10 year celebration

Patricia Hannah, LCSW on the Power of Communal Healing for Women with Cancer

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Patricia Hanna

Practitioner Spotlight: Licensed Clinical Social Worker of Mary’s Place by the Sea

We are so grateful to share a blog post from our Practitioner Spotlight Series. Today’s Practitioner is Patricia Hannah, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker at Mary’s Place by the Sea who provides perspective on the power of communal healing and the importance of being in tune with one’s mind, body, and spirit.

“Processing heavy emotions and traumatic experiences is not an easy task for anyone,” said Patricia Hannah, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Counselor at Mary’s Place by the Sea. Patricia offered compassionate insight on the importance of community, being in touch with our bodies, and acknowledging what’s going on internally, especially if you’re a woman living with cancer.

“Learning how to take care of our bodies is the most important thing – not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. It’s so important to notice and process where we are holding tension or stress, so that we can learn to process underlying feelings and begin our emotional healing,” said Patricia.

After receiving her MSW at Hunter College, Patricia used her expertise to support others. Patricia worked in a variety of clinics and schools providing mental health care to children and families. She also worked on numerous grants in NY and NJ, helping people heal after traumatic experiences. This included helping children and families impacted by the events of 9/11 and working directly with families impacted by Superstorm Sandy. Currently, Patricia works as a psychotherapist at Psychodrama New Jersey in Oakhurst, NJ.

Find Your Place

When Patricia started volunteering at Mary’s Place by the Sea, she quickly realized it was exactly where she needed to be. Thanks to her extensive knowledge on trauma and various healing modalities, Patricia has played an integral role in the evolution of the “Transformational Counseling Program” that exists at Mary’s Place by the Sea today. This program includes individual one-time counseling sessions, individual ongoing counseling support, and supportive group therapy. This program has the support of several grants, which allows us to offer all of these services at no cost to our guests. This is particularly important in a time when it can be difficult to find mental health support and the cost of counseling can be a hindrance for women with cancer who are already facing mounting medical bills. 

Mary’s Place offers one-time individual counseling sessions to guests who are visiting for day or overnight retreats. One-time counseling sessions are “solution focused and geared towards meeting the guest where they’re at,” said Patricia. “A lot of times the women who have only experienced the physical and medical parts of a diagnosis, and when they come to Mary’s Place, they’re coming to process the emotional part.” 

During her counseling sessions, Patricia provides validation, support, and hope. She also likes to teach a helpful skill, whether that be a coping skill, self-compassion technique, or a tool for stress reduction. She makes sure to meet the guests exactly where they are and sends them home with supportive information.

When available and appropriate, women who are local to Mary’s Place by the Sea and would benefit from ongoing counseling, are offered individual counseling sessions on an ongoing basis, at no cost to guests. This service allows our guests to work on individual goals and objectives to enhance their overall well being.

Another aspect of our Transformational Counseling Program is our Supportive-Expressive Group Therapy. Research shows that this modality of therapy can help reduce traumatic stress symptoms in participants*. What makes this service so important for our guests is that it gives them space to identify and confront their issues, build social connections and enhance their overall well-being.

A Healing Community

Five years ago, our initial support group was established by Susan Padovano, LCSW. Together, these women facilitated the weekly support group that has flourished into a healing community for our guests.

“Having cancer can be very isolating,” Patricia explained. “A huge part of our mission at Mary’s Place is to break down that isolation – to create healing and hope. We heal in community, through relationships. Support groups can be profoundly beneficial to women with cancer because it’s where they build connections with other women having similar experiences. It’s a safe space where women can feel heard, understood, and validated through mutual support and mutual aid”.

Presently, in their group, Patricia along with Kim Bradle E-RYT, offer creative, embodied therapeutic techniques including psychodrama, meditation, mindfulness, and self compassion practices enabling guests to process their feelings and experiences in a way that can also build resilience and foster empowerment.

When asked what she would say to a future guest, Patricia’s response emulated exactly what we strive to be Mary’s Place by the Sea.

“I would like future guests to know that Mary’s Place is a place of hope. In this home you can begin to unpack some of your experiences and learn new ways to cope with difficult feelings. It’s also a place where you can come to feel supported and held. We’re a space where guests can learn new practices to nurture themselves and experience the importance of having connections on this healing path”.

Most importantly, “the counseling program at Mary’s Place by the Sea is one part of a bigger picture. The roots of our home are planted in communal healing; here you can connect, find support and heal together.”

*Catherine Classen, PhD; Lisa D. Butler, PhD; Cheryl Koopman, PhD; Elaine Miller, RN, MPH; Sue DiMiceli, BA; Janine Giese-Davis, PhD; Patricia Fobair, LCSW, MPH; Robert W. Carlson, MD; Helena C. Kraemer, PhD; David Spiegel, MD. (2001), Supportive-expressive group therapy and distress in patients with metastatic breast cancer. A randomized clinical intervention trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2001; 58(5):494-501.

Practitioner Profile, Patricia Hannah and information about our counseling services.