How to Build Back Better

Jonah Stanford

WE WANT OUR GURUS TO BE ENLIGHTENED, our trainers to be fit, and our therapists to be conscious. Therapist Kelly Quintia is just that. You walk into her office and, you know that you will receive absolute focus, genuine empathy.

Which makes you feel absurdly safe. She might not cure heart disease, but she makes you feel that you will be OK.

How did you get into the business of therapy?

I decided to go to law school, and it was one of those experiences in life where I knew that I was in the wrong place with the wrong people.

It was visceral. I remember people starting to ask me about test scores and grades and whatnot, and I just felt like it was a bad dream where I was being pulled out and my vision was disappearing. My body is an amazing messaging system, and I just knew in my body this was the wrong place, wrong location, wrong people, wrong everything.

You trust your instincts. Most people don’t always know what they feel.

Since I was a kid, I was deeply attuned to how I affected other people, how other people affected me. As I got older, I had language to build on and a developed sensitivity to others’ energies. I love being in my body, I love being physical. I grew up athletic and very much in my body, so I feel like I got trained to use it as a tool to measure safety and comfort. I love feeling connected to people, and my essence is joy, which doesn’t mean that I don’t encounter despair; it doesn’t mean that I’m not capable of those emotions, but my default place is being in joy.

Does that help you connect with people?

I have a deep curiosity about people, which helps propel conversations that become rich and purposeful. And there’s a relatability – if you yourself have

gone to places in the dark night of the soul, it becomes easier to encourage someone who’s going through a lot. I’m really not afraid to be on the spectrum of emotion.

It seems like it’s a boom time for marriage therapists.

I can’t talk about it without bringing up the pandemic, which has basically been like someone pulled the cord and let it go. It’s the elastic shock that we’re all feeling. The pandemic is sort of a portal through which no one escapes. And whether you’re alone or in a relationship, whatever was under the surface –whether it was right there or deep down – has been dredged up.

The pandemic cut us off from so many things that might have otherwise fed us: social outlets, community, or distractions from the things that were under the surface. We’ve never been faced with this indefiniteness of Is it gonna be like this forever? All these limitations on our previously privileged, fluid lives. Plus, there was all this time, all this space, and stressors added to that; it gave people a wide-open canvas to face whatever was going on in their lives.

Do you feel like when people see empathy in you, they can be more open themselves?

I would say yes. I know what it feels like to be in the presence of the shadow and the ugly and the shit, as well as the joy and the beauty and the light. Look, there are some dark sides to being human, and we all have them.

My body-centered and mind-centered practice definitely gave me the ability to read my own emotional body and the empathy to track somebody else’s. Sometimes, people come in here and they’re moving around and fiddling with their hair, and I’ll say, Just take a moment. Don’t worry about me. Put your coffee down. Close your eyes for a minute. Just be in the room. It’s not weird. Take a moment, just take it.

This is sort of sparkly language, but I really believe it: the goal is to help my clients alchemize something that may be negative, dark, despairing, hard, or challenging. Alchemize that into wisdom, into an ability to hold more, to love more. Because that’s the only sense I’ve been able to make of the hardships in my life.



Photo Mary Moon