Therapy with Meira Cohen-Hansford, LCSW

Meira Cohen-Hansford is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in New York specializing in trauma, anxiety, and postpartum depression. We asked Meira more about her work with clients and her guiding philosophies on therapy.

Meira’s background and personal life

How did you decide to become a therapist?

I'm not sure if I chose to become a therapist or becoming a therapist chose me! Long before training and licensure, I was cultivating a practice of curiosity, compassion and social engagement. I was always a listener, confidant and someone to process feelings with. I was the go-to student in high school to share minor and major grievances with. I was also always oriented toward trying to understand and heal myself.

My mom was a therapist and many of her friends were in the field of psychology and psychiatry. Foundational therapeutic skills, my disposition and interest were always there—for as long as I can remember.

What was your previous work before going into private practice?

After college I worked in Advertising before returning to graduate school. I worked in mental health clinics prior to private practice.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I do a lot of yoga! I walk and hike with friends. Spend time with my children and husband. I read, write, enjoy the energy of the city.

Meira’s specialties and therapy philosophies

What guiding principles inform your work?

The three most common foci in my work are developing self compassion, learning to slow down and to trust oneself. I use my whole being while engaged in sessions. I am often connecting with my body, my breathe, my sensations and encouraging clients to do the same. I utilize Mindfulness to help people slow down and tolerate what they notice and feel. Each person is unique, but if willing, I encourage the use of somatic experience to help people develop more awareness of their emotions.

I take a very non judgmental stance and help my clients cultivate that within themselves. It's really hard to explore our inner workings if we're being unkind to ourselves. I often work in parts language, helping people relate to conflicting motivations. And most imortantly it's the relationship between myself and client that informs the work.

What clientele do you work with most frequently?

I do a lot of trauma work. I also work with people struggling with anxiety, life transitions, postparum, parenting, and relationships. I work with a range of populations, spanning teens to older adults. However most often work with people in their 20's-40's. I work with individuals as well as couples.

I have a special interest in working with young people navigating their 20's and 30's. This is often a very fruitful couple decades to learn a lot about oneself and make meaningful choices. I also love to work with newish parents settling into this phase of life.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in trauma?

I work with a range of traumas, including attachment traumas, sexual assault, emotional abuse, grief and loss. Often this work requires a lot of psychoeducation around their nervous systems as well as teaching and developing grounding techniques and new ways to self soothe and self regulate. Shame often accompanies Trauma, so working with this complicated emotional experience if often a big piece of the work.

Can you tell us more about your specialty in anxiety?

Anxiety manifests in so many ways, for example, perfectionism, obsessive compulsive tendencies, health worries, sleep issues, digestion, gripping, etc... I begin by helping people explore their relationship to their anxiety, which in it itself is an entrenched habit. We explore the various ways they feel protected by their anxiety and how that makes it hard to let it go and ways they can begin to befriend it in order to replace the anxiety with new ways of being. Additoinally we explore what emotions lie beneath the anxiety, helping to lean into those feelings that are often masked by the anxiety.

Can you tell us about your work with new mothers navigating the postpartum period?

Matrescence, the birth of becoming a mother is a new stage of life, charged with hormonal changes, identity shifts, loss, grief, overwhelming feelings, etc.. Moms and Dads benefit greatly from having their experiences normalized and reframed or contextualized for them. In the past I ran groups for parents, 'Beyond the First Year' where we gathered and explored this new terrain and how to best manage these universal challenges.

What do you find most rewarding about your work?

Watching the people I work with on the road to meeting their objectives of therapy. Whether it is healing and feeling more alive, developing self regulation strategies, improving their sense of self or relationships. It's unbelievably rewarding to be part of peoples processes.

Therapy sessions with Meira

What will our first session together be like? What happens in ongoing sessions?

I don't have an intake, so we really just begin with where you're at. If you prefer, I can always provide some prompts to get us started. Whether they are questions around what's bringing you to therapy, any prior therapy, what worked/didn't work, if you have goals or intentions of therapy. My philosophy is that we naturally get to the places we need in the work and so I don't have an agenda or list of questions about your history. I also work in the present, so we might just take notice of how it feels as the first session evolves.

How long do clients typically see you for?

There's really no average. I have people who I work with for 9 months and some people continue to evolve with therapy for years!

Are there any books you often recommend to clients?

So many!

I also tell people to listen to The 10 Percent Happier Podcast—it's a boundless resource.

Do you assign “homework” between sessions?

If you like! I don't typically assign, however sometimes people like to leave the session with an assignment. Sometimes this is noticing a relationship between thoughts, feelings and actions, setting an alarm twice a day to stop and pause and reflect- maybe give your anxiety or another emotion a rating of 1-10. Most importantly intentions should be reasonable and manageable.

How do you help ensure I'm making progress in therapy?

We do a lot of reflecting, metaprocessing. We name what is happening, what skills are being developed, how they may have been utilized over the last week. I tend to be very engaged, so I welcome a lot of feedback.

How do I know that it’s time to start seeking therapy?

If you're curious about therapy, you're already engaged in the pre contemplation/contemplation stage of therapy.

How can I prepare for our first session?

Nope—just yourself. It's always helpful to self reflect, so the more awareness of what's bringing you the better- but even if that feels amorphous- we can work together to identify and articulate those intentions.

How will I know it’s time to end my time in therapy with you or reduce session frequency?

It's different for everyone. Sometimes people need a break to integrate the work we've done and then return at a later dates.

Why should I seek therapy, rather than turning to my partner, friends, or other loved ones?

You should always continue to turn to loved ones for support and connection. Working with a therapist provides a more neutral space from which to explore. While a therapist still has their own feelings and experiences, much life friends and family, therapists have training to not let their biases interfere with the work. A therapist has skills that a friend may not have. Or even if your friend is a therapist, they can't really be yours. Designating 45 minutes to really sit with, reflect, practice is an incredible gift to be able to give yourself.

What advice would you share with therapy seekers?

Learn about a variety of modalities and speak with a number of therapists before committing. You'll know when you find the right fit!

Visit Meira’s profile to watch her introductory video, read more about her, and contact her for an initial consultation!