We had the good fortune of connecting with Marina Braff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Marina, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
I knew that I wanted to be a therapist beginning in 7th grade. I had the unique opportunity of being trained as a conflict manager where we were taught how to diffuse emotional entanglements between our peers. Not long after my training, a friend came up and confided in me that she had been cutting in order to deal with family conflict. That was far beyond my scope as a conflict manager, but I was able to get her to talk to our school counselor who referred her family to a Marriage and Family Therapist. From that experience I knew that I wanted to be able to help people in similar situations.
Throughout what felt like a thousand years of school and internships, I always knew that having my own private practice was the end goal. I wanted to be in a situation where I was able to create my own schedule, work with the clients that I knew I could help most and have the freedom to design a space that was healing for all who came in.
I have been licensed and running my own practice now for three years and am proud of all that I have created for myself and the work I have done to serve my community.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I remember having guest speakers come into our class in grad school who were less than encouraging about being able to have and maintain a private practice. Many of them shared how challenging it can be to make it financially and how easy it is to get burnt out. While that might have scared off some, for me it was more of a, “Challenge Accepted,” situation.
And it was a challenge. As a therapist you have to complete 3,000 hours as an intern and take a doozy of a clinical exam before you get to call yourself licensed. During those years I was working with a lot of high intensity cases and going into clients’ homes. This is when I recognized just how important self-care care was if I was going to be able to maintain my skills and mental health in this field. Despite what felt like an endless amount of hoops to jump through, I continued to keep my eye on the prize- a private practice in the Beach Cities, working with teens and young women who were struggling with anxiety, depression and life transitions.
The perseverance to keep pushing even when times got challenging, even when I felt overwhelmed by all of the jobs I was juggling– that’s what makes me most proud. Looking back, it was that hustle mentality I had that got me in front of the people that I needed to and has helped to set my practice and journey apart from others. The last supervisor that I had, Dr. Jenn Chrisman, PsyD, told me that if I wanted to make it in this field I had to learn how to get in front of my ideal clients and deliver a powerful message. After some brainstorming of how I was going to do it, I realized that public speaking is something that doesn’t make me shudder- it excites me. She encouraged me to host presentations at local community centers and start getting my name out.
I did my first solo presentation in 2017. Four years later, I am proud to say that I have engaged in over 150 speaking engagements with schools, local community service chapters, start-ups and large corporations. I created a self-care series, Soul-Full Sundays, where I curated experiences for women in the community to come together and engage in self-care on a monthly basis. During this last year I have provided webinars to companies offering their employees support on how to work from home and manage anxiety during what has arguably been the most uncertain time in our lives. The energy I get from speaking to an audience, including my students at Pepperdine University, has been one of the most surprising and rewarding parts of my career.
I recently spoke with a student and she asked a poignant question. “If you could go back and tell your younger self anything, what would it be?” The answer: Just keep swimming. Trust the process. When challenges get thrown at you, look for ways that it could be an opportunity instead of a life sentence and always have good people in your corner- they make this process so much more rewarding.
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?
I moved down to Orange County during the pandemic but continue to see clients once a week in Redondo Beach so I’ll give a little itinerary for both. For the South Bay, I want them to experience the beach vibes and how friendly the people are. We would start with brunch in the Riviera Village, probably Rockefeller’s, and wander around the adorable shops there. Aside from a few chain coffee shops everything else is a mom and pop, mom and mom or mom and daughter shop, which only adds to the quaint beach town feels. After wandering around we would stop over at The Punch Bowl to grab a smoothie and head down to the beach for some people watching and fun in the sun. We’d end the day by having dinner in Hermosa Beach at The Bottle Inn and enjoy our meal while watching the sunset. If my friends come visit me in OC, there are a few must-visit spots. I’d start by taking them to grab coffee at the Lost Bean, check out the gorgeous flowers, plants and #homedecorgoals at Roger’s Gardens in Newport, have lunch at the Farmhouse there and finish the day with some wine tasting and charcuterie boards at Mcclain Cellars in Laguna Beach.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Geez, that is such a hard question! The first person that came to mind is someone I continue to think about- my first supervisor, Carolyn Labbe, M.S., LMFT. I worked with Carolyn when I was in grad school and began working with clients. I can vividly remember talking to her moments before I met with my first client EVER. I, of course, was terrified. She was perfect in that moment. In her easy, breezy Carolyn voice she told me words I will never forget. “Marina, it’s simple. All you need to do is listen and hold space. That’s it.” My mind was blown and my nerves were settled- at least for a short moment. She gave me gems of encouragement and challenged me in all the best ways during our year together. Now, fast forward six years later and I am teaching a counseling skills course at Pepperdine University for future MFTs. I find myself repeating that phrase to my students every term, encouraging them to “let there be air,” and to remind themselves to be themselves in therapy- that they are their greatest tool. Thank you Carolyn for giving me the greatest professional foundation and always giving me that extra little nudge.
Photo Credit: Luck Pho; Casey Figlewicz