Survivor Advocate

Introduction & Chat with new Podcast Co-host, Joanne Cipressi, Coach & Survivor – Ep. 119

Ever since I started this podcast, it’s been quite an interesting and exciting journey, to say the least. From the very first episode where I sat in front of my laptop, talking about being a survivor and the struggles of daily life, to now interviewing coaches, clinicians, and advocates every week; sharing their work and stories. I enjoy each and every episode and consider it a true honor to be a part of your day as you listen to the podcast.

Podcasting has allowed me to take the process of sharing my story to a new level, and as much as it’s hopefully helped you as you listen to the episodes, it’s helped me grow in my own journey even more.  I’m also very grateful to my friends and colleagues at Mental Health News Radio Network, for the opportunity to be among a group of incredible advocates who aren’t afraid to talk about the difficult subjects encompassing Mental Health.

Now, the next phase of the Beyond Your Past Podcast is about to begin, with the introduction of my new co-host, Joanne Cipressi.

Joanne is a Certified Coach and Survivor, experienced in a variety of modalities and skills which have helped her in her own journey as well as her coaching business working with clients, both in personal and business coaching.

You might remember when Joanne joined me on episode 107, where she shared some of her survivor story and the importance of rebuilding trust in yourself and others. Ever since then, we’ve stayed in touch; supporting each other’s work in social media and brainstorming some collaborative ideas, which lead to her now joining me on the podcast.

Joanne Cipressi brings new insight and a new dynamic to the show, which I hope you’ll find encouraging, validating, and yes even fun, too! Because hey, let’s face it, as I’ve said many times before, there’s no shame in interjecting some well-timed humor into difficult topics to help us cope with the challenges of being a survivor and living with mental health challenges as a result of our past.

Her experience in the areas of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Hypnosis, Reflexology, Reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Age Regression Therapy, Holistic Nutrition, will surely bring new insight to the conversations we have on this show both as host and co-host, and with the amazing guests who join us each week.

Joanne will begin joining me on the podcasts starting in mid-late February, and you can expect to begin hearing her each week starting with those episodes being released in early March.

Learn more about Joanne, including her survivor story and her work as a coach, by heading over to and be sure to follow her on Twitter

-Matthew Pappas, CLC, MPNLP


All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on, and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above-mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.



Podcast – Ep. 77 – Vennie Kocsis – Healing from Childhood Trauma, Learning to Love Yourself

Vennie Kocsis - Guest Podcast - Beyond Your PastWelcome to Part II, of my new series with Author, Artist, Poet, and Incredible Survivor, Vennie Kocsis. I’m so excited to be recording this series with Vennie, because the message she has, from her own lived experience is one that countless survivors can relate too. Plus, I enjoy being able to help support her work and message any way that I can because it’s helped me in my own journey.

Vennie is an author, artist, poetry writer, and survivor of Sam Fife’s Move of God cult.  My creativity is the therapy by which I have survived the memories of my childhood abuse. There are many  caves where memories hide out, and I intend to travel them all in this lifetime. I am raw. I am flawed. I am open and here without shame, to tell the true story of my own childhood. I write to survive, and I write for those who cannot find the words to tell their own story. Most of all, I write for those who cannot express it. For you, I give my heart and all of my tender parts.

In the first episode of this series, How Trauma Manifests Itself in Adulthood, we talked about the struggle with food. This is something that is close to both of our hearts, and during the show we share many lived experiences in areas such as:

  • Self Shame with how, when, and what we eat.
  • Why dieting doesn’t work for us
  • Reparenting ourselves when it comes to food
  • Moderation
  • Lifestyle Changes
  • and more!

In Part II, we’re talking about some of Vennie’s own personal survivor story, which includes enduring childhood sexual abuse, and being raised in a religious cult.  You’ll hear some of the tragic circumstances, grooming, and brainwashing that inspired her write her best-selling book, Cult Child. Through it all she is here to share her story, in her own unique and personal way, to not only continue her own healing journey but also her passion of reaching others and being a voice for those who are unable to speak their truth.

Along with her story, we spend a lot of time discussing what it means to love ourselves, as a survivor. We explore that means for her, how I’ve learned to do that for myself, and how you can explore that in your own life. As you’ll hear, it’s important to remember that the way we choose to do this is an individual experience, a very personal and heartfelt part of healing.

We’ll discuss how journaling and post-it notes can play a huge role, especially early on in the process. Writing letters, embracing the mindset shift, working through the pain and anger, and realizing that as an adult, free from abuse, nobody has the right to tell us that we can’t love ourselves, or that we don’t get to heal.  What an incredibly liberating time when we get to that point, and as Vennie shares, it opens up a whole new world of healing and speaking our truth.

We cover all this and much more, so grab those headphones or plug us into your speakers and join us for the next installment in the series, How Trauma Manifests Itself in Adulthood.

Be sure and follow Vennie on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, @VennieKocsis.  You see her artwork, read her poetry, and pick up a copy of her book, Cult Child, at

-Matt Pappas







All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on, and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.

Podcast – Ep. 75 – Rachel Grant, Survivor Struggles and Mentally Ill Labels

Living in today’s volatile and controversial world can take its toll on anyone. With so much violence happening around the world, discord among not only world leaders across the globe but certainly in the US, and the phrase “mentally ill” being tossed around in context to some of the most heinous crimes in recent history, and it’s no wonder we can feel unsettled.

For survivors, it’s tough enough navigating daily life in the wake of a traumatic past, but add in all of the pressures of being bombarded with news and current events 24/7, and the struggle gets exponentially more difficult.

I too struggle with my own thoughts and even my most trusted coping strategies are taxed to their limits at times trying to stay grounded while “fighting the good fight” as it were, to raise awareness and get involved in areas that I’m passionate about. It feels like an uphill battle that gets steeper and steeper, even with the best plan and self-care strategies in place.

Rachel Grant - Sexual Abuse Survivor Coach, Podcast GuestThat’s why I wanted to spend some time chatting with friend, colleague, and returning guest to the podcast, Rachel Grant. From the very first time that we collaborated back in the earlier episodes of the show, we’ve developed a friendship and mutual respect for each other not only as advocates and survivors, but as everyday people just trying to find our way in this world and make a difference while we continue to heal.

Rachel Grant is a Sexual Abuse Survivor Coach, with an M.A. in Counseling Psychology. Her website, features not only her individual and group work with survivors, but also her book “Beyond Surviving”, Facebook Group, Master Class, and free and low-cost Audible Downloads covering topics such as Shame, Boundaries, Abandonment, and much more.


Some of the topics that Rachel and I discuss on this episode include:


  • Feelings of Shame and Triggers that can arise in regards to the mass violence and political climate across the world.
  • “Mentally Ill” labels being tossed around in negative and stigmatizing ways in regards to school and church shootings, gun control, world leaders, and those who suffer with depression.
  • Getting involved in causes that we believe in, and trying to do too much.
  • Looking at labels in a different context, as a way to help feel inspired and educated, and provide direction towards treatment and resources.
  • Learning to pause, think before we speak and react, when it comes to highly charged situations, reducing anxiety, and in everyday life.
  • Using “service” to help get out of our heads, reduce burnout, and re-energize for not only our own journey but our involvement in causes we are passionate in.

Thank you again Rachel from coming back on the podcast and sharing your insight and heartfelt message for survivors. I’ve learned so much from you and I look forward to our collaborative work in the future.

Be sure and check out and follow her on Twitter: @CoachRachelG.

-Matthew Pappas, CLC, CPNLP








All conversation and information exchanged during participation on the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on, and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.



Podcast – Ep. 69 – HeatheVoices 2018 Conference Experience

I recently had the privilege of attending the HealtheVoices 2018 Conference, in Chicago. It was an incredible event where advocates representing over 40 mental and physical health communities came together for 3-day weekend of collaborating, education, and networking.

It was my first time attending an event like this, and to be honest I really didn’t know what to expect. I did my research, watched videos, and checked out past event information, but still you never know until you get there right?

I’m so grateful to Janssen Pharmaceuticals for the honor of being one of the mental health advocates there, representing Anxiety and Trauma Recovery. So, I decided what better what to share some of my experience at the conference than to do a podcast about it. Since, hey I’m a podcaster right! 🙂

Thank you to everyone at Janssen who organized this amazing weekend, I’m so humbled and honored to have had the pleasure of attending. I learned so much, made new friends, and even met a few people that I already knew!

The staff, the event organizers, the sponsors, and of course all of the amazing and dedicated advocates that I met have left a lasting impact on my life. I left feeling inspired and encouraged, realizing that we all have so much in common, even if our platforms are different. Our common goal of raising awareness, providing resources and encouragement and information to people just like ourselves, who need it now more than ever.

We’re all living the experience for which we advocate for, pouring our heart and souls into this labor of love of doing all we can to help others while on our own journey. I’m not ashamed to say that I am a survivor, a recovering anxiety sufferer, and someone who is right there feeling all the pain and frustration in the trenches of recovery.

Going to this conference was like feeling at home with 122 people that I’d never met before in my life. That’s the beauty of this event, everyone is there to learn, share, and encourage one another and to be reminded that none of us are ever alone on this journey of healing and recovery.

I look forward to hopefully being invited back in 2019 to HealtheVoices!

-Matt Pappas, Coach, Podcaster, Advocate.

Please consider leaving a review and subscribe on your favorite podcasting app.  🙂

Janssen paid for my travel and accommodations for the event; my opinions are my own.


All conversation and information exchanged during participation the Beyond Your Past Podcast, on, and is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing on these podcasts or posted on the above mentioned websites are supplements for or supersedes the relationship and direction of your medical or mental health providers.

Podcast – Ep. 63 – Kristin Walker – CEO, Podcaster, Survivor – Using her Voice in Advocacy

Kristin Sunanta Walker is the CEO of the technology consulting firm, everythingEHR, and the founder of the Mental Health News Radio Network. She’s also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, and an advocate for survivors of childhood trauma. She has interviewed leaders in the behavioral health community such as CEO’s of technology companies, counselors, best-selling authors, and global experts in the field of Behavioral Health. Her show is downloaded in over 171 countries and continues its reach with inspiring guests from every corner of the world.

Kristin is on the board of several organizations within Behavioral Health as well as the subject matter expert regarding EHR technology. Multiple strategic partnerships and speaking engagements about childhood sexual abuse, narcissism, and behavioral health technology keep her traveling schedule extremely full as well as being a sought after guest on other popular podcasts.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because my podcast, Beyond Your Past, is also on the MHNR Network, and I thought it would be great to chat with my friend and amazing advocate, Kristin, so she could share her story of being a survivor, her struggles and triumphs along the way, and of course about how and why she started this amazing platform for mental health and advocacy podcasters.

Podcasting is something that Kristin is passionate about, and even though the MHNR Network now has over 20 active podcasts and many more waiting in the wings, it didn’t start out like that. It started with her having a vision of just needing to get her story out there, to start talking about not only her past and the things that she struggles with, but to shed light on advocacy as a whole. She knew that she had to start talking about it; silence was no longer an option.

So she got a mic and started her own podcast, talking to anyone and everyone who would want to share. Over time and utilizing her connections in the business world, her own “1 woman show” blossomed into the MHNR Network. A place to give her a past, and healing, a voice, and where other people who had a similar vision could come together with a common goal of Advocacy.

During our chat, we cover several topics in a very open, vulnerable conversation:

How old were you when you were sexually abused?
How did that make you view men?
How has that affected your interpersonal relationships?
What were the circumstances around you telling and how old were you?
What people can you remember that helped you through this?
How did your past of being a childhood trauma survivor inspire you to start MHNR?
What is Mental Health After Dark?

It was a wonderful time chatting with my friend and fellow advocate, and I’m honored to share that with you now. I hope you’ll consider checking out her show, and as many of the other amazing podcasts on the network. It’s through using our voice, and sharing, that we can make a difference in our own journey of healing and in the lives of countless others.

Check out Mental Health News Radio Network and learn more about Kristin Walker by following her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn

Matthew Pappas, CLC