Lauren Tetenbaum is an advocate and therapist who specializes in supporting millennial and young women through life transitions, including professional and personal identity shifts.

Using clinical therapy, coaching, and counseling in her work, she’s the go-to resource for women seeking empowerment and connection.

Whether she’s using her law degree to help advocate for women’s rights, doing licensed clinical therapy work or consulting, she’s a multi-talented and multi-passionate woman and mother on a mission to improve maternal mental health.

Lauren was gracious enough to share some of her journey and wisdom with us, which is what you will find below.


Q: Did you always want to become a coach or counselor?

A: I always wanted to help women, but I didn’t know exactly what that would look like when I was younger. When I was in college, I took a really amazing course on reproductive justice and the law—and that inspired me to go to law school. When I got to law school, I didn’t like it at all, so I also pursued my Master’s Degree in social work. After a series of a windy career path, I am absolutely doing what I was meant to be doing, which is helping women through my counseling practice, through coaching, through therapy, through events, through writing—and I still have that social justice passion, but I’m able to do it without practicing law.

Q: How far were you into law school, and what was the moment you decided to shift?

A: A couple of moments. I ended up getting my law degree and I practiced immigration law for several years. I worked in law firms in personnel roles supporting women and parents as well as having a robust pro bono practice, but I pursued my MSW while in law school.

So, the moment was during my first year of law school when I realized I came here to help women and to help people, but it wasn’t direct services enough. It was too theoretical for me. My mom had actually recently completed her MSW, so I knew about a social work program and I decided to pursue it.

I still did go the law and legal industry route. Although, I would say, I practiced and did everything with a social work lens. During the pandemic, I decided to shift to focus on mental health—and maternal mental health in particular—because it was a really tough time. It was a tough time to be a working woman and mother in Corporate America, and I wanted to provide the support that I wish I had had.

Q: There is so much going on in the background of motherhood that informs our experience that doctors never teach us about, so how are we supposed to know?

A: I don’t think these issues are discussed enough. Quite frankly, I think if this were considered a “man’s issue,” there would be plenty of products, conversations, and rhetoric around these issues—but they’re women’s issues, and that’s why I am loud and proud about them because we have to talk, we have to share, and we have to support each other.

Q: What was your foray into maternal mental health, when you decided this is really where you want to spend your time?

A: I became a mom in 2016 when I was actively practicing and doing the whole billable hours requirements and hustling—and it was really hard. At that time, I had been a licensed mental health professional since 2011, so I “talked the talk,” I was aware of a lot of things, I had a lot of privileges—and it was still difficult emotionally, logistically, for my career.

In the pandemic and quarantine with homeschooling and all of the things with two kids, I felt, if I was struggling with my own mental health, anxiety, and depression and I have all of these resources, how many other women are struggling?

The answer is millions. And I said I really want to be someone who is helping them and contributing to this space. So, here I am.

Q: How do you talk about nervous system regulation with your clients?

A: It’s okay to lose your cool sometimes. I love crying. I think, let it out if you need to cry. People do sometimes snap at their kids. It’s not ideal, but it happens. You’re human. Be kind to yourself. 

I’m a big fan of the power of a pause. Take a minute for yourself. Once everyone is physically safe, it’s okay to shut your door, take a shower, watch a show, just lie in bed, do a meditation if that calls to you. Take a pause.

When our emotions are so elevated, we’re unlikely to be engaging in any kind of effective communication. We react. We are reactive beings. I’m an anxious person myself, so I get that kind of urgency we feel when we have to do something in the moment and it’s so overwhelming. But, often, nothing is actually that urgent or needing to be done. So, if you just take a pause—even a five minute one—and really feed that to yourself, you will come back to whatever event in a much better state of mind.

Q: What are moms coming to you with, and about what time in their journeys?

A: I pretty much exclusively see women. I do see some couples, but often the woman is the presenting patient. Of my clientele, about a third are young women before they are in the reproductive journey of becoming a mom. Many of them are freezing their eggs, but the majority of my practice is moms or pregnant women.

Of those women, if they are coming to me pregnant, they are often having a tough time. I see a lot of prenatal depression, which is a lot more common than people think. People hear the word postpartum, and they think it means postpartum depression. Actually, postpartum is just a period of time and there are many perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including postpartum and prenatal depression. So they are teary, sad, and feel like it isn’t what they expected pregnancy to be. So I see a lot of women at that point.

I also see a lot of women in the postpartum phase when the baby is here—whether or not they’ve been the birthing parent, because I’ve also seen women who have had babies through other means. They’re coming to me often when they’re considering the journey back to work and all the anxieties that come with that, or their moods have just been off and they don’t feel like themselves. Of course, the reality is, they’re not themselves. They are new versions of themselves no matter how you slice it, because now they are a parent.

The common theme is figuring out who am I, what makes me happy, and how can I navigate all of the competing interests—including the interest in myself—in this new version of me?

Q: In your experience, when do you see most postpartum depression and anxiety occur? How do you see the first three to five years after a baby?

A: I’m not such a huge fan of labels. Certainly, they serve their purpose. But again, I think that postpartum or postpartum depression is a misnomer because, clinically, when we talk about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, we’re talking about the perinatal period, which is preconception through the first year of the baby’s birth. What does that mean for a mom whose baby turned one, and they’re depressed? Is it postpartum depression? Is it depression? Personally, I don’t really know or care. I just want to treat the symptoms and support them through whatever they are going through.

I see a lot of mood disorder symptoms pop up around any kind of change, which is natural. In our country, generally speaking, we have pretty bad policies when it comes to supporting moms—particularly moms of color and working moms. America, unfortunately, does not offer a lot of macro level support and, culturally, we are also not really such a community-focused culture. So, it’s like “Oh, mom, have a baby. You have no support at home, because your partner probably didn’t get paid leave. Then, come back to work.” If you’re lucky, you get a few weeks, maybe 12, if you’re lucky, paid. That is nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket. So, of course, you’re going to be anxious and teary and nervous and sad and all of the feelings that may or may not be a clinical issue—but it’s hard no matter what. So, I don’t think you need to reach a certain level of depression or anxiety to get help, because I think everyone deserves help and support.

Q: When you think about clinical support versus coaching, how do you talk to your clients about what is best-serving for them?

A: It’s an interesting moment in both industries, especially with telehealth and technically licensed therapists or licensed in only certain states, where coaching can be more accessible to people.

There’s a common misconception that therapy is about your past and coaching is about your future. I don’t think that’s accurate. I think many therapists, including myself, focus on the here and now and the future.

I would say a coach is probably an ideal service provider for a more specific issue such as the return to work dynamic. A therapist can talk about that with you and your feelings about your parents, or whatever it may be.

What I love about my work and the mental health and support industry in general is that what really is the most important factor in therapy or coaching is the relationship that the client has with their provider. So it doesn’t matter how well-trained they are, it’s how you relate to that person and what the client is looking for and what the coach or therapist can challenge and support you through. For those on the fence about what they need, think about what you are looking to get out of the relationship and then focus on the relationship with the provider. If it feels good, then that’s what you need.

Q: Is there anything you talk to your pregnant clients about to help them get in the right mindset?

A: It’s a lot of psychoeducation that I do because no one knows anything. It’s not talked about enough. I try to normalize the experience of feeling sad or weird, for lack of a better word. It’s a whole new world, and you don’t know what to expect.

Not to say that everyone will have a tough or negative experience, but I do want people to know it’s okay if you do. It is, to an extent, to be expected. Something that I’ve been seeing a lot lately is when my clients are weaning off breastfeeding if that's what they choose to do. They definitely become more teary and more anxious as well. That confuses them. To me, it’s textbook weaning. Hormones are completely out of control and that sort of chapter is very much not discussed enough in my opinion. So that’s something I educate about and normalize.

It doesn’t identify you. You are not your thoughts. You have to diffuse your thoughts from your experience. You are experiencing these hormonal shifts. This does not mean you will feel this sort of panic forever. While you are panicking now, you are not alone. Here is support.

Q: With the awareness you have, how is it parenting?

A: It’s not a humble brag, but I am happy to report that I am a much more chill mom than I am a person. I think that’s because I was never a chill person, and then having a baby kind of put things in perspective.

It goes back to that urgency feeling. Like, this isn’t really as urgent as my kid literally surviving on me for food or anything.

For me, I have really tried to model for my children a regulated nervous system. I certainly “mess up” all the time—whether I snap or, yesterday, I was telling my kids that their toys were going to toy jail. I’m sick of it. The room is making me very anxious. I was a little heated, but I was also explaining it to them—which I think is really key, instead of just kind of freaking out.

Not to say that everything I do is perfect, but I am very intentional and aware of how I’m communicating with my kids. When I mess up by raising my voice or snapping or just being in a bad mood (which happens), I apologize and I address it. I don’t sweep it under the rug, because everyone makes mistakes. Our goal is not to avoid mistakes or negative feelings. Negative feelings are part of the human experience. It’s how we move through them in the most effective way.

Q: How do you talk to your clients about moving through their marriages or partnerships with kids—the actual notion that you are in love, but also your sex life?

A: Becoming a mother is such an identity shift, and becoming parents is an identity shift for the romantic relationship as well. A lower libido is extremely common for postpartum women, and just for mothers. We often hear statements like “I’m touched out” or “I’m exhausted.” Everyone is tired.

I like to remind people that we have different parts of our identities. I’m assuming that they want to maintain the foundation of their family, which is the partnership or spousal romantic relationship. It’s going to look different than it did pre-baby than it will a few years from now. That’s okay. But you have to be intentional about carving out time for romance, whatever that is.

I know that a lot of my clients describe feeling touched out, but I encourage intimacy through the form of cuddling, snuggling, that kind of thing, because often actual intercourse seems sort of unattainable or unthinkable. That can be okay for a period of time. But try holding hands and spooning and see where it takes you emotionally and otherwise so that you maintain that connection.

Q: How do you talk to people who feel like they’ve lost that connection and don’t even know where to begin?

A: Invite your partner to talk. Remind yourselves that you are in this together, and it’s maybe not going to be the best version of you. It doesn’t need to be scheduled, but it could be, but having a regular check in—how are you doing, what do I need from you and from myself, how can I give you what you need, and how can we also have some fun? I think adding in a lot of levity and laughter heals a lot.

Q: Do you see higher rates of marriage or emotional challenges when kids are closer together versus further apart, or does it not really matter?

A: In my experience, there is no one sort of path to stronger or more challenging mental health issues. Certainly, when you have kids close together, your body doesn’t get back to that sort of homeostasis and regulated state because of the hormones and all the physical challenges. So that can be tough. On the other hand, sometimes people sort of get into a groove and their world turns upside down again maybe five years later or whatever it may be. So, I haven’t seen a trend, I would just say be aware that it could be challenging, but it doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or it will last forever. It just means that it’s tough and yuu deserve and should get some support.

Q: Are there any telltale signs that you can look for as far as depression and anxiety?

A: You shouldn’t be navigating this alone. Some women do, and I think they’re incredible and deserve all the more support we can give. I think that everyone who is expecting a baby should get some sort of therapy or coaching because it is such a life shift and a physiological one as well.

For more serious issues, I would say definitely a real teariness that is more than the baby blues, which we typically say is more than a two week period. Feelings of sadness. Feelings of hopelessness. Feelings of “I can’t trust anyone else with my baby” or “I can’t even leave the house” or “Only I can do certain things.” That is just such an emotionally heavy weight that no one deserves or should have. And just this sort of feeling in your stomach. A lot of people describe anxiety as a pit in their stomachs and nervous energy. All of these things are “normal” to an extent, but if they’re debilitating or if it’s just kind of too much to live with these feelings and feel good about yourself generally, then get some help. Of course, any thoughts of hurting yourself or others or hearing voices—that is more of an emergency situation.

Q: What are you doing from the consulting and corporate side of things?

A: In my former life, I practiced law in big law firms in New York City—kind of a stereotypical hustling, bustling corporate culture, and that was before working from home became somewhat the norm. While I was in that world, I advocated in my own firms for parental leave policies to be expanded and more comprehensive. Now, it is kind of the bare minimum, but five to seven years ago, it was a fight. So I did that while I was working there and I have continued to focus on accessing and advocating for paid leave just by consulting on it and providing best practices and sharing my and my clients’ experiences.

The paid leave movement has been amazing in terms of the traction it’s been gaining, but we just have such a ways to go. One of the major themes I am seeing among my mom clients is this tremendous anxiety over the return-to-office mandates—so I’m working on that clinically with them, but also on a broader level of calling attention to the fact that these mandates are pushing women out of the workforce. They’re discriminatory to caregivers.

I consult on these issues and write and speak on them a lot, and now I have the privilege of being on the outside. People, when they are working for a company, especially women, don’t want to ruffle feathers—but I am here to scream about it and connect with people with platforms so we can improve the corporate world and world for women and moms.

Q: What do you see in the next five years? What is your hope, your vision?

A: I am an optimist, but I must admit that lately I have been a little bummed out by the direction that things are going with the return-to-office mandates that really just reflects this kind of “I don’t care about you and your family” attitude.

More and more, states are implementing paid leave programs. They are certainly not as good as nearly all other developed countries in the world, but we are moving in that direction.

In general, what I see is this rhetoric becoming more of the norm, which is why we have to keep talking about it. It’s not just a conversation for moms and women. The dads need to speak up. All the allies need to speak up. The adults with adult children who are caring for their parents who are aging need to speak up. This shouldn’t just be a woman’s issue. It’s not. Things like paid leave are for gender equality and for the next generation to have better lives, which I think we can all agree is a good goal.


This blog post was written based on kozēkozē Podcast Episode 355: Women's Mental Health Advocacy with Lauren Tetenbaum.

If you’d like to listen to the conversation first-hand, tune in here.


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