30 Under 30, Class of ’18: Naiylah Warren, Therapist
By Caitlin Wolper
Age: 28 Pronouns: She/Her Neighborhood: Bed-Stuy Most Likely to: Stay in bed all day watching Fixer Upper on HGTV Favorite Quote: “In the final analysis, it was between you and God, it was never between you and them, anyway.” – Mother Teresa
Since her first Psych class, Naiylah knew she’d go into therapy. Currently, she works as a marriage and family therapist focusing on conflicts with substance abuse and mental health. Naiylah wants therapy to become a commonplace, unstigmatized experience. Living in Brooklyn, she’s seen something as casual as a chat on a stoop, or a walk with friend, become a therapy session. In her work, Naiylah sees people suffering from homelessness, institutionalization, addiction, and a host of other problems. While it’s challenging to hear their stories and not be able to cure everything that ails them, she’s glad they’re willing to let her into their lives and share their stories so she can aid and offer solutions. Naiylah’s work shows that health is a matter of mind as much as the body.
What is your earliest memory associated with what you do now? In 4th grade, I stood up in the middle of my class after my teacher had just scolded us for being loud in the hallway. I envisioned myself giving the class a motivational speech and as soon as I was done thinking it, I got up and did it. I gave a very quick speech to the class, that we are better than what we have done and that we have the ability to do our best. I don’t know who I thought I was but I just knew I got us feeling like Muhammad Ali before a fight. That was the first time I remembered really wanting to make people feel better and actually doing something about it.
When did your occupation become real to you? My occupation became real to me when I had a client who was severely addicted to heroin. His mother called me crying about how he got kicked out of rehab and he was at her door threatening suicide. I realized that if she had someone else to call, she would have, and it made it very real to me. That I had now become a part of my client’s lives in a bigger way than I had ever thought I would.
How does Brooklyn/your neighborhood particularly inform your work? Brooklyn is the definition of swag. My ultimate goal is to make going to therapy just the new dope thing people are doing. I think it is important that we pay attention to ourselves and each other on an emotional level because our feelings are important.
Being from Brooklyn reminds me that therapy, while it is scientific, can also be casual. I can’t even count how many “therapy” sessions have happened on my stoop with friends, or while taking walks around the neighborhood. Millennials are starting to see the value in these things like mental health and self-care. My goal is for the experience to be as casual as talking to your friend on the stoop, but effective enough to evoke insight and change.
What do you feel is most challenging about being where you are now? The challenge is seeing people suffer from all types of issues like homelessness, institutionalization, drug/alcohol addiction, mental health, relationship issues, and poverty, and not be able to really do anything about it. I had to realize like most people in helping professions that you can’t fix everything, especially as a therapist. You can only help other people find solutions, but it is more difficult when their problems are systemic. Also, helping professions don’t pay well, so while yes, you do this for the good of humanity, you have to figure out how to pay your bills at the same time. Definitely a challenge.
What’s most rewarding? I work with a population of homeless individuals with varying mental health and substance abuse disorders. They are the individuals in our families that we rarely check in on because their behaviors have pushed us away. They are the individuals who have found it really difficult to navigate the world as it is, and do so with very little support.
I get to see the parts of them that no one asks them about (even if they resist). They tell me their stories despite how painful they are; they confess their struggles to me despite how difficult, and I feel very special in those moments. It also helps when I hear them say how much they love me from the lobby of the office. That feels pretty good too.
What’s your most significant accomplishment to date? Definitely, without a doubt, graduating graduate school! That was a very long, very hard two years!
Who/what inspires you? I am inspired by healing. I love to see people feeling better, feeling whole, and having more peace in their life. That is what inspires me to be a helper.
Thinking about the future, where do you see yourself in the next 30 years? Let’s see, the next 30 years, I will be 58! I hope to be on a yacht in the South of France with my family or hanging out in my beautiful Brooklyn Brownstone. I also hope to have my own business dedicated to help people make self-care a priority.
What’s next for you?
I will be relauching my blog and providing therapeutic consults to help people develop habits around self-care.