Part of GoodTherapy’s mission and vision is encouraging people everywhere to learn more about mental health issues and treatment. We believe this is helpful in changing stigmatizing language and beliefs about mental health issues, in developing mental health care policies, and in promoting a system in which better, more compassionate outcomes are the norm.
Mental Health Awareness Month, established in 1949 and recognized each May, is a great opportunity for us to talk about stigma, share statistics, and demystify psychotherapy and other healthy treatment options. It’s also a chance to celebrate the important work mental health professionals are doing every day. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we reached out to our members and asked them to share, in their own words, what motivated or influenced them to work in mental health care. They responded:
As long as I can remember, I have been a student of people. I remember asking questions about why some people did well in life and others seemed struggle. While I think this is a question researchers are still studying, I did notice patterns in the lives surrounding mine. I noticed that people who believed they could overcome their problems seemed to fare better than those who believed their problems were too big. I watched people who believed they could overcome problems truly rise to the occasion and overcome serious addiction, rise out of poverty, choose healthy relationships, and find mental and behavioral stability. As a therapist, my goal has been to enrich and fortify people’s self-knowledge that they can overcome difficulty. They have the potential for personal greatness within them, and I help them rally their resources to create the lives they desire. I firmly believe that they can create the kind of lives and relationships they desire, only when they firmly believe they can. I have made it my mission to help my people see their own potential and believe in the power of themselves to make it happen. I see greatness come alive in the small steps my clients take each day.
As I think about the tears that dripped down the face of one of the mothers who had lost her son in the 1970s in the clandestine and infamous German colony known as Colonia Dignidad, located in Southern Chile, I distinctly remember the words of one of my college advisers: “And to think, Benjamin, that after all these years, she still remembers it as if it was yesterday.” My interest in becoming a mental health professional stems from my experiences working with individuals and families who had been violently persecuted under Chile’s Pinochet dictatorship and during the Salvadoran Civil War.violence. My motivation for becoming a therapist stemmed from my desire to do more. Therefore, I pursued a master’s in social work and began to work with children and families, many of whom have faced forced immigration, domestic violence, racism, and school-related concerns. I make a difference every day.
For them; that’s why I did it, at first. I wanted them to understand that they didn’t ruin me. That I had become full—exceptionally strong, self-empowered, capable—despite them. I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology, seeking to understand them and myself. I wanted to understand how I had become an adolescent poetess, drinker, smoker, partying, feeling-all-the-time-not-wanting-to-feel-at-all type of person. I learned during that time in my life that I was none of those things, but rather an empty, love-desperate child pretending to be an adult who was complete. Then, I entered graduate school. Now older, rubbed raw from military experience and weary from rumination and “self-help,” I wanted it for me this time. Not them. The program I entered was strategically designed to cultivate integrity, strength, and wholeness. The student-therapist I became developed a strong self-concept, a secure locus of control, and (most important of all) faith. That faith led me to where I am today. Today, I want to serve others. Motivate others. Help other people on their journey from emotional poverty to wholeness, security, and their truest self.
As a child, my outlook was filled with pessimism and negativity mainly as a means to protect myself from hurt and disappointment. I convinced myself that if I had low expectations about outcomes, I would be shielded when the other shoe dropped. My mother, a case worker at a Philadelphia psychiatric hospital, would always refer to a concept called mind over matter. She would try to convince me that what we believe to conceive, we can achieve. Clinging to my “Negative Nancy” outlook on life, I couldn’t understand my mother’s notion about the mind having power over my experience. However, it all changed one day when I had the most horrific headache I ever experienced in my young life. I was so miserable and debilitated by this strange pain in my head that I declared at 9 years old that I would never have another headache again. That day, I put my mother’s teachings into action and declared and imagined every day that I was free of headaches. I maintained a 35-year headache-free life all due to how I changed my thinking, words, and actions as a tool to manifest my desired outcomes for my life. I decided as a young girl that I wanted to support others through challenges in their life by helping them to heal through the use of their own inner power. As a counselor and hypnotherapist, I help people relax their bodies and minds through the use of hypnosis. Together, we explore positive ways to recondition limited thinking patterns, belief systems, and behaviors to uncover the results desired for their lives, business, and relationships. I am passionate about people I treat and their transformation from self-sabotage, unhealthy beliefs, self-doubt, and pessimism, to a space of clarity, self-esteem, confidence, and optimism with our work together. I find joy in helping others live a more fulfilled life.
I imagined growing up to be a therapist when I was a teenager, because my mother worked as a psychotherapy office manager and the therapists seemed like interesting people. But when I got to college, the psychology department was all about lab rats and psychological experiments, and I really had no interest in that. I discovered I was good at economics and ended up getting a master’s degree and working as an economist in state government for over a decade. Then, after having my second child, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. It took months of suffering to get a diagnosis and the proper treatment. After I recovered, I was fired up about supporting other moms in getting help. After several years of running support groups, I decided the best way I could help was to become a therapist and specialize in the treatment of new moms. It’s been so satisfying to be able to help light the way for those suffering through a traumatic journey that I have personally experienced.
Mental Health Awareness Month is a meaningful time to reflect on why I wanted to become a psychologist and how that still rings true today. As someone who has devoted my career to the promotion of mental health, I am grateful for the opportunities I have been granted through my work. As a therapist, I have been allowed access into the inner worlds of others. I have been entrusted with thoughts and feelings that are often not shared with others in their daily lives. It is a giant responsibility and something that I thoroughly enjoy.
I became a therapist so that I could help others understand themselves better so they learn how to help themselves feel better. I help others recognize insights and make connections in their own world that lead to a shift in their understanding of themselves. My goal is to help teach skills that bring meaningful and positive change into the lives of others. The changes that happen in therapy will both lead to immediate relief and, ideally, to sustained improvement and growth over time. Having the opportunity to have an influential role in this process is exactly why I provide therapy.
I became a therapist because of the sexual abuse and domestic violence that I experienced as a child. I could not understand why I could not get over the anger and other overwhelming feelings I had until I went into counseling. The feeling of being understood and validated was so healing that it didn’t matter to me anymore if my family didn’t understand me because I knew that God understood me as well as my therapist. I became a therapist to walk that “scary road” with people and to let them know that I do understand! Understanding is what I received, and understanding is what I want to give back!
Mental health month. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may
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