“Why you will be happier if you see your friends in person than if you ‘facetime’ them” With Dr. Marian Durao

Try to see your friends personally at least once a week. Although the results of the virtual meetings are similar to the face to face ones, the amount of oxytocin that is generated when we are face to face with our affections is way higher. I had the pleasure to interview Marian Durao, of Terapia Point […]

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Try to see your friends personally at least once a week. Although the results of the virtual meetings are similar to the face to face ones, the amount of oxytocin that is generated when we are face to face with our affections is way higher.

I had the pleasure to interview Marian Durao, of Terapia Point

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I started my studies to become a psychologist when I finished high school. Before graduating I got married, my first son was born and I left college to give my full attention to my family.

I then became interested in high performance and recreational athletics and diets. So I worked hard on that and built a very successful coaching practice aimed at people and companies who wanted to change their habits and start a healthy life, until I finally decided to return to complete my psychology studies.

After that I trained in different specialties: Master in Emotional and Personality Disorders (University of Valencia, Spain), Specialist in Psychotherapy (Aiglé Foundation, Buenos Aires Argentina). I worked in public hospitals, I was a professor at UADE University, I specialized in the supervision of therapists and I was trained in Interpersonal Neurobiology. I also co-authored a book titled Systematic Case Studies in Psychotherapy with Challenging Patients. From 2014 to this date I am an exhibitor at SEPI (Society for Psychotherapy Integration) and at S.P.R. (Society for Psychotherapy Research).

The subject for the thesis of my PhD in Psychology (with a specialization in Neuroscience) was about the use of video calls from the perspective of therapists. This topic fascinates me since a large percentage of my clients are living abroad and we communicate through a screen. Some of them I have never met in person and the treatments are still very effective.

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

It’s hard to pick just one!

The story of a client who spent her last two years doing fertility treatments in atypical conditions comes to mind; her partner had received chemotherapy at age 18 and the semen samples they had were very scarce. She lost three pregnancies and the last attempt kept her in bed most of the gestation period. We continued our weekly sessions throughout the pregnancy and, finally, 15 days ago two beautiful twins were born. Seeing their photos and the joy on their parents faces is breathtaking. This is a great example of how therapy over video-call can work so amazingly well.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

I recently co-founded and helped launch Terapia Point, an app that connects therapists in Latin America with clients in the US (with an initial focus on the US Hispanics population).

The US faces a deficit of over 30,000 mental health workers, therapy is crazy expensive and many times also hard to access. In Latin America, especially in Argentina, qualified therapists abound and their rates are cheaper. With Terapia Point, clients get therapy with top professionals for a fraction of what they would pay in the US; sessions are done over video-call and clients can try their first one for free.

Between work and personal life, the average adult spends nearly 11 hours looking at a screen per day. How does our increasing screen time affect our mental, physical, and emotional health?

We still do not know exactly which will be the consequences of this change of habits that humanity is suffering. As time passes, there are more therapeutic programs that suggest leaving all screens for at least a couple of hours at the end of the working day. Other programs talk about a kind of detoxification: spending the weekends without a cellphone, leaving a message warning whoever wants to be in contact that the person is unavailable until Monday or the following week. The benefits are very large and I am convinced that we are moving towards the assessment of the decrease in hyperconnectivity.

Turning to specific symptoms and issues that stem from too much screen time, we see a wide variety of them. Couples having issues because one of them is hyper connected while the other is not, with all the problems that can bring. There’s an increasing number of visits with concerns around anxiety, irritability, issues related to sleeping and resting well, interpersonal conflicts and even a decrease in cognitive functions: holding one’s attention, concentration and the capacity to plan ahead, among others. There’s also a feeling of impotence in those who are aware they are using their devices too much and want to change, but can’t.

All of this is leading to the emergence of what we could define as “technology burnout”.

Can you share your top five ways people can improve mental wellness and create a healthy relationship with technology?

1) Leave your cell phone for two hours every day and try to examine and identify how you feel. Try to extend this as long as you can or at least certain days of the week. Many clients are amazed with the results.

2) Do not waste your time comparing your life with that of other people in social networks. They are just pictures, the movie (their lives) is usually different from what you think.

3) Try to see your friends personally at least once a week. Although the results of the virtual meetings are similar to the face to face ones, the amount of oxytocin that is generated when we are face to face with our affections is way higher.

4) Choose which social networks you want to use and who do you want to follow. Many people follow people who provoke negative feelings and many times that’s the way how they start their day. “Why do I follow this person?” Maybe this is the question that can make us review and remove from our social networks those who do not affect us positively.

5) Try to make sure the last thing you do before you go to sleep is NOT checking your phone (you can try reading, talking with your significant other or family, etc.). Do this and you’ll get more and better sleep. The light coming from the screen is bad for you because it leads to a decrease in the melatonin levels in your body, an hormone that’s key to falling asleep and having a truly repairing good night’s sleep.

51% of Americans say they primarily use their smartphone for calls. With the number of robocalls increasing, what are ways people can limit interruptions from spam calls?

One way to fight these annoying interruptions is by setting your iPhone to “Do Not Disturb”, then adding to your “Favorites” list the contacts from whom you want to accept calls. Your phone will ring only if the caller is on the list, while calls from all other numbers will go straight to your voicemail and appear on your “Missed calls” list. At the end of the day you can check your voicemail and your missed calls and decide on which ones you’d like to follow up (and when).

There’s a similar feature for Android phones, though I’m not that familiar with it.

Between social media distractions, messaging apps, and the fact that Americans receive 45.9 push notifications each day, Americans check their phones 80 times per day. How can people, especially younger generations, create a healthier relationship with social media?

Many people feel overwhelmed by the time they spend connected to their devices; some have diagnosed themselves as “addicted to technology.” When working with my clients, I try to start by understanding what this “addiction” means, why it’s happening and how it feels. Becoming aware of this is very important.

This addiction usually begins with the person increasing the time he spends on his phone –in many cases consuming casual games and/or social media– with the ultimate goal of avoiding uncomfortable personal situations, feelings or thoughts. The addictive behavior is related to the extreme discomfort that the person experiences if his cell phone is unavailable, and can lead to varying degrees of depression, anxiety and negative thoughts.

I encourage my clients to leave their phones for what they feel are extended periods of time and to observe how they feel and what emotions they might have been trying to avoid. We then work on gradually increasing those periods of time. There are other great exercises, for example “analog dating”: dating where both parties leave their cell phones at home or in their bags. It’s actually a lot of fun to see what happens. There are people who see it as a personal achievement and are amazed by what they learn about themselves, their relationships, how communication is working (or not), and even about what is happening at nearby tables!

On the tech side, I highly recommend following the guidelines created by the Time Well Spent movement. Some examples are turning off all notifications (except those from people), going grayscale and charging your phone during the night outside of your bedroom.

80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth in the morning. What effect does starting the day this way have on people? Is there a better morning routine you suggest?

The problem with the cell phone is the “unlimited” habit. If you start your day eating breakfast and checking the news (whatever they are) on your screen, that could be considered a healthy habit… as long as it does not interfere with your punctuality, connection with others or state of mind. The issue is when, for example, the first thing you do when you wake up is you check Instagram, see all these pictures of people’s dream-like vacations, become sad or angry and stay like that the whole day.

In terms of better routines, I’d start by charging my phone outside of the bedroom, and ideally setting it to Do Not Disturb during the night. Try to make the habit of not touching your phone until you’ve had your morning ritual, whatever that means to you (e.g. having breakfast, brushing your teeth, a morning meditation?). It might help to try to see this “sacred offline time” as a kind of mini daily vacation.

Can you please give us your favorite life lesson quote?

There are many quotes I like, but there’s one lesson that comes to mind and I feel is very relevant to what we’re discussing here:

No one has as many friends as it appears he has on Facebook, nor has a life as amazing as it looks on Instagram, nor is as successful as he seems to be on Linkedin.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That movement would be all about A) improving education about emotions from an early age and B) removing the stigma from mental health.

Behind every emotion we feel, there’s an insight to be drawn. But we haven’t really been taught to decode them… Most people just avoid emotions and miss these messages that are very important in our lives. I know this because I work on it every single day with my clients! (Staring at our screens all day is a great way to avoid connecting with our emotions by the way).

Teaching people about their emotions and the place they should give them should be as important as learning to add or subtract at school. The world would be such a different place…

Stigma is the other big challenge. What happens in this regard in Argentina is wonderful: going to therapy here is the most usual thing, people will openly talk about it with their friends. For many, therapy is even cool… something that signals you care about yourself, your personal growth and your emotional wellbeing.

It sounds like at least some groups of people in the US and other countries are getting closer to this position, but there’s still a long way to go. So we need to help start more conversations around the topic, and also build more resources to bring down the barriers to access.

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

Terapia Point’s Instagram account is fresh out of the oven and you can find us at @terapiapoint.

We’re happy to see the conversation around mental health on Instagram gaining a lot of momentum, and we’re looking forward to be a part of it.

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