Career Profile: Aimee Barr, Psychotherapist

When I was younger, I wanted to be a child psychologist. I still think I would have loved being a psychologist but I love what I do now. I met Aimee Barr at a Six Degrees Society event and we became fast friends, especially because we went to lunch when I was going through something really difficult in my life and I told her everything while trying not to cry into my SweetGreen salad. I was excited to learn more about her career!

Career Profile: Aimee Barr, Psychotherapist

What inspired you to start your therapy practice?

I feel lucky because I knew I wanted to be a therapist at a young age. When I was seven, I came home crying from school because I saw another student being mistreated. Being connected to other people and wanting to make a difference is a big part of who I am.

I love having freedom in my schedule, going to networking opportunities, and I find building my own brand to be very exciting and fulfilling. I decided in 2013 that I wanted to start my own practice and built it part-time for two and a half years. I am now in private practice full-time and have two offices. Taking my time, being mindful, and then believing enough in myself to take the leap into full-time private practice is hands down one of the best choices I ever made for myself.

What is your mission and how do you achieve it?

I love working with insightful, passionate, and motivated people who have hit a tough transition in their lives such as a romantic breakup or a career transition. My mission is to really help people gain greater self-awareness and self-acceptance. I find that guilt immobilizes us and keeps us from trusting ourselves enough to make choices to move forward. Gaining awareness and acceptance helps us be responsible, gain clarity, and learn coping skills that will allow us to feel discomfort without being paralyzed by our emotions.

What were the first logical steps you took to start a business?

I hired a psychotherapist who has 30 years of private practice experience to provide me with clinical consultation and support with business building strategies. Hiring an expert to support me in the early stages was invaluable. I strongly recommend mentorship for anyone who is looking to achieve meaningful results.

What is a day as Aimee like? Please walk me through a day?

I am a morning person and wake up early and head to New York Sports Club for a workout or to Pure Barre for class. On my way, I’ll get a shot of espresso. Most days I will see anywhere from five to eight clients. It’s Go! Go! Go! I love being able to meet colleagues and friends for lunch. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I am at my office in Williamsburg. Tuesday and Thursday I am at my office in Union Square.

What are your responsibilities as a therapist?

My job is to support people through some of the toughest transitions of their life. I believe in safety and basic needs first. I always assess to make sure someone isn’t in danger and that they are getting their basic need met. From there we can gain a greater understanding of why someone has the life they have and how to cope with their current reality while working towards new goals.

What has been your proudest moment in your career so far?

I am dyslexic. I often forget how far I have come. In addition to my private practice, I have begun public speaking at universities and professional organizations about how to work through challenges and how to be courageous. In speaking about earlier experiences in my life and struggles I have had academically, I am reminded of my resilience, courage, and commitment.

What have you learned about yourself since founding your practice?

I have learned that I do best when I have balance in my life and when I am surrounding myself with like-minded people who are also working hard to achieve their brand. I see that it is very true that you are like those who you surround yourself with. It is great to have a support system where we are committed to supporting each other, respect one and another, and are at very relatable places in life.

What is the most important characteristic for therapists to have?

I can name two crucial characteristics:

  1. Gain experience: Experience and knowledge are so very important. As a therapist, your goal is to make a difference for your clients. While real-world experience is helpful, you also need education, training, and often years of experience working at agencies, hospitals, and counseling people in crisis.
  2. Love what you do and the clients and patients you work with: It may sound cheesy, but I do believe that love and caring for one and another is the most powerful form of healing. It’s really important to love working with your clients and to enjoy the work you are doing.

What advice do you have for therapists and aspiring therapists?

Gain experience and be patient. We live in such a fast-paced world where we want immediate results. There is so much value in being humble, learning, and building toward a dream. Don’t rush it, take your time and get your experience. Even if the process feels slow, if you are committed you will get there.

What is one thing you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?

There were plenty of times early in my career that I was feeling impatient with the process of working multiple jobs, receiving a low income, and feeling exhausted. While being driven is admirable, it is important to have balance and to not feel guilty about taking care of yourself.

How should someone go about finding and choosing a therapist?

Choosing a therapist is a very important decision. It’s important that you feel comfortable and like your therapist. Asking for recommendations from people you know is a great start. I also recommend finding someone who is geographically convenient to travel to and has a specialty in the area which you wish to work on. Psychology Today is also a terrific resource to utilize. Many therapists offer 10-15 minute complimentary phone calls. Speaking with several therapists before making a commitment is also something I recommend.

You specialize in transitional periods like breakups and switching jobs. How did you find your niche? What’s one primary piece of advice for someone going through a big change?

I believe that our breakdowns lead to the biggest breakthroughs we will ever have. I love working with people who are going through major transitions as they are open and vulnerable to really looking at themselves and have to access courage to move forward. Breakups and job transitions are consistently listed as the top stressors someone can navigate. It is an honor to support people as they work through these tough times. I find my work to be challenging, reaffirm my great love for people, and to be very rewarding.

What is on your desk right now?

Since I work hard to remain clutter free, I don’t have a desk in any of my offices.

What are your three favorite books?

Professionally I recommend these three books more than any other: Reinventing Your Life: The Breakthrough Program to End Negative Behavior and Feel Great Again. Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help YouFind – and Keep – Love, and Stumbling on Happiness.

Personally, these were my favorite books: East of Eden, Life of Pi, and The Stand.

What is your morning routine?

I enjoy waking up and meditating for ten minutes. Then I get a shot of espresso to help wake up and head to the gym.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Who you surround yourself with and spend time with is very important. Choose these people wisely.

What are you reading right now?

The Buddha’s Wife: The Path of Awakening Together

What is your career advice for other young professional women?

Gain self-awareness and self-acceptance and surround yourself with like-minded people. I believe we should really build on our strengths. Surrounding ourselves with the right people is crucial and a great support to being the greatest versions of ourselves.

Image courtesy of Aimee Barr.