Maria Sosa, MS. is a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at Changing Forward, LLC. She is also the founder of mindfulsisu, a holistic health, and wellness website. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University and went on to earn her Master of Science degree in marriage and family therapy from Nova Southeastern University. She is originally from Venezuela but has lived most of her life in the United States. She currently resides in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with her husband, step kids, and French bulldog, Zul.
Sometimes, finding out what you don’t want to do is the path to figuring out your life’s passion. This was exactly the case for Maria, who worked in finance for many years before embarking on a journey which led her to family therapy and the fulfilling joy of helping others. Since then, she has dedicated herself to helping clients through the use of strength-based and solution focused techniques. She is passionate in her work with families, children, and teenagers. In addition to her love for therapy and helping others, Maria is a firm believer of the mind-body connection and how the two go hand in hand in creating a balanced sense of health and wellness. In this sense, Maria likes to incorporate health, nutrition and exercise topics into the therapy room with the intention of taking a more rounded and holistic approach to the wellbeing of her clients. She is currently working towards becoming a certified integrative nutrition health coach and can’t wait to incorporate this nutritional aspect into her private practice and coaching services.
Maria’s personal health story begins with a documentary titled “The Human Experiment.” The film discusses the overwhelming amount of toxic chemicals found in everyday personal/cleaning products and the lack of legislation prohibiting their use. The film prompted her to toss all her makeup, toiletries, plastic containers and harsh cleaning products. She also began educating herself about food, stopped looking at calories and started evaluating ingredients; a whole new lifestyle emerged! She now focuses on mindfully selecting nourishment for nutritional value, while ridding herself and her family from harmful chemicals as much as possible. Her journey, along with information and tips for holistic wellbeing can be found on her blog, soon to be a website.
Hey Maria, can you introduce yourself to us and tell us your story?
I’m Maria, a registered marriage, and family therapy intern at Changing Forward, LLC in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am also the founder of mindfulsisu, an online holistic health, and wellness personal blog. I am originally from Venezuela but have lived in the United States since I was nine. I am a mental health warrior and lover of all things organic and green. I like to advocate for holistic healthcare, treating the whole person: mind, body, and spirit, it’s what makes the most sense to me.
Having previously worked in finance, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you arrived at where you are now?
I received my first bachelor’s in marketing and worked at a financial consulting firm. Although I was happy to have a job, I was miserable. I didn’t like where I was working, I had no passion for any of the things that I was working on. Eventually, this unsatisfied feeling trickled over into my personal life. I became difficult and unpleasant to be around, I couldn’t even stand myself.
Still, I was afraid to make any changes, thinking I would fail if I tried anything different. One weekend, I found myself feeling so unmotivated I locked myself in my room and read for two straight days. It was a wakeup call that something was wrong. I had a sit down with myself and decided to go back to school and study psychology. I had always been attracted to the study of human behavior but had been persuaded by a family member to go the financial route. It was a gamble to shift everything, quit my job, and start all over again, but it was just what I needed. Once I started my new career path, I knew it was where I belonged. I went on to earn my Master’s in marriage and family therapy consolidating my passion for helping others navigate through difficult life transitions.
You are a registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern and have also received your Bachelors of Science in psychology from Florida Atlantic University and went on to earn your Masters of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy, what areas would you like to improve your knowledge on?
Nutrition! I’m currently obsessing over the influence food has on our mental health and wellbeing. There’s even a relatively new field called nutritional psychology which takes a close look at how the food that we eat can impact our mood and behavior. It really resonates with my holistic approach to healthcare because it takes into account both the mind and body components. Since I’m apparently a lifelong learner, I’m currently working towards becoming an integrative nutritional health coach. I can’t wait to be able to apply the therapeutic skills I already have, to the nutritional knowledge from the program.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
In my private practice, when I hear my clients share how they applied what we talked about in session to their daily life. We only have an hour a week together, the real work starts once they set foot outside the room. If they’re actually doing the work to improve whatever situation they may be in, that’s the greatest feeling! I get so excited about the mini successes which can lead to the big changes. For mindfulsisu, although my blog is fairly new, it’s so satisfying when people I don’t even know connect with the topics I am discussing. Feeling that in a way I’ve inspired or empowered others to try a recipe, to move, to talk about mental health, etc. that’s my happy place.
Can you tell us a little bit more about your blog?
Like I said, it’s definitely in its early stages, bigger things are coming! With that in mind, it’s a personal blog which talks about holistic nutrition and wellbeing. When I say nutrition, I mean any type of nourishment which feeds and fills the mind, body, and spirit. So, self-care and supportive relationships, that’s nourishment for the mind and spirit. The recipes and the movement component, that’s the physical and body nourishment. I like to have honest and authentic conversations about these topics, hoping to empower others to view health and wellbeing holistically.
Health is not just about that salad you just ate or that workout you just crushed, it’s about the thoughts in between, the relationships, the motivation, and so much more! You can eat all the kale in the world and still be emotionally unhealthy. You have to take care of the whole person!
Can you tell us what mindfulsisu means?
I’d love to! It’s a combination of two words: mindful and sisu. The mindful component deals with being present and aware, placing emphasis on the here and now without being overly reactive. When we are in tune with our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations we are experiencing mindfulness. It’s like a play by play of what is occurring both internally and externally within ourselves. The great thing about mindfulness is that it is something we all naturally possess. We can all be mindful, as difficult as it may seem at times. We have the potential. Sometimes a little practice is all it takes to get the ball rolling.
On the other hand, the sisu component is a little (or a lot) less well known. I only discovered it a few months ago when I was googling resilience in different languages. I came across the word and immediately fell in love with it! Sisu (pronounced – see’-soo) is a unique Finnish concept, or attitude, for which there is no direct translation. In English, it roughly means resilience, grit, the strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity. At the core of sisu is the idea that all human beings have the potential to defy the odds, find strength, hope, and continue onward, stretching beyond perceived capabilities. Just like mindfulness, it is also a characteristic we all possess, that fighter and survival instinct that lives in all of us.
So, if we put the two of these together, mindfulsisu is the act of being present while also having a fire in our belly which propels us to go forward with strength and courage. I like to think that it’s the soft and light (mindful) coming together with the rough and tough (sisu). It is who we are as human beings, complex; many things at once, never truly defined and constantly evolving. Essentially, it’s just being human.
The most rewarding moment in your personal life?
Well, I can think of two big ones. The first one was when I got my first apartment, without my parent’s help. I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom and accomplishment. I knew that from that moment on, whatever I did, it was up to me. Whatever I accomplished or didn’t was my responsibility. I wouldn’t have anyone holding my hand or providing a safety net. It was extremely motivating to feel that power at my fingertips. It was a scary but thriving moment.
The second one was the day I got married. Since I was little, I had vowed that I would never get married, that I would never have a man telling me what to do or how to live my life. Fast-forward to my early 30s and I was so thrilled to have found a person who was so caring, loving, and above all supportive. Getting married in front of all our friends and family was such a beautiful and life-changing experience. Married life suits me, it’s such a rewarding feeling to have found someone who I can always count on and whom I look forward to growing old with.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled with the most whilst being an intern?
The title! Prior to being licensed, marriage and family therapist are given the “intern” title. I’m not actually an intern per say. I am part of a private practice and have all the training required to schedule and see clients, however, a licensed supervisor must be on the premises. After I complete the required contact hours and pass the state exam I will be licensed, and this stipulation will no longer apply. Also, it’s a challenge to find clients! Marketing and selling yourself and services is probably the biggest struggle.
Have you ever had a mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
Yes, my aunt. She’s such an amazing support system and personal mini-computer. Anything I need help with, she’s got the answer. I love seeking her opinion in all decisions, big or small. Her advice and way of living her life have been such an inspiration. I look up to her and she’s actually one of the reasons why I had such a huge shift in my nutrition and lifestyle. She’s a ray of light and I seek her brightness and positive attitude daily.
What outlets do use to market mindfulsisu?
Currently, I’ve just been using social media, which is a struggle! I feel that I really don’t know the right tools to market myself or understand algorithms hashtags and all that fun stuff. It’s a whole new language that I’m learning to speak! I’m sure that many entrepreneurs feel the same way. It’s such a digital age, finding ways to get your product or message out to the world can be difficult.
Which methods are you using to build your audience and expand your network?
Having authentic conversations and connecting with like-minded individuals. This has been amazing to do through Instagram because of the so many ways to search and link up with those who have similar interests and viewpoints. It has helped to reinforce my idea that there are people out there who are searching for the support and empowerment I am looking to provide. I’m looking forward to continuing to build on the current network and expanding, learning from every single individual that I connect with.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
“You can’t make everyone happy, you’re not pizza!” the funny thing is, I’m not a big fan of pizza, but that’s beside the point! I’m a natural people pleaser so this was and continues to be a relevant piece of advice. It’s so difficult to try and make sure that the message you are sending is received well by all because it’s not realistic! Not everyone will agree with what you have to say or how you’ve chosen to say it.
There will always be critics who say they would have done it a different or even better than you, this is normal! It’s impossible to please everyone, so what I am trying to focus on is on myself. Not who I am at the moment, but a younger version of me, before this whole health and my professional journey, started. I focus on what would have been helpful to know, what I wish someone had told me. That’s who I’m trying to reach, a mini me, someone seeking a healthier lifestyle but not quite having the tool yet. If I can make an impact there, that’s good enough for me.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
In one word: vacations! I don’t understand the crazy expectation that we have to function like machines, we need breaks to be at our best. I read a statistic a few weeks ago regarding the amount of paid vacation days that go unused, it was unbelievable. Even more shocking was that those who took vacations, were still on their phone answering phone calls or emails. There’s a fear that stepping away will make us look dispensable which I can totally understand and says so much about the US emphasis on productivity over wellbeing.
I know I am very blessed to work for myself and to make my own hours. My husband is also an entrepreneur so our time off is very flexible. Being able to take breaks throughout the year is the best way to disconnect from work and connect with each other. It’s the best balance we have been able to find.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and leading female pioneers do you also admire and why?
I have a bit of a girl crush on Gwyneth Paltrow. I love the whole empire she has built around clean and toxin-free living through her Goop brand. I also love the girls from Tone It Up, they have created such a wonderful community of women who are looking to work out, eat better, and create better and happier versions of themselves. The whole movement exudes positivity and good vibes, I’m all about that! There are many other amazing female pioneers that I admire, but hard to relate to on a personal level. For example, Oprah, who doesn’t love her? But she’s in a whole other ballpark, she’s royalty in my book!
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I loved reading ‘Clean’ by Dr. Alejandro Junger. It focused on restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself through nutrition. He tells his own personal story and how he offset his depression and anxiety through food. It was another example of how nutrition affects our mental health, so naturally, I was hooked! It was such a powerful book I even went on the 21-Day detox program that’s recommended. I cut out a lot of foods and then re-introduced them to see if I was having any reactions to typical allergens such as shellfish, gluten, etc.
Any good Documentaries you’ve seen lately?
So, I’m starting to notice that all my stories start with, “Last week I was watching a documentary on Netflix.” I’ve somehow turned into a documentary junkie and I can’t stop. The latest ones are ‘The Magic Pill’ and ‘Wild Wild West.’ The first one is about nutrition, specifically the Ketogenic Diet. The second one is crazy as it talks about this cult-like movement in the 80s, in the United States. It was astonishing to see how people get sucked into cults and the reasons why they stay. It’s such an amazing phenomenon, behaviorally and mentally speaking.
What does success look like to you?
Success in my business looks like building the “mindfulsisu” message and brand and continuing to help others reach their inherent potential. In my personal life, it’s having a balanced and respectful marriage/family life along with a thriving career. I want to make sure that I am able to dedicate the time that each one deserves without neglecting either one.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
It means creating your own definition of success and happiness, making and living by your own rules. To me, it emphasises self-empowerment, self-actualisation, and just a kick-ass mentality.
Lastly, what is next for you and Mindfulsisu and Changing Forward?
Taking over the world!! No, first thing’s first, getting my website up and running along with finishing my integrative nutrition coaching course. Looking forward to expanding the blog and having space fully dedicated to present and resilient living. For Changing Forward, continuing to grow my client base and helping my current clients navigate through difficult transitions. Also, becoming licensed, that’s definitely a top priority!