Ridgewood-based Psychotherapist Gives a Voice To Women
Looking for a way to foster empowerment for women, New Jersey psychotherapist Tanvi Mathew’s #YouGotThis gives a voice to women and further positions women as powerful warriors in society just looking to be heard.
With the purpose to educate women and aid them in finding a healthy work/life balance, Mathew developed a workshop and a blog to share the story of 10 influential women looking to share their stories. From celebrities to news anchors and real estate agents, Mathew found women of varying backgrounds to spread a message of hope, sharing their story through the #YouGotThis blog she kept.
“My goal is for young girls to be equipped to advocate and be assertive for themselves,” Mathew said. “Women talk so much about feeling stuck, but they don’t realize just how much time they waste talking about it when they can be doing something about it and actually moving forward.”
While her career specializes in children and women, Mathew started her career 16 years ago with her first field experience at Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospital in Morris Plains working with adult populations with severe mental illness. Her next opportunity came from a hospital working with children coping with abuse, abandonment and other traumas. By graduate school, she focused her career on working with children and teenagers. She later moved into an administrative position, working as the program director for a children’s program at the hospital she worked at and also opened her own private practice, Emerge, in Ridgewood.
“I’ve always been fascinated with mental health and how we respond to our environments and people around us,” Mathew said. “People talk about how others ‘make them’ feel a certain way or do certain things, but they don’t realize that they are the only ones who have control in managing themselves. I’ve been very successful in having people become aware, understand and take responsibility for their responses. In therapy my clients begin with redefining their relationship with themselves and understanding the relationship with self is the most important relationship in your lifetime.”
With her work with children, Mathew started having parents come in to help sort through the issues that the children came in presenting. What she found, she said, was that many coming in were of one-parent households or that the fathers of the children were not able to make it. As mothers came more frequently, they also started to schedule their own appointments to speak with Mathew, and as the mothers and children both worked to resolve their stressors, Mathew noticed a shift in the family dynamic and saw progress.
“Families were reporting they were aware of feeling more successful and lines of communication were opening up because it wasn’t just one client, it was the family dynamic,” she said. “So, I was finding with the mom we don’t hold ourselves self-accountable for our own life and we don’t realize the choice we have, and we let people dictate. We don’t feel empowered like we should. As that started happening, I started to get more women in their twenties coming in, right after college, trying to figure out their career. I was seeing the same thing with them too; there was no work/life balance. It was either one or the other – stuck in an abusive relationship and feeling they had to constantly feed the need of their significant other and not focus on their career or being so invested in their career trying to climb the corporate ladder that they didn’t have the time to have personal relationships to develop. This all really started about 2 years ago and that’s where my whole women empowerment came into play.”
As her own health took a toll and she had a major flare with her ulcerative colitis, Mathew was forced to find the same balance she was encouraging her patients to find. In September, she left her position at the hospital, and #YouGotThis became her passion project. First, however, she ran a workshop with the same name and the subtitle of “Women Looking for Work/Life Balance (Minus the Guilt).” This workshop was a presentation of value systems and the importance of self-worth. The blog became an expansion of that.
“#YouGotThis came when I was sick in March,” Mathew said. “While I was on bedrest for a week, one day I woke up and said, ‘I’m going to have an event. I can’t be the only one going through this and I know exactly what I need to do.’ From there, I started to get the ball rolling. This workshop was for women and having that work/life balance minus the guilt because we’re always like I’m not going to make it through and one of the things my husband said to me when I felt this way was ‘You got this,’ so that’s where it came from. My husband essentially inspired it.”
In her involvement with the women empowerment movement, Mathew started getting more calls from women and she became inspired. Her first goal was to find someone with a platform that could help her share her message.
Mathew reached out to people through social media, asking for support and went to bed, unsure of responses to expect. By morning though, she had a reply by Dolores Catania of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” and a few weeks later, they had a session scheduled and the blog began after their four-hour session.
“We talked about everything – how she hit rock-bottom and how she came back up,” Mathew said. “She said to me, ‘You should make this bigger. You need to go out and get more women.’ So, I agreed and said, ‘Let’s get 10 women.’ I had no idea where these 10 women were going to come from and at this point, I was still working at the hospital in the summer, but it was still fueling me. I was still multitasking and trying to find my balance between work, my kids and my practice. I didn’t want to give any of it up. I started thinking of women from my childhood and people I knew, and one person would introduce me to another person and before you knew it, I had these 10 amazing, powerful women.”
In addition to Catania, the women included an Emmy-winning journalist, a celebrity make-up artist, a New Jersey mommy blogger, a neurosurgeon, an author, a news anchor for CBS in Atlanta, Ga., a real estate agent from South Carolina, a breast cancer survivor who owns a non-profit and is on Forbes non-profit board, a radio host and an executive vice president of Valley National Bank. Each shared their tale of adversary and triumph, and each story was recorded as a new post to be featured on the #YouGotThis blog.
Working through this, Mathew not only felt a change in herself, but she felt even more inspired and motivated to continue the work she started.
“I went through my own shift. Doing the workshop, I was very motivated.I was like a bull. I wanted to get women on board and start making changes and do it for themselves. The blog was a little more difficult because a lot of the women I had known personally, and even I hadn’t, their stories were so impactful. Things like becoming an orphan at 13, three of the women were assaulted and never reported it, poverty, the racism, you name it, infidelity, raising a kid on your own – it was so impactful.
“[A project like this shows] we are capable of doing anything. You have to have faith in yourself and refocus. When we start to change the way we think, we’re going to start changing the way we feel and when we start to change how we feel, we start to change all the possibilities that exist around us. It’s important for girls to learn at a young age that they will have to work hard, and life will knock them down, but they will get right back up and try again until they reach their goals.”
Overall, the goal of #YouGotThis was to help connect women and help them support one another. While women have stepped forward to participate in the blog since its inception, Mathew has decided to leave it at the 10 women for now. She does hope to hold more events that include the original women for question and answer sessions and to continue spreading their messages of hope and empowerment.
“I think women tend to take each other as a threat but we need to change that view,” Mathew said. “We need to change how we think; we need to support one another more and I mean that genuinely. You have to uplift each other. When you rise, if you’re leaving someone else at the bottom, give them your hand and help them up. If you know that you have something to offer that’s going to benefit someone else’s life, why not help them. Life is not about competition and who’s going to get to the top first, and women, we are warriors, but we don’t often realize it. We need to bring each other’s strength out.”
Mathew looks to continue her work though to teach women and girls to work hard and pick themselves up when things get more difficult. She is looking to one-day reach out to work with both men and women, but for now is focused on empowering women and helping them find their voice to be able to be feel fulfilled.
“Live your best life each day,” she said. “Don’t sell yourself short. That’s a big thing, it’s not about luck. It’s about how you do things and you have to change how you see things. If you keep seeing the same pattern and nothing is changing, you need to change something, and you need to change your pattern.”
More information on #YouGotThis and Tanvi Mathew can be found at https://emergecounselingnj.com.
By Tara DeLorenzo