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Episode 28: Small Steps Create Big Movements [Featuring Grace Wolk]
Episode 2822nd May 2022 • All Things Private Practice Podcast • Patrick Casale
00:00:00 00:33:51

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During this episode, I speak with Grace Wolk, a Filipino-American therapist and entrepreneur in California. 

Grace and I talk about her journey as a BIPOC, being "uprooted" from The Philippines and moving to California, and the daily discrimination, racism, and microaggressions that she's endured.

We talk about...

  • Taking up space, and the importance of allowing yourself to do so, even when it's scary
  • Grace's passion for Hula dancing and why it's so powerful — tiny steps that lead to something synchronistic and beautiful
  • Being a Filipino therapist and entrepreneur and doing things differently
  • The racism and microaggressions that Asian Americans face on a daily basis
  • Cultural expectations and intersectionality 

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A Thanks to Our Sponsor!

I would also like to thank Spruce Health for sponsoring this episode.

Spruce Health is a HIPAA compliant app for phone, text, fax, and telehealth.

Their customer service is fantastic, and their staff has the mission of not only making it easier on us as practitioners and practice owners but also easy for our clients to make sure that their communication is protected. I’d highly recommend them as a one-stop-shop to have all your HIPAA-compliant communication under one roof.


PATRICK CASALE: If you're in private practice like me and you don't know what the hell you're doing when you start out, you probably don't know that you should be having a HIPAA compliant phone system. A lot of us use Google Voice, a lot of us use our regular old phone number, some of us even go and get a second line at our cell phone carrier. None of those are recommended. I learned that the hard way. HIPAA compliant phone systems are really important in private practices. You want to protect your client information, you want to protect yourself.

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PATRICK CASALE: Hey everyone, you are listening to the All Things Private Practice Podcast. I'm your host, Patrick Casale, joined today by Grace Wolk. She is a Filipino therapist out in California. Also, a podcaster, doesn't want to admit it, says it's just a hobby. But Grace, I'm really happy to have you here. And I know that you mentioned you were having some fearfulness, some anxiety, some impostor syndrome around being on, so it's okay, and we're in this together. And like, I'm just happy to have you here, and we're going to have some really cool conversation.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: You know, when you first sent me the invitation to come onto your podcast, you could tell I made myself small, and like, “You’re sure you want me on there?” But I appreciate it. I appreciate you having me on. And I was really looking forward to having this conversation with you and to seeing where it goes.

So, I'm going to introduce myself. First and foremost, I think the highest priority of my life is my family, of course, my two boys, Gavin and Grant, along with my husband. But my two boys, they are right now 11 and 9. And you know, just keeping up with their infinite energy, and their playfulness, and their curiosity of life, and the world is my joy of my life right now. And everything else comes second to that.

today, so [CROSSTALK:

PATRICK CASALE: Oh, believing in shit.


PATRICK CASALE: 452 days in a row, and I keep up with your social media stuff. So, I've been watching it. I play soccer. I consider myself fit. I only run on Fridays and Sundays when I play soccer. And if I could do what you're doing, I would appreciate it so much more when I'm on the field where I'm like… but anyway, very impressive.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah, thank you. I mean, it's like, yes, you're right. It's like running every day, like not on a treadmill or anything, like outside. Like, for the last 452 days I have not been inside for the whole 24 hours. I've gone outside and got some vitamin D, or rain, or shine, snow. I get so crazy to even think about it too like I'm shocked at myself. So, I'm pretty proud of it.

PATRICK CASALE: You should own that. I mean, you should be proud of that. Because again, like how many people have the discipline to do that? You know, everyone starts with a 30-day challenge, right? And then all of a sudden, after 20 days, you're like, “Screw this, I'm not doing this anymore.” So, you've done this for more than a year now.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah, almost a year and a half. And I feel like it's really life-changing. Like, there is something about it that now it's like a part of me, it's a part of my life, like I need to have it, I need to get it done, or I can't start the day, or even finish the day without going out for a run. So, I mean, we can totally talk about that more when we have time. But telling you more about myself, so aside from my running, you know, I am a lifetime learner. I have this constant hunger to learn more about the world and learn more about myself. And that includes my identity. So you know, just exploring it, and you know, I'm continuously evolving, and part of my identity is based on my values.

And one of them is authenticity, right? As cliché as it sounds, to me being authentic is just always being genuine and true to myself, and so I kind of want to share something with you if that's okay? Something personal and it involves you.

PATRICK CASALE: Oh, I don't know what you're about to say. But it's okay regardless if it's good or bad.

f that I was a [INDISCERNIBLE:

So, I never really took it seriously until October 23rd. You had posted your own journey of getting a formal evaluation for your own diagnosis and there was something, I read that post, and I read it over, and over. And it just struck a chord in me. And it was so powerful Patrick. And you know, I mean, like we met in Maui briefly, you know, and since then we started following and connecting with each other on social media, which is so great that we can connect with other people, even from different states. I love that about the world now. But something about your post really inspired me to really go get my own assessment, and just, you know, further learn more about myself. And so I did that.

And, you know, when I was getting my evaluation, you know, I was just thinking, “Oh, okay, well, she's probably going to say that I'm on the border, or, you know, just slightly on the border.” But, you know, when my results came in, she said, “I really scored pretty high on having that ADHD inattentive and hyperactive.” And like you mentioned, on your post that, you know, I felt validated, right? But I was so sad. There was so much sadness. And I had to process all of that information for weeks. And this is so recent, right? And so I'm still processing it. And you know, I really thought about whether I wanted to share it with you today. But I really want to make sure I tell you about my story.

And so now, I think after I like really buried myself into research and like learning more about it and accepting the fact that I am also now neurodivergent, and it was just eye-opening, it was very validating. And you're right, it's very disheartening because there's just a lot there. Because looking back now, looking at my life, it's so like, I'm seeing it from a different lens now, you know? Strangely, and seeing how much I struggled trying to fit myself in a neurotypical world and no wonder I struggled, because, you know, my brain works differently than everybody else's. So, you know, I thought I'd share that with you.

PATRICK CASALE: I just want to, one, thank you for sharing that, especially in a setting where other people are going to listen to this and hear that. There's a lot of vulnerability and courage and the ability to just put it out there, and I just appreciate you naming that. And I'm wondering, you know, as you name that, have you talked a lot about this with other people, and also what comes up for you when you just put it out to the world like that? Because I noticed a shift in your body language. I know a lot of people aren't going to see you because it's just going to be the recording. But it's almost like a relief to be like, there's this buildup, right? This grief, this anxiety, this overwhelming, and it's like, but this is what it is, and now I can put a name to it. And it doesn't have to have this power over me anymore without having to know what's going on behind the scenes.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah, no, thank you. Funny that you noticed that because I really did put a lot of thought in it, and, you know, ADHD, we overprepare. And I'm like, do I tell him? Should I just tell him afterwards? But I really wanted to make sure that you had that impact on me, and then, you know, we don't know. We don't know the people that we're reaching when we create those posts. And I felt that was really valuable. And you know, it's changing my life, right? It just makes a lot of sense. And there's just so much more to uncover now. I think that, you know, it's part of me being authentic to myself. And so, I think just having the courage to take the space to be authentic and just be me and fully own it is what I strive to do every day of my life. And it just makes it so much easier to just be me, right?

PATRICK CASALE: I think that's exactly what you said you wanted to talk about today was taking up space, especially as a Filipino female-identifying entrepreneur. And I imagine that so often that you have to fit yourself into this mold of like how you're supposed to move in this world, especially in the United States comparatively, and how you're allowed to show up energetically, and now recognizing there's this neurodivergence piece, now it's about like, “Oh, shit, I've been masking my entire life in a neurotypical world and having to show up a certain way in order to make sure everyone else is okay or that I feel like I'm sitting in.” Right? I imagine that feels almost even more intensified as someone who identifies in the BIPOC community to say like, not only was I masking to fit in, in a neurotypical world, I'm also having to fight even harder and, you know, really be aware of how I show up in a world where a lot of people don't look like me.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: I mean, you're spot on, Patrick. I mean, you know, as an Asian American woman, as a Filipino American woman who faces, you know, microaggressions daily, there's so much stereotypes that we face, you know, women, especially, women of color, we just have steeper hills to climb and longer journeys to navigate our way to taking up space.

So, taking up space is so foreign. It's so foreign for most Asian American women, especially those who immigrated here. Because early on in our culture we learned that we should be quiet because it's respectful, we should be obedient, we should prioritize other people's needs over our own because that is part of our culture. And it's ingrained in us, you know? Making ourselves small, false, and one of our Filipino values, and there's a lot of like stigma there that we will cover too.

But yes, of course, feeling the imposter syndrome, and as an Asian American Pacific Islander therapist is so much tied to our experience navigating the world as minorities.

You know, being a person of color, the struggle of owning my identity, as I mentioned earlier, when the society in itself taught me to push back and mask my authenticity very early on in my first years of being in the United States, that is hard to unlearn, and that's what most Asian Americans are going through right now. And that's why taking up space, you know, you say that, and it's so easy for people to say, “Yeah, take up space, and use your voice, and use the power of your voice.” But it's hard when it's ingrained in you to be respectful and to be quiet.

So, I'm not saying it's not impossible, it's totally possible. I'm doing it right now. When we gather and we talk about our stories and our experiences as being Filipino Americans, our stories are very different. You know, we are not a monolith. Our experiences are very different. But the thing is, there's this kind of like an umbrella. Even though our experiences are different, how we communicate and how we behave, we follow certain values.

follow is the word [FILIPINO:

next one is called [FILIPINO:

then another one is [FILIPINO:

o mention is called [FILIPINO:

PATRICK CASALE: Wow, and those are really beautiful values. And I imagine that can feel really conflicting when the values are so deeply ingrained and embedded in culture and who you are as a human being. And ultimately, can feel really polarizing when you're feeling like, “But I don't want to be a doctor, I don't want to take care of everybody else. I want to be me.” I have to imagine that, that feels unbelievably challenging in some ways, especially as an entrepreneur who's trying to show up differently than maybe what you were told you were supposed to be or how you were supposed to act, or the aggression towards Asian Americans in our country and throughout the world that has this other impact of, I really can't be myself because I'm trying really hard to fly under the radar to be safe.

one, right? I mean, the whole:

PATRICK CASALE: It’s okay, you can take as many breaths and-


PATRICK CASALE: …space as you need.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: …flashing back to why we tend to push our culture back when we started living in the United States, right? So, at eight years old I lived in the Philippines with my family, and was uprooted, and moved to California. And you know, if you remember yourself when you were eight, I mean, my son is, you know, he's nine, but then I can still imagine him being eight. And you know, I just imagine yourself being put in a whole new school with a whole new culture, different language, and zero friends and people who don't look like you. How scary does that feel for an eight-year-old child? And I didn't think about that. But all I know was that I was always reminded how different I was. I did not look for ways to feel like I don't belong. It wasn't me. I did not look for it. People made it known that I am different.

So, struggling with that is a whole masking of its own. And I didn't know it for a while, but I remember, you know, there was only three, I think maybe there was only three or four, but you know, third grade, fourth grade in my new school, and you know, there was plays, right? We had plays like a Christmas play where, I forget what play we were doing, but there was Rudolph, and some reindeers, and like children, Santa Claus, whatever, right? But they said that this was a random selection that, you know, me Filipino, and then, my other classmate was Korean, and the other classmate who was Chinese, we were all on Rudolph and the two reindeers. Random selection they said. “Cool, yeah, I'll be a reindeer. Whatever, I'll dress up as an animal.”

That spring comes another play of the Gold Rush or something. And there were mules, random selection. Who gets to play the mules and the donkeys? They were random, right? Like, what luck? How lucky I am to get picked twice to play an animal in a school play. So, I didn't know it then, I know it now, but crazy to not realize it until now that I'm looking back at it. You know, I didn't realize that. I used to think, “Oh my god, I have such a freaking bad luck to have to play…” how embarrassing for me to say, “ …he ha in front of the whole school.”

And, it wasn't luck. It was racism, and oppression, and yeah, realizing that now, like, yeah, it makes me angry. And yes, I want to speak up, and yes, I don't want it to happen again. But the sad thing is, it is still happening. And, you know, I have a big family, and I have nephews and nieces, and you know, they’re Gen Z's or, you know, they're a lot younger. And, you know, when I was doing my research, and I asked them about their current situation and their experiences, and it's the same exact thing. They still get bullied, they still get made fun of, you know? It sucks and it's sad.

And yes, this is the reason why I'm here, I'm speaking up because I want people to know that you are not alone, and that you can get help, and that what is happening to you is not your fault. And that, you know, we're in this together, and you having me on here to use this platform to share my story, my experience, I hope can help others to feel not so alone, as I did when I was growing up.

PATRICK CASALE: Thank you so much for sharing all of that. And I'm sure it's very, very painful to bring it up, but and to still acknowledge that it still happens today and that you're concerned about your family, and you're concerned about how you show up in the world as well, and how other Filipino American and Asian American people are being treated on a day-to-day basis.

How do you see this show up as an entrepreneur right now with someone who owns a business, and is starting a podcast, and is out in the world being more visible than maybe you've been told to be or even conditioned to behave in terms of the way society treats people who look like you?

MARIE GRACE WOLK: I use it as fuel, Patrick, right? I just use it as energy and fuel. And this is the reason why I want to start my podcast. Well, I started my podcast, and it's coming together. You know, I have a few episodes, and I'm going to be continuing to put content out there, and I'm going to be having you on there. So, I'm excited. But, I also want to balance my time, you know? I do have my private practice. I do have my kids, I am a full-time mom as well, and I do have my extracurricular activities, and then now I have my podcast.

So, yes, I do have like a full schedule. But I do try to balance it. And I don't put any pressure on myself. But the question was, how does this show up for me? My answer to that is that, it shows up all the time. I mean, just like you said, right? It's still in my body, right. And that's what I teach my clients. When it shows up in your body, you pay attention, and you great it, you great it, and welcome it and understand it, because right now like when I'm anxious, I know I'm anxious because I'm doing something big and I'm doing something different, and it's out of the ordinary, and it's causing me to feel like some impostor syndrome coming up. But that's how I'll grow. I need to just be okay with that discomfort because it'll only last a little while. I mean, I'm kind of cold, my hands are cold, and that's that, you know?

holy cow! Yeah [INDISCERNIBLE:


MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah. So, you know, I'm just much more aware now of why I behave the way I do, why I show up the way I do, why I fear showing up sometimes. I'm not afraid of being, what is it like? I'm not afraid to show up. I’m sometimes afraid of not being seen, right? Like, you do show up, you put yourself out there, but who will listen to me? But you know, I'm okay with that now, because at least I'm putting myself in the arena, like Brene would say. Like, you can't grow from staying in your comfort zone. So, that's where I'm at. I'm practicing and staying small, keeping it small, small steps at a time and hopefully making some ripples.

PATRICK CASALE: I love that. Seems like a really powerful metaphor or kind of comparison. And I would say what you're doing feels to me to be very courageous and very brave too, beyond something where you feel really overwhelmed, and anxious, and vulnerable to just be able to talk about something that isn't often talked about knowing that there's going to be an audience for it. And I think that's the scary part sometimes, is how is this going to be received, right? How is this going to be viewed, and what are people going to think? And it sounds like you're working really hard to say, “Fuck those people, I don't care as much anymore, and I'm allowed to take up space, and I'm allowed to show up in the arena, and I'm allowed to take these steps towards really embracing and embodying who I am, and feeling proud about who I am, and how I've grown up, and how I show up.”

MARIE GRACE WOLK: You said it, you said it all, exactly.

PATRICK CASALE: I really applaud it, you know, I applaud it very much. And like you said, very different approaches, right? This is my home base, I feel very comfortable, I feel very calm. And then when I step outside of it, there's a lot more vulnerability here, there's a lot more that I may have to endure and deal with in terms of how society shows up and views me, and I just want to say that I really applaud you for naming it and talking about it, even if it's really fucking scary.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah, thank you for that. Appreciate that. Thank you for acknowledging that. Yeah, insecurities that comes up being a minority, being a person of color, there's definitely a lot there. I mean, I've just only barely scratched the surface. But, you know, I just want to encourage those who resonates with my story to really, you know, use your talent, your influence, and take up that space at your own pace, right? No one's telling you to just go and change the world. Just do what you can, right? Because, you know, like I said, the small movements will create big movements. I mean, small steps will create big movements.

And I always think about, like how, when I'm dancing, right, in hula how we learn tiny steps, and then we put it together. And then even with the entire group together, how synchronized, how amazing it looks when it's all put together. That's how I see it, that's the metaphor I always visualize when you take little small steps into creating big movements, it becomes powerful. So, I love that, I love that.

And I always like to encourage people to just let your uniqueness to stand out and not blend in. Because, you know, I have a lot of work to do too. I'm still working on myself. There's so much to learn. There's so much history about the Filipino culture that I am still learning, and I am still, you know, seeing a therapist for my own growth. And so yeah, that is where I'm at. And I can only just show up as me and that's the best I can do.

PATRICK CASALE: That feels like a mic drop moment to me where those are just so wonderful-

MARIE GRACE WOLK: I worry about that, I worry about that, me like just…

PATRICK CASALE: No, I think it's like very powerful, and also really important to just acknowledge what you just said, that it is small steps putting it together, how it creates power, and it can create this ripple effect, which can then create this wave, which can then probably create like this intense reaction of just reclaiming. And I think that sounds really beautifully said, and I like the comparison to hula, and anything where you have to train, and be intentional, and start off small to where you can see it come together. I think that's a really good analogy of how a lot of life works. So, I just want to, you know, again, applaud your boldness and your courage here. And I really think that this can help a lot of people when they listen to your story and just get a good understanding of the fact, like you said, it's okay to be creative, it's okay to be you, it's okay to take up space, even when it feels really scary.

I want you to, you know, obviously, tell the audience where they can find more of you. But I just want to say, do you have any suggestions or advice for anyone else that's listening that may really resonate and who may connect with what you're saying?

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yeah, I think that, again, you know, just practicing taking up space, and you know, it may sound silly, but like when I say start small, I mean, really start small. Like, if you want to practice, just practice it around your friends, right? Or, with your family. When you ever feel like you want to say something, just say it, or like when you're kind of hesitant to kind of do something, right?

And then also, what I like to do is to just really practice mindfulness breathing, and when I'm scared, I really expand my body and breathe into that fear. Because, you know, fear is just excitement without the breath, right? I’m sure all therapists knows that. Just that it is ingrained in me. It’s like, when you hold your breath, your excitement turns to fear, so just remember to breathe, because breathing is just an amazing thing that we all can do and that like relieves a lot of your anxiety, a lot of fear. And believe me, I did a lot of breathing right before this podcast, because Patrick, you know, I was like, “I wonder if he's going to reschedule. Maybe I'll get another day.” I asked him, “I wonder if we’ll indeed have the interview today.”

But, yeah, so definitely just really just practice taking up space, because it'll then turn into just something that is automatic for you. And you know, I do encourage you, if you're thinking of being a therapist, I do want to see more Filipino therapists out there. There's not a lot of representation. And I think that also didn't help me in the beginning of my career, because I don't see a lot of Filipino therapists and I get really excited when I do, and it's just so nice to you know, see people that looks like me. It's just more comforting, and it's a human need to feel safe when you see someone who looks the same as you, it's safety.

PATRICK CASALE: I really, really love all of that, especially the fear is just excitement without the breath. I think that makes so much sense. So, I hope everyone can take that in, and take that breath, and then put that out there to the world. Because the opposite if you hold it in, you hold it back. I feel like you're not moving through the world the way you intend to, or in a way that feels authentic to you, and genuine to you. And it seems like you're really moving into that space. And I really respect that.

Do you have anything you want to share with the audience about where they can find more of you or what you're offering, including your podcast, because even though it feels like a hobby right now, you're still taking those small steps, right? To just start get started, to even put it out there. So, that is hugely important, because we have to start somewhere.

MARIE GRACE WOLK: Yes, no I do love my podcast. And it's called Own Your Journey podcast. You can find me on Spotify, and Apple, and anywhere that you can listen to podcasts, I’m there, Own Your Journey, Maria Grace Wolk. And you can find more information on my website,, and follow me on Instagram. I am there I think it'll be on the notes, right? So, I don't have to spell it out.

myself. I did a lot of it in:

PATRICK CASALE: You're so welcome, and that's such a beautiful ending statement for everyone to listen to. I hope you can all take that in and to just own every part of you like was just said, because I think that's really important. The parts that you might feel a little insecure about, the parts you might feel some shamefulness around, and that's how we kind of reclaim that power, and we don't allow them to control us anymore. So, I just want to thank you for coming on, and everything that Grace just shared will be in the show notes, so that you can find the information easily. If you want to find more of me go to, the All Things Private Practice Facebook group. New episodes of the All Things Private Practice Podcast every Monday. Download, like, subscribe and share and it's really great to have you on here and we look forward to seeing everyone next Monday.