Staff Spotlight: Mollie Mindel

Clinical Advisor & AAC Specialist


Mollie Mindel received her M.S. in Communicative Disorders from SFSU, with a prior B.A in Cultural Anthropology. In addition to being a speech-language pathologist, Mollie is an AAC Specialist and focuses on working with culturally & linguistically diverse (CLD) populations.

What is your favorite travel memory?

In 2000, I had an amazing opportunity to spend the Tibetan Lunar New Year at a temple in the Tibetan Himalayans. Traveling with locals, it was a hard journey to reach this isolated location. Upon arrival, conditions were challenging with very few "modern" luxuries available. Accommodations were rustic, food simple, and heat only generated by the yak patties burning and the layering of woolens to protect against the freezing conditions. Yet, all was worthwhile to be able to partake in an amazing week of community, spirituality, and even a touch of magic.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Working with Therapy Abroad has allowed for both professional and person growth. Working internationally in a country with very limited resources and a different disability framework shook some of the "truths" I had come to hold onto tightly. My perspectives on ability, intervention, and goals for the students I supported in Belize through Therapy Abroad did not always match up with the local families. It required me to set some of assumptions (and ego) aside in order to meet the needs of the population I was there to serve.

Those experiences in Belize generalized beautifully to the culturally and linguistically diverse students/families that I serve here in California as well. I've learned that partnership is not top down, but rather stepping alongside your partner as you move forward.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Last summer, I introduced an AAC Camp in Belize to support those students with the most sever and complex communication needs (CCN). To support this camp, I enrolled graduate students from SFSU who were studying to become AAC Specialists. The experience in Belize was for all of them their first flight of independence in working with students who had CCN outside of a highly structured and well financed university clinic.

The feedback I received from that group was overwhelmingly positive. They felt the had learned more in those two weeks on how to be an AAC Specialist than they had throughout their graduate school specialization. More importantly, their confidence grew tremendously as they saw the impact they could make on a child's life through AAC intervention. Putting theoretical knowledge to work is an exciting experience.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Therapy Abroad is looking to expand into Thailand. I have spent a lot of time in Thailand and more broadly the South-East Asian region. With a couple of volunteer exceptions, I have mostly played the role of "tourist", and have minimally given back to the communities that have given so much to enrich my own life. I would dearly love to give back to the local people and those most vulnerable in that region.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I am very proud that I work for a company that is interested in developing local partnerships with the intent of helping countries develop their own experts in the field rather than being dependent on an outside foreign organization. We do not go into the countries to "save" people, but rather to share resources and build up local capacity.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Honest discourse and transparency in all parts of the organization. Those two factors are needed for all team members and for local communities to build trust and healthy relationships amongst each other. Therapy Abroad members are under different layers of pressure, as we need to ensure a positive leaning experience for our university students who are dedicating two weeks to gain international experience, in addition to meeting the needs of the local population. Transparency and honest discourse are the elements that allow for this to occur.