You Are Complex: Meet Clinical Psychologist Sarah Coe-Odess

We believe health is an inside job unique to you here at Vibrant Health. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind, and your needs are complex – that’s why your supplements should be too.

To celebrate all of the beautiful complexities of our lives, each month, we’ve been highlighting individuals in our community – taking a peek into the behind-the-scenes of their work-life, wellness rituals, and all the wonderful things that make them who they are.

In honor of Stress Awareness Month this April on the Vibrant Health blog, we got to chat with Clinical Psychologist Sarah Cose-Odess. As a therapist, she encourages people to focus on themselves (which may include going to therapy). After all, therapy can be a wonderful way to cope with stress — encouraging people to face their struggles head-on and come up with an individualized solution (vs. running from the problem). 

In this insightful interview, we got to chat with Sarah about what her day as a Clinical Psychologist looks like (seeing upwards of 18 patients a week), the importance of self-compassion, and why she thinks everyone could benefit from therapy… We hope you enjoy our series…and remember, keep being you!

How would you describe yourself in three words? 

Ambitious, active, curious

What does a typical day in life as a clinical psychologist look like for you?

Oh, boy! Where do I even start? I currently see an average of 18 clients per week; I see a mixture of children, adolescents, and adults, so my early mornings and after-school hours are typically reserved for my kids/teens, and my middle-of-the-day slots are typically filled by adults. 

When I’m not seeing clients, I may be doing a range of things: writing up notes for each therapy session, attending group supervision to talk through difficult cases with my colleagues, attending seminars (I believe we can always learn more!), or calling schools/family members to collaborate. I also stay involved with research, so I tend to do several hours of research per week. Almost all of my work is between 8 a.m. to 

5 p.m. The beauty of the field is that, as a psychologist, you can create your own hours and schedule.

April is Stress Awareness month, urging people to learn healthier ways to cope with stress. How does therapy play a role in this? 

Something I commonly hear people say is, “I don’t have time for therapy.” Despite how busy our lives may be, almost everyone can find 50 minutes out of their week to focus on themselves. When humans are stressed out, we tend either to bury ourselves deeper into the stress or run away from the stress altogether; there is no in-between. 

Therapy is an essential way to cope with stress because it requires people to take a break from their week to focus on nothing but themselves. It encourages people not to run away from their stress and provides them with a space in which they can process the stress and find solutions to cope, rather than repressing the stress (which only backfires down the road).

What are your personal go-to tips and tricks for de-stressing? 

To de-stress, I like to engage in activities that are not connected to the content that is stressing me out. For example, if I’m stressed out with work, I will connect with friends who have different professions to whom I cannot discuss work. Or I will watch reality television and escape into a world where I don’t have to think about my own life. I also am a big advocate for taking time away from screens: phones, computers, tablets. I often will go for a walk or go to the grocery store without my phone, just so I can have time to be by myself and not have work emails or text messages from friends and family contribute to my stress. 

With all of that being said, I always schedule a time to return to the content that is stressing me out. It is so easy to try to push the stress off completely, but that typically leads to more stress in the future. So I like to put in an alarm or a reminder for myself to return to the work issue or personal stressor later that day or week, with the hope I can return to it with a clearer mind.

What resources or do you recommend for our readers when it comes to finding a therapist & taking better care of their mental health? 

Finding a therapist is like finding a pair of shoes: not everyone fits the same! If you go to a therapist and don’t feel like it’s a good match, don’t give up on going to therapy. Often, you can ask therapists for a free 15-minute consultation just to chat on the phone and get a sense of the person’s style. 

Psychology Today is a great resource to find local therapists, and you can search the website according to your insurance type, gender preferences for a clinician, and “presenting problem” in therapy. 

I also urge people not to be “superheroes” every day. Often, people try to tackle so much in a given day: working hard at their job, taking on extra responsibility, being there for loved ones, doing chores. Although this may seem admirable, it is not sustainable, and the best way for us to care for ourselves and for others is to set realistic expectations—not insurmountable ones.

Self-acceptance and self-compassion are a big part of the work you do. What’s your number one tip when it comes to infusing more of this into your life? 

I am constantly reminding myself not to blame myself for not acting on the knowledge I didn’t have at the time of the decision. As someone who sets big goals and gains confidence from my accomplishments, I used to be hard on myself when a situation did not turn out as anticipated or when there was another option that, retrospectively, would have been better. I often remind myself—and others—that we are not psychics and that we can only act on what we know at the moment.

Are there any common misconceptions about therapy you want to debunk? 

Society has gotten somewhat better with openness and acceptance of therapy, but we still have a long way to go! The biggest misconception about therapy is that someone needs to have a diagnosis or a “problem” in order to benefit from therapy. Personally, I think everyone could benefit from therapy, and I advise that people be proactive and seek therapy before a problem arises so that they are well-equipped with skills and perspective when circumstances get tough. 

For those who think, “What could therapy even do for me?” I urge you to think about whether it would be a relief to have an unbiased person who does not know your friends, co-workers, and family, to whom you can talk freely and honestly without worrying about being a burden. I think most people would agree that having someone to fit that role is beneficial.

What’s one of your favorite healthy lunches or snacks to fuel your workday? 

I’m a big fan of nutritious and convenient lunches/snacks during the workday. I often have smoothies with almond milk, yogurt, peanut butter, and banana when I work from home and am pressed for time between meetings. If I’m working at the office, I make a salad with lots of protein. I am a big advocate for preparing lunch the day before, so it’s one less thing to worry about in the morning.

What does “wellness” look like for you? 

Wellness, to me, is listening to my body and brain carefully. I exercise regularly, but I don’t force myself to exercise when my body is too tired. I love to cook and bake, but I sometimes go for an easier option when cooking doesn’t sound as thrilling as it typically does. I value my relationships, but I value time alone when I am feeling down or want to self-reflect. 

In other words, wellness, for me, entails not living my life by “shoulds.” It’s so easy to prescribe a routine and pressure ourselves to stick to it all of the time, but we’re only human and cannot be expected to feel the same every day.

Thanks for being a part of our Vibrant Health series! Follow Sarah on Instagram @the_sarahpist for more accessible therapy resources, tips, and coping strategies. 

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