health care,
education and
social services

health care,
education  and
social services

Your Mental Health Matters!

Taking care of our mental and emotional life is not so different than taking care of our body, says Susan Fleischmann, a Senior Clinical Manager with Mary's Center's Behavioral Health department.

Many would not hesitate to go to the doctor if they had the flu, broke a bone, or were experiencing significant pain and did not know why. We go to the doctor hoping she might be able to help us better understand the condition that is giving us pain or reducing our mobility, and expect she will suggest interventions based on her expertise to help us get better.

Seeing a Mental Health Provider is not so different, except here the visit is to address some kind of emotional or mental pain, or a physical pain that has no medical cause. We might be at a point in our suffering where we seek help because it’s too overwhelming to deal with alone, we are not able to function or we don’t know what to do to feel better. These are just some of the reasons that people seek services at Mary Center’s Behavioral Health Department.

In my years as a therapist, I’ve come to understand that because our feelings, thoughts and behaviors accompany us wherever we go, the adage “wherever you go, there you are” describes mental life well.

These three aspects of our being – feelings, thoughts and behaviors – matter a great deal and affect our health as much as the state of our heart, or bones or sugar levels.

tiles spelling "mental health"

As no one escapes life’s joys and sorrows, at any given moment we may feel sad, or happy, fearful or angry, shocked or numb, and the list goes on. This is probably why most therapists have a Feelings Chart in their office, or at least a PDF version in their mind’s eye – ready to help our clients identify any feelings they may be unaware of or to assist others to feel and heal feelings they are overwhelmed by.  

Likewise, our thinking accompanies us always: some days we may think thoughts that are approving of ourselves after a task we feel we did well, or in an encounter with a loved one who respects us.  On other days, we may berate ourselves for a setback that we think was our fault or a characteristic of ourselves for which we have no forgiveness or slack. Here our therapist may want to drill down to find out what core beliefs we are holding that influence the way we talk to ourselves, and to help us challenge these beliefs and build new healthier ones.

And finally, there are our everyday behaviors which could include eating nutritious foods, getting together with friends we trust and enjoy, and going to a job that makes us feel productive. Or conversely we might escape our dissatisfaction by drinking a six pack, avoid situations that we are afraid of – or “tell off” a co-worker who we think has disrespected us.  Alongside these behaviors, our therapist will join with us to help us face these addictions, avoidance behaviors or interpersonal patterns that are keeping us from a more satisfied and meaningful life.

 Just as feelings, thoughts and behavior make up our mental life, it is when any of these get stuck in rigid and unhealthy patterns that cause suffering or dysfunction, that we can consider this a state of mental disorder. Mental disorder is exactly as the term indicates – our mental life – feelings, thoughts and behaviors) are not “in order”.


So what can you expect when you decide to visit a Mental Health Provider? 

  • For starters, he or she will greet you warmly and ask why you have come, or how she or he can be of help to you. For this there is no right answer, you are just invited to share what is on your mind and heart, no more, no less. A good Mental Health Provider will help you feel as comfortable as possible, knowing it’s not easy to talk to a stranger about intimate things.
  • Next, he will take your vitals as a doctor does, but instead of checking your pulse, weight, or A1C level, your Mental Health provider will ask about mental health symptoms like panic or difficulty getting out of bed, nightmares, or constant crying.
  • He will then invite you to share about your life to try and understand your pain in the context of your current life and past.
  • Though a mental health therapist will ask many questions the first few sessions, he or she will then collaborate with you to see what areas of your life or your inner life you’d like to change, for the better. She will help you give form to your concerns and to begin to lay out a path to getting well.

In my five years working here at Mary’s Center, I’ve had the privilege to observe and experience the deep compassion and wisdom of the Mental Health Providers in the Behavioral Health department, as well as the courage, resiliency and insight of the people who come to our offices every day to build a life of more ease, deeper sense of meaning, or both. This drive in people to take the risk to re-shape their lives in some way, sometimes small but usually profound, is truly an honor to witness. It is this journey that we celebrate this month of May, Mental Health Awareness Month. This month we seek to not only de-stigmatize the care of our mental life, but to take one step further and celebrate it.

To schedule an appointment with one of our therapists, please call 202-420-7122 or request an appointment online.

Susan FleischmannAbout Susan Fleischmann, LICSW

Susan Fleischmann is a Licensed Social Worker. She joined the Mary's Center team in June 2011 and is based at the Ontario Road site in Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C. Ms. Fleischmann is particularly interested in adult psychotherapy (relational and psychodynamic). She holds an MSW from the University of Maryland at Baltimore and a Certificate in Adult Psychotherapy from the Baltimore Washington Center for Psycho-analysis. She was born in Baltimore and is of German heritage. She enjoys the outdoors, going to the theater and making mosaics. Ms Fleischmann says: "I chose to work in mental health because I think that mental health determines our ability to function in life at our maximum potential as well as to experience higher levels of life satisfaction. Find ways to get support and enjoy yourself. Do one thing each day that makes you feel good or at least better."


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