Monte Nido Eating Disorder Center of Manhattan Primary Therapist Carrie Wasterlain, LMSW shares her personal journey as part of Monte Nido & Affiliates in this week’s blog post. Carrie began with Monte Nido as an intern, and now serves as a very talented, dedicated Primary Therapist and a valued team member. Read on to learn more about Carrie and her amazing work…
How did your journey at Monte Nido begin?
When I started my social work degree, I already knew my end goal was to work with eating disorders. Going back to graduate school to pursue a completely unfamiliar career path (I was coming from three years of brand consulting) was an exciting but scary step, so I did a lot of research before making the jump. One informative experience included working at the NEDA hotline, and my own recovery from an eating disorder contributed to my decision as well. As soon as NYU allowed me to choose my own internship, I already had my eyes set on Monte Nido, and I pushed hard for a field placement here. I remember being so excited to join the team, even as an intern; the supportive and nurturing environment was like nothing I had ever experienced in a job before, and I felt like I fit in in a way I never had.
How did you prepare to become a primary therapist? How did Monte Nido support you in your professional journey to becoming a primary therapist?
After my internship, I was hoping there would be a job available at Monte Nido that I could transition into. At the time, there were no Primary Therapist spots, but our Program Manager was leaving, and I was asked if I would be interested in taking on her role. Luckily, I had spent the previous months training with her on intake assessments, and I had really enjoyed being the first contact our clients had with Monte Nido. I could imagine, having had an eating disorder myself, how nerve-wracking and scary it might feel to share your story with someone you were just meeting for the first time, and I loved the idea of being able to help prospective clients feel comfortable and supported at this vulnerable time. Monte Nido knew I wanted to grow my clinical skills, and was generous enough to let me shape the Program Coordinator role into a comprehensive mix of clinical and administrative work. In addition to coordinating program logistics and client care, I started leading groups, covering for therapists on vacation, and participating in meals and snacks. I even was able to take on my own clients from time to time, when our census allowed for it. These hands-on experiences ended up being the best training I could get for eventually becoming a therapist. As jumping into a therapist role straight out of school can feel very intimidating, I was happy to be able to transition a bit more gradually into a fully clinical position. I really enjoyed learning about the administrative aspects of running a treatment center as well, and it was fulfilling to get to know each and every client who came to our program during my intakes and orientations.
What was your motivation to become a primary therapist?
My first inspiration for becoming a therapist was working with the social worker who helped me overcome my eating disorder. I had been in therapy throughout my life, but had never fully “clicked” with anyone. I also had only worked with therapists who had a PhD credential, and I was under the impression that that was the only path to becoming a therapist. Once I started working with an LMSW, who was warm, engaged, and truly understanding of my challenges, that perception changed. I realized that a credential wasn’t a good indicator of a therapist’s skill level or ability to connect, and that if I wanted to pursue this career, I could do so without going back to undergrad to prepare for a PhD (I didn’t have any credentials from my undergraduate degree that related to psychology). This is when I started researching social work school.
More specifically, what motivated my interest in working with clients as a therapist was helping people who felt alone in their lives to feel heard and understood by someone. It’s a simple idea, but one that I believe is tremendously powerful in what can often feel like a terribly lonely world. Many people grow up in environments in which they don’t feel safe to talk openly about their feelings, or haven’t even learned the basic vocabulary for articulating them. I wanted to change that, even if only for a handful of people. I also knew that having had immense challenges with an eating disorder and moving past them would only help me connect to my clients, increasing their confidence that they, too, could overcome this painful disease. After feeling bored after just three years in my former career, therapy appealed to me as it seemed as though I could spend a lifetime learning from the experiences of others. I also liked the idea of it being something that dealt with the genuine experiences of life, rather than a corporate career that felt detached from humanity.
What do you love about Monte Nido?
The people who work here put their heart and soul into what they do. They bring warmth and inclusion to their work, and their interest in helping others always feels authentic. There’s something really inspiring about being around people who have thought carefully about what they want to contribute to the world, and are committing to it with every part of their being, every day. The opportunity to hear the stories of those who seek treatment with us, and to make enduring connections with them, is also really special to me.
Share a story about a soulful/moving/impactful event/situation/client that you have had at Monte Nido.
A couple weeks ago I received a card from a client who was discharging, articulating how much her journey at Monte Nido meant to her and how excited she was to move forward in her life. It was the first card I had ever received from a client, and it was so meaningful to me to hear that something had clicked for her in our time working together. Even as you watch your client gain new insights and become more confident at fighting his/her eating disorder, part of this work means feeling unsure of yourself and your contributions all the time. Receiving the card was a nice reminder that regardless of our doubts in ourselves, we may be doing enough, simply by being there for someone along their journey. Our work is about our clients, so we keep our insecurities to ourselves, of course, but in the end, therapists are human, too.