July's Woman of the Month - Alaina Salerno
Imagine being smack dab in the middle of multiple pandemics (all of which we thought would be over by now) and having no one to talk to. What a tragedy that would be. Fortunately, many have Alaina Salerno, School Social Worker/Holistic Psychotherapist who works with incarcerated youth and has a private practice for adults. In this interview, Alaina explained how the pandemic has affected her, what she does to combat is, and how she is still able to help others.
EB: Why did you become a therapist?
AS: As I child, I was in therapy, and ever since a young age, I wanted to able to help people the way I was helped. I always had the goal of having a private practice. Talking with people, empathizing with others, and being a good listener came easy for me, and it was very rewarding.
EB: How have you been holding up? Like a rollercoaster. I've always had anxiety, so it's been a lifetime effort to keep it controlled. I noticed some days I'm feeling good while others felt very sad. So, I've just been honoring my emotions, allowing myself to feel them, so they don't linger unprocessed.
EB: Does the current fuckery of life affect your ability to serve?
AS: No. I've been more tuned in as a therapist during this time. I'm always able to show up for my clients, but I did notice increased exhaustion during the past few months. Being present and taking care of ourselves is very difficult when trauma occurs, and during these times, the triggers are daily.
EB: How has it/does it affect your clients?
AS: My clients have been extra emotional, there's increased PTSD surfacing and depressive symptoms. On the flip side, they've been grateful for the lessons revealed during this time and have been open to going deeper into therapy. It's been a learning experience on overdrive.
EB: What are the top 3 concerns of your clients now?
AS: Finances, unemployment, and PTSD (trauma triggers).
EB: What do you do to practice self-care?
AS: I prioritize sleep, I find I feel physically sick if I don't sleep well. I take anxiety supplements- homeopathy when needed. It helps to balance me. I sit in the sun. I purchased air purifying plants for my apartment to serve as a way for me to ground. Planting helps purify my space/lungs. It's made a huge difference in my allergies/asthma issues. I watch funny shows like King of Queens- laughter really is medicine! I burn frankincense, nag champa, amber, and Palo Santo daily to cleanse my energy and the energy in my space. Listen to meditation music/binaural beats as I work.
EB: What recommendations do you have for others to remain sane during these challenging times? Find a practice that grounds you and stick with it. Try different things until you find a few things that immediately bring you peace when you engage in it. Work that into a morning/nighttime routine. Learn your triggers and how to work with them in healthier ways. Set daily intentions/gratitude list-this will immediately raise your vibe. Choose foods/drinks that will nourish your body. Be aware if you're eating/drinking to numb. What you resist, persists. Set healthy boundaries with friends and family so that you don't burnout. Burnout and compassion fatigue are elevated during this time. Utilize affirmations and nature for grounding.
EB: Why is therapy crucial now more than ever?
AS: Right now, we're being bombarded with tons of trauma triggers, frantic energy, anger, anxiety, depression, desperation, etc., these emotions are very heavy and very challenging to process-especially for those with PTSD. Sometimes we need to speak with someone who is not emotionally attached to our situations to help with mindset work/perspective. It's important to recognize/process/release trauma; otherwise, those emotions stay stuck in the body, and that can lead to both physical and mental dis-ease.
EB: What is something(s) about therapy that you wish people knew?
AS: It's not that scary, and the chances are HIGH; you'll feel like you lost 50 lbs. after the first session. If you have a connection with your therapist, and there's a great vibe between you, you will thrive in therapy. I won't lie-it's tough. Some sessions are harder than others; however, as you grow and heal, the benefits of that new life outweigh all the reservations or resistance you may have around starting therapy. Trust me!
EB: What are some misconceptions about therapy?
AS: People who need therapy are crazy; everyone in therapy needs meds and a diagnosis. The therapist is judging you. People can't change. People need to tell the therapist everything right away. People need to cry in therapy for it to be working. You need to hit rock bottom to start.
EB: Has your workload changed since COVID-19?
AS: Yes. I've had an increase in phone calls and clients ready to start therapy. I'm grateful people are reaching out more and taking their mental health and wellness seriously.
EB: Has it changed since the start of the protests?
AS: The session contents have changed since the beginning of the protests, but I have not had recent calls for therapy since the protests.
EB: How is your work rewarding?
AS: I love watching people grow and recognize that their old stories/habits/beliefs that were holding them back have expired. It's so liberating for them that I feel it as well. In helping to heal others, I've been healing myself.
EB: Can you give me an anecdote related to a client's progress and why you're proud of that moment
AS: One of my clients who is Bipolar has been off medication for almost a year now (not the case for everyone, and that's ok). She is seen biweekly in therapy, has adopted a spiritual lifestyle, engages in self-care, embraced sobriety, and is studying to become a Coach. She has come a very long way since beginning therapy 2.5 years go. Her path has not been easy, but she's committed to processing her PTSD, blocks, and breaking generational curses/trauma.
EB: Anything you'd like to add/share
AS: If you're struggling in any way, I encourage you to search for a therapist, you feel a connection with. It's a great gift to give to yourself. If you're scared, anxious, or hesitant, commit to 2-3 sessions before you quit then go from there. If your therapist is not a match for you, change them. A good therapist will not take it personally. The priority is that you feel comfortable, safe, and able to be vulnerable in your sessions to really facilitate change and growth.
Do you need to talk to someone? Have you been on the fence about therapy? I encourage you to contact someone to start the process. I encourage you even more to contact Alaina!