Member Spotlight: Heline Mirzakhanian, Ph.D.

Heline Mirzakhanian, Ph. D.

Heline Mirzakhanian, Ph.D.  (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Program Student)

Hometown: Tehran, Iran

What was your pathway toward entering the mental health field? 
I have always been intrigued with the human brain and human behavior. I pursued a doctorate degree in clinical psychology with the aim to become a researcher and explore the mechanisms underlying human behavior. In preparation for my graduate degree I completed several fellowships through which I was introduced to individuals suffering from severe mental illness. While initially my interests were restricted to conducting research understanding the etiology of mental illness, I became more and more interested in its treatment. I came to realize that I can make an important contribution to each individual’s well being as a clinician, which in turn is highly gratifying at a personal level.

And what drew you to psychoanalysis/psychoanalytic psychotherapy?
I was first introduced to psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic psychotherapy during my internship year at Yale University. Until then, I knew of psychoanalysis and associated the field only with Freud’s theories that I believed, in my limited knowledge, could benefit a very small number of individuals. My experiences as an intern exposed me to psychoanalytic thinking and the applicability of psychoanalytic psychotherapy to different patient populations. Even that small glimpse during my intern year allowed me to recognize that compared to other approaches, psychoanalytic psychotherapy is a better match when it comes to addressing the complexity of human thought, behavior and relationships.

Tell us about your educational experience thus far at SDPC.  
Every single event, seminar or course at SDPC has added to my clinical knowledge and skill set. I am grateful to the instructors who not only are incredibly knowledgeable but also highly motivated in sharing their knowledge and experience with us. Being able to apply the theoretical knowledge from our readings to our cases has helped me improve my understanding of my patients and aided in treatment planning.  I also highly enjoy discussing cases and learning the many different ways one can conceptualize the same case.

How has your training in psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic psychotherapy affected a) your practice, and b) your professional development? Other areas of life?
This training has deepened my understanding on how people relate to others and helped me gain a new perspective on what motivates our behavior. I incorporate these insights into my clinical work with my patients. On a professional development level, this training has introduced me to a large number of peers and added to my support system. Even on a personal level, this training and the associated psychotherapy has increased my understanding of myself and how I see others.

How else have you applied your analytic knowledge?
As a psychologist at UC San Diego I incorporate my acquired knowledge in my clinical work whenever appropriate.

What is something very few people know about you?   
I occasionally paint and love to go to art galleries.

Tell us about your practice and who you are most interested in working with.
In my private practice, I work with adolescents and young adults who struggle with severe anxiety and depression. I also see individuals who are at cross-roads in their lives and need to gain a better understanding of themselves in order to live more satisfying lives. As a psychologist at UC San Diego I see patients in the very early phases of psychosis with the aim to help them improve their everyday functioning.

Where is your practice, and how can potential patients contact you?
My private practice is located at 2645 1st Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103. It is in the Banker’s Hill area of San Diego. 
For information about the UC San Diego Early Psychosis Treatment Center please email: