December 17, 2019 4 min read
We got a chance to sit down and ask a few questions to Dr. Shainna Ali--a therapist, educator, public speaker, and author in the mental health space. She shared some incredible information and tips on mental wellness with us! Check out our interview below.
Q: Tell us about you and your background. What got you into mental health and wellness?
A: I’m a first-generation Guyanese-American. I was born and raised in New York and I currently reside in Central Florida. I’d love to be able to say that I knew I wanted to be a mental health therapist my entire life, but that’s not true. I didn’t know the importance of mental health, and what I knew about mental health was stigmatized misinformation. However, I have been fascinated by people, culture, and diversity for as long as I can recall.
It was during my college years that I began exploring the realm of psychology, and became equipped to take a better look at my own mental wellness. Soon after, I learned the importance of my mental wellbeing as I recognized my own anxiety. Before you know it, my path became clear. I realized that I wasn’t alone with my confusion and ill-informed knowledge pertaining to mental health. I pursued my masters in clinical mental health counseling and subsequently my doctoral degree in counselor education to establish as meaningful career as a mental health clinician, educator, and advocate.
Q: You share a lot about “Mental Health Myths” on your Instagram. What are some misconceptions you find a lot of people have on either mental health or therapy?
A: The top myth I notice about mental health is that therapy is for a certain type of person. Stigmatized perceptions of mental illness cause “othering.” People wrongly assume that certain demographic variables are at-risk for mental health concerns, but the truth is that mental illness knows no boundaries. Sure there are factors that can exacerbate a problem, but anyone can develop a mental health concern.
This is just one out of several common myths we are taught throughout our lives. Not only are these myths misleading, but they can also worsen mental health concerns. My hope with the “Mental Health Myths” series is to shed light on these common misunderstandings, help to improve mental health knowledge, and empower individuals to take a stance against mental health stigma.
Q: You help others a lot with their mental health. What’s one thing you like to do to focus on YOUR mental well-being?
A: I take my mental wellness seriously because I recognize that it’s an investment for myself, my loved ones, and my clients. I believe that it’s most effective when we assess our current needs and tailor our self-care accordingly. Because of that, I don’t have one go-to thing that hits the mark every time. For example, if I feel anxious or that my mind-body connection is off I tend to turn to something active such as yoga, dance, or weight training. However, if I am feeling drained I may rest or meditate to find my equilibrium again.
With all of that being said, the skill that I find myself using most often is gratitude. I love that it costs nothing, can be done anywhere, and is so immensely powerful. My favorite ways to practice gratitude are through journaling, meditation, and conversations with loved ones.
Q: You recently came out with The Self-Love Workbook: A Life-Changing Guide to Boost Self-Esteem, Recognize Your Worth and Find Genuine Happiness (linked here). Tell us a little about that. What inspired you to create that?
A: I love using creative methods in my counseling practice. When I am working with a client I often try to turn to evidence-based methods, however, oftentimes there are gaps between what research has to offer and what clients need in counseling. In helping others foster their mental wellness I noticed that many people were lacking self-love; without self-love they could not genuinely commit to their mental wellness journey. I started developing tactics to help clients foster their self-love based on what I have seen work for myself and others. As I expanded my view I found that many others were being held back by their lack of self-love. On top of this, even when people were ready to invest, they were missing a way to transform this abstract concept into their everyday lives.
After realizing this was a need I began to compile my lessons and activities into The Self-Love Workbook. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share this practical guide to enhancing self-love with motivated and passionate people across the globe. I am extra excited to be working on the second workbook in this series, The Self-Love Workbook for Teens.
Q: You also provide tons of incredible mental health tips. What are some of your favorite tips you’d like to leave our readers with today?
A: First, it’s important to recognize that we all have mental health. Just as we are often encouraged to foster our physical wellness, we have to consider investing in our mental well-being as well. It is empowering to recognize that taking charge of your mental wellness can help you live a healthier and happier life.
We need to know our own limits. At what point can you steer your journey, and at what point is it time to seek professional help? Taking the step to find a mental health provider does not mean you are weak, it means you are self-aware, motivated, courageous, and intelligent.
We can all benefit from being willing to challenge what we have been told about mental health. Historically, information surrounding mental health has been stigmatized and misguided. For example, there is the false notion that mental illness afflicts a certain type of person, whereas statistics prove that mental health knows no borders. We can all play an important role in taking a stance against stigma. To shift the paradigm, we first need to take a good look at our own views and beliefs. With an open mind and an open heart, I believe that we can all become mental health advocates.