We had the good fortune of connecting with Nicole Serrano and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Nicole, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Work life balance looks different for all of us. I try to look at it through a realistic lens as far as what is happening in my life right now, and what my overall goal is. For example, I know that my ultimate goal and dream is to have more afternoons and days where I can be present with my kids, and be able to attend to our health needs of appointments, and more quality time with play/fun. I also know that sometimes life is busy, or responsibilities are many during different seasons. I acknowledge that sometimes the reason for work dominating our time is due to financial issues, or schooling or training that will get us to a better place of financial stability or balance. In these cases, look at your schedule, and consider what is the time you do have? Is there anything you can do to give yourself more time to fun/play or quality time for self love(care)/love with others?

If the answer is yes, then the next baby step would be to consider how can I make that happen? sometimes we start with that one day at a time, one minute at a time until we gradually build up to a better balance over time.
For others it works best if they give themselves structure and block out specific days or chunks of time.

Regardless of the technique you take, the reason work life balance is so important is because we often are so hyper focused on work/career and feel that our identity is wrapped up in how much/ how hard/ where we work. I think it is so important to realize and remember that we are meant to live and have time to actually enjoy activities, time and space that brings us joy, peace and happiness.

Of course, this is an every day/week/year journey for me still. I have to take a step back and evaluate where my time is going, and how I am feeling. When I was in graduate school, I was working full time and in grad school full time. Therefore I hardly got self care time or time with my loved ones. I was extremely stressed, down, struggling with lots of anxiety and depression symptoms. I NEVER want to repeat a time like that in my life again. However, I also do not regret it because It has allowed me to work little by little to my overall goal of work life balance. Now, I am in a place where I get 2 days extra where I can get quality time and be present with my family, even if I have some work tasks sprinkled in here and there on those days. But I can also now block off weekends or even 4 days in a row of not touching anything with work to reground myself in slowing down and spending more time in spaces that are relaxing and calming to my mind, body and soul.

What should our readers know about your business?
I am the founder and owner of Nicole Serrano Licensed Marriage Family Therapist Inc. I started off as a sole proprietor doing private practice therapy solo, after spending the first part of my career in community mental health. I wanted to bring my experience, awareness and multiple skills of severe mental health treatment in the community which was only usually able to be accessed by rigorous qualifications (homelessness, multiple mental health crisis or hospitalizations, severe risk etc) and offer these skills to outpatient services. These skills included awareness of trauma informed care, how to manage crisis, how to connect patients to more services, helping clients build activities of daily living (such as when people have severe depression or anxiety and are struggling with hygiene habits, or simple routines to help their daily functioning and more.)

As I started my practice I quickly realized that many of us have never had someone advocate for us, or teach us how to manage these skills and obtain resources to continue to help us outside of the therapy room. I continued my work, and when the pandemic hit, everything as you know got very stressful which means there was a huge demand in sessions. Although this can be great for job security, it does not feel great to have a closed waitlist and not be able to take on hardly any new clients because of no availability. This really got me thinking and exploring the idea of expanding as a group practice. I have a vision of not only being a space to provide quality therapy to clients, but also want to continue to have more clinicians that can offer the same type of trauma informed, culturally informed care and be able to provide resources that can help them. I wanted to connect with other clinicians that have the same community mental health background and the desire to learn and grow to always give the best treatment possible to clients. So after a year of transition, we are on the road to growing our team and providing more services to the community!

Perseverance, networking and quality work are the bones of the foundation of getting where I am today, and learning learning learning. There is so much we can learn from one another, and it is important to not work from a scarcity mindset in therapy but rather abundance. The reality is there are so many that need support and help, and far too few of us able to provide it, so I always encourage transparency, and empowering others. Let’s build each other up so we can continue to provide to the community!

As far as if it is easy, I don’t think any path of work is easy. Everything takes internal motivation and continuous growth. However, I also refuse to say it is near impossible or hard because this was the message I would get when I first started, and it made me really scared to try because I also needed stability and to provide for my family. It was not until my own first therapist from graduate school, solidly told me not to doubt myself, that it was absolutely 1000% possible and to take baby steps and told me how to begin connecting, networking and what to look for. This support (thank you April Pratt, LMFT!) was the fire that gave me a foundation of confidence that continues to grow over the years.

So if you are reading this, and you are not sure about what you are trying to do—- network. Connect. Break it down in little steps. You CAN! If you are a therapist reading this and having the same thoughts that I did, feel free to reach out, I would love to help through pointing you in directions for networking and connection or even coaching.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh My! My area is essentially the whole of the Inland Empire in CA, but it is so easy to venture in to San Diego county, OC county, LA County and more! If we are starting near by business, I would say the whole center and strip of restaurants right by my office are a great place to start! We have Haven City Market, Mica’s Peruvian Fusion, Catalina grill & cantina and Rare Tea, not to mention some Bikram hot yoga and other fun shops and activities.

I also love spending time in downtown Claremont (you seriously cannot go wrong at the packing house or around it) & downtown La Verne (Chase’s, Allegro, Granny’s Yogurt & Warehouse pizza for the win!) These are the places that are fun, have delicious restaurants and bars but are close to home and comfort.

If I want to go much bigger, new, and unique I would either head down to Temecula for the wineries and the delicious restaurants in the wineries or in Old Town Temecula (make sure to have breakfast at the Swing Inn Cafe!). I can also have fun in Anaheim, or LA at any of the amusement parks, baseball stadiums or concerts in the area! (Hello Universal Studios, Disneyland, Knott’s, Angels & Dodgers!)

If I want some relaxation with sun and pools but need it more local than Vegas, then I love Los Arbolitos hotel in Palm Springs, CA. If I need fun and refreshing for the soul, we would spend time at Newport Beach (Dory’s Deli is our go to, and enjoying it on the sand!) (or Long Beach, Laguna Beach etc). Or perhaps take a drive down to San Diego for Pacific Beach (maybe stay at Blue Sea Beach hotel and have delicious food and coffee at Woody’s) or Imperial Beach (I love staying at the Sand Castle Inn and walking to the SeaCoast Giant Pizza shop or Doggosgus, or Katy’s Cafe for breakfast) and good foods surrounding it.
If I need to reconnect a bit with nature in the mountains, I love a good day trip to Lake Arrowhead village or Big bear. If I have a long weekend, lets roadtrip down to Lake Tahoe! (I am so ready for the postal cafe breakfast or Whitecaps Pizza or Jiffy’s Pizza in Carnelian Bay.)

So much to do, so little time!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would love to dedicate this shoutout to my grandmother (Tita) who has since passed but was always a role model and inspiration for me and still guides/ inspires a lot of the work that I do to this day. I would love to shoutout every colleague (too many to name!) that has ever grounded me, reassured me, validated me, consoled me and encouraged me to continue to grow and stand strong in self confidence. A support system is key to growth and learning! A huge shoutout to my close family for going through the growing pains with me and loving me for the very vulnerable human that I am. Thank you!

Website: www.nscounseling.org

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nicoleserranomft

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

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGh6M7byaryMroPXq88b3Pg

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