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Meet Marni Goldberg of Mindful Matters Counseling in Pacific Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marni Goldberg.

Marni, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Unlike some therapists who decided to go into this field because of their own positive experiences with therapy changing their life, I always knew I wanted to help people, and it just felt like a natural path for me to take. I remember seeing Psychologists on talk shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil who seemed very confident and intelligent I was impressed and inspired by the way they knew so much about humans and their emotions, behaviors, etc., and when I found out that I could get paid to help people for a living, my mind was made up!

When I was in high school, I was a peer counselor, which allowed me to help my peers with their struggles. I felt I’ll-equipped to do a good job though, with the minimal training I received in my high school peer counseling class. I was surprised at the severity of some of my classmate’s struggles and wished I knew how to effectively help them. When it was time to enroll in college, I didn’t hesitate to register as a Psychology Major. My fascination with people, and excitement with eventually being able to truly help them continued to grow. I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a minor in Social Work but didn’t feel quite ready to pick a graduate program. I also needed some time to figure out if I HAD to go back to school to get a Masters Degree to help people in the way that I wanted to. Well, the answer was yes. After spending a year working in a school with children with emotional and behavioral challenges, and again realizing that there was a lot more I could do for them if I was properly trained, I ended up enrolling in a great Counseling program at The College of New Jersey. I completed my Master’s Degree in Counseling, and then went on to obtain a post-Masters Educational Specialist Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy- I wanted to further my skills in working with families as this had become a passion of mine at that time.

After I accumulated a bunch of letters after my name, I decided that it was time to move on from New Jersey and make the big move across the country to California, making a dream of mine come true. With 4 years of professional counseling under my belt, I moved to San Diego to start my new life. Well actually, I was initially planning for a one to two year adventure, but 15 years later, I think I can admit that I was sold on San Diego as soon as I arrived! Unbeknownst to me, it was going to take me 10 years to get licensed because California didn’t yet have a license for Counselors. As I waited for the bill to be signed for CA to be the last state licensing Counselors, I had to register as a Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) intern. I also had to accumulate hours again as an intern since I was losing the hours I had done in NJ towards my Counseling license (which I was eligible for but never obtained since I wanted to move out of state). So after having obtained three professional degrees, about 7,000 hours of supervised experience, and worked for ten years, I was able to become licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. Finally the bill was signed for Counselors to get licensed in CA, and although I didn’t need the extra license in order to practice, I took the exam to be “grandfathered” into the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) credential, mostly on principle since I had begun my career as a Counselor, and wanted to reach my goal of being a licensed Counselor. It was a very long and draining journey that often felt endless, but I persevered and feel proud to now have two professional licenses in the state of California.

I always dreamed of having my private practice. Working for community agencies, local government, schools, and a hospital throughout the years was taking its toll. I couldn’t wait to be my boss and design my own business in a way that would make me happy as well as allow me to be the best therapist I could be. Having the ability to determine my hours, choose what clients I would work with, utilize my creativity in my work, and infuse flexibility into my practice were things I daydreamed about often until I was finally able to make it happen in 2010.

I started my business by subleasing another therapist’s office for a couple of days a week in University City in 2010, then moved onto setting up shop in downtown La Jolla for about four to five years. I felt proud to be running my business in the beautiful and prestigious La Jolla, being a suburban girl from NJ. After the novelty wore off, I finally realized that I love working with young adults enough to move my office to Pacific Beach, where I can be more easily accessible to them. I also faced the fact that my fees were not really at La Jolla-level; I wanted to provide my Counseling services at an affordable rate to the community, so P.B. seemed like the best option for me. I’m loving being in this part of town, where I also happen to reside.

Personal stressors also helped lead my practice in the direction it’s in today, and inspired me to name my practice to fit my niche. I enrolled in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) class at the UCSD Center for Mindfulness about six or seven years ago, and it was life changing for me. It gave me the grounding and ability to deal with stress that I needed and provided me with invaluable knowledge and techniques that I now use daily in my practice. Due to feeling very passionate about practicing Mindfulness, Mindful Matters Counseling was born.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Building a small business is usually a very challenging endeavor. I didn’t have the extra funds to hire a business coach or officially learn how to run a business, and these skills are not taught in graduate school when you’re getting a Masters in Counseling. There have been challenges along the way. Maintaining the caseload that I need to be able to afford to stay in business and pay my bills can be a challenge. I’ve also decided that accepting insurance, meaning being paneled as an in-network provider, was not a good fit for me. I wanted to be able to provide the necessary care to my clients with flexibility and creativity. Sometimes we do 90 minute sessions, I don’t need to diagnose them with a mental illness in order work with them (as insurance companies require) and we can do things such as phone sessions when needed, walk and talk sessions, etc. I also love providing group therapy and being able to design my groups to meet the needs of my clients, rather than insurance companies. The fact that I am not on any insurance panels means that I don’t have insurance companies referring their members to me; my business relies on being found as a result of my marketing, as well as word of mouth. I left my job a few years ago to pursue working on my business full time, and although I have done some contract work throughout the years, I’m now dedicating myself fully to my practice and related projects.

Aside from being able to maintain the caseload to meet my financial needs, isolation can be a challenge in this business. I own and operate my own private practice, so I have to make sure to stay connected to other therapists and related professionals. Connecting to others usually depends on people’s availability, so that can fluctuate. I do participate in a monthly peer consultation group, and I have been collaborating with a homeopath on some projects, so that helps me in feeling less isolated. I also try to network with other therapists when possible. Although many therapists are more introverted and love their alone time, I tend to veer towards the extroverted side and need my social time to feel rejuvenated. Besides, listening to clients’ problems and suffering is my job, so there are times when I need to allow myself to focus on my own life and relationships. Self-care is something that therapists often talk about, and I try to maintain a healthy balance in my own life so that I can feel my healthiest to best help my clients. Like most things, my self-care waxes and wanes, so I make an effort to continuously monitor that aspect of my life.

Although I do consider myself more extroverted than introverted, putting myself out there for the world to see, and possibly critique has been challenging. I’ve had to push myself to do many things outside of my comfort zone, such as being very visible on social media, doing public speaking engagements, and making videos for the public to watch. As someone who had social anxiety earlier in life, it can be quite challenging, and scary, to delve into these experiences. Luckily, any work that I do to overcome my obstacles becomes beneficial to my current and future clients; my challenges make me that much more effective at being able to support others through similar obstacles.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My business, Mindful Matters Counseling is a private Psychotherapy practice where I provide individual, group, and family therapy, plus occasional workshops in Pacific Beach. My clients mainly consist of teens and young adults, although I welcome clients from about ages 10-60 to contact me to see if I can be a good fit for them. I started out focusing primarily on women’s issues, but have been happy to see an increase in young men contacting me for Counseling as well. I tend to work with a lot of sensitive people, and those who experience anxiety, mild depressive symptoms, communication challenges in relationships, or are struggling through a life transition. Weaving Mindfulness into the way I provide therapy as well as the interventions that I offer clients has been tremendously rewarding and extremely effective in helping with a variety of issues that clients have presented in therapy.

I think that having a deep understanding of sensitive people sets me apart in my practice. The term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), or someone who has Sensory Processing Sensitivities, is a fairly new discovery for me in the past few years, although I’ve been living it my entire life. I’m able to understand the nuances, gifts, and challenges of being part of only 20% of the world’s population. It’s been immensely rewarding to help clients discover and better understand this part of themselves so that they’re able to offer themselves more love and compassion as they learn how to effectively function in the world. Besides, my own experiences with anxiety, including social anxiety, phobias, and generalized anxiety, allow me to have a unique opportunity to really “get it” when my clients come to me with these struggles. Since Mindfulness has been incredibly helpful for me in all of these areas, it’s an honor to pass on those skills and the knowledge to empower my clients as well. Rather than trying to come across as an “expert”, I love being able to approach my clients from a compassionate place of being equal partners in their journey to healing, where I support them and help them to see the best in themselves. Being able to do this for a living is an amazing experience and a complete honor to provide a safe and confidential space for my clients to open up and feel seen and heard.

I’ve also been finding it quite rare to find private practices that offer group therapy. Throughout the past few years, I’ve offered Young Women’s Life Support Groups, a Women’s Assertiveness Group, an everyday Mindfulness Group, and a few other topics. I’m planning to provide a young men’s group soon, and will hopefully be putting together a teen group as well, to help them learn and practice Mindfulness. Also, I’ve provided a couple of workshops, including A Melt Away Burnout workshop for women and a workshop to help sensitive single women in the process of dating. In addition (shameless plug) I’m currently working on an experiential workshop video that anyone will be able to purchase online to participate in the Melt Away Burnout Workshop at home, while feeling as if they’re right there in the room with us. All in all, I have many interests and sometimes it’s difficult to narrow down a specific direction with my practice, but I love the variety and it keeps me interested and excited about my work. It’s nice to be able to combine my personal experiences with 20 years of professional work to competently provide Counseling to a wide array of people.

What were you like growing up?
When I was a kid, I was very reserved, except when I was with very close friends. Although I was known to be quite shy, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered that a lot of my personality traits stemmed from being a sensitive person, or as the trait is commonly known, a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The world often felt overwhelming and fast to me…HSPs have what’s called Sensory Processing Sensitivity, in which we deeply process everything around us, and notice many details that others may not notice. So much of my attention was focused on reading others and picking up on the little details, or even others’ moods and energy, that I felt a bit spacey. Luckily I also had good insight and was able to learn how to manage the distractions and anxiety that resulted from the overwhelm so that I could function well and thrive in life. Mindfulness was the tool that I so desperately needed years ago, so finding it was like coming home.

When I wasn’t putting my energy and focus on managing the overwhelm of life, I was loving taking dancing lessons and even performing in recitals. Dancing seemed to be the one activity that I felt comfortable with, and I was able to focus on the dance moves and routines to the point that my anxiety or feelings of overwhelm were blocked out. I also loved creating art, which is something that I continued into my adulthood. Although I’ve never had any particularly strong artistic abilities, I’ve been able to reach a state of flow at times when creating art….there isn’t much that beats that feeling of getting into a state of flow and being able to lose track of time because you’re so immersed in what you’re doing. At this time, Photography is a passion of mine and I love being able to display my pictures in my home and office.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jason Hamby

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