Once you grasp the level of suffering and environmental damage caused by animal exploitation, changing how you interact with the world on a day-to-day basis becomes an imperative.
Why I Created this Website
If you're reading this, it's likely that we're on the same page, so I won't preach to the choir. Fellow vegans, here's what I know about you:
You're sad. You're anxious about the state of the world. You're sickened by how the vast majority of humans treat animals and the planet. You're in a state of permanent eye-roll about your co-worker (and frankly, most people you encounter) who talks about how much she loves her cat, and chows down on pig at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I was that person. And I'm embarrassed about how long it took me to get my head out of the sand. But now that I'm here, I will not be silent about the oppression and abuse anymore. Here's where it gets a little tricky, though.
As a therapist (Licensed Clinical Social Worker), I can't project my own values onto the work I do with my clients. (And though the NASW has a Code of Ethics that recognizes the need to stand up for social injustice with humans, it does not extend toward non-human animals.) So it's unethical for me to "push" my veganism on clients in any way, which leaves me feeling weird and stifled even with how I express my views on my website and on social media.
To make matters even trickier, one of the things I specialize in treating is eating disorders, and a lot of folks in the ED community equate veganism with disordered, restrictive eating. As much as I know better than that now (and have several pints of Ben & Jerry's dairy-free in my fridge to prove it), I have to admit that — not only was I that 16 year old who "went vegetarian" primarily because it was a convenient way for me to restrict (when I was in my disorder) — but I've also worked with numerous ED clients who have admitted the same about their vegetarianism/veganism. The vilification of sugar and "processed foods" has made "eating healthy" a slippery slope for many who have a hard time finding that line between awareness and obsession/rigidity.
Ultimately, I want to be able to support all my ED clients (vegan and not) in recovery, encourage them to be honest with themselves and others about the motivation behind for their food choices, and grow in how they practice compassion in all aspects of life. If a therapy client is not interested in discussing veganism, I won't go there — and if they are, I will happily share resources and support them in their journey in a way that honors their right to self-determination.
But I also really, really want to be able to be loud and proud about standing up for animals. So, inspired by the amazing 2017 Nashville VegFest, I decided to create this "Val the Vegan Therapist" website and social media profiles where I can talk directly to "my people" without filtering or watering down that important part of myself. I'm not aiming to pressure or convert anyone with this platform (though some of the material I create might be helpful for those who are vegan-curious and interested in learning more), but rather, to connect with and be a resource for people who already share this value.
If you're vegan, does your therapist or life coach or yoga instructor need to be vegan? Of course not. But similar to how many people who identify as Christian might prefer to work with a Christian counselor who shares a similar worldview, some folks prefer to work with a therapist or life coach who shares similar views about the exploitation of animals and the planet, since these are issues that impact our lives and choices on a day-to-day basis.
So take a look around, and if you're interested in working with me in some capacity, I'd love to hear from you. And if you’re looking for my other-than-vegan stuff, head over to www.shinebrightwith.me.
About Valerie Martin, LCSW, RYT
Valerie offers individual psychotherapy in her private practice in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as coaching with clients internationally. She uses an integrative mind + body approach to support her clients in personal growth, psychospiritual exploration, and healing from trauma, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and relationship issues. She advocates for animal and human liberation via animal rights activism, ecological and social justice work, and living a vegan lifestyle. Valerie's podcast “What’s the F***ing Point?” explores the intersection of psychology, behavior, spirituality and philosophy. You can find her online at www.valthevegantherapist.com and Instagram @valkaymartin.