Women in Wellness: Removing Stigma with Dr. Meghan Marcum from A Better Life Recovery
As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meghan Marcum, PsyD, APBB, Chief Clinical Officer from A Better Life Recovery
I believe that people are here in order to make a bigger impact in the world — and with my book, ‘Make an Impact’, I had the chance to prove that hundreds of people are using their influence to improve other people’s lives.
As the founder of the Health Bloggers Community, my mission is to support people with growing their passion into a business — and so many women are building businesses empires all over the world.
This series is a chance to spotlight some of these women
My knowledge and experience were helpful in getting my sister the treatment she needed and I’m grateful each day for the way things happened.
Dr. Meghan Marcum
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your ‘backstory’?
My mom worked as a nurse and on occasion, I would have the chance to see her working at the hospital. I was inspired by the fact that her work helped others, and I knew I wanted to follow in her footsteps somehow. That’s what initially interested me in psychology and this type of work.
Can you share your top three “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing?
First, always remember your mental health is equally important as your physical health. Don’t ignore your mental health symptoms and don't be afraid to see a professional if you have been struggling for a few weeks or more. Next, each day spend 5–10 minutes to focus on the goals you
have set and the things you have accomplished over the day. Last but certainly not least, don’t forget self-care! The world is a busy place. We often forget to spend time taking care of ourselves. Enjoy a hot shower, a cup of tea or an early morning walk. It’s hard to be a good friend, employee and family member when we haven’t looked after our self.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I never had a specific interest in addiction treatment and I often wondered why I had landed an internship and then a post-doc residency both in chemical dependency treatment.
Then, within a couple of months my parents were distraught because my sister had been abusing prescription drugs. That led to smoking heroin which led to a brief period of homelessness. Everything seemed to make sense about why I had been working in this specialised area of psychology. My knowledge and experience were helpful in getting my sister the treatment she needed and I’m grateful each day for the way things happened.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My biggest mistake when I was first starting was my own naivety. I didn’t understand the nuances of addiction and I found myself questioning how people could do certain things in order to get and stay high on drugs or alcohol.
I learned quickly these actions are behavioural symptoms and not the same as concrete choices we make when we are clear headed.
I gained a great deal of empathy, patience and became more open-minded because of the things clients shared with me during therapy sessions.
When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
My current role at A Better Life Recovery and A Mission For Michael offers me the opportunity to work with people who are struggling with addiction or may have severe mental health disorders. Unfortunately, there is a lack of services and opportunities for people to get their mental health needs met in the US and across the world. Although some mental health issues may be a life long challenge there is hope that comes with treatment and when the individual feels better there is a ripple effect that everyone close to them can also feel.
For example, at A Better Life Recovery we utilise evidenced-based treatment, which means the interventions and skills clients learn are those rooted in empirical science. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one such example. Cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT teaches clients to pay attention to their inner thoughts and examine them for accuracy.
Often times we are our own worst critics, CBT allows us to consider more healthy ways of thinking which in turn influence our behaviours. Over time, clients learn to react in the moment to their thoughts and reshape them which guides better decision making and more healthy ways of behaving.
Mindfulness is another example of evidenced-based practice used at A Better Life Recovery. Mindfulness exercises allow individuals to focus on their five senses, the immediate moment and the importance of taking a non-judgmental approach to situations we encounter in our daily lives. These are skills everyone can use to benefit their mental health.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There was a very special teacher I had in junior high school named Mrs. Babina. She taught our class how to write an essay and how to use syntax and semantics. Without her guidance I don’t think I would have been able to write a dissertation or feel as confident about writing which is an important skill in most professions including psychology.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
There is already a movement toward mental health awareness and reducing the stigma associated with it. I am proud to be a part of this movement. The programs I am a part of at A Better Life Recovery allow me and others to openly discuss mental health issues and the benefits associated
with engaging in treatment.
“The importance of reducing stigma is critical given it’s still so pervasive in our culture.”
For example, if you heard your neighbour was suffering from a health concern, perhaps cancer, that left them unable to work, unable to care for their child and not able to engage in social activities they way they used to… How would you feel?
Now, replace cancer with heroin and ask yourself if you would have the same response. We need to understand depression, trauma, substance use disorders and all mental health issues are real and people who struggle with these problems need treatment.
When we cannot see physical effects of an ailment like we can with a broken leg we are less inclined to give it space in our own perception of reality. I would love to see mental health embraced in many facets of our lives from the ability to talk about going to therapy, to mental health days being given with the same frequency as sick days at work.
At A Better Life Recovery, we start by allowing the clients to tell us their story and to actively listen without judgement to whatever they may have experienced. We allow their experience to be valid without discounting how they feel. Too many times people say anxious people should just relax and depressed people should just think more positively.
This is another example of not understanding the severity of mental health issues. We as mental health professionals encourage each other to talk openly and I often share the importance of my own involvement in therapy with clients and co-workers as a way to help reduce stigma and model healthy ways to maintain mental health.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Probably mental health because I spend so much of my time in this arena. The Mission at A Better Life Recovery is to offer individuals a pathway toward mental health. The best part of my job is watching others improve their lives and find their authentic self.
About the author:
Fab Giovanetti is a business mentor, published author, influencer-specialist, best known as the founder of the Health Bloggers Community and co-founder of the Register of Health and Wellness Influencers.
Serial start-up founder and professional troublemaker, she is obsessed with avocados and helping people making an impact in health and wellness. Sounds like you? Get daily tips on how to grow your influence via the HBC magazine.