We had the good fortune of connecting with Megan Amato and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Megan, what’s your definition for success?
This is such an interesting question which can be answered through a couple of different lenses. Growing up in an individualistic and capitalistic society, I think most people’s first response to this question would be something along the lines of “a good job, making a lot of money, a house with a white picket fence” and so on. The society in which we live reinforces this idea and it can be really hard to feel happy when you are working towards success in a way which doesn’t match up with what you want internally. This used to be my idea of success too, but over the years as I have come to know myself better and come to understand the societal structures that influence us, my perspective has changed. To me, success isn’t a destination, but a journey. It’s an ever moving and always evolving target in which I attempt to be living my most authentic life. I can see how this can feel a bit scary because how can we be “successful” if there isn’t a benchmark to reach? I’ve learned that I can be happy without these benchmarks and destinations; that I don’t need to measure my own success through someone else’s terms and definition. As long as I continue moving towards authenticity, I know I am on the path to success.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working for WAVE Therapy, a group practice located in Southern California. I started out with an interest in the field in high school and decided to pursue a BA in Psychology. It felt like the next natural step to continue on and get my Masters in Counseling, Marriage and Family Therapy. The process of going through my masters program was one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced thus far. I went through a lot of personal growth and change throughout my time as a student, which made being a therapist for the first time ever even harder. I’m so grateful for my friends and family who really supported me during that phase of my life. After finishing school, I went on to work at a couple of community mental health clinics, which was yet another challenge. I was a brand new and very green therapist, working with perhaps the most severe populations in crisis, without a lot of guidance or support. Unfortunately, this is a common experience among new therapists. In our society, healthcare in general is not seen as a priority and it’s even worse for mental health care. This leads the whole mental health care system to be underfunded, underappreciated, and underutilized, the result of which is a mental health crisis and underpaid and overworked clinicians. It was very scary at times and I often questioned whether I made a mistake in becoming a therapist; but I knew deep down working with people and having the honor of bearing witness to their struggles, challenges, and growth was something I was drawn to doing. Thankfully, I ended up at a practice which allowed me to do just that in a healthy way for both me and my clients. I am so proud to work for a practice which fosters a healthy work environment and sees clinicians as people first. The result is happier and more effective therapists being able to support the meaningful work their clients do.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oooh what a fun question. I was born and raised here in San Diego and I love it here! We have such great spots it will be hard to narrow it down. I love hiking so it’s something which would be a top priority. Torrey Pines State Reserve has trails on the cliffs with an incredible view of the ocean. For a little bit more of a forest-like hike I would recommend Mission Trails Regional Park. After hiking we would need some fuel so I would go to Meraki in University Heights for a delicious smoothie or some avocado toast. Of course we would have to visit the beach and my favorite is Pacific Beach. It has a super fun and chill energy with a lot of shops and vendors to check out. Balboa Park is also a must and I’m lucky enough to live within walking distance. It’s such a rich area full of museums, gardens, water features, and San Diego’s history. They also have an Organ Pavilion where you can catch free shows pretty much every weekend. For some stellar cocktails I would recommend Kindred in South Park. Kindred is an all vegan restaurant with a pink goth punk vibe that creates such a fun atmosphere. After that, dinner at Donna Jean in Hillcrest! They are an all vegan Italian place that has the best pizza I have ever had, vegan or not! I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite taco shop, El Zarape, in University Heights. Their veggie supreme burrito is the best!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to dedicate my Shoutout to Mark Brewer, LPCC, LMFT. Mark is the founder, owner, and CEO of WAVE Therapy, the group practice where I work as a therapist. In all of my previous jobs, I was seen as a “warm body” and thrown into situations I was unprepared for and had no support. I was worked to the bone and experienced severe burn out and I hadn’t even been in the field very long. In the field of therapy there is often a belief therapists have to leave themselves at the door, meaning the things which make you who you are don’t belong in the room. This was something I really struggled with because, as a therapist, I ask my clients to show up authentically and share their deepest thoughts and feelings with me. How could I ask them to do that when I was being told I wasn’t allowed to show up in the same way? The parts of myself that make me who I am were not welcomed at these jobs, which created a huge disconnect in my life. It was really scary to have to confront the possibility that if this is what it’s like to be a therapist, then I don’t think I can do it. When I found WAVE, it was a bit of a latch ditch effort to stay in the field and continue being a therapist, and I am so glad I ended up here. At WAVE, we are not only encouraged to be our whole selves but we are celebrated for those things which make us who we are. We are encouraged to show up authentically with each other and with our clients. It’s such a stark difference from the field as a whole and it has been so refreshing. Working at WAVE has truly healed me as a clinician and as a person. I am so thankful to Mark for creating WAVE and to Barbara Benavidez LMFT, the management team, and the clinicians at WAVE for continuing to foster such a special and supportive environment.