Sarah Marandi-Steeves is a licensed clinical social worker who owns and operates a therapeutic private practice based in NY. Her practice specialises in mental health treatment for children, families, and young adults. Sarah also offers 1:1 coaching services for mental health professionals looking to build their own private practice and even created an 8-week digital course which focuses on all of the ins and outs of starting your own practice.
Sarah has a blog which focuses on mental health, wellness, and entrepreneurship as she loves sharing her wisdom and expertise with all of her readers! Sarah has dedicated her career to helping others and firmly believes everyone is entitled to live their best life as well as believes everyone can achieve true happiness and success. Sarah has a passion for the mental health field and considers herself an advocate for reducing the stigma around mental health.
Sarah has worked hard to build a career and lifestyle which not only are conducive to her needs but also serves so many others in the process. It is because of her ability to achieve happiness, success, and overall wellness that she believes others are capable of doing the same. Her goal is to inspire and motivate others to achieve their goals and create the life they want to live without fear, anxiety, or self-doubt holding them back.
Hey Sarah, can you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Sarah and I am a licensed clinical social worker. I have a private practice based in New York which specialises in mental health therapy for children and their families as well as young adults. I also have a coaching business where I support fellow mental health professionals in opening up their private practice businesses through 1:1 coaching services. Earlier this year, I launched an 8-week digital course which provides mental health professionals with all of the information they would need to get their practice up and running, from the ground up.
My passion for the mental health field and entrepreneurship led me to create my blog, which focuses on mental health, wellness, and entrepreneurship. I absolutely love being able to share my knowledge, experiences, and expertise with others and my blog is the perfect venue for me to do that! I started my business 2.5 years ago and I always say it was was the best, yet scariest decision I ever made.
I have a passion for the work that I do and I always knew in my heart I would be successful because I believed in myself enough to do what I care about so deeply. I firmly believe we are all entitled to live the life we want to live and I also firmly believe that we need to support one another, especially women in business. We live in a world full of comparisons and competition and all that brings is negative energy and bad vibes. There is enough room for us all to succeed, which I wholeheartedly believe and that is why I will always be your biggest cheerleader, there to support and encourage vs. teardown or compete against. And just for fun, here are a few fun facts about me: I am a huge college football fan, a “crazy cat lady”, and I love to read and have already read 41 books this year.
Can you tell us a little bit about you and your career background prior to becoming a therapist?
Being a therapist is the only career path I have ever had. Throughout high school and college I nannied for a few families, as I have always loved working with children, and during my college studies, I interned at various mental health agencies to continue to gain knowledge and experience in the field. As soon as I was done with college, I started working in the field at a non-profit mental health agency which served children and families. It was there that I gained an incredible amount of training and experience and had I not had that experience, I would not be as successful as I am now in my practice.
Having worked in an outpatient mental health clinic prior to being in private practice, you now specialise in working with children & families. What training did you undertake and where did you study?
I hold a BA in Psychology from Marist College and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Fordham University. My graduate studies focused on clinical training, which means the classes I took and the internships I worked at were geared towards clinical work. I also specialised in children and families during my graduate studies as well, which means my classes and internships were focused on that specific population. I gained a lot of experience from my graduate level internships and studies and then when I started working at the mental health agency following graduation, I learned even more.
I started out as a mental health clinician for a few years, which means I was seeing clients in this setting for mental health therapy services. One of the most amazing things about this particular agency is that they have a strong belief in training their clinicians as the mental health field is always evolving and new research is always coming out around treatment options. Since the agency had such a strong emphasis on training their clinicians, I was fortunate enough to attend an incredible amount of trainings throughout my time there.
I have training in the treatment of Anxiety, Depression, ADHD, Substance Abuse, Suicidality, Self-Injurious Behaviours, Eating Disorders, Family Therapy, Oppositional and Defiant Behaviours, Parent/Children Interactive Therapy, and Trauma. Additionally, the work itself was consistent training as mental health clinics have a large variety of concerns and needs that they cater to in the community. As such, I had a very broad scope of practice and was able to gain experience treating a variety of mental health diagnoses, with the support of a clinical supervisor for additional training.
Following my time as a clinician, I was formally promoted to a supervisor position. This allowed me the opportunity to receive even more training and experience from an administrative/business perspective as my responsibilities had shifted from being solely a clinician to instead running a clinic and overseeing all of the daily tasks which accompanied that role. This experience was invaluable as I learned so much about running a business that I have been able to utilise in my own practice.
How would you say your prior experiences have allowed me to successfully help children and their families work towards their common goals of a more positive and healthy lifestyle?
The goal of therapy is ‘change.’ People seek therapeutic services in hopes of changing something, whether it be personally, professionally, or within their family dynamic. My job is to support, encourage, guide, and believe in my clients. Having been in this field for the past 10 years, I have seen change happen.
I have seen growth and improvement. I have seen people begin their therapeutic journey feeling broken and defeated, commit to the change process, and then finish their journey feeling hopeful, happy, and whole again. I have also gone through this process myself and can attest to the healing process. Growing up, my father suffered from mental health concerns and my household was one of chaos and strife. I suffered from anxiety and depression as well as experienced trauma. My mom was the person who always instilled how important it was to work on ourselves and find our inner happiness, and she set the example for me and my siblings by seeking services for herself as well as for us as a family.
Had I had not had these personal experiences, I can honestly say I would not be the person I am today. Through the support of therapeutic services, coupled with healthy lifestyle changes, I have created a life which my teenager self would have never imagined. Had I not had these experiences, I do not think I would be as passionate about the field as I am today as well as be as passionate about the healing process and achieving a life full of health and happiness as I am today. Your past truly shapes you into the person you are today and I firmly believe achieving happiness is possible, you just have to do the work.
Why do you think so many of us find obtaining mental health services a little bit daunting and intimidating? How do you think we can help change these misconceptions and connotations connected with therapy?
I think the main reason why so many find seeking mental health services daunting and intimidating is that of the stigma around mental health. When people say they are going to therapy, they are often immediately viewed as having something wrong with them. Is therapy helpful if something is wrong? Yes, of course. But that doesn’t mean there has to be something wrong with you. We all have mental health needs. We all go through difficulties in life. We all feel overwhelmed or stressed at times.
We all experience hardships. Talking to a therapist is similar to talking to a friend or family member about your difficulties. The only difference is a therapist is not a friend or family member and will provide a safe and confidential space for you to talk about anything and everything, judgment-free. PLUS they are trained in specific techniques to help you offset whatever it is you are experiencing which is negatively impacting your life. I think one of the best ways we can help reduce the stigma and change the misconceptions about mental health treatment is to talk about mental health. Too many people suffer in silence and are afraid to seek services, so the more we talk openly about the benefits of mental health treatment, the more people will feel comfortable around seeking services. There is a long road ahead in this uphill battle, but platforms like this which allow the space for someone to talk about these issues is one step closer towards that bigger goal!
Can you us what has been the highlight of your career so far?
Honestly, the highlight of my career so far has been starting my practice. Remember when I mentioned I suffered from anxiety? Well, that anxiety used to be quite debilitating and had kept me from so many things in my past as I was always so fearful and anxious about making changes. So, the fact that I conquered my fear and actually started my own business has been a huge accomplishment for me.
Of course, the work that I do is the other highlight of my career as this is why I even have a business, to begin with; to make the lives of others better in some way. When I was working at the agency, I began to feel so burnt out and so overwhelmed. As wonderful as an agency as it was, generally speaking, non-profits require long hours, provide minimal pay, unpaid overtime, and have very intense workloads. I began questioning my career path by how overwhelmed I felt and I remember the quality of my work suffering as a result. This was not ok. I knew I was destined to be in the mental health field and I could no longer allow my unhappiness and stress to impact the work I was doing negatively.
Since making the jump into private practice, I am now 100% confident that the work I am doing is good work. I know the care my clients receive is quality care because I am able to provide that fully. This is a large reason why I started my coaching business as I found there were a lot of really great therapists out there who were feeling how I was feeling and had a goal of opening their own practice, but didn’t know where to start. One of the other reasons why mental health has such a negative stigma is because people often feel the quality of the care they receive is poor. So, if I can support mental health professionals in creating a work environment conducive to their needs, then the quality of care their clients receive will be that much better!
The most rewarding moment in your personal life?
I have always been a person of faith and my faith is what has gotten me through some of my most difficult times, so I would have to say my baptism last year was one of the most rewarding moments in my personal life. What made it even more rewarding was that me, my sister, my brother, my mom, and my step-dad all took this journey together. I truly believe I could not have gotten through a fraction of what I have been through had it not been for my faith and belief in God. When I started to deepen my faith and made the decision to be baptised, I truly never felt anything more rewarding.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled with the most in your career?
Being taken seriously. I am young and have accomplished a lot already in my career. When I worked at the agency, I advanced quickly to an administrative position but this was often met with skepticism and backlash from those around me as it was difficult for people to comprehend how someone “so young” could advance to an administrative position without some kind of favouritism or special treatment. It didn’t matter that I worked my ass off and earned the position, people only saw what they wanted to see. Additionally, when I made the decision to go out on my own into private practice, I was again met with skepticism and doubt from those around me.
There were a lot of people who didn’t believe I could do it. There were a lot of people who didn’t think I would be as successful as I am. And sadly, a lot of this doubt was not even malicious or meant to be hurtful, but rather true skepticism and a lack of understanding. This was very telling about how boxed in and tunnel vision people tend to be around chasing your dreams. I decided I was going to chase my dreams and people just could not comprehend this concept. I learned quickly that I needed to make adjustments to my personal life and be more mindful of whom I was surrounding myself with. Being around people who didn’t share the same visions or dreams as I was never the issues, the issue was that many of those same people didn’t even have enough faith in themselves to chase their dreams.
I was finding myself quickly being dragged into the negative energy around me and when I started creating an inner circle which was filled with like-minded individuals who also believed in themselves, chased their dreams, and worked hard to achieve their goals, I instantly saw a shift my success, not only professionally but personally as well.
I am also consistently struggling with people thinking that what I do are all fun and no work. I have worked really hard to build a career that is not a typical 9-5 setting and allows me the flexibility to work hours which are conducive to my needs and my lifestyle. When I mentioned that I am working more than people realise, I meant it. I am essentially working all of the time but what people see is the fun stuff like me being able to meet up with a friend for lunch or take a break to go for a run during the day.
What they don’t see is all of the behind the scenes work that goes into not only running a business but keeping my business successful in the process. I don’t “clock-in” and “clock-out.” I am essentially always on the clock because I have to be. There is no one else, it’s just me, and the more projects I take on, the more time and energy that requires of me to put into the work that I do. So, I have learned to just tune out the negative comments because I know if half of those people making the comments spent one day in my shoes, they’d turn around and go back to their 9-5. #BossBabeLife is not for everyone but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Have you ever been in therapy?
Yes! I mentioned earlier I was in therapy as a teenager due to family-related stressors in my life at that time but I have been in and out of therapy throughout my entire life following that specific time period as well. Therapy is the best! And I know I am biased because I am a therapist, but it’s true! There doesn’t even need to be anything necessarily going “wrong” for therapy to be effective. Sometimes it’s just nice to talk to someone about life and goals and be validated and kept on track. I will always, always promote therapy for overall mental health and wellness for anyone and everyone!
Which methods are you using to build your audience and expand your network?
Right now I am really focused on social media platforms. We are living in a time where social media is a huge benefit for those of us with businesses and I am taking full advantage of all it has to offer. It’s funny because three of my really good friends are friends I met through social media and built amazing relationships with! I have connected with so many amazing women in business and I consistently feel so inspired and empowered seeing all that they are accomplishing in their fields.
My private practice is self-pay only, which means I do not accept insurance. As such, I will always have to work much harder for clients than someone who takes insurance because otherwise, no one knows who I am, what I do, or how I can be helpful. I built my therapy practice around connecting, networking, and putting myself out there. I truly believe that connecting and networking are HUGE in regards to achieving success professionally but also for personal growth as well.
We ALWAYS have something we can learn and are never done growing personally or professionally. The more people we connect with, the more we learn. Plain and simple. Right now I am loving Instagram and I am also shifting my focus to Pinterest as well for continued connections and expansion within my target audience! I also have some fun ideas brewing to continue to build my audience and expand my network, but those are still in the process of being worked on, so stay tuned!
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
“If it was easy, everyone would do it.” Anytime I feel like I want to cry, give up, stay in bed, take an extra long and extended vacation, or run from my problems I remember these words of wisdom from my business coach. Having the dream is easy, right? It’s the follow through and the implementation that takes work, effort, and perseverance.
Quite honestly, running a business is not for everyone and that is ok. But for those of us who are doing it, we need to remember that this is something which is going to take time, effort, monetary investment, patience, skill, growth/development, humility, and vulnerability and if it were easy, then everyone would have a business. I think as entrepreneurs we tend to get so caught up in the dream life and having it all because we totally can, but when things get hard we almost forget that what we are doing is work. I love what I do so much and I actually work a lot more than people realise I do, but as a result of work not always feeling like work, I sometimes forget just how hard it really is. So, this piece of advice has become a mantra for me on days when I need a little extra inspiration.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned along your path to success?
Trust your gut. I can’t tell you how many times I made decisions because I felt pressured into them or felt like they were something I was “supposed to do” when my gut was telling me to go in the opposite direction. Running a business is HARD and it’s so easy to feel unsure of your decisions and it’s so easy to look to others for guidance, but at the end of the day, our intuition won’t fail us so we need to be in tune to that. When I started to trust and believe in myself, amazing things started to happen. I will always accept guidance, wisdom, and advice from others, but I no longer let those opinions be the formal decisions I make. I now take them into consideration while I formulate my OWN opinions and ideas. So, trust your gut and believe in yourself. You’re on this path for a reason, you got here for a reason, and it wasn’t dumb luck.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
HA! The million dollar question. I am going to be 100% honest and admit that this is still a work in progress of me. I sway between feeling super balanced to feeling super unbalanced. I think the key is to look at balance instead as a rhythm (and I can’t even take credit for that metaphor as I heard it from my pastor at a leadership conference and thought it was amazing because it’s really such a great way to look at things.) We can’t ever really achieve “true balance,” so instead, we need to look at the work/home-life battle as a rhythm that is consistently in movement. For me, I go with how I am feeling each day. Some days I am super motivated and can do everything on my to-do list and still have dinner and dishes done. Other days, not so much and that is ok. I used to beat myself up over not having the dishes done every day or the laundry put away or dinner made but now, I roll with it. At the end of the day, everything gets done eventually, so why stress over the little things? If I can spend time with my husband having a glass of wine on our front porch on a beautiful evening vs. doing the dishes, I am going to pick my husband every time. I finally gave myself permission to be a human being and that helped a lot in my ability to find this rhythm.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and leading female pioneers do you also admire and why?
I absolutely love Gabrielle Bernstein and credit her for so much of my inspiration for starting my practice. When I was at my breaking point pre-private practice, I remember listening to her podcast episodes too and from work and I remember feeling so inspired, motivated, and encouraged to take the next steps in my professional journey. My favourite thing about her is that she is so real and raw. She is no Bullshit.
She tells it how it is, shares her story openly and honestly, is unapologetically herself, and is so relatable. She is a powerhouse of a woman in business but also, she’s a person like the rest of us who chased her dreams, worked her ass off, and made it happen. How can you not love her!? Last summer I attended her Spirit Junkie Masterclass and was blown away by how inspired I felt. I filled up almost an entire idea journal full of ideas, three of which I put into action following that conference! Love, love, love her!
What Youtube or online space channels are you watching currently?
I actually am not huge into Youtube or online channels right now. If there are trainings or webinars, I’ll watch those, but I don’t really watch too much Youtube. I am more of a book-gal.
What are your top reads right now?
Ah yes! Books! I love reading and I will openly admit I am one of those cheesy romantics who love romance novels with all the fluff and nonsense but this is also partly because the work that I do therapeutically is so intense sometimes that fiction stories are a great way to escape and let my mind relax from all of the hardcore real-life trauma I just talked about all day with my clients. That said, I also love business and self-help books because they keep me inspired and motivated. Some of my recent favourites have been:
‘Judgement Detox’ by Gabrielle Bernstein
‘Girl Code: Unlocking The Secrets To Success, Sanity, and Happiness For The Female Entrepreneur’ by Cara Alwill Leyba
‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them And People Will Follow You’ by John C. Maxwell
‘Chasing the Lion’ by Mark Batterson
And I am currently switching on and off between ‘Tools Of The Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World Class Performers’ by Timothy Ferris, which is the largest book I have ever seen! As well as ‘Breaking The Habit Of Being Yourself: How To Lose Your Mind and Create A New One’ by Dr. J Dispenza.
Tim Ferris is a firm favourite with us too! What does your Podcast playlist look like?
Right now I am listening to The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes, Goal Digger by Jenna Kutcher, and Style Your Mind by Cara Alwill Leyba
What does success look like in your eyes?
I used to believe success was measured by the amount of money you made or the amount of “things” you owned until I saw first hand just how miserable one can be, even with all of the “things” or “a lot” of money. Then I realised, success is about happiness. If you can find peace, happiness, and joy in whatever it is you are doing (whether it be personal or professional), then I would say you have achieved success. So many people struggle to find happiness and I believe this is largey because they are looking for it in all of the wrong places. When you can finally be true to yourself and embrace YOUR life, for what it is, the rest will fall into place and that is when I believe you have achieved success.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
To me, #BEYOUROWN means being your true self, through and through. I stand by when I said living during this social media-crazed era has been a blessing for businesses, however, it has done a number on self-esteem and self-worth. We are all subject to fall victim to the comparison trap, where we see others posting about their lives, their businesses, their success and we instantly feel like everything in our life doesn’t measure up. At the end of the day, there will always be other people who do what you do.
The difference is that no one is you and no one can do what you do HOW you do it because you are unique and you have your own set of talents, skills, and abilities. You have your own experiences and beliefs and values and that is what shapes the work that you do. In my area, there are tons of other therapists. There are also a lot of child and family therapists. Did this stop me from opening up my own practice? Absolutely not. Because although there are other people who do the exact same job as me and have the exact same specialisation, no one else is me and that is my superpower and that is what has guided my success.
So, for anyone who follows #BEYOUROWN, embrace who you are, don’t try to conform to meet anyone else’s standards but your own, and most importantly remember that if you’re going to change yourself, make sure its change towards personal growth and overall happiness, not who you are as a person.
That in-depth answer really hit the nail on the head. Lets summerise 2018 for you…
So following on from an amazing retreat I went to in Thailand earlier this year, plus conferences I’ve attended, books I’ve read, and podcast episodes that I’ve listened to, my idea journal is busting at the seams! I tend to have a lot of creative ideas and a lot of things I want to do but I also understand I can’t do everything at once (Been there, done that. Epic fail.) So, what I do is write all of my ideas down in an idea journal and then I pick one and focus on it solely for 90 days (a fun tip I got from the SJMC last summer). This allows me to devote all of my time and attention to one thing vs. working on multiple things at once with a fraction of my attention.
Now that my digital course has launched, I want to continue to reach a wider audience so more people can learn about the course and use it to follow their dreams of opening their private practice. I want to continue to expand my reach and continue to grow my 1:1 coaching business as well as continue to devote more time to blogging. Some of my behind the scenes projects that I have brewing include podcasts and retreats, but you will have to stay tuned to learn more about that.
Website Blog: smsteevesblog.com