Posted September 25, 2018 – In one of her counseling courses at the University of Houston College of Education, Theodora “Dora” Soublis remembers having to create a family tree. On her dad’s side, she noticed a strong line of entrepreneurs. Her parents, Greek immigrants who met in America, had the same spirit when they opened a restaurant here.
Soublis, now a licensed psychologist with a thriving practice outside Atlanta, appears to have inherited that entrepreneurial edge.
“I think it was engrained in me,” she said. “I always knew I wanted to have my own practice. To be able to create a comfortable space from the overall aesthetic to the services provided has always been important to me.”
Soublis, who earned a master’s in counseling from the College in 2001 and a Ph.D. in counseling psychology in 2006, said she also learned to model her parents’ work ethic.
“The sacrifices they made for me to be able to be educated at the level I am, that made a tremendous impact on me,” she said.
In addition to running a practice with two – soon to be three – other psychologists, Soublis serves as president of the Georgia Psychological Association. She assumed the role in July after a year as president-elect.
“I am very fortunate that I absolutely love the work I do,” Soublis said. “Connecting with teens and seeing the progress they can make – facilitating family communication, seeing them get healthier over time – is the best gift I could ever possibly have.”
Soublis said she also enjoys being able to give parents answers when they come to her office frustrated, trying to find out why their child is struggling in school. After conducting a psychoeducational evaluation, assessing a child’s strengths and limitations, she suggests to parents strategies that can help and accommodations they can request at school.
‘Where I Needed to Be’
Growing up, Soublis thought she wanted to be a pediatrician, but she discovered her interest in psychology as an undergraduate at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Her parents were skeptical, Soublis said, but she knew she had found her path after completing an internship that involved working with a child with autism.
“I got to the point where I was like, I need to make a decision for me,” Soublis recalled. “To me psychology was so closely related to being a pediatrician. I can help children with their emotional selves.”
For graduate school, Soublis knew she wanted to be in a major city with a well-regarded counseling psychology program. UH rose to the top of her list.
“When I came down to interview, I was just really impressed with the campus and the warmth of the College of Education,” she said. “I could feel it as soon as I walked on campus. I knew immediately that’s where I needed to be.”
Soublis split her time between Farish Hall, the library and the fountains in between. At graduation, she said, she was looking forward to starting the Ph.D. program in counseling psychology. She remained committed to opening her own practice, though the “giant" binder of doctoral requirements the professors handed down early on foreshadowed the challenging work ahead.
“It was great being in a cohort where we all were together and were able to rely on each other,” Soublis said.
Her advisor, Stewart Pisecco, said Soublis reflected the high caliber of students in the program, plus she had that important blend of passion and perseverance.
“There’s a level of grit that Dora exhibited throughout her time at UH that was pretty obvious the more you interacted with her,” Pisecco said. “Every student I’ve met you would say they’re bright, they’re personable, they’re driven. I think the students who tend to be the best have all three of those but also have a level of grit that helps them overcome at difficult times.”
At her second graduation from UH, in 2006, Soublis said life felt “surreal.” She was pregnant with her first daughter, heading to Miami to finish an internship at a day treatment program before returning to Atlanta for a post-doctoral fellowship at Emory University.
She then rose to become associate director of clinical services at Georgia State University’s Regents Center for Learning Disorders while starting her own practice. Within two-and-half years, Soublis said, her practice was doing well enough that she had to leave the university to manage it.
In April, she celebrated the 10th anniversary of Soublis Psychological Associates.
“It’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s building those relationships that is key to a successful private practice. Coming from the family I am from, I think that’s how my personality was built.”
As the new president of the Georgia Psychological Association, Soublis said she hopes to grow membership, diversify the business plan, reintroduce a leadership and mentorship model, and be a strong advocate for the profession.
“There are psychologists who are very isolated in their practices. I think it’s important to be out there and engaged,” Soublis said. “And at this point in my career, it’s important to also give back to my professional community and students pursuing psychology.”
–By Ericka Mellon
–Photo courtesy of Dora Soublis