E! True Therapy Story: Vanessa Morgan
Q&A: Get to Know Your Therapist
How did Vanessa find her way into therapy? Who are her heroes in healing? Here, Vanessa grabs a seat on the couch and we do all the asking. Because, sure, you can easily find her credentials, but aren’t you curious about what your therapist is listening to and watching? And don’t you want to know if she’ll judge you for wearing socks with sandals to a session? (Spoiler: She won’t!)
Let’s go WAAAY back. When did you first get interested in therapy?
I grew up around a lot of healing practices because my mom is a meditation teacher and Reiki master. By the time I was 18, I had experienced a Native American sweat lodge, past life regression and the energy vortexes in Sedona. So I had a pretty unconventional childhood and I was exposed to the idea of healing from a very young age.
But I was also a teenager who really just wanted to hang at Taco Bell, so of course I pushed back on everything and that made me want to distance myself from all the spiritual stuff. When I went to college, I studied the science of psychology and steered clear of the “woo-woo” practices.
Did you ever find your way back to the woo-woo?
So flash forward to grad school… I got pregnant and my first child was born. In the process of becoming a mom and soon after ending my first marriage, I felt this existential crisis that couldn’t be solved by science alone. I felt like I needed to bring some spirituality back into my life. I went to shamans, I went to energy healers… I must’ve spent $50,000 in one year on healing! I went to anyone who could help me work through why I had chosen a toxic relationship.
That experience got me to where I am now with integrating empirically validated therapies (neuroscience and attachment theory) with some more spiritually-based practices (meditation and prayer).
How would you describe your specialty today?
I call it the yoga of relationships. So it’s taking yoga theory—not the postures, but the practices for spiritual enlightenment—and applying it to attachment theories. I focus on the idea that people come together in relationships to heal aspects of themselves. Any struggle that someone experiences in a relationship is due to some part of them that needs healing.
So… how do you feel about the idea that only crazy people become therapists? (Please don’t be offended.)
AHHH! It’s 100% true!
Phew! I don’t have to duck out of this interview early.
Listen, you don’t get drawn to healing professions unless you need some sort of healing yourself. Carl Jung had this notion of the “wounded healer,” but I also like the idea of the “healed healer.” Ultimately, through my own work and my own journey, I’ve discovered best practices for helping people heal.
Do you have any healing heroes?
I just love Ram Dass. He was like the nice, Jewish grandfather I never had. He was so warm. Stan Tatkin is my current mentor and I really look up to him and his wife, Tracey. They do great work in the world.
Do you have a favorite healing quote?
I’m a fan of this Thich Nhat Hanh quote: “The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
For anyone who hasn’t met you yet, what does a first appointment look like?
When someone reaches out, I make time to talk with them on the phone first, just to be sure I’m a good fit. Then, they’ll come in for an initial session, which is generally 90 minutes for couples and I assess from there the frequency of appointments. Most often, it’s weekly consecutively for the first 10 weeks, then as needed from there.
Now for the rapid-fire questions that Psychology Today wouldn’t dare ask…
Favorite junk food?
I gave up soda earlier this year but I will always love Coca-Cola Classic from McDonald’s—I have no idea why or how, but it just hits differently.
Ahhh so many! This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show and Wedding Crashers. I also love The Princess Bride and Father of the Bride, which I once watched then immediately rewound the VHS and watched again.
I’m a huge Trevor Hall fan—I’ve seen him over a dozen times. I listen to Stick Figure any time I’m on a boat. Rainbow Kitten Surprise and James Blake tie for the best in-person shows I’ve experienced. And my favorite festival is Outside Lands.
Human Nurture by my colleague Jason Brand.
Favorite travel destination?
Capri, Italy and my bestie’s pink flamingo-inspired house in Lake Havasu.
Your first job ever?
I was a sign twirler for a dry cleaning company…I quit after 45 minutes.
Who would be at your dream dinner party?
The Buddha, Jesus, Ram Dass, Carl Jung and Freud… and obviously my best friends because they all make me laugh, which would ease any social anxiety I’d feel around Jesus.
Socks with sandals: yay or nay?
Yay! It’s like a foot turducken.