Getting to Know a Wellness Psychotherapist - Victoria R.
My name is Victoria R. and I am a wellness psychotherapist. I coined the term because I am holistically oriented. I teach mindfulness meditation and nutritional health coaching. I work to understand how we work as humans - our needs for rest, diet, and bringing all of that together holistically to show people how spiritual, mental, and physical wellness are tied together.
How long have you been doing this?
For 15 years! At first I wanted to be a doctor, but the biology classes and I were not getting along very well. I took psychology and connected with that more. When I was in college I went to India and was amazed by the structure of their society and family culture. Their society is rich with thousands of years of history. I came back from India and became interested in social work. I really love clinical social work and helping people individually by teaching them to take care of themselves and live a happier and more meaningful life.
What interests you most about psychotherapy?
Understanding why we as people do what we do. Why people make the decisions they make in their lives and how to help them. I think for me personally, growing up mixed race and feeling different from everybody - I mean we all probably feel like that- but some of my siblings “looked more latino” than me. I think it was about me wanting to understand myself better in many ways and to understand people. What drives me now is to help people to understand how they have been shaped by not only their personal and family history but also our society, biology and evolution.
How has psychotherapy changed since you began working in the industry?
It’s actually changed a lot. I think it’s much more science based. When I started we were doing cognitive behavioral based therapy and that was the way to go IF you could measure it. They wanted to try to prove the same thing with therapy but it’s difficult to predict that. There are things you may learn from a therapist, you stop going to therapy, and you improve years later. They were trying to quantify it with data and the biggest predictor of somebody doing well is their relationship with their therapist. The other predictor is how much effort they put into it as well. You have to want the change. The evidence based stuff has moved more towards mindfulness, wellness, evolutionary biology, and understanding how humans work.
What we are experiencing now in terms of work and disconnection from family and connecting with technology is detrimental to us. We are prehistoric beings that are connecting with a society that is almost too advanced for us. I can see the anxiety that people have within their lives even when things are going well. It’s changed in the sense that we have more scientific evidence saying relationships are important. The biggest predictor of longevity is social relationships and the connections they have, not how much money and material things we have. Those things don’t really matter.
What makes you different from other psychotherapists?
Well, I am comfortable with not knowing and being a student of everything, particularly, a student of the people I work with. I like to meet people where they are and be open to where they are and whatever point of life they’re at. Hearing everybody’s story and how they feel and see the world. I think I have a better understanding and am always reading and learning. There’s so much out there. I’m constantly learning and implementing all of these different things I’ve learned.
Anxiety and depression come from feelings that everybody has. When you perceive an environment in a fearful way, your body interprets it as anxiety. It’s not just about medicating, medication can and are helpful in some circumstances. It’s finding what’s out of alignment in your life. Additionally, there’s so much research about the gut-brain connection and how what we ingest is affecting us. I think I have a more comprehensive understanding of our varied human experience, constantly reading, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube and Ted Talks. The information about us is limitless! My life’s work is to learn, comprehend and help people to apply things into their lives.
Are there any questions you as a psychotherapist wish people would ask you?
The first thing that pops into my mind is “am I normal?”. I say that because everybody thinks they’re abnormal, but they’re not. Anything you can think of or have thought of, no matter how dark or deep, many other people have thought or think about. The things that you feel everybody has felt at some point in time.
Do you see a shift happening in public perceptions about psychotherapy?
I do. I was talking to someone several months ago and she was saying that corporations are now more interested in mental health because we are realizing that we cannot separate our emotional and mental health from workplace. We spend much of our time there, developing relationships, working toward a purpose and learning about ourselves. Now that people have more options to work from home, start their own business or work for a non-traditional company, corporations want to retain their employees and are making an effort to support them in any way including addressing emotional well being. It’s changing because there’s so much more awareness about mental health in general.
What’s your favorite wellness related activity and why?
Dancing! I love to dance! I haven’t been out in a couple of weeks but it’s something I love to do. Whether I’m in my apartment dancing by myself or going out, it’s almost like a meditative practice for me. You’re moving your body and all of your senses are engaged. Dancing is definitely my favorite wellness activity.