Sitting and talking to Tanya Abughazaleh you might be tempted to call her an overachiever. She was a 4.0 student through most of high school and college, and is now a dedicated Clinical Psychology doctoral student at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. But that description misses so much of who the 26-year-old Los Angeles native truly is.
Achieving is clearly a priority. While working through the fourth year of a rigorous five-year Psy.D. program, Abughazaleh manages to find time to operate a highly-successful baking business. She recently impressed her classmates and The Chicago School’s Los Angeles Campus faculty during the campus’ 10th Anniversary reception with her delicious but subtle anniversary cake. But once you see the other creations on her Instagram account, you realize just how creative and ambitious her baking designs are.
“Baking is my creative outlet,” Abughazaleh says. “I like to see the end product—to get my hands busy creating something out of nothing. My cakes are like art: they’re my sculptures.”
Abughazaleh started baking seriously only two years ago and has already garnered high-end clients from the entertainment world. As a digital native, she embraces social media for her marketing and relies solely on Instagram to generate business. She has more than 6,000 followers of her account @TanyaAmerasCakes, which features birthday and anniversary cakes, cookies, and cupcakes—many with her own unique twist.
“The most anxiety-provoking cakes I’ve done would be a Goyard Trolly suitcase that took more than 30 hours, as well as the Big Baby Boss cake,” Abughazaleh says. “Both were quite large, practically life-sized cakes, and are the two I’m most proud of.”
And while the baking business has been good, Abughazaleh has no doubt about her priorities.
“I have so many different interests within the field as a clinician [after graduation],” Abughazaleh says. “One is working with people with severe OCD and anxiety disorders through the CBT model using exposure therapy. There is a creative element where exposures are very tailored to each patient and can range, for example, by asking a patient to lick the bottom of their shoe or touch a dirty diaper for contamination OCD.”
Abughazaleh loves the connections she makes with people through the practice of psychology. Being able to guide people as they gain new insights and clarity about themselves and their situations is powerful.
“I like the high I get from helping people,” Abughazaleh says. “There’s nothing else like it. It’s so authentic and raw and genuine—the opportunity to be able to give relief to someone and to help them feel confident enough to achieve their goals.”
Abughazaleh credits her background and upbringing for her own sense of confidence. She is a true Southern California product—the child of two distinct cultures. Her mother is Vietnamese and her father is from Jordan.
“I was given the opportunity to individuate and become my own person. I’ve noticed along my journey that many other people are not fortunate to have that,” Abughazaleh says. “To be able to imitate that in a professional setting is something I value and believe has helped me to become and achieve everything thus far.”
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