May 11, 2023

Follow Yvonne Castañeda on her journey of recovery, rewriting the mental health narrative, and holding space for counselors and therapists who need support.

This week on “I Live This: Transforming Mental Health through Personal Connection,” we speak with an author committed to pushing back on perfectionist ideals surrounding therapy and our personal experiences.

Yvonne Castañeda is a licensed clinical social worker, part time faculty member and Director of Community-Based Initiatives at Boston College School of Social Work, and author of “Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety.”

“No such thing as a perfect therapist”

As a student, Yvonne shared an expectation that there was some standard formula to therapy. It involved structure, as an example.

“I didn’t realize to what degree my own challenges in the past, my own beliefs, my own feelings, my own experience – all of that – would be also present in the session."”
Yvonne Castañeda
Yvonne castaneda

The balance, she explains, is using those realities to inform the session without over-sharing or taking away from the client’s experience. Yvonne is candid when she says that not every session will be perfect or end with both parties feeling “good” and that’s okay.

Awareness is helpful, she says, in maintaining professional boundaries and objective resilience. In some cases, that awareness may be nurtured through the process of self-exploration – time spent working to understand your own triggers or blind spots.

“When a client is sharing something that stirs emotion for me, it’s an indicator that on some level I connect to that feeling,” says Yvonne.

That acceptance of feelings doesn’t have to lead to self-disclosure (on the part of the therapist or counselor) in the session, but can lead to further awareness and empathy – both of which Yvonne says are good qualities in a therapist.

Supporting mental health professionals

As mental health professionals progress in the field and reach a certain level of licensure, they no longer have regular access to the kind of clinical supervision that is often helpful to their own professional growth. Yvonne sees this as an area where her peers in the field could be better supported.

“I think in a perfect world, ideally, insurance would cover clinical supervision,” she says.

Yvonne sees clinical supervision as an excellent opportunity for practitioners to process things that come up for them during sessions, get feedback and further their knowledge, and return to practice better able to serve their clients. Currently, therapists need to pay out of pocket for this kind of supervision and support.

Trust in your truth

Self-awareness and acceptance appear as major tenets in Yvonne’s life. She explains that many of the challenges in her life stemmed from not trusting in herself.

“The moments in which I felt my life completely flowed – where things just fell into place – they were precipitated by moments where I really trusted my intuition and trusted what felt true for me.”

The advice she gives: Trust your own journey. Trust the process. Trust your intuition. Be brave. And know your inner voice is never wrong.

Hear more - including the idea behind her book “Pork Belly Tacos with a Side of Anxiety” - in our full conversation with Yvonne Castañeda on "I Live This," available online and wherever you listen to podcasts.

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