“You can’t change a pattern you haven’t discovered yet.”
What was your path to becoming a therapist? What inspired you to choose this profession?
This profession combines my passions and strengths. Since a young age I witnessed the transformative power of a non-judgemental space when people would share difficult things with me that they have never shared with anyone else. My desire to listen to people’s stories and to learn more about a variety of cultures and experiences was always evident in my love for watching documentaries. In college I double majored in Neuroscience and Psychology, and minored in Philosophy. Then, in medical school I decided to combine all of these interests into one career that acknowledges the spectrum of human experiences from the physical to the psychological. I went on to explore my interest in working with young adults through experience at a counseling center serving both undergraduate and graduate students. I also furthered my interest in cultural issues through work with the Cornell Center for Human Rights, and a presentation at the United Nations.
What would you want someone to know about working with you?
Congratulations on taking the first step in your journey. I understand that you may be anxious or worried about making the wrong choice. It's important to me that you find the treatment that's the best fit for your needs. That's why I view both the consultation call and the first session as a chance for you to see if we're a good fit. The first session is also a time to explore your goals and consider a customized approach that would serve you the most. Given the long-term benefits, I usually recommend therapy for everyone. I believe that therapeutic work combining lifestyle changes and therapy may be sufficient for many. After further evaluation, if it is medically necessary and appropriate I may also prescribe medications in addition to therapy. My ultimate priority is your health and well-being.
What do you think is the biggest barrier today for people seeking care?
Stigma is still prevalent in today’s society, and even to a greater extent in some families and communities. There are many complicated reasons for this and some of them stem from egregious political misuse and historical mistakes made by the medical system. Unfortunately people sometimes still have bad experiences with therapists or psychiatrists and are afraid to try it again. Whatever the reason, it means that some people do not get the support that they need and deserve. Thankfully the landscape of mental health is changing and there are more women, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and minorities choosing these professions and bringing diversity to thought and treatment. As a woman and an immigrant, I hope to contribute to decreasing stigma in all communities and to show that mental health lifestyle changes are as important as physical health lifestyle changes.
If there was one thing you wish people knew about the therapy experience who might be hesitant to try it, what would that be?
You can’t change a pattern you haven’t discovered yet. Working with clients over the years I have witnessed the transformative power of self-discovery. It starts with the willingness to look at your true self honestly and nonjudgmentally while at the same time looking at personal patterns, actions, and thoughts that have not served you well so far. Once you have discovered these, you can start changing them and start seeing the benefits of your newly gained freedom from old constraints. Therapy is a worthwhile investment of time in mental health benefits, just as physical activity and health informed food choices are worthwhile investments in physical health benefits.
How do you combine mind, body, and spirit in your work?
The primary goal of this approach is promoting wellness and not just treating illness. Each person is unique and different aspects of the mind, body or spirit may be integral to their wellness journey. This approach looks at the whole person and their particular needs. Given my combined training in therapy and my medical training, I consider all options and then determine, with the clients’ input, which path fits best for that person. This path may be through therapy alone, and possible combination with lifestyle changes, or if needed it may include medications. We may integrate all three at the same time. The lifestyle changes can include a variety of things; including physical activity, diet, sleep, social activity, creative engagements, sexual health, or mind-body practices like mindfulness or meditation. The spiritual work can include general exploration of finding meaning in life.
“Congratulations on taking the first step in your journey.”
Suzanna practices at Alma