"I’m attempting to put out content that works with reflection, practice, and actual understanding that therapy and the journey toward being emotionally healthy are real, raw but so absolutely beautiful that it is worth exploring."
Leanne Rose Pais is a psychological therapist with a specialization in family and marriage therapy, and a specialization in trauma and PTSD aftercare. She is also a certified Professional Supervisor (Australian Counselling Association accredited) for therapists. Her training in art therapy and inner child work has led her to work with a diverse clientele across the globe. Leanne has her own clinic in Bangalore, India, and has begun an initiative called The Unopenedbox as an attempt to create awareness around mental health and to find a way to bring healthy coping mechanisms to people in a way that is easy to identify, understand and execute in their own lives. She believes that self-love is the first step towards healing. Leanne conducts therapy sessions for individuals, couples, families, and groups. Leanne also conducts skill-training for therapists and is a sought-after trauma specialist. Her philosophy is to bring positive change and destigmatise therapy while spreading empathy.
SWY: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came into the psychotherapy field?
LP: I’ve wanted to be a therapist since I was in the 7th grade. I knew then that I wanted to be someone who facilitated growth, change, and empowerment for myself and others. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to work in this field. It was beautiful that even deep-rooted wounds could be healed and that empowerment could be achieved by everyone. In the 12th grade, I was certain that this is what I most definitely wanted to do. I wanted to work as a therapist for adolescents and make a difference in a way that helped them understand that in the angst and drudgery of it all, there was so much potential waiting to be channeled into so many glorious things that they had no idea about. I deeply believed that there are so many things that could be accomplished in a safe, non-judgemental space that the idea of creating that and empowering people to realize their own potential really appealed to me. I volunteered with different organizations until I finally got into the field myself, and I haven’t looked back ever since. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist, with a specialization in Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Aftercare. I have a diverse clientele that ranges from individuals and couples to families and groups. I absolutely love my job - there is no greater joy than seeing a client learn to empower himself/herself/themselves and it is beautiful being a part of that journey. Through my practice, I have had the privilege of working with children, adolescents, young adults, adults and people much older than me and realized that when it comes to healing, we all need to have safe spaces that are empathetic, non-judgemental and genuinely filled with unconditional positive regard to grow and bloom. I am also a Professional Supervisor (Australian Counselling Association accredited) for therapists. Some of my favourite work is working with therapists and helping them work from a trauma-informed stand-point. I also use art-therapy and inner child work with which I am trained in my work with clients.
SWY: As a psychotherapist, what goals do you wish to attain for yourself and for the others that you are helping?
LP: I have so many goals in mind! I’ve started off with creating The Unopenedbox (@the.unopenedbox on Instagram) as a space to create healthy coping mechanisms for people to empower themselves. A lot of the work on my page is what I use with my clients in therapy. And while this is NOT an alternative for therapy, my content is filled with activities and thought-provoking stories that people can use to begin to empower themselves. I believe that self-love is the first step toward healing. I’ve created this page as an initiative to bring healthy coping mechanisms to people in a way that is easy to identify, understand, and execute in their own lives. My broad idea is to create spaces where people can feel safe and realize that for as long as they learn to be empathetic toward themselves, they can be empathetic to others. It’s when we start learning to be healthy that we can begin to interact healthily. A lot of times, we’re taught to seek external validation, do things that go against our morals. My idea is to bring validation back to ourselves and help people understand how to mobilize themselves out of stuckness and let go of toxicity. I’m attempting to slowly open up a space where people can learn to create their own safe spaces that are empathetic, nurturing, and warm. Hopefully, this will create and extend more empathy toward the self and outward into the world. I believe that it is empathy that will change the world. All of us are born emotionally healthy, but along the way, we’re conditioned to believe that being emotionally healthy is selfish and we start being unhealthy with ourselves and others which leads to a lot of angst, anger, and helplessness. I’m attempting to put out content that works with reflection, practice, and actual understanding that therapy and the journey toward being emotionally healthy are real, raw but so absolutely beautiful that it is worth exploring. But until people are ready for that, there are healthy coping mechanisms that they can use to start living healthy lives, everyday! I believe that if each of us works towards breaking the cycles of abuse, shame, guilt, and more, we can each create healthy realms around us that we will extend into our communities. Regardless of how slow it is, it will start making a difference and starting a community is my first step in this direction. It’s a slow journey, but I love how it’s growing and I hope it expands to encompass the real, authentic and kind nature that all of us do have!
SWY: You have an Instagram page called @the.unopenedbox. What inspired you to start this page, and what do you hope others will take away from it?
LP: I’ve had clients over the years ask me to open an Instagram page for mental health awareness, but I didn’t realize how much it would matter until Covid-19 struck. At that point, I realized that people were struggling to cope with uncertainty because there were integral things that seemed to overwhelm them. I started putting out content that worked toward creating healthy coping mechanisms. And while my page isn’t an alternative for therapy or healing in itself, it could bring the much sought-after practical relief for many. I hope it is also a space that starts positive changes in people that leads them towards healing.
The Unopenedbox is a space where I’m looking to unbox peoples potential, with empathy and kindness. It’s also a space to explore the therapeutic journey that may seem hard and daunting, but is actually quite liberating and freeing. I’d like for it to be a safe space where safe doesn’t mean boring - safe can also be fun, safe can also mean excitement and adventure, safe can be healthy. All of this can be empowering. I started it off with the idea that if even one person benefits from it, I will be pleased. Reading DMs where people say it has touched them personally or certain posts resonate with them has been such a fulfilling and gratifying experience, it’s indescribable. I’m just so happy that it’s making the difference I wanted it to and I hope it continues to do the same and more, especially in the future!
SWY: Oftentimes, when individuals are recovering from abuse, they hold a lot of shame - What are some ways that one can break out of this cycle?
LP: Abuse and shame are often accompanied by deep guilt. The shame and guilt spirals are often overwhelming only because there is a helplessness with the idea of not being able to stop it. While there may be others who put guilt and shame upon us, we often riddle ourselves with even more guilt and shame. This self-infliction is possibly worse and more long-lasting than any guilt inflicted on us by others.
The first step would be to understand that whatever led us to feeling shame and guilt, stemmed from old behaviours that we can change. We have a choice to heal, grow, and change from whom we were to who we would like to be. For healing and change to happen, we need to believe that we CAN be different and that we WANT to be different. That starts by allowing ourselves to accept self-love. The hardest part of healing is learning to love one’s self. But once you allow yourself to believe and truly resonate with the idea that you deserve love and are worthy of it, regardless of what you did, you know you’re going to heal. We all make mistakes because we are human. We also need to know that whatever led us to make these mistakes does not define us. We are capable of growth, healing, and change. I’ve worked as a therapist to perpetrators of abuse and my greatest joy has been seeing them heal, redeem themselves in their own eyes and move forward to grow as humans who change their lives with empathy and love, not just for themselves but also for others. Like all clients, they have been cycle-breakers too! Being able to strip off the masks and layers of defense mechanisms to reach our authentic core can be the most liberating space for us as humans to grow, love, heal, and change.
SWY: What would you say to a child or youth who is suffering from abuse and trauma and is looking to heal but doesn’t know how?
You matter. You are wanted. You are needed. You are more special than you know. You have the potential inside of you that will surprise you! So, hold on to that and allow yourself to heal.
Learning to cope and discovering your own resilience can and will save (and change) your life.
You are not alone. You don’t have to do this alone. While it may be hard to trust people right now, allow yourself to reach out and seek professional help because having that space that is safe, non-judgemental, and makes you a priority is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.
We are here and we want to help you empower yourself because you have it inside of you and just need to find it and access it.
It’s awful that this happened and I honestly wish it hadn’t. But know that what they took away from you - whether it was safety, security, self-worth or anything does not define you. It defines them, not you. You matter.
You define yourself the way you want to and you can heal and grow from this. You can learn to create safe-spaces and stand-up for yourself and get through this. Reach out and seek help because it is better than living in crippling fear of it happening again. One of my favourite quotes is “You’d rather die on your feet than live your life on your knees.” Reclaim your personal power, heal from this, and join together with us to create safe spaces to bring about change.
You can break this cycle. You can reclaim your power. You can transform it into a space where you empower yourself and others. You have more personal power and capability than you give yourself credit for. But take your time, heal, grieve, allow yourself to feel the feelings, validate the pain, and empower yourself. You’ve got this and we are all rooting for you!
SWY: What does overcoming and healing from trauma look like to you?
LP: In one word, ‘Empowering’. As therapists, we are in therapy too. And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that therapy can be as liberating as it can feel overwhelming. However, the day you learn to overcome even the smallest hurdle on your therapeutic journey is the day you know and learn that you are capable of empowering yourself. We are all born with a personal power that we begin giving off to different people as we grow. Learning to reclaim that power, learning to use that power for good, and learning to make that difference helps you realize that you have the potential to overcome any and all adversities in the future. Will you feel pain and hurt? Sure, you will. But you will also learn to process it instead of avoiding it. You will learn to understand it and come to terms with it. You will also know that it isn’t the end of the road but the beginning of the journey to self-discovery and a greater, more profound understanding of yourself. The liberation and freedom that comes with this are like no other. Being able to give yourself this healing is beginning to unbox your potential and realize that you can do whatever you set your mind to when you are kind and understanding. It is you, discovering your resilience in a way that is deep, pure, and authentic. There’s nothing more powerful than embracing your entire self, inclusively.
SWY: As a trauma specialist, your goal is to help others empower themselves through the use of healthy coping mechanisms - Can you give us some examples of coping mechanisms individuals can use to help overcome their trauma?
LP: So one of the things I’d like to put out here is that healthy coping mechanisms begin the journey toward healing but it isn’t necessarily healing in itself. Healthy coping mechanisms allow you to learn to soothe yourself, care for yourself and understand yourself. Healing works with being able to identify patterns, understand them and change them, with the help of healthy coping mechanisms.
My strongest recommendation would be to explore the joys of therapy as a first step toward healing trauma. Self-healing from trauma may not necessarily holistically heal trauma wounds and these wounds could lead to damaging patterns that an untrained person may not know how to identify. However, there are certain coping mechanisms that can be used for coping until a person is ready to start healing.
Start by naming, labeling, and understanding what your emotions are. This can be done using a feeling wheel. There is no shame in learning what emotions mean or how they work, this empowers you to better handle them.
Address the needs of the emotions without judgment. Create safe spaces for you with self-love, kindness, and empathy. Pay attention to your emotional needs and learn to self-soothe.
Allow yourself to begin to let go of guilt and shame. There’s no point in reliving it and reinforcing the idea that something bad happened. Acknowledge that it happened. How can you grow, heal, and change with it and from it?
Seek professional help or reach out to people whom you love and trust to speak about whatever it is that happened.
Journaling can be beneficial. Throw cushions into a wall and say out loud what’s bothering you. Often, just saying it out loud and releasing the energy can bring about a sense of strength.
Realize that while there may be a lot of things you can’t control, you can control your perspective and your responses. You have more personal power than you give yourself credit for. Use your personal power to empower and liberate yourself and then spread it to empower and liberate others.
Always, always know that you matter. Things do get hard and overwhelming but if you’re here today, you also know that you’ve overcome every hard thing there is out there. Use that energy to heal yourself and grow. Grow through encouraging, nurturing, and being kind to yourself.
This may sound simple but it takes effort and consistent practice to make it your lifestyle. Don’t give up on it. Start today, the more you equip yourself with healthy coping mechanisms, the easier it is to heal!
Give yourself a chance to get to where you want to be and surprise yourself with how amazing you are. I’ve found, in my own life, that often when certain things don’t work out, other amazing things do. It’s about learning to see and finding those amazing things in your own life and holding on to the idea that they will come in bursts over and over again. You just need to spot them, hold onto them, and enjoy them.