I met Rima Simon in 1982 when I was working as the head of West Coast PR for Showtime/The Movie Channel. At that time, she was married to a prominent comedy writer and was executive assistant to the then head of programming, Peter Chernin (who became Chairman of FOX and a prolific producer).
Rima and I became instant and fast friends. I was attracted to her intelligence, her sense of humor and her honesty. I’ll never forget her ability to eat massive amounts of Chinese food at lunch while being seven months pregnant! Over the years we have seen each other through divorces, the birth of our respective children, relationship struggles, life struggles, ups and downs of career, changing careers, joys and sorrows.
We also share the immigrant experience, as I am first generation American. Rima is one of the most courageous, compassionate, sensitive, resilient people I have ever met. She never quits. She is true to herself and has an enormous capacity to transform and enact transformation in others.
Her third act as a therapist is proof positive that every life experience is influential and can and often does lead to the next. She is a gifted therapist and there is no question in my mind that every single hardship she endured has lead her to the important work she does now. I wanted to interview Rima for FIFTINESS because I have always admired her and I think her story will inspire other women, the way it inspires me.
Rima Simon’s life has been filled with challenges. She was born in Vilnius, a city that used to be in Russia and is now, once again, Lithuania. To escape ethnic and religious persecution, her family moved to Poland when she was five, then to Israel when she was eight and finally immigrated to the United States in 1962, when she was ten. Her family settled in Chicago where she was the first Russian immigrant child to attend her elementary school. She spoke fluent Russian, Polish, Yiddish and Hebrew. She was so determined, however, to assimilate into American culture that within a year she spoke fluent English. Later in life, she came to realize how important her cultural roots were and embraced her diverse background along with American culture.
After receiving a Bachelor’s in Mass Communications from the University of South Florida, Rima moved to Los Angeles in 1978, where she had a prolific film and television career. She also produced several independent documentaries, including one about Beit T’Shuvah, a Los Angeles, Jewish oriented residential drug and alcohol treatment program, where she worked as a therapist. Along the way she got married, divorced and, as a single mom, raised two sons who grew up to be sensational young men (her best work still).
At the age of 55, Rima decided to go back to school. Her inspiration came while producing a psychological issue-oriented television show on the Jewish Television Network, featuring Dr. Dale Atkins, called Dr. Dale’s Life Issues. She was so deeply moved seeing how a therapist could improve lives and alleviate suffering that she realized this was her true calling and enrolled at the University of Southern California where, in 2010, she received a Masters in Social Work (MSW). Subsequently, she became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with additional certifications in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Anger Management and Grief and Loss.
Rima is on staff at Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Health Care System. As a therapist she works with male and female Veterans who are dealing with a wide range of issues such as, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, reintegration, relationship and family problems. In addition, she has a private practice, providing therapy for individuals, couples and families. Her specialty in her private practice includes working with creative individuals such as actors, writers, artists and musicians.
Rima, you are one of the most hopeful, fearless people I have ever met. You also have incredible grit. What life experiences shaped your world view?
My constant relocation from country to country, culture-to-culture, language to language. Adaptation was not a choice, it was something I was raised with…. change was infused into me at any early age
At the age of 55 you made the decision to make a career change, left the entertainment industry and went back to school and became a therapist and social worker. No small feat. What compelled you to do something so challenging?
I love helping people and being of service. I wanted a career that would last me a lifetime and that I would not age out of. My life has been comprised of so many unexpected twists and turns, I have found I am extremely resilient and believe that we as humans have this capacity to transform through love and loss.
I’m a firm believer in cognitive behavioral therapy and I work mostly with helping people through transitions — helping people think differently which leads to feeling differently which leads to taking different actions.
I believe in resiliency, tweaking the brain to jump-start it on a new path.
As a therapist, your job is working with the veteran population. What are the highs and lows of your job?
The highs — to see the moment in someone’s face when something registers inside and the “aha “moment breaks through and life is possible again. To guide people to pick up their broken places and homelessness and move to hopefulness, employment, housing, family reunification, sobriety, community, tapping into their dreams and helping them navigate through their fears. My job is to move people from hopelessness to hopefulness.
The lows — not enough mature mental health professionals to help all the veterans needing therapy. There is not enough time in the day to do all the things I would love to do and all the vets I would love to help. Navigating through the bureaucracy can be extremely frustrating.
Your job is stressful. How do you stay sane and ward off stress?
I practice yoga, mindfulness meditation, surround myself with friends, go to movies, spiritual practice, beach, sunsets, laughter and remember my own teachings of simply breathing and grounding
Finally, What advice to you have for women in their 50s longing to transition from motherhood to the work world, or simply change careers?
You’re never too old, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, follow your passion.
Turn down the volume inside your head about all the regrets of yesterday and all the anxiety about the future and connect to the moment and allow that moment to take you to the next. There is no such thing as mistakes — it’s just the journey and keep on searching until your heart soars