Meet Michael Mantell, a Licensed Master Social Worker and therapist at our practice.
What is your favorite thing about being a clinical social worker/therapist?
Because I work with children, adolescents, and adults, in a variety of settings (homes, schools, an outpatient clinic, and private practice), my environment is rich in diversity. It is not limited, and it allows me to be creative.
I also love that I get to hear so many different peoples’ stories. I think everyone has so much to offer: therapy is just as therapeutic for me as it is for my clients. I get to help people better themselves and it is great to be part of that change.
What is a personal challenge you've overcome that makes you a better therapist ?
I have three that have all contributed to making me better at life, and in therapy room:
- I am a member of the LGBT community. Growing up, there was always a part of me that felt different from others. Through socialization I learned to devalue myself. I didn't think I was normal. But, overcoming what I never thought I could overcome — identifying as gay, coming out, and actually loving who I am —allowed me to see the other side of things. At first thinking I couldn't do anything and not loving myself, then finding out who I really am and being proud of that person. It gave me greater power to see what I can accomplish.
- I lost someone very close to me several years ago. Knowing this part of the human experience and seeing the changes through time has made me more humble as a human being. It has made me even more thankful for what I have and what I have had.
- Long distance running. I do marathons and ultra-marathons. My longest (so far) was about 40 miles. Being able to do something that I once thought was insurmountable physically and being able to accomplish that physical feat has allowed me to see what can happen when people change their state of mind. It takes work, energy, and effort but I saw that it's possible to make even the smallest change. This has really helped to solidify my way of thinking - that our mental health is so intertwined with our physical health and lives. I believe understanding this makes me a better therapist.
What's most important to you?
First and foremost being happy and content in life; and the health and happiness of those around me. Knowing that you have done the best you can and having as little regret as possible. Also – human connection. To me, everything that we do needs to have this human connectedness. It is one of the reasons that I went into this field.
What are your passion projects/interests?
Running is definitely one of my passions. It is also a coping mechanism for me. I go for a run when I want to be alone or when I feel stressed. I go for a run if I want to do an important project or assignment and nothing is coming to mind. I have also made it into something more personal and important. Every year I raise money for charity when I run. I have supported a number of local and national organizations — raising over $20,000 under the alias Mikey Runs it. It is very important to me to make that human connection. Every year I try to up the ante and do something more. One year it was one marathon, another year it was an ultra-marathon, one year was five marathons; I even did 3 marathons back-to-back in three weeks). I try to always strive for the greater good.
What inspired you to pursue a career as a therapist?
Growing up knowing that there was something different about me, I really wished there was a safe place where I could explore and talk things out. I really wanted to talk about my feelings but I didn't feel like I had that kind of place. I want to be able to provide that environment for others to be able to establish a sound and healthy living.
How would you describe your therapeutic approach?
First and foremost, I try to meet clients where they are at. Before formulating any plan, first I get to know the client . I want to engage them and build a rapport. I assess what work we need to do in the therapeutic process, their goals, and, of course, ask them for their input. My work is very insight oriented and strength-based. I look at their core conflicts and utilize Cognitive Behavioral Therapy which looks at thoughts, feelings, and reactions and how these interact with each other to shape our existence. I subscribe to narrative therapy, too. Everyone’s life is their story. Sometimes we create a story and stick with it but that can be one-dimensional. We work on 'thickening' the story and making it more three-dimensional. Narrative Therapy helps our clients gain a sense of control over their lives.
Additionally, skills such as problem-solving, conflict resolution, active listening, empathy-building, anger management, communication and coping skills are so important to the work I do, whether with children and families or adults and couples. I think this also makes for excellent results.
When working with kids, especially, I use play therapy. Play is the how children communicate and the lenses through which they see and engage with the world around them, so it becomes a natural and creative way to provide therapy to young people.
What makes you unique as a therapist?
I am not sure I would say it is unique but I am extremely good at individualizing services and sessions, which comes with the territory when you work with both children and adults. I also find that I have a good sense of subtext, understanding what's below the surface - the real problems or concerns - and helping clients label and understand them. I have a very diverse background and utilize different approaches. I do not have a cookie-cutter approach. I am also very honest with my clients when I provide feedback. I don’t hide things. I think that is counter-productive to therapy. I try to stick with this methodology first and foremost, and I think that is what makes me unique.
As a therapist, what are you most passionate about?
I believe everyone essentially wants the same thing. They want to be happy and get their needs met, and for the most part, I believe, they want others to be happy, too. I love helping individuals, couples, and families with communication and problem-solving skills to prepare them to resolve conflicts at home and prevent them from happening in the first place. When you work with families and couples it's so gratifying to witness the positive change they can experience through therapy. You can see the relationship become elevated and that is just awesome.
Everyone needs self-care. How do you practice self-care?
Running is my number one. It is an enjoyable hobby that allows me to destress and unplug from the world. I also enjoy taking in a Broadway show or a musical, spending time with family and friends and surrounding myself with the people I care about and love. I also like to get out of the city when I can to regain balance and recharge my batteries.