Really excited to hear more about your program and what you all do, but you have a very interesting story. So I was online looking you up and I learned that you used to play in the minor league baseball team. So how do you go from being a baseball player to being a therapist? What did that trajectory look like?
Well to be brutally honest, what happened was I played sports throughout my life, but I also probably junior high age started picking up drugs and alcohol. Sports and partying went hand in hand, but I will say sports saved my life because it kept me on the straight and narrow if you will, as straight and narrow as you can be when you’re a drug and alcoholic addict. After I got done playing baseball professionally, then my addictions really, really ramped up. In the early ’90s, I started embracing sobriety and I started doing a lot of volunteer work just as a way of giving back. Then finally one day, somebody said “Have you ever thought about becoming a CSAT And I was like “What’s that?” So I started looking into it and I already had like five or 6,000 hours of volunteer experience. So I started taking the classes, I got those knocked out, and I started working in treatment centers. I started back years ago working in detox at Arapahoe House. Then as I started getting into more addictions counseling, I kept on constantly referring people out for the dual diagnosis portion of the illness. I’d be working with a client maybe on the alcohol addiction, and then I would say “I really need you to go see somebody else to work on this depression and trauma.” They’re like “Are you kidding me? I’m doing everything I can to come and see you.” So finally the stars aligned and I went back to grad school and got my degree so I could work with both sides of the issues.
That was a great move it seems like because you’re so right. There’s so many people that are like just to get up and get to one appointment is one thing. Now sending them to another person, but to combine it where they already built that trust, very smart, very smart. Well you launched recently, or maybe not so recently, the South Platte Counseling Center. To what you talked about earlier, you’ve got a group of mental health providers that work within your practice. So it’s not just you. Can you talk kind of big picture about what your services are like at South Platte and what somebody might experience when they come in for services there?
Yeah, so for the last five years, it was just me at South Platte. Years ago, I had a treatment center, but it was primarily just mandated clients that we saw at the treatment center. Then I had a private practice in Denver. I closed those down because I kind of want to simplify my life and I open up South Platte five years ago, but I just in the last six months did an expansion. I hired six new therapists that are working for me. So my specialties are primarily trauma and addiction, both behavioral and substance abuse addictions. The folks that I’ve brought on board come from a variety of different niches if you will. Niches. I always forget how to, which one’s the right way to-I’ll just talk about each one of my staff members and what their passions are if you will. Of course mine are addiction and trauma and then Brooks Canaday, he’s very interested in working with OCD and porn addiction as well as other types of addictions and anxiety. Then Dimitra Danilenko-Dixon, she wants to work with LGBTQ issues and also addiction as well and life transition. And then Jenny Robbins, she is a grief and bereavement specialist and she really … Her passion is working with traumatic grief. She also works with trauma, addiction, and anxiety. Then Jen Yeater, she is a marriage and family therapist and she … Her passion is adolescents and children and couples work and the family system.
Mary Ann works with all types of disorders but specifically mood disorders and grief and bereavement loss.
What a great combination of various aspects of behavioral health that you’ve offered. So when somebody comes in and they really could identify what would be the right clinician to work with them based on the specialty that they need.
Yeah, and who they feel the most comfortable with. Because I think sometimes we forget that one of the most important things in the success of counseling is feeling comfortable with who you’re working with.
That relationship. I agree with that. I agree with that. Well as I was learning about you, I noticed a quote on your website that I thought was really interesting. “The only normal people we know are the ones we don’t know well.” That’s by Alfred Adler, a psychotherapist. Why did that resonate with you that you put that up there?
Well as I get older and meet more people and think about my childhood and the neighborhood I grew up in, there isn’t too many normal people that we meet. I think Alfred Adler, when he said that, realized that, that nobody is “normal.” We all have our struggles, we all have our stuff, and that just kind of tongue-in-cheek just really resonates with me. It also reminds me how many of my clients compare their insides with everybody’s outsides. They think “Oh, these folks are all normal.” I think social media- … does not a very good job- … helping us realize that other people have struggles as well. We see everybody’s polished version of their lives.
And so this always just kind of brings me back to earth and just helps me kind of remember I am you and you are me. We all have struggles. If we walk in somebody’s shoes and get to know them well enough-… we’ll figure out “Oh, they have their stuff too.” So that’s why that resonates with me.
I heard a great, great quote somebody said one time, that the only thing that’s normal is the button on your washing machine, and I thought that was really cool.
That’s good. I’ll remember that one.
Well we always like to get to know the person behind the program. So I’m going to ask you just a couple of questions. What books have you gifted the most to other people? And it may be that you haven’t actually given them to somebody. They may be just recommended to them to read.
A book that I give or recommend the most, when I’m talking this world, clinical world clients, is just a really simple book that’s probably written for adolescents by Daniel Amen called Mind Coach. He talks about cognitive distortions and he really wrote it by being inspired by his kids and what they struggled with. So he talks about ANTs in the book, and ANTs stand for automatic negative thoughts. He’s like “What do we have to do with ANTs? We have to extinguish them.” Then he identifies nine really bad ANT species that we have to watch out for like mind reading, fortune telling, all or nothing thinking, et cetera, et cetera. I share that with my clients and they’re like “Oh my gosh, I do this all the time” as we all do. But it’s just a really simple, nice read to help us, to remind us how powerful our thoughts can be and they affect us in every aspect of our life.
Right. And then I’ll kind of double down on that. And I don’t give this book out, but it’s called The Messages in Water. [Masaru 00:09:33] took photographs of water samples that he would take messages to like a glass of water that he would tape the message “I love you” to. On the same water sample, he would tape “I hate you” to, and then he would freeze them and photograph the crystals. In the ones with the negative message would be distorted and warped or the ones with a positive message would be so beautiful and precise. I say to my clients “You know what? If this is just a little simple water sample, what is this doing to ourselves when we have these negative thoughts?”
So true. I do remember that book you’re talking about because I thought that was so profound. So profound. Well so if I were to play off the idea of the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
Harmony to me means, well obviously in tune or in sync. I like to think of myself and my fellow human beings, friends, client, family, that we’re mind, body, spirit. And I think being in harmony is when we’re taking care of mind, body, and spirit. I could think about kind of like a tripod. Are all those legs strong or are we a little tippy? I also think of harmony in being in line with our values and our morals and our thoughts and our actions. Are they all in sync or are we, do we have a value for some one thing, but we’re living not in accordance with that value? And I think that could throw us out of tune or out of harmony. And then from the treatment community and Harmony Foundation or what I do, I think we could be in sync, trying to help our clients find all aspects of care. We might send them to treatment, they might come out and see a therapist, they might hire a fitness coach or a nutritionist, or we’re working with their psychiatrist simultaneously while also talking with their sponsor or something like that. I think that treatment can be in harmony as well if we’re coming at it from an integrative point of view.
I really like that and that’s the first time I’ve ever heard anybody look at it from that perspective, but you’re right. It is almost like a symphony, isn’t it? When you’re looking at all of the variations that play a part in what somebody would be looking for for recovery, it is sort of a harmonious relationship between all of these different people. I think that’s really nice. Thank you for sharing that.
It’s been a pleasure having you on campus. I know it’s been a long time. We cannot wait 12 more years for you to come back. So we want to make sure you come back sooner. And thank you for sharing South Platte with us and a little bit about your background. If someone were listening today and wanting to access services at South Platte, how could they get in touch with you?
Then if they see a therapist on our website that they feel like they might be a good fit for, they could email any one of those therapists, just add their first name @southplattecounseling.com. Then we’re going to have some videos of all our different therapists up on our website. We’re re-doing our website right now so please excuse us.
Thank you, Kirk, for taking the time to visit with us. It’s been a real pleasure.