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Navigating Change with Therapist Minaa B.    

Navigating Change with Therapist Minaa B.

Art by FISK

As part of my innate desire to frame everything optimistically, mental health joining the global zeitgeist throughout COVID has been, without a doubt, one of the most positive experiences of the past year. Prior to this period, mental health work was not a “sexy” job. Folks who worked in the field were quietly sitting on golden nuggets of personal development advice and self-care techniques that were only shared with clients (and maybe some lucky friends, too). But now, motivational quotes and educational resources seem to take up my entire Instagram feed. Today, we’re chatting with one of my favorite Instagram guidance-givers, Minaa B., a licensed therapist and wellness coach who has worked in the field for the past 10 years. 

I often joke to other folks within the mental health field that “we all get into this work to make sense of our childhoods,” which is a not-so-kosher way of saying, many of the folks in this profession have experienced mental health challenges themselves or in their families. For Minaa, that’s not far from the truth. “I was inspired to become a therapist due to my own personal struggles with depression and anxiety during my early childhood and teen years,” she told TLO. “It made me very interested in the field and wanting to have a better understanding of the brain and why people struggle with mental health issues.”

 That personal connection to the work shines through in the most beautiful of ways, with every insight and lesson she shares imbued with a rare sense of compassion. She sees the big picture perspective on our collective mental health challenges and how they fit into this world at large, taking a more holistic approach to mental healthcare  that recognizes the limits of therapy in a broken system. We spoke with Minaa about her community-oriented approach to mental health, how we can all develop a healthier relationship with social media, and her advice for navigating major changes. 

What inspired you to start sharing your insights as a therapist online?

I started sharing insights online back in 2018. I was always using social media prior to that, but I pivoted when I started to see other mental health accounts and realized there was space that could be occupied online that focused on wellness and I could play a part in sharing education and resources as well. 

How would you describe your overall approach to therapy and mental wellness? 

I use a holistic approach that centers the clients experiences and intersections of their identity. I also use a community-level approach where I incorporate other resources that a client might need and will refer to them when the time arises because all mental health issues can’t be fixed in therapy. That can look like getting them help with childcare, government resources for food assistance and housing, job recruiting programs, and even things like food banks and charities that supply clothing, baby or household items. I believe it’s the same for wellness, having a holistic view on what our needs are helps us to learn how to tackle them.

You mentioned the limits of therapy, can you expand on that a bit and what those limits are?

Therapy is a great resource for helping people heal from the emotional injuries they've encountered in life, but therapy is not going to fix every single issue that impacts your mental health, especially when those issues are related to systemic oppression or not having your basic needs met like having access to food, childcare, shelter, etc. Therapy is not the answer for every mental health crisis. 

We all know social media gets a bad rep for our mental health but accounts like yours offer so much insight and support as well. How do you think social media can support mental health and personal development? 

It's all about how a person chooses to use their social media account. With many things in life, there will always be [aspects] that are healthy for us and [aspects] that aren’t. We all have to make a conscious decision regarding how we are going to interact with social media because it is designed to keep us dependent on it. I encourage people to take social media breaks and also always audit their accounts to make sure the people they are following help to play a role in making them feel good, not less than.

What boundaries are necessary to keep our relationship with digital media healthy?

We have to have boundaries with ourselves and assess if our social accounts are a reflection of our values. Is who I'm following healthy for me? Is the amount of time I spend on social media healthy? These are questions worth exploring to help understand the unhealthy habits that you may need to break.

The only constant is change but that doesn’t necessarily make it easy. How do you chat through big life changes with clients? 

It's really dependent on the client's situation as well as their perspective. People are impacted by things differently. Life changes can be tough, and we all have to find ways to regulate and self-soothe as we work through those changes, especially when those changes are difficult. I encourage people to talk about what they are feeling. Find safe space. Find people who can relate and that you can be vulnerable with. This helps because often change can make a person feel like they are alone. 

You’ve spoken before about the different ways self-growth manifests itself. Can you expand upon what that means for our audience? 

Growth manifests differently for everyone. This post simply speaks to the many different ways growth can happen in our lives, and it can happen in very small and subtle ways. Change is not always big and loud and in your face. It happens gradually, and over time you may notice slight changes until you realize you are not the person who you used to be a year ago or even three months ago. The point is to show yourself grace along the journey and to remember that growth is often subtle.

What happens when your self-growth doesn’t align with your friends or family? 

The only person who can really define what happens is the individual in this situation. You get to choose who you do life with, and how you show up in your relationships. The people around you may not understand the new you, but that does not mean that you cannot have a relationship with this person, unless of course they become hostile and difficult to be in a relationship with. [Even if] you’re growing, it doesn’t mean the people around you will suddenly grow with you. You have to determine if these relationships are still healthy for you, while also learning to honor where people are in their own journeys.

What advice would you give to folks who feel that their mental health or personal development isn’t changing fast enough?

To remember that healing cannot be rushed. Everything in life has a process and when we try to rush things, we actually miss out on pivotal moments that we need for our healing. So be patient with yourself and your progress. You will always have time to heal, grow and evolve.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.