Each Friday, a local Bay area business is featured with the intention to connect communities. These businesses are innovative, progressive and operate with their community in mind. If you know of a local Bay area business with an entrepreneurial spirit, marches to the beat of their own drum and wants to uplift and empower their community, submit their info here.
What: Psychotherapy Center
Where: 582 Market Street, Suite 1110 | San Francisco
Why: Co-founders Elizabeth Sullivan and Traci Ruble have found a way to not only take the stigma out of mental health, but they have managed to create a refreshing and inviting approach to getting help via therapy. With community service as one of their central tenents, they give back to the community with unique and participatory concepts like “Take a Sandwich to Work Tuesday;” where they encourage people to bring two sandwiches to work that day and give one away.
Psyched is a downtown San Francisco psychotherapy center offering therapy and relationship counseling to busy working people. A special center because they offer: highly-trained therapists all with backgrounds of real-life experience in other fields, and many of whom are parents; online scheduling for busy people; and a beloved local journal, Psyched Magazine, where they publish great writing on psychology and personal growth topics from local therapists and healers. Elizabeth was the founder and first Executive Director of City CarShare, and Traci got her start as a champ in high-tech sales, so each woman brings a unique brand of start-up hustle and chutzpah--in fact they are one of the few woman-owned therapy centers in San Francisco.
Q: As founder of City CarShare and a social entrepreneur for years (Streetline.com, Senti.us), how did you transition into psychotherapy? (Elizabeth Sullivan) As someone who worked for positive social change, I found myself again and again feeling as if we could not win at the things that mattered in the world because of the emotional struggles of the people involved: I saw so much acting out, vengefulness, poor thinking and pointless competiveness. I noticed a painful lack of self-awareness in many activists, and even actual mental illness at play in the political/social arena.
In addition, as Executive Director at City CarShare, the part of my job I loved the most was my one-on-one time with the people I managed, hearing their concerns, talking about burnout and how their emotional lives were impacting work—I saw this listening as a key to my management style, and to motivating and inspiring the wonderful people who made City CarShare happen. When I left to have my first son and reflected on that part of my experience I thought, "but that was just like my therapy!"
At that point I had been in therapy for many years with an incredible person who helped me become a grown up, a great life-partner, a mother, an entrepreneur, and a writer. The impact therapy has made on my life has been a great and powerful miracle. At the same time, it is also very simple; I have had someone radically on my side who helps me figure painful and difficult things out to improve my life. I believe that if you show up and invest with your real self/vulnerability, you will see powerful change in your life.
Q: Does mental health hit close to home for you? (Elizabeth Sullivan) Yes. I don't think anyone in the world has escaped begin effected by mental health. My family has history with depression, anxiety, and even alcoholism back in my great-grandparents generation. But lots people could probably say something like, "My mom was bit anxious and I think at times my Dad might have been depressed." The sad thing is so many people are ashamed to reach out for help—even when it would make a major difference in their satisfaction and joy in life.
Q: Did you know that your unconventional formula would work as well as it does? (Elizabeth Sullivan) We have felt so inspired by therapy ourselves, and reaped so many benefits that yes, we have felt a lot of confidence—and that has been confirmed by the response.
But again and again we ask ourselves, "What really helps people in their everyday life? What does the latest research say? How can therapy be inspiring to people? How can we get people to move from thinking therapy is shameful, humiliating and weird to a more non-threatening version, like "the gym for your feelings"?
Q: Do you think your therapy center helps erase the stigma attached to mental health? (Elizabeth Sullivan) That is our goal. We want to bring the idea of emotional health into the same space that "getting in shape" and "hiring a personal trainer" occupies now. In addition, we know that lots of folks will go out and take an enrichment class to learn a new skill or figure out a problem at work, we want people to start thinking about their emotional health this way. That is, these are acquirable skills not unchangeable and hopeless.
Q: Your website is very inviting. Do you think your approach to mental health is more effective in getting people to get help? Why? (Elizabeth Sullivan) We take the lessons of smart branding and try to apply them to therapy, to eliminate stigma and highlight the inspiration and hopefulness inherent in therapy. But our guiding principle is service: offering amazing psychotherapy and couples counseling from clinicians with real-world experience in the working world, as parents, and as married partners. You're not going to show up and meet a 24 year-old intern in his or her first job.
Q: Is there a certain age group that you find you are attracting? (Elizabeth Sullivan) Working parents—couples who are stressed to the max and find their relationship is suffering. Young working professionals searching for more meaning in their lives and relationships and executives with leadership issues. We also have a specialty in seeing moms (Traci and I are both moms of two young boys each).
Q: Why was it important for you to give back and connect to the community with concepts like your “Take a Sandwich to Work? (Elizabeth Sullivan) It's a simple thing, an easy thing. Just make two sammies; look someone in the eye and give it as a little gift. It creates a moment of service in your day and the research shows absolutely that doing for others makes the do-er feel better too.
We also publish an online journal, Psyched Magazine, where we feature the writing and wisdom of over 40 Bay Area therapists and healers—this content is all free and we think of it as offering resources for people who are trying to grow and learn. We also put a very high premium on excellent writing without therapy jargon so it can be put to use!
Q: What’s next for Psyched? (Elizabeth Sullivan) We want to get the word out about our approach to therapy. We've been in the Wall Street Journal recently (and in "Elephant Journal" too!) and in other places. We are adding to our online journal, webinars and podcasts to beef up our offerings there. And we have a number of exciting announcements coming up, including one about using personal technology to extend the reach and impact of therapy sessions. See our website or Like us on Facebook for updates.