Sorrenta Stuart on Talkspace, career goals, and solo parenthood
Solo Moms who could benefit from the support of a therapist find all kinds of reasons not to reach out: It’s too expensive, I have no time, I’d feel too exposed sitting in a room with a stranger telling him or her all my woes. But a new app, Talkspace, might just eliminate those excuses, connecting more Solo Moms with the help they need.
Q: You’re a Solo Mom of twin girls, a business owner, and a therapist for Talkspace. Obviously we have a lot to talk about. Let’s start with Talkspace, an online psychotherapy service. What can you tell us about this app?
A: Talkspace offers therapy whenever a person needs it. Through Talkspace, you can access your therapist anytime via your web browser or our mobile app, available on any Apple or Android device. Our motto at Talkspace is “Therapy for how we live today.” This six-word mission statement is so very true and dear to my heart. Every Talkspace client has a secure, private room in which to talk with their therapist, and clients can post or reply 24-7, so there’s no reason to wait to get something off your chest. I like to think Talkspace is like having your therapist with you, in your pocket, all the time.
Q: What sorts of issues might bring a Solo Mom to Talkspace?
A: Often, Solo Moms feel overwhelmed and lack the support system they need. They may feel depressed, lonely, and scared. Some Solo Moms may have contentious relationships with their ex-partners and/or have to deal with custody issues. These are common themes we hear with Solo Moms.
Q: Talkspace takes therapy out of the traditional structure of weekly 50-minute in-office meetings. How does Talkspace work?
A: With Talkspace, a user can send his or her therapist text messages and audio messages, as well as picture and video messages in a private, text-based chat room. Talkspace stands out because of the affordability, anonymity, and convenience it provides.
Q: How are the Talkspace therapy models particularly well suited to Solo Moms?
A: Solo Moms are often overworked and exhausted. They simply do not have the time to go to another hour-long appointment each week. Talkspace offers Solo Moms a way to get support on the go, providing convenient and affordable therapy for their needs.
Q: As a therapist, do you find that Talkspace therapy models enable you to form the same quality of client-therapist relationships you can develop in an office?
A: Absolutely. In fact, I find that my clients open up very quickly on Talkspace, as I check in with them once in the a.m. and once in the p.m. Offering this kind of daily support helps to solidify the client-therapist relationship. There is just as much trust on this platform as there is in my office.
Q: What qualifications must therapists have to work for Talkspace?
A: All of our therapists are vetted and trained to use Talkspace. We do not use interns, and all therapists must have at least 3,000 hours of postlicensure experience. In addition, Talkspace has a board of advisers who are experts in the health-care space and ensure our service is effective.
Q: More generally speaking, how does a Solo Mom know when it’s time to seek a therapist?
A: When you begin to feel that your mood or thoughts are more down than normal, or if you feel overwhelmed and overstressed, it’s time to ask for help. Loss of sleep, change in appetite, or loss of concentration are all important indicators that a Solo Mom needs more support.
Q: What barriers stop people from seeking help? What do you want to say to a Solo Mom who is experiencing one of these barriers?
A: People hesitate to seek help for a host of reasons. Often, they do not understand what therapy is all about. They may feel ashamed or embarrassed. Also, money and time often stop people from seeking support. I want Solo Moms to know that having a therapist can alleviate a lot of stress, and reaching out is a sign of strength and courage. Rather than suffering alone, I want Solo Moms to know they can live a life of contentment and joy.
Q: On a more personal note, what led you to therapy as a career path?
A: I have always been drawn to deep conversations, and I have always been fascinated with the brain and human behavior. This combination led me into the field of psychology and, more specifically, into private practice. Watching my clients grow through adversity is inspiring and a true honor.
Q: In addition to your role as a therapist for Talkspace, you own your own business. Will you tell us about that?
A: Sure! I own and run a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have interns whom I employ and train. Watching them grow is rewarding and fun. My team is made up of 10 female therapists practicing different modalities with the same mission. We provide client-centered therapy without judgment. This core belief outshines any shingle or diploma we hang on the wall. My group operates from the heart.
Owning my own business can be stressful at times with all the different hats I wear; however, the work I do never feels like work. It is my passion and my calling. I feel at home in my therapy chair.
Q: As a Solo Mom, business owner, and Talkspace therapist, how do you find balance between family life, work life, and your personal life?
A: It’s a mindset, or practicing mindfulness as much as possible. Entrepreneurship, just like motherhood, is not a nine-to-five job. Being flexible and quick on my feet helps. Some days I stay up until midnight working because that’s when the twins are in bed. Those quiet moments allow me also to reflect on a sense of pride in my work. The more I put in, the more I succeed. Sure, there are moments of “Oh gosh, how in the world am I going to get all of this done?” However, not letting the little things or the noise bother me helps tremendously.
I also try my best to be kind to myself. Self-compassion is key. Making time for me is essential for this lifestyle. Yoga is my lifesaver, as it keeps my mind, body, and spirit healthy. Some days I only have time to take a moment and just breathe and practice gratitude.
Having a sense of humor is also paramount. Laughter cleanses stress.
Lastly, I try my best to avoid toxic people. They just drain the goodness out of you. Enjoying my Solo Mom–entrepreneur life, wearing the title proudly, and doing my best to stay positive—this seems to be the trifecta for success.
Q: Will you tell us about one of the greatest challenges you have faced as a Solo Mom? How have you worked it through?
A: The major challenge I face is balancing effective parenting with my career life. I think it is a lifestyle that requires massive amounts of patience, love, self-care, and a strong routine that we all can rely on. I work through this by creating a schedule that puts my girls’ needs first as well as balancing my passion for my career. With a routine that works for all of us, we get our needs met, all of our needs, in a holistic, compassionate, and loving manner. In moments of chaos, I try and practice mindfulness.
Q: Will you tell us about one of your greatest joys as a Solo Mom?
A: Teaching my twins to seek understanding rather than judgment is a true joy that I experience on a daily basis. My girls are smart, independent, and magical. Their joy is my joy. We share so many little moments and secrets and laughs—to me that is pure love and pure joy. That, in turn, fuels me to be brave and overcome my own fears of failure. My greatest joy is to take pride in leading by example. I want my girls to go out in the world and be brave. If I feel I have done my very best every day, then I feel proud of myself, which rubs off on my girls. Showing my girls the strength of a woman is wonderful and fulfilling. We are unstoppable when we lift each other up.
Q: What advice would you give a Solo Mom who is struggling?
A: Ask for help. Build a support system that you can rely on. Find online support—such as ESME—and connect with women going through the same stuff. Share your feelings, talk, and find other Solo Moms who want to lift each other up. Ditch any toxic, judgmental people; they will only bring you down. Ditch comparisons—they truly are the root of all evil. Also, drop the need for perfection. Accept that the house can be a little untidy if it means an extra hour with your children. Be kind to yourself, and remember just how blessed you are.
Cheryl Dumesnil, ESME’s LGBTQ Resource Guide, is an author, educator, writing coach, all-around do-gooder, and one of two moms separately coparenting two amazing boys. You can follow her on Twitter at @cheryladumesnil.
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