James Robinson sits down with his fellow clinician and new coordinator of CBT services at KIP, Nicole Reiner, to discuss her work at KIP and why she thinks CBT is so effective.
James: How did you end up at KIP?
Nicole:I’d say a fortuitous twist of fate brought me together with the right minds at the right time. When I met with my director and my future colleagues, KIP was in its infancy– KIP was a shared vision based off of a need many of us felt was missing within the mental health community. We sought to create a place where rising, driven, impassioned clinicians from all different backgrounds could continue to learn and grow, while providing clients with accessible, affordable, and diverse therapy. I’ve been on board since KIP’s opening day, and I’m impressed with how KIP continues to develop, expand, and adapt in order to best meet the needs of our clients. One of our recent changes involves our inclusion of specific divisions, the LGBTQ division and the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) division.
James: You’ve been heading the CBT division here at KIP. What is it about CBT that makes it so effective?
Nicole:Cognitive-Behavioral therapy is super effective, and there’s a ton research to back up that claim. Many studies have found CBT to be as effective as medication for many of the common psychological issues we face today… What about it makes it so effective? Some aspects that I think are really important and valuable are the transparency and empowerment of this type of therapy. I understand that it can be scary for clients to share their thoughts, fears, and concerns with their therapist, especially when they don’t know where the therapy is going. In CBT, we try to reduce this fear by being transparent, making sure our clients are on the same page. We check in and collaborate with our clients to make sure we are working towards goals they wish to reach. Empowerment is a huge part of CBT—We work with our clients to develop the skills to essentially be their own therapists, so they are able to go out in the world using what is learned in session to live healthy, satisfying lives.
James: Who do you think CBT is most helpful for?
Nicole:We all see the world through different lenses, which are formed and strengthened by our genetic makeup, the messages we received growing up, our accumulated experiences…Sometimes, this lens can become distorted, causing us to interpret and interact with the world in unhelpful ways. In CBT, we look at the relationship between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If you’d like to see changes in your life but notice your thoughts or your behaviors can be self-defeating, CBT is for you… Which means we have all been good candidates for CBT at one point or another!
And then there are times when stress, anxiety, self-doubt, and depression are so encompassing that they surround you like a cocoon, magnifying self-focus and making it really hard to truly engage in everyday life. Though you can peak out and see the bigger picture of life that surrounds you from time to time, stepping out of this “zoomed in” mode can seem impossible. This is where CBT can create the most powerful change—helping you observe and examine your habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that keep you feeling stuck, guiding you to find ways to live the life you want to be living.
James: I know you do a lot of work with stress and anxiety and I’m wondering what you do when you get anxious or feel stressed?
Nicole:Good question! Meditation and mindfulness skills are a huge part of my professional practice largely because they are a huge part of my personal practice. I’m someone who operates a few steps ahead of the present moment, which definitely contributes to stress and anxiety. I work on my “mindful muscle” by setting aside about 20 minutes a day to meditate. When I consistently practice, I find myself better able to recognize when my mind starts to wander, and I feel more in control about where I want to put my attention. I can actually tell the difference when I’ve stopped meditating for a while!
I really love this one alleged Mark Twain quote, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.” A lot of what stresses me out consists of scenarios I create in my mind, most of which will probably never happen. Practicing mindfulness helps me to slow down and watch my thoughts instead of getting tangled up in them or trying to push them away. When I can watch my thoughts more objectively, I’m better able to see the thoughts as what they are, putting me in a better position to effectively deal with them.
James: Do you have any tips for those of us who are struggling with the same issues?
Nicole:We can’t always control the stressors that hit us, so we’re going to have times when we’re anxious and sad, and that’s okay. If we treat the mind like we often treat the body – by taking care of it preventatively- we’ll be in a better place to handle stress and anxiety when it inevitably hits.
In addition to what I mentioned above, I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care. People often feel guilty when they set aside time for themselves, feeling like self-care is an indulgent activity. But as I tell my clients, you need to put on your own oxygen mask before you can effectively help those around you. We are so caught up in being good at the many “roles” we embody (employee, partner, parent, child, friend, etc.) that we can often lose sight of our true selves. My advice: set aside time to do something you love. Find an activity you feel immersed and engaged in, so you can shed the roles you carry around all day and just be you. For me, that’s taking a dance class. While I don’t think everyone needs to join a dance class to feel this way, everyone should find their own outlet- some physical activity, creative endeavor, or even a childhood hobby that you’ve buried or forgotten about.
James: You often talk about mindfulness and being in the body, why is that stuff so important?
Nicole:Technology is becoming so integrated into our everyday lives that it’s hard to separate experienced reality from virtual reality. While we are physically present, our minds are everywhere but. We are busy wishing things were another way, or comparing our lives to the people on social media, or dwelling on that awkward conversation, or worrying about getting everything done. It’s a shame, because what’s happening is that we are missing out on experiencing life as it is right now. When we overlook the nuances of our daily lives our life becomes less rich, and we lose appreciation for what we already have. Being in the body is a way to know you are present, and being present and engaged- with your surroundings, with a task, with loved ones- is what life is all about.
James: This is off topic but still very important! What would you do if you weren’t a therapist?
Nicole: When I was five years old, I confidently asserted to my kindergarten class that I would be a marine biologist when I grew up. While I don’t think I’ve ever considered the actual steps required to be a marine biologist (I am not a huge fan of swimming or salt water), my childhood interest in marine life still endures. I am a huge aquarium aFISHionado 🙂
This fall Nicole is running a Coping with Stress through Mindfulness and Cognitive-Behavioral based Practices. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
To learn more about what KIP’s new CBT division has to offer, check out our page at www.kiptherapy.com/cbt!