Is there an example from your daily life where you practice what you preach?
I’m a big believer in the importance of meditation and self-care. It’s something that I often talk with my clients about, and I speak truly from my own experience. After having neglected myself in so many ways for many years of my life, I’m fortunate to be at a place now where I have adopted those daily practices and made them part of my routine. Each morning, I get out of bed and I make a point of sitting down and taking the time for myself to meditate—to be present with myself and find stillness. I also try to engage in some informal practices throughout the day. This can look like pausing to take some deep breaths when needed or connecting with my surroundings in my environment or in nature. I wouldn’t have been able to continue working as a therapist for as long as I have without adopting a diligent practice of self-care. Making sure that I’m prioritizing my overall wellbeing has made my life sustainable and has allowed me to continue doing what I love most which is being present with people, having compassion, and just showing up to life.
If you hadn’t become a therapist what profession would you have chosen and why?
I love being a therapist, but if I were to have chosen a different career path, I would absolutely, without a doubt have studied eastern medicine and become an acupuncturist. I had a friend who studied acupuncture and acquired her licence to practice, so I got to see first-hand what acupuncturists learn about how the body works. Acupuncture really embraces a total mind, body, spirit connection, which resonates with me. I try to get acupuncture regularly as part of my self-care practice, not for treatment of a chronic condition or a specified physical ailment, but for stress and anxiety reduction and to improve my quality of sleep. Being less stressed, less anxious and more well rested has drastically improved my overall health. Because acupuncture has played such a big role in my being able to function as a healthy human being, I think eastern medicine would have been the other path I would have chosen.
How do you approach the stigma surrounding mental health and therapy?
I love this question because I believe that a lack of conversation surrounding mental health is one of the reasons that a stigma developed in the first place. I always try to be really open and honest with others about my own experience in personal therapy. I have never tried to hide the fact that I go to therapy regularly and have been for the greater part of my career (and at various points even prior to that). For me, it’s just a staple in my life and I can’t imagine not having access to therapy. When I share my mental health experiences with such full transparency I do so with the intention of helping reduce the stigma. As a therapist, I obviously have a strong bias about the importance of mental health awareness, but I truly believe that having an open dialogue about these issues makes all the difference.
What was one of the most challenging experiences during your training to become a therapist? How did you overcome the challenge and what did you learn from it?
I think the most challenging thing during my training and something that still challenges me today as a practitioner is fighting against burnout and compassion fatigue. I have a really open heart and I’m very intentional about being present and showing up fully for my clients. While I feel like this aspect of my personality makes me a better therapist, it also means that after a while, my heart can grow weary and heavy. I can be prone to feeling down and can sometimes be quite adversely impacted by some of the things I hear in my line of work. And, if I’m not careful, all these feelings can take a toll on my presence and awareness and my ability to continue showing up to fully support others. This is exactly why I have come to be so diligent with my own self-care practices. I have no doubt that practicing self-care in order to combat burnout and compassion fatigue is something that I will continue to prioritize for the remainder of my career. Not only does it make me a better therapist, but it helps me to be more present in my roles as a mother, a partner, a daughter, a sister, and a friend.