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I often paint the story of my life as a series of phenomenal improbabilities.
I was born at the crossroads of the world — a place where Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and the Middle East all gather around a table set against the Caspian shore in Baku, Azerbaijan.
In 1995, a dance of destiny & and determination landed my family a Green Card via one of the first Diversity Visa Lottery, transporting us to another cultural center of the world: New York City.
Growing up in the vibrancy of New York, I was fortunate to experience a rich blend of cultural influences from hip-hop and jazz to expressive arts across various contexts and cultures. It was in this dynamic environment that I discovered Poetry and Martial Arts — two disciplines that ultimately saved and shaped my life. They offered me more than purely an expressive outlet, but also a way to navigate life's challenges and foster creative resiliency. This, in turn, led to a deeper engagement in both disciplines, as I immersed myself in the transformative power of dedicated, intentional practice and the rippling importance of community in personal growth.
In my twenties, I left New York to explore the world, driven by encouragement from mentors and a newfound confidence in my own path. This journey took me from the serenity of sunrise meditations in Southeast Asia to the majestically adorned nights under the Saharan stars, each experience deepening my appreciation for the world's rich cultural tapestry and the diverse values, customs, and perspectives that shape our global community.
Upon returning to the U.S., I pursued my Master's and Doctorate at the University of Denver, renowned for its comprehensive, APA-Accredited PsyD program. In Colorado, I deepened my involvement in Psychology, while also continuing my journey in Martial Arts and Poetry. I was embraced by the Kempo community of Master Kajana Cetshwayo and was captivated by the reviting local poetry scene, which inspired my Doctoral Thesis on the Psychological Factors Involved in Spoken Word Poetry, later to be presented at the World Poetry Slam in Denver in 2017.
In the time since, I have worked across a spectrum of settings, from oncology centers and neuro-psychological practices to Title I school systems, substance abuse clinics, community mental health centers, and holistic nature-based programs in diverse locales like Hawai'i, Colorado, North Carolina, and New York. This journey has been enriched by mentorship and training with leading figures in psychology — including Dan Seigel, Bessel van der Kolk, Richie Davidson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Steve Hayes, Carolyn Zeiger, Joanne Steinwachs, Kay Adams, Lorraine Freedle, & Richard Gold — all of whom have deepened my practice and enriched my expertise, shaping my approach to well-being on the whole.
I have also had the wonderful opportunity to pass along my penchant for curiosity and learning through teaching across all levels of education, from high school to graduate programs. I find great fulfillment in designing engaging educational programming and have served on the boards of several psychological associations and non-profit organizations invested in extending the reach of accessible health, literacy, and well-being to communities in need.
In recent years, I've supported digital mental health platforms by creating content and training aimed at making care more accessible and removing stigmas associated with seeking help.
In 2023, I had the great honor of returning to Azerbaijan as a Fulbright Scholar and led a project that examined and exalted the inherently therapeutic elements embedded within traditional Azerbaijani literary and artistic practices, which culminated in the very first Creative Psychology Symposium, bringing together over 700 artists, academics, psychologists, researchers, and practitioners to explore, immerse, and engage in creative modalities of psychology.
Above all, my most valued experiences come from deeply engaging and transformative moments with people in the midst of profound challenge and wondrous change. These experiences have notably shaped my understanding of service and the significance of recognizing, honoring, and nourishing the wisdom in each individual's journey.
For more information about my services, my CV, and scheduling an introductory session with me, please take a look below. My deepest thanks to you for being here, and for being you.
Elnur Gajiev, PsyD
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