Monday through Friday, you’ll find Tiffany Alexander running her consulting firm, Alexander & Associates, working with patients. But on the weekends, she takes off her therapist cap and puts on a racing helmet. Tiffany is a top racer and driving instructor. She even participates in endurance races, which means some of her races last 24 hours! We spoke to Tiffany about the importance of therapy, excellence in a male dominated sport, and more. We are delighted to introduce our new FACE from Birmingham, Tiffany Alexander.
When did you know you wanted to be a therapist?
After graduating from high school, I took classes at Jeff State. I took my first psychology class by chance. I wanted to enroll in Speech 101, but I entered Psychology 101. I found it absolutely fascinating, so I did my undergraduate in Psychology in Montevallo.
I left Montevallo wanting to do neuropsychic and research. So I worked at UAB at the Callahan Eye Clinic, and we were doing research on vision, treatment skills, and driving in the elderly. It was a great research project, but what it taught me the most was that I no longer saw a research career for myself. I decided to go back and get my masters in counseling.
Why do you think counseling and therapy are important?
My hope is that society changes in such a way that just like you have a primary care physician or a dentist, you also have a therapist. Maybe you don’t see them all the time, but you have someone you already bond with so that you can deal with things and get through tough situations in the most efficient and healthy way possible.
Life is messy. We don’t reinvent the wheel as therapists, but we offer this unique outside perspective that helps people get through their business. It is a relationship that is completely one-sided as opposed to any other relationship in your life that is two-sided and is about giving and receiving. Many people will rely on resources like friends, family, and church, and these are all good, but they are completely different from a therapeutic relationship.
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Outside of the office you are a top racer and driving instructor. How did you get interested in this?
I didn’t grow up in a racing family, but I’ve always loved cars. I stole my little brother’s Matchbox cars all the time. After graduating with my masters degree, I went to work at the Alabama Clinical School, which caters to emotionally disturbed adolescent males. The clinical director and the CEO were both car guys. We were still talking about cars, and the CEO guaranteed us tickets to take the boys to Barber Motorsports Park for a ride. When I went there it blew me away that we have something like this in Alabama. It is one of the most beautiful courses in the world, or at least in North America. It’s as if they’ve put a running track in the middle of the botanical gardens. So I bought tickets to the race this weekend and as I was watching I was like, “I have to figure out how to do this.
I bought a 350Z and started looking for driving schools. Later I got a Boxster, and got better and better, and then I started teaching. Today, I am a senior instructor with several organizations.
I also participate in the ChampCar Endurance Series; I’m on the board for them, and I’m on the show as well. I’m the only woman on the board for them and the only woman on the show.
What do you like the most about racing?
I love the competition and the feeling of being in the zone and the adrenaline rush. When you are running you need to be 100% focused at all times. I also like to be aggressive on the track in a way that you can’t do in the normal world.
How do you prepare – mentally and emotionally – for an endurance race?
Summer races require several days of hydration before the race. I do summer track days to train and stay acclimatized to the heat. Stretching is also important. If I drive an unfamiliar car, I get as much information as I can about the car, the tires, the brakes, the setup.
Mentally I watch videos in the car, or if I’ve been there before mentally driving the course in my head. And I like to set a personal goal for the weekend and focus on it. I also like to pick a song or two that gets me in the mood and listen to those heading for the track. One of my favorites to listen to on race day is “Trouble” by Neon Jungle. Pink Floyd’s “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” is a song I sometimes sing to myself when driving. It helps me to stay calm and focused as the race is dangerous and a bit crazy.
Do you have any hobbies outside of racing?
I do some gardening when I have time. I like to play with my plants and grow vegetables. It’s my cool hobby. And my husband loves Koi fish, so we have a pond.
What’s your favorite hidden gem in BHM?
It would be the Barber Motorsports Park. A lot of people don’t know it exists. I said to my family: when I die, you can cremate me and sprinkle me there because I just want to stay there forever. It’s nice. There are works of art everywhere and waterfalls. I’ve been to a lot of other racetracks across the country, and they’re not very pleasant at all.
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What advice would you give to other women who might be interested in high performance racing or other male-dominated activities?
Boys don’t know what they don’t know. They have no earthly idea what it is like to be a woman, and expecting them to do so is just a waste of energy on our part. As women, if we are to be involved in something that is very male dominated, we have to understand that there are going to be different group expectations, that the culture is different. It doesn’t mean that we have to change who we are, but we have to know that social rules are different. There is a little respect in men – they can do it, and they can take it. If they’re doing something stupid, just call them. I will give them back whatever they give me.
Other than family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
Cheese, Chardonnay and mascara.
Meet more inspiring Birmingham women in our FACES archive.