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Meet Simona Cirio of Cirio Therapy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Simona Cirio.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Simona. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a Licensed Marital and Family Therapist in private practice with offices in Evanston and downtown Chicago. This is a second career for me. I had always wanted to study Psychology, but my parents were not supportive of my studying a discipline they didn’t approve of. At that time, in Italy, you had to rely only on your family for support; there were no loans or things like that. Also, there was no school of Psychology in my city and my parents were not going to cover my expenses out of town anyway… So I stayed in town and got a Master in Architecture instead. I kept studying Psychology on my own, but never pursued it formally until several years later, when I came to the US and enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies at Northwestern University. I was then accepted for the Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy there. I chose that specification because I’ve always believed that relationships, be they romantic, platonic, or familial, are at the core of our well-being and of our life. After my graduation, I received an offer to stay on as a post-graduate fellow at The Family Institute and later on as a Staff Therapist. After a few years, I decided to start my own practice and have been self-employed since.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The biggest challenge for me was to be in Graduate School and have 2 little children at home. Some days I thought I was going to wear myself out or go insane, but I always felt a lot of enthusiasm for the work and had excellent results. Being intellectually and emotionally present 100% of the time both at work and at home was very difficult, but I knew I was not going to settle for anything less than my full capacity. I felt so proud when I graduated!

Being a full-time Staff Therapist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University was intense as well. I accumulated a lot of clinical experience very quickly. The organization and the supervisors there are amazing; it’s an extremely stimulating learning environment.

After several years, I realized that I wanted to have my own independent practice because I had been feeling the need to remove any organizational filters between my clients and myself. I knew I had to gain control of the conditions around my profession in order to keep providing the best possible service. I had grown so much, both intellectually and professionally, through my advanced training at The Family Institute, but I needed to bring more balance in my life and to keep practicing the mindfulness and self-awareness I help my clients strive for. Sometimes it’s hard to take your own advice, especially when you work for a big organization and may not have as much agency as you would like. So I took a 6-month sabbatical, went to Italy (my home country), and then came back and launched my own practice. In the beginning, I was afraid of the newfound responsibility and worried that I was going to feel isolated and lonely, I didn’t know how it was going to work out, but it actually didn’t take long to fill my practice. I realized I had built up good reputation and an excellent network of colleagues and clients who would refer new clients based on their own positive experiences with my work. It took a lot of courage to set out on my own and make my own professional path, but I knew it was the best thing for me to do if I wanted to continue to grow.

I cherish the freedom I now have; I can focus on my clients and I feel the best I ever have in my work.

After about one year, I made another leap and took in an associate, a friend of mine who’s a great therapist. I like the boutique feeling of my practice and the support and valuable expertise that accompanies collaboration. I have also gained more time to study, live, reflect, and consult with other professionals in my own time.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
My practice offers psychotherapy services for individuals, couples, and families. I have a particular passion for and expertise in working with couples and families and when I see individuals alone, I still focus a lot on relationships. Because of my international background (I lived for consistent periods of time in 4 different countries) and personal experience, I especially enjoy working with cross-national marriages and families (spouses from different cultures/countries), migrant families, first-generation Americans, etc. I think I’m also a sociologist and anthropologist at heart, those fields always seem to play into my work! I love to listen to people’s family stories, going back several generations if possible. I think culture and family of origin can offer so much valuable insight on the individual’s experience. I work with quality of life issues, with both men and women, helping them tease out what is the conditioning from their environment and what is inherent to their thought process. I’d say I’m known for my attention to detail and the careful quality I try to maintain in my work, keeping the focus on my clients.

I’m most proud of how I manage to balance being both professional and warm. The relationship between therapist and client is a functional, working relationship, but there needs to be trust and understanding for the sessions to be productive. I think what sets my practice apart from others is how present, engaged, and honest I strive to be with my clients.

What were you like growing up?
I am the first-born child (we are 2 sisters). I grew up in a big city in Northern Italy, and as a child and young adult loved reading, dancing classical ballet, skiing in the nearby Alps, sailing, camping…I loved nature and spending time outdoors. My father placed a lot of emphasis on those kinds of activities. I was a very joyful toddler, who became a somewhat reserved and shy child, then a sociable teenager. I’d say I’m basically an introvert who functions as an extrovert. Being simultaneously reflective and very relational and outspoken has helped me immensely in my work.

I grew up surrounded by my extended family, although not the boisterous stereotypical Italian family one may imagine! They were very present in my life, and at the same time very discreet. My parents had a rather conflicted marriage that I observed from a young age. It taught me a lot about functional and dysfunctional conflict. I think many students of psychology have found their way to the study through their own experience, whether it was in their own life or in the lives of those around them. My mother suffered from depression, so that too made me aware and curious about emotional health and how it manifests itself. I’ve always been fascinated by observing peoples’ interactions and continue to try and understand them and learn from them.

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