Sometimes it can feel as if you’re the only one who can’t seem to figure it out, but the reality is that many other people feel the same way. It just may be more difficult to find those people because we are often more protective of our vulnerabilities.
2. What’s the latest and greatest book you’ve read related to mental health, psychology or psychotherapy?
The latest book I’ve read is The Compassionate Mind-Guide to Overcoming Anxiety. I incorporate Acceptance and Commitment therapy and self-compassion based approaches in my work as a therapist. This book was a great complement specifically for anxiety. The approach is warm, caring and soothing, which is perfect for the harsh and prickly experience of anxiety.
3. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
You go to therapy because there is something wrong with you or you are weak. It is simply not true that you have to have something wrong with you to go to therapy or that you are somehow “weak” because you are having difficulties. It is our human nature to experience suffering. Some in much more serious forms than others.
Regardless, whatever is going on is not about there being something “wrong with you.” It might be that you don’t have the right set of tools or simply haven’t gotten what you needed. Our mind and body are much more complex than we even realize, and we are just scratching the surface of understanding our psychology and neurobiology.
4. What seems to be the biggest obstacle for clients in therapy?
Taking risks with new, uncomfortable emotions and behaviors. We are creatures of habit and our brains are wired to search for the negative. Making changes in therapy often requires willingness to do something new or different.
For example, this might be experiencing a difficult emotion for 1-2 minutes versus engaging in a familiar pattern of compulsive eating. It’s much more habitual to engage in a familiar pattern that has been wired since childhood.
It can be quite difficult to do something new and as we generally seek pleasure and avoid pain, change may feel or seem “painful” at first.
5. What’s the most challenging part about being a therapist?
Being highly empathic means that I’m very tuned in to the emotions of others. As I sit with someone, I am often “feeling” with them. It certainly helps me in terms of being able to provide validation and understanding, but it is also draining when done over the length of a full day.
I am highly present and engaged when I’m in this mode so it’s like being “on” with all my senses for a long period of time. I’m listening, tuning in, perceiving, feeling, processing and so forth. I find that it helps when I have a shorter clinical day or other activities in my day to “recharge” the battery, especially time to go outside.
6. What do you love about being a therapist?
I love being a part of making change in the world and facilitating healing. It’s so meaningful to me. I also sense that the impact reaches wider than one individual person.
It is so gratifying to help someone find their voice and engage with themselves in a more compassionate and self-accepting way. Then as they do that, to see it reflected with others in their life. It is truly a privilege.
7. What’s the best advice you can offer to readers on leading a meaningful life?
Practice compassion with yourself (and others, but you first). Learn to let go of the little things. Know your values and start living according to the things that really matter to you.
Sometimes this means experiencing uncomfortable feelings as you move away from fear and toward your life, but taking the fear with you reaps huge rewards. Be willing to take the risk. Show who you are in your life; express yourself, reach out, dare to be you.
8. If you had your schooling and career choice to do all over again, would you choose the same professional path? If not, what would you do differently and why?
I would definitely choose the same path. I love my career!
9. If there’s one thing you wished your clients or patients knew about treatment or mental illness, what would it be?
First of all, to understand that fundamentally, there is nothing “wrong” with you. As a human being, you are OK. What’s needed is the right understanding of what is contributing to how you are feeling and learning tools to manage the symptoms and behaviors (not the person). As a person, you are valuable, worthy, lovable and enough. We have to start from this mindset.
10. What personally do you do to cope with stress in your life?
Personally, I need to engage in a variety of things to cope with stress. The biggest thing is talking about what I’m feeling with people I know can offer support. When I need greater support, I’ll seek that out as well.
I also maintain regular, daily habits that help for stressful times such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep every night, finding time to get outside and doing a meditation at night.
I try and notice when I’m being hard on myself and offer myself the space and compassion that is needed in those moments. Most importantly laughing and having fun help when I’m stressed. I find that animals are great for this; they always make me smile.