Dr. Marsha D. Brown is a Florida Licensed Psychologist with specialisations in forensic and clinical psychology. She has extensive experience in the assessment, evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of children, adolescents, adults, and families across a variety of settings. A complete an utter powerhouse, Marsha has many strings to her bow.
With the rise in mental health issues around the world, Marsha does work related to stress & mental health management. Specifically, she gives lectures and workshops on stress and mental health management for a variety of professionals, including medical, legal, law enforcement, and mental health. Her lectures and workshops focus on helping individuals begin or improve their journey to improved mental health and self-care. As you know, here at House of Coco, self care is something we shine the light on regularly so we had to meet Marsha to find out more…
You work in the field of forensic psychology, tell us about the journey that lead you to that…
I have always been fascinated by human behaviour. I discovered True Crime novels when I was around 10 years old. I loved learning the details of real-life cases and how the lives of the people involved ended up intersecting. I was especially intrigued by the perpetrator’s story. I wanted know what their early experiences were like, what others’ impressions of them were, and how they ended up on a path to commit such heinous crimes. I never lost that fascination. In fact, after graduating from college, I decided I wanted to be part of a profession that allowed me to work with people similar to those I had read about for so many years. I actually discovered Forensic Psychology through hours-long internet research sessions. After learning about the work a Forensic Psychologist could be involved in, I decided to get a Ph.D. After graduating with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, I moved to Florida for my Postdoctoral Residency. During Residency, I worked for a private practice that specialised in forensic evaluations and assessments. I got excellent experience working on cases for criminal and civil court matters. After residency, I worked as an Independent Contractor as I was building a private practice. I now work for my own practice. I specialise in working on cases related to family, criminal, and civil court matters. In family court, my work relates to issues including parenting capacity, timesharing, risk, substance use, and psychological functioning. In criminal court, my work relates to issues such as competency, criminal responsibility, substance use, and mitigation. My civil court work includes assessment of psychological and emotional damages. Overall, I get to work with people from all different backgrounds and experiences, which I absolutely love.
In the world right now, there is so much noise, from the overuse of social media to the news. That has had a direct correlation to the rise of stress and mental health issues. As this is an area you work in, what advice would you offer to people who are looking for ways to switch off and reduce their stress levels
We are at a point where many people are sleep-deprived, stressed out, and overworked. Between work, news, and social media, we are continuously inundated with information. As we have become used to constant stimulation, it can be quite difficult to fully disconnect. Also, for many people, relaxing and/or engaging in non-work activities causes feelings of guilt because we have been led to believe that leisure time equates with lack of discipline, motivation, productivity, and downright laziness. When we take a break, it can be tough to force our minds to relax because we feel like we “should be” working. It is very important to disconnect for a bit, even if it feels uncomfortable at first. Start with a short period of time and work up to at least an hour each day. For example, try disconnecting from all devices for at least 20 minutes a day. During that time, find an activity unrelated to work that relaxes you. It could be something mindless, like colouring, listening to soothing music, or even staring at a picture on the wall. As I mentioned, it may be difficult to do these things at first because we have become used to life at an accelerated pace. If you keep doing it every day, it will eventually become easier.
Tell us about what an average day looks like for you
One of the many things I like about what I do is that there is no “average day.” Aside from morning workouts, my schedule really depends on the cases I’m working on at the time. I work on cases related to family, criminal, and civil court matters, so I spend time conducting evaluations in jails, homes, schools, and my office. Added to that is time spent providing expert witness testimony in court. I have also incorporated more stress management seminars into my schedule
Have you overcome any issues with your mental health? If so, how?
I have definitely had times when I was super stressed-out and realised I was not functioning at my best. I run a solo practice, which means I’m a one-woman show. Especially at the beginning stages of building my practice, it was challenging to keep up with independent contract work while still making time to attend events and complete tasks to grow my own practice. I mostly worked 15+ hours a day, 7 days a week, and had almost no time for myself. I was always exhausted and going to work became tough because I worked every single day. I still loved the work I did because I’ve always found it interesting, but I didn’t enjoy it as much because I was wearing myself out. I realised I needed to figure out a better way to manage my career and time before I completely burned out. I started reading about the habits of highly successful professionals and noticed work-life balance and self-care were recurring themes in each piece I read. Then, I started to research the impact of stress on psychological functioning and methods of self-care. The more I researched and learned about those topics, the more interested I became. I realised that sleep and exercise needed to stay at the top of my priority list in order to be able to accomplish my goals and keep up with everything I do. That led me to implement self-care into my routine. I actually began scheduling exercise, time to disconnect from work, and a reminder to start my bedtime routine in my calendar. If an activity is in my calendar, I’m more likely to do it.
You deliver workshops around mental health and self care, what attracted you to this field of work?
My experiences with my own struggle to make self-care a priority led to my interest in the subject. Around the time I began implementing self-care into my daily routine, I had an opportunity to teach a Continuing Legal Education seminar on Mental Health and Stress Management. It was a great experience and I began to realise many busy professionals also struggle to find ways to incorporate self-care into their lives. I eventually developed seminars for various professionals, including those in the legal, mental health, and child protective services fields. I also started presenting at different professional events and conferences several times per year. The seminars are a part of my work that I really love. They give me an opportunity to connect with people from all different professions and backgrounds, which is something I have always loved to do. Another bonus is helping people develop the tools necessary to not only identify the effects of stress on their personal and professional lives, but to implement stress reduction and self-care techniques into their daily routines.
Self Care is really important to us at House of Coco, we really encourage time out as a business and encourage our team to switch off regular. What does self care mean to you?
For me, self-care is always a work-in-progress, as I am always working to improve that aspect of my routine. It means listening to my mind and body for guidance on when I need to get more sleep, slow down, say “no” to a new task or project, etc. It means engaging in non-work-related activities that improve my mental, physical, and emotional well-being. It’s about making sure I get enough time to decompress and rest to ensure that I can not only do my job well, but also enjoy life. I work within the court system which can be fast-paced and usually involves adhering to externally-imposed deadlines. Therefore, it’s not realistic to expect that I will always have ample time to practice excellent self-care. Realistically, there are times when I have a bunch of things due at the same time; in order to complete everything, I have to work later and get less sleep than would be ideal. It’s just the nature of my job. Therefore, I have to find ways to squeeze in smaller, quicker, less-intrusive ways to restore my mental, emotional, and physical well-being during days when my schedule is overbooked. It also helps that I am flexible about taking more time for self-care activities during less hectic periods.
Self-care activities are subjective because everyone is replenished by different activities, at different times. That’s why it helps to find a few go-to activities that help reset our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. My go-to self-care activities are exercising, meditating, listening to stand-up comedy, and journal writing.
Our readers love to travel, if you had to hop on a flight anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
I love traveling. It gives me an opportunity to experience and learn about other cultures. I especially love places where I can hang out with locals and fellow travellers. Bonus if there are good hiking options in the area. I have a long list of countries I would like to see, but I think Bhutan, New Zealand, and Iceland are at the top of my list of new places to visit. If I could revisit a place, I would choose the Dolomites in Italy. I was blown away by the beauty and peacefulness of the region and would love to see it again.
What does 2020 look like to you?
In 2020, I will increase my work with professionals and organizations on mental health and stress management. There is a great need for increasing mental health awareness and wellness among professionals with highly stressful jobs. I think increasing awareness and encouraging self-care among those professionals will also help decrease burnout. I am in the process of developing a seminar for medical professionals that addresses these issues.
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Photography: Tolga Kavut Photography