NEW YORK – Dr. Andreas Michaelides is the Chief of Psychology at Noom, a mobile health technology company. At Noom, he created their coaching program from the ground up, and now manages over 1,000 clinicians and researchers who investigate novel ways to impact behavioral and lifestyle changes for weight loss. He is also a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) Master Trainer and has helped translate the delivery of the DPP program to the first fully mobile platform.
Dr. Michaelides earned his PhD in Clinical Psychology in 2012, and completed a great deal of his training at a large veterans’ hospital. In his private practice, Dr. Michaelides specializes in helping his clients with weight loss, traumatic brain injuries, depression/anxiety, and life transition problems. Besides conducting individual and group psychotherapy, he is passionate about finding ways to integrate psychology with information technology, and is also a board certified neurofeedback practitioner.
Dr. Michaelides took time out from his busy schedule to speak with The National Herald about his life and work.
TNH: Were you always interested in psychology?
Dr. Andreas Michaelides: Yes! I have two longstanding passions: psychology and technology. Growing up, I was always interested in how the mind works and loved talking and relating to people on a deeper level. Psychology was by far my favorite subject in school. It not only made the most sense to me, but it inspired me to find unique ways to apply my learnings. In addition, I spent a lot of time in my teenage years fixing broken computers and learning everything I could about up-and-coming technologies.
Now I get to marry my two passions and put my skills into practice, working at a company that helps people change their behavior to lead healthier lives through technology. It is an opportunity for me to be more than just a psychologist, but a person who gets to apply psychological science in a brand new way.
This merging of passions is also reflected in my private practice, where I am lucky to work one-on-one with patients struggling with a wide range of concerns, using traditional and/or technological methodologies.
TNH: Tell us a bit about your family background, where is the family from originally?
AM: My parents were both born and raised in Cyprus. I was born in the United States, but visited Cyprus often as child. I completed three years of high school there, but moved back to the United States to finish high school.
TNH: Greek people are notoriously silent about mental health issues, what are some of the misconceptions about mental health that keep people from seeking treatment?
AM: I see some major themes within the Greek culture:
“I won’t see someone because I’m not crazy” or “δεν είμαι τρελός.” This usually stems from stigma surrounding mental health issues since they are poorly understood. I have found that Greeks (along with many people!) downplay symptoms, underestimate their severity, and fail to acknowledge the impact it has on their quality of life. Crazy is not a diagnosis by the way!
“What will others think?” Oftentimes when I am approached by Greek patients or the families of Greek patients, there’s a great deal of shame and desperation. Because of this, patients often wait until symptoms have gotten pretty bad to seek help. Parents and families also internalize the shame and see mental illness of their loved one as a deficiency in themselves to not be able to “fix” it.
“What are they going to tell me?” There is a lack of trust in another’s competence or ability to actually make a difference. This is also reflective of the lack of understanding of the role of a psychologist, and how working with them can improve their current experience. It is common for patients to think that seeing a therapist is not any different than getting advice from a friend, or thinking that they will be faced with an individual continuously asking them “how does that make you feel?”
TNH: How well do you think society in general is doing right now at overcoming the stigma attached to mental health issues?
AM: I think it has gotten better overall in the United States, but there’s still a long way to go. More and more people seek help without shame (or at least are more open to it). I have witnessed the positive change that has come from mental illness education efforts — such as educational talks at schools, and even mental illness awareness marches.
I do not see this same progression in insulated Greek communities, who can sometimes think “they are different.” When cultures are insulated, it is often difficult for this information to break through. Ultimately, I believe the most helpful thing is repeated exposure to quality information and education about mental health issues and treatment options, addressing knowledge gaps and misconceptions.
TNH: What is the most rewarding aspect of your work and the most challenging?
AM: I love doing what I love and something that I am inspired by.
At Noom, I love that my work is meaningful — it is helping change the world and create a healthier tomorrow. I am passionate about leading a team and creating an enriching, fulfilling work environment for so many people, and being on the frontline of transforming lives.
In my private practice, I love witnessing the power of human transformation firsthand. It is so rewarding when my patients are able to break through mental barriers, improve their symptoms, and increase their quality of life.
The most challenging aspect of my work is juggling it all! I have a lot on my plate, and maintaining balance can be difficult. It forces me to practice what I preach and be very mindful of my own self-care!