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By: Miriam Sasson

“Melissa, I ate 1,200 calories of food today!” Melissa smiles as she reads Alice’s* text.

Alice, a teenager, had been besieged by a horrid monster called anorexia for several years. She consumed fewer than 500 calories of food daily and spent 2 to 3 hours exercising each day. Alice was not even sure she was wrong in her eating habits, but her mother knew she needed help. The teen had been to multiple professionals – therapists, psychologists – but, unfortunately, did not meet with success. Ultimately, Alice’s mother discovered Melissa Cohen, a certified life coach and mentor. Once she accepted that she was not eating healthfully, Alice was taken aback by Melissa’s pronouncement.  

“We are not going to fix your eating disorder,” Melissa informed a bewildered Alice, “because you do not have an eating disorder. It is your thoughts that need adjusting.”

With Melissa’s guidance, Alice learned to tap into her inner common sense and use her thoughts to face her eating issue head on, and within eleven weeks, she was eating again!

Meet Melissa

She’s not a therapist. She’s not a psychologist. She’s Mrs. Melissa Cohen, certified life coach and mentor of Deal, New Jersey (formerly of Brooklyn, New York) with a kind heart and an overwhelming success rate among her clients. Melissa works tirelessly to empower others to tap into their inner wisdom and common sense to improve the quality of their lives. The people she works with – adults, teenagers, and kids, men and women – have enhanced relationships, communication and physical health or surmounted difficulties such as addictions, anger mismanagement, anxiety, and depression. Couples have come to her to improve their shalom bayit (marital harmony). Most importantly, her clients enrich their relationship with themselves.

Mrs. Cohen is expertly trained in a personal development program, Innate Health (also referred to as The Three Principles), developed by Mr. Sidney Banks and adapted for the Jewish community by Rabbi Michel Twerski, shlit”a, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The essential idea is that thoughts play a major role in one’s life. “It is your internal thoughts that create your feelings rather than your outside circumstances,” Melissa explains.

“Imagine it’s the middle of the night, and your baby is crying,” Melissa illustrates with an example. One minute you think I am so tired; why is this happening to me? and you feel frustration. The next minute you think my poor baby – he is so cute, and you feel gratitude. “The experience is identical from one minute to the next,” Melissa points out. “But the thoughts that helped you interpret that experience differed,” hence the different emotions.

Which feeling is the “correct” one?

“The one that feels better,” Melissa answers. “The one that helps you accomplish more. The one that leaves you feeling accomplished, curious, and hopeful as opposed to stressed, depressed or upset.” Thus, Melissa explains, our thoughts play a significant role in our lives.

It’s all in the Mind

While Melissa began coaching people approximately eight years ago, her desire to help people began way beforehand. People would naturally gravitate toward her and unburden themselves “like a ‘Dear Abby.’” Slowly, however, she came to the realization that people tended either to blame her for impotent advice or disregard it altogether. “I was frustrated that they didn’t listen to me after four hours of listening to them!” she says. After her training in Innate Health, though, she was able to truly help others sort out their problems since, in her words, “I pointed them toward what they themselves had to do rather than actually telling them what to do.”

“Innate Health was exactly what I had been seeking,” Melissa reflects. She heard about the personal development program from a friend who had benefited from it. Facing some difficulties herself, Melissa tried it out and was helped, as well. “Overnight, my life was changing,” Melissa remembers. She ultimately took a training program simultaneously with Rebbetzin Faige Twerski LCSW (wife of Rabbi Michel Twerski) in order to teach others the program.

Melissa Cohen highlights an important component of the program: relating to circumstances with healthful and helpful thoughts in an experiential way. Intellect is insufficient, she says. For example, an anorexic teenager knows intellectually that she should not be engaging in negative eating behaviors. But her feelings tell her she should, for it will make her happy or in control. Therefore Melissa invites clients to tap into that common sense themselves. Instead of being told that anorexia is dangerous, for example, she lets them come to that realization on their own. “People need to reach an ‘aha!’ moment where the knowledge resonates with them on their own in a profound manner,” our life coach/mentor exhorts. She emphasizes that Innate Health is not a “thinking positive” program. “It doesn’t matter how you think; just know you are thinking it,” she advises.

Life Coach at Work

About six years ago, Melissa relates, she worked with a teenage boy who suffered from severe anxiety and depression. The boy was checked into and out of hospitals copiously and was taking medication of which his doctor “prophesied” he would never be able to wean off. Within the first four days (known as the “four day intensive” in which the coach educates the client on the principles of Innate Health) with Melissa, he had a significant turnaround. He never returned to the hospital, now has a job, and, contrary to his doctor’s convictions, has been off of meds for over two years.

“Quick recoveries like the young man’s are common,” says Melissa Cohen. Clients come back to her saying “I am happier” and “my marriage is better” and “I am a changed person.” One woman who suffered from anxiety told Melissa, “I finally slept last night!” Oftentimes, she adds, the progress is manifested in improved physical health (since physical pain is often an outcome of emotional pain). Back pain, stomach ailments – those aches disappear with the coaching, Melissa says, because circumstances, though out of one’s control, may be unavoidable, but the choice of how to feel is not. In fact, 70 copies of Melissa’s book, The Road to Finding Yourself, were recently ordered by a woman who helps sufferers of stomach pain.

Does Melissa ever meet with resistance from individuals? Initially, says Melissa, parents bring skeptical teenagers in or clients who have “tried everything” come in. If she perceives resistance, she asks the boy or girl to give it “just this one session.” She tells them “If you don’t like it, we’re done.” But that never happens since they hear things they have never before heard, and it resonates. “Kids who come to me learn that there is nothing inherently wrong with them, but rather they mistakenly fell in with a negative line of thinking,” Melissa states.

Melissa Cohen has shared her wisdom via successful workshops in Rabbi Shlomo Diamond’s Ilan High School in Deal and is slated to do the same in Rabbi Reuben Semah’s Ma’or Yeshiva High School in Long Branch, NJ. She has also guided individual students in Rabbi Yosef Ozeirey’s Yeshivat Mekor Chaim in Brooklyn. She has recently delivered effective seminars on Innate Health as a guest speaker both on a teleconference and at the most recent Twerski Wellness Convention. While she is a well-known figure in the sphere of personal development and coaching, Melissa desires to spread the program within the community since, in her words, “It is so needed and beneficial, and the community will become healthier.” Melissa looks forward to delivering an eight-week women’s workshop on relationships and a leadership workshop for high school students this coming summer.    

A Helping Heart

Melissa Cohen has helped hundreds both in and out of the community. About her, Rabbi Michael Haber wrote, “Melissa Cohen is an extraordinary person and very capable. I have no doubt that her program will benefit people tremendously.” She and her work in helping others are endorsed by numerous rabbis including Rabbis Mordechai Dabbah and R’ Moshe Malka. Rabbi Joey Haber stated – “I have known Mrs. Cohen for many years, and her dedication and understanding is second to none! She will be there for you until [the issue] is solved!”

Mrs. Cohen concludes with a message for community members. Nowadays, she says, people always look for answers to their problems from therapists, but so many times, the answer is inside of them. You simply have to be aware of your thoughts and the influence they have on your perception of life. “Don’t label yourself,” Melissa closes. “You can think whatever and be whomever you want.” Exchange the old thoughts that decrease the quality of your life for ones that work for you!

For additional information, visit Mrs. Cohen’s webpage at www.movingforwardbrooklynlifecoach.com