Dr Melissa Geraghty Psy.D of Phoenix Rising with Dr. G
Drawing on her own experience of rare disease Dr Melissa Geraghty is on a mission to provide mental health support to those with chronic illness and pain to ensure no one feels alone on their RARE journey
RARE entrepreneur series: meeting the beating hearts behind the RARE brands
Phoenix Rising with Dr. G’s mission is to empower you to rise from the ashes through engaging educational programs so you can live a more deeply valued life. You do not have to walk this path alone. Together we are Phoenix Fierce.
What was the driving force in starting your own business in the rare disease space? Was there an unmet need you were responding to?
I started Phoenix Rising with Dr. G to create online mental health based programmes that can be accessible to people from around the world. My clinical focus is on chronic illness, chronic pain, and eating disorders as these are also areas that are prominent in the rare disease community.
The driving force that led me to start Phoenix Rising with Dr. G is the limited specialised psychological resources that rare disease patients and chronic illness patients have. Many do not have access to a clinical health psychologist or rehabilitation psychologist who specialises in chronic illness, let alone rare chronic illness.
I only recently started my business so currently only have one programme so far which is focused on parents supporting their adolescent or young adult with an eating disorder. So often people in the rare disease space have an eating disorder, but it goes undiagnosed due to doctors assuming eating behaviors are solely related to medical conditions and complications.
How does your business benefit the rare disease community?
Phoenix Rising with Dr. G allows rare disease patients to have access to mental health resources that they otherwise may not have had access to or knowledge of. I want people to understand that rare disease has many facets and therefore is unique in the chronic illness community. It is my hope that my business allows people with rare disease to know that they are not alone and deserve proper mental health support too.
What advice, if any, did you get when setting up your business? Has there been anyone in particular who has been pivotal in supporting your business?
The advice I received was to reach out to others who are experienced in running their own business. A friend of mine has a course dedicated to teaching mental health professionals how to build online programmes. I took this eight week course and it was immensely helpful to have this guidance. It was great feeling that I had a foundation to work with and didn’t have to try to piece a bunch of things together myself. I saved a lot of time, money, and heartache, enrolling in this course and receiving guidance.
How do you manage the demands of running a business with your own health needs, those of someone you care for, or those of your employees?
It is definitely not easy! I am fortunate to be able to work from home which has changed my life for the better. I knew that driving and having to go into an office took a lot out of me, but I never realised how much until I was able to transition to fully working from home. I do the best I can to pace myself. Mornings and late nights are hardest for my body, so I try my best to schedule my work knowing this. Working from home also allows me the benefit to lie down or recline when needed.
What advice do you have for someone starting their own business?
Patience is very much needed. You will be met with a lot of learning curves and will have to show yourself grace. Continue to be persistent, reach out to more experienced entrepreneurs when needed, and know that you started this business because you have a vision and can make a contribution that only you are capable of making simply because you are you!
What are the most rewarding aspects of establishing and running your own business?
Having the freedom to work on projects that I feel add value to our rare disease and chronic illness communities.
What would you consider to be the greatest achievements of your business thus far?
I’m most honoured to be an international speaker with a focus on chronic pain. My greatest accomplishment is knowing that my work and self-disclosure has led others to feel heard and validated. I have the rare disease tethered cord syndrome in addition to over 30 medical diagnoses. I had neurosurgery in October 2019 followed by an internal repair of a spinal cerebrospinal fluid leak just 10 days after neurosurgery. I openly share my struggles and how I cope which helps others feel they are not alone. That has been my overarching goal—for people to feel understood and supported.
What advice would you give someone considering working in the rare disease space?
First of all I would thank them as we need all the rare disease support we can get! I would also suggest that the person gets an idea of how they want to utilise their time and talents in the rare disease space. Do they want to focus on a specific disease? Do they want to focus on advocacy efforts involving legislative matters? Be clear on your mission and start there.
What are your hopes for the future of your business?
I hope to continue to expand the types of online educational programmes I offer and therefore be able to have a bigger outreach to our community. I’d also like to write a book for the rare disease and chronic illness communities as well as continue to present workshops at conferences and other events.
If you hadn’t founded Phoenix Rising with Dr. G, what was Plan B? What did your 10-year-old self want to be?
My 10 year-old self wanted to be a palaeontologist or a psychologist. Given my physical disabilities, I chose right!
To find out more about the work of Phoenix Rising with Dr. G please visit: