May 4, 2023 By Marisa Olsen
May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and we wanted to highlight and feature local Hingham resident and therapist Liz Graham. Hailing from Vermont, Liz always felt compelled to explore a path in social services. After graduation from college, Liz moved to New York City to work at a group home for teenage girls. However, with the high rents and expenses of the city, Liz pivoted in order to stay in the city. She eventually transitioned into a career of fundraising and events, including a tenure at New York’s contemporary and modern art museum, MoMA. Fast forward a few years later, and Liz has once again pivoted, turning to her passion for helping others.
Liz now has a Masters in Mental Health Counseling and is a therapist working at the Quincy-based Maria Droste Counseling Services, whose mission is to serve and assist patients with affordable and compassionate one-on-one mental health care. Liz is passionate about offering patients’ access to therapy services and, with an upcoming fundraiser on May 18, spreading the mission of Maria Droste and supporting the cause of the nonprofit organization holds a special place in Liz’s heart.
From social services to special events to returning to school to obtain a higher ed degree, Liz’s story is inspiring and unique. To learn more about Liz’s story, practice, and dedication to mental health, as well as resources for seeking therapy, read on below.
Tell us about your work and what you do.
I am a mental health counselor at Maria Droste Counseling Services, based in Quincy. I see individuals, couples, and sometimes parents with their children. Most of my clients are coming to therapy to help them cope with symptoms of anxiety and depression, traumatic childhoods, and relationship issues.
We’d love to learn more about your background and how you ventured from Vermont to New York City to Hingham.
I grew up in Vermont and, after college, I moved to New York City. I started out in a career in social services; my first job was at a group home for teenage girls. The problem was that I couldn’t afford to live in NYC with the salary I was making, so I realized I needed to do something else … it’s a bit of a story, but this is how I ended up in the development/events world for almost 20 years. I spent 12 years in this field in NYC, most of those years as the Assistant Director of Special Events at The Museum of Modern Art. It was a very fast-paced and exciting job and I loved it for a long time.
I met my husband at MoMA and he wound up getting a job in Boston, where he is originally from. So we moved to Boston in 2012 when our first daughter, Mira, was 1. I took some time off for several years and had another baby girl, Lucy. We decided to move to Hingham after stumbling across a plot of land for sale after our first time walking in World’s End. We took a big risk and bought the land and moved to our new house about two years later. Our daughters are now 11 and 9.
How did you pivot into counseling?
Once in Hingham, I wanted to get back to work. I wound up accepting a part-time position at the South Shore Conservatory, revamping their annual gala and helping to secure sponsorships for various events and programs. I loved working there and I met so many wonderful people. But I couldn’t ignore this voice in my head that was telling me I wasn’t doing the thing I truly wanted to be doing. After some thinking and talking with my very supportive husband, and a bit of research, I applied to a Masters program in Mental Health Counseling at Bridgewater State University. It took just over three years to complete my degree, commuting at first and then a quick switch to virtual classes during Covid. I graduated last May and am now working toward my mental health license.
How can you describe your work process?
My training really emphasized the importance of a therapist’s relationship with their clients and how that alliance and bond is more important than any intervention I can do with them. I work with my clients with this in mind and do my best to understand every part of them and the environment they are currently in, and where they came from. Once I gain a better understanding of my clients, I am able to remind them of the strengths they have and how to use those strengths to improve their lives. Many of my clients have experienced trauma and this is an area I am planning to get further training in, because it impacts every aspect of their lives. We talk a lot about the reasons for their thoughts and behaviors that cause dysfunction in their lives and this understanding helps people learn healthier ways to cope and improve their interpersonal relationships.
Your counseling organization has an exciting fundraiser coming up. Can you tell us more about the event and why it holds a special place in your heart?
Maria Droste Counseling Services is a non-profit, outpatient counseling and holistic therapy agency. The mission is to “… provide professional mental-health counseling and holistic therapies that are compassion-based and affordable to ALL in need.” This is what I was drawn to as I was applying to internship programs. There really is no other agency like it in our area. Working with a sliding scale, we do not let cost prohibit people from seeking mental health treatment. I have clients who pay $10 for sessions. In fact, 91% of our clients utilize our sliding scale.
I’m extremely passionate about the work my colleagues and I are doing throughout the South Shore and beyond. I’m committed to spreading the word about our annual gala and fashion show, which takes place at the Quincy Marriott on May 18. This is a fabulous evening that supports mental health treatment for those who, without our agency, would most likely not be receiving the help they so need and deserve. Funds raised will be used toward continuing our mission to provide professional, compassionate-based therapy at an affordable cost, and more specifically, toward hiring additional licensed therapists who work with children and adolescents. I will be bringing many of my local friends with me to support this incredible organization and I hope others will join us!
For more details about supporting and/or attending this event, please visit: https://mariadrostecounseling.com/fashion-for-compassion/
Sometimes there is a stigma about asking for help. Do you have any suggestions or resources to share?
Speaking to a therapist is a healthy way to address any sort of challenges that we experience or have encountered through our lives. In light of recent tragedies on the South Shore, as well as Covid, and the day-to-day of life and events, oftentimes, we as humans need to seek help. There is no issue too little or too big to discuss. Psychology Today is a wonderful resource to explore when trying to identify a therapist for you or a loved one. You can easily search who is accepting new patients and which insurance the practitioner works with, as well as the type of modalities or specialities that the therapist specializes in.
At Maria Droste, our practitioners believe everyone should have access to quality and low-cost mental health support. More than 50% of our work is done through telehealth, which enables us to see clients all over the state. I feel fortunate and grateful to be a part of a community of peers working to break down barriers and to grant access to affordable mental health care and support.