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My Story

I often paint the story of my life as a series of phenomenal improbabilities.

 

I was born at what I've come to call "the crossroads of the world" — where Eastern Europe, Western Asia, & the Middle East all gather around the table set in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In 1995, destiny, determination, & dogged belief came together to grant my family a Green Card in the very first U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery, catapulting us to make the great leap to yet another cultural crossroads — New York City.

 

Growing up in New York presented every flavor of life I could have dared to dream up. I was raised on hip-hop, jazz, expressive art of every fathomable form, late night subway pilgrimages, glowing coney island philosophies, and the gritty resolve to make it by any means necessary.

During one of my darker moments of life in NY, I was fortunate enough to stumble into the two arts that undoubtedly saved my life — arts that I've come to know and be known by —Martial Arts & Poetry. Each offered me a means of intentionally crafting of mind, body, & spirit.

 

In my early twenties, I left NY to explore the world beyond the five boroughs. Through the kindness of countless wonderful humans, and the trusting of my own steps, I began to witness life anew amidst every corner, culture, and region I wandered upon.

 

From sunrise meditations in Cambodia to star-swept tapestries across Saharan skies, I was blessed to encounter bewilderment countless times, enriching my soul with an astonishment and appreciation for the diversity of cultures, values, and customs this Earth holds.

 

Upon returning to the States, I elected to go for my Master's and Doctorate studies at the University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology — a program that has long been regarded as one of the most respected, APA-Accredited PsyD (Doctorate of Psychology) training programs in the U.S. Turth be told, this was the only program I applied to. Something in me knew that I needed to be amidst the Rocky Mountains. And to the credit of following our intuition, it was in Colorado that I not only deepened my immersion into Psychology, but also into Martial Arts and Poetry. I was welcomed in to the art of Kempo by the late Master Kajana Cetshwayo, who cultivated a loving martial arts family across Denver, Detroit, and beyond.

 

Additionally, I was profoundly moved by the poetry scene in Colorado, which inspired me to focus my Doctoral Thesis on the Psychological Factors Involved in Spoken Word Poetry, which I had the honor of presenting at the National Poetry Slam in Denver in 2017, a few weeks before becoming the first Azerbaijani doctoral graduate from the University of Denver.

 

In the time since, I have worked in a vast array of treatment settings — from innovative neuropsychological rehabilitation centers to Title I rural school complexes; from substance abuse & recovery clinics to community mental health centers; from the oncology departments of national hospitals to the healing wilderness of horticultural, nomadic, and nature-based rites of passage programs — all ranging from Hawai'i to Colorado to North Carolina and New York

 

I have also had the privilege of training with some of the foremost leaders in our field, 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.

 

I've also had the wonderful opportunity to pass along my penchant for curiosity & learning through teaching at various levels of education, from high school to graduate studies.

 

I have also served on esteemed boards of regional & state psychological associations, and  supported several remarkable non-profit organizations and initiatives invested in extending the reaches of accessible health, literacy, and well-being to communities in need.

 

Most recently, I've been supporting innovative digital mental health organizations, developing programing and content, and training teams to destigmatize and democratize mental health.

 

Yet, more importnatly than anything above, I have had the deep honor of sharing in some of the most meaningful and transformative moments with individuals, groups, and collectives in times of great upheaval, unbearable challenge, and awe-inspiring change.

 

It has been in these moments that I have learned the most about what it means to truly be of service and to honor the unfolding wisdom inherent in each of our respective journeys.

 

These days, I am a licensed Clinical Psychologist in New York and Hawai'i, with a Florida license on the horizon. I presently split my time between New York, Miami, & Latin America.

 

And in early 2023, I will be returning to Azerbaijan as a Fulbright Scholar to study the therapeutic elements inherent in traditional Azerbaijani folklore & poetry and to design therapeutic programs for communities in need. As you might imagine, I am quite stoked for the full circle experience on the horizon.

 

For more information about how I serve, as well as my professional Curriculum Vitae, please take a look below.

My deepest thanks to you for being here and being you,

Elnur Gajiev, PsyD