Therapy with Mirinda
From your perspective, what is therapy?
Therapy is a process that cannot be rushed, nor half done. It is not an overnight cure or miracle. You have to put in the work and give yourself permission to be vulnerable. If anything, the healing and renewal occurs outside of our sessions as I merely plant the seeds and tango with you.
A therapy session is a relationship and opportunity to explore the good, the bad, the sweet, the sour, the beauty, and the ugly. It will be challenging as some things will arise during a session that will elicit emotions you may or may not be ready to face, but there is growth in discomfort. I seek to cultivate a space of bravery and courage to unpack things.
This is your time, your journey, your ride to breathe out pain and breathe in peace. Even the worst forms of suffering come with the potential for healing. Let us work together to dig at the source of the suffering or pervasive unsatisfactoriness. You are the expert of your life, and I work collaboratively with you to achieve your goals and serve as a catalyst to mental wellness. The wounds you carry can begin to heal through conversation or by having a person actively listen to, reflect, and validate you and your story.
Please share 2-3 anonymized examples of how the work can play out and/or look in the room so that I can form a visual or narrative of what to expect.
1) A 26-year-old client sought guidance on how to sort through her anxiety and imposter syndrome which had been perpetuated by a few things including microaggressions in the workplace, pressure from parents to be successful, and negative thoughts that she was not good enough. Amidst the onset of graduate school, start of a new job, and current interpersonal stress, we worked together to understand not only the root of her negative cognitions but also how our thoughts heavily impact our emotions/feelings and thus influence our behaviors or lack thereof. When there was no motivation to do homework, for example, it was not a reflection of her character but the tight grip that depression/anxiety had on her. I couldn’t necessarily make the hurt go away overnight, but she did not have to feel it all alone. I allowed time to slowly unpack and process, which lead to revelations and a turn in a positive direction to take control and manage her symptoms.
2) A middle-aged client discussed how her major health issues that left her with limited mobility put a strain on her relationship with her daughter. Additionally, she fell into a deep depression because she viewed her life as “being over.” We processed what this shift in roles meant for her and how to adjust and sort of rebrand her narrative. I encouraged her to see that she is not defined by her situation. It’s hard to let go of how things should be or the person we used to be, but we must do so in order to make room for new possibilities.
3) Another client struggled to manage his stress and balance multiple roles including being a father and a husband. He turned to substances to cope with the uneasy feelings. We created a list of technical tips (e..g, timing, setting boundaries, breathing exercises) to manage and reduce stress, but we also worked to address what he was thinking and how he talked to himself. The way we speak to ourselves makes a huge impact on how we feel about our lives. I worked with him to bring awareness to his thoughts and internal dialogue to better understand them. We proceeded to unpack where the shame and pressure stemmed from and to develop a gentle, kinder way to talk to himself.
How much do you share about yourself during our time together and why?
I engage in self-disclosure if it progresses our work and your healing forward. I will respond honestly and transparently with anything that pertains to the current topic. If there is something I do not feel comfortable sharing, I will say so.
How participatory are you during sessions?
I like to use this analogy: Think of me as your driver’s ed instructor in the passenger seat of the vehicle with emergency brakes. I will provide reflection, feedback, psychoeducation, and interpretation informed by my research and experience.
Do you assign homework, activities, or readings for me to do between sessions? Why or why not?
Everyone has a different learning style, so in our first few sessions of engagement and after collaboratively completing a treatment plan, we will decide together what works for you. Typically, I may say pay attention to certain things in between sessions or think about what we have discussed and write down what came up so we can start the following session with that.
I think smaller goals or objectives are important so that it can keep you engaged and actively working on self and the things that concern you. If I choose to approach with a cognitive-behavioral focus, for instance, I may give you a thought record to fill out during the week where you write down a negative thought, what you felt, what triggered it, and then what a positive counter-thought would be. The goal of that “homework” or as I like to call it, “self work,” is to help you change your moods by finding a more balanced way of thinking about things.
If I have never been to therapy before, what should I expect? How do I know if I should go, and how do I start?
The media, the internet, TV, and people’s opinions can sort of fabricate what therapy is or can look like. I think it’s important for you to have an opportunity to decide for yourself what therapy is and how it can best serve you. I encourage you to step out into what is unknown, uncharted, and shaky, as that will lead to enlightenment and liberation. The weight of your story doesn’t need to be carried alone.
How will our relationship be different than relationships I have with friends/loved ones?
The therapeutic relationship is not a friendship because the therapist and patient have no relationship outside the therapy sessions; if one exists it would be considered a dual relationship, which is deemed unethical in therapy. Therapy can certainly be a friendly relationship, but clearly defined boundaries are essential to the therapeutic alliance. It also allows the therapist to maintain objectivity in the clients’ best interests. Nevertheless, I am caring and empathetic and may display qualities of a good friend, but it’s not a normal two-way dynamic relation like friendships.
Is there ever a time when you would encourage me to leave or graduate? Or how do I know when it’s time to end or move on, or time to stay and explore more?
I usually suggest that we meet for at least 6 weeks so that there is an opportunity for our relationship to gain momentum and I can get a firm grasp on current concerns and who you are. Following that, we can decide on a weekly or monthly basis how our work together will proceed. I believe a therapist can be someone to talk to about things of negative, positive, and in-between nature. We would revisit the treatment plan to see where we are on the goals and objectives and adjust as needed. My goal is to help provide the ingredients to develop sanity and healing and have you driving on your own without me. You will know when you’re ready!
Where did you work before going into private practice?
I was a researcher for four years at both the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago before I moved to New York City to earn my master’s in social work. My research focused on African American and Latino youth from low income, high violent urban neighborhoods. I advocated that we work to not only support youth in decreasing the effects of emotional and behavioral concerns related to exposure to violence and trauma but also to maximize their potential and strengths. In a policy brief I wrote in Scholars Strategies Network, I highlight how by involving youth in all aspects of afterschool programming (e.g., design, implementation, evaluation), it can teach youth how to process information, contribute to their schools and communities and improve society. This additionally supports the breadth of potential environmental targets for prevention and intervention work for positive youth development in the face of adversity.
During my graduate education, I continued my research endeavors while I interned at a local school in the Bronx as well as a multidisciplinary outpatient clinic. Through a lens informed by epidemiology, psychopharmacology, and leadership in practice through trainings and workshops offered at my internship site, I am in a better position to make informed decisions on how to approach my clinical practice and facilitate wholesome care.
Have you received any particular training beyond your post-Bachelor’s training?
I earned my MSW from Columbia University in 2019 and will continue to engage in training and research to advance my clinical expertise.
What led you to become a mental healthcare practitioner?
I got into this profession to help people realize their true capabilities in the midst of adversity. I want to normalize the idea of therapy and mobilize people to seek help sooner rather than later. The narrative of the mental health field and seeking professional help needs to change, especially in black and brown communities. We’ve been brought up in a culture that does not acknowledge or encourage care for mental health. I want to be that person I needed when I was younger, and not push things under the rug.
What is the best part of the work for you?
Both the honor of bearing witness to my clients’ stories of bravery, courage, and resilience as well as the trust that is placed in me to guide a person along their journey of healing and recovery are very rewarding parts of the work that I do. We have a habitual tendency to deny the current state we’re in and so when the beacon of hope, support, and self-discovery leads to a breakthrough no matter the size, it is a priceless feeling.
What is unique about the work you do, or how have you found your work to be different than your colleagues’?
I utilize a direct, empathetic, and occasionally humorous approach with my clients. I insert several check-in points to ask feedback from the client: What is working? What is not working? What do you want to do differently?and I encourage my clients to respond honestly. My aim is to hold your hand at first but slowly, as you get comfortable, let you go one finger at a time until you find your way. I want you to be independent and take the tools acquired in session and use them out there. I recognize that I am only with you for 45 minutes once a week, so it’s important for me to not only develop a strong rapport with you, but also serve as a catalyst for you to heal, flourish and strive onward. Using a trauma-informed anti-oppressive approach, I am keenly aware how trauma and oppression affects the mind, body, and soul.
How do you approach diversity in the room or working with clients who may come from a different background than you?
Working across social identities can be daunting for both myself and the client. We are embedded and bound to different identities that either privilege us, oppress us, or both. Engaging in self-reflection and critical consciousness allows me to ensure a more socially just practice. And so failure to engage in a process of critical consciousness and critical reflection about my identity and position in society can lead to missing or misinterpreting important elements of a situation and applying inaccurate or uninformed assumptions and treatment. It may lead to being accomplices in sustaining systems of inequality and privilege.
I am committed to adopting this ideology into my practice. I ask how and with whom you identify. What are your pronouns? How would you like to be addressed? If there’s anything I say or do that may offend my client, I take full accountability. I am cognizant of our differences and the role it could play in our sessions, so I aim to cultivate a brave environment for ongoing discussions and considerations during our time together.
How can you tell if I am benefiting from working with you?
You will be thinking about our sessions during the week. Something that I said or an insight that you curated in session will pop back up and you’ll make several connections that you can’t wait to tell me about. You will be more conscious and mindful of certain behaviors or patterns in your life and how it unfolds across time and across contexts. You will take the lead in elevating our conversations. Your mood will begin to feel even and you will feel empowered because you no longer will be controlled by your symptoms.
How can you tell if I am feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard?
I will become aware of your ambivalence through your verbal and non-verbal communication and won’t hesitate to bring it up.
How long should I commit to being in therapy, at least in the beginning?
I suggest committing to therapy for at least four months to give the process a chance.
How should I prepare for my first session with you?
Starting something new can often elicit nerves, but just come as you are and maybe think about the things that brought you to therapy at this point in your life. The paperwork will follow in time.
Do I need to bring anything with me?
Do I need to be mindful of anything in particular while commuting to your office?
No, just ring the bell for 101.