Today we’d like to introduce you to Seth Menachem.
Seth, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I was raised in New York and Miami, but I loved acting and writing, and after graduating with a BA in Psychology from Emory University, I wanted to see what it would be like to pursue entertainment as a profession. My dad had died when I was a teenager and one of the more impactful feelings I was left with was that life is short, whether you die at 50 or 100, so go do what you love.
While working creatively filled some needs for me, there was so much distress in a career where a good part of the equation is out of my control. It made it difficult for me to ever feel entirely grounded. I didn’t have control over the kind of work I’d get or how often I would get it; I’d book a job, and then be right back to hitting the proverbial pavement. I’d spend inordinate amounts of time writing and creating TV series, get lucky enough to sell them, only to have it not picked up by the network. There was a point when I had sold this TV show, with my friend and I attached to star in it, and as I was working with my staff in the writer’s room, I remember thinking, “I wonder if I could ever work as a therapist at night?” It’s such a funny, almost absurd thought, as I was writing from morning to night, doing this thing I loved, and then thinking it might be nice to also be a therapist. I thought of the lesson–life is short. I had kept putting off this idea of graduate school because I thought it was too long of a journey, and too unrealistic for me after working for all of these years as an actor and a writer to go and get my Masters in Clinical Psychology.
I was in my own therapy at the time, and I was thinking about these negative thoughts and what good they did for me. It turns out they didn’t do a thing but keep me from trying things I wanted to try. So I confronted the negative voice in my head and applied to graduate school. It was one of the greatest decisions I have ever made in my life.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
In comparison to the world of entertainment, it has been a pretty smooth road. That’s not to say it has been an easy road, but I never expected it to be. What it has been is a road where even when the wind isn’t always at my back, I know if I work hard I get to where I want to go. And I think that’s pretty important for all of us. It’s not much different than the work my clients do in therapy in that it’s not always easy maneuvering one’s way through their psychological baggage, but when you put in the work there is a huge payoff.
The biggest hurdle initially was going to graduate school at night, while I still had two kids in diapers at home, a wife working full time and a huge amount of work I had to pack into an already packed schedule. Many nights my wife would wake up in the middle of the night, find me working on a paper or reading a book, and ask me if I thought this was all worth it. I always did.
I was also working in a traineeship at a residential addiction facility where I was paid exactly zero dollars a week. The training was excellent, though, and I loved the difficult work helping the clients struggling with addiction and the family members who were affected by it. I continued to work in the rehabilitation facility seeing clients and running therapy groups after graduating from school. After I was licensed, I worked in a private practice and a dual diagnosis facility which catered to clients with addiction issues and more co-occurring disorders, such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and borderline personality disorder.
We’d love to hear more about your practice.
After I got my Masters in Clinical Psychology, I opened my own private practice. One of the first things I did was start the only therapy group catered specifically to people in entertainment. I continue to run process groups and would suggest group therapy to anyone who has the ability to join one. It’s some of my favorite work. Most of my work is with individuals rather than couples. I lean towards psychodynamic therapy, which means I think understanding a client’s past, childhood, and early experiences are very telling in how clients operate as adults. I also think the relationship to the therapist is very important in helping to resolve those conflicts and to aid in it by creating corrective emotional experiences in the room. Although I’m traditional in some respects, I also have a public Instagram page called The_life_of_a_therapist where I allow people into the process of therapy, as well as what it’s like being a therapist. I also answer therapy questions for people and give a glimpse into my life and my own struggles as a parent and as a human being.
About half of my clients are in entertainment, a good portion of whom are actors and musicians. While some struggle with the inconsistency of the work, many of my clients are traversing being in the public eye while also working through their personal issues. It’s a unique niche endemic to a city like LA, where people who dream of getting famous, sometimes actually get famous. And then the reality of what that means is a minefield they have little understanding of how to navigate. A quarter of my clients are orthodox/Hasidic Jews, who come to me because I am both familiar with the world, while also not being a part of the community. And the other quarter of my clients are very diverse, although the anxiety, depression, addiction issues, and existential ones intersect through all populations.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m opening a new office in Valley Village this summer. I live in Studio City, and I’m excited to have an office closer to where I live. I feel so lucky to be able to do what I do. I get to help people grow emotionally, understand themselves, and find better ways to live in the world. The work is challenging, and it’s sometimes painful, but it’s always rewarding. I have a job where I look forward to going to work every day. And had I listened to my negative thinking years ago, I would have never gotten to know what this feels like.
- Address: 12840 Riverside Drive
Valley Village, CA 91607
- Website: SethMenachemMFT.com
- Phone: 323-524-3868
- Email: SethMenachemMFT@gmail.com
- Instagram: the_life_of_a_therapist