Today we’d like to introduce you to Veronica Cisneros, M.S., LMFT.
Veronica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Statistically, I should be married with about five kids and on welfare. I come from a highly dysfunctional home where codependency and my Father’s addiction was my only source of connection. My father was a hardcore gang member, alcoholic and heroin addict. Although he was high most of the time, he did his best to show me how to confront the world without any apologies. My mother did everything in her power to show us there was more to life by keeping us active in commercials, modeling, and dance. She also taught us – at a young age – the value of self-worth and self-respect. A lesson I model and teach my three girls and clients.
It was during the first commercial I landed in Malibu that provided me with a glimpse of how the other half lived. I knew I wanted more in life, I just didn’t know how it was possible. Ever since I was young, I knew I was meant to do something “BIG.” I Just didn’t know where to start. As far back as I can remember, I was the go-to person for advice. Not sure why or how, but providing validation and empathy for others came naturally. I remember being involved in a program for underprivileged youth, I was asked to stand up and introduce, “my future self.” It felt so empowering and from that moment I knew I would do whatever it took to make that announcement a reality. I started working toward my Bachelors in Psychology, did some training as an ABA Tutor, then later applied for my Masters.
Getting into Grad school was not easy and when I received notice of acceptance, I felt as if I finally found my path. As a Grad student, I was one of the top in my class. I knew working with mentally ill people would not be easy and I wanted to learn everything possible to help those in need. I knew I wanted to be trained in a Hospital setting however, I was told it was impossible. I sent my resume anyway and contacted the manager. After some relentless effort for this interview, I began my training. I was trained in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). These are big words used to define a therapeutic orientation. We use these theories to help others get through their struggle by challenging their negative thinking and change their unhealthy behaviors. I later joined a group practice as an Intern. I was so excited to be in private practice, I immersed myself in learning. I was trained in Psychodynamic and Jungian therapy. Most issues we currently experience can be traced back to our childhood, so I was taught to go deeper and not Band-Aid my clients. My supervisor was very impressed by my ability to connect with others, so much so, that I was offered a full-time position matching the salaries of my colleagues who were licensed.
My hunger for learning helped me progress and soon my clients were referring me to their friends and families.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Where do I start, between SWAT team greeting me and my family at gunpoint down my driveway as a child, to receiving a phone call from my husband informing me that he was blown up by an IED, to being a mother of three, all alone while my husband was away on deployments. Who was going to teach me how to get on this, “so-called path?” While my father was a barber and the sole provider, he never pursued being an entrepreneur due to fear of stepping out of his norm. I was met with much judgment and criticism and any time I talked about college and pursuing my goals, I was given a side stare. I am the first in my family to obtain any college education, let alone a Master’s degree. This was by no means easy. I met my husband at 19 years of age and we have been married for 19 years. Being married to a Marine is difficult and overwhelming! You are faced with many challenges. Being alone is one of them!
Deployments, training, and moving take a huge toll on the family. When my husband was deployed, I constantly felt on edge by the news and the sound of a doorbell. Uncertain about the dangers that surrounded my husband most days. No one to talk to and everyone telling me, “you should be used to this by now.” Felt like a kick to the face. While in Graduate school, I had a full-time internship in addition to being a mother of three. I remember my daily routine would consist of dropping kids off at school, working, going to school myself, kid’s homework, bedtime stories, studying, then sleep at 11 pm only to wake up at 3 am to complete 20 to 30-page research papers. It was a routine I lived by. Consistency and structure were my friends. Keeping the end in mind was my motivator. I learned a lot about myself throughout this journey. Through my own personal work, I now understand the power of addiction and how it can rob families of connection. I understand the importance of being authentic and transparent. I recognize we actively make choices that can keep us stuck or set us free from bondage if we can face and challenge our fears.
My advice to others is to identify your “WHY” and your “TRIGGERS.” What makes you want to quit? What feelings are you least comfortable with? If you can identify this then it will be much easier for you to conquer them. Lean into your insecurities and face them! The more you sit in the discomfort, the more you challenge and face your fears. I’m not going to lie, this part sucks!!! No one wants to sit in their insecurities and be vulnerable to pain. However, think of the alternative. Who wants to stay stuck?
Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. My specialty is providing therapy for women, who feel defeated, overwhelmed, stressed, anxious and depressed consumed by perfection. They are ready for change, however, they don’t know where to start and have low self-esteem. I take a great deal of pride in what I do. I am passionate about helping women define who they are outside the roles they play. Most women come into my office with low self-esteem, self-worth, unable to talk to anyone about their issues for fear of being judged and criticized. She is afraid to tell anyone because she feels her façade will be shattered. She’s worn so many masks she doesn’t know who she is anymore. She experiences anxiety and tells no one. She masks this by shopping, overwhelming herself with tasks and caring for others before herself. She doesn’t have true relationships because she’s afraid to be vulnerable. When asked who she is, she can’t answer the question and feels embarrassed because she’s been living a lie. She doesn’t want to be defined by her work (housewife, employee or entrepreneur) anymore, all she wants to feel is empowered and self defined. I provide my clients with the coping skills to challenge negative self-talk. I help them establish a true connection and identify how to stop being a prisoner of perfection. Collaboratively, we develop a roadmap to meet goals they want in life. This is done by providing a safe, nonjudgmental environment.
As a provider, I find myself most proud of the connection I make with my clients. My clients have commented on how well I am able to relate with them and challenge them outside of their comfort zone. I believe that it’s because of the many life struggles that I have encountered in my life that have given me the ability to empathize and relate to my clients on a deeper level than most other clinicians would. Within that hour it is important I provide them with the change they desire. My clients are not alone and it is important they feel as if someone is on their team ready to fight like hell in order to achieve true success. I value and appreciate their vulnerability. I want to do whatever I can to impact as many women as possible. My Motto: Give Yourself Permission To Live The Life You Want To Live & Challenge Anything That Gets In The Way!
Are there any apps, books, podcasts or other resources that you’ve benefited from using?
I love the app called Calm, I often recommend it to my clients to assist them in deep breathing exercises.
I have enjoyed reading, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” by Stephen Covey, “You Are A Badass,” by Jen Sincero and, “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t),” by Breńe Brown. I love listening to the podcast “Impact Theory,” “The GaryVee Audio Experience” and Project Me, with Tiffany Carter. I find these three podcasts to be motivating, inspiring and encouraging as they teach people how to have a growth mindset and provide tools to help their listeners reach their goals.
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- Other: https://www.psychologytoday.com/profile/206344
Alanna Farmer Photography, Bobbie Starr