• Melissa Mamatas

    Melissa Mamatas
    Owner/founder of Mamatas Counseling Associates

    Describe your role as Owner/Founder of Mamatas Counseling Associates.

    It is still weird for me to see owner or founder beside my name! Owning and operating a private practice has long been a dream of mine. Primarily, my role is to provide counseling or psychotherapy, assessment and consultant services to the community. I see adults, young adults and adolescents dealing with a very broad range of mental and emotional health needs from basic life changes to those with a complex set of emotional challenges and circumstances. Some of my particular areas of interest include women’s health, maternal and paternal mental health (from preconception through pregnancy, postpartum or loss), infertility, work/life balance and transitions, and LGBTQ+ identity. I also manage the space of several experienced and highly talented associate therapists and two massage therapists.

    How did you get into the mental health field? Have you always wanted to work in this field?

     I have always been interested in the human brain and mind, but it took some time to figure out what I wanted to do with that interest. Several psychology courses, lab assistantships and volunteer experiences later, it was clear that I wanted to pursue a mental health career that involved direct contact with people and established therapeutic relationships. I’ve worked in many different types of mental health-related environments before deciding to pursue private practice and the lessons learned from each have been invaluable.

    What do you think your strengths are and how did you identify them?

    Honesty/transparency, nonjudgmental acceptance and a sense of humor – I think you have to have a good sense of humor to remain in this field of work. Mental health is serious work. You have to be able to find reasons to laugh as much as possible to stay balanced.

    What is the most rewarding part of your job?

    The relationships: the privilege of being allowed into someone’s life; to hear someone’s story. Doing the thing I have always wanted to do, whether it is counseling someone through a crisis, helping empower someone to make changes that they thought were impossible to make, identifying a diagnosis that has been missed for years or observing my clients as they realize the progress they have made.

    How have your setbacks and weaknesses made you stronger?

    Every setback, however difficult, has made me stronger, and there have been plenty. One example: infertility. It just sucks, and there’s just no better way to say it. What made it particularly difficult for me was that it was due to severe endometriosis, a condition that had been completely overlooked by my physicians for over 10 years. While the endometriosis itself cannot be cured, its impact on my ability to have a child was a major setback that fortunately came to resolution when our daughter was finally born. I have learned to take nothing for granted. I have also learned how to be a stronger advocate for my own health.  And finally, it has led me down a path of increased empathy, advocacy and education regarding women’s health, reproductive health in general and infertility/family-building options.

    Weaknesses are a bit different. Anything that may be considered a weakness is also a strength when utilized in the right situation and vice versa. I can be very direct, especially when it comes to business matters or important situations. While this sounds like it should easily be classified as a strength, it has sadly led to setbacks when not fitting into someone’s (or a company’s) idea of what a woman should be like.

    In today’s society, people, women especially, are taught to be independent and resilient. But when we’re taught to be too resilient, we push ourselves too much and we neglect to ask for help. How do you balance your vulnerable side and your resilient side?

    Women are being taught much more often than in the past to be independent and resilient. However, no one really teaches you how to be resilient, only that it is important to recover from or adjust quickly to change, difficulties or misfortune. Sometimes resiliency is modeled for us by other strong women in our lives, and sometimes it is simply part of your natural personality.

     Pushing ourselves too much and neglecting to ask for help are situations that women find themselves in increasingly often. It is a common conversation topic in my office. For women, especially, there is a sense of guilt or shame that comes with asking for help. Whether it is the stay-at-home mom balancing a newborn and older siblings at home who are full of rage and desperate for a night’s sleep; the professional who realizes she is being taken advantage of by being given a double workload while still making less income than her colleague who has a much smaller workload or the loyal executive that will not take a single day off work to get necessary medical care, the fear that asking for help will lead us to be seen as weak, incompetent, whiny or “difficult” women is a widespread concern.

    I believe that to lead a truly fulfilling life, we must allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Starting my own counseling practice put me in a very vulnerable position, not only was I starting from scratch with plenty of new bills to pay, but there was a chance that it would fail. Once I embraced that vulnerability, I decided I would either succeed beautifully or fail magnificently. Either way, it was an incredible learning experience that needed to happen for me to truly feel fulfilled.   

    How do you define what it means to be a fierce woman?

    A fierce woman is an everyday activist, an everyday leader. She is aware of the box others may put her in because of her gender and could care less. She speaks up for herself and for what she knows is right; she is ready to confront, educate or have the important conversations, no matter how uncomfortable they may appear to be. She also empowers others to do the same. A fierce woman is strong willed and determined and kind and puts just the right amount of passion into everything she does.