Mental Health Champions: Why & How Talia Bombola Of Therapy with Talia Is Helping To Champion Mental Wellness

An Interview With Michelle Tennant Nicholson

Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine

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Getting coaching/self-development — I am regularly seeking feedback from my mentors and working on my mindset around helping others and money/abundance.

As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Talia Bombola.

Talia Bombola is an award-winning psychotherapist, writer, podcast host, and professor. She is a Certified Psychodynamic Psychotherapist and is known as The Confidence & Assertiveness Specialist™. Talia is the Newport Beach’s Best Psychotherapist 2022 Award Winner. Her work centers around helping ambitious women feel secure by increasing their self-worth, confidence, and assertiveness by rewiring beliefs about themselves, men, and relationships. She helps you heal the “not enoughness” that prevents you from living a life overflowing with satisfaction and self-worth. If you are interested in hearing how she works, Talia has three podcasts. She hosts Heal Through Humor and co-hosts The Couple’s Guide Podcast and Between Two Clinicians. In addition to Talia’s therapy practice and coaching business, she is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology. Talia is also the Director of the Pre-Licensed Community for OC-CAMFT.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers want to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up and the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was born in sunny southern California and raised by a pediatrician and business consultant. I have an older brother whom I consider my closest friend as well. We are almost like twins. Growing up, my parents sacrificed greatly to provide for my brother and me, which I can’t verbalize how much I appreciate now in retrospect. At the time, however, there was quite a bit of conflict and strife in my childhood home, which I believe to be largely due to generationally passed down ineffective communication skills and external stressors weighing on my parents.

I was confident as a child, and that all came crashing down in middle school, where I began to experience being bullied mercilessly. I transferred schools and started therapy which was a life-saving experience. Meeting with my therapist gave me an hour or two a week where life was worth living amongst the pain of adolescence.

Unfortunately, the bullying continued at the new school. The next year was rough but towards the end, I found a new peer group whom I could trust and enjoy my time with. At the end of the summer before my freshman year of high school, I was rushed to the ER and then hospitalized. In the weeks prior I had been sick, but the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I was in the ICU for a month. I had a chest tube and a PIC line after my veins had collapsed. I thought I would never leave the hospital.

The doctors didn’t know what was causing it at the time, but I had developed a peritonsillar abscess, and the bacteria from the throat infection spread to my jugular vein and poisoned my bloodstream, and caused blood clots in my lung. I had an infectious disease treatment team working around the clock to try and save my life. Finally, one of the doctor’s figured out what was happening as he had read about this in his training but never had seen a case because it was so rare. So incredibly rare in fact that there were only about 200 reported cases worldwide at the time. I had Lemierre’s Syndrome. I was put on blood thinners and had to continue those for 3 months after I left the hospital. I was wheeled out at 83 pounds because I had barely eaten for a month. I had a long recovery ahead of me.

During the following years, I survived other trauma, identity issues, and substance use problems. Halfway through my freshman year, I was in a treatment program, and after transferring schools, I graduated a year early and sober. As I often say, the pendulum swung too far back to overcorrect for my self-esteem problems. I went from feeling like I wasn’t enough to feeling compelled to overachieve to an excellent level that almost required me to take a leave of absence from UCLA. With the help of my therapist, I was able to stay at UCLA before transferring for my senior year. I had crippling anxiety in college and transferred twice before graduating Magna Cum Laude. After college, I went on to graduate school and finished on the Dean’s List.

At 13, I was sitting in a therapist’s office crying about being bullied, feeling like I had no friends, and struggling in school. Many years later, I am again in a therapist’s office, but it’s my office, and I’m helping kids stand up to their bullies, learn about mental health and be vulnerable. Life is a trip.

I’ve developed multiple businesses, an online media presence and have counseled hundreds of people. I look back at my time in the hospital and I know I survived for a reason. Though I have been through many trials and tribulations, I fought my way back each time. If it weren’t for my family and my mental health support team of therapists along the way, I don’t think I would have survived it, and if I did, I would not be this well-adjusted.

You are currently leading an initiative that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit more specifically about what you are trying to address?

As a therapist and aspiring comedian, I know the value of including humor in my work and how transformational it is. My Instagram page @taliabombola and social media presence is aimed at balancing humor and wisdom so people can learn about themselves and laugh along the way.

I am trying to address the need for humor and levity regarding self-development and mental health. I created one of my podcasts, Heal Through Humor, to achieve that. For some, a sense of humor comes naturally. For others, a sense of humor comes from having had to cope with trauma or adversity, typically from a young age. For me, it was both. Being able to laugh after a serious moment is a hallmark of healing.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

As I detailed previously, I had quite a few setbacks up until this point. I don’t think I would have been able to get through them all without my therapist and my sense of humor. I’ve learned that other people I’ve counseled have greatly benefited from learning how to reframe their pain with self-enhancing humor that includes positive reappraisal.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions that never manifest. They don’t get up and do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I may be an anomaly because for as long as I can remember, I have consistently been a go-getter and actively worked toward my dreams, passions, and ideas. If I had to pick a moment where I had the “Aha Moment,” it would be my final year of graduate school. I don’t talk about it often, but I was pursuing a career in law enforcement during my last year of graduate school. Due to my personality type and traits, I see myself as a protector of others, and I have an innate sense of justice. I was quite far along in the process when I had a difficult decision to make in terms of what career to move forward with. I was waiting to hear back from the police department and the state board, and I told myself that whoever I heard back from first was the path for me to help others and strive for justice. So, here I am, Talia Bombola — Licensed Marriage Family Therapist.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Absolutely I did! My most influential mentors have been Keri Nola and Gina Knox. Each of them helped with different aspects of business; Keri with the energetics of abundance and Gina with the mindset and management of said abundance. My biggest cheerleaders have been my parents, brother, and my partner. I wouldn’t be where I am today without these people. My partner is the most securely attached person I’ve ever met, and I pinch myself every day that we get to spend the rest of our lives together. He keeps me so calm and grounded.

According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?

On the contrary, I believe the stigma has been lifting. I almost see an overcorrection where people think it’s trendy to have a mental illness or believe they have symptoms of something. This is in large part due to social media making information more accessible. That does not mean the information is accurate. In the cases where someone was able to discover more about a diagnosis via social media, or find content that supported them in their healing, I am in support of the media. In the cases where someone is piecing together a few, often nonpathological, behaviors and fueling it with confirmation bias from the algorithm, I am not in support of social media.

For others who are still experiencing stigma, I would say this would be due to antiquated thinking, shame and misunderstanding. All three of these are often tied together in previous generations’ lack of awareness and understanding about mental health, including early signs and symptoms all the way up to treatment and management of symptoms.

In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?

Individuals: prioritize your mental health and education surrounding mental health and wellness. I would suggest everyone learn emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills. Once you learn improved relational skills, your understanding and empathy will increase. Note understanding and empathy do not mean condoning mistreatment or giving those with mental health concerns a carte blanch to behave any way they want. We must all have boundaries and standards of treatment.

Society: I think society could do a better job creating supportive resources and access to quality mental health care. Additionally, if employers could provide mental health days and a lighter work week, that would be extremely helpful.

Government: Reform the education system to include mental health education and mandatory relationship skills classes. We need to start psychoeducation and skills around healthy relationships, boundaries, signs and symptoms of mental health diagnoses starting in pre-school, increasing in comprehensiveness as children age into later years into high school.

As far as mental health and insurance go, we have a long road ahead. I believe if providers were treated better and compensated well by insurance companies, more therapists would want to be paneled and that would make mental health care more accessible.

What are the 5 strategies you use to promote your own well-being and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?

  1. Physical fitness — I value physical health greatly. That includes going to the gym, getting a lift in, and then going for a walk. I like to channel my masculine energy into my workout, and then I ease in the rest of my day on my morning walk.
  2. Getting coaching/self-development — I am regularly seeking feedback from my mentors and working on my mindset around helping others and money/abundance.
  3. Listening to podcasts/reading books — I am a geek for reading and podcasts. I will forever be a student and feel that when it comes to learning, the limit does not exist.
  4. Not drinking alcohol — Alcohol lowers my vibrations and makes me quite anxious. I don’t prefer the feelings involved in the aftermath of consuming it, so I indulge in it quite rarely.
  5. Being selective with whom I spend time– There is truth in the saying that a person is the average of the five people they spend the most time around.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?

Podcasts:

  1. The Game by Alex Hormozi
  2. The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes
  3. Weekly Motivation by Ben Lionel Scott
  4. Huberman Lab Podcast

Books: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, Rich as F*ck by Amanda Frances, The Courage to be Happy and The Courage to be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi, and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.

If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society like you, what would you tell them?

Go for it. If you believe you have healed enough from whatever has created you to feel called to help make an impact on others, don’t wait. When I say healed enough, I mean that you have an understanding and awareness of what draws you to the work so that you are not attempting to heal your wounds vicariously through helping others.

How can our readers follow you online?

I am most active on Instagram @taliabombola. Also, please search for my podcasts on whatever your preferred platform is: The Couple’s Guide Podcast, Between Two Clinicians (the one with Adam Luke) and Heal Through Humor. I will get started on TikTok in 2023 (also @taliabombola) and have a YouTube Channel for my three podcasts.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the Interviewer: Inspired by the father of PR, Edward Bernays (who was also Sigmund Freud’s nephew), Michelle Tennant Nicholson researches marketing, mental injury, and what it takes for optimal human development. An award-winning writer and publicist, she’s seen PR transition from typewriters to Twitter. Michelle co-founded WasabiPublicity.com.

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Michelle Tennant Nicholson
Authority Magazine

A “Givefluencer,” Chief Creative Officer of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., Creator of WriteTheTrauma.org