Merari Fernandez Castro
“Merari Fernandez Castro is a sensitive, conscious and intuitive psychotherapist who values each individual’s uniqueness and capacities for self healing. She has spent her career working with survivors of trauma and addressing trauma’s effects on their emotional and physical bodies. She has nurtured her interest in the trauma field through her professional experience, her training in relational psychodynamic feminist theory and her attention to the body as it tells its own stories of hurt and betrayal. She is a certified Life Force Yoga Practitioner and brings this into her work with clients. She provides individual, couples, family and group therapy in English and Spanish. Merari values everyone’s desire to be acknowledged, mirrored and supported in their own healing journey.”
About Merari Fernandez Castro
I am a Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in the State of Illinois. My psychotherapeutic experience includes working with women and men who have faced traumatic life experiences such as abusive relationships, sexual, physical or emotional abuse as children, sexual assault, sexuality and intimacy in relationships, sexual orientation and identity issues, parenting after leaving an abusive relationship, divorce and custody issues as well as family of origin conflicts. Other experiences I have worked with my clients include diagnosis of a chronic health condition such as HIV and fibromyalgia, grief, work related issues, as well as struggling with life meaning and spirituality. In the process of becoming a therapist, I have noticed our bodies have a response to our life experiences. As part of my curiosity to understand the body’s experience and it connection with emotions, I became a Certified Yoga Teacher (CYT-200) and a Life Force Yoga Practitioner (LFYP-Level 1).
I have been working with survivors since my first internship in social work at a domestic violence agency in Puerto Rico. Later, I worked as a Counselor at a domestic violence agency in Chicago helping women heal after braking free from abusive relationships as well as helping them relate in new ways with their children. I was a Staff Therapist at Womencare Counseling Center in which I provided therapy to survivors of childhood physical, emotional and sexual abuse. I served as a consultant to local Chicago domestic violence agencies through the National Center of Domestic Violence, Trauma & Health. I continued deepening my work with male survivors of sexual abuse when working at Erie Family Health Center, with female survivors at the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and children survivors at Alternatives, Inc. In many of these work experiences I had the opportunity to integrate yoga as an adjunct to psychotherapy being trained as a yoga teacher and as a Life Force Yoga Practitioner.
My Interest in Working with Survivors
Working with survivors was a core learning experience in my training as a social worker. I owe it to my social work professors who helped me become more sensitive to the issues of trauma and abuse. I also nourished values of equity and social justice through my education and personal life which helped me understand quickly the disadvantages that minorities and other oppressed groups endure since they are more likely to be vulnerable, unprotected or blamed for experiences of abuse that were out of their control.
My Approach to Trauma-Informed Care
Providing trauma-informed care means to be able to offer sensitive supporting services in the midst of a society that lacks empathy nor is trauma-sensitive. This work is really unique and requires knowledge and understanding. I am grateful for having chosen this path.
My approach to the work I do is psychodynamic, relational and attachment based which means that I will pay attention to early relationships and how they inform the way people relate in their present lives. I also try to understand the impact of traumatic experiences in someone’s life and how it has shaped their understanding of their world and relationships. I incorporate body self awareness and emotional self regulation experiences through the use of mindfulness and yoga.
How Psychotherapy and Yoga Holistically Address the Impacts of Sexual Violence
Many traumatic experiences happened with someone the survivor knew, someone in their immediate family, or someone dear and loved by them. This is the reason I focus on early relationships and the way it shapes someone’s perspective on their present life. Sometimes these early traumatic experiences unconsciously shape present patterns that are difficult to understand in the survivor’s life. It is with this approach that I hope survivors are able to understand their own present reactions to triggers and reminders from the past, and to cultivate more compassion toward themselves when having these responses. Since traumatic responses have an overwhelming impact on someone’s physical and emotional state, yoga comes as a complement to facilitate the therapeutic process helping survivors to regulate themselves and tolerate their own feelings.
Modifications for Survivors
Adjusting the process to the survivor’s pace in the exploration of traumatic content, understanding their resistance to visit their own story and following the survivor’s path in the healing process are things to take into account in my work. I have also studied the ways in which yoga is of benefit for survivors and how to practice with awareness considering their own triggers and enhancing their yoga practice experience.
I am able to offer sliding-scale services on a limited basis.