Featured Therapist for February, Margot Stein
Every month, Council for Relationships features one of our staff therapists. This month’s Featured Therapist is Margot Stein, MFT. Learn more about her in the below interview!
What makes you unique as a therapist and person; what drew you to counseling as a career?
I came to Council for Relationships’ Post Graduate Certificate Program in Marriage and Family Therapy a bit later in life than most students. After more than 20 years as a rabbi and a teacher, I was frustrated that I had been trained to refer people out to therapists when their issues became too complex for a typical member of the clergy to handle skillfully. I decided to gain those skills so that I could walk with people through the most difficult moments of their lives, help them rebuild their lives after immense loss, or even imagine the life they truly longed for but had not had enough support to take steps toward realizing. I encourage people to take “baby steps,” because small, manageable changes can have big effects. As my own life has come into harmony, it has been meaningful to help others experience harmony with the ones they love, and Systemic Therapy is an effective vehicle for helping people understand themselves as well as their loved ones.
What do you consider to be the goal of therapy?
I believe the goal of therapy is to build on your strengths, to help you heal what can be healed, accept what can be accepted, and make changes in your life as you are better able to understand yourself and what you truly need. What I’ve been learning through the anti-racism work we are doing here at CFR is that many of the ways we pressure ourselves and demand and criticize ourselves and each other are functions of the culture in which we are swimming. Dismantling cultural expectations and helping people to find their authentic expression is both very much of this moment and also what I have been helping people do for most of my life.
Who is your ideal client?
I work with all sorts of families, children, teens, young adults, and adults who have gotten messages from others that they are not ok just the way they are. With families where one or more of the children has special needs or a learning disability, I help parents understand their children and develop new ways of supporting the whole family system so each member of the family can thrive. For those who identify as queer or nonbinary, for artists and other creatives, listening within for guidance and learning to trust that voice is a big part of the process. I also help people normalize their place in the world, which means understanding who they are and how they got there, and then help them learn to put themselves at the center of concern in their own lives.
How would your clients describe you?
I think my clients would say I help them take their place at the center of their own story. That I’m able to go as deep as they want to go, but also have a light touch. We can laugh together, but we can also cry. I meet each client with a sense of openness and curiosity about their lives, what I’ve learned to call “unconditional positive regard.” It’s a form of spiritual practice for me, meeting each person without judging in any way, and walking alongside them as they work to transform aspects of their lives.
What is your background and why did you choose CFR?
As a rabbi, teacher, mom of three boys, and community activist, I often found myself counseling others. After my oldest son died of cancer, I needed a way to make sense of such a senseless loss. The process of becoming a therapist seemed like a way to heal my own life and help others understand theirs as well. CFR was also there for me many years ago when I was going through a divorce, it was there for my seminary when we had to process some institutional issues. What’s more, I have spent decades directing and advising nonprofits, and believe in CFR’s mission of making mental health care accessible to those who need services without cost being prohibitive. So the Clergy Track of the Post Graduate Certificate Program seemed like a natural choice, and it has been a great fit!
What is one piece of advice you would like to give people who may be struggling emotionally and would like to seek therapy, but may not be ready?
If you can reach out just a little bit, someone here will respond with warmth and caring and help you take the next step. You don’t have to do this alone.
Describe a typical first session with you.
A first session is usually a chance to get to know each other a little, but it doesn’t have to be any one particular way. Some people dive right into their stories, other people are very tentative. Creating a sense of emotional safety as well as a sense of possibility are my main goals. I would be glad if you left feeling a little bit more hopeful than before we met! I would also want to help you identify your strengths and appreciate them, so that you can build on them moving forward.