This is Brenda Gessell.

Brenda Gesell is the Director of the Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology at Vanguard and the owner of Gesell Psychotherapy, a clinical group practice in Newport Beach. She has been practicing therapy for over 20 years and is passionate about helping people accept themselves and live more authentically.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and she is a Vanguard alumna who earned her Master’s of Science in Clinical Psychology at Vanguard in 2000. She also taught at Vanguard in the Clinical Psychology program for ten years while obtaining her Ph.D. in Depth Psychology at Pacifica Graduate Institute, near Santa Barbara.

Dr. Gesell loves teaching and working with students. “I love helping students discover their unique and creative therapeutic talents and form their own professional identities as clinicians. I enjoy teaching students how to listen to clients from multiple theoretical perspectives, build self-awareness and evaluate their personal interior processes while integrating faith.”

For the first six years of her career, she worked with adolescents who had been placed in group homes by the County due to severe emotional disturbances. Her clients’ backgrounds and unique life experiences opened her mind and introduced her to the realities of living in poverty. Following her work with adolescents, she opened her private practice where she works with adults coping with complex trauma as well as leaders and pastors.

Her private practice has continued to expand over the last decade, and she currently has eight clinicians working at her company with diverse specializations; most of the clinicians working at her practice are Vanguard alumni. “One of the most rewarding parts of working as a therapist is seeing clients becoming able to gain emotional intelligence and discover the tools and resources that foster awareness, growth and healing”.

Dr. Gesell describes the healing aspect of therapy as a non-linear process. As opposed to treatment of physical conditions, trauma is cyclical. She explains that we grow around our wounds and learn new perspectives about what has happened in our past. “Growth is not about excising the parts of ourselves we find shameful or irredeemable; rather, acceptance of our healthy parts together with our broken parts is where healing lies; the goal is wholeness.  Jesus did not die on the cross for certain parts of us; he died for all of us.”  Her faith especially helps when working with individuals who have suffered severe trauma. 

As the Director of the graduate program in Clinical Psychology, she is looking forward to the launch of the online version of their current Master’s degree program and opening a new community counseling center, Journeys at Vanguard.

The founder of Journeys Counseling Ministry, Rev. Randy Powell, who served as the first full-time pastor at Vanguard University, collaborated with Dr. Gesell to launch Journeys at Vanguard with the mission of developing a training site and ministry that equips graduate students in becoming Christ-centered therapists with exceptional clinical skills.

“Journeys at Vanguard will be opening at the end of the February 2022 and we will be holding a Grand Opening event in May 2022. Journeys at Vanguard will offer affordable mental health care and ministry support to individuals and families throughout Orange County while serving as a training center for the Graduate Program in Clinical Psychology at Vanguard University. We are excited to provide a holistic counseling experience within a Christian context of inclusiveness; we will offer scholarships to clients in need and we will not turn anyone away for therapy”.

Currently, Dr. Gesell is writing two manuscripts, including one she is working on publishing in 2023 about the topic of Healthy Narcissism.

When she is not teaching, facilitating therapy, supervising, or writing, Dr. Gesell enjoys sailing with her husband; she and her husband are avid travelers who try to visit a new country each year and she loves cooking and gardening – her favorite cuisine is Mediterranean food. On her bucket list are sailing around the Greek islands and chasing the aurora borealis in Finland with her husband.

Vanguard is thankful for Dr. Gesell’s decades of work in the field of Clinical Psychology and her leadership in driving our Graduate Clinical Psychology program forward.