In the middle of training to become a therapist and with a bachelor’s degree in psychology under her belt already, Salinas-raised Diana Beltran began a train of thought that eventually evolved into a business. “I knew I wanted to help as many people as possible,” she says. And then one sleepless night, she got up and wrote her business idea down. So began a new direction with the creation of a life coaching business.
Her Inner Chats program is done in a group setting and is pitched as an “emotional support wellness group,” in which Beltran leads conversations and other therapeutic exercises. The goal is to help participants to become more self-aware. That could mean more self-aware of their communication skills, their feelings, needs or personal goals.
Inner Chats is available for all ages and group settings, including schools. Beltran has a few contracts in process, and has already brought the program to Monterey County Juvenile Hall. “You can see the difference. Maybe day one, someone isn’t talking. Maybe even on day two. But they eventually begin to learn to express themselves,” she says.
Beltran walked the Weekly through the finer points of talking about feelings, while everyone else is watching.
Weekly: When you think about traditional therapy, what do you think of?
Beltran: A lot of it is one-to-one – and it’s very important. A therapist is there to help with mental health issues. Many people need one. And it’s great when people know they need to talk to one. But it is difficult to bring that one-to-one everywhere.
I struggled a lot with depression and therapy. I didn’t know about one-to-one counseling, I just thought, “I’m crazy.” People can be in such a dark place, with no support. Even me, I didn’t know where to look.
Why is therapy so hard to access?
A lot of people think they can see mental health. But, like with me, you couldn’t tell I had depression or anxiety. I didn’t even know I was depressed or anxious. People are just waiting for you to look sad. That doesn’t work.
It can be very difficult to find help or ask for it. I was scared to reach out. I wasn’t sure what it looked like, or sometimes help can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. My family didn’t know either – they’d look at me and think I just needed to get rest or sleep.
What are the benefits of talking about your feelings in a group setting? It can look pretty intimidating.
Being in a group setting encourages people to talk and be themselves – with some boundaries. Using your voice to talk about yourself to others is a benefit that’s not often practiced. Talking doesn’t always have to be structured. Like, “Tell me how you feel if you want and if you can.” I don’t want to make people feel that they are pressured to have to say anything. If you compare the first day [of Inner Chats] to the third day, you see people have the comfort they may not have in their own lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I think therapy is great and all the resources out there are helpful. But what about those things people can’t change? Like what if you’re in a job that doesn’t pay you enough to support yourself? Therapy can’t make your boss pay you more.
Is there a limit to self-help, self-care and therapy?
You are what you limit yourself to. You can reach out for help, but at some point you have to say, enough. Therapy, self-help – they’re tools to make you better. The goal is to improve the person that you are.
What do you do to take your mind off of your work?
I love audiobooks. I was never much of a reader until I got into audiobooks. And exploring the outdoors is my escape. Hiking, biking, and I’m trying boogie boarding right now.
What audiobook are you listening to right now?
I am listening to two books: Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter by Curtis Jackson, known as 50 Cent. It’s very real, very raw. I believe everyone can create something in some way.
And The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor – it focuses on what is above average and the book asks, why are we so focused on average, what does it take to be above average?
Are you at an above-average level of happiness?
I am working on being there, and I think maybe I’m there – but I was not always.