Our aim in featuring Bridges clinicians is to highlight passionate therapists, minimize stigma, and engage Asian Pacific Islander South Asian American therapy-seekers. Want to be featured? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Introducing… Nira Shah, LMHC
I’m a licensed psychotherapist and yoga instructor with focuses on CBT, Compassion-Focused Therapy, mindfulness and intersectionality.
When did you know you wanted to become a therapist/psychiatric provider?
I knew early on (during college) that I wanted to help others in the mental health field. My career journey took some turns, as I worked in different spaces including internationally in the humanitarian world for several years. After returning to NYC in 2018, I decided to finish my clinical licensure hours and by 2020, I was able to launch my private practice.
How does your identity impact your work?
Intersectionality is so important to consider in therapy. My own identity includes being South Asian, a woman, heterosexual, able, middle socioeconomic class and of US citizenship. Understanding my identity impacts my work in being able to closely connect with what certain marginalized communities face, and at the same time presents a recognition of my privilege I hold in other social locations. I believe the continual exploration of identity and worldviews is crucial for being a culturally competent therapist.
Tell us about a moment you felt joy in your work…
The moments where I guide clients to have their “aha” moments is always very special. It’s like challenging puzzle pieces which finally fit together, and those realizations and revelations can be so meaningful in their personal journey.
How do you think your clients experience therapy with you?
I think that clients experience a safe, non-judgement space with me, where they can explore their inner worlds with curiosity.
What inspires you to continue your work as a clinician?
Seeing my clients successfully make changes and further understand themselves inspires me to keep growing as a clinician. I also feel inspired to continue supporting the BIPOC and marginalized communities. My next step as a clinician is to create a stronger connection with yoga for mental health, to offer clients.
How have you changed as a result of doing this work?
Encouraging clients to use more compassion and adaptive coping tools has reminded me to do these as well. I’ve also become more aware of my own triggers and core beliefs.
Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t find on your PsychToday profile…
I also have a side hustle/passion project, which is a clothing line in which the products are made by resettled refugee and immigrant tailors in NYC!
Tell us about a motivating person or moving experience in your life…
Living in northern Thailand for 2 years while working with the UN Refugee Agency was a deeply moving experience. Not only because the work was meaningful, but it’s the place where I began a meditation practice and was able to connect with solitude, so I gained so much personal growth.
How do you care for yourself?
I engage in what brings me joy, even if it’s small gestures throughout the day, such as making a good snack, walking in a beautiful park, or relaxing with a cup of coffee and book before I start my day.
What is bringing you joy right now?
Getting to know my nephew, who is 9 months old and the most adorable, playful little human.
What do you think people should know before beginning therapy?
That you might not get all the answers immediately, and that your therapist doesn’t have all the answers. Therapy is an exploration into your inner world– and that is pretty difficult! There are many layers and complexities, but it can also be deeply rewarding to better understand yourself. So have patience and an open curiosity when you begin.
What would you share with someone who is considering a career as a therapist/mental health clinician?
Spend some time in the field (i.e. through social work or field-based work). While being a traditional therapist in an office setting has its rewards, the professional growth you gain from the field is incomparable, not to mention its opportunities to be an advocate within social justice and see other parts of a client’s world.