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  • Writer's pictureBright Light Counseling Center

Beyond the Clinical: A Look at Our Therapists In and Out of Session: Julie

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

Sometimes it can feel like a mystery when searching for a therapist.

Julie Gruca

You read and scroll all of the websites, profiles, and clinical information, but you don’t usually get to hear from the therapist in their own words.

Bright Light Counseling Center decided to lift the veil and introduce our therapists, in their own words. Learn more about them both personally and professionally.

This month we are interviewing Julie Gruca, MA, LPC Julie is a counselor in our Chicago, IL office. She provides therapy in person as well as online to residents of Illinois.

(Nancy): What do you like to do in your free time/for fun?

(Julie): I enjoy game nights with friends, being outside and exploring the city I live in, reading, baking, and arts and crafts. I’m looking forward to all of the festivals and outdoor activities happening in the city in the summertime!

(Nancy): Are you currently binge watching any shows?

(Julie): I just finished the latest season of Indian Matchmaking on Netflix, highly recommend. I’m also watching Dimension 20, which is where a bunch of very funny people get together for a live play roleplaying game. I think it’s a really interesting approach to storytelling.

(Nancy): What music is on your playlist?

(Julie): The latest Alvvays album, Black Marble, Beach Fossils, Their/They’re/There, Guided by Voices.

(Nancy): Are you currently reading any books?

(Julie): Speaking of books! I try to read every day, and I’ve got a perpetual stack I’m working through. My love for reading spans genres, but I am currently drawn to non-fiction and dystopian works. Right now I’m reading The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule, and The Intersectional Environmentalist by Leah Thomas.

(Nancy): What is your favorite dish to eat?

(Julie): This was a tough call, but vegan brunch nachos (brunchos?). It’s a thing! I’ve only gotten to have them a couple of times, but they combine two of my favorite things to eat: breakfast food and nachos.

(Nancy): Where is one place you would like to travel to and why?

(Julie): I honestly want to travel wherever I can, as much as I can. There’s so much to see, so many people to meet, new environments and experiences to check out. I’m interested in venturing to any place that’s new to me!

(Nancy): What helps you to relax and calm your mind?

(Julie): I like to create an atmosphere for relaxation: scented candles, relaxing music, a warming tea, comfy clothes, a book to dive into.

trees on a lake by Jack B

(Nancy): What is your ideal way to spend a day off?

(Julie): Depending on my energy level, I like to get out and explore the city with folks. Good food, live music, interesting spaces. And I’m always happy to find my way to a nature preserve.

(Nancy): What is your favorite place?

(Julie): Hard to choose one place, but I really love being near water. Lakes, rivers, the ocean, I find them peaceful and inviting.

(Nancy): What was your first job?

(Julie): My very first job was working at a Portillo's drive-thru when I was 16. Lots of days standing outside in the sun, waiting to take orders. I remember the manager used to buy us free fruit, which felt like a treat on a summer day.

(Nancy): What made you choose counseling as a career?

(Julie): Seeing loved ones who could have benefited from therapy but who struggled to get help. Mental health has an immense impact on the lives of everyone, yet it’s an area of the human experience laden with stigma and shame (and some major economic barriers). I want to do my part to normalize the act of receiving support for mental health: therapy for all!

(Nancy): What do you enjoy most about being a therapist?

(Julie): I really enjoy getting to collaborate with others. I view therapy as a partnership and each client I work with has their own strengths and insights that they bring to the table. Going to therapy is such a brave act, and I feel privileged that I get to support my clients on their therapeutic journeys.

(Nancy): What do you think makes you stand out as a therapist?

(Julie): I bring my authentic self into sessions, and I try to create spaces for clients to feel comfortable doing the same.

(Nancy): What made you choose to specialize in OCD treatment?

(Julie): The cycle of obsessions and compulsions is so scary and distressing, and it really takes the power away from folks. It’s an incredible experience to help people break free of that cycle and feel their power return.

(Nancy): What would you want someone who has never been to therapy to know about therapy?

(Julie): Your opinion matters, and your feedback is important! Therapy is a collaboration, and therapists want you to feel seen and heard.

(Nancy): What is rewarding about working with your clients?

(Julie): In general, my entire job feels like a privilege, getting to know my clients and being able to support them on their journeys. And I love the collaborative aspect of therapy.

Going to therapy is such a brave act, and I feel privileged that I get to support my clients on their therapeutic journeys.

(Nancy): What makes being a therapist worthwhile?

(Julie): It’s a very powerful experience to bear witness to a person’s lightbulb moment. When you’re in therapy, you get the chance to examine your life with a fresh pair of eyes, and that can lead to these moments of clarity.

(Nancy): What have you felt most challenged by as a therapist?

(Julie): Getting used to telehealth.

Before the pandemic hit the US, it was hard to imagine that virtual therapy could be as impactful as being together in one physical space. But whether it’s out of necessity or preference, telehealth makes therapy so much more accessible for folks!

(Nancy): How have current events impacted how you approach therapy?

(Julie): Current events can have a profound impact on sociocultural norms, quality of life, and our general wellbeing. It’s crucial to consider, and to name, how current events influence society and affect individuals, especially in terms of systems of oppression.

(Nancy): How do you feel about technology and its impact on therapy?

(Julie): Ooh I have opinions! Like everything, it has its benefits and drawbacks. Technology has increased access to therapy resources, including actual sessions and information on clinical information. However, the resources we can access aren’t always reliable, are misleading, or overgeneralized. How can a 30 second video on TikTok properly explore the nuances of effective communication or toxicity in relationships? This is where we start to see the overuse of clinical language. Have you noticed that everyone is a narcissist these days? Technology empowers us, and it is crucial to be thoughtful consumers of content.

(Nancy): What is one common misconception about therapy that you would change, if you could? Why?

(Julie): That therapy is a signal of weakness. I think some folks might avoid seeking therapy because they think a sign of strength is being able to navigate all of life’s challenges on their own. “I should be able to deal with this.” In reality, the human experience is so complicated, and all of us can benefit from this kind of support.

To learn more about Julie, click here.


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