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Dr. Tina B. Tessina: “Self-Awareness”

Self-Awareness: When you are aware of your feelings, motivations and self-talk, and learn how to understand and manage them, life is easier and you are more in charge of your reactions, motivations and relationships. Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very […]

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Self-Awareness: When you are aware of your feelings, motivations and self-talk, and learn how to understand and manage them, life is easier and you are more in charge of your reactions, motivations and relationships.


Often when we refer to wellness, we assume that we are talking about physical wellbeing. But one can be physically very healthy but still be unwell, emotionally or mentally. What are the steps we can take to cultivate optimal wellness in all areas of our life; to develop Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing?

As a part of our series about “How We Can Do To Cultivate Our Mental, Physical, Emotional, & Spiritual Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewingTina B. Tessina, PhD LMFT

She is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 40 years’ experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 14 books in 17 languages, including Dr. Romance’s Guide to Finding Love Today; It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty; Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences; The Real 13th Step; How to Be Happy Partners: Working it Out Together and How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free. Find her at http://www.tinatessina.com


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I lost my dad when I was 18, but didn’t really process the emotions at that time. Then, at 27, I went to therapy because of marital problems, and eventually got a divorce. When all the accumulated grief of those things began to come out, I went much deeper into therapy, and began to learn about my emotional terrain. But, on some level, I think I became a psychotherapist mostly because of my mother — she suffered from undiagnosed depression, and I wanted a way to heal her, which never happened. In the process of all this, I discovered that I had a gift, and since then, psychotherapy has been “my job on Earth” as Dr. Bernie Seigel describes a true vocation.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My first college experience was at a music conservatory. In my very limited elective courses, I took a psychology course, which first sparked my interest. I had to leave school when my Dad died and money ran out. I worked as a waitress, then as a self-taught industry accountant. The Rev. Denton Roberts, M.Div., LMFT, helped me process all my grief, a divorce, and inspired me through his clinicians training classes. It was 10 years before I could get back to school as a Psych major. I put myself through school by starting my own bookkeeping business, so I could have flexible hours and earn more per hour. I got my master’s degree and supervision with Rev. Roberts, and I passed the licensing exam in 1978. Thinkers whose work inspired me are Virginia Satir, Carl Rogers, Fritz Perls, Thomas Szasz and Ken Wilbur.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Rev. Denton Roberts’ clinician’s course was very experiential, and I got my first counseling experience in his “fishbowl” style groups at the counseling center he created to help the low –income community in Central Los Angeles. He would conduct group therapy, with clinicians observing with the clients’ consent. Gradually, I was invited to start my own therapy group. Riley K. Smith and I wrote our first book together How to Be a Couple and Still Be Free from ideas we developed while in Rev. Roberts’ classes. Then we taught Adult Education classes on that topic at Los Angeles Community College, which were a great success. Al Saunders of Newcastle Publishing was our first publisher, and a great mentor in publishing.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

The first year after I was licensed, I rented space from a counseling center in Hollywood. It closed, without warning, and I had to find another center, explain to my clients, and get reorganized. This happened five times the first year, until I finally decided to open my own practice. I had moved to Long Beach when I married my husband in 1982, and opened my practice in our home (two rooms and a bathroom are dedicated to my practice) and my practice has been successful ever since.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Ken Wilbur’s Integral Psychology was so exciting to find, because it describes the kind of therapy I’ve been doing, which includes spirituality, psychology, behavioral science, deep therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve always drawn from all modalities, and Wilbur codified what I had been doing.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“It’s never too late to have a happy childhood” — Tom Robbins. This quote resonates with me because I work so much with clients who have PTSD from childhood abuse, bullying and other traumas.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I just developed a course in grief: “Grief: What it is, Why we have it, and How to get through it” https://generousmarriage.com/course/grief-ebook-course/ because there is so much grief due to the pandemic. Grief is difficult and confusing, and this course is designed to help people understand what they’re experiencing and get through it effectively. I’m also bringing out a new ebook: Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things that Can Ruin Your Relationship http://tinyurl.com/l357zkl which will be out in January, 2021

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. In this interview series we’d like to discuss cultivating wellness habits in four areas of our lives, Mental wellness, Physical wellness, Emotional wellness, & Spiritual wellness. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or experience, can you share with our readers three good habits that can lead to optimum mental wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Self-Awareness: When you are aware of your feelings, motivations and self-talk, and learn how to understand and manage them, life is easier and you are more in charge of your reactions, motivations and relationships.
  2. Healthy Communication and Interaction Skills: When you communicate well, first with yourself, and from there to others, you are more able to create what you want in your life and interact in healthy ways in your relationships, which makes them go more smoothly. We are all communicating with ourselves all of the time, and understanding what that’s about and how to do it in a healthy, supportive manner makes every day more pleasant, more fulfilling, and more effective.
  3. Balanced Living: When you develop a habit of living in balance, considering your own needs as well as responsibilities of work and caring about others, you can achieve your goals without getting exhausted, frustrated or burning out. Learning how to create balance means you can keep your life within bounds, and have time for everything you want to do.

Do you have a specific type of meditation practice or Yoga practice that you have found helpful? We’d love to hear about it.

I use a working-type meditation, knowing how to relax my mind whenever I need to, and I use certain affirmations and prayers to relax and refresh mentally and emotionally. I practiced Yoga for a number of years, also.

Thank you for that. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum physical wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Find a kind of exercise that works well for you, and make sure you get some exercise daily. Walks in the fresh air, dancing, sports and games are all ways of exercising that are enjoyable and self-motivating.
  2. Eat fresh food: fruits and vegetables, every meal. Getting the vitamins, enzymes and minerals from fresh produce will keep your skin healthy and your body energized.
  3. Sleep: Not enough is said about the importance of getting enough sleep. Your brain needs the time to reorganize and recharge itself, and all your cells and organs also benefit.

Do you have any particular thoughts about healthy eating? We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Healthy eating is a very personal thing. We all need to understand what is healthy for us. I’m vegetarian, and I have kept type II diabetes in check with a healthy diet, balancing healthy carbs and protein.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum emotional wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Check in with yourself daily, morning and evening: Make sure your internal dialog is helpful and positive, consult with yourself about goals and what you want to achieve, and evaluate each day to appreciate what you accomplished, what you learned, and where you can grow.
  2. Be honest: learn first to be honest with yourself, and understand what is important to you, no matter what other influential people around you want from you. Then, practice honesty with everyone else, which will keep your relationships updated and clear.
  3. Express Gratitude: Gratitude uplifts us, and keeps everything in perspective: Learn to express gratitude for everything you have, to be grateful to yourself for doing the best you can, and to thank everyone close to you many times a day for all they contribute to your life. Celebration + Appreciation = Motivation, so the more gratitude you express, the more motivated you and those around you will be.

Do you have any particular thoughts about the power of smiling to improve emotional wellness? We’d love to hear it.

Smiles are contagious. When you smile, your face loses its tension lines. Other people smile back, and that feels good. While we’re wearing masks, we miss the benefit of seeing others smile, and having them see us, and we can feel it. Wearing masks is very important, so worth the temporary loss, but when we are done with masks, we’ll feel the benefits of smiling at strangers again. In the meantime, we can still smile at those close to us, and keep those relationships warm and energized.

Finally, can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum spiritual wellness? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. I’m going back to telling the truth. When we are honest, we feel congruent, consistent with self, and that is a feeling of great security. When we lie, it creates emotional as well as spiritual cloudiness and confusion. Knowing you are as truthful as possible puts you in synch with your spiritual nature, and eliminates inner conflict.
  2. Meditate, pray, and focus on being the best person you can be for at least some time each day. There’s substantial brain research that demonstrates that focusing on a repetitive phrase relaxes the mind and increases creativity. Inspiration means “breathing in” and being open to spiritual intuition allows us to be inspired with new ideas.
  3. Seek to learn from whatever is going on. When we learn from problems and difficulties, we benefit by what I call “soul growth” — our wisdom and resilience increase, and we can appreciate the benefits of adversity. So many good works, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Sandy Hook Promise, and many fundraising groups were begun because of tragedies. Turning “poison into medicine” is a great was to think about turning terrible events into blessings.

Do you have any particular thoughts about how being “in nature” can help us to cultivate spiritual wellness?

Just the fresh air and sunshine has a lot of physical and spiritual benefits. It’s possible to feel closer to a Higher Power when surrounded by nature. Just tending plants in your yard, taking your dog to a park or a beach, or taking a walk in the fresh air will inspire you and lift your spirits.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It might seem surprising, but I think we need a lot more crying and grieving, especially at this time. Almost all of my clients come in unaware that they are stuck in a past trauma because they don’t know how to grieve it and get beyond it. Writing, crying, talking to a sympathetic person, talking to whatever or whoever you lost, and comforting the traumatized child within you have amazing benefits. Grief is an essential life skill, because it helps us survive and thrive after setbacks.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Hillary Clinton, Ken Wilbur

How can our readers further follow your work online?

There are links to everything at www.tinatessina.com

https://www.facebook.com/tinatessina
https://www.linkedin.com/in/tinatessina/

https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APW6BQ (Amazon author page)

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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