Monica Vermani, C. Psych.

46: Monica Vermani, C Psych, PsyD – Clinical Psychologist, Author, Mindfulness and Mental-Health Expert Shares her Journey and New Book A Deeper Wellness

Dr. Monica Vermani was born and raised in Toronto. Her parent were immigrants from India. Her dad was the eldest of five and her mom was the youngest of five. Though the dynamics in her family were very traditional, the dynamics changed when her dad experienced a work-related injury. Her mother had to go back to school and change her path and Dr. Vermani had to become a caregiver at a young age to help with the family. She recalls growing up “in a household with more compassion, more empathy. You know, a little more suffering and you become a caregiver a little bit.” She also remembers that she started working very young and wanted to find her “own path.” She states, “I just wanted to be more independent. I wanted to learn how to be self-sufficient. I wanted to also learn, you know, how to be the best I could in every area.”

Dr. Vermani is a clinical psychologist, founder of Dr. Vermani Balanced Wellbeing (private practice in Toronto) and Start Living Corporate Wellness. She has over 25 years of clinical practice experience and has become a prominent expert in the trauma, mindfulness, and mental health wellness space. In this podcast, we discuss Dr. Vermani’s academic and professional journey, some of the important people and experiences that helped shape her career path, her private practice in Toronto, her recent TEDxUofT talk, and her recently released book, A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety, and Traumas.

Dr. Vermani recalls always gravitating towards volunteering and helping people. Growing up people would tell her that she should “go to school” and then do “social work or counseling or psychology stuff.” She shares that she hadn’t really thought about doing that seriously until she ended up taking some psychology and sociology courses and became very interested in those areas. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology, Sociology & Criminology, Women’s Studies from the University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Vermani shares what led her to Adler School of Professional Psychology (now called Adler University) in Vancouver, BC to earn her master’s degree in counseling psychology then to Adler University in Chicago, IL for her Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) in Clinical Psychology.

Along the way, Dr. Vermani has earned a number of diplomas and certificates to improve her knowledge, experience, and skillset in preparation for opening her own private practice. She shares some of her experiences working in internships, working at private practices, and getting hands-on experience working with prominent clinical psychologists such as Dr. Giorgio Ilacqua who was the chief psychologist at a correctional facility for women called Vanier Centre for Women. She recalls that Dr. Ilacqua used to give her extra work and she was wondering why she was so special until one day he asked her to work with him at his private practice. She remembers him saying “Listen, you’re really bright. What about doing some private practice on the side? You sound like, you know, you’re eager to work in the field and, and learn more.” So, she did. She worked in his private practice as a psychometrist and at the Vanier Centre and eventually Dr. Ilacqua turned into her coach. She shares that he was the one who encouraged her to apply for her master’s and her doctorate to become a psychologist.

She also discusses other great mentors and experiences that helped shape her career including working with Dr. Martin Katzman at the Anxiety Disorders Clinic and with whom she built the START Clinic which focuses on Stress, Trauma, Anxiety, Rehabilitation, and Treatment (START). The START Clinic specializes in “outpatient assessment and treatment services for people with mood & anxiety disorders.” She also worked with Dr. Nussbaum who taught her about neuropsychology and with Dr. Richard Brown and Dr. Pat Gerbarg who taught her a Breath~Body~Mind Program. She states, “so, as I grew, my mentors, my colleagues, my, you know, students, friends shaped me to be who I am today, a little bit more than just my biological background.” 

Throughout the podcast discussion, Dr. Vermani shares how her path unfolded. As additional opportunities presented themselves, Dr. Vermani’s path seemed to appear before her. For example, we discuss her recently released book A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety, and Traumas and why she wrote it. While promoting her book someone asked her if she thought about doing a TED talk so she ended up adding it to her bucket list, applied for it, and went through the lengthy, tedious process and eventually returned to her alma mater (University of Toronto) where she was on the TEDx stage of UofT. She states “it felt wonderful to be there” and “I wanted to pick a topic that was inspiring but also gave actionable steps that when you listen to it, you walk away knowing something you can do right away instead of just being inspired.” Her topic “Think About It” is “about the power of our thoughts” where she discusses “how to reframe, reconceptualize, challenge and be a better version of you, which means pause and reflect.”

Dr. Vermani offers copious amounts of advice during our podcast interview. One piece of advice she offered for those interested in the field of psychology is “trial and error.” She states, “The best thing that’s worked for me to be who I am today is trying things and don’t let a thought hold you back. Just because you don’t think you’re capable doesn’t mean you’re not.” Near the end of our discussion, her final advice includes “I think the biggest thing I’m going to say is all you people who are embarking on psychology, if it’s a passion, you know, put two feet forward. I find once you put a step forward in any path, it will materialize and manifest. The hardest part is making a decision to go on a path. Once you start making that decision, things unfold. People show up. Trust the process and sometimes get out of the way.”

Connect with Dr. Monica Vermani: Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin | Youtube | Instagram
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Interests and Specializations

Dr. Monica Vermani specializes in providing treatment to individuals and couples using a multi-faceted treatment approach using a variety of treatments and techniques including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychotherapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), and Breath~Body~Mind practices as well as Mindfulness Meditation, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).


Honours Bachelor of Science (BSc), Psychology, Sociology & Criminology, Women’s Studies (1997); University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.
Master of Arts (MA), Counseling Psychology (2001); Adler University, Vancouver, BC.
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), Clinical Psychology (2007); Adler University, Chicago, IL.

Other Sources and Links of Interest

Dr. Monica Vermani at Psychology Today
A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas (Book at Amazon)

Podcast Transcript

00:14 Bradley
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology, I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Monica Vermani to the show. Dr. Vermani is a clinical psychologist, author, and founder of Dr. Vermani Balanced Wellbeing, which is a private practice in Toronto, and Start Living Corporate Wellness. She has over 25 years of clinical practical experience, holds a doctorate degree in clinical psychology, and is a registered member of the College of Psychologists of Ontario. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, her recent TEDxUofT talk and her book, A Deeper Wellness: Conquering Stress, Mood, Anxiety and Traumas. Dr. Vermani, welcome to our podcast.

01:14 Monica
Thank you Brad, for having me.

01:16 Bradley
Well, I am looking forward to talking to you further. One of the things that I was telling you before we started recording is just learning more about my guests and you have quite the journey. So, to start us off, tell us about your path and how you got into psychology.

01:31 Monica
So, I think sometimes you know life just kind of brings you certain experiences that shape you to be who you are and I was born in a family unit that, you know, I had a father that wasn’t well from a work injury. And I became a caregiver, I think, just from the start. And so, you grow up in a household with more compassion, more empathy. You know, a little more suffering and you become a caregiver a little bit. And so, I’ve always gravitated towards volunteering and helping people if I can and, and, and doing a little volunteer projects. And along the path I think I had the right friends and mentors. I started working very young in department stores, and I remember some of the colleagues that work with me saying, yeah, you should go into school and, and do that a social work or counseling or psychology stuff, and I never really thought of it seriously. I was raised with that idea of like getting a nice job for self-sufficiency, right? You want to make a stable job so that you don’t have financial problems and things like this. And I kind of, as I grew, I was kind of led to going to university and once I got in, I did a science degree at UofT, so I started with a science program and doing that honors of science program, it was a four-year program. I ended up taking psychology and sociology as the electives and got very interested and did very well in them. So, I think sometimes when you’re doing well, you kind of feel aligned to take more courses there and you start, you know, shaping your path. So, as I finished the science classes for that degree, I specialized in psychology, sociology, criminology and women’s studies. I did a lot of projects at UofT with women’s studies and the women’s group and found myself very interested in advocacy and trying to help people that were struggling.

03:23 Bradley
I know that a little bit of background with your family too, to so kind of speak to that. I think you were an immigrant as well, and the family went through some changes that almost led you down this path a little bit as well.

03:37 Monica
So, when you look at it like my parents were both from India and I’m born and raised in Toronto. Uhm, so there’s that generational difference. And with the suffering that came with Dad’s injury, I think there was a lot of learning that came with an eldest of five, my father, being with the youngest of five, my mother. And so, the dynamics were very traditional. A caregiver, you know, my mom had very traditional roles, but then had to go back to school and try to upgrade and get to school and work and change her path with the dad’s injury. I started working very young, so I think the dynamics changed very quickly in my home where women started taking a, a non-traditional role as I can call it. And so in my own path, I just wanted to be more independent. I wanted to learn how to be self-sufficient. I wanted to also learn, you know, how to be the best I could in every area. And I always pushed myself to be more than what I was growing up to be. So, when I look at it as those very shy, quiet kid probably growing up and with some of the, you know, challenges at home, it made it even harder to be more outgoing. I didn’t have a lot of cousins or family members in the near, you know, vicinity. So, as I grew, my mentors, my colleagues, my, you know, students, friends shaped me to be who I am today, a little bit more than just my biological background.

05:05 Bradley
And you know, talking about your background and your path, you already said that you went to UofT and what made you actually, what led you is probably a better way of putting this, what led you to continue and going on for your graduate degrees and your graduate work?

05:21 Monica
So this is an interesting one. I finished UofT and like every young person who goes to university, you think that all the answers come right when you finish school. And so I remember finishing my undergrad, but I have been very fortunate. I’ve been working since I was like 15 in stores and department stores and I received, uhm, a lot of jobs in in healthcare. So, I was working at a distress line and I had a shelter I, I volunteered time at. So, as I grew, finished university, I was like, what do I do now? And I didn’t feel equipped to just work, so I wanted to go to school further. But I was a little bit stuck on timelines of applying to grad schools, so I wanted more hands on knowledge from UofT I didn’t feel like I got hands on experience as much as I wanted. So, I went to George Brown College for an assaulted women and children’s advocate program. In that program, you know I built myself esteem a lot more because I aced everything. You go from university to a college, it’s a different dynamic, but then I got a lot of hands-on experience because they had placements and internships. One of the internships that I purposely chose was a prison, a correctional facility for women called Vanier Centre for Women. When I worked there, I met some remarkable professors, mentors, the chief psychologist, and as I was working there, one of the chief psychologists used to give me extra work. And I, I was wondering why I was so special. And one day he asked me to work on his private practice, and he was a clinical psychologist, Dr. Ilacqua. And he had a private practice and he was like, listen, you’re really bright. What about doing some private practice on the side? You sound like, you know, you’re eager to work in the field and, and learn more. And he said, I’ve been testing you out with your reports and stuff. You seem like you’re a good writer. Let’s bring you on board. So, I did. I worked in a private practice plus at the Vanier Centre. And when I was doing that, he turned into a coach. He’s like, what’s this college program? Who goes to university and then goes to college? I go, I do. I wanted the hands on experience. And he’s like, OK, well, you got your hands on experience. Now go apply to your masters and your PhD and become me, become a psychologist. You have it. And even if I didn’t have the full confidence to believe that at that moment, I think with his encouragement, I decided to apply. And so, I applied to a various number of schools. And then I wanted to be able to work as well as go to school and I tried to see what option was feasible with me working because I had a job at CAMH as well in the anxiety disorders clinic, actually at that time METFORS, which was a forensic unit. And then I was working in this private practice doing psychometrist duties as well as the women’s prison. So, I’ve always juggled 2-3 jobs in the field since undergrad and I’ve been blessed to have fantastic people around me that just encourage support and gave me the mentorship to make me also believe in my own skill set. Where today, I try to do that for others.

08:27 Bradley
So you brought up one thing that I was going to ask and I’m looking again, I have multiple screens here. So, I’m looking to the right and I actually see that experience that you had a little over four years at, is it Ilacqua, is it? How am I saying that Giorgio Ilacqua?

08:45 Monica
Oh, Ilacqua. Yeah, Dr. Ilacqua.

08:46 Bradley
OK, alright. And so, tell us a little bit more about being a psychometric or a psychometrist, OK.

08:54 Monica
Psychometrist, yeah. A psychometrist is someone who does pre-interviews pretesting before a psychologist comes in and completes the interview and completes the testing and we score, interpret. Interpretation is actually done by the psychologist, but we turn into like an assistant before you meet the psychologist to finish the rest of the assessment, if you want to call it. So, I did get a lot of experience with vocational, psychological, forensic as well as neuropsychological assessments. There were other doctors under that private practice that he had, and so I worked with other doctors as well and I got a feel for what psychology felt like. And then, I, I pursued it further. I already had the background with the undergrad, and then after the abused women and children’s prison, prison experience and the program, I took that further to continue working in corrections. I worked in corrections also to be a little bit tougher. You know, there was a part of me thinking if I can work in the extremes, I can do everything in the middle. And so, for me practicums and internships are phenomenal places to get experience in places you can’t get your foot in, and so that worked for me. And uhm, I’ve always taken challenges to get into places that may be are hard to get into for the experience. And so, I worked at CAMH, then in a forensic unit called METFORS. I worked at CAMH again in a different unit called the Anxiety Disorders Clinic, and I had to leave Dr. Ilacqua’s practice at one point to just work in the hospitals. And from working in the hospitals, I met other great mentors and one of them was Dr. Katzman at the Anxiety Disorders Clinic that me and him then built the START clinic for mood and anxiety disorders together. And we started that and to me was like if it works, it works. It doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s great experience. I always had a hospital job with it. It allowed me to have an academic clinical, you know, tie learning research, learning about how to write things and how to do things systematic in an institution. As well as private practice, where I got more counseling, more hands-on experience with clients and doing assessments in a different format. So, the nice thing is, you know, for students today, I would strongly say vary your experience so you can see what you like. The one thing I realize is life is trial and error and by trying different fields you get to see what you like and you don’t like. One of my experiences was working at Lake Ridge Mental Health Center with children and families. And as much as I loved it, I loved working with children with anxiety. It taught me a different way to teach and train people with anxiety disorders because children manifest more anxiety in their body than they do with their thoughts. And so, it taught me a different way to teach children how to work through anxiety. But the best thing about working with that population was the children, you also have to cooperate with the parents. And so, I found myself a little bit not disheartened about sometimes parents dropping off their kids and wanting psychologists to work with their kids but not parents being involved to work on their own anxiety that they might be modeling in the household. So, part of me then after that experience chose to just work with adults and with adults you don’t have to work with their parents. And it was a different experience, but my experience has been varied but very specialized. I do work with extremes. So, I learned mood, anxiety, stress, trauma in an extreme, so I can do all the middle couples counseling. I can help people work on stress management and I’ve been able to have fantastic mentors that have given me a chance and then as I work hard and, uhm, I’m dedicated to the profession, I think people just gravitate towards you.

12:49 Bradley
Very good summary and I love the advice you talked about, mentors and Dr. Ilacqua and your experience as a psychometrist, I said it correctly this time, actually gave you that confidence. Maybe like you said at the time, not really, but the next stage, even though you’re getting all those experiences is you eventually went to Adler School of Professional Psychology, which I believe now is called just Adler University, for both your Masters and your PsyD. So, what stood out about Adler and, and tell us the path that led you to Adler.

13:26 Monica
So Adler, the philosophy and the principle is nature and nurture, you know, helps us be who we are. And I’m always believed in that. Like there is some chemistry, but there’s also our upbringing, our surroundings, and I felt that personally too. So it aligned as a principal. That human behavior is tied. Our lifestyles are tied to both nature and nurture, and it was a principle that helped me, but also just a path I had applied to a number of schools. I wanted to see where I could still continue to work and so it was about feasibility. It was about money. It was about, you know, other people I knew had gone to the program and spoke highly of it and spoke about working with it, so it was a practical decision of like, I can still work in the private practice. I can still work in the hospital and I can do this program. And I’ve worked in the field of psychology since high school, in some form or another, and so I’ve always been able to carry forth work experience. For me, that was a benefit because I didn’t see myself as an academic who loved just school. I loved learning school because I had the work experience to kind of tie the two together, so I feel like I was blessed to be able to have that experience of knowing school material even deeper because I was already doing the work in some capacity or seeing psychologists do the work. I worked at Dr. Nussbaum at CAMH and he taught me a lot about Neuro Psych. You know, I had, like I said, Dr. Ilacqua, who started the field. Dr. Katzman, who’s a psychiatrist so that was a different field of medication and understanding mood and anxiety disorders different and speaking at conferences and doing more research. So, it taught me to do clinical work, but my passion and my love has always been working with clients hands on in therapy. So, the counseling psychology was primarily my focus. I very am grateful for all the wonderful hospital experience that I have working with research because it taught me how to have a balance of both because I do think as a good professional you want to be able to write. You wanna be able to write manuscripts and pay it forward in some way or another so that people benefit from the knowledge in other ways than just individual therapy, right. And I write for magazines now. I write for you know, commentaries and, and some of that material is more confident for me because of the writing experience I have. And moving forward in life, I’ve met some great psychiatrists who’ve done things in psychology that are very different. Dr. Brown and Dr. Gerbarg are two people who I learned a Breath Body Mind Program. We’ve done volunteer work with 9/11 responders with military and it was a breath body, mind. These are two psychiatrists that have brought in meditation and breathing. I’ve been meditating myself since I was 14. And probably earlier, 10, but 14 really actively. And these two psychiatrists taught me how to bring in not just the clinical and the CBT and the psychodynamic theories, but to bring in some meditation here and now teach people coping skills because we’re in a high stress, high anxiety, you know, prone society today.

16:44 Bradley
I like that you brought up the, the Breath Body Mind, because you have that’s applicable to all different kinds of people. And I see in your history and your job experience, it was, it was for kids, adults. Some of the military as well, and, and bringing them into yes, definitely.

17:03 Monica
For the brain and spinal cord. Yeah, the brain and spinal cord people who are paralyzed from the neck down, the hip down, they benefited from meditation more than anyone I’ve seen cause they got out of their head. Our heads, where the thought disorders come in from, right, our head gets really active. We ruminate, we think about the past. We catastrophize about the future. But sometimes we have to just pause and reflect and stay in the moment.

17:26 Bradley
And and you kind of gave us a little teaser and I’ll get back to your book in a second, talking about and and your Ted talk, I believe addresses some of those negative thoughts and how to break through those and replace them with other thoughts as well. Let me get back to Adler for one second because a lot of our students and our listeners and viewers ask, OK. Did you apply directly to the master’s program or the doctorate? Based on my research, I believe you apply to the doctorate program. Is that correct or did you apply to the masters OK?

17:55 Monica
Master’s, I did the Master’s and it was in Toronto and so there was convenience to me at that time, because I could continue working at CAMH. And then from there I pursued the next step, which was going to do my PhD in Chicago.

18:09 Bradley
OK. All right. So that is what I couldn’t figure out in my research. I know that Adler had two locations, one in Toronto and one in Chicago. So I wasn’t sure which one you went to. You actually took, have the best of both worlds. You actually experienced both of them. So that’s kind of new.

18:26 Monica
And I read some phenomenal professors there I have to admit. I was very inspired by my doctorate. I remember doing my doctorate and a little bit thinking like, I wonder what I’m going to learn. Like I know so much, I’m already working in the field. The truth is, as much as we, we have to humble ourselves to realize we’re always learning, it never stops no matter what age you’re at, no matter how much experience you have, there’s always more. And I learned sometimes how some of the mentors I have the professors that I, I really respected in the field that were teaching how they pay it forward and how they shaped their lives in the future, which taught me a lot.

19:03 Bradley
So, we we talked a lot about your background, you mentioned CAMH and METFORS as well. We talked about the breath body and mind, you talked about many different mentors and coaches that you’ve had throughout and it’s almost like this path has been kind of laid out for you and you’ve just been following this, this yellow brick road that’s been just sitting in front of you the whole time. At what point did you decide that you wanted to open your own private practice?

19:29 Monica
Well, because I worked, when I worked at Vanier. I, I worked with Dr. Ilacqua who had a private practice. I kind of always learned from people that they worked in institutions or hospitals, but they had a private practice on the side, and so it was a way to evolve. It was a way to grow. It was also a way to serve different people from the population and work at, at the institution. So, I’ve been in private practice since young because whether I was working for somebody before my license or after like the START clinic, it was my private practice, right? And, and that was our clinic and, and we built and we grew together and at some point, I just didn’t want to do the same research of pharmaceutical studies and we just decided to, you know, change paths and I wanted to work somewhere else too so then I got the job at UHN and I also worked at Gravenhurst, so the prison, part time doing some crisis work. Then I just opened my own private practice just on the side to kind of keep a different flow of patients. I find for me, having the variety of different clientele helps me stay motivated, interested in also doing research on different areas for me to be the best person I can be. You know, I, I do always feel like we do have to continuously upgrade and learn and help ourselves be motivated so we don’t burn out with the same population sometimes.

20:54 Bradley
And talking about not doing the same thing over and over and and getting that burn out, I’m gonna share my screen here. Here is your main page about you, but you also have multiple pages here and let me move something out of the way so I can actually see up top here, but you actually have a private practice, and this is the, which is more geared toward correct me if I’m wrong, more geared toward your private practice, and then you have your other website that I was on that talks a little bit more about you. This link right here leads to this other website, so there’s a, there’s a business aspect of, of running your own private practice as well. So, tell us what was the most challenging aspect of getting up and running? Starting your own private practice?

21:42 Monica
I’m gonna say the fear like, I think the fear is fear to me is self-doubt. But plain and simple. You know, life only gives us what we can handle. I feel like when the opportunity presents itself, we show up and we make it happen, but when it comes down to it, the self-doubt sometimes creeps in, which is our thoughts and sometimes holds us back from taking the risks of trying. And so, the one thing about me from my young experience working in prisons etcetera is I always believe if you don’t try, you don’t know. So even if it was a job, I didn’t feel qualified for, I always applied. METFORS was a job I got because I applied and I tried and when they said I wasn’t qualified for it, I asked for an interview anyways, and with that interview they realized I had more experience than was presenting on my resume and I got the job. So, I do have a strong work ethic of if you don’t try, you don’t know and on a private practice front start slow. I’m somebody who doesn’t like to take a lot of risks, so I always had a backup plan I had to survive, so I always had a hospital job and I opened the private practice at a slow and steady pace to build my confidence. And as it built and it felt more secure then over time, I transitioned to making it more of a full time job.

23:02 Bradley
Did you handle everything yourself or did you kind of hire out for advertising the, you know, booking appointments and receiving, you know, clients, insurance, that sort of stuff. Talk to us for a couple of minutes about that.

23:17 Monica
So, I am a hard worker, as you can hear, I’ve been working two jobs for a very long time, and I did. I initially started the private practice doing everything by myself, but I did research. I looked at mentors. I looked at other people. I asked questions. We all have to humble ourselves to know that we don’t know everything and so go beyond yourself to ask questions. Look at people that you respect in the field and ask them, how did you get here? Because many of us had a path and it’s nice for us to share our story, to motivate you to be just as successful, you know, and I try to do that for people that I interact with. But yeah, at some point, I just did everything myself and then I slowly brought on resources, help, as I financially felt I was able to manage it right.

24:06 Bradley
You one thing that I uncovered is you actually have online, Dr. Vermani 18 Life Lessons, self-help platform resource. So, what made you create this program and tell us a little bit more about that program?

24:20 Monica
So you know you were mentioning advertising, I, I I’ve been fortunate enough to never have to advertise for my private practice. I have great resources because I’ve worked in so many places. Family physicians, lawyers, private practices, hospitals. I get referrals from mostly word of mouth, people who are happy, and they send it to their friends and family or the lunchroom conversation at a workplace. So, I never advertised, but as I grew into my practice, I had more and more people asking me for things. And there’s only one of me, so there’s only so many hours in the day, and I wanted to give back to people who either couldn’t afford continued therapy with me. And so, I’m in an age bracket and in a phase in my life I’ve been blessed with great mentorship and, and, and guidance and, and training and also just work on myself. I wanted to be able to pay it forward and for people who couldn’t afford time or expensive therapy, I created the 18 life lessons. Their mini videos of me talking about core topics that I talk about in my sessions here, and I put a handout and a worksheet attached to it and the goal was for people who had children or a lot of obligations and don’t have time for therapy in nine to five or nine to 8, whatever the hours are, they can sit with their laptop or their computer and watch a video and just start working on themselves. I’m all about all of us feeling a deserving to be the best version of ourselves, our highest and best version of ourselves. That comes from working on yourself and not making it all about work and other life tasks that you do outside of you. So, the Life Lessons is a self-help program I put together to put it forward, but at the time I put it together, I really have not been in the public eye and so you know it, it caught on with my patients and other people who knew me, but I wasn’t out there enough to have people that maybe who don’t know about me benefit from it. So then came the book, and I wrote the book as a supplementary text that is also overlapping with some of the material from the life lessons. And the book is called A Deeper Wellness it’s a workbook and it’s about mood, stress, anxiety and trauma management and it I’ve put in tidbits, I’ve put in worksheets, I’ve made it very helpful for people to just work through their things and not just stay stuck and continually work on yourself, regardless of the time commitment you have. I’ve also recorded it as an audio book because I do have some patients with chronic pain or ADHD that prefer to hear the book then right in it. But it’s a nice format of a workbook, so I’ve had a lot of people buy both, listen to it as well as write in it.

27:04 Bradley
Well, that’s a good summary and a good transition. And as you were talking, I was sharing my screen. Obviously you can go to Amazon and look at the book as well. And there’s an audio book, as you mentioned, the Kindle edition, and then the paperback version. And, you know, one thing that you already mentioned, and I was going to ask you, it seems like it is more of a handbook and a workbook combined and you mentioned that it’s more a practical tool that you can continue coming back to, it’s not like a regular book where you just read it once, set it aside and, and share it with your friends and then probably never read it again. It’s almost like this could be used over and over and over again because the practical side of it, you might read a certain passage or part of the workbook and then it will apply and bring something up a little different and you’ll look at it a little differently. So, tell me a little bit behind why you structured it that way.

28:00 Monica
So I wanted this book to apply to everybody who reads it. And so I have teenagers. I have university students. I have senior citizens, I have adults, I have couples. I have single people. I wrote this book for anybody who reads it wherever they’re at, whether you’re engrossed in therapy or you have no experience in therapy at all. So, it’s life lessons. Like it, it overlaps with the life lessons of material that commonly people want to know about mood, anxiety management, stress management, understanding meditation, guilt, setting boundaries, saying no, self-esteem, how to feel worthy, how to break negative thought patterns that we get stuck in ruminating about over and over and over again. So, I put some of my core, core topics that I talk about readily and I wanted people to just work on themselves to be a better version of them. Some of my patients often spoke about can you have other resources? Because when I don’t see you, it’d be nice to have other things during the week before I see you again. And so, I during the pandemic, so many people were struggling and trying to get extra appointments. I started writing articles every week. So, if you go to my podcast section of my website, there’s an article every week during the pandemic where I had written an article with actionable points. It’s one thing to learn things and get motivated. It’s another thing to have actionable points to work through things. And then I would read the article for people who needed to hear it instead of read it. And I also put a meditation once a week for you to just mindfully focus on one or two points that were important about that article. And it helps people just learn, you know, how to focus on different topics. So, putting the past where it belongs and there’s the recording of it. You know, articles about here and now what lies beneath anger, talking about anger. We all get angry. Anger turned inwards is depression. Generalized anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD. What goes up must come down is about panic attacks. Understanding the cycle of panic attacks. Putting problems on the table. All problems manifest in your life in three ways: physical symptoms, negative thoughts, negative behaviors. Understanding. You know too much of a good thing is about substance abuse, understanding bad habits of food, porn, addictions with alcohol and drugs. It is important for us to start recognizing working in ourselves is for us to be better versions of us. When you’re in pain, you spill over on tethers and negativity. And when you’re in health, you also have a nice ripple effect that you affect your role models, your children, your mentors, your colleagues, your workplaces.

30:41 Bradley
I like that summary and I was sharing the screen while you were talking. One thing that this will lead to is, you know, trying to get out in the public and and getting your word out and and paying it forward. You’re doing a fabulous job now, as we can see in the background, some of the Facebook or the book covers for your book as well. But you also did something fairly recently, and you actually were on TEDxUofT talk. Now, tell us how this transpired and what was the focus of the talk?

31:13 Monica
So, the path has just been unfolding, as you mentioned earlier. And so once the book came out, I also, you know, started doing some PR work. And as I did that, I got into Forbes and Oprah Daily and other magazine shot lane and beautiful other places that have been putting out the word of, you know, Dr. Vermani is an expert in these areas of mood anxiety, stress, promoting the book a bit, but also just being able to speak about some of the topics I’m very confident in helping people with. And one of the avenues that I got through an e-mail was someone saying, have you thought about doing a Ted talk? So, then I was like, why not? What’s another thing on my bucket list? Let’s try that too. And then I ended up putting it on my bucket list, applying for it, going through the process, which was quite lengthy, quite tedious and quite stressful with the full practice and a busy workload, but I got through it and a couple of weeks ago I was on the TEDx stage at UofT which was great because I started my academic career at UofT so it felt wonderful to be there and, uhm, I wanted to pick a topic that was inspiring but also gave actionable steps that when you listen to it, you walk away knowing something you can do right away instead of just being inspired, I wanted to give you something and Think About It is about the power of our thoughts. Thoughts are powerful things and we’re not born as young children having all these negative thoughts. We, over time, start attaching ourselves to low self-esteem, self-doubt concepts that hold us back. And it’s about you learning how to reframe, reconceptualize, challenge and be a better version of you, which means pause and reflect. We sometimes get so busy in that rat race out there that we don’t make time to pause and notice where’s my head? You can’t have two thoughts at the same time, so either there’s a positive one there or a negative one. And if it’s negative, what are we doing about it? Are we staying and ruminating or are we actually following through to challenge it, reframe it, and reconceptualize it?

33:20 Bradley
That’s a good summary and I should mention for the audience and the listener is even though you already recorded the Ted talk, it’s not available yet. Is there any ETA on that or are they just going to tell you, hey, it’s going to be coming out.

33:31 Monica
The TEDx stage will be, they’re editing it now because I wasn’t the only person who spoke that day. And so, as they edit all of our uh, the speakers talks that day, it should be released in the next few weeks. And if you’re on my Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn profile, Dr. Monica Vermani, you will find updates on when it comes out. The moment I know, trust me, you guys will know. I’m putting ads out there, but I’m on all of those platforms. I put tidbits of information, articles that I’ve written in the media as well as just, you know, helpful topics. I write for a magazine here, and I was in an Empowered 40 over 40 women’s shoot, and I write these wonderful columns for Anokhi and other places, Shot Lane, etc. So, I’ve had some wonderful articles. Keep up to date. You can go on my website and sign up for a newsletter. Once a month I put a newsletter out with useful tips to help with mental health. And trying to be the best version of you is all of our goals, right? We want a happier life. And that really comes from starting with you.

34:37 Bradley
I like that summary and I’m just going through some of your social media accounts now and, and Instagram here. Of course. Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and then.

34:46 Monica
I’m a regular columnist for Psychology Today. So, every two weeks there’s a nice article there as well.

34:52 Bradley
Yep, and here is Psychology Today as well for you. So, we will share all of these links for everybody once we go live. I should mention that you also have this YouTube channel that has some nice videos in here and they’re nice and short, 5-6 minutes long, and so if you just have some time during your lunch period, go ahead and check this out as well. So, Dr. Vermani, I, I need to ask you this, you know and when we kind of reflect on your academic and your professional journey thus far, because it’s not over with yet, what stands out the most to you or what surprises you the most?

35:31 Monica
I think sometimes our own resilience and how we get in the way. You know, the one thing I’ve learned personally and professionally is we get in the way since it’s our lack of confidence in ourselves and it is an inner journey that creates your outer journey. It’s believing in yourself. Your inner world is your outer world, as you believe, capable, competent, you know, strength resilience, you are able to materialize and manifest what you would like on the outside. Don’t get me wrong, we all have suffering and I’m not discounting that life brings challenges that feel overwhelming or feel so limiting that we don’t feel like we can get past them. But my work experience working with such extreme populations has taught me how incredible we are. I’ve had people with brain and spinal cord injury reinvent their lives in such ways. I’ve seen people survive each and every day with chronic pain. I’ve seen couples that were at the break of of ending come together and find love and and see good in each other again. We are all able to change. We sometimes have to pause and reflect and see can we do it alone or do we need to bring in the resources to help us through? We’re born in an individual journey, but amongst the collective don’t feel embarrassed to ask for help, for money, for therapy, for, you know, getting things aligned in your life. Learn that we are the best we can do with the knowledge we have, and we’re constantly growing and constantly learning. I love today’s technology world with podcasts and information that is so accessible for us, but it can be overwhelming at times too. Learn to, you know, take actionable steps that are, you know, feasible for your lifestyle, but learn to work on yourself because without doing that, you get on that hamster on the wheel and you get into a mundane place where we start numbing things instead of actually dealing with them.

37:22 Bradley
I have to ask this question. I probably could answer for you after looking at all of your history and background and talking with you over the last 50 or so minutes. What do you love most about your job?

37:34 Monica
I love the fact that I’m constantly learning and I don’t mean learning to help my patients and my clients learning just personally to see my own limitations and to see the resilience people have and the strength people have. And I’ve learned to really remove judgment. My patients have taught me to never judge and to just realize that the two main reasons we suffer in life is we don’t accept people as they are, and we don’t accept ourselves as one of the people. And we also don’t accept situations as our acceptance as a thought. And when it comes down to it, removing judgment and just seeing life as a series of experiences, regardless of what challenges you have going on, helps us just move forward. How can you make today your best version of you? How can you make today a little more joyful to live each day as if it’s your last? The biggest thing I’ve learned, each and every person who walks in here, they teach me to live each day as if it’s your last. You don’t know what changes, but to also believe in your skill set. You know, we talk about faith and fear. Fear is doubting your skill set to get through things that are challenging. Faith is believing in your skill set. The one thing that each and every person who comes to therapy, they believe in betterment. They believe in themselves. They believe in change. We’re all human. To be human is to err. We’re gonna wobble. We’re gonna have ups and downs, correct and continue. The biggest thing I’ve learned in life, correct and continue.

38:59 Bradley
I like that summary. At the end of most of our podcasts. We have a few fun questions for our guests, and so I have a couple for you. Number one is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?

39:14 Monica
Term, principle or theory. I’m going to give you a quote that I really live by, that I’ve had to learn the hard way and that was “don’t give from your well, give from your overflow.” And many of us give and give and give. And if we’re healthcare providers, we have a tendency to overextend at times too. One of my own lessons in life, and this is a theory in many ways too of like don’t give from your well, give from your overflow. Make sure you take care of you before you take care of others. Make sure that you’re replenished so that you can be the best version of yourself in every aspect of your life. I wouldn’t be as good as I am to my clients if I can’t take care of me first, right? We do the best we can with what we know and I’m still fine tuning that process.

40:00 Bradley
I like that answer and the first thing that came to my mind when you were talking about that is back when I was going through grad school, I was looking at what occupations have the highest burnout rate and, believe it or not in the psychological field, they were back then, I’m not sure what it is now, but they were in the top ten. You know, air traffic controllers, some other ones that are high demand and high stress. But you have to think about this for a second. One of my guests said, you know, you have to take care of yourself and your own relationships, because if you can’t take care of that and you’re a psychologist or psychiatrist, you have 10-15 other relationships that you’re thinking about all the time, so make sure you take care of yourself. So, I like that answer.

40:40 Monica
And the self-care is important just to learn how to unplug from your day and you have other roles you play. I remember an acupuncturist once saying to me, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours work, 8 hours play. So 1/3 of your day is at work. Make sure the other 2/3 you’re actually doing properly too and you’re taking care of yourself.

40:59 Bradley
Right, right. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?

41:04 Monica
Trial and error. The best thing that’s worked for me to be who I am today is trying things and don’t let a thought hold you back. Just because you don’t think you’re capable doesn’t mean you’re not. Because I’m living experience of it right in front of you right now that I’ve tried and here I am and I am very proud of the work I’ve done. And I can see my own growth of how far I’ve come. But it’s not over yet. It’s one of those things that I like to pay it forward. It is nice to be able to be of service and help to others. There’s an intrinsic value, but more than that, each and every one of us have our skill set that we’re here to make pay forward. And so, let’s pay it forward, and let’s try to be healthy in the journey so that we don’t deplete ourselves.

41:47 Bradley
And that actually goes along the same lines of a lot of these motivational books are saying find your purpose in life and, and paying it forward could be your purpose, especially in this niche that you found for yourself. One other fun.

42:02 Monica
One other purpose has to be just living in health. We do have to look at our mental and physical health and I, you know, in in the TED talk speak about mental fitness. I think we have to take a turn. We’ve done a great job at promoting physical fitness. Let’s try to make this next chapter, since the pandemic, all the effects, it is important to make the world mentally fit now.

42:25 Bradley
I agree. One final fun question for you. If you had the time, or money, to go on one trip or complete one project, what would you do?

42:40 Monica
So, I’m going to give you the trip. I’ve been wanting to go to Egypt since high school. So, I actually, a fun fact about me is I used to paint quite a bit and I was an artist and I actually used to at the Hart House at U of T used to have my paintings go up there.

42:44 Bradley

42:59 Monica
And so, at one point I was thinking about a crossroads of psychology or going into, like, an art college. And I chose to keep art as a hobby, and I put it aside. But the art field had such an intrigue to Egypt and the culture and the art, and I’ve been always wanting to go and I’ve haven’t been able to make the time. I’ve traveled a lot but that’s a trip that I’m, think I’m saving like 2-3 weeks to just really go on summer for myself. So that’s a project I’d like to do for me, and it’s nice for us to reinvent ourselves constantly and look at a bucket list. And so, one of the projects is just to make a little more time to do some of the things on my bucket list as I help others, I want to make sure that I also fulfill my own personal fun things that make me, you know, Monica.

43:49 Bradley
Well, Monica, you should use your Instagram account to share some of your paintings. I, I scrolled through that while you were talking about it. I’m thinking where are the paintings? You should put, use that.

43:58 Monica
They’re at my parents house all over the walls because I stopped after UofT painting, which I’ll get back to someday. But you know, art kinda comes in different forms. The one thing I have to say that makes me unique as a psychologist is my art background. I think I’m more creative than a lot of, of people I know because of the art background. I, I brainstorm really good ideas. I help find resources outside of me. I definitely go outside the box to find solutions and suggestions. To me, everything’s a problem-solution, problem-solution. Sometimes we get caught up in the emotion tied to a story, but we really need to get to problem-solutions, problem-solutions to help ourselves move out of difficult places, and I find the creative side of me is very good at finding solutions, resources and also just things to do to make you have a better relationship with yourself.

44:51 Bradley
I like that summary and you are doing very well. I applaud you for all of the work that you’re doing and paying it forward. Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?

45:02 Monica
I think the biggest thing I’m going to say is all you people who are embarking on psychology, if it’s a passion, you know, put two feet forward. I find once you put a step forward in any path, it will materialize and manifest. The hardest part is making a decision to go on a path. Once you start making that decision, things unfold. People show up. Trust the process and sometimes get out of the way. You know, watch your thoughts. What are those saboteurs that come in holding you back or telling you, you can’t do something because each and every person you speak to, that’s a mentor, will say that they went through the same path.

45:38 Bradley
I like that summary. Monica, I’ve really enjoyed learning more about your journey. Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with us today.

45:46 Monica
Thank you so much for having me on the show.

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