“They have to learn all over again how to cope with life and learn compensatory strategies for the things they used to be able to do,” clinical psychologist Maria Raciti, PhD says. “There are patients who have been out there for years, seeing practitioners for concussions, etc. Finally, a doctor will send them here and they find somebody who understands brain injury.”
Raciti earned her PhD in clinical psychology from Texas Tech University and completed her internship at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk.
“I planned to go back out west but met my husband on a blind date while doing my residency in Newport News,” she says. Maria and Clarence married in 1991 and have two grown sons. The couple has a grown stepdaughter who gave them three grandchildren.
Raciti began her career at Riverside Rehabilitation Institute on the brain injury unit before moving into different clinical psychology practices while maintaining her work as an independent contractor.
“Eventually I worked in two private practices,” she says of splitting her work-week. “Twelve years ago, I went into private practice, exclusively.”
After a 41-year career in maintenance for the Civil Engineering Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Clarence retired. He now works with his wife, handling her billing.
“I’m amazed at how she supports her patients and gives of her time and her energy,” he says. “It’s obvious to me that she loves her work.”
Raciti specializes in post-concussion syndrome and mild Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which encompasses about half her practice. The other half involves general clinical psychology.
“The general clinical part where I practice depression/anxiety/coping skills balances it out,” she says. “It varies my practice and makes my job enjoyable.”
Her patients are rebuilding their lives. They are becoming accustomed to developing accommodations for things they can’t do the same way anymore.
“They are redefining themselves with their new normal because they aren’t the same persons they were pre-injury,” Raciti says. “I’m one of the few clinicians who sees patients in psychotherapy with mild TBI and post-concussion syndrome.”
This work is more often done by neuropsychologists. Raciti trained in neuropsychology during her residency and internship. Today, she sees patients in therapy post-neuropsychological testing and diagnosis. She receives patient referrals from other physicians, by word-of-mouth and from the Brain Injury Association of Virginia, listing her on its provider list as a certified brain injury specialist.
“I receive great satisfaction in watching my patients work toward their own personal goals,” Raciti says. “Ultimately the goal is to enhance the quality of one’s life. But how we go about that is different for adjustment disorder or depression or anxiety or mild TBI.”
All brain injuries are different. And all individuals have predisposing personalities that determine how the brain injury presents itself. The primary causes of the brain injuries Raciti deals with are motor vehicle accidents and blunt force trauma.
Dr. Raciti and her husband spent their 25th wedding anniversary in Riviera Maya, Mexico. They joined a travel club at the time and now travel to Mexico for one week each year.
“I love to go to the Bahamas and anywhere tropical,” she says. “In Freeport we befriend the locals. It’s quiet and gives me a break from what I do every day since I work such crazy hours.”
Raciti enjoys crocheting and, until six months ago when she developed a bone spur in her shoulder, she practiced and taught tai kwan do for 17 years. She has a second-degree black belt. She also loves collecting jewelry and gemstones. Her favorite is alexandrite.
“It’s my birthstone, very rare,” she says. “It’s called Emerald by Day and Ruby by Night because it changes color in different light.”
Her husband says, “I enjoy being supportive of her business and her career. She is fortunate to be able to work in a profession that she has always found rewarding.”
“Brain injury counseling is really awesome,” Raciti explains. “I have to say that I love what I do and am blessed because I love what I do.”
TO THE POINT:
Dr. Maria Raciti, Clinical Psychologist
Address: 11847 Canon Blvd., Ste.12, Newport News, VA 23606