In light of COVID-19, SoFi, a loan refinancing and personal finance company, has started providing employees, and up to three dependents over the age of 18, access to a mental health platform called Modern Health, in addition to in-network coverage of mental health providers included in their employee health plan. Modern Health offers employees up to six in-person or video therapy sessions and a range of digital resources like classes on meditation.
As a part of my series about “How Business Leaders Are Helping To Promote The Mental Wellness Of Their Employees”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Nabil.
Sam Nabil is a licensed psychotherapist and the creator of the Positive Existential Therapy (PET) method, designed to“reinvent therapy for the 21st century“. He is also the founder of Naya Clinics and is a Cincinnati therapist and a Cincinnati Marriage Counselor.
Sam offers therapy in Cincinnati and Cincinnati Marriage Counseling for adults suffering from relationship challenges, life transitions and anxiety.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, 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?
I studied a BA in International relations with a minor in economics in college intending to become a diplomat. That did not pan out, and I instead worked as a sports marketing manager in Doha, Qatar for 9 years. I then shifted base to Cincinnati in 2012 where he trained as a medical health counselor . During my training as a mental health counselor, I was bitterly dissatisfied with the generic and non-personal nature of the therapy clients were receiving, which consisted mostly of Cognitive Behavioural therapy. For that reason, I resolved to start his own private practice. Currently, I live with my wife and daughter in Boston, and my practice serves clients both in our many offices across the USA as well as serving a global clientele online.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
The most interesting theme of my career is that most people who learn about it find it very random, whereas I find it very consistent. For example, it is pointed out to me a lot that I seem to have been all over the map studying political science and economics, then studying sports management, then mental health counseling. The way I look at it, these are all different angles to view the same broader topic which is “human relations”. The way I think about it, International relations are human relations at the level of countries and international organizations. Sports is an exquisite form of human interaction, competition, and also bonding. And ultimately, counseling and coaching is considering human relations and interactions at the most fundamental level- the human him/herself.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Especially during this time of uncertainty, with mass layoffs, heightened health precautions, and societal lockdown, anxiety is running rampant in the homes of many Americans including Therapists. Focus with intense dedication on what you can control, and avoid with zeal getting tangled in things you have no control over. The more you focus on what you can control, the more your anxiety will dissipate. The more you allow yourself to drift to domains not under your control, the more anxiety and despair you will feel, Choose wisely!
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
In America, the average full-time employee spends a third of their lives at work. This is a considerable amount of time and can have a measurable effect on many aspects of individuals’ lifestyle, potentially affecting mood, mental health and overall sense of wellness experienced by the employee.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my absolute favorite life lessons is that you absolutely should not be more royal than the king. That is a term I learned in my political science studies, but one that has profound implications in the domain of human interactions and counseling. Simply put what that means is that you can NOT love someone more than they love themselves, Can NOT help someone more than they are willing to help themselves, and can not force someone to accept help if they are not ready for it. So many therapists ( and helpers ) in general experience burn out because they take on themselves the responsibility of their clients getting better. That in my view is a horrible example to set for clients ( and people in your life). A helper is responsible only for what they can control, which is proving the best possible care they know-how. The result of the care — whether a client gets better or not, or how fast a client progresses- is the responsibility of the client, not the therapist, is the responsibility of the receiver of help, not the one providing the help.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. In recent years many companies have begun offering mental health programs for their employees. For the sake of inspiring others, we would love to hear about five steps or initiatives that companies have taken to help improve or optimize their employees mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Starbucks announced that beginning April 6, all of its employees (which the company calls “partners”) who work 20 hours or more per week will now be entitled to expanded mental health benefits through its employee assistance program (EAP).
Each employee and their family members will be able to access 20 sessions a year with a mental health therapist or coach through the provider Lyra Health, at no cost. The benefit rollout will impact more than 220,000 US workers and their family members, according to Ron Crawford, vice president of global benefits at Starbucks.
- Target is offering its US employees access to free online resources to support their mental, emotional, and physical health. Employees will receive a year of access to Daylight, a website and app designed to help users navigate stress and worry, and Sleepio, an app that provides self-help tools to improve sleep.
For the month of April, employees will also be able to access free virtual fitness classes through the app Wellbeats. Before the pandemic, Target employees already had access to the company’s EAP program that, among other benefits, offers five free counseling sessions.
- PwC recently introduced well-being coaching sessions where employees can reach out to a professional coach to discuss anything that may be causing them stress. They also created an online community for workers to connect with one another to discuss the challenges they’re facing surrounding coronavirus.
The firm already offers employees and dependents six free therapy sessions, confidential emotional support via mobile app, and free apps on guided meditations, sleep, breathing, and relaxing music.
- Kickstand Communications, a public relations, content marketing, and social media agency, already provides employees with a monthly wellness stipend that can be used to pay for mental or physical health. Because of coronavirus, the company recently began providing employees with a more flexible work schedule, and three hours per week to step away from the computer and recharge.
- In light of COVID-19, SoFi, a loan refinancing and personal finance company, has started providing employees, and up to three dependents over the age of 18, access to a mental health platform called Modern Health, in addition to in-network coverage of mental health providers included in their employee health plan. Modern Health offers employees up to six in-person or video therapy sessions and a range of digital resources like classes on meditation.
These ideas are wonderful, but sadly they are not yet commonplace. What strategies would you suggest to raise awareness about the importance of supporting the mental wellness of employees?
Many times some types of leaders lack self-awareness making it unlikely that any lasting change will happen in their behavior. As a result, expecting lasting change or appropriate respect may prove to be an elusive goal.
In most cases career coaching may be an ideal choice to help you assess what steps you should take.
Having a professional work through the process with the employees can provide a level of support that can help decrease the anxiety surrounding making a big lifestyle change.
From your experience or research, what are different steps that each of us as individuals, as a community and as a society, can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling stressed, depressed, anxious and having other mental health issues ? Can you explain?
How we respond to someone opening up to us about their trauma, anxiety, stress or even grief can have a big impact on both our relationship with that person and their healing process. We typically mean well in what we say to others; however, sometimes our own emotions and discomfort can take over and lead to hurtful statements. For example: Instead of saying:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”, “I’m sorry you went through that.”Try saying:
“I know this is a really hard time, and I’m here for you.” Or It takes time to heal.”
“It’s normal to feel this way.”Instead of: “Isn’t it time to let it go/move on?”Normalizing a person’s feelings during their depression can help them feel understood. This also lets them know that you do not see them as a burden, which allows them to feel safe sharing their feelings with you.
Habits can play a huge role in mental wellness. What are the best strategies you would suggest to develop good healthy habits for optimal mental wellness that can replace any poor habits?
Meditation can be a means of dis-identifying from one’s thoughts and ideas, creating a space of observation and non-attachment. Counseling, I have seen counseling be a space where people leave with a greater sense of ease, certainty, calm, and peace of mind that they might not have known to be possible when they started.
Practice self-care, Allow yourself time to decompress and process your emotions by doing things that are relaxing and promote emotional and mental wellness. For example, practice deep breathing, journaling, take a bath, exercise doing these things stimulate and invigorate feeling good.
Do you use any meditation, breathing or mind-calming practices that promote your mental wellbeing? We’d love to hear about all of them. How have they impacted your own life?
I do. My self-care practice of choice is physical exercise. My preferred sports is football(soccer), and tennis. I also do lift weights and run occasionally. I have tried Yoga repeatedly, and have found it immensely helpful, but have not been able to be as consistent with it as I would like. One of my exercise goals currently is to do 30 minutes of yoga sessions 3 times a week.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
It is difficult to pick one book, but I can definitely point the readers to the most impactful writer I have read for, and that is Irvin Yalom. Dr. Yalom is a psychotherapist and a very talented storyteller as well. A common theme in his books — from my perspective at least- is that they impart very substantial wisdom in an engaging story form, making it a great way to learn and be entertained at the same time. Some of my favourite books from Dr. Yalom are Love’s executioner, lying on the couch, and when Nietzsche wept. Can not recommend his books highly enough. In fact, I recommend some of his books to my clients on a regular basis as part of their therapy.
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. 🙂
I’m very interested in democratizing the knowledge that mental health therapists have, and making it easily accessible to the public. People fear what they do not understand, so the more we can shed a light on mental wellness and mental illness, the less stigma and fear there will be. At my practice, we offer a downloadable PDF that clients can fill out at home in 20 minutes or less, which would give them some very deep and meaningful insights into their relationship patterns and choices of partners. This is our attempt to democratize the couples counseling field. I can also envision in my mind’s eye an app where users can answer a few questions about their mental state, and get a rudimentary DSM diagnosis. Many colleagues are apprehensive about this idea. I believe it would be helpful because the public is now resorting to simply googling what they think their symptoms are, often giving them wildly inaccurate results. An app that actually uses the criteria of the DSM would yield better results, even if not as accurate as being assessed by a therapist.
What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?
Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!