Throwback: Venting Isn’t Processing, and Other Dope Therapy Notes
Coming out as a person seeking therapy to your partner, parents, or friends can be difficult, and sometimes even dangerous. Sometimes the people who are supposed to love us most are the first to hold us back, or we feel guilty for “leaving them behind” as we grow through various seasons of our lives. You’re not alone in your journey — in fact, millions follow clinical counselor Shani Tran for her candid takes on therapy, and this week she chats with V about who can benefit most from therapy and how newbies can get started. From questions you might not know to ask in an appointment to when to go no contact with harmful people, this throwback episode offers tips that will leave you more prepared than ever.
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V Spehar, Shani Tran
V Spehar 00:05
Hey friends, as you may have heard last Friday during my incredible chat with Lemonada founder of Stephanie littles wax, the past seven years of my life have been a whirlwind journey of grief, self-discovery and reinvention, which sounds nicer than it was okay, I also cried so much I almost drowned. And I did a bunch of dumb stuff to like, numb the pain of just existing. But in all seriousness, I would not be where I am now, if I hadn’t prioritized investing in a mental and spiritual health journey. And when I say spiritual, I don’t mean religion. I mean, finding my spirit, you know, like prioritizing joy. And it’s not easy. I know that. We all feel like our problems should be something we could just like shake off. But so often they aren’t friend, and it’s okay to say, You know what, I’m not okay. But I want to be and I don’t know how to be and they need help. Thankfully, there are people out there like my good friend Shani Tran, who is going to be on the show with us today. She has broken every stereotype about what a therapist is and how a therapy session should run. Shani is a clinical counselor and the creator of the Shani project and its associated tic tock channel. She has been featured on CBS News and in the New York Times, among other outlets, and she is the host of facing suicide, a documentary which is now available. Shani is someone who I absolutely adore speaking with because we have a blast. And you would not think that she was a therapist, she’s not stuffy. She’s so welcoming. Like there’s a whole new world of mental health out there right now. And especially after we got to spend some time together in person at VidCon. I just knew this was a person I wanted you guys to know, too. I needed to share her with you. She’s got a new book out now called a dope therapy, a radical guide to owning your therapy journey. And we’re gonna get to chat with her right now. So let’s dive in. Can you just tell us a little bit about what does self-love look like for you on a daily basis?
Shani Tran 02:13
You know, I think self-love for me looks like taking the time to do the things that are important for me. And one of the things is that I’m a mom. So right away in the morning, I have my kids have an alarm, you don’t come out of your room until 6:45AM. And what that allows for me to do is really just like wake up in bed who I am. So brush my teeth, you know, have a little bit of glass of water, and listen to some music and just really get the vibes going before I jump into. I’ve learned that hey, mommy, mommy, can I get some breakfast? Can I get a strudel can I get this; it overwhelms me right away in the morning. And I feel like I have to jump into this role. But I’ve recognized that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t take care of other people. If that’s my clients, my husband, my children, I need to take care of me first. And that’s because I love myself.
V Spehar 03:06
I think that’s such a great thing for folks to hear. Because so often, you know, society will teach women in particular mothers, you are a mother that is it. So you set an alarm and you tell your kids, here’s my personal boundary 645, which is very reasonable. That’s still pretty early in the day, they couldn’t have been awake that long.
Shani Tran 03:24
You’d be surprised my kids can off at like 5AM, sometimes, and they’re like, can you play with me? And I’m just like, remember, we have the alarm set, you don’t come out until 6:45. Because they do come out sometimes they don’t always obey the alarm. But it’s that gentle reminder of no, mommy needs her me time. And I’m okay with telling my kids that they’re 8 and 4, and I’m like, hey, mommy needs her me time. And then I will play with you. Because I think they recognize that if I don’t have that I can be irritable. And I don’t ever blame them. But I will say like, hey, you know, I just didn’t get my enough time this morning. Mommy’s a little bit irritable. So I might not want to like get on the floor and play but we can read a book. But it’s really important that I take care of myself.
V Spehar 04:11
Have you found in doing that for yourself? It mirrors for your children, the boundaries that they are allowed to put up for themselves? Have they caught on to that yet?
Shani Tran 04:20
Yes. So my four year old she’s still home. So during the day, she has her own me time. What’s technically quiet time it’s my time to but it’s so funny because sometimes I’ll go into her room, and I will be like, hey, I’m just checking up no, no, no, no, it’s quiet time right now mommy, get on my room. And I’m like, oh, okay, I just want to like respect your boundaries. It’s too quiet. And so I think that they have definitely caught on or sometimes my eight year old be like, Oh, are you having me time today mom, or is it okay if we like go shopping together or something? So it’s important because what I want them to see is that you can do this for yourself. And it’s okay to take time for yourself, no matter what is going on in your life, it’s okay to be like, hey, I want to reserve some time for myself during the day is important during the week, and then just checking in monthly and saying, like, do you need to do those things need adjusting?
V Spehar 05:18
That sounds pretty dope, Shani.
Shani Tran 05:20
V Spehar 05:21
Which is why you wrote the book, Dope Therapy. So tell me what is dope therapy mean to you as a concept?
Shani Tran 05:28
To me as a concept, it really just means like, whatever you want it to be. It’s something that’s good. It’s sort of like an urban term that is used in my culture and sort of like all those shoes are dope. What you did for me last week, that was dope, it means basically something that is going on in your life that is likable, enjoyable. And so I want therapy to be a dope experience, because it can and I want to break down the walls of sort of this sterilize view of it.
V Spehar 05:59
Yeah. Right. Because you say right on the cover of the book that I have, right here, it’s your journey, own it. What does that mean to you?
Shani Tran 06:07
So I think about for me, I love sort of like telling stories and what it meant for me to own my journey. When I was looking for a therapist, I was like, nothing’s resonating with me. And then I came across my therapist, this profile. And she talked about how she loves running and what her Harry Potter house was. And I was like, wow, like, this just feels like a person here. Oh, my goodness. And so I was like, I want to I want to work with this person. And so for me, I looked at connecting with my therapist on a personal level, I felt like I knew a little bit about her. And that helped me because I’m a runner, too. So she could understand when she’s like, so did you go for a run today when you were feeling a little irritated? And she was like, no, I didn’t. And she was like, well, are you going to and I was like, that helped me she resonated with what I needed. And that was very important. So that was me owning my journey of deciding what I want in a therapist, I don’t need to know if you have CBT skills, DBT skills, it I wanted something different. And that’s what it looked like for me.
V Spehar 07:09
That’s very validating for me who also scrolls the Better Help therapist pages and was looking, I’m like, I want somebody queer. Do I want somebody queer? I don’t know, maybe I don’t want somebody queer. Maybe we want a different perspective. Do I want somebody white? Do I want somebody female? Do I want somebody non-binary. And one of the things that I learned from you is that, in fact, it can be very difficult to get that human level that colleague level peer level with therapists, when white folks make up almost 77% of therapists in the United States. And you’ve said, that’s what led you to pursue a career in therapy, is that representation, that’s so important.
Shani Tran 07:43
Yeah, it for me, I remember when I was trying to find a therapist. And I’ll admit, I’ve honestly never had a therapist of color. Because a lot of the times when I have needed therapy, it’s been very immediate when I lost my dog, when I was having suicidal thoughts after having my first child. And in college, it was from nights of drinking and also having suicidal thoughts. So it was very urgent for me. And so I sort of assess what are my needs, then instead of that, and how can I make it a great fit for me? But in that being said, that’s where I talk about in the book, cultural humility, and what that can mean. Because sometimes, I mean, I can’t say how many comments I get where people are like, I can’t find a Black therapist, there’s a waiting list. And sometimes our mental health can’t wait.
V Spehar 08:32
And so you, like you said, there’s this acute need for therapy. And that’s something we’re gonna get into talking about, because I guess we’re supposed to go to therapy when we’re feeling good, too. We’re not just supposed to go when we’re in the absolute pinnacle of crisis. I mean, I only got something bad happens. I want to go a trauma dump on a stranger that I found likable on the website, and then I don’t want to have to be responsible to that person anymore. I want to be like, Okay, I’m feeling better. I’m abandoning you. I’ve ghosted too many therapists.
Shani Tran 09:01
That’s okay, though. You know what you need more than the therapist says sometimes. And I say good things too. Because getting a new job, let’s say a promotion. Right? That’s a good thing. And sometimes people want to go to therapy to process what does this mean as far as like, how will it impact my lifestyle? Sometimes a promotion for some people means more hours at work? How does this impact my family. So even though it’s a good thing, it can also impact your life in different ways that you may want to process with someone who is non-biased and non-judgmental.
V Spehar 09:38
Right. And we’re gonna take one quick break, to reflect on the therapist that we’ve posted in the past and then we’re gonna come back and I want to dig a little bit more into what you were saying that these are cute moments that people seek therapy and some of the insecurities they may feel when doing that and hopefully help people navigate it better. So we’ll do that right when we get back. So Shani, right before the break, we were talking about finding your own therapist and the journey that it takes you on. And oftentimes folks are looking for a therapist when they are in an acute crisis. And you mentioned, you know, it was the grief you felt right after your dog had passed away, or some of the suicidal feelings you were having after the birth of your first child. These are really difficult things to talk about and be honest about, where did you find the strength to say I need help?
Shani Tran 10:40
I really look at how I’m able to ask for help is because my worth is not tied up into what my adversity is. And so I think at like a very young age, I recognize that asking for help is powerful. It means strength. And for me, that’s how I feel powerful is when I can ask for help. Like, sometimes I remember. So for instance, I just had a series come out with PBIS, around suicidal thoughts. And in there, I talk about how I had invited a friend over when I was having suicidal thoughts. I didn’t tell them why they were coming over. And then I realized, I don’t think I ever told the friend Why even up until this day. And so I had sent them the PBS clip. And then they’re like, whoa, I never knew. And I was like, You still remember that night? They’re like, yeah, you scare the shit out of me. And I was like, oh, and they’re like, you know what, I just want to let you know, I’m so proud of you. Like you take your experiences, and you really like learn from them. And, and thinking about that, I felt so strong to be able to like, tell my friend like no, I was asking at that time I needed you because I thought that I was going to kill myself. And I was crying because I was like, wow, there’s even moments today when you’re still strong. And that makes me feel really good to know that I’m a strong person.
V Spehar 12:06
There’s so much that goes on in the world to we have like our own little worlds and the things that we’re dealing with on the day to day that we need to affirm for ourselves and recognize our heart. And then there are the systemic issues in the nation. In particular, I’m thinking right now in Jackson, Mississippi, where not just the day to day troubles that folks encounter, but the fact that the government isn’t there for them, and there’s no clean drinking water, and it’s been generations. Can you talk to me a little bit about just your unique approach when it comes to working with BIPOC folks who are not just the victim of their own human experience, but also systemic trauma.
Shani Tran 12:44
Yeah, I think one of the first things that I do is really helping them work their narrative, what is it that you are saying about your experiences? And the reason why that’s important? So for instance, and I’m sure I probably actually, I just said it, yeah, actually, in this podcast, is saying like that happened to me. So in the way that we talk about our narrative, and how we talk about things that have happened to us, how does that make us feel? Does it make you empowered? Does it make you feel sad? Does it annoy you? Does it anger you? And if you’re feeling those things that you don’t want to feel, then it’s a matter of asking, okay, so how can we work this narrative so that it feels empowering? So that’s one of the things that I do. And then another thing is identify what do we have control over? Because there is a lot that we don’t have control over. Once we can identify, Okay, I’m upset at this system and how it’s in place, because I don’t have control over it. Okay, great. Now let’s talk about what we do have control over. And what can we do about that action steps are very important, because behavioral change is what most people come to therapy for, they want to see the change take place outside of the sessions. So I really try to make sure that we focus on action steps that could be protesting that could be writing a letter, that could be a lot of different things that can be advocating on social media. And once we sort of do that, then we sort of revisit their original narrative, and see how it plays out now that we’ve taken those action steps.
V Spehar 14:20
When you’re talking about the narrative that people write, the thing that came to mind for me is folks who go no contact with their parents. And the whole world will say to them, how could you, your parents love you? And they don’t even know their parents, their parents could be assholes. We don’t know. There’s a lot of that out there. You know, in particular, in minority communities, there’s a lot of this, like, you have to stick together, right and like you can’t do this. So in the case of someone who is distancing themselves from their birth family, and maybe that’s because they’re queer, or whatever, whatever circumstance they’re in. How can they change the narrative from society’s saying to them, well, you’re actually the bad person for walking away. And you should try harder, and find that place of empowerment to say I’m proud of myself for setting that boundary.
Shani Tran 15:13
Guess what, that is actually my life right now. Where I recently chose to have no contact with my biological father. And at first I remember when I was making the decision. I was just like, oh, my gosh, he’s my dad, like, how do you? What does this mean for you? And so I remember asking myself, but what does staying in this relationship, let’s take the genes out of it. Because just because someone is connected to you, through blood, DNA, that does not mean that that gives them right to have a relationship with you, relationships are two parts, and that the person that you are having a relationship with, so I sort of took that this is family, so that I wasn’t feeling like I needed to judge my own self or shame myself. And I said, Okay, so if we sort of take this as a person, the person, would you consider having a relationship with this person? And I said, No, because this relationship is hurting me. And if I stay in this relationship, then I am allowing that to continue to happen. And that went back to me asking, Okay, Shawn, if so what do you have control over and I said, What I have control over is who I allow in my life, because that impacts me, that affects my mental health, that impacts how I think about myself. And so even though for me in this situation, it was sort of like emotional harm for me, I was like, I can’t allow that for me. So what I told myself was I said, you know, what, you are choosing you. And you get to choose the people that you have in your life that empower, and can be understanding of where you are in your life. And for that reason, you get to decide who was not a part of that. And in that, as you notice, in that narrative, there’s nothing about family and that it went back to the basic, you are a person, and I am a person. And that’s how my narrative is right now. And I’m okay with that. And I feel good about it.
V Spehar 17:16
Tony, I’m so grateful you shared that with me, I did not know that.
Shani Tran 17:21
It just recently happened.
V Spehar 17:23
This is the thing though, folks, it is so common that you’re going to stumble into someone having this experience and not even know it. I see it my TikTok comments a lot when we talk about grief, or we talk about all kinds of different stuff. And something I was reading in your book that I do, and that I hope other people do, is you have to win arguments with yourself in the shower and in your journals. So you’re not going to do it in front of other people. But what I love about you is you’re like you have to write it all down, right? And then when you get to the winning argument, okay, now that’s going to be what you tell other people, they don’t need to see all the how the math-math, they just got, yeah, you got there. Can you talk about the importance of writing it down? Because people get nervous, you know, they think that’s goofy, or that’s for kids to keep a diary, but it’s not.
Shani Tran 18:07
Yes. And I want to say to like, it doesn’t have to be this sort of like, dear diary write today, I wouldn’t know, you could honestly just write down all the emotions that you’re feeling? Why is it important to write it down because it gives your thoughts a place to go, it allows you to release energy, I like to look at how we feel it as the law of conservation of energy is neither destroyed nor created, right. So just like when you’re feeling happy, that then sort of fluctuates. So when you’re feeling irritable, frustrated, or angry, or that fluctuates, too, when you’re feeling excited that energy is always present. So when you’re feeling those emotions that are sort of powerfully charged, when you write it down, it’s helping balance out that energy that you may have. And also knowing that you would also talk to your friends, maybe your family members, this is sort of your way of talking to yourself, and working it out in your head in a journal of like, okay, so I’m upset that my dad said this to me. So this is how I feel about it. And then not everyone goes back and reads their journals, but I think it is important to go back and read because it gives you okay, this is where I am today. And this is where it came from. And essentially it transfer that to like therapy, right? Where people sort of keep their eyes on the end goal. I came to therapy because I want to be in a happy relationship. Right? They started out therapy, they were arguing with their partner, and then you know, sort of in let’s say, like 10 sessions in a couple months and about, you know, I’m not happy in my relationship. I’m like, Oh, but wait a second. You arguing five days a week. Now you’re only arguing three days a week. We have to stop and look backwards sometimes and say this is where I’ve come from, and that’s where I’m going. Sometimes we just sort of keep our head straight forward is like, oh, I’m going to get there. I’m going to No, no, no, sometimes we pause. Let’s take a look all that Road is actually longer to where we’re going that road shorter look how far you’ve come. And that’s how that’s how journaling can be sometimes, too.
V Spehar 20:08
I appreciate that. And you’re exactly right. So often we’re looking at a road, we’re like, oh, that doesn’t look that long. And it is long. It is long, long. It’s long. And sometimes we’re on that road and we’re like, you know what, fuck this road, I’m actually going to just straight detour and I’m not doing that I actually am done with this road; I’m going to find a new road. So we’ll take a quick break. And when we come back, Shani is going to tell us a little bit more from the book about how to set up expectations for meeting with a therapist, what happens during your first therapy session, and what to do if it gets weird. We’ll talk about that when we get back. Welcome back, friends, welcome back to the lung in strange in wind road that is both this podcast and your journey towards therapy, I promise it’s worth sticking with it, we’ll have snacks along the way. Shani, you were talking about the power of writing things down so that you can go back and go check and see you know, how far you’ve come. And sometimes it’s just a little teeny, weeny adjustment, but that gave you enough breathing room to put yourself in a place that you’re more comfortable. Let’s say there’s somebody out there right now who’s like, I’ve never been to therapy, or I went and I had a bad time. So they’re nervous about going back. What do you think they should do before they make that first call to set up an appointment?
Shani Tran 21:35
Yeah, I think it’s important to identify what went wrong. Because sometimes it could be a matter of was it something that the therapist said? Did you not like sort of the progression of therapy? Was it too slow? Was it too fast? Was it the tool set that therapists you know, sort of use? Like, sometimes I hear people were like, wait a second, you give homework as a therapist, and I’m like, yeah, you only see, I only see my clients, like maybe one hour out of the entire week. And that’s assuming they come weekly, most of the work takes place outside the session. So I have to give homework, those are sort of like things where people are like, oh, maybe that’s why therapy wasn’t working, because you sort of come to therapy process. Wow, sort of have this like cathartic vomit. And then you go back to your life, but you came to therapy, because you want behavioral changes. In order to get behavioral changes, we have to practice we have to put that into action.
V Spehar 22:36
This is me taking out a pencil to write this down for myself, a person who has gone to therapy for 20 years, I thought going to therapy was like, Well, I just want to get fixed. I just want to feel better right now. But I am not seeking a fix. I’m actually seeking behavioral change. And this is the first time I’m even hearing that.
Shani Tran 22:53
When people go to therapy, they want to be happy. I’m so sorry. If I’m about to bus, people’s bubble. Happiness is an emotion and it is fleeting. So one of the things that I talk about is how do we then seek joy? Because joy is what is going to carry you through the hardships. So if someone ever comes to my office, and I’m like, why are you here? I mean, I’m not gonna say like that. So I’m, I would probably say, well, what brings you to therapy, and they say something along the lines of You know, I just want to be a happier person. Okay, so what makes you happy? Tell me a little bit about that. What does it mean to be happy? Okay, I don’t want to I want to speak up for myself. Oh, so you want to learn some assertiveness skills? Oh, yeah, that’s what I want. Okay, what else makes you happy? You know, I like it when I can tell people No, oh, so you want to set boundaries, Okay, anything else that makes you happy, because happiness is going to come and go. And if that is what we are chasing, we do got a long road ahead of us because we can’t chase happiness.
V Spehar 23:59
And what I love about you is you have the language for this, you know, so much of getting where we need to go is just having the tools in the language to put those colors into the way that we’re talking about ourselves. And I’m already learning so much. So I’ve written down, these are the things that I’m going to therapy for. And these are the things that I want to see changed in my life. And I’m now going to go look for a therapist. What do I do? I’m looking for someone who is like me, I’m looking for someone who’s not like me, what are some red flags maybe you can give?
Shani Tran 24:28
Yeah. So the first red flag that comes to mind is if you go to a therapist profile, and they’re like I work with depression, anxiety, OCD, family, couples. I use CBT. I use DBT I work with trauma. That’s way too much. Hold on a second. So for me that is a red flag unless it is a practice site. So that means that there’s a bunch of therapists in that group practice having all of those things listed is okay but if it is a single person, like when you actually go to that therapist is profile. And that’s what they specialize in. I’m just like, so you out here working with everything. And I sort of think about the quote, when you don’t stand for anything, you fall for everything, right? And so for me, it’s like, okay, so what does that mean? So that’s the first thing is if you sort of see like a list of what they work with, that’s a red flag for me. Another red flag for me for a therapist is, if you are seeing someone, say, for self-pay, that means you pay cash or check for it not using your insurance. Ask them how long are the sessions, right? First thing is for a 60 minute session, you actually get 53 minutes, that’s when it can actually be billed. If your therapist is cutting your session off at like, 40 minutes, 42 minutes, when you get that EOB, explanation of benefits, they should have been billing for 45 minutes session, not a 60 minute session.
V Spehar 25:55
I’m a type of person, I can tell in three minutes, if I’m gonna like you or not, I can there. And I’m like, not a vibe. Do you just say to them, like, hey, sorry, I want to leave right now? Or do you try to make it through? What do you suggest?
Shani Tran 26:07
So, you know, there’s like, I have questions about like, what is going on? Because saying like, Oh, it’s not a vibe, sometimes we’re you’re getting ready to go in and, and divulge all this information to a stranger. So I want to be cognizant of like, is it not a vibe, because you don’t want to talk about what’s going on? Or is it not a vibe, because you don’t actually like, like, the person sitting in front of you, and really being able to distinguish between that. So if you can distinguish between that I would say it’s totally okay to be like, You know what, we’re like 10 minutes, and I just want to let you know, you do you, I’m gonna do me and thank you so much for your time. I’m gonna bounce it’s, it’s always okay to walk away, I want to I really want to say it’s always okay to walk away. Now, the other thing is, like, if it’s sort of in that you’re processing, or say you need time, it’s okay to be like, Hey, I know you’re asking me a lot of questions. But right now, can we actually talk about like, I’m feeling like, I don’t know if this is a good fit. And actually talking about that right, then in there with the therapist and switching over to self-pay? That brings me to a great question to ask in the first session, hey, I want to let you know, if I lose my job, or my insurance, how does that impact our work together? What are your fees? And what can I expect? Or let’s say if my claims are denied, what can I expect? Because then you now have the information to feel more empowered about your choices and your journey.
V Spehar 27:34
So now you found your therapist, you’re like, I’m good with this person? What can somebody expect from the first session who’s never been?
Shani Tran 27:42
Yeah, so one of the things is that there’s going to be a lot of questions. So this is going to ask you a lot about your history, your medical history, your family history. And I want to say this is from the medical model of if you’re using insurance, because one of the things that I found as someone that did self-pay, self-pay can be very different, because they don’t need sort of all that information to bill insurance. But knowing that majority of people do use insurance, so you’re going to you can expect a lot of questions, I want to also empower people, if there is a question that you are not comfortable, because you don’t know this person, it is okay to say I’m not comfortable talking about it, I might erode on the intake, you read it, you see it there. I’m not comfortable talking about it yet with you. And another thing is to ask them, How do you write your notes? Because you may want to know, for instance, for me, I don’t use names and places, let’s say if someone is having an argument with their sister, and that’s what they talk about in the session, my notes may say, clients struggles with disagreement with family members. And that’s important, because let’s say for some reason your notes is subpoenaed or you go to read your notes. How do you write about me as a great question. Another good question to ask is, what are you at the end of the session? What are you thinking? If you’re using insurance? What are you thinking about diagnosing me with because that can impact you? Life insurance? I mean, thankfully, right now, we have Obamacare. So pre-existing conditions, we don’t really have to worry about those in a sense, but you never know who the next president is gonna be. With that being said, having a diagnosis can impact you, let’s say if you if you’re someone like CIA, right, they will look into your medical records. If you apply for that job. How does that impact you? Let’s say if you went to work because your employer said that something happened and it was something your employer said you had to do your employer’s reading your notes. How do you write about me? How are you diagnosing me? Those are very good, informative questions to ask,
V Spehar 29:45
Even for young people should feel empowered to ask that well, how are you writing about me what will be related to my parents what won’t be?
Shani Tran 29:51
Yeah. And young people. Parents do should not have access do not I say should not because, you know, I can’t speak for every therapist and how they operate, but parents should not have access to the notes. And usually, the only time that therapists would break confidentiality is when it comes to mandating recording. So like, wanting to harm yourself, but again, just saying I want to I’m having thoughts of suicide is not a reason to break confidentiality, there’s more follow up that needs to take place intent, do you have a plan. And I know some parents may be listening to this, and you know, sort of being like, what, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be a part of your child’s therapy process offered to go with them. I think family sessions are really great to see that dynamic between the teen and parent, because I don’t do drive by therapy with teens. And what I mean by that is the parent being like the teens the problem, drop them off, when they’re fixed, send them I want updates from home, I want to know how school is going, friends are going you are an active participant in this process. I can’t give you information. But I do need you to give me information to be able to assist your child in their journey.
V Spehar 31:05
Yeah. And I imagine that is so complicated with families so complicated that it’s in the book interference in therapy. So you know, we have all these good intentions, we did our workbook, we found a therapist we got through our first appointment, we know that we’re here for behavioral change, and not just to get fixed or to be happy. And then someone sticks their foot into our happy little bubble here and pops it what do you do when someone tries to interfere with your therapeutic journey?
Shani Tran 31:36
That can be very challenging, I think one of the great things to do is for people to I know clients can be hesitant at times or people. If I’m like, hey, you know, we’ve been talking about your significant other your partner quite a bit, do you think it’s okay to have them come into the session? No, my partner doesn’t believe that I should be in therapy. And they think that it’s impacting our relationship. Here’s the thing, that people that are sort of, on the outside of someone going to therapy, like say you have your partner going to therapy, but you’re not. Change is taking place in them, which can make it feel like what is taking place in them is changing the relationship. That is true. But with that being said, knowing that therapy can bring up things that can get worse, before they get better. And so they’re changing, it can make you feel the person that’s not in therapy, as if that change is impacting where you are. But a great thing to do is be like, you know, how can I support you? I’m noticing that there’s a shift. And I want to know, how can I support you? And having that effective communication? I recognize that, hey, you’re a little bit short with me lately, ever since going to therapy? Let’s talk about this. And then you may find out. Yeah, I’ve been talking about my trauma in therapy. Oh, that makes a lot of sense, right? how the body reacts to trauma, all okay, how can I be supportive of you during this time. So that’s just like an example. But also interfering behaviors can take place with the person, you know, an example might be, you start talking about your trauma. Now all of a sudden, you start showing up like 15 minutes late. Hmm, you didn’t really used to do that before. Let’s talk about why you may be starting to show up a little bit later. Or all of a sudden you get closed off in the session. What’s going what’s going on there. Let’s talk about I think it’s always important to talk about what’s happening in therapy in therapy sessions. That’s very pivotal. And then another interfering behavior could be people want their therapist to like them.
V Spehar 33:48
Yes. And this is another thing that you’ve talked about. It’s kind of dangerous. It can get weird.
Shani Tran 33:53
Yeah. Because then if you want your therapists to like them, that sort of objectivity that you get in the sessions is now removed, because now you may be saying things in the session, because you want to be likable. And knowing that I’m not saying push yourself, no, this may be a moment where it’s like, let’s have a conversation. What may have changed in the therapeutic relationship that now you feel like, we need to hold back and it could be you know, I don’t just I don’t trust you yet. Okay, let’s work on that trust. Let’s sort of backhoe sort of build the rapport and see where we go from there. Or it could be a matter of like, I’m afraid you’re going to judge me or shame me. Okay, let’s talk about that.
V Spehar 34:37
We’re going to take a quick break and think about the interfering behaviors that we’ve had. And when we come back, we’re going to talk about the interfering things that happen to us when we’re trying to innocently scroll TikTok for entertainment, and the mental health sort of triggers that happen to us when we’re just interacting online. Did you all take the break to think about your interfering behaviors, because I will remind you, as Shani says in the book here, venting is not processing. And we have to do the work when we go to therapy to get past that venting process and really get into, like you said, behavioral change. One thing that people love to vent on is the TikTok, a place where you and I exist quite frequently. And we did a panel at VidCon on the mental health implications of being a social media user. And, you know, seeing videos of police violence, or when everybody does the black square for something, but you don’t feel it feels disingenuous. And just all of the sort of silent processing we do as we’re taking in this media. So I wanted to just ask you, your thoughts on social media and mental health? Where is it at?
Shani Tran 36:01
Oh, as soon as you said that V. I was like, do I want to, do I want to talk about this story? Oh, okay. This is what I do. So I’m going to talk about it. How you operate in the mental health space is so not as a creator, but also as someone who watches creators, is, it’s important to recognize and how it impacts your mental health. So, I put up a video recently, and it was how I felt about my own body, how I felt about how I have like, you know, I had two babies. So I don’t like my stomach. And so I had, like, I guess you could say, it’s an outpatient. It’s like CoolSculpting, but it uses heat. And I remember, I was sharing with my audience, this experience, like I don’t think talking about my body is not something that I often do on my social media space. But I felt like I, if I’m going to be in the space, I’m going to be in it. And I wanted to share my experience. And also I worked with a black own medical esthetics. And I wanted to share that with them. And I remember seeing the comments, and people were calling me fat phobic. And I remember immediately, I was very anxious, because I was like, wait, what, like, I’m not trying to create an unsafe space, that’s my thing, I create a safe space for people to own it. So, I remember that I would then start to open up the app. And I would go straight to that video to see what the comments were saying. And before, here’s the great thing about building a community before I can honestly respond, I feel like my community came in and was like, never once did she say about how she felt about other people’s body. She’s not saying that she’s saying that this is how she feels about her body. And the reason why I bring that up is because one, I ended up turning off the comments, because I was like, this isn’t good for my mental health here. I am being vulnerable, hoping that I can share my experience, and maybe someone will see it and be like, I’ve been feeling that way too. What is that conversation looks like?
V Spehar 38:22
It’s not just about the physical, its aesthetic, it’s about all of the things that reminds you of, of the trauma of childbirth, or of any number of things like any scar on your body. You know, if I were to go get my top surgery scars removed, people wouldn’t say that I was transphobic. They would say, when you look at me that they that gives you a certain kind of reminder of a different time. And maybe you don’t want to be reminded of that every single time you look at it, you know?
Shani Tran 38:47
Yes. And that was what was important to me. And then I remember what I did was I said, you know what, in this world, we got a lot to say about what people do with their bodies.
V Spehar 39:00
Especially what we do with Back women’s bodies.
Shani Tran 39:02
Yes. And you don’t get to say how I feel about my body. You don’t get to tell me what I should and shouldn’t accept you don’t get to tell me that because I feel this way about my body not commenting on anyone else’s body that now you want to use saying that I am fat phobic because I don’t like the way that my body looks. And so what I what I then did is I made a video and I said you know, it taught me a lesson one, okay, when I’m doing a video like that, I will own that. I was like I can put up a warning. Hey, this is what I’m going to be talking about. If you choose leave, that was one thing. Then another thing I said is you as a person coming into a space making comments like that, like what type of energy are you putting out and I say this because this isn’t just about this. If you see something on social media that you do not like, I want you to stop and process why you don’t like it because It might be time for a deeper conversation with yourself. Right? You see someone doing something and you just don’t like it before you comment? Because I’m gonna let you know. I’ve never seen a creator been like, Damn that comments changed my life. I’m about to do everything I do in my life. Thank you for calling me out you right. I am a narcissist. I’m racist you are. Rarely, if ever, actually, I’ve just never seen it. And so I say this because that might mean that you have something that’s going on within you, that you might need to talk to a therapist about, hey, I’ve been watching these videos. It’s making me feel very emotionally charged, makes me angry. I want to comment, I want to leave hateful things about people. That is something that is within you, that may need a therapist to talk and process through. Now, I’m not saying that everything in the video space is good. I’m not saying that. But what I am saying is what do you have control over you and your mental health? Because guess what, when you write that comment, now you’re emotionally charged. Now you’re leaving TikTok feeling that emotions going throughout your day feeling irritable, feeling frustrated, feeling short, feeling low patience, when it could have been a matter of let me stop. I’m emotionally charged here. Do I need to journal do I need to meditate? I might need to talk to someone I might need to rework my TikTok algorithm. Because why are these showing up? Because I’m gonna let you know right now. It’s rare that I see a video on my TikTok for you page that I don’t like because I am quick to hit not interested. I want the algorithm to know don’t send me that shit.
V Spehar 41:33
I agree. I know. I agree. I do create my own little silo of perfection when it comes to content. Shani. We are running out of time; I could talk to you forever. And we did all four days of VidCon. But I want to we have some dope questions to ask you. So this is some hypotheticals, just some fun stuff. Just quick lightning round here. So, for this section, I’m going to present to you a couple stereotypical ubiquitous things that people say when they hear that somebody wants to go to therapy, and I want you to tell me how you’d respond as a therapist. Are you ready? Okay, here we go. People who go to therapy are weak, flawed, or crazy.
Shani Tran 42:10
People who go to therapy recognize that there’s something that they want to change about themselves, and they’re very strong for recognizing that.
V Spehar 42:17
Boom, you don’t need therapy, you do have your family and your friends you can talk to why would you waste your money telling a stranger your problems?
Shani Tran 42:26
Because more than likely what you’re telling your family and friends, it’s venting, whereas your therapist is helping you process and the difference is that processing brings about clarification, identifying, labeling, so that you can figure out okay, how do I then approach this moving forward? And family or friends? They’re on your side. I’m not saying your therapist, is it but your therapist might check you that.
V Spehar 42:48
Push you a little bit, or if somebody says you’re just indecisive, and you just want somebody to give you the answers?
Shani Tran 42:57
Oh, you might be indecisive, but the therapist isn’t going to give you the answers. But what they are going to do is empower you to figure out the answers for yourself.
V Spehar 43:05
Because everybody’s truth is different. Everybody’s version of the truth is different based on their circumstance. This is my favorite one. You don’t need to go to therapy, why don’t you just go to church, you should be sharing this with the pastor. This is what somebody wrote. This is a genuine question that somebody is saying.
Shani Tran 43:28
Okay, so first of all, unless it is someone who is licensed as a therapist and happens to do Christian therapy, meaning they incorporate religion into therapy, that’s completely separate. But your pastor is not a licensed therapist. It is very different hearing about who, what it is that you are struggling with and sort of giving you tools in a religious way, versus giving you tools that are in a way that you can use them no matter what.
V Spehar 44:03
How can we be more helpful to BIPOC communities and letting them know what resources are available to them? Like we said at the top of the show, it’s very difficult for like you say black therapy is for black people. Where Can Black people find help?
Shani Tran 44:16
Yes, so there’s actually a website called therapy for Black girls. There’s also one I believe therapy for Black men. And being able to go to those resources, you can find a therapist there. And also, if you go to psychologytoday.com you can actually choose like, what your therapists like you can choose sort of their race, you can choose ethnicity, you can choose if they’re part of the LGBTQ plus community, you can choose if they do religious counseling. You can choose if the therapist identifies as non-binary, there’s so you can filter through those things. And then I also want to mention, mental health match. Here’s something that’s great about this app. You can choose what you’re doing in therapy, like you can choose like dancing, like hiking. And so I want to mention that and then again, sort of going through the filters of like, okay, I want a therapist who is Black, non-binary and works with people who are transitioning.
V Spehar 45:24
Yeah. And now thanks to video therapy, so many more therapists have opened up to folks where you might not have been able to find that if you tried in the past, you know where you lived, there was only so many people but now with video therapy, you just the world is much more open, you can find somebody who is in your swim.
Shani Tran 45:41
The therapist does have to be licensed in the state that you live in. In order to do video therapy. I want to give that information to people because they can’t practice outside of so you if your therapist is licensed in Arizona regardless if the therapist lives in New York, if they’re licensed in Arizona and you live in Arizona, they can do telehealth, but if they live in New York licensed in New York, you live in Arizona, they cannot if they are not licensed even if there even though telehealth is available.
V Spehar 46:07
That is helpful to clarify. The last question I guess I have or what are some dope questions we should be asking ourselves about mental health right now?
Shani Tran 46:16
Yeah, I think it’s important to ask yourself, like, what are my needs and wants, so that you can find a way to be able to meet those on your own. So you can sort of like wake up in the morning and ask yourself, What am I in need up today? And it could be a matter of I’m in need of a nap. Okay, so how can we incorporate that into a day? I mean, I understand you know, some people work 8 to 5, some people work those hours. And you may be thinking like, I don’t know if I can get a nap. And guess what? PTO and calling off, you don’t need to tell them why. Because guess what, if you went to the ER and broke your ankle, how is that any different? I’m mentally drained. And I need to rest, you can’t see the pain. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need tending to.
V Spehar 47:07
Right, and we don’t owe people those explanations at all.
Shani Tran 47:10
No is a complete sentence.
V Spehar 47:12
No is a complete sentence. Exactly. Shani, it is so great chatting with you. I’m so glad that you were here to help folks. The name of the book, again, is dope therapy, a radical guide to owning your therapy journey. And we’ll link to all this so people can get the book and it’s also just looks really good on your coffee table. It’s like electric and neon.
Shani Tran 47:32
Thank you so much V for having me. It’s just I’m just so honored to be here and talking about mental health because I know someone’s going to hear this and it’s going to empower them to own their journey. And I hope one day I see you again.
V Spehar 47:47
I know we will. We’ll get together very soon. Yes, I will chat with you soon. And thanks for being here, friend. That’s Shani Tran. We’re gonna link in the show notes to the places you can find her online and buy her book. I personally am still feeling very attacked by the advice that venting is not processing so I’m gonna log off now and go process more of that. Don’t forget to subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Follow me at @underthedesknews on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. And as always, I love to hear your good news. Please leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550, I hope you all have a great weekend. I will see you on Tuesday.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.