Annie Sweeney, MSW: Therapist Spotlight

Annie’s interests and specialties include: Depression, Anxiety Treatment, Emotion Regulation, Distress Tolerance, Young Adults & Adolescents, Trauma Therapist, Interpersonal Relationships

We chatted with Annie Sweeney, a dynamic and compassionate trauma-informed social worker who knows that “getting started” is often the hardest part of the journey but the rewards can be profound. Annie’s approach to therapy reflects this philosophy, as she combines flexibility, a strengths-based perspective, and a solution-focused mindset to guide her clients toward new beginnings and positive change.

Annie’s passion lies in working with teenagers and young adults, and she seamlessly incorporates therapeutic techniques from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Mindfulness, and Motivational Interviewing into her practice. Her clinical experience covers a wide range of issues, from relationship challenges and interpersonal violence to trauma, grief, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

In this interview, we explore how Annie’s motto, “Starting something is the hardest part,” resonates not only in therapy but also in various aspects of life. We uncover her unique insights into therapy and wellness, with a focus on helping individuals take that crucial first step toward positive change. 

IVPC: Thank you for taking time to speak with us today. I wanted to dive in by talking about your favorite wellness and self-care strategies.

Annie: Physical activity is very important for me. Even just going for a walk, physical activity and feeling good physically helps me feel good mentally. Just recently I wasn’t feeling great, I had stopped going to the gym and canceled my membership. I was really resisting starting back but I went to the gym twice this week and I’m already feeling better.

Depending on my mood, spending time with friends or family is part of my self-care. If I’m feeling down or not having a great day, sometimes I really need to talk to people or distract myself with a laugh. This past year, if I was feeling down, I would just go for a walk around the block with my roommate. 

On the other hand, if I’m feeling the need to decompress, I might want to be by myself. I like to get cozy and lay in bed. Turn out all my lights except the decorative ones and watch comfort shows or movies. 

Sometimes self-care is cooking a meal or getting a little treat. It is all very rewarding, whether trying new recipes for myself or cooking for other people. 

I also enjoy a spa day. I like to take a bath with a nice bath bomb. I’ll bring my laptop in and watch a movie on Netflix and follow it up with a face mask and painting my nails.

IVPC: What can potential clients expect when working with you?

Annie Sweeney: I do my best to keep conversations comfortable. I know therapy can be scary. I have been in therapy and felt scared because I didn’t relate to my therapist very much or I was just starting out. So I focus on being comfortable, casual, and welcoming. I also emphasize a collaborative approach to therapy and partner with clients. 

IVPC: Can you tell us a little about what brought you to this profession?

Annie Sweeney: I started out as an education major. We have a lot of teachers in our family. I knew I liked talking to people, I liked working with children and guiding people. But I didn’t want to feel restricted to only working in a school and started exploring social work.

In my first social work class, the professor gave us this sheet of paper that listed everything you can do with a degree in social work. There were so many options including adoption agencies, hospitals, schools, individual therapy and even corporate America. I thought that was a better fit.

IVPC: What are some things we should know about your area of expertise?

Annie Sweeney: I like to pull a lot of things from DBT. Things like distress tolerance and mindfulness. If I feel something could help my client, I’ll bring it to the session. My grad school research project was on mindfulness for anxiety. I also like to use mindfulness in my own life when I find myself feeling anxious. I think DBT can be very widely applied. I also have experience in Acceptance and Commitment therapy and Solution Focused Brief Therapy.

IVPC: What do you like most about being a therapist?

Annie Sweeney: I think that it is so cool that people are willing to share their stories with me. They come into that first session and we go over different topics like family history, current relationships, therapy history, and mental health history. I think it is so great people are willing to come sit and share with a stranger. I also really respect people’s motivation to change and their desire for help and willingness to change. I also think that it is awesome that I can have an impact on people’s futures and maybe change their way of coping.

IVPC: What would you tell someone considering therapy for the first time?

Annie Sweeney: Therapy isn’t an immediate solution. It takes trial and error. Healing is not linear and there is no timeline. Just get started.

It is not a bad thing to say this therapist doesn’t work for me. This type of therapy that they are doing doesn’t work for me. It can be scary to say this isn’t working for me but mental health professionals are here for you. If it is not a good fit, it is not a good fit. 

Also, we (therapists) all want to meet clients where they are at. We’re not going to force them out of their comfort zone. We want to meet them where they’re at and help them on their healing journey.

IVPC: Do you have a personal motto or mantra?

Annie Sweeney: Starting something is the hardest part! I think this is very relevant to therapy and most aspects of life. Like my recent experience with the gym, it was hard to get started again even knowing I would feel better once I did.

Starting therapy is scary, if you’ve never gone before and even if you have. But once you go and you see how supportive your therapist is and how much they want to help, it should only be easier from there.

Annie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and her Master’s degree from the University of Illinois Chicago. Beyond her professional life, she finds solace in the company of her beloved cat, enjoys embarking on new culinary adventures at restaurants, and relishes the art of crafting delectable dishes for her friends.

Interview edited for length and clarity

InnerVoice Psychotherapy and Consultation is located in Chicago, IL and Skokie, IL