Dr. Adjoa Osei (294688)
Credit: Contributed

Dr. Adjoa Osei traveled an unconventional path to her current profession as a licensed clinical psychologist. She first wanted to be a documentary filmmaker while she was in college, but after she discovered it wasn’t the path for her, she found another way to listen to the stories of others.

When Dr. Raphael and Ms. Esther Osei emigrated from Ghana to New York in the ’70s, they emphasized the idea of education as an important resource to Adjoa and her older brother.

With that in mind, Osei attended American University in Washington, D.C. for her bachelor’s degree. She majored in visual arts and minored in literature with the intention of going into the film industry.

During her time at American, Osei received an internship in Los Angeles. She worked with an entertainment lawyer and met with alumni who worked in Hollywood.

“I was enjoying life,” Osei said. “It was the first solo trip that I took for myself. I could learn and have fun without any obligations.”

Even though the experience was informative for her, she realized that she did not want to pursue this career path. She took a continuing education class in psychology, which she enjoyed and wanted to delve deeper into. 

One of the executives in the Los Angeles branch at Paramount Pictures went to the same school as Osei, and they recommended her to work at their New York location. It was at her first job after college, where she found a mentor in her boss, Steven Toback.

“Adjoa is an intelligent, charming young lady.” Toback said. “From working at Paramount for more than 20 years, I can say she is one of the nicest people I have worked with.”

She worked in their Domestic Distribution department as a booker in their New York office. Her role included keeping track of film for movies and recording their performance at theaters; she did this for three years before she was laid off.  

She used this free time to continue taking classes for her master’s in psychology at the New School in addition to her outside academic interests. For example, she worked at a developmental disability day program for people with serious mental illnesses and a research team led by Dr. Doris Chang, which discussed topics of race, ethnicity and culture.

“As students of color, we can feel unwelcome and our experiences are not always included,” Osei said. “Having open conversations about these topics peaked my interests and made me want to explore this further in my career.”

Osei took some time before applying to doctoral programs, because she wanted to make sure that this was the right career for her. She found guidance from her mom’s neighbor and fellow psychologist, Dr. Patricia Canson.

Canson has known her family for a long time, but her relationship with Osei grew after she offered to help read her papers for graduate school.

Canson (whom she calls Auntie Pat) reviewed her personal essay, connected her with the Association of Black Psychologists and served as a symbol that Black psychologists could exist. She had a few words to say about the potential she saw in her. “Adjoa wants to make a difference in people’s lives,” Canson said. “She’s deeply committed to trying to alleviate mental issues in people. She inherited this commitment and a sense of purpose from her family.”

Osei completed her doctoral program at LIU Post, which led to her current career as a licensed clinical psychologist. She has both a virtual therapy practice and a private practice in Downtown Brooklyn, where she specializes in discussing past childhood trauma in addition to racial and sexual identity.

Along with her family and close friends, she also has a 10 year old silky terrier dog named Kylie, who she spends time with after a long work day.

After reflecting on her current profession, Osei notices the parallels between the film industry and the mental health field.

“When I was younger, I wanted to go into the film industry, specifically documentary film,” Osei said. “Being able to sit, bear witness and give people room to share their story is such a powerful thing. It’s like seeing someone else’s raw footage and how it has been edited overtime.”