Beth Jakubanis, MSW, LCSW
By Quentin Dunne, M.S., MFT
Life is what happens to you,” John Lennon once sang, “while you’re busy making other plans.” The career of Beth Jakubanis does more to prove Lennon’s observation right than wrong, taking a series of twists and turns that ultimately led her to exactly where she wants and needs to be.
Beth was born in Chicago, but, “My family moved in LA when I was six-years-old, so my dad could follow his Hollywood dream.” Her father’s courage in following his dream was well-rewarded as he eventually became a successful and respected figure in the entertainment industry. Her mother, meanwhile, built up a successful insurance company from scratch. After Beth graduated from high school, she began pursuing a dream similar to her father’s, attending Washington State University due to it so utstanding broadcasting program and graduating Phi Beta Kappa with a major in communications and a minor in Spanish. She then moved back to Los Angeles and began working in advertising as well as in television production, including being involved with Emmys and the Academy Awards (which earned her an Emmy for her contribution to the Oscars in her role as a member of the production staff).
After having worked in advertising for approximately eight years, Beth received the Warner Bros. National Salesperson of the Year in 2000. “I was speechless,” she remembers. “I didn’t even know I’d been nominated, so when I got the letter that I’d won, I just kind of fell out of my chair.” Even with such prestigious formal recognition, “I felt like there was something missing. One day, I was in my office looking out the window and my friend and colleague, who was pregnant with her first baby, came in and told me she was leaving the company because of the impact it was having on her family. Then a few weeks later, her husband was killed in the Twin Towers plane crash on 9/11. I decided it was time for me to do something else, so I applied to both teaching and psychology programs, and I was accepted on a full scholarship at CSUN to become a bilingual teacher.”
From Warner Bros. National Salesperson of the Year to graduate student in education to work as a bilingual teacher. Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans. And as it turns out, life still had a surprise or two left in store. “Two weeks into teaching second grade at LAUSD, I had an aggressive and suicidal student, and I knew at that moment that I’d gotten the wrong degree. Not because I didn’t care about that student, but because I was more concerned about his psychological wellbeing that his education. Rather than wanting to send that student out of the classroom, I wanted to send the other 19 students out to the
playground and just work with him.”
“So,” she remembers, “I continued to teach for a few years while I looked around for the right degree. Eventually, I applied to the UCLA social work program and was accepted, but I had to defer for a year while I had some medical issues taken care of.”
Once Beth started her social work program in 2006, “I knew I was in my element. I was reading and learning and growing and just felt like I couldn’t be contained.” She subsequently completed her licensing hours at the Child and Family Guidance Center in Northridge where she worked for 5 1/2 years. She became licensed in early 2012 and launched her private So. Cal. Child Therapy on August 1, 2013. During this journey, she discovered, “I liked the really high needs, crisis-y type clients. I worked well with them.”
Beth’s passion for working with such high needs children – as well as the entrepreneurial spirit she inherited from her mother – ultimately resulted in her newest endeavor, the intensive outpatient program So. Cal. Child Center, whose new office opened on April 1st, 2015 in Woodland Hills and which provides Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) services for children with significant emotional and behavioral impairment. It is the only such private practice in the San Fernando Valley and Ventura County serving this private sector of clients. In addition to running the Center, she also supervises its intern therapists. “I’m really enjoying my journey as a supervisor. Of course, I’m busier than I’d like to be,” she confesses, “but I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. It has allowed me to dovetail the teaching, which I enjoy, with the psychology, which I love.” Her commitment to and belief in the Center is palpable. “The IOP is such a fantastic program because it allows me to work with a family four times a week. It’s the essence of family systems operationalized at a developmentally appropriate level. I’ve had families who have struggled with certain issues for years come up to me and say that our program has finally made a difference, and those are my proudest moments.”
Of course, setting up and operating such an organization is hardly easy and, considering that Beth has also written the psychology chapter of Barron’s New MCAT Review, teaches social work students at CSUN, and has been interviewed by US Weekly and CBS News to offer her psychological insights on certain matters, one might wonder what she does in her rare time off (aside from catch up on sleep). As it turns out, she loves traveling, taking in the arts, and organic gardening (citing research studies on the natural anti-depressant benefits of gardening), and is the proud mom of a 16 pound Pomeranian. And last but not least, “Weekly massages help as well.”
When asked about the role of SFV-CAMFT in her personal and professional development since she became involved with the chapter in 2013, Beth answers, “It gave me a community, a family of therapists who are private practice-oriented. There’s a warmth and a sense of mutual respect for everyone and their accomplishments. It’s been very inspiring to be surrounded by so many accomplished colleagues and has really helped me with respect to my private clients by providing me with a community and resources.”
After her many journeys, projects, and accomplishments, what perspective would she offer to younger therapists? “What I tell my undergraduate students is that they should only do this work if they absolutely cannot do anything else. For me, the work is a burning passion. I think those with a burning passion are the ones who can affect the greatest change. I counsel my students about the innocence they will lose if they go into this field. No question, they will hear some incredibly difficult and painful stories from their clients. But I know without a doubt that I was born to do this work. I am constantly inspired by the growing, healing, and learning I observe in my clients, and I couldn’t be happier to do anything else.”
Quentin Dunne, M.S., MFT is in private practice in Santa Clarita. He specializes in trauma recovery and grief and loss and volunteers with The Soldiers Project, providing free therapy to returning veterans and their families. He can be reached through his website www.santaclaritatherapy.net, by e-mail [email protected], or by phone 818.636.8639.