Monday through Friday you’ll find Tiffany Alexander managing her counseling practice, Alexander & Associates, working with patients. But on the weekends, she takes off her therapist hat and puts on a racing helmet. Tiffany is a high-performance racer and driving instructor. She even competes in endurance races, which means some of her races are 24 hours long! We talked to Tiffany about the importance of therapy, excelling in a male-dominated sport, and more. We’re excited to introduce our newest FACE of Birmingham, Tiffany Alexander.
When did you know you wanted to be a therapist?
After I graduated high school, I took classes at Jeff State. I took my first psychology course by accident. I meant to sign up for Speech 101, but I got into Psychology 101. I found it absolutely fascinating, so I did my undergrad in psychology at Montevallo.
I came out of Montevallo wanting to do neuro-psych and research. So, I worked at UAB at the Callahan Eye Clinic, and we were doing research on vision, processing abilities, and driving in older individuals. It was a cool research project, but what it taught me most was that I didn’t see a career in research for myself any longer. I decided to go back and get my master’s in counseling.
Why do you think counseling and therapy are important?
My hope is that society is moving forward in a way that just as you have a primary care doctor or a dentist, you would also have a therapist. Maybe you don’t see them all the time, but you have somebody that you already have a connection with so that you can process things and go through difficult situations in the most efficient and healthy way possible.
Life is messy. We’re not reinventing the wheel as therapists, but we provide that unique outside perspective that helps people get through their stuff. It’s a relationship that’s completely one-sided as opposed to every other relationship in your life that’s two-sided and about give and take. A lot of people will lean on resources like friends and family and church, and those are all good, but they’re completely different from a therapeutic relationship.
Outside the office, you’re a high-performance racer and driving instructor. How did you get interested in this?
I didn’t grow up in a racing family, but I’ve always liked cars. I would steal my little brother’s Matchbox cars all the time. After I got my master’s, I went to work at Alabama Clinical School, which is for emotionally disturbed adolescent males. The clinical director and the CEO were both car guys. We would always talk cars, and the CEO secured tickets for us to take the boys to Barber Motorsports Park for an outing. When I went out there, it just blew my mind that we have something like that in Alabama. It’s one of the nicest courses in the world, or at least North America. It’s like they put a racetrack in the middle of Botanical Gardens. So, I bought tickets for the race that weekend and as I was watching I thought, “I’ve got to figure out how to do this.”
I bought a 350Z, and I started looking at driving schools. Later, I got a Boxster, and I got better and better at it, and then I started teaching. Today I’m a senior instructor with several organizations.
I also race in the ChampCar Endurance Series; I sit on the board for them, and I’m also on the broadcast. I’m the only female on the board of directors for them and the only female on the broadcast.
What do you love most about racing?
I love the competition and the feeling of being in the zone and the adrenaline. When you’re racing, you have to have 100 percent of your focus at all times. I also enjoy being aggressive on the track in ways you can’t out in the regular world.
How do you prepare – mentally and emotionally – for an endurance race?
Summertime races require several days of hydrating prior to the race. I do summer track days to practice and stay acclimated to the heat. Stretching is also important. If I’m driving an unfamiliar car, I get as much information as I can about the car, the tires, the brakes, the setup.
Mentally, I watch in-car videos, or if I’ve been there before I mentally drive the course in my head. And I like to set a personal goal for the weekend and focus on that. I also like to pick out a song or two that get me in the mindset and listen to those on the way to the track. One of my favorites to listen to on race day is “Trouble” by Neon Jungle. “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” by Pink Floyd is one I sing to myself when I’m driving sometimes. It helps me to stay calm and focused because racing is dangerous and a little crazy.
Do you have any hobbies outside of racing?
I do garden a little bit when I have the time. I like tooling around playing with my plants and growing some veggies. That’s my chill hobby. And my husband is into Koi fish, so we have a pond.
What is your favorite hidden gem in BHM?
That would be the Barber Motorsports Park. A lot of people don’t know it exists. I told my family: When I die, you can cremate and sprinkle me out there because I just want to stay there forever. It’s beautiful. There’s artwork everywhere and waterfalls. I’ve been to lots of other racetracks around the country, and they are not that nice by any stretch.
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’s like to be a woman, and expecting them to is just a waste of energy on our part. As women, if we’re going to be involved in something that’s super male-dominated, we have to understand that there’s going to be different group expectations, that the culture is different. That doesn’t mean we have to change who we are, but we have to know that the social rules are different. There’s a bit of respect among men – they can dish it out, and they can take it. If they do something asinine, just call them out on it. 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.
Thank you, Tiffany!
Meet more inspiring Birmingham women in our FACES archives.