“We all need to heal, but I don’t believe we come to therapy to be “fixed.” We are worthy of love exactly as we are right now—the question is, what growth is there to explore and strive for?”
“Over the last 10+ years I have seen 8 different therapists. Rainn Villalpando has been the most helpful, encouraging, and understanding therapist I’ve ever seen. I still have a lot of work to do, but in the time that I have seen them, I have seen the most positive change for my mental wellbeing in a short space of time than I have with any previous therapists.”Nat K., former client
- Trauma-informed and affirmative practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and intersex persons
- Affirmative practice with relationally diverse folks (polyamory and other non-monogamous arrangements) as well folks in the kink community
- Experience with Latinx & Spanish speaking, European & Francophone immigration & acculturative stress
- Experience with depression, anxiety, and stress, and sexual trauma & intimacy concerns
- Utilizes Liberation-oriented Existentialism, Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Feminist approaches
- Uses humor, play, and narrative assignments for individuals and couples
Rainn Villalpando, M.A.
Masters in Clinical Psychology
In 2016, Rainn volunteered through a service corps to support formerly incarcerated women in South Los Angeles as they transitioned back into society. This experience greatly taught Rainn the power of witnessing one’s pain, unconditional love and the power of change – both of which they carry with their practice today.
In 2017, Rainn trained queer people of color to become HIV testers through Chicago House & Social Service Agency. Rainn was able to see first-hand how systemic racism impacts persons of color and has moved forward prioritizing their practice of liberation-oriented counseling with a strong feminist emphasis, empowering clients to engage as equals in session and to believe in their own strengths.
In 2018, Rainn completed their graduate internship at Live Oak, conducting psychotherapy in English, Spanish, and French for predominantly queer folks of color. Rainn conducted individual and couples therapy in addition to developing and co-facilitating Boundless, a support group for queer folks practicing non-monogamy.
At Next Step, Rainn works with a variety of clients. Rainn specializes in working with members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons who have experienced trauma, and couples hoping to gain support to strengthen or transition out of a relationship. Additionally, Rainn provides counseling to clients living with depression and anxiety, as well as those going through various life transitions – break ups, grief and loss, self-esteem challenges, the coming out process, trauma and general relationship difficulties. Rainn’s authentic, down-to-earth approach makes them a great therapist for anyone who is feeling hesitant or nervous about coming to therapy.
Rainn incorporates mindfulness intentionally into their own life and invites clients into sharing in this practice meaningfully in session. Clients will be invited to practice stillness, to anchor themselves in the present, and will be challenged into growing in their awareness of their emotions, sensations, and thoughts. Rainn will often invite clients into a study of their internal landscape with the goal of restoring peace.
In their free time, Rainn enjoys swimming, watercolor painting, playing piano, writing, and dreaming of the Siberian Husky they will one day care for.
Gender Non-Conforming. Loving Difference
Our staff therapist, Rainn Villalpando, takes a moment to share about how their unique experience with gender identity colors the approach they take when working with clients exploring all types of evolutions and life transitions.
Rainn Villalpando (they/them) is a psychotherapist at Next Step Counseling who works with a variety of folks and is a fiction writer. They live in Uptown on the city’s north side.
I’m often asked what it means that I identify as gender non-conforming. Most of the time, folks see me as just another man they pass on the street. While I may appear masculine at times, that does not align with my lived experience. Internally, I feel a much different reality.
I remember playing with my mom’s dresses as a young child, elated at the elegance of the layers and the shimmering fabrics. I admired women’s blanket scarves in the fall for their colors, the way the swatches floated delicately in movement. When I thought I was gay at 12, everything made sense – or so I thought.
Throughout my college years, I struggled to feel comfortable with the other men in my dorm. I felt insecure about the more effeminate interests I had, from tv shows to clothes and music. Everyone knew I was gay and I was comfortable with that, but I knew there was something more that I had yet to understand.
In a lot of ways, I never felt like I could be a man. The concept always eluded me; it was always something I failed to fully emulate. It never felt like home to me.
When I was 23 I was sexually assaulted by someone who asserted dominance through his masculinity. I remember how entitled he felt during the encounter. I decided then that I was no longer interested in trying to be a man. I wanted to distance myself as much from this identity that never felt like mine to begin with.
What I realized in the aftermath of this experience is that I would rather not conform to a gender identity, for neither option in the binary felt fully and truly like me. Neither felt like home. So I had to make one for myself.
The way I feel about my identity is not quite gender fluidity, where either option in the binary may feel right depending on the day. What I feel instead is that certain aspects of each option in the binary appeal to me. I take these parts and blend them both in my own style, one that does not conform to dominant ideas of what a person can be.
Living as a gender non-conforming person, I’m misgendered every day, often addressed as “sir.” This once bothered me, but now I choose to look at it in a more positive light. On days where I wear dresses, I’m glad that someone can still look at me, notice my beard, and call me “sir,” because I serve as another example of what a “man” can be, at least in their eyes. While I am not a man, I am happy to inadvertently expand the realm of possibility for what a man can look like along the way.
My own journey and personal growth has only benefited and informed my clinical work with my clients. I like to use metaphor to explore and better understand how we each are socialized which influences who we are and how we relate to the world. Using the imagery of a garden, I invite clients to consider the flora that have been planted in their gardens from the moment they entered this world and were given this plot of land. As we make our way through the world, we may find that some of the plants in our gardens are actually weeds. I work with my clients to assess the garden of their minds to identify the weeds and pull them out together, making space for flora of their own choosing. With regards to gender identity, the client is then able to decide for themselves what it means to be a man, a woman, or something else entirely.
For so many years, I tried to find a home in the binary. I felt relieved when people saw me as mostly the same as them, just gay. Now, after my own journey, self-reflection and evolution, I’m happy to be different. I love non-conformity, it’s where I was always headed without even knowing. I make my home here every day.
Each week I’m privileged to help clients find comfort within themselves and their own life, a space of their own to call home.