Interview with ACBS Member Michelle Maidenberg

Printer-friendly version
MichelleMaidenberg175x175.jpg

Welcome to the feature of the ACBS monthly newsletter where we learn more about the inspiring work of ACBS members. For the January newsletter, Kate Morrissey Stahl interviews the co-founder of “Thru My Eyes” Michelle Maidenberg, PhD, MPH, LCSW, CGP.

Who are you?

I maintain a private practice in Harrison, New York. I am also the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of “Thru My Eyes” a nonprofit organization that offers free clinically-guided videotaping to chronically medically ill individuals who want to leave video legacies for their children and loved ones. A professional videographer and trained counselors are available at no cost to help guide clients through the challenging task of presenting a gift of lasting messages to their children and other family members. The organization was founded to empower those with life-threatening illnesses with the peace and knowledge in knowing that they will be remembered by those whom they loved the most.

In 2009, I met 40-year-old Dede at the gym I attend. Her blazing blue eyes (thus the name “Thru My Eyes”) and beautiful red hair were striking. After my exercise regimen I was standing at the mirror getting ready for work. We got into conversation about children and I expressed that I had four children and she disclosed that she had a daughter who was seven at the time.

Through our encounters at the mirror she eventually shared that she always dreamt of having many children but because of her bout with breast cancer and her extensive treatment, at the time, she accepted that she would remain childless. She described her daughter as being her “true miracle” because she and her doctors believed she would never conceive. She expressed how thankful she was to be in remission and spoke of her journey of discovery and evolution toward committing to live a present and purposeful life.  Approximately a year later, we stood by the mirror and she shared with me the facts about how the cancer had returned and she was receiving aggressive treatment and understood that she was “in the fight” of her life. My heart sank. I watched as her hair fell out, she became progressively weaker and eventually could not make it to the gym any longer. A fighter she was.

Dede worked out until she absolutely couldn’t anymore. I once asked her, how do you do it and muster up enough strength to come to the gym and remain so generous and positive. I’ll never forget her answer; it is forever burnished in my mind. She said during her last bout of cancer that she made the decision to live every moment of the rest of her life with appreciation and joy and planned to carry that out no matter what her demise. I marveled at her courage and motivation.

Further along in her illness, she approached me about wanting to videotape herself discussing important milestones for her daughter so that she could be left with anecdotes and critical lessons for life. She asked if she can consult with me about developmentally appropriate topics to cover. I helped her come up with a structure from which she wanted to be videotaped.

A few women at the gym did research on where they might offer such a service. At Sloan Kettering they had a videographer who came to the hospital only if a patient requested it. They had to be videotaped at the hospital, they had to pay for it, and they would be videotaped without any support or guidance. A few friends chipped in and we were able to get the videographer to come to Dede’s house to videotape.

Out of this experience I was committed to making this service for families readily available, effortless, supportive and empowering. I felt it should be offered at no cost so that all families, despite their socioeconomic status can benefit. Also, that families that are already incurring substantial financial stress do not have to be burdened with this additional expense. In addition, it should be accomplished in the comfort of a person’s home to preserve their dignity and integrity, and lastly, that a licensed mental health professional should be present throughout the taping so that they can offer emotional support and provide a script from which to guide the interview that was based on the topics they personally selected to discuss. Video footage of the family’s interactions (i.e., playing, reading, and practicing family traditions) are also edited into the final video legacy at the discretion of the family.

What connected you to the ACBS community?

My practice is formatively grounded in the contextual behavioral sciences. I have advanced training in ACT, am a member of an ACT supervision group, and use ACT in my direct practice with clients. I am the author of the book that is grounded in ACT, “Free Your Child From Overeating" 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health.”

I greatly appreciate and utilize ACBS’s plethora of valuable resources. I use the research resources, publications, the podcasts, and PowerPoints. I also have tremendous gratitude for the open, generous, and supportive ACBS community. I feel honored and fortunate to be part of this thriving community.

What are the most important values that you bring to your work?

The most important values I bring to my work are: human dignity, integrity, ethnic diversity, self-determination, commitment, perseverance, adaptability/flexibility, curiosity, compassion, learning/competency, and engagement/connectedness.

What got you started in social work?

In college I sought advice from a professor because of my desire to conduct family therapy/treatment. He advised me to consider social work which was the direct route his wife had taken in her studies. After doing research, and learning more about social work, I decided that it would be my chosen profession.

I wanted to do direct clinical practice, so I attended NYU because of its clinical track. After completing my MSW degree, I attended a two-year post Masters training program in Family Therapy and then I completed my doctoral studies in social work at Wurzweiler School of Social Work at Yeshiva University. To complement my social work education, and given my interest in health, I elected to further my education and earned a Master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) in Community Health Education at Hunter College.

What are your other professional activities and interests?

I created and coordinate the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Program at Camp Shane, a health & weight management camp for children and teens and Shane Diet and Fitness Resorts, a resort focusing on health & weight management for young adults and adults.

I’m an Adjunct Professor at New York University, teaching a graduate course in Mindfulness. I am the author of Free Your Child From Overeating: 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health. Utilizing CBT, ACT, and Mindfulness. I am also a blogger for PsychCentral and publish articles in various publications and speak on a variety of topics including trauma, anxiety, mindfulness, ACT, CBT, health and wellness, parenting, grief and bereavement.

I am a Board of Directors member at The Boys & Girls Club in Mount Vernon, NY. I am also a member of American Red Cross Crisis Team and serve on the Board of Directors of the Westchester Trauma Network (WTN). I have advanced training in CBT, ACT, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Structural Family Therapy, and Mindfulness.

Where could we learn more about your work?

Web: My Website: http://www.michellemaidenberg.com/

Thru My Eyes Website: www.ThruMyEyes.org

Facebook: Dr Michelle Maidenberg: https://www.facebook.com/michellemaidenberg

Twitter: @DrMaidenberg: https://twitter.com/DrMaidenberg

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michellemaidenberg

Free Your Child From Overeating: 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health https://www.amazon.com/Free-Your-Child-Overeating-Handbook/dp/1615192700

PsychCentral Blog: Dr. Michelle Maidenberg – Thoughts of A Therapist: https://blogs.psychcentral.com/thoughts-therapist/