#BEYOUROWN MEETS SIVAN COHEN
Sivan Cohen is a clinical psychotherapist and mental health advocate based in New York. She focuses her work on mental health by using empowerment techniques to offer insight towards self-acceptance, authenticity, and self-awareness.
She earned her B.A. in Psychology from Queens College and her M.S.W. from Adelphi University. She conducted her clinical training through NorthShore-LIJ’s Department of Psychiatry in Addiction at NorthShore University Hospital. She has clinical experience in the treatment of adults, children, couples, and families. Her areas of speciality include anxiety, depression, life transitions, relationships, eating disorders, along with a wide range of other mental health conditions. She is passionate about helping those around her by providing a safe space to explore their journey.
Sivan has spent numerous years working within the realm of eating disorders as program director at an intensive outpatient program. She has obtained her Clinical Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counsellor Trainee (CASAC-T) certification and a Diploma in Personal Nutrition. She is also certified in CBT-E (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Eating Disorders) through Oxford University’s CREDO initiative. She helps those on their recovery path by combining elements of CBT, DBT, ACT, mindfulness, and holistic wellness. She currently has a private practice in Garden City, New York. Her private practice was awarded the Best of Garden City Award for Medical Clinic in 2018.
Welcome Sivan, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, can you introduce yourself to us?
I am delighted to be here! I’m Sivan Cohen, a psychotherapist and mental health activist in New York. I hope to stimulate conversation and remove stigma regarding mental health. I want to make therapy approachable, accessible and available to those who could benefit from it. I opened up my private practice in 2018 and this past year has been truly remarkable. Being able to immerse myself in the work that I do with others and to tailor treatment for those I work with have been so rewarding.
Can you give us a little back story on how you are where you are today as a licensed clinical social worker?
My journey is not linear and actually takes a couple of detours along the way, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am a lifelong learner and have always enjoyed taking in knowledge from the world around me. My initial intent with college was to follow a pre-med track, hoping to be a paediatrician. After a couple of years of understanding more about the body, I discovered that I would rather study and treat the mind. I switched my major to psychology and was immediately captivated. With my bachelor’s degree, I then decided to take time off and volunteer overseas to see if this was where my true passion lay. By immersing myself in different areas of helping others, I realised that I had found my calling.
I enrolled in graduate school since there are many areas that social work can impact, from a micro to a macro level. Throughout graduate school, I was introduced to different forms of therapeutic treatment from individual therapy, to families, couples, and group therapy. I was so drawn to how many different modes of support there are and saw the multitude of benefits to each. After five years of working post-masters within hospital-based addiction treatment and then an intensive outpatient program treating eating disorders, I decided to address the growing need for person-centred therapy in my area and opened up my private practice: Sivan Cohen, LCSW, PC.
Can you talk us through your diverse and eclectic approach towards incorporating your methods into your client’s needs?
Each person I get the privilege of working with is unique; and while some people may share a diagnosis, no presentation or manifestation of those symptoms is exactly alike. I always say, “therapy is a living, breathing thing that relies on the dynamic between client and therapist.” I meet my clients where they are and address what they feel is important to them. By allowing my client to be a part of their bespoke recovery plan, there is less of a barrier between us and we can really get to work.
An intake evaluation is usually a great starting point for this. This is where I gather information about the individual’s history, experiences, familial context, and medical background. It is at this time that I will formulate a plan moving forward that will help my clients reach their goals and address the reason they came into therapy. Some common practices include psychoeducation to share knowledge and insight about various conditions. CBT focuses on how we can change our thoughts, which can then change the behaviours associated with those thoughts. ACT allows us to create a foundation of acceptance towards what the client is struggling with and to take things at a mindful pace towards change. DBT enhances skills to reduce distress, enhance interpersonal communication, use mindfulness, and regulate emotions.
Setting realistic expectations is key, but once a client applies and engages in therapy, they usually start to see positive results after the first couple of sessions. I also like to ask those who have been in therapy before, “what has not worked for you?” This allows me to understand more about their process and create a plan together that is inclusive and effective.
Having a range of clinical experience within the treatment areas of adults, children, couples, and families struggling with a wide range of mental, health, behavioural, and relationship issues. Can you tell us the most rewarding aspect of your role?
Working with individuals and seeing them apply positive changes or see things in a new perspective is so rewarding. I usually tell my clients that I am a mirror of sorts. My role is to be reflective and to allow you to see yourself in different ways. Sometimes that includes adding a dose of kindness to your day or trying to sort through an issue by using problem-solving techniques. One of the most incredible moments is seeing a client impacted by validation.
Sometimes it can be seen by taking a more assertive stance or being more direct. Sometimes it is realising that they are entitled to their feelings (regardless of what they are). For some, therapy is the only space that allows them to be heard in their innermost fears and insecurities. I love seeing moments of awareness in those I work with when they start making connections. When we learn to accept ourselves and live an authentic life, our potential is limitless.
What 3 ways we can overcome life struggles and adversity, to work through our own personal growth and development?
- Journaling your thoughts and feelings can be so cathartic. This could be done in the notes section of your phone, your word processor, an online blog, or my favourite; pen and paper. Journaling allows us to create a space to share what we need to get out from inside of ourselves. Additionally, it allows us to reflect back and see patterns.
- Finding moments of connection. This could be with nature by going for a walk in your favourite park. It could be interpersonal by calling a friend and catching up. It could be spiritual by meditating or going to a yoga class. The ‘what’ doesn’t matter as much as the actual connection.
- Speaking with a therapist could help you by having someone join you on your journey towards personal growth.
One of my personal heroes, Brené Brown, has an insightful quote that goes as follows, “you are imperfect, you are wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” Oftentimes, when a struggle presents itself we feel obliterated by it. Reaching out to a therapist can be challenging. The first thing I would recommend is to acknowledge that the struggle is here. That can be admitting to someone you have an addiction, telling someone about your eating disorder, sharing marital or relationship conflict, being aware of obsessive thoughts, or even recalling a trauma.
The second step and one I think is critical would be to ask for help. You don’t need to carry this alone or go through it by yourself. Everyone needs help at some point in their lives. It is also not considered a weakness to ask for help, but rather a true strength.
Finally, once you are connecting and working with someone on this, I would usually invite the fear in and sit with it for a while. Get to know it on a different level. I find that we often fear the unknown and when you bring the unknown into the light, your relationship with it changes.
One hard lesson in life you have learned so far?
For growth to happen, we need to embrace our fears and lean into discomfort. Every moment of discomfort or fear created room to grow, once I accepted it into my life. I remember in grad school juggling my internship and a full coarse load wondering if I would be able to finish my CAPSTONE (a thesis required to complete my master’s program). I remember feeling fear of failure before each of my licensing exams; the Licensed Master of Social Work (LMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Work (LCSW) exam. Once I passed, I wondered if I would be good enough to treat people who trust me with their lives.
Once I was practising actual psychotherapy I was afraid to leave a stable job and take the plunge into opening a private practice where all of the accountability would fall on me. It was and still is, at times, terrifying. But mixed into that is excitement, hope and possibility. That feeling, of being able to truly make an impact, has propelled me through any barrier I have come across. It has also created forward momentum to do what I love.
What are your preferred marketing methods for the Individual, Couple, and Family Therapy services you offer?
My website has been a primary mode for marketing since I offer resources such as infographics, blog posts and book lists that are easily accessible. I also enjoy offering insight and advocacy on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
I feel like #BEYOUROWN is an invitation to empowerment. It is acceptance, love, self-care, and inner peace all wrapped into one. It allows us to come as we are, and that message is so necessary today.
What have you got planned throughout the rest of 2019?
I hope to continue growing my practice and being able to help others. I also want to impact mental health on a larger scale and offer services to those without access. My hope is to change the conversation and redefine therapy; to make mental health something that people can talk about without fear of judgement. I also hope to provide education and insight. A podcast may be happening in the near future. I am currently working on an interactive book on self-acceptance, so hoping to continue and wrap that up soon!
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