Embark on a transformative voyage with Stella Vidal, a beacon of expertise in the realm of mental health and holistic well-being. As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Nationally Certified Wellness Coach, and Certified Energy Practitioner, Stella stands at the helm of Self-Love Harbor, a sanctuary dedicated to guiding individuals through the turbulent waters of self-discovery. In the pursuit of elevating your mindset and achieving success, Stella offers expert, evidence-based, solution-focused counseling. Specializing in addressing anxiety, depression, and trauma, her approach is a compass that navigates the intricate channels of the mind, fostering healing and personal growth. Join Mystic Mag as we explore the transformative work of Stella Vidal, delving into the profound intersection of mental health counseling, wellness coaching, and energy practices.
Congratulations on receiving the Susie Ellis Equity in Wellness Scholarship from the Global Wellness Institute in 2023. How has this recognition impacted your approach to promoting inclusion and cultural sensitivity in your holistic wellness practices at Self-Love Harbor?
It was a true honor. I was awarded the Susie Ellis Scholarship in Inclusion and Wellness for the work that I’m doing here in Miami. As I mentioned earlier, most of my patients here at Self-Love Harbor are minorities. The award helped me and shifted my perspective in a powerful way. Part of the scholarship included VIP attendance to the Global Wellness Institute’s yearly summit. Last year the summit was in Miami. I attended it and found myself among the top minds in wellness and people with substantial wealth. That was the first thing I noticed. I thought, “Wow, this is a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with individuals who are extremely wealthy and many with generational wealth. It was a different level!
This experience provided me with a different global perspective. After working in the trenches for over 25 years in mental health in various capacities, helping people, it made me stop, look up, and look around. I realized that it’s time for me to continue my daily work but also start expanding my voice and impacting more people globally with my message of holistic wellness and mental health. I believe everyone, even if they can’t afford it, should be part of this wellness movement. Unfortunately, women and minorities are underrepresented in conversations that truly shift the global wellness landscape.
Entering 2024 with a new perspective, I decided to make those contacts and figure out how I can collaborate with people who can elevate my voice, reaching more individuals. As a Latina myself, representing my heritage, I hope to inspire other minority women to say, “Look at her. I want to follow those steps too.”
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, National Certified Counselor, Nationally Certified Wellness Coach, and Certified Energy Practitioner, how do you seamlessly integrate these different modalities to provide a comprehensive and effective approach to holistic wellness?
I decided not to just be a psychotherapist because my true essence is psychology, and my degree reflects that. I became a holistic wellness coach because I realized that many people need more than just talk therapy; they also need help integrating their body and understanding how their body can contribute to achieving their goals. It all starts with our first session, which I call an intake. If you come to see me, we’ll sit down and discuss a few things. The most crucial questions I ask revolve around how your mind, body, spirit, and environment are contributing to your goal achievement.
In our discussions, we explore how your mind is supporting your goals, whether there are challenges like anxiety or difficulty focusing. If your mind is, for example, at a three on a scale from 1 to 10, we’ll work on strategies to improve your mindset. Regarding your body, if you’re experiencing challenges like fatigue, weight gain, or sleep issues, we’ll provide tools to help your body become an ally in achieving your goals. This may involve encouraging physical fitness, body movement, breathwork, or yoga.
Your connection to spirit is essential, as feeling overwhelmed often stems from a sense of being alone in the world. Connecting to something higher than yourself, be it through religion or spirituality, is super helpful. I teach meditation, quiet breathing, and introspection to help individuals connect with their higher essence, their spirit, thus finding answers within themselves.
The environment plays a critical role. For instance, if you leave a counseling session feeling empowered but return to an abusive home, it hinders your healing. We address this by exploring ways to approach the environment with a different mindset or consider whether a change is needed for your well-being. Helping you navigate these choices is an integral part of the process. This is how we incorporate all these elements into the holistic wellness coaching approach.
What type of services do you offer?
My primary focus is providing culturally sensitive therapy or counseling to everyone. I accept major insurances, making it a highly accessible tool for those with insurance coverage. Additionally, I offer a sliding fee scale, providing flexibility for those who may find the hourly rates challenging.
I also provide high level Life Coaching, particularly for individuals navigating life transitions or high performers facing significant choices. Whether you’re feeling stuck or have made a life-altering decision, I offer hands-on coaching to guide you through these challenges. Mindset coaching is another aspect of my services, recognizing the impact of our thoughts on decision-making.
Furthermore, I am a Master Reiki healer, incorporating energy healing into my practice as needed. Although I use this tool sporadically, I find it valuable in specific situations.
Lastly, I am currently emphasizing mindfulness training. Mindfulness is a powerful tool, especially for those experiencing high stress or anxiety. It helps individuals become present, see more clearly, and make informed decisions.
Your book, “7 Intentions to a Happier YOU!” has been critically acclaimed. Can you share some key intentions from the book that you believe have had a profound impact on your readers’ journey to self-love and happiness?
Yes, absolutely. I will discuss two important intentions mentioned in my book, starting with intention #2, which states, “I intend to treat my body with respect.” I mentioned earlier the significance of incorporating the body into the healing process. Often, when trauma occurs in our lives, whether in childhood or adulthood, we tend to disconnect from our bodies as a way to cope with deep-seated pain. This detachment is sometimes so profound that it feels like either we detach from our bodies or succumb to the pain. Consequently, we shift our focus to our minds, making decisions and perceiving the world through the lens of our thoughts. However, this can be deceptive, as thoughts don’t necessarily reflect truth. Unfortunately, many times we unquestionably believe everything we think, which is a disservice to ourselves. Our bodies possess intelligence, and through love, attention, nurturing, and breath work, we can reconnect with our bodies. It’s an invitation to our neglected bodies, expressing the desire for them to be part of our team again. This is where grounding exercises and spending time in nature become crucial. Engaging with nature helps ground us and reinforces the understanding that we are supported, addressing the sense of lack of support that often accompanies stress. Treating our bodies with respect is vital because we only have one body for the rest of our lives. Respecting and caring for it can lead us to various positive places.
Now, turning to intention #4, “I intend to connect to my spirit.” Spirit is the ever-present element in our lives, persisting since birth. However, when faced with stress, trauma, or significant challenges, the voice of our spirit diminishes, and the volume becomes barely audible. It’s a voice that intimately knows us. Children naturally embody this intelligence, expressing themselves candidly. As we grow, we tend to mute this voice, adapting to societal expectations and desires. Through quiet introspection and mindful breathing, we can reconnect with that inner voice. This reconnection is crucial for us to authentically be ourselves and evolve into the individuals we are meant to be.
In your experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, what role does self-love play in mental health, and how do you guide your clients in cultivating a deeper sense of self-love?
Self-love is unfortunately something that many of us struggle with, many times due to growing up in dysfunctional homes. In my 25-plus years of experience, it’s been rare for someone to enter my office and describe having a genuinely perfect childhood where their parents knew exactly what they were doing and did everything right. In various countries and eras, parents often did their best, but survival mode prevailed when making parenting decisions, and they lacked the tools to teach us about self-love and allowing us to be our authentic selves as children, nurturing that spirit we discussed earlier. Instead, they operated out of fear and stress, unintentionally conveying that their feelings were more important than ours. Consequently, we learned to prioritize their emotional needs, suppressing our own. These dynamics contribute to codependency, hindering our ability to love ourselves.
To guide people in cultivating self-love, I help them establish daily routines that foster a sense of self-respect. When clients initially come to me, they are overwhelmed, reacting to external situations without having a “grounding” routine that nurtures their well-being. Developing self-love involves engaging in repeated actions that prioritize self-care. With each intentional act, individuals begin to recognize and acknowledge their efforts, fostering a growing sense of self-respect. As they continue these actions, their belief in themselves deepens, leading to an eventual increase in self-love. While the process is gradual, there are specific, actionable steps to follow. I often start by exploring clients’ daily routines—what they do for their mind, body, and spirit—and assessing how their environment either supports or hinders their self-love goals.
What inspired you to found Self-Love Harbor, and how has your journey as a counselor and wellness coach shaped the vision and mission of your practice?
I have been working for over 20 years in various capacities such as a case manager, life coach, and counselor. I’ve served different organizations, reaching high levels such as director of programs. Throughout this time, I worked for other people and community clinics, receiving patients from various clinics and mental health agencies.
When the pandemic hit, I found myself at home on the computer, receiving referrals from different sources. As the pandemic progressed, I became increasingly busy, realizing that people, including myself, were struggling with the effects of isolation, fear, and uncertainty. After about eight months, I started envisioning the idea of creating a safe space for people to emerge from the challenges of loneliness and share their fears. Despite my husband’s initial reluctance, given the pandemic, I felt a calling to open such a space.
In April 2021, I founded Self Love Harbor, a holistic wellness practice in Aventura, FL. This year marks three years since its inception. Last year, I received the Best of Florida award for mental health and therapy practices. This recognition, based on a voting system, indicated that the work I was doing had a positive impact on people’s lives. It served as validation that, despite the risks, I made the right decision. Since opening, I have had the privilege of helping many to overcome unspeakable traumas and develop into the best version of themselves. I feel that this is just the beginning!