A conversation with former SUNY New Paltz student-athlete Franchesca Rodriguez-Ruiz ’07 (Psychology) about how her professional mental health philosophy relies on teamwork and overall wellness
Good physical health is paramount to feeling happy and Franchesca Rodriguez-Ruiz '07 (Psychology) encourages her clients to remember that how we feel physically can and does have both immediate and long-term effects on overall mental health.
As a bilingual Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist for the Savannah Veteran Center in Virginia, Rodriguez-Ruiz specializes in the treatment of PTSD, trauma, depression, anxiety and marital counseling with individuals and couples.
What role does physical health play in mental health?
Part of what I hope my clients remember is that how we feel physically can and does have both immediate and long-term effects on our overall mental health. It’s less about getting into shape and very much about noticing and reconnecting with ourselves again. Overall wellness is so important and often overlooked. It’s something most of us struggle with balancing daily because it’s not intuitive.
Especially after the year we’ve all had, focusing on ourselves, mind, body and all other aspects should ALWAYS come first. We can’t pour from an empty cup. And while we may not always be motivated to go for the walk, or would rather get takeout constantly, we have to remember to remain consistent, accountable, and above all dedicated to ourselves.
How did your time on the court prepare you for your professional success?
Knowing I was representing not just myself, but the school every time I stepped on the court provided a sense of pride and confidence. I was part of something bigger than me, that also encouraged, challenged and supported me to achieve not just my individual goals, but the team goals as well.
I believe learning how to prioritize, how to make others feel welcome, how to simultaneously take steps toward individual and group goals, are the things I continue to do every day that allows me to grow and progress.
What advice do you have for student-athletes looking to enter your field?
Keep an open, flexible attitude and mindset. Explore all the avenues academically and athletically that you’re curious about as these experiences are what will lay the foundations for your possible future. The counseling/mental health field has countless avenues to explore. As clichéd as it may be, enjoy the process of finding your “why” within the field.
My parents told me early on, if you’re the smartest one in the room or the best player on the court, you’re in the wrong place. It reminds me to remain humble because there is always room for growth and self-reflection.
Rodriguez-Ruiz earned her Master of Arts in Marriage & Family Therapy from Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York. She began her career in veteran services at the Nassau Vet Center in Hicksville, New York. She previously worked at the Pasco Veteran Center in New Port Richey, Florida, where she also volunteered to assist in providing psychological first aid and brief counseling services to survivors, family and community members of the Pulse Night Club shooting, in Orlando, Florida, in 2016.