Kathy Lee, PhD

Director, Counseling & Psychological Services



Licensed Psychologist, State of California (PSY18989)

Certified Question Persuade Refer (QPR) Instructor since 2008

First day of work at San Jose State University

January 25, 2021

How did you get here?

I am a first gen, ABC (American-Born Chinese), cis-woman who grew up in a low-income household in LA Chinatown. My immigrant parents instilled values around family, community and a strong work ethic which drove me towards reaching my goals even when it was challenging. When I declared my college major in Social Ecology at UC Irvine, I truly wanted to understand how environments impact human behavior after witnessing my childhood peers getting involved in gangs. After being the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, I realized I needed to continue my educational journey to obtain an M.A. in Psychology and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Family Therapy and Cultural Psychology. My hope was to support other Asian/Asian-Americans in their personal journeys despite the challenges they face in society, in their environment and in their personal life. 

My passion in working with diverse students in academic institutions was kindled when I was a Doctoral Intern at the University of Houston-Counseling and Psychological Services and a Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Berkeley-Counseling and Psychological Services. Prior to working in universities, I had extensive experience working in various community mental health centers and psychiatric inpatient hospital units. My various experiences influenced my decision to focus on working in universities which resulted in more than 17 years as a staff psychologist and leader at UC San Diego, Stanford University and Santa Clara University before arriving at San José State University in 2021.

Who were your role models or mentors?

My mentors were two amazing licensed clinical psychologists of color who were truly inspirational to me. My first mentor is a Filipina clinical psychologist who provided me with support and guidance when I began my career as a university staff psychologist. She helped me infuse what I learned in graduate school into practice by becoming a culturally competent psychologist despite the lack of cultural psychology research and academic material. My second mentor is a Latino clinical psychologist who continued supporting my desire to support students of color in their campus community. Growing up in Chinatown, I knew the help-seeking barriers which influenced my belief around providing community services. This mentor and I felt there was a need to meet students where they are because they were unlikely to seek services in a student health center. I am blessed to have worked with these mentors who influenced my development as a leader, psychologist and community collaborator. 

What are your tips for getting started in this field?

I believe it’s important to reflect on your life journey, your values, and your passion which may give clues towards your career path. My passion is around Asian/Asian-American mental health so I created opportunities to increase my experiences in Asian-focused community health centers and Asian focused inpatient units during graduate studies. In my reflection, I knew it was important to support marginalized individuals and to support them getting access to treatment services equitably without barriers.  

What are your most important habit(s) or resource(s) for staying well?

To stay well, I make sure that I get my body moving everyday, especially by taking walks or exercising. I love spending time with my kid, family, friends, and dog to keep me grounded. I also love listening to music and going to concerts or Broadway musicals. Lastly, my interest in photography fulfills my need to capture the beauty of landscapes.  

Academic Training:

  • Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, Palo Alto University (1999)
  • M.A. in Psychology, Pepperdine University (2002)


  • Pre-doctoral Internship at the University of Houston (1998-1999)
  • Post-doctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley (1999-2000)

Professional Affiliations:

  • Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD)
  • Organization of California Counseling Directors in Higher Education (OCCDHE)

Areas of Special Interests:

  • Asian/Asian-American Mental Health
  • First Generation College
  • Identity Development
  • Relationship Concerns
  • Family of Origin Concerns
  • Clinical Training and Professional Development

Theoretical Orientation:

  • Integrative therapeutic approach draws from an insight-oriented
  • Interpersonal
  • Cognitive Behavioral
  • Systems Perspective within a Multicultural Context

Other Information:

Conversationally fluent in Cantonese and Toisan.