We had the good fortune of connecting with Anat Sideman-Schneider and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Anat, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
I’m not naturally a risk taker. What I mean is that I don’t like to leave things to chance. As you can imagine, gambling is really not my thing . . . On the other hand, I do believe in taking risks, even big risks, for the sake of going after my dreams and living authentically. My father was a great inspiration to me in this regard. He was a scientist and driven by a genuine curiosity and passion for his research and for life. His example formed my conviction that it’s important to choose a path that reflects our passions and allows us stay true to who we are. I’ve tried to apply this ideal in my life and to make career choices that felt authentic and that aligned with my identity. Believe me, I didn’t always get it right. But it’s this feeling that guided my decision to leave my legal career and envision myself as a psychotherapist and mediator. The decision I made probably seemed like an unnecessary risk at the time, but to me it felt like a meaningful choice and I was confident that it was the right thing to do. Returning to school for my Masters’ degree in Clinical Psychology, spending an additional four years interning as a therapist and obtaining my California license, joining a community of compassionate therapists, building treasured friendships, and opening my own private practice–every step of this journey has been transformative and rewarding. I’m forever grateful that I chose to take that leap of faith.
In theory, the same principle that applies to career choices should also apply to our personal lives. It often doesn’t feel that way. I’m mindful of how much more difficult risking our intimate relationships can be. Taking risks in love can jolt us out of safety, trigger our vulnerability and evoke fear and dread, particularly where children are involved. When we do take big risks–like neglecting our marriage, having an affair, or overlooking our own needs–our choices can have unintended, life changing consequences.
In my practice, I see individuals, couples, and families who are often facing difficult crossroads in their lives and in their relationships. Some people take big risks and others take smaller ones. Sometimes they want to avoid taking any risks at all. I try to help my clients feel safe enough to give voice to their true feelings and empower them to pursue deeper more meaningful relationships with themselves and with their loved ones. To me, that is the greatest and most rewarding risk of all.
What should our readers know about your business?
My career as a therapist and divorce mediator is an extension of who I am. I’m proud of that and I take it very seriously. I don’t think that I could have done this work when I was younger. My work is informed and enriched by life experiences that I simply didn’t have when I was younger. Moving from Israel to the United States in my 20’s, travelling the world, working as an attorney in demanding corporate law firms, raising my family, all feed into my work. I think that being bi-cultural and bi-lingual also gives me a unique ability to see things from multiple points of view, value cultural differences, and at the same time appreciate how we’re all the same. Like many people, I’ve been very lucky in some ways while in other ways my journey has been very challenging for me. Some experiences in my life took everything I had just to get through. I try to embrace all of it and accept myself with love. It’s a process that I’m continually working on as I learn and grow. I’ve certainly learned to move through life with more humility, compassion, and non-judgment. I’ve trained and continue to train in a variety of therapeutic modalities including emotionally focused therapy, family systems, gestalt and bioenergetics and feel driven by a deep commitment to supporting my clients’ personal development and family life.
For me, families are what it’s all about. Families are where we learn who we are and how to relate to the people who matter to us the most. Ideally, family members can see and value each-other as unique individuals while maintaining family cohesion. When any family member feels marginalized, mistreated, used, or pressured to conform in order feel accepted or avoid conflict, the whole family system can run into a lot of trouble. Family dynamics have the power to shape us and I believe that gaining insight into these dynamics can be incredibly healing. In my practice, I work with adolescents and individuals on their personal growth, I help couples improve the quality of their communication and intimacy, address their parenting concerns, and if necessary, support them through separation and divorce. I also see a lot of value in working with the family as a whole. I try to create safety, increase awareness, and empower clients to honor themselves, access their strengths and make intentional choices that can help them reach their goals.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Growing up in Israel back in the 1970’s, my best friend Orly and I were inseparable from the time we were four-years-old. We’d walk to school and back together every day. We sat next to each other in class, did our homework together, shared most of our after-school activities and all of our secrets. After high school, we even served in the same unit in the Israeli army. We were like sisters that didn’t have to fight over a single set of parents. Living in the U.S. my entire adult life, I don’t get to see her very often so I’m excited to plan her next week-long visit. In order to make this more fun, I’m going to pretend that it’s already summer, Covid is behind us and our usual hangouts are open to the public and safe to enjoy. I can’t wait. First, we have to plan our daytime activities. We will certainly take a couple of long bike rides along the strand that runs all the way from West LA, through Venice Beach and down to the South Bay. You just can’t beat it in the early morning hours when the light is soft, the smell of salt is in the air and ocean views take your breath away. If we’re in the mood, we might bike to Fisherman’s Wharf in Marina Del Rey and rent a couple of Kayaks. There’s no better way to spend a lazy morning than paddling around the marina, checking out at the boats and watching the seals. When we’re done paddling, we’ll reward ourselves with a cocktail at Whiskey Red’s and take our sweet time getting back on our bikes to head home. We’ll certainly want to spend time in Venice Beach, people watching, admiring the skateboarders at the skate park and the street performers on the boardwalk, stopping for lunch at the Waterfront and buying trinkets at the art stalls. We might also take a walk in Adams Morgan one day, meander through the cool shops and stop for ice cream at Jeni’s. A couple of beach days with family and friends are a must, and if there’s enough time left, I’d love to plan a hike in the Malibu hills, assuming she’d be up for that.
Now for our evening activities. We’ll start by finding out what’s playing at the Greek Theater and the Hollywood Bowl and buy tickets immediately. Hopefully, one of our favorite bands will be playing so we can sing along under the open sky. I’m crossing my fingers that Saint Rock in Hermosa Beach reopens by summertime, so we can enjoy their more intimate dance party vibe. Next, the mandatory night at the Comedy Store in West Hollywood is great fun. Dinner before the show at Katana in West Hollywood is a splurge but a great way to show off the LA scene, and a stroll down the Sunset Strip never disappoints. We might check out the Geffen Theater for their selection of plays, then wonder around Westwood taking in the college atmosphere. I’d love to introduce her to a small group of close friends and maybe spend an evening playing ping-pong in Tina’s back yard, for old times’ sakes. Most importantly, we’d make sure to find time for a quiet evening of conversation, with a good bottle of wine and unbeatable views of the ocean, at The Bottle Inn in Hermosa Beach. In the end, even with all the amazing sights and activities here in Los Angeles, having time to talk and reconnect is what will certainly make my dear friend’s visit mean the most.Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shout out to my husband and kids. I could never have gone back to school and started a new career midway through my adult life without the patience and support of my family. When our kids were young, I was already deep into my career as an attorney and able to share the responsibilities of work and family with my husband. After my father passed away, I felt a growing pull to go back to school to become a therapist, although it took me an additional five years to turn that dream into a reality and actually enroll in a graduate program close to home. By then our children were teenagers and it felt like a “now or never” proposition. Of course, my family still needed a lot of my attention and I was determined to be present and available for them. One thing’s certain: I depended on their support. I’m sure there were times when it would have been a lot easier for everyone if I hadn’t taken on such a huge detour. But I have to hand it to them . . . they never gave me reason to doubt my choice. They might have been even more excited at my graduation ceremony than I was. I’m thankful to my family for sharing my journey with generosity, understanding and love. I hope that as they continue to grow, our kids will also feel inspired to pursue their dreams and find loving support to help pave the way.
Cynthia C. Peterson Meggy Miao