Every month we turn the tables, and ask clinicians to share a slew of tidbits about themselves and their work. They reveal everything from the trials and triumphs of conducting therapy to how they personally cope with stress. They also share their insights into the biggest myth about therapy and the best way to lead a meaningful life.
This month we’re pleased to feature Claire Dorotik-Nana, LMFT, who pens the popular Psych Central blog “Leveraging Adversity.” Dorotik-Nana specializes in working with people who struggle with addictions, mood disorders, adjustment issues and body image concerns.
She also develops continuing education courses for Zur Institute, one of the largest continuing education providers for counselors and therapists, on such topics as motivational interviewing and post-traumatic growth.
You can learn more about Dorotik-Nana at her website www.clairedorotik-nana.com.
1. What’s surprised you the most about being a therapist?
I have been, and continue to be, surprised by people’s ability to adapt and grow in the face of insurmountable odds.
2. What’s the latest and greatest book you’ve read related to mental health, psychology or psychotherapy?
While there are several great books related to mental health, there are some I would call “groundbreaking” like Dan Pink’s book, DRIVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. This book truly changes the way we look at motivation, and challenges everything we think we know about it.
3. What’s the biggest myth about therapy?
The biggest myth about therapy, I believe, is that it is stigmatizing, and that going to therapy means you have a mental illness. The truth behind the myth is that, for many years, clients who sought treatment for mental illness were treated as “different” and originally psychological treatment was to cure “mental disease” and was introduced in this way as opposed to the many uses it really has, such as simply wanting to improve one’s life, find more meaning, perform better, etc.
4. What seems to be the biggest obstacle for clients in therapy?
The biggest obstacle for clients I see is the pervasive inability to believe in themselves.
5. What’s the most challenging part about being a therapist?
People always say to me “Your job must be so hard,” yet, in truth, I do not find it challenging at all. But then again, I teach “leveraging adversity,” meaning I welcome challenge.
6. What do you love about being a therapist?
I have the most wonderful opportunity to see someone – every single day – do the things that inspire me. That is, take the reins, gulp down a bottle of confidence, and make a change.
7. What’s the best advice you can offer to readers on leading a meaningful life?
Do it now while you can. Finding meaning is highly linked to life satisfaction, and research points to the fact that at the end stages of life, most regret the things they did not do, as opposed to the chances they did take.
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 change nothing, absolutely nothing.
9. If there’s one thing you wished your clients knew about treatment or mental illness, what would it be?
There is no black and white — and all things exist on a spectrum. Thought disorders, psychosis, depression, anxiety, and relational problems are things we all have on some level. [For instance] all people will experience mild forms of “losing track of time,” feeling disoriented at times, having pervasive fears and worries, suspicion, and the only difference between this and that which can be diagnosed is the amount that these things are experienced, and not their presence.
10. What personally do you do to cope with stress in your life?
I welcome stress, because stress offers the opportunity for growth. So to cope with it, I learn to leverage it. When something challenging happens, the most important thing is our attitude toward challenge itself. When we see challenge as growth-enhancing, we are naturally oriented to look for opportunities for growth, and we begin to ask ourselves questions like, “What skills are needed to get through this and how can I develop them?” Then we start to focus on our reactions to the challenge, as opposed to the difficulty of the challenge itself.