Norma Royale Wilder Benavides is a retired mental health practitioner who spent more than 20 years working with patients in both English and Spanish throughout California. By the time Ms. Benavides was 13 years old, she knew that she wanted to learn Spanish and pursue a career that relied on her knowledge of it. She spent two years working with the Peace Corps before beginning her career as a teacher of English and Spanish as a second language. Over the course of her career, Ms. Benavides has spent 12 years living in foreign countries, including Spain, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela.
Ms. Benavides holds a Master of Arts in Spanish and South American literature from the University of Tennessee Knoxville and returned to school at the Pacifica Graduate Institute in the early 1990s. She earned a Master of Arts in psychology in 1992 and began transitioning into mental health counseling. Her move into mental healthcare was inspired by the cultural knowledge that she acquired during her time living outside the United States and her experience watching her children and stepchildren face the challenges of adolescence.
In 2000, Ms. Benavides became coordinator of the domestic violence team and Spanish-language women’s support groups for CALM, and in 2003 she began working as a bilingual mental health practitioner for the Santa Barbara County Alcohol, Drugs, and Mental Health Department. She continued to see patients until her retirement in 2012. Throughout her career, Ms. Benavides was motivated by her past experiences leaving an abusive relationship and healing from trauma through psychiatric care, and she strove to help others accomplish the same. Ms. Benavides is the author of a memoir, “The Longer I Live, the Wilder it Gets: A Memoir of Adventure,” and looks forward to writing another in the coming years.