120. Finding Harmony: Managing Career and Special Needs Caregiving! with Eleni Paris

120. Finding Harmony: Managing Career and Special Needs Caregiving! with Eleni Paris

In this episode of The Traveling Therapist, Eleni Paris shares her transformative journey from a traditional therapist to embracing a fully online practice. This shift was significantly motivated by the need to better accommodate the demanding care for her special needs daughter. Eleni discusses the profound impact this change has had on her personal and professional life, offering insights into how she balances her career with her caregiving responsibilities. She highlights the importance of flexibility in her work schedule, which allows her to be there for her daughter while continuing to pursue her passion for therapy.

Key Points

  • Transition to Online Therapy: Eleni Paris discusses her transition to a fully online therapy practice, which provided her with the flexibility needed to manage her caregiving responsibilities for her special needs daughter.
  • Impact of Personal Experiences on Professional Growth: Eleni reflects on how her personal experiences as a caregiver have enriched her professional capabilities and reshaped her therapeutic approach.
  • Creative Solutions for Work-Life Balance: Elani emphasizes the importance of creativity in balancing professional aspirations with personal responsibilities, showcasing how it's possible to adapt and thrive in both arenas.

About Eleni Paris:

Eleni is a licensed marriage and family therapist in the Tampa Bay area with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's degree in marriage and family therapy, both from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She has over 20 years of professional experience, including clinical work, workshop and seminar presentations, discussion and support groups, writing contributions, collaborative work with various health professionals, and wellness coaching. Eleni is a clinical member of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and have been published in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

She is married and have two daughters, one with developmental disabilities. As a stay-at-home mom during her girls' childhood, she was faced with an abundance of commitments, in terms of helping her special needs daughter, and providing the ongoing support needed for both of her daughters. Parenting a special needs child and navigating the unique challenges involved, in combination with her professional background, has enabled her to help others gain the essential skills and tools that are needed in stressful life situations to cope, heal, and grow.

Ironically, Eleni’s Master's thesis and the JMFT publication were about the interplay between our personal and professional worlds and how one positively influences the other. She know she’s at this particular juncture as an entrepreneur and relationship therapist (a dream come true) due to her family journey as a special needs parent. After taking ample time to navigate the special needs world and tend to her family in ways she could not imagine, and reentering the workforce as a Y coach at the YMCA, she was led back to her passion as a relationship therapist and expanded upon this dream by becoming an entrepreneur. Eleni’s travel includes visiting family in a different state where she can continue working, which has added such rich elements to her career. She truly feel blessed to be at this exact moment of her personal and professional stage of life!

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Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the Travelling therapists Podcast. I'm super excited today to have a Lenny Paris here with us today. I practiced her name. I'm glad to have you here, Eleni. I would love if you would just let everybody know how you went from being a traditional therapist to a traveling therapist.


Thank you, Kim. I'm so honored to be here. I'm so excited about this. So thank you.


Thank you. Thank you for being here. Yeah. So tell us about you. Yes, I


have a little bit of an interesting journey. So I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. I'm completely you know, all online. I love it. So I talk a lot about this. I'm very open, I have a special needs daughter. And so she requires a lot of caregiving and attention. And it's been a very unique journey. And so my years have included, you know, I've been in the field for over 20 years. But my clinical work always looked a little different kind of depending on where she was at and what we were doing for her. And with her. So I did a lot of I did a lot of clinical work. And I did a lot of you know, workshops and publications and things like that. But there had to come there was a time that I had to kind of pause my clinical work and just find other ways to implement my passion for marriage and family therapy, as I tended to her and the things that she needed. And my other daughter, I have another an older daughter. So two girls. Yeah. So anyway, I was in Arizona, it wasn't like I was licensed in Arizona for a little bit. And then I realized that her needs were just so great. And I just needed to really, again, pause at that point, Clint does with my clinical work. Yeah. So still keep my foot in the door in other ways. And then we moved to Florida some years later. And there was a time a few years ago that my professional wheels started turning again, and I Oh, yeah, I really wanted to just do something more and help again, and just it's always been such a passion of mine. I was I was ready to start working with people again. And but I still didn't know if the clinical space was going to fit with my personal world. Yes. So I decided to work at my Y. I was a y coach at the YMCA. Oh, okay. Yeah, in my neighborhood. It was an amazing job. I can't even tell you. I think it was a full bridge to bring me to here now. And I love that I go work out there myself. But I also took Sophia a lot. That's my daughter's name. It took Sophia. And I loved how they worked with her. And just I thought, Wow, maybe I could just work here a little bit. And yeah, so I went and interviewed and again, so again, my wheels were turning about clinical world, I still didn't know if I was ready yet or if it would be the best. Next step. So I went interviewed, and when I went for the interview, the director said, you know, we're about to open up this position for a relationship specialist. And wow. Oh, that mean, that sounds like that sounds like me, what is that? And he's like, Well, we're about to, you know, it's called a y coach. And we need someone that will just make people feel welcome and take classes with them and show them the gym equipment and help them with their health goals. And he just described this beautiful position. And I was really excited. It was an automatic. Yes. And Oh. So it was a beautiful, beautiful experience. And during that time, then as I met with people, I had people that would say, Gosh, you kind of feel like you're my therapist. So I see like,


actually, yeah,


yeah, yes. And so right before COVID hit, I actually had a very dear friend and my mom kind of sit me down and they're like, look, we love that you're so happy with this job. But we are like, What are you doing? When are you going to go back into your clinical world as a therapist again, because we know you love it, you work so hard for it. And this friend of mine, actually, she experienced my coaching at the Y and so she was she was like, I just think this you need to dive into it again. And it kind of pushed me to think about it. And then everything all the gyms closed down. Of course it was, you know, of course, a horrible, you know, sad thing that was happening left and right, and pushed me to inquire what it would take to be licensed in Florida. And thankfully, it was


a nice, smooth process. Nice. Yeah, because he had been moved to Florida. So you might as well start seeing clients in that state instead, right? Yes,


exactly. So that's what I did. And thankfully, it was a smooth process. And I was an independent contractor at a private practice for a few months. Again, because of my world was Sophia and just some other factors. I felt like I needed to take the next step even further to be on my own and I thought I was going to move into another space and another beautiful offer to rent a space. And as I was waiting for that to be ready for me, my online practice took off to realize Yeah, and I started to realize that it really fit my personal world my it was just a great great fit for my life at home. Yeah.


Oh, I love that so much especially with a special needs daughter. I mean that can be more flexible. I would think if you're at home it needs to help her attend to her whatever is going on. Yes.


I mean, she's, you know, she's at school all day. So I had all these hours to work but it's that it's the big in the morning and the eat the when I'm done so preparing and wrapping up I find myself a lot calmer because I still have to wait with her for the bus to come get her. But I'm not rushing to get somewhere. And that's that's really been helpful. It sounds it's kind of hard to explain. But just even that little, that little transition time is really, really important.


Oh my gosh, yeah. I mean, I found the same thing. When I finally went online. It was like, Ah, I don't have to do this like commute. I don't have to like get all dressed it. I mean, you could wear a party, you know, business on top party on the bottom. And you don't have to do all that. Time and it's just yeah, I totally I love being online. I could never go back to an office. I just don't even know how people do it.


Actually. Love it. I love it so much. I didn't know I was gonna love it. As much as I love it. Like I yeah, I was always open minded about it. And I saw the good but I used to always think I would always have an in person space. So not until I was forced to do this a lot. And then realize, wait a minute, I love this. I love this. And then the afternoons as well, you know, I can wrap up and just repair and just be ready for what I call, I call it the night shift when she comes off. So yeah, and I'm full in and I just love it. So all all those hours that I am I'm working. I'm just I just feel really blessed to be here again, because I wasn't sure if I would so yes, no,


and I you know, I just love the message of this this field that we're in really, I mean, you could do a lot of different things, but and always come back to the clinical work if you want to like yes, you know, I've got other income streams now. Like I see very few clients, but I also know it a time I didn't want to do that anymore. I could just totally go back and just see clients, you know, like that's always something you can go back that you can you can reduce your caseload, you can build it back up, you can take other jobs, you can come back to private practice. I it's so flexible, especially with the telehealth. Yeah. And


I think the other experiences we have positively influenced our clinical work. So yes, I know for a fact that my years that I took a break from the clinical space to tend to Sofia and do other things, like I said, always involved in the field. But I know for a fact that coming back into it now what I brought with me is just gold, my life experiences outside have brought, you know, just so many golden nuggets and beautiful rich life experiences to you know, for my clients.


Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And I think you kind of alluded to it before we hit record, but has has this changed your niche a little bit? Are you still like the couples and all that stuff? Or is that changed because of your experiences, I know, my experiences have definitely changed, you know, my niche and who I want to work with over the years. And also being a traveling therapist, you know, I don't want these heavy PTSD EMDR case loads anymore. You know, like, I used to love when I was in the office and all of that stuff, you know, so that's


wondering, yes. I used to back in the day also work with a lot of kids, I even play therapy back in the day, so that for sure. shifted. I'm only adults now. Yeah. You know, God bless my Sophia, but I'm kind of always in that young play world, if you will. So I only work with adults. I do love working with all kinds of relationships. So So for couples I love, you know, adult parent child or, you know, parents in their, let's say daughter and son in law, you know, like relationships, family relationships, I do tend to get a lot of families now that have special needs children, a lot of couples. Oh, and works hence the Combine marital and parenting and you know that so I do. I do see that's becoming a strong niche for me for sure. That makes sense.


Yeah, I mean, I'm sure it's great a lot of ways but also very stressful in some ways on the relationship. So that's awesome. You're an expert in that now I can help other people.


And I tell them I'm because I'm very open about you know, Sofia, so of course, you know, with boundaries and stuff, but I, I just don't get it, you know, they talk and they share the mental and emotional and physical for a lot of them exhaustion, and I still get it and I'm still in it. So even though my daughter is 19 and I might have some other life experience under me from when she was younger. This was a very long lifelong journey, and I'm still in it, you know, so I get it, I get it too. And so they think they find a lot of relief and support just just knowing that. Yeah,


and I hope I hope people listening hear that because even with my like coaching clients with therapists, you know, they they feel like they can't change their niche. They have to do the same type of clients forever that you know, they can't travel, you know, they've got these like inside the box thoughts, you know, and it's just I hope people are hearing that as you Change, though, does your niche and so just you want to work with it? You know, it just happens over your career. It's normal, I think. I think that's happening.


I think you start to see what starts to fit nicely. And then you serve your clients better, you know, and it just becomes a more natural fit. So yeah, if you can kind of accept that that happens. Yeah, I used to sometimes say that I wasn't going to I'm so special needs out that maybe I wouldn't work with any special needs. Right?


I don't want to talk about it at all. Oh, that's not


it, I realize, actually, this combination of relationship therapy, and these families that have a special needs child that feels right, that feels good. That's awesome. And then, you know, as far as the traveling piece goes, What I discovered, you know, my travel is a little bit limited, again, because of my life and home. But I can go visit, for example, you know, my family that live in Virginia, and I love that I could go for I need to go for a few weeks, let's say because Sofia has nothing going on or and I need to have some help, you know, my family and I can still work and I love that working and I don't want to disrupt the momentum too much if I can. I know it's important to take breaks. But if I can still work a couple of weeks or something, too. And I love that I could do that. Yes,


yeah, absolutely. And we were talking about that, too. Before we hit record. It's just that other that that definition of what's a traveling therapist, you know, just even this part where it's like, okay, well, I could totally just go for three weeks, wherever I want. Yeah, or four weeks or whatever. You know, I could you could take your daughter with you and and also get some from your family. You know, you don't always have that. Not all of us want to be around our family all the time. But it's nice to have the option for a while. Yeah,


I think that's a word, that word freedom comes up for a lot of us. And I think being that I don't have so much freedom in many areas of my life, that it was important that I found that I found a way to have more freedom in my professional world, you know, so I could have that. It just it just fits a lot better. healthier. Yeah, yeah,


absolutely. And, you know, I'm just wondering, like, logistic wise, you said, you moved to Florida. Were you in Virginia before and you move down to Florida, or were you in a different state? Yes, I


was in Arizona. So I Oh, that's right. Yeah. Then we went moved to Arizona for 10 years. And like I said, I practice there. And they had to put on pause, and then we moved to Florida. Yeah,


gotcha. So did you maintain your license in Arizona? Do you still see people in Arizona? Or did you just end that? Okay,


I don't, I don't know. Because I let it lapse. Before we moved. I really thought and this is where I just have to pinch myself that I'm here. Again. I didn't know if I was going to get back into the clinical space. I had moments. And it's another thing for us to remember that we never you never know. Right? Yeah. Do you think we'll ever have the mental and emotional energy to do that again, after everything I'm doing now? You know, I just I couldn't I couldn't feel it or see it at those times. And then I'm, but I'm so glad I never completely dismissed it. And I knew my passion was strong. And I think because I held so much inside. I had to wait, I had to wait for that right time. But I really experienced burnout per se, because because again, I had to take that break, you know, and so now I came in with this, like loads of energy. Yeah.


You're like, I'm excited for it. I'm not burned out.


I'm excited. Totally. Like, each each stage, you know, can I guess the find the next little influence the next, you know?


Absolutely. Yeah. And I was I was just thinking, like, if we were to summarize this talk, that's the thing right there. Yeah. Yeah. It's just like, everything happens, you know, at the time, it's like, why is this happening like this, but when you look back at it, absolutely. It's guided and shaped where you are right now? Yeah. Lately,


and I've come into it in such a different I mean, I just know that my, my growth and all the challenges I've, you know, been enduring as a special needs mom has influenced my work tremendously. I couldn't learn it in school. You know, it was one of those light life things that just has definitely been a gift, I think to my work.


Yeah, absolutely. Do you think you'll travel more? The older she gets? Or I don't? I don't know. What Yeah, you know, of course ability is or anything like that. So I don't know if she can travel in all of that long distances, or if she's going to be moving on to her own independent living or something. I


know, those are questions and good thoughts. So she's, she's cognitively disabled and speech impaired. She's considered undiagnosed, actually. But she's very similar to there's some syndromes that she's similar to, you know, and a lot of them might fall under the autistic umbrella, if you will, but they would never place are there. A lot of specialists wouldn't just because of certain aspects of her social, she's extremely social. They're just certain aspects that just didn't quite fit, but she is because she doesn't talk and because she has some behavioral challenges. I think a lot of them kind of share, you know, a lot of a lot of the behaviors. So I used to fly I have with her a lot. And then she had a lot of anxiety when she hit her early team. And then it became harder. And you know what, it really became harder for me.


Yeah, I got that. I


got it was stressful, so stressful. So I took a break even from that, but she does love car rides. And he's so this past fall, I was like, You know what, Sophia, God bless her. She doesn't have a concept of time. Let's get in the car and drive to Florida, Virginia. And I had a friend that happened to be driving up there. And I was like, let's do it. I was just I gotta go. I haven't seen family. I miss my family. I've got to travel again, I can do it. Because of my work. I was thinking that I can do this. I can work from there. And she loved it. She loved. Nice. And it's a long dry, but I was so excited that I had so much, you know, positive adrenaline. That was great. I enjoyed it. Yeah.


Oh, it's great, though. And maybe after that as well. Maybe, maybe? He's older. Yeah. I mean, who does? Right?


They have stages, you have to be open to all of it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, that's


just that's not a topic we talk a lot about, you know, if you do have children that have special needs, and they might be with you forever, you know, how do you adapt? How do you still if you've got like the travel bug, like how do you adjust to that and make sure that you're able to do that in your life too? Yeah, you have to


be very constantly think outside the box, you know, to to just to remain healthy about at all?


Yeah. Do you have suggestions around that? I mean, maybe somebody's listening, and they're like, you know, I've got the same type of thing going on in my life. What do I do if I, you know, have passions or dreams outside of, you know, the caregiver role? What do I do? How do I make? You


know, I think sometimes we feel like we can't, because we feel like it's going to impede on our parenting. And I think what I found is, with careful consideration, it can actually help because we are 24/7 in our mind. So like, right now she's at school, right? But it's just always there. So I've helped to balance helps to get balance, and then it helps to feed other parts of me so that I am even a better parent. I think so. But with careful consideration, because there are things you might think you want to jump into. And then you realize, oh, my gosh, what was I thinking that does not fit? You know? Yeah, let me one thing I did create, and I'm happy to share it with you, if you if you'd like. And if you think it's appropriate for your audience as Yeah, it's really just like a self care diagram. It's just like a that I created. It shows the different pieces to our self care world. And I include career aspirations as part of the quadrant one of the quadrants Wow,


okay. I'm sure listeners would love that. We can put it in the show a link to it in the show notes. And it might really help somebody. Yeah. So. And I love what you said about getting creative. You know, she might not like to fly, but maybe we can drive somewhere or slowly drive across the country one day, like, who knows? Yeah.


Always, there's always surprises I'm yeah, just like you said, I didn't think I'd be right here right now talking to you about my online therapy practice. You know, I just Yeah,


I know. Yeah. Isn't that? Well, yeah. It's, I think it's inspirational. I mean, I think your journey has been inspirational to a lot of people to realize that, you know, it can ebb and flow. And you can do different things with it, depending on what's going on in your life. And, you know, always get back into the clinical work if you want to you. And you could always take a break from it, you


can, and you can know that that break will fuel, there'll be good things that come from that break. I mean, there's just good things that come from that break. I think that my my break, has has been a blessing. I didn't know, I didn't know, I thought the break was actually going to be possibly permanent. And what I was going to bring into it, and I like I said, I think there's been a lot of a lot of positive things that have come from it.


Yeah. I love that. Yeah, I really do. Well, if you take a big trip somewhere and you work out some really creative ways to bring her along and incorporate her, let us know if you ever want to come back and share because I'm sure there are other parents in the same situation that would benefit from that, you know, that


would be great. If I could expand that was a big step for me to take her I hadn't traveled with her in about four or five years. Wow. Yeah, my husband and I tried to be really good. My mom I have an amazing amazing mom who comes to help me like comes to stay with us. Yeah, yeah. Oh, my husband I try and get away for like some two nighters and things like that, which are very important too. But with her I had not traveled in about five years or so. Yeah, then it dawned on me I was like I don't come up with something there's there's no way like I gotta come up with some some solution to this. Yeah,


right. Yeah, yeah. No, I love that mod sitting here thinking I wonder if there's like resort you'd have resorts have like the area where you could send the kids to to stuff. I just wonder if there's any resorts out there that specialize in like meat. differences or special needs, you know, let's just now I'm curious. I'm probably gonna go Google it to see. I bet you'll


I think there probably will be because I'm always amazed at these people that are starting programs for the support of special needs. Parents, I think is becoming people are becoming more aware. There's a lot out there now. And so yeah, I think I think it's very possible. It's very possible. Very


interesting. Yeah. Well, thank you for taking the time today. So if anybody's listening and they want a clinician in in Florida that specializes in what you specialize in. How would they find you?


Yes, yes. So my website is, I'll say it, then I'll spell it. It'll be W dot Eleni Paris. lmft.com. So that's e leniparislmft.com. And best way to reach me for sure.


Oh, well, thank you so much for taking the time today.


I think you know, it's such an honor to be with you. I really love your work, and I really appreciate it. It's been so nice. Thank you.


Oh, thanks so much.

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