We had the good fortune of connecting with Shiva Howell and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Shiva, what’s the most important lesson your business/career has taught you?
I have a career that consistently reminds me of the power of human connection. The impact you have on one person has this ripple effect on everyone around them and I think we all need to be reminded of that. Magical things happen when you show people empathy. I work with people who have endured some really horrific things, and that doesn’t mean that they are the ONLY ones who deserve empathy! There is no hierarchy in pain… everyone has their tragedy and everyone deserves compassion. Even the “bad guys” have their story and are ultimately responding to their environment. I’ve learned to not judge people’s behaviors and to respect everyone’s journey.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
In many ways I consider myself to be a non-traditional therapist. Starting out in my career I had a distinct vision of how I thought a therapist should act. My ego initially led me to behave far too seriously around my clients. My own imposter syndrome left me feeling like I had to prove something. I thought that in order to be a good therapist, I had to say something profound or life changing at every session. That just wasn’t sustainable. I realized that most people just want a therapist who can cultivate a more natural relationship. Someone who can show emotions, while still offering a skillset. I was ultimately doing people a disservice by being this walled-off blank slate that I was taught to be in graduate school. The more authentic I became, the more authenticity I received in return. I found the balance of being myself and still being a skilled psychotherapist. Putting aside my own visions of being this ultra sophisticated professional helped me gain this therapeutic style that I feel proud of today. I truly value the relationships I build with people and if I expect vulnerability and honesty from my clients then I have to be willing to give the same in return.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I was born and raised in LA so I take for granted so much about this city! I would want to give a visitor a taste of all the different sides of LA. I would relive my youth and get dolled up for a fancy dinner that shows off the pretentious/glamorous side of the city in Hollywood. I would catch a live Jazz show at my favorite supper clubs, Vibratos in Bel Air, or Vitello’s in Studio City. I would also have to take them to Pace, my favorite little Laurel Canyon restaurant. During the day we would go on a safari wine tasting at Malibu Wines, go for a hike at Malibu Creek State Park, and of course enjoy all the beautiful art this city has to offer at LACMA, the Getty, MOCA, and Bergamont Station.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I dedicate this shoutout to all the people who have opened up their lives to me and trusted me in their darkest moments. To all the parents who trust me with their children’s lives, the couples who are willing to let it all out, and the skeptics who think therapy is a bunch of bullshit but still give me a chance to change their minds. It’s an honor I don’t take for granted!