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Stephanie Roth-Goldberg: “Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t”

Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. This will help you build self-esteem and engage in activities you enjoy. We can’t do everything, but we can do a lot and focusing on the things we can do will feel better than being upset about the things we can’t. As a part of […]

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Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. This will help you build self-esteem and engage in activities you enjoy. We can’t do everything, but we can do a lot and focusing on the things we can do will feel better than being upset about the things we can’t.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW.

Stephanie Roth-Goldberg, LCSW is a psychotherapist and the founder of Intuitive Psychotherapy NYC. She specializes in working with people struggling with disordered eating, eating disorders and body image concerns.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

When I was a teenager struggling with self-esteem and an eating disorder my parents sent me to therapy. I really connected with that therapist and I think that began my journey to my career. I chose social work because I have always been committed to social justice work. My mom instilled that in me from a young age. I thought I would work on the advocacy side of things, but I found I connected with individuals well and the rest is history.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

This isn’t the most interesting those are confidential. But, this is a good one, I once had two clients who were dating the same person. I figured it out because they described him the same way, but one was really into him and one wasn’t. I had to navigate knowing information about the person without showing it. Even big city’s like NYC are just small towns. Never take for granted how simultaneously big and small our communities can be.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I once saw a client in the locker room of a gym. She said hello and awkwardly starting talking to me, I don’t think either of us knew what to do. I learned I needed to set clear boundaries with clients in case that happened again in order to prepare myself and the client of what to expect if we saw each other in person outside of the therapy room.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

While this may sound backwards, I am grateful for so many people. In some ways, I am grateful for the White men I have had as supervisors. I am grateful because the confidence they have is outrageous, and I have often left their office thinking “if only I could be as confident as this old school White man, I would be more successful” and I let myself reckon with why I wasn’t. I am also grateful for my mentor, Jean Petrucelli, PhD. She took me under her wing almost a decade ago. She is honest and critical with me, which helps me grow. She volunteers me for challenges and ensures I am successful, such as editing the article I recently published. We all need people who see something in us we don’t yet know is there and help us achieve that.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be clear with what kind of clients you want to work with and only take those on. The right people will find you if you make space for them. Be clear with your work boundaries, stick a schedule that works for you. It’s easy to want to bend and fit people in, but you will resent it. It is ok to have boundaries!

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Make time to do non-work related tasks throughout the day. Whether that is getting up and getting some fresh air, making a phone call to a friend. I really believe we can recharge our energy by taking small breaks throughout the day to do something enjoyable that doesn’t involve a computer.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Volunteer for a cause you believe in. So many folk retire and don’t know what to do with themselves. Volunteering can be something you do once a year or once a week. Find a cause you care about and dedicate even a little time to it.

Get a hobby. Now is the time you have to explore your likes and dislikes, to do something just for the fun of it.

How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Spend time with humans! It is so easy to connect with friends on social media or virtually, but nothing really compares to human contact. Make some time to see people you like, even if it is socially distanced.

Talk to your grownups. So many teens and pre-teens feel (and are) misunderstood by their grown-ups and they reject them because of it. Try to make them understand you, tell them what you need. For the most part, and I wish this was universally true but acknowledge it isn’t, your grown-ups want to spend more time with you but just don’t know how. Teach them!

Journal. Spend some time putting a pen to paper and get the thoughts out of your head. It is so helpful to put things on paper and help us look at them differently. Spend a few minutes without distraction. Learn to your own mind.

Focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. This will help you build self-esteem and engage in activities you enjoy. We can’t do everything, but we can do a lot and focusing on the things we can do will feel better than being upset about the things we can’t.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Intuitive Eating changed my life. I had the book on my shelf for several years before reading. Then, one day a client forgot their appointment and I found myself with 45 unplanned free minutes. Even though I stared at the same bookshelf for many years that day I was drawn to pick up Intutive Eating. I suppose it was the right time, I devoured it (pun intended). I immediately reached out to find out how I could learn more and 5 years later I couldn’t be more grateful for that client who missed their session. Intuitive Eating not only changed my relationship to food, it changed my relationship to my body and then it changed my entire outlook on how I, as a psychotherapist, practice.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My dream is to start a body neutral run club. I love running, but I very much dislike the culture around running. Just today I saw an email about registering for a 5K so that you can enjoy your Super Bowl snacks. I want to create a run club that empowers people to like their bodies, like the sport of running and feel ok moving the body they have without wanting to change it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Listen to your own voice. It is so easy to reach out to others for advice and opinions, but sitting with yourself is the best way to make decisions that are right for you. Listen to your heart, listen to your gut, listen to your thoughts, they are valuable.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Instagram @embodiedpsychotherapist

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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