Dennis Nguyen, LCSW
Executive Director and Therapist
Race-Based Traumatic Stress Counselor
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Hi, I'm Dennis. I help people create space in their world.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been highly driven and self-motivated. While I was often very successful, it came with a part of me that was very harsh and critical towards myself. Regardless of the successes, there were moments I felt like an imposter and a failure. People always told me I was smart, and yet I would go through periods of procrastination because it all felt so overwhelming. It took me a long time to realize I struggled with internalized perfectionism.
As a son of immigrant parents, I learned to internalize the American Dream my parents had. I struggled against high standards, while being painfully aware of how different I was from my Midwestern community as a gay Asian American. It felt like to survive and stand out, I had to perfect my body and mind. Today, I am passionate about helping people balance achievement with personal identity.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You feel like no one understands or cares about what makes you unique. You may feel like a number and not a name. Your job is to conform and excel, regardless of your needs. People only care about you when you make a mistake, which reasonably leads to feelings of isolation, loss of control, and loneliness. If these struggles are affecting your ability to live your life, it may be time to start counseling.
It’s possible to get back in control of your life. I help people break out of survival mode and begin living again. Whether you are looking to manage anger, change self-destructive behaviors, or deal with limitations that life imposed on you (including social expectations, systemic racism, classism, homophobia, etc.), I offer interactive, solution-focused therapy to help you reach your goals. The process begins with a warm and empathetic connection to understand how you got here.
On Being a Counselor
I am inspired by seeing people who take the first step towards growth by deciding to make a change. Change is uncomfortable, painful, and constant. I believe it takes great strength to lean into the discomfort and begin counseling.
I believe that the key to change is learning how to honestly self-reflect without excess shame or fear. By exploring ourselves kindly, we can begin to identify the pattern of self-destructive behaviors we learned from our life experiences and begin to change. We will create our own safe and supportive spaces even in a hostile and ever evolving world.
In your work with me, you can expect an interactive and engaging approach. Creating a space for change requires equal parts challenge and validation. Most folks do things that make sense given their histories. At the same time, we can always move towards healing, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s possible. I will hold you accountable to your desire to change. You are capable of more than struggling to survive. Change is possible. Together we'll develop strategies to make your own space in the world and live on your terms.
I decided to become a counselor after my school counselor helped me feel like change was possible, even though I was in a dark place. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, but by putting emotions into words I made my own space in the world.
This led me to want to understand as much as I can about the world we live in. I was able to foster success through empathy and strategic interventions. Instead of cogs in the machine, we are individuals who are heavily influenced by our histories, race, class, culture, sexualities, and gender. To foster success means understanding my clients as much as possible.
In devoting my career to understanding racism, queer theory, and its impact on white folks and black, indigenous, people of color, I find myself constantly questioning our institutions. How have these rigid societal structures harmed my clients? I think about my complicity, how it has colored my survival story, and how I can begin to break free from my own cycles of self-destructive involvement with white supremacy. I ask my clients to reflect on their own lives so they can begin freeing themselves.
Let's get you where you want to be. Reach out to schedule your first appointment. When you call our scheduling line, our Intake Coordinator can answer any questions you might have. To schedule your first appointment, call (312) 715-8234, or email [email protected] to schedule your first appointment. I'm here for you.
More About Dennis
Key Philosophical Beliefs
- Data-driven strategies help people achieve success.
- All people deserve a safe space to explore who they want to become.
- Counseling should be collaborative and feedback-oriented.
- Men deserve respectful spaces free of negative judgment.
- Self-destructive habits are learned behaviors to cope with stress.
- Every healing journey is unique and thus requires an individualized approach.
- Master's in Social Work (MSW) from Grand Valley State University
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Training
- Family Systems Training
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) Training
- Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) Training
- Motivational Interviewing Training
- Family-Focused Therapy Training
- Trauma Focused Therapy Training
Specializations and Experience
- Evidence-Based Counseling
- Men's Issues
- Polyamory or Nontraditional Relationships
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
- Anger Management
- Grief and Loss Counseling
- Present-Centered Therapy for PTSD
- LGBT+ Counseling
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety
- Behavioral Activation for Depression
- Gender Expression and Identity
Dennis as a Person
I was born and raised in Holland, Michigan. I studied and worked in nearby Grand Rapids, Michigan for a few years before deciding to give Chicago a try.
I love to bake/cook/eat! When I can, I like to pick a new recipe on the weekends to try out. I'm particularly known for making fun bread puddings. And there's something about sharing a meal with people I love that is particularly meaningful. I love to explore the city. There are so many nooks and crannies that are begging to be found! I like to pick a restaurant in a new area and then spend the afternoon walking around the neighborhood.