Featured Therapist for May, Sarah Valdivieso

Every month, Council for Relationships features one of our staff therapists. This month’s Featured Therapist is Sarah Valdivieso, M.A., MFT. Learn more about her in the below interview!

What do you consider to be the goal of therapy? What do you help your clients work towards?

Therapy is a unique journey for each individual and/or family. When engaged with a client, I collaborate with them to set goals and then adapt these goals as needed throughout the therapeutic process. Many of my clients experience ambivalence about change and working through this is sometimes a goal that must be explored. Change and self-exploration is hard and exploring the common experience of ambivalence can lead to the process of creating meaning. My hope for my clients is that they are able to process their difficulties, find ways to cope, make meaning from how their past impacts their present, and create more positive and meaningful lives despite past traumas, mental illness, life stressors, or current or past relational difficulties.

Who is your ideal client? Describe the issues with which you work best.

I enjoy working with clients who are open to self-reflection, are able to be honest with themselves, and are committed to self-growth. I find clients who are committed to practicing skills learned in session in their daily lives are able to improve their prognosis. I have a significant interest in working with clients coping with depression, anxiety, bipolar, addiction, or have experienced trauma.

Why did you decide to become a therapist? What drew you to counseling as a career?

In some ways, I think I have always known that I wanted to be a therapist, as I have wanted to understand others and the human condition. I began noticing intergenerational family patterns and wanted to help others put an end to damaging or harmful patterns. I knew that by working on my own self-exploration, I could better understand and help others. Like so many of us, in early adulthood I struggled with my own difficulties and this led me to seek individual therapy. During this process I explored how my own family history impacted my individual patterns, psyche, and behaviors. This experience combined with my curiosity and desire to help others, has led me to my always interesting, challenging, and rewarding path as a therapist.

What is one piece of advice you would like to give people who may be struggling emotionally and would like to seek counseling but may not be ready?

If you are struggling with a mental illness like depression or anxiety, experiencing relationship difficulties, or have experienced a traumatic event, therapy and your commitment to hard work can help to significantly decrease your distress. Therapy is also helpful for those who are experiencing a major life transition and people struggling with parenting. Essentially, if you are considering therapy and think you could find value in the process, that is reason enough to seek counseling. Making the choice to begin therapy is a courageous first step towards increased peace, connectedness, and less distress.

However, keep in mind the process of therapy may cause you to experience uncomfortable or painful feelings such as sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, or frustration. Sometimes things get worse before they improve. For example, if you want to work on improving your boundaries, this is likely to upset people who are used to ignoring your boundaries. But nothing worth doing is easy and if you are committed to the process, you can change yourself and your life for the better!

Sarah Valdivieso, M.A., MFT is a Staff Therapist at our Center City and University City Offices in Philadelphia, PA; she currently sees clients via online therapy. To set-up an appointment, you can reach her at svaldivieso@councilforrelationships.org or 215-382-6680 ext. 7040.