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Salem Rising Star: Adriana Barrera’s Transformative Journey in Mental Health and Therapy

Written by Wyatt Jones on Feb. 8th, 2024
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Adriana Barrera, the visionary behind Porque No Terapia (Why Not Therapy), stands as a testament to the transformative power of dedication and resilience in the face of adversity. Her journey from an uncertain career beginning to becoming a linchpin in Salem’s mental health and addiction community speaks volumes of her commitment to fostering well-being and accessibility in healthcare. Barrera’s unique blend of professional acumen, personal experience, and unwavering dedication to service sets her apart as a beacon of hope and innovation in a field that is as challenging as it is vital.

Initially embarking on a career in business administration with a degree from Western Oregon University, she spent nearly a decade at Chemeketa Community College, supporting GED students, many of whom worked in agriculture. It was this role that sparked a realization in Barrera—there was more she could do, a different path that beckoned. Encouraged by a friend and motivated by her innate drive to serve the community, Barrera pivoted dramatically, earning a Master’s in Clinical Social Work and a certification in Addictions.

Now at Kaiser Permanente in the addiction medicine department, Barrera has found her calling. “I am undoubtedly doing the work I was meant to do,” she says, reflecting a deep sense of fulfillment in her chosen field. This sentiment is echoed in her efforts to offer services in Spanish to the Hispanic community in the Mid-Valley, addressing a critical gap in resources and support. Together with a colleague, she initiated a DUI group in Spanish, marking a significant step towards inclusivity in mental health services.

The foundation of Barrera’s success lies in her resilience. Migrating to the U.S. at 14, she faced the daunting challenges of adapting to a new language and culture, all while navigating an educational system without familial support for higher education. Yet, it was perseverance and dedication that propelled her forward, culminating in a Master’s degree and a career dedicated to helping others.

Mentorship played a crucial role in Barrera’s professional development. Figures like Manuel Guerra and Carri McCrary, her supervisor at Kaiser Permanente, offered guidance and support, reinforcing her belief in her abilities and potential. Barrera credits these relationships with shaping her into the professional she is today, highlighting the transformative power of having leaders who believe in one’s potential.

For those aspiring to make a difference in their communities, Barrera offers sage advice: pursue your purpose and passions persistently, without succumbing to the allure of instant gratification. Her career is a testament to the rewards of dedication and the impact of service-oriented work.

Barrera’s approach to staying current in her field involves continuous learning, attending workshops, and expanding her knowledge across various therapeutic modalities. This dedication ensures she can offer effective, empathetic support to her clients, addressing the complexities of human experience with skill and understanding.

Understanding the importance of balance, Barrera emphasizes holistic self-care, incorporating physical, mental, professional, and spiritual well-being into her life. This balance, she believes, is key to maintaining personal stability and fostering healthy relationships.

Looking ahead, Barrera has set ambitious goals for herself and her practice. In the short term, she aims to deepen her expertise to better serve her community. Her long-term vision includes establishing a holistic retreat center—a place where individuals can find peace, heal, and learn new lifestyles conducive to their well-being.

Adriana Barrera’s journey from a young immigrant facing significant challenges to a respected therapist and community leader in Salem is a narrative of resilience, empathy, and innovation. Her contributions to the mental health and addiction field, particularly her efforts to serve the Spanish-speaking population, mark her as a rising star in the Salem business community. As she continues to grow and evolve professionally, her impact on the lives of those she serves is undeniable, embodying the essence of dedication and transformative care.

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