Therapy used to be a taboo thing that not many people would like to talk about. But as years progress, we see more and more feel confident sharing their experiences. The beauty in that is how it helps others reach out for support as well. Whitney Lauritsen bares her experience with us as she shares the things she has been learning from therapy and coaching. She talks about her own struggles with control, knowing what is right, understanding body acceptance, and coming to terms with her neurodivergence. Extending the joys she found in her sessions, Whitney then invites us to her wellbeing training, helping us find support across different areas of our lives.
This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens and Zencastr.
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What I’ve Been Learning From Therapy (And Coaching)
I have been traveling around the Northeast Coast for the past couple of weeks. I’ve been visiting my parents in Massachusetts. My sister is in New York. I went to Maine to see a good friend of mine. I have visited a few friends in Massachusetts. I’m going back to New York to see my sister. I’m then going to Philadelphia to the Natural Products Expo, which I may or may not do a whole episode on. I love to summarize that experience and the products that I try.
These trips are so interesting because of the emotions I go through while traveling. It’s a different state of mind. In this episode, I’m going to talk a little bit about that and my experiences with therapy. I had my fifth therapy session a few days ago with my current therapist whom I was connected through my insurance. My insurance covers twelve sessions with this therapist. I’m already anticipating the end of it, which is interesting because it has been so great. I don’t want it to end. I’m hoping that I can find a way to continue working with this therapist because he may be the best that I’ve ever had.
I wanted to share what that journey is like doing therapy, having a good match with a doctor, and also the evolution of therapy. I feel like therapy used to be a taboo thing that people wouldn’t talk about. Maybe they would feel shame. Nowadays, a lot of people are very confident talking about therapy but still perhaps not super openly and also, talking about things that support other people.
One thing I’m learning in the emotional well-being training course I’m taking right now to become a Certified Wellbeing Coach has been fantastic for me in therapy because I feel like seeing how to support people through coaching, there are a lot of parallels with therapy. It’s not the same thing because being a coach is not being a doctor. For example, I can’t diagnose people as a coach. There are certain medical issues that I can or perhaps shouldn’t fully address. I should recommend my clients go see a doctor for it. I’m still learning.
There are a lot of gray areas between health and wellness coaching, or well-being coaching is the term I like, and therapy. I’m grateful that there are different roles that people play that I can lean on for support, given that I haven’t been trained in the depth that a therapist has. However, I see that some of the tools and guidance that my therapist offers are similar to how I’m being trained as a coach. It’s interesting to be on the other end of it and to experience that. I’ll dive into the therapy stuff and I’ll mix in my travels as they come up.
Do I Need To Go To Therapy
One thing that’s super interesting to me is how I felt for years that I don’t need therapy. I thought, “I’m so deep in the health and wellness world. I have a show in which I’m talking to a lot of experts about mental health and wellbeing. I feel seeped in it.” I’m always talking about it, exploring myself, reflecting, and then in my personal private time, that’s what I do. I’m reading a ton of books. I’m processing a lot. I thought, “What could a therapist offer me?” This is part of why I want to talk so openly about it because I was surprised and continue to be every single session with this therapist. I’m blown away by how things come out. I feel like there’s an openness.
This is part of what I love about my therapist. His personality feels so safe and I wish I could remember more of what it was like with my first therapist whom I consider the best that I’ve had up until now. I went to therapy when I was in college and that woman shifted so much for me. She still practices in Massachusetts and I’ve even thought about reaching out to her. I doubt that she would remember me, but I want to say thank you to her because she was so good at her job. I feel deep gratitude for my current therapist because it’s a great personality match, but he’s also so skilled in what he does.
I’ve had a few therapists over the years whom I didn’t feel in alignment with. The last person I saw a few years ago, I don’t know, was not skilled, to be honest. I remember the sessions feeling awkward and not getting me anywhere. Especially now that I’m doing my coaching training, I’m seeing how much I’ve grown through the structure. A great therapist or coach in my opinion is well-educated and practiced in the art of holding space for somebody and listening to them and letting them be the guide, and drawing things out, but simply holding space is deeply powerful.A really great therapist or coach is well-educated and practiced in the art of holding space for somebody. Click To Tweet
I’ve always known that, but now, I have a different angle on it. I’ve been thinking about therapy, perhaps knowing that alone and thinking through when’s the last time that you felt deep psychological safety, that you could fully deeply open up to somebody and share things, knowing that they were there to witness you without judgment, and doing their best not to have bias.
It’s tricky because we, as human beings, judgment and bias can come up even when you’re skilled, but what I’ve witnessed through this experience is that I don’t even sense any judgment or bias coming up from my therapist. I’m experiencing something surprising, which is that at some point, in each, if not most of these sessions I’ve had this far, I feel this flood of emotions coming out that I didn’t even know was there until I sat down with my therapist.
A few days ago in our session, I was extremely tired that if it hadn’t been for my commitment to therapy, I probably would’ve postponed our session. I disclosed that to my therapist. He even asked me if I wanted to postpone it. I said, “No, I want to explore what it’s like to go through a session feeling this tired.” He said, “Okay.” He was completely open to that. I was amazed at how I still got to this place of deep emotion, release, and clarity. I received something that I would not have expected.
It’s a great example of how you can feel like you know yourself, but until you’re in certain situations with certain people, you might not have the opportunity to explore the depths of yourself. That has been the power of this therapy process for me. I’m amazed by it. He also draws out things and puts things into phrases. In coaching, there’s a term for this.
I’m taught in my coaching program to reflect back on what a client says sometimes in the exact same words so that they can hear from somebody else. When they say it out loud and then it’s repeated back, it can have a lot of power. Sometimes it’s rephrasing the same thing to see if that still lands. Sometimes in that process of rephrasing, there’s an answer. I’ve found that a lot through my therapy.
The Trouble Of Knowing What’s Right
One thing I wrote down to share on this episode with how I’ve been noticing that I have a lot of trouble knowing what’s right. I often feel like I go towards answers of “what’s right” based on my desire to fit in and to get approval. It’s led to me feeling a lot of confusion and a lack of trust. I’ve noticed this for the last few years. In fact, I’ve had the word trust as a big word for myself for the last few years to focus on.
I remember that in 2020, I decided that I wanted to spend more time trusting. As the last few years have gone on, I’ve recognized, “That’s a complex thing. I don’t know if the trust I was feeling initially was quite the beneficial type of trust,” because I was looking to trust outside myself or to trust other people. I remember thinking or noticing I was struggling to trust others. This had come up in romantic relationships. There’s resistance. Sometimes people will call me controlling because I wasn’t trusting them.
It’s Okay To Have Your Own Process
A lot of people have gotten frustrated with me over time because I’ll ask somebody for advice or I’ll something like, “What should we do? What do you want to do together?” if we’re doing something jointly. They’ll provide a bunch of answers, I’ll decide that I don’t like any of them, and I’ll go with something different. That drives some people crazy, but that’s part of my process of getting to an answer that works best for me. I thought that there was something wrong with it, but my therapist pointed out that that process might be helpful for me, even if it doesn’t work for others. This is the other big lesson that we’ve been exploring through our sessions.
I have felt so much discomfort over the fact that a lot of people get frustrated with me and my process. This has been a theme in at least two of the most recent sessions, in which I’ve been discovering how painful that is. I wouldn’t have known it. It doesn’t make me emotional right now to share that with you. Because of the amount of psychological safety I have with this therapist, when I talk about these things, I get so choked up, I can barely talk.
Exploring My Neurodivergence
That’s been interesting too, to notice how much I’m trying to control my own emotions and hold back my tears. I feel incredibly uncomfortable crying. Even though I feel that psychological safety with him, I’m noticing a level of discomfort around my emotions that I didn’t think I had. If somebody had asked me how comfortable I am expressing my emotions, usually I would say, “Very comfortable,” but I’m realizing that there’s still a level of letting go that I don’t feel comfortable doing yet around this idea of my process. This is deeply fascinating to me and ties into some of my travels.
This is also to set the stage for how powerful therapy is. My therapist will come in and he’ll have a structure. We are doing this all virtually. The first thing he does is say, “I’m going to run this particular session now,” and he’s still open-minded to it completely shifting. Sometimes we’ll start with a certain exercise or something, and he’ll ask me some questions and it feels structured. Sometimes one of my answers will lead us in a completely different direction and we’ll start addressing that, and then we’ll come back around to the initial structure. His willingness and ability to flow through that are impressive.
It was through one of the answers that I explained how I feel like a lot of people reject my style of thinking and my process to come to answers. This ties into feeling like I want to fit in and I want to do things right, but deep down, I feel out of alignment with myself. Even though this show could be an example of that or being a content creator, I felt a lack of alignment. It is a great term for my relationship with social media and content.
The reason that this show has felt like one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on is that it allows me to get deep and go long. In the content world, especially YouTube, and now the case with a platform like TikTok, it’s looked down upon if you speak for a long period of time. There’s this pressure to keep things short, and concise, and then edit things to make them all flashy. For years, I’ve been trying to fit myself in that box as a content creator, but I yearn for long in-depth explorations.
The times on YouTube in which I did that, for example, one of my YouTube channels, the Eco-Vegan Gal Uncensored channel is the perfect example of my evolution as a podcaster. On that YouTube channel, I used to do 30-minute-long videos and those felt so good. Even though I never had a big audience or a ton of viewers, or whatever metrics people felt were important for YouTube, the connection I would have with people there was profound. That makes sense given that this show is at least 30 minutes long, usually 60 minutes. Sometimes people feel like that’s strange. People are surprised or even uncomfortable with the fact that this show is long.
I remember seeing Joe Rogan’s podcast and feeling a sense of relief because here he was for many years, one of the top, if not the top podcaster in the world. His episodes run from an average of two hours long. When I saw that, I thought, “He is getting all of these listeners for a super long podcast,” and that’s okay. It’s like I’ve been seeking permission to do something in a certain way that goes against the grain of what people believe is the right way to do things, the best practices, or the ideal. That has felt uncomfortable to me because it doesn’t align with what works for me.
That process of exploring that with a therapist who is not only encouraging me to get to that point of realization but also saying to me that that’s okay. That’s part of the brilliance of this therapist. I feel that psychological safety with him because he’s helping me figure out what’s best for me and he’s excited for me to discover that. That lack of judgment there almost feels like everything I say is okay and that every answer I come up with is the right one for me.
I’m recognizing how rare that’s felt in my life because I do feel a lot of judgment, even from close friends, people in my life, and family members. Some of that could be in my head or some of it could be a deep sensitivity because I’ve felt like I go about life differently than the majority and this is where my exploration of neurodivergence has felt so important. I wonder if that would explain it. That’s something else I’m talking to my therapist about.
My therapist has ADHD and I didn’t fully realize that until our most recent session. One of the educators in the training program I’m in for coaching also has ADHD. I’ve recognized how being around somebody else who has a neurodivergent brain is comforting to me because I feel like, “They can understand,” and that relief of being around someone like-minded is huge for me because I felt like my brain has worked so differently. I felt a lot of rejection and judgment. I felt like I haven’t fit in and I haven’t even noticed that until recently. That’s another benefit of therapy.
Sometimes by talking about yourself, your struggles, and your emotions that feel familiar to you, you recognize patterns and experiences that you’ve had, but almost suppressed or literally suppressed. I feel like I’m uncovering so much social discomfort that I wasn’t aware of because I was so good at trying to fit in or appearing like I fit in. That doesn’t mean that I fit in or felt like I fit in.
There was this thought for me, “Everybody must feel this,” but then how could you feel like you don’t fit in if you also believe that everybody feels that? It’s interesting to go deep in this way. It’s been interesting to experience so much therapy while I’ve been traveling. It’s a great time to do therapy when I’m around my family because I have a lot of triggers. I’m in my childhood home, which brings a lot of memories. There are times for me to reflect.
There have been some frustrating, hard moments with my family members and travel brings out a level of vulnerability for me because I’m not at my regular home. Even though I’m at my childhood home, my family home, I’m not in the space where I live the majority of the time and that adds a level of discomfort and vulnerability.
Every time I pick up to go somewhere else or every time I meet up with somebody socially on this trip, it brings out that awareness of how I feel in those situations. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on things that make me feel comfortable versus uncomfortable and examine, “Why do I have this discomfort?” Even when I show up at these sessions with my therapist thinking, “I don’t know what we’re going to talk about,” all of a sudden, I start making all these connections like, “What I experienced a few days ago is something we can talk about now.”
That leads me to this realization that’s making all of these connections between how I’m behaving, thinking, and feeling. That feels good. It doesn’t always feel good at the moment as I said, it can feel deeply uncomfortable and it can bring up a lot of tough feelings. Another thing I enjoy from my therapist, that’s something I’ve learned through my coach training is different forms of mindfulness practices that you can do with a client to ground them before the session or at any point during or after the session. It’s common for emotions to come out and feel raw, sensitive, and tender, too.
I’ve noticed after some of my therapy sessions needing to do something to realign myself. Also, my therapist integrates it in to reflect on it and to tell my body that it was safe to feel these things. We did one mindfulness practice that was super interesting, in which he encouraged me to hum. I realized how uncomfortable I feel humming to myself. I rarely ever hum and I rarely sing.
That’s super fascinating to me because, over the years, I’ve had a few people tell me that it seems like my throat chakra is blocked or that I could do some work on it and I’ve noticed it a lot. My throat has a roundness to it and it almost looks like there’s something going on with my thyroid. Years ago, people would point this out about me through my YouTube videos. I went to see a doctor and got my blood tested and my thyroids were completely fine. No medical professional has been concerned, but other people will see my throat and notice a lumpiness.
There’s a YouTube video for this eventually. If you are curious, you can see at the base where my thyroid is, or the thyroid area and it bulges. I’ve even had guests ask me about it. Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable because I feel vulnerable and confused, and I’ve tried asking doctors about it and they’re never concerned. I’m like, “My body shows something other people are perceiving to be a problem.”
That’s another challenge too. I’ve felt a lot of discomfort in my body and I’m working on a lot of acceptance around it, especially on this trip. I felt like my body is bigger and heavier than I would like it to be. However, I’ve been thinking a lot about how this is the way my body looks. This is what my body looks like when I’m not trying to control it and that feels important to me because control has been an unpleasant thing for me. Not only have people found me to be controlling or perceived me as controlling, but I have felt controlling over myself in a lot of unpleasant ways.
I have noticed that it ultimately feels better if I can let go. For example, I don’t always want to exercise, frankly. I try to get movement in. I have my Apple watch and it tracks how many times I stand, move around, and the calories I burn. Sometimes it’s not that much. Sometimes I’m pretty stagnant. In the past few months, I’ve taken a few walks and various activities, but for the most part, haven’t done any exercise and that feels good for me when I’m not judging my body.It ultimately feels better to just let go. Click To Tweet
It’s the same thing with food. I’ve allowed myself, and even the word allow with food seems so strange. I’ve leaned into eating what I want and truly enjoying food. A lot of my trip has been influenced by food, especially when I’m with my sister who loves food. The two of us love going grocery shopping and love going to restaurants, snacking, and making things. There’s this deep joy there. When I can do that without concern over how many calories, carbs, or fat and all of that, if I can truly appreciate that food, it is so nourishing.
There’s this little voice that’s like, “Whitney, you’re not exercising enough. Your body doesn’t look toned. Your muscles are weak. You’re eating too much of this or that and it’s showing.” Every single day, there’s at least one moment, usually several in which I feel discomfort in my body. I feel like it’s bloated. I feel like it’s too round. My stomach feels more pronounced, but I’m sitting in that discomfort because this is what my body looks and feels like when I’m in a state of peace, joy, appreciation, calmness, and not trying to control.
I would rather my body look and feel this way than have it look and feel a different way that I might perceive as better, but the consequence of that is I have to control it so much. That control leads to this tightness that I feel versus right now, I feel fairly relaxed, loose, and at peace. For the most part, that feels amazing. The process of allowing that as much as possible feels important so I can get an alignment with myself. Going back to what I said, I’ve noticed how much of my body and the way I feel and perceive it is the result of other people’s ideas of what a woman’s body should look like and how much of that is based on attraction and sexual desire.
I’m reading a bunch of different books, mostly through audiobooks. It’s either in this one called Fearing the Black Body or the other one’s called Mindful of Race. I imagine it’s the first one because I was listening to something about how these body ideals were shaped and they came through preferences, and there’s all this interesting history about where these ideas around what the best sexiest, prettiest, and most desirable bodies came from.
If I’m remembering correctly, they came from a few men that wrote these books way back. I feel like it might have been in Italy, somewhere in Europe. They might have been painters or sculptors. I could be completely wrong, but my vague recollection of that feels about right and how interesting that White men many years ago came up with these ideals. They were so prominent that people started to believe them and they’ve been passed down through all these generations.
Their beauty ideal shift frequently. It seems like every few years we have different trends and all of that, but it’s sad to me. If that’s the case, that’s some old White man who’s not even alive anymore decided what my body should look like, and the pressure to get that type of body and maintain it has felt awful for me. It’s not even just women, it’s not just a gender thing. There are all the racial ramifications because I believe this history is showing a couple of men had preferences for a certain figure and a certain skin color. Anyone who didn’t fit that mold was perceived as less desirable and less important.
Also, what’s interesting is that I bet my body type is in alignment with what was desirable back then because if you look at old photos and statues, they’re usually got thicker thighs and round stomachs and the bellies are not flat. Throughout my life, I’ve seen images like that but during my lifetime, that has not been desirable.
It’s so interesting how preferences by one or a small group of people, mostly men, have impacted how a lot of people feel on a daily basis about themselves. That’s deeply disturbing. For me, it’s impacted me on so many mental health levels because I’ll feel shame and I’m trying not to feel shame around food, but I feel that off and on all day long. How awful that something that’s nourishing my body, but also bringing me deep joy has that ripple effect.It's just so interesting how preferences by one or a small group of people, mostly men, have impacted how a lot of people feel about themselves on a daily basis. Click To Tweet
The same thing goes with rest. The fact that I’m not exercising a lot is simply because trying to catch up on so much sleep and sleep has been such a struggle for me. I’ve had ongoing nightmares and sleepwalking incidents. I have been having this reoccurring dream that I mentioned in a whole episode a few months ago about animals and not taking care of them. They either die or they’re on the verge of death and I wake up in this panic about an animal that doesn’t even exist.
It’s been like I’ve left an animal in my car and forgot about it, and haven’t fed it and haven’t let it out. I don’t even know where that comes from. I’m hoping to explore that more with my therapist, but I also had a consultation with the neurologist and I’m going to get my brain scanned to try to see if we can get to the bottom of my sleep issues. I’m so excited about that. It’ll probably be a few months from now once I get back to Los Angeles. I’m a little scared because what if they find something in my brain and it’s bad?
There are connections between my sleep issues and neurological issues like Parkinson’s, which two of my family members have had. I’m afraid that this is a precursor to that. It’s scary, but on the other hand, maybe a brain scan could enlighten me. Maybe it’s painting the puzzle. Some brain scans can even help you determine if you have neurodivergence like ADHD. It shows up in the brain. I don’t know if these particular brain scans I’m getting in with this neurologist will go that in-depth, but it’s something that I’ve been wanting to do.
It’s also something I’m trying to explore with my therapist because my brain might be perfectly fine. What if the sleep is related to neurodivergence or what if I’m not neurodivergent? I have something like CPTSD, which is a Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, usually, the result of trauma. That scares me too. What if there’s some deep trauma that I suppressed and that’s why I have these challenges in the way my brain works? Maybe that’s why I have sleep challenges. It’s a big mystery.
That’s the other thing, all of this is deeply complex. This is exactly why I feel like if you can work with professionals, you get clues and you get closer to determining what’s going on with you. Sometimes those releases things like shame. I don’t know if I’ll ever be free of shame, but certainly, I feel relief and less shame through these explorations.
Something else I want to talk about that I had become more aware of through my well-being training as well as my research on racism and marginalized communities, discussions with people on the show, for example, this lovely woman who is coming up in a few weeks, her name is Krista and she talked about things like her experience with poverty. It’s incredibly important to be mindful that not everybody has the same financial resources or access to something like therapy.
Accessibility is something I’m becoming more and more aware of and also prioritizing in my work because I’ve had the privilege of not having to think about it much, thus becoming ignorant around it. People who make assumptions that everybody has access to something or the same things can be damaging in the mental health field.
For my work as a coach, I want to make sure that that is available. Sometimes coaching is a step toward therapy. I don’t know if I want to say it’s a replacement for therapy because as I mentioned, they’re very different things, but you can get so many great benefits out of it. It’s a nice compliment to it at least that if you cannot afford or find a therapist that is a fit for you, then a coach could be in-between.Sometimes, coaching is a step toward therapy. Click To Tweet
Once I finish the training, at some point, I will share details on coaching more. I’m already coaching right now, but I’ll be a little bit more open about it once I finish the training and when I get board certified. This isn’t meant to be an advertisement for my coaching, but if you are someone who’s looking for guidance and support in your well-being and maybe therapy has felt inaccessible to you and haven’t found the right match, maybe you need a coach to help you get to therapy.
That’s something I’d be thrilled to support you with like going through the steps to figure this out because some people get overwhelmed with the research and calling their insurance. If you don’t have insurance, can you do the research to figure out if there’s someone who offers it pro bono or on the sliding scale? Those are some of the things that you can work through together with a coach. I’m happy to do that.
I haven’t figured this out quite yet, but I do have a certain number of hours as a coach with clients in order to complete my board certification. Stay tuned because I’ll be offering what will be affordable sessions as well as I might be doing some free coaching sessions. I don’t want to make any promises because through my training, I should get clarity on how that’ll all work. I always want to offer those things that I mentioned, but I don’t know what they’re going to be yet.
I want to make sure that I’m doing it in a way that benefits me and the client. My awareness of how to do that is a little limited, so stay tuned. Hopefully in the next few weeks. My training program goes through sometime in November 2022. I have some time before I get to that point. I’m thrilled about it because I feel like I can pass on a lot of the benefits that I’ve received through working with great therapists. Maybe I’ll decide to become a therapist. I haven’t looked into what that route would be and how much the education would require in terms of time and finances. I have no idea.
Right now, I’m starting with the coaching side of it. Speaking of which, I have to jump into a training session with that program. I hope that this has been helpful, enlightening, or interesting to you to read my process and discoveries. I’ll continue to share, especially after those twelve sessions. It’d be interesting to see where I’m at, what I learned from it, and what that process was like, whether or not I continue on with this therapist or find someone else. Also, my neurology results when those come through, so that’s months out.
That’s a reason to stay or subscribe for the first time to the show. There are new episodes with me talking about things like this every Monday. On Fridays, I have special guests. There have been extraordinary guests in the past and there are amazing people coming up. If you ever have suggestions for topics I can cover alone or seek out a person who’s an expert in something or has knowledgeable experience in it, please let me know. I’m trying to cover all the different elements of life and the challenges, learnings, and complexity of what it means to be human.
I appreciate you being here and reading my story and experiences. I’m grateful for who you are. I wish I knew more about you. For me, coaching is exciting and I also have my private community Beyond Measure, which you can join. That’s another lovely space where we have discussions like this in a small group setting and this is all virtual. Psychological safety is of utmost importance and the people that are part of Beyond Measure are magnificent human beings.
If you are looking for a safe place to explore these things openly, please come and join us. It’s on my website, WhitneyLauritsen.com, but you can also find it through Wellevatr.com and that’s where the videos will live once I get those uploaded to YouTube. Everything is basically all in one place. Thanks again for reading. I’ll be back next time with another episode.
- Natural Products Expo
- Eco-Vegan Gal Uncensored – YouTube
- Fearing the Black Body
- Mindful of Race
- Signs of Self-Neglect (Or Just A Dream?) episode – past episode
- Beyond Measure
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