important to take a step back and just live life like everyone else.

My goal is to not make psychology such a taboo topic of conversation. Sometimes psychology and diagnoses can feel so pathologizing. People need to know that therapists see therapists, too. There is nothing wrong with seeing a therapist for anxiety or depression; just like there is nothing wrong with going to see a physician when you have a cold.

Please tell us about your practice.
I am currently in private practice in the Uptown Phoenix area, and primarily see children and teens for therapy. As mentioned earlier, I specialize in working with those on the autism spectrum or working with individuals who feel like they don’t quite fit in. I tend to align with the neurodiversity perspective of seeing others as having variations in their social skills, learning, attention, mood, and other mental functions in a non-disordered way. Being different doesn’t always have to be pathologized!

My office is very laid-back and colorful and has something for everyone. Specifically, I like to keep my office stocked with lots of fun things like games, toys, puppets, fidgets, weighted blankets, and other objects that make my patients feel comfortable. I imagine it might feel a little weird for kids or teens to come into a doctor’s office to talk about their deepest feelings, so I try to keep things casual and comfortable. This is partially why I go by “Dr. Sami” or “Dr. P” instead of “Dr. Pieknik!” I also do not approach everyone in the same way for a variety of reasons. People have different interests, and different needs, so I am not going to approach everyone’s treatment using the same theoretical orientation. Because of this, I like to utilize my patient’s interests in therapy and use their favorite movies, games, crafts, and so on to help teach new skills or to help them express their emotions. My teens are really into memes these days, so sometimes I’ll have my teens make their memes about the emotions they are currently experiencing.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Any time I went to Disneyland. Specifically, any time I rode on Space Mountain!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Aaron Kes Photography for the first photo.

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