Feel what you feel, but don’t live there. Adversity will create significant distress and our emotions will follow accordingly. It is normal to cry, be overwhelmed, embarrassed, angry, frustrated and generally feel like hell. Some days you are going to want to stay in bed, pull the covers over your head and disconnect. That’s ok. Go ahead. I tell my clients to treat those moments like an Airbnb-you can visit but you can’t live there.

Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerie Carmel Dorsainvil.

Valerie Carmel Dorsainvil, LCSW is a licensed therapist, author, speaker, and owner of a private mental health practice serving Nevada and Florida. During her close to 20 years of experience, she has helped clients to build healthier relationships with their emotions and improve their personal and professional relationships. Valerie Carmel utilizes a focus on self-awareness, self-care, and self-growth to address anxiety, trauma, and stress to cultivate holistic healing. As a strong advocate for women’s mental health, she hosts transformative workshops to provide knowledge, resources, and tools to cultivate mental and emotional wellness.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Sure! I’m the first-generation born of Haitian immigrants and was raised in Miami, FL. I came from a big family and an even bigger extended village of neighbors and family friends, so my home was pretty much like Grand Central Station. My parents were always opening our home to people experiencing a range of life struggles such as domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect, mental illness, and financial barriers, all while they navigated American culture and language. This led to my passion for healing and supporting people to overcome adversity.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I had a family I worked with whom most would say they did “all the right things.” However, when their child was diagnosed with cancer none of the degrees, the size of their bank account, or where they lived mattered. They were still faced with indescribable mental, financial, and emotional strain. Unfortunately, their child succumbed to the illness. I used to believe terrible things only happened to bad people. What I learned was that adversity is an equal opportunity experience. No one is exempt. This revelation has given me solace in moments when I question my own difficult experiences.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I would say my commitment to authenticity. As one of our core values, it is important for me to intentionally practice this in both my personal and professional life. One such example is when I present to social work students at the University of Central Florida. I give them a very REAL depiction of this career by discussing my mistakes, challenging moments, and sharing ways to break away from the stereotypes of the profession. I always have students who reach out to me after and mention how sharing my story has empowered them to follow their own path. I consider that to be the highest of compliments.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I define resilience as the ability to withstand and prosper despite obstacles and adversity. People who are resilient tend to have a level of confidence in their ability, recognize their present isn’t a reflection of their future and are audacious enough to believe their story will end in success.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

Well, that’s difficult to articulate as they are intrinsically intertwined, for if resilience is the destination, then courage is the means of transportation. They are reliant on each other and in this sense remarkably similar. However, I would say the difference is resilience speaks to a higher level of proficiency developed from a unique blend of traits (like courage) through consistency. For example, I can cook. So can Wolfgang Puck. We are definitely NOT the same.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I actually can’t think of a single specific person, but rather a collective of people and they are my clients. I collaborate with clients who have experienced incest, sexual assault, violence, repeated death of loved ones and still they push to rebuild their lives. Therapy isn’t for the faint at heart. It brings your most painful experiences to the surface for you to learn how to navigate through rather than keep sinking them to the bottom of the ocean. Sometimes they will cry, have panic attacks, let out emotions repressed for years but the next week they are back because they believe healing is their birthright. They are the definition of resilience.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

To be honest I can’t think of a time someone told me what I wanted was impossible but rather it was something I often told myself. I think the initial fear of doing something new or big has always started off with me thinking “this is impossible.”

An example was when I wrote and published my book, Evolve Your MVP: A Woman’s Self-Help Guide on how to Journal for Personal Growth. I knew nothing about graphics, marketing, business, or publishing. But I leveraged something I knew how to do-research. I sought out trainings, people, and resources. I found a way to immerse myself into the parts that were needed to complete the goal. It allowed me to prove to myself that I can always do the thing that I think is impossible.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

There was a week in April 2011 that set off one of the hardest seasons of my life. In one week, I found out I was pregnant, got fired, and had a miscarriage…all while having a toddler to still care for. The stress was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I felt like everywhere I looked were the ashes of what once was. I fell into a depression. Eventually I found work again but financially things were really tight. I hated that job, but I would see the billboard of my dream job every day on the way to and from the office. Every day I would look at it and say to myself and God “that’s where I’m going to be.” I did that for 6 months before I landed an interview there. Getting that job changed the trajectory of my career.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Oh, I love that question! I would say I cultivated resilience by doing three specific things. The first is by being intentional about how I show up in tough moments. I have the choice to either persevere or wallow in pity…and pity won’t solve the problem. Next, I don’t take the trials personal and recognize they are par for the course of life. And lastly, I focus on growing through and not just going through it. This mindset comes from my faith, my support system and journaling because each one serves a different role. My faith gives me inner strength and a hopeful outlook. My support system provides encouragement and positivity to not forget there is still joy in life. Then journaling helps me process my thoughts and feelings, so I have the mental clarity to strategize how to go beyond where I am and focus on where I’m going.

One experience is when mom became really sick, and my dad worked less to take care of her. It affected my family financially and I knew they needed me but also knew I had to focus on my goals. I intentionally worked and went to school full time so I could help support my family. It taught me the meaning of discipline, sacrifice, and responsibility.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are five steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

There are so many different ways, but these would be my top 5:

Feel what you feel, but don’t live there. Adversity will create significant distress and our emotions will follow accordingly. It is normal to cry, be overwhelmed, embarrassed, angry, frustrated and generally feel like hell. Some days you are going to want to stay in bed, pull the covers over your head and disconnect. That’s ok. Go ahead. I tell my clients to treat those moments like an Airbnb-you can visit but you can’t live there.

Activate your village. The old adage “misery loves company” is true but not the way most think. Most research has found that having positive relationships in the face of disaster and trauma is a strong predictor of positive coping. I had a client who in 48 hours, his child was diagnosed with cancer and his wife was hospitalized. I guided him in activating his village- his coworkers cooked meals, neighbors did his lawn, his mother cared for his other child, and I helped with resources. In the end, both were able to recover, and he had a deeper appreciation for those in his life.

Lean into your spirituality. Research suggests spiritual practices have been associated with better tolerance to psychological and physical stress, aging, and a better ability to cope with serious diseases and isolation. Whether it is prayer, lighting candles, meditation, or focusing on positive energy or vibrations all of it can help create more moments of peace, provide clarity and motivation. All of which will help to alleviate stress.

Use your past wins for the current circumstance. One of the hardest things about adversity is the worry it will overtake you. You wonder if you are able to withstand the pressure and figure a way out. Adversity is never a one-time occurrence so everyone will have examples of both trials and triumphs. When we look at past wins it can provide insight and motivation for the current situation. I often have my clients who struggle with negative and self-defeating thoughts to create a Win Wall or Win Jar. They write down all of their wins (big or small) on a weekly or daily basis. I encourage them to make it visually appealing and have it in a location they frequently will see. It serves as a consistent reminder of their resilience.

Give yourself grace in the process. Going through tough times is hard enough and being hypercritical or engaging in self-blame won’t make it any easier. So many of us say things to ourselves we would never dream of saying to our loved ones or even a stranger. Learning to challenge negative thoughts and replacing them with more empowering, positive ones is an important strategy in mental wellness. It will minimize those negative thought patterns which can trigger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. One way to do this is to create a mantra to encourage yourself. One of my favorites is “the goal is progress not perfection.”

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would love to sit with Taraji P Henson! I really respect her work as an actress but also the way her foundation, The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is working to break the stigma associated with mental health in Black communities. I love her authenticity, compassion, and personality.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can check me out on Instagram and my website where they can sign up for upcoming workshops, get resources related to mental health and read my upcoming blog.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.