Andrea Cuc is a master’s level licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) who works as a psychotherapist at Mayo Clinic-Arizona and is a vital part of the HABIT Team. If you have had the good fortune of meeting her, you know that she truly loves helping people and that she loves being part of HABIT. Somehow, I got lucky enough to catch her on a day when she had some free time and I got to know her a little better.
Miranda Morris: How did you get involved with HABIT in Arizona?
Andrea Cuc: I used to work with patients who had Alzheimer’s dementia at a previous hospital prior to coming to Mayo Clinic, and this population always held a special place in my heart. So when Dr. Locke asked me if I was interested in joining HABIT I was very excited about the opportunity to work with patients who have MCI and share some of my knowledge of memory impairment, but also to continue to learn from them.
MM: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
AC: A dentist. Teeth fascinate me. My 9th grade science project was testing the abrasiveness of various types of toothpaste.
MM: What is your favorite thing about the HABIT Program?
AC: Getting to hear the HABIT participant and partner’s past and present stories. People have incredible stories of resiliency.
MM: Tell me a little bit about your family!
AC: I was born in Romania and I am married with two kids (both in high school). We have traveled the world together and my youngest son was actually born while we were on vacation in Mexico. My husband and sons are my initial “test subjects” for all of my new therapy techniques. They are all incredibly resilient men now!
MM: Do you have a favorite memorable experience from your time in HABIT?
AC: A HABIT participant couldn’t remember my name, but I’m equally bad with remembering people’s names which is why we all wear name tags, and he called me the “Good Wife” because he thought I looked like the actress Julianna Margulies on the television show. The name stuck because by the end of HABIT all of my support group participants were calling me the “Good Wife.”
MM: What is one of your goals for 2019?
AC: To travel more! Our world is a wondrous place rich with beautiful people, cultures, and stories that need to be explored, heard, and shared.
MM: What do you do when you aren’t in a HABIT session? Meaning, what is the rest of your work-life like?
AC: I’m a master’s level licensed clinical social worker and I work with the Mayo Clinic department of psychiatry and psychology and provide counseling services to our patient population. I teach people mind/body/emotional wellness skills
MM: Do you have a hidden talent?
AC: I’m still very flexible and I can jump (in high school they called me “twinkle toes”)! I was a cheerleader from middle school through high school, and I don’t think that S-P-I-R-I-T ever left me! In all my travel photos there is at least one picture of me doing some sort of cheer jump (toe touch, herkie etc.), leap, heel stretch, splits, or stunt. It’s important for me to maintain a sense of humor and bring joy along on my journeys. Happiness is an inside out job, not an outside in.
MM: What advice do you have for someone who is just finishing the HABIT Program and may be finding it hard to stick with the program?
AC: It takes time for a new habit to become an old familiar (automatic) habit, so be gentle and kind with yourself. The beauty of living in moments is if we stop doing something in one moment, we have the next moment to try again. If participants stop using their MSS book and want to resume using it, then I would encourage them to get help from their partner and/or come in for a HABIT booster session so we can work through any obstacles and get the MSS habit reinforced again. Other components such as physical and cognitive exercises may need to be changed and modified so it remains interesting and challenging.
MM: What is a life lesson that you learned recently?
AC: I’d like to think I’m a patient person, but it’s one of those values that continues to get reinforced by life so I get ongoing practice with it.
During impatient times I like to remind myself that, “patience is the calm acceptance that things can happen in a different order than the one you have in mind.”
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