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Meet Therese

A Remote Psychologist and creator of Exploring Therapy, an online community designed to help people take more delight in their lives and build a life they don't need a vacation from.

 1.      Tell us a bit about your online community.

Most of the time I counsel clients looking for support through something going on in their lives. Often, I'm producing content for my instagram account to joyfully inspire, refresh, and encourage others. I mostly talk about wellness, digital nomad life, and food because it's universally loved and it's a fun way to connect with people. People who follow me are a mixture of psychologists and other professionals interested in working remotely as digital nomads, mental health advocates, and people generally interested in wellness and getting more enjoyment out of their lives.

2. What is remote therapy, and how is it applicable in today's world? What are the ups and down of it? Are you able to work with patients across the globe? 

To me, remote therapy (aka teletherapy, telepsychology, or online therapy) is the future of mental health. It means that the professionals come to you - right to your phone or laptop (via videoconferencing apps similar to skype), as opposed to the more conventional office visit. It's extremely accessible, convenient, and the lack of driving/commuting time also makes it incredibly time efficient and eco-friendly.

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There's a lot of upside to remote therapy, and in my experience, the answer to the question people ask about the most, if you're able to form an authentic bond between client and therapist when you're not in the same physical room, is 100% YES. In fact, I have some clients who actually prefer connecting remotely because it reduces their anxiety. If they have social anxiety, they can connect with a therapist from the comfort of their own home. If they have physical limitations, remote therapy allows them to access counseling services more easily. Younger clients are often accustomed and most comfortable with communicating through the aid of digital tools. The downsides of it are that sometimes you can have a technical glitch and miss pieces of non-verbal communication. They say 80% of communication is non-verbal so seeing your clients' non-verbal communication as expressed through their faces and bodies is really important. It's why I don't prefer to do therapy over the phone. The pros far outweigh the cons in my opinion.

I am licensed as a Psychologist in California, USA. Currently our laws limit my work to individuals within California. The field of professional psychology in the US isn't always the most cutting edge when it comes to clinical practice. We are usually taught to be very mindful of risk so there's an inclination to stay within the safety of what we already do and know, as opposed to advancing our work to be in step with modern technology. I am hopeful that we (mental health practitioners in the US) will advance innovative ways to serve a greater, global community. Simply put, we must do so to continue to serve our patients well in a world where physical distance is less important if not completely irrelevant to the way we live our lives.

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3. What do you think of travel and how did you combine it with your work? 

I'm obsessed with travel. I think travel is the richest, most rewarding way to learn about culture, our world, and ourselves. When I was in grad school I spent a summer learning Spanish in Guadalajara, Mexico and it changed my life. That experience helped me gain a deep appreciation and respect for a culture I did not grow up in. I'd always dreamed of living in other countries but in the back of my mind I suspected it was not really possible for me because of the reality of needing to work and earn a paycheck. 

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I have a deep personal value for making a positive impact in the world...

For the great majority of us who do contract or freelance-style work, the reality is that we don't get paid vacations. Sadly, our travel is usually limited to how much money we can afford to lose. This was a huge frustration for me and I felt there had to be a better way. At first, digital nomads (people living and working remotely) were mostly graphic designers, and CEOs of small start ups, etc. Mental health professionals have been slower to step into this space, but the number of counselors and psychologists interested in digital nomad life is growing each and every day. My remote practice allows me to travel without having to suspend my professional work and the ability to earn a living. As a digital nomad, I am able to work and travel, simultaneously. It's really the best of both worlds.

4. Why is it important for you to help others?

I have a deep personal value for making a positive impact in the world. I feel I've been blessed with so much - I grew up with a great family in a safe environment, I have my health, and as a woman of color, I received the gift of an education and was taught that the opportunities I wanted were available to me. I'm grateful to have received these privileges because I know many people do not. The natural response to feeling blessed is to want to bless others. I want to give back through what I have which is my education and experience. I constantly feel like I want to be doing more - the thoughts of what I could and should be doing often keep me up at night. There's a gut-wrenching scene in Schindler's List where Schindler is in absolute agony thinking about all the Jewish people he could have saved from concentration camps that he didn't. He's tallying up the dollar value of his belongings and equating that to the number of human beings whose lives he could have saved, if only. Even though I watched the film just once years ago, that scene is permanently stuck in my memory because the emotions of it - the guilt and shame - weighed upon me and I'd never cried so hard watching a film before. I'm no Oskar Schindler, but I don't want to look back on my life and see that I could have done more to help people but I didn't because I was too afraid, or too focused on myself, or didn't recognize the power of what I had when I had it. I think it's incredibly rewarding to help others when those opportunities are available, and it's a privilege to get to help others while I'm earning a living, too.

There's a beautiful quote I learned from the movie which originates from the Jewish Talmud

 "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."

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I love that no matter how imperfect, messed up, or broken we feel in life, we always have the opportunity to find a way to bless others. All we can do is our best...


5. What do you think are the best tools/ tips on creating a meaningful life that brings inner peace and joy? 

Gratitude, practiced daily. Breathing, practiced with intention. (I'm a huge believer that everyone should practice mindfulness.) Loving others and recognizing we are part of a bigger story than ourselves and we have an important role to play in the world that no one else was designed to play except for us. For me, my faith as a follower of Jesus and learning about his teachings has been essential to my sense of peace. I've learned about the power of things like forgiveness, generosity, and choosing kindness as agents of freedom and joy in my life. I've learned better how to experience pain, disappointment, and frustration without those things stealing my joy away. I've also learned that it's important to be aware of what our self-talk sounds like and to change it if it's not helping us thrive.

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The "recipe" for joy is simple - live simply, give generously, be kind to people (including you) and the world, and be grateful. That's really it. There are other things that help - creating a physical environment that is clean and comfortable, for example, can do wonders for bringing peace to our internal worlds. If you are feeling absolutely discouraged, depressed, and powerless, I invite you to do one very simple act and make your bed. That small act, especially when done routinely, is a powerful act of self-love that I believe can change the course of our lives. Caring for our physical bodies through exercise and eating right are game-changers, too. Ultimately I think the more we can focus on the things that matter - relationships and experiences, the less time we waste on the things that matter less - things, materials, physical appearance, power, and the acquisition of that which does not fulfill us in the long term. I've learned firsthand that there are a lot of things that you think will make you happy once you acquire them, but they don't. Inner peace and joy is not a mystery - it's a choice and it's available to all of us regardless of our circumstances. 

Story by Aboutthatlook & Dr. Therese Mascardo

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Photos: Letticia Bissondut