Dr. Laura Petracek is a clinical psychologist, addiction specialist, certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) therapist, author, and speaker with over 30 years of experience in psychotherapy, 26 of which have been spent as a practicing clinical psychologist in California. In this podcast, Dr. Petracek recalls her academic and professional journey, discusses the circumstances leading up to her opening her own private practice, then provides some highlights and background regarding her new book The DBT Workbook for Alcohol and Drug Addiction.
When discussing how she ended up in the clinical psychology field of psychology, she states, “Sometimes I don’t know if I chose the field or if it chose me.” She shares that at the age of 17, she went into drug and alcohol rehab and through that experience, she knew that she wanted to be a counselor then a therapist. So, after getting out of rehab, she immediately started her undergraduate work. She received her associates in chemical dependency counseling at Metropolitan Community College (now called Metropolitan State). Dr. Petracek then received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN. She received her Master of Social Work (MSW) in Ethnic, Cultural Minority, Gender, and Group Studies from Wurzweiler School of Social Work in New York, NY. She then attended the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) in San Francisco, CA for her PhD in Clinical Psychology. She and her cohorts at CIIS were the last group to receive a PhD in clinical psychology as the program is now a PsyD program. We discussed the differences between a PhD and a PsyD and why she chose the PhD route.
Although Dr. Petracek could have received a doctorate in social work, she admits that was not the area she wanted to be in as she knew she wanted to eventually go into private practice. Before she did this, though, she gained a tremendous amount of experience as a clinical director of New Leaf Services, Associate Professor at National University, and psychologist with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at San Quentin, CA. She has had her own private practice in the San Francisco Bay area for over 26 years.
Dr. Petracek discusses her private practice and the challenges of building a private practice in a new area. She offers advice to those who are interested in running their own business and explains what she did regarding how to handle the accounting, marketing, and other aspects of owning your own private practice. For example, she recommends joining a group practice at the very beginning of your career as this offers you many benefits (e.g., learn more about running a business, sharing ideas through consultation work, help you understand how to determine how many clients to take on, build your client list, etc.). She also describes her ideal therapist.
When describing her ideal therapist, she states, “someone who is knowledgeable in different theories of psychology and psychotherapy…someone who is not afraid to call me on my BS if it comes up” and someone who “offers compassion, but is challenging” and “supportive.” Dr. Petracek shares that she has been in therapy herself and states “my last therapist, he helped me tremendously through a challenging time when my daughter, only daughter, had left home for college and it was just a really rough time.” As a result, she went into a six-month DBT program. She explains that DBT is usually a six-month program but sometimes it is a six-month to a year program. Dr. Petracek discusses evidence-based therapies such as DBT, which is an extension of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
The experience she gained going through the DBT program herself, getting certified as a DBT therapist, and her years of experience helping treat those with addictions all acted as the impetus and spark which led Dr. Petracek to combine the strategies and tools available in DBT and the 12-step program associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in her new book The DBT Workbook for Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Skills and Strategies for Emotional Regulation, Recovery and Relapse Prevention (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, Feb. 21, 2023). I read a summary of the book stating, “DBT is a type of talking therapy tailored to those who feel emotions very intensely. Exploring skills and strategies drawn from DBT that correspond with each of the 12 steps, this book provides a new road map to reduce emotional distress symptoms and support your sobriety and mental health.”
During our discussion, Dr. Petracek shared that DBT has about 200 skills and AA has about 20 skills. The AA 12-step program was devised around 80 years ago and she states, “we have a lot more tools now and strategies to help people with alcohol or substance use issues. And so, I married both strategies in this workbook to give people in recovery additional tools.”
Near the end of our discussion, we discuss “Dry January” and provide some statistics regarding the growth in popularity over the years. Dr. Petracek shares what she loves about her job and something unique about herself. She is also a rap psychologist. To learn more about this and hear a few lines, tune in to the discussion around the 48-minute mark.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Laura Petracek specializes in utilizing evidence-based therapies, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), to help people struggling with alcohol and substance use, anger management, and mood disorders. She also focuses on helping students and adolescents and those with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other learning disabilities.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Sociology (1979); Hamline University, St. Paul, MN.
Master of Social Work (MSW), Ethnic, Cultural Minority, Gender, and Group Studies (1986); Wurzweiler School of Social Work, New York, NY.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Clinical Psychology (1996); California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Laura Petracek to the show. Dr. Petracek is a clinical psychologist, addiction specialist, author and speaker with over 30 years of experience in psychotherapy, 26 of which have been spent as a practicing clinical psychologist in California. She is also certified, she is also a certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT, therapist. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, learn more about DBT and hear a little bit more about her more recently released book, The DBT Workbook for Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Skills and Strategies for Emotional Regulation, Recovery, and Relapse Prevention, and hopefully we’ll hear a little bit more advice for those interested in the field of psychology. Dr. Petracek, welcome to our podcast.
Hi, Bradley. Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today. I’m excited to learn a little bit more about your journey. First of all, though, just tell us a little bit more about your undergraduate studies and when you first took an interest in psychology.
So that’s interesting. When you mentioned your daughter is going to school of Minnesota because that’s where I did my undergraduate work.
I got my associates in chemical dependency counseling at Metropolitan. Well, it’s called Community College then. Now it’s, I think, Metropolitan State. And then I got my bachelor’s degree in psychology at Hamline University in Saint Paul. But what steered me? Sometimes I don’t know if I chose the field or if it chose me. So, I at the age of 17 went into a drug and alcohol rehab and through that experience I thought this is it, I want to be a counselor. And then a therapist. So. That was the route I took, professionally, after I got out of rehab and started my undergraduate degree.
And so at what point did you know that you wanted to go on for your master’s degree? And in this case, your master’s degree is in social work.
Right. Well, sometimes I kind of joke in the 12 step meetings that after I got clean and sober, school became my drug of choice. So, I love school. I mean, if I could get two PhD’s or three, I probably would have if I didn’t midstream ah start having a family and different priorities took over, but I love school. I’ve always loved school. I think school saved me growing up, saving grace, and luckily I happened to be good at it so. Yeah, that I, I knew that I wanted to keep going forward.
Well, with that in mind, I know that I’ll share my screen here and I believe you attended. Am I? Am I gonna? I’m probably gonna butcher this name, but Wurzweiler school of social work. Is that correct?
Yes, this is correct. It’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work. So, I worked in the field as an alcoholism counselor for probably 8 years, and I realized that if I wanted to go further, I would need to get a master’s degree going further, meaning either open a practice or getting different jobs in the field of psychology or of social work. And this particular program I chose for two reasons. One, well the main reason was that they had an evening and weekend program, so I obtained a job full time as a counselor, a school counselor at a high school, and so they had classes Thursdays and Sundays. So, I was able to work full time and go to school full time. And then also, I was raised Catholic, but I’ve been interested in the Jewish religion and Judaism, and that’s another reason that I went.
OK. And, and you ended up getting your Master of Social work, MSW, at Wurzweiler school. And then after that you attended the California Institute of Integral Studies for your PhD in Clinical Psychology. So, you know, I’m going to share the screen again, share that website and while I do that kind of tell us a little bit more what led you from Wurzweiler to the CI, I think the acronym is CIIS.
That’s correct. So, what led me to CIIS was although I after my masters and getting license I had a, I started a practice and was doing well, but I wanted to get a doctorate because I wanted to teach and also write a book. Now, you didn’t. You don’t necessarily need a PhD to teach or to write a book, but I thought it would give me a better advantage and so and then also this particular school. So, I did a four-year postgraduate program in New York City, the Gestalt Associates for Psychotherapy, and that’s really where I learned how to do therapy to become a therapist. They did a lot of one-way mirror, small group settings, one-on-one settings and this particular university had several classes in gestalt psychology, so that also really interested me not so much that I needed to take those but just the overall PhD program is different from traditional research and, uh, statistical type of programs. It’s more eclectic. I mean, any PhD, you know, after you get license, you could be a psychologist and have a practice. But this is more this program is particularly more geared towards it.
And so I I know there are tons of schools out there that you, especially in California, that offer graduate programs in psychology. You go to the website, and you see all of these schools that offer master’s degrees in psychology. And then you have a long list of schools for masters, and then you also have a long list for psychology as well. So, you know, you already mentioned a couple reasons why you decided on CIIS anything else that kind of stands out when you recall, hey, why did I go there or tell me a little bit more about the process of how did you decide?
Well, I did interview at UC Berkeley and their PhD program. And their program was primarily research based. And I knew that’s not really where I wanted to go. And then there were there was a program back in New York. But I also, I’m from the West Coast and I wanted to get back to the West Coast. So that was another reason. Uhm, yeah.
And, and you, you mentioned Hamline and it’s interesting that I, I actually know exactly where Hamlin is, I’m in cities here as well, and when I was doing some research, I actually found that at one point you must have worked for the Fairview Counseling Center in Apple Valley. Is that right?
So, it’s kind of fun looking at your, your journey. And before we talk a little bit more about where you are now, any other fond memories that you had while attending Graduate School and, you know, do you still keep in touch with some of your colleagues there?
Yeah, I have a lot of fond memories of the cohort. I was with, for my master’s program I, we became very tight, you know, H cohort is small, or at least at that time. And I learned a lot about Judaism and the culture, and they have such great food. So, I was invited to, you know, like the High Holy Days or Passover, Rosh Hashanah and I just really fell in love with the culture. And then actually end up falling in love with my partner at the time, who is Jewish. So, it, it was a very lovely warm experience.
OK, the…Oh, I was just going to follow up and I was going to say, you know, when you look back and, and you kind of recall the experience for both grad experiences actually and then now where you are now with your private practice and you’re in California, is there anything that you would have done differently? Another way to put that is the information that you know now. Is there anything that you wish you had known back then to help kind of guide you to decide on, hey, where am I going to go to school? Which area or branch of psychology should I focus in? You know any, any other thoughts when we kind of recall that?
Yeah, I would have stayed in New York.
I didn’t realize how challenging it would be to build the practice in a new city. Before I started my PhD, there was a vast difference between having a masters and a PhD in terms of like working in a university, writing a book in terms of reimbursements from insurance companies. That’s what managed care started like the in the late 80s and early 90s. But then when I finished my PhD the difference between master’s and PhD for reimbursement for my practice instead of $50.00 was $5.00. So, and now they see them, insurance companies, they group PhD, Masters, they’re all the same as far as being in the field. What else?
Any advice for those who are seeking a graduate degree in psychology?
Yeah, I would. Oh, and also my PhD program was the first school I went to that was a private school. I would avoid it if you can. One is the cost is exorbitant, Two, there’s plenty of really good programs that aren’t private that are just as well recognized. I mean, in some it was interesting in some interviews after I got my PhD, the employers recognized yeshiva over CIIS. So also do research in that regard. You know, getting a PhD is very, very expensive, which you know, I had paid off my master’s degree like in two years. And paying off my PhD took 25 years. So. Also, you know at that time I didn’t consider the burden of debt and then, you know, I get married, have a daughter and wow, then then it’s very expensive paying those student loans. Uhm, so that’s also something to consider, but I would highly recommend steering away from the private schools.
OK, that’s very good advice. And I was going to bring up another one where you brought it up in terms of debt and, and you know, funding. Did CIIS offer you any funding for going into their doctorate program? Doesn’t sound like it.
Zero. You know who actually offered me money? I got some scholarship money from Hamline University.
Oh, you did?
And at that time, OK. No, this is way back in the day, the tuition was 5000 a year. Now I think it’s 35,000 a year.
You know, that was a lot of money to me. And they. Yeah, they paid like half, which and then my master’s degree was like, nothing that was 10,000. But then you go to the PhD that was 180.
Yeah, yeah, there’s quite a difference between undergrad and then even masters going to the PhD as well and then on previous shows we’ve talked about, if you know you want to continue on for your doctorate, whether it’s a PsyD or PhD, instead of applying just for the terminal master’s, go ahead and apply to the PhD or PsyD program, or doctorate program, because the likelihood of getting funding when you apply directly to the doctorate program is higher than the likelihood of getting any funding for just the Master’s program.
Oh, OK. I actually didn’t know that.
Yeah, so that’s.
That definitely makes sense.
Yeah, and then the other thing that a lot of my guests are recommending is be careful on your selection of graduate schools. Depending on what you want to do with your doctorate. If you want to stay in the academic field, outside work, do government work, do private practice. Look for those that are APA accredited, because that does take precedence over those schools that are non-APA accredited. As well so.
Yes. Exactly. And, unfortunately, right in the middle of my PhD program, CIIS lost its accreditation for the PhD program, and now it’s a PsyD, which is not bad at that, but I was the last cohort of folks to get a PhD and that’s what I want. I did not want a PsyD. I wanted a PhD, and I was paying money for that PhD. But it really upended a lot of people’s program and yeah it was.
Their plans? Yeah, their plans and stuff and yeah.
Yeah, it was. It was. It was very messy. It was, it was not a good situation.
Well, I should remind everybody that you received your Doctor of Philosophy, PhD, in Clinical Psychology, and a lot of students wonder, well, how did you decide on clinical psychology? Because there’s so many different types of branches or fields of psychology and a lot of times our guests and I, and just basically recognize the reality is sometimes you choose it and sometimes it chooses you. So, give us your thoughts on how you ended up in the clinical psychology branch of, of psychology.
Well, like I said earlier it, it chose me, I mean this and for clinical psychology. I mean, I came, you know, from a social work background. But again, just to reviewing different people who had written books or taught at universities, they seem, the main degree seems to be a PhD in clinical psychology, so that’s why I decided to go that route. If I got a doctorate in social work, which wouldn’t, you know that would be just as valuable as a degree, but that would be used more in social services or management, and it’s not exactly the area that the areas I wanted to be in.
Well, exactly. And then when you were going through your graduate studies, did you know what you wanted to do after graduating with your PhD, or did it kind of come to you while you were still studying?
Well, I knew after my masters I wanted to open a private practice and after my PhD I wanted to write a book and teach at a university.
But that proved to be very challenging.
Well, you laugh about that and you know, I looked at your, your history and your journey as well. And you have a vast amount of experience as a psychotherapist, a clinical psychologist, over 26-27 years now. You actually were a psychologist with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation in San Quentin, CA. And then we just mentioned you, you mentioned being an Associate Professor at National University and you were there for a little over two years. And So, what before then I should mention that you, actually, were a clinical director at New Leaf services for our community. So, tell us a little bit about that experience and how you found that opportunity.
So, at New Leaf, it turned out that the executive director was from Minneapolis, and so he and I hit it off right away. And New Leaf Services for our community was a clinic for LGBT clients. And so, I’m also an ally and a member of that community. And the opportunity to be the clinical director of the Substance and Alcohol use program was very exciting for me. And then to work with different they had like probably 8 different agencies within one big agency like they had a program for families, for addiction, for mental health. So, they had all different facets and it was a really nice community. We get together once a week, all the directors, and share what’s happening in each of our respective units. I was able to design and implement the training program for trainees who are master’s students. And that was also really exciting. I love teaching, so that was another area I got to do teaching.
And then from there actually from New Leaf, you actually went to National University as an associate professor and worked there for a while. Is that where you kind of confirmed in your own mind? Hey, I I I want to do private practice instead of staying in the academic field or tell me your thought process while you were teaching then.
Well, the academic field is. I don’t know what the word is but. I’m trying to think of an example that just happened recently. But it’s so a couple of things. One is I was on track to be a tenure track professor. And right before I reached that track, they had decided they were going to, like a lot of universities did, hire a lot of part time staff, a lot of part time professors because they didn’t want to pay benefits or. So that was one. And that was right at the time I was going in that track. And then the second thing is. It’s very challenging in that, you know, if, if certain students like I had one class where you had to follow a client for a year and write a paper on it. And the last class, this one particular student only had an intake to present. And I said, well, this this class was a whole year long, like, you know, so that was challenging and difficult, how to handle it definitely, but. I’m just trying to think of this one recent example where this woman, this professor, taught a course. And she, I don’t know, she used some word wrong or something. But she tried to be very mindful she was being mindful, but I guess not enough. And, and then she ended up getting fired, which I thought was horrible for, you know, just a minor infraction, not realizing or she realized that she just didn’t think it was gonna be so upsetting. So, what am I saying? Sometimes you have to walk on eggshells now with being a professor and that’s, that’s a lot of stress. I didn’t like that stress.
Yeah, it seems.
I love teaching, but not the stress of the rest of it.
Right, right. And if I could add, you know, I was a teacher for a number of years as well and correct me if I’m wrong, but the whole goal of the academic environment is we’re supposed to be safe in discussing anything and everything. And in an open communication and, and that’s the goal of the educational system is to explore and have these discussions. And so, it seems ironic that and I understand there are major infractions like you said and minor infractions. But yeah, I can, I can understand where you’re coming from. If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, it’s probably not the right place to be.
Yeah. Yeah, so.
Yeah. So, I know you mentioned while you were working on your master’s degree, you knew in the back of your mind I wanted to open up a private practice. So, let’s talk about that for a second. You know, it’s one thing that you have this goal of opening a private practice and you have these visions of, you know, getting all these clients and building up your clientele list and then, you know, talking and, and helping your clients through their struggles. But there’s a business side to opening and running your private practice as well. So, tell us about some of the challenges that you experienced when opening and running your own business.
That’s a really good question, Bradley. The, uhm, the business side, they don’t teach you that in school at all.
So, I took a couple of, uhm, I think it was at a Community College. Yeah, about the business side of, of running a practice. And the first thing I would recommend. So, I was working at a high school.
And then I had my office like probably 5 blocks away from the high school. So, the high school was like a feeder to my practice. And so, you need either an agency or some type of clinic or someone who’s going to refer to you. Sometimes it only takes one therapist. If you got one therapist who says, hey, I’m always booked. So, I’ll send my overflow to you.
So that was the biggest, that was the most fortunate thing. And then all your connections because when I moved to California, I not only lost that feeder, but I also lost my connections. And that is really takes a lot of time and energy to build. I didn’t realize also, I mean most cities now are saturated with therapists, but at that time I didn’t realize how the there’s a therapist on every corner out here and, uh, it, it took quite a bit longer to build a practice here than, than what I had in New York.
And the money aspect, accounting, billing, insurance, marketing. Did you hire that out to people or did you do that for yourself or tell us a little bit about that aspect?
The accounting I handed over to, I hired someone. I now have someone that does marketing for me. I didn’t back then. Uh. I was going to say something else to now just escaped me but, uhm, yeah, you definitely it. It’s a lot of energy. You know, I have to spend almost as much energy marketing your practice as you do do. Oh, I know what I want to recommend. OK. So, what I finally ended up doing. I mean I had, you know, probably a small practice, but I joined a group practice. And so, I highly recommend that if you’re just starting out, especially even though I wasn’t just starting out, I was just starting out in a new city. And they pay pretty well. I mean, it’s a split fee for most group practice, but still. They pray, they pay pretty well and then you have consultation weekly. And I found it to be and I’m still with this group practice. I mean, on a very limited basis now, but I highly, that is a really good way to get plugged in because then you’re getting clients while, you know, and you get, and you could choose how many clients you want at least, depending on the group practice you want to join, and then you could still work on building your practice. But in today’s market, I think it’s a very smart move because there’s just so many people, so many therapists out there. Really hard to hit the ground running and get your own practice going unless you’re like so specific or you know, well known or already have a following.
Sure, sure. And I think you’re referring to that group practice as the Institute for the Advancement of Psychotherapy in San Francisco.
Yes, yes, yeah.
OK, alright, looks like you’ve been there a little over a year, year and a half now. And so your recommendation is, hey, especially if you’re starting off, try to get that group get into a group practice and it, it also helps you because more minds can come together and help you know when you’re when you’re treating some of your patients and clients as well, and you learn a tremendous amount from your colleagues in that group, practice kind of setting as well, so.
Yeah, we actually like you were talking about that one particular man who was kind of freaked out about the recording, so we also have clients sign and most of them do sign it that we can record it and then we present it to like different clips to consultation. But I’ve learned a lot. It’s been really. And also I joined it because it was during COVID and I felt so isolated. So that was another positive because you’re even though you’re not in person. Necessarily, but you are connecting with other therapists. And it was really helpful.
Well, good, good. So, whenever I talk to psychologists, psychotherapist, especially those who are practicing psychologists and psychotherapists, I ask this question. Laura, if you were in therapy, describe your ideal therapist.
Well, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been in therapy for a majority of my life. Well off and on, but my ideal therapist, someone who is knowledgeable in different theories of psychology of psychotherapy. Someone who’s older, you know, like my age. I don’t think I would want to be in therapy with someone half my age because I think life experience counts for a lot too, as well as professional experience. Also, someone who is not afraid to call me on my BS if it comes up, you know, so not just someone that says how do you feel? And offers compassion, but is challenging, supportive. You know, uhm, my, my last therapist, he helped me tremendously through a challenging time when my daughter, only daughter, had left home for college and it was just a really a rough time. And then he ended up getting COVID. So, this is, of course, a whole nother issue. What do you do when your therapist like disappears? I mean, he came back six months later, but that was a huge gap for me. How did I get off on that, but well anyway, but he helped me tremendously, so using the different types of therapy or skills, teach me different skills and also supportive and at that time you know connection was so important during COVID. So, I asked him can we meet outside? So, we did, instead of over Zoom and that helped me tremendously.
OK. Yeah, it’s it makes a big difference. Even though zoom is great and it’s a, you know, especially for those going through COVID, you could still meet with people but not have to be meet in person. But there is a big difference between meeting over, you know, zoom or teams versus in person because you miss out on some of those nonverbal cues and the feedback and everything else. And you pick that up while you’re a therapist and you can pick that up with your clients and, and adjust accordingly. So, I’m going to share my screen again and I’ll, I’ll share your website here and it’s going to load here in a second. But while it’s loading, uhm, you know, in summary, you’re a clinical psychologist, you’re an author, and we’ll talk about that in a second. A speaker with over 30 years of experience in in psychotherapy and as I mentioned in the intro 26 of those years have been spent as a practicing psychologist in, clinical psychologist in California. You are also a certified Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT therapist. So, start us off and tell us, kind of high level, what is DBT?
So DBT as you stated, stands for dialectical behavioral therapy. And DBT is a 3-prong psychology. So, the first part is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which has to do with looking at our thoughts, usually unfortunately negative thoughts. The second prong is meditation. Learning about meditation, whether it’s Tara Brach or, oh, there’s so many different kinds of schools of meditation. And then the DBT, the D stands for dialectic, and that means both and, so right here is, if you could stop right there. These are the four modules of DBT. So, teaching mindfulness, uh, or also dialectical. Interpersonal effectiveness. Teaching skills that are distress tolerance. And teaching emotional regulation. So, I found that with a lot of clients and specifically clients who are in recovery or looking about see if they have alcohol or drug problem at DBT, it can be very helpful for them in their journey of recovery.
And you did mention this is just one type of therapy. DBT is out there and it actually stems from, believe it or not, CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s kind of an extension of that as well, but here are all the different and this isn’t even inclusive, but these are the different types of therapy.
And there’s so many out there. And the ones that many people use are the evidence-based ones.
Thank you. That’s the word that I was looking for, and evidence-based means there’s been a lot of research to show that it works. So DBT has is the evidence-based therapy. So is CBT, you know, so is ACT and the evidence-based therapies what makes them kind of stand out more than the other therapy is that there is research to back their efficacy that it works. A lot of times, it’s time limited, meaning regular talk therapy you could be in for years, which isn’t necessarily negative, but these DBT you know, it’s usually a six month program or six month to a year therapy.
OK. All right. Now, I mentioned earlier you’re an author. You’ve written multiple books. You just released another book, actually yesterday, I believe you released this book, and I mentioned in the introduction The DBT Workbook for Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Skills and Strategies for Emotional Regulation, Recovery and Relapse Prevention and this came out yesterday through Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Tell us a little bit more about the book and why, why you wrote it.
OK. Yeah, I’m very excited. The book was launched yesterday and I think I had mentioned earlier that I went through a a hard time when my daughter left for school. I actually went into a deep depression and my therapist suggested I, uhm, he said, you know, I think you would benefit from a DBT program. Here’s why. And so, I, myself went into a six-month DBT program and during one of the groups, the therapist said. Or the topic was pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. And I said, oh, I’ve heard that so many times and a but the how to not suffer has eluded me. And I thought this would be great. These skills I’m learning to apply through the 12-step program, so that was my epiphany. And from there, started writing this book, really didn’t get rolling until the pandemic when I had a lot of time but, uhm, yeah, that’s what that was the impetus. That was the spark. And so basically the book is looking at here’s step one, for example, powerless over alcohol. What are some of the DBT skills that could help you deal with that powerlessness and unmanageability to accept it, to work through it. And so, one of the steps or skills are acceptance and then Marshall Lanahan takes you through the different skills of acceptance meditation. So, I have DBT overall, overall has about 200 skills, you know compared to the 12-step program maybe has 20. I mean not to knock it down, but you know, it’s a program that was devised 80 years ago. We have a lot more tools now and strategies to help people with alcohol or substance use issues. And so, I married both strategies in this workbook to give people in recovery additional tools. And, and kind of a, a workbook that I wish I had when I was, you know, newly sober, more tools that I could have used.
Well, it looks like it and I, you know, I did some research a little bit. Some people may be aware of the term “Dry January” and so tell us a little bit more about what does “Dry January” mean and then I’ll share a statistic here and then I’ll kind of ask you specifically how can DBT be used to actually help those addicted to drugs or alcohol. So first of all, what is “Dry January?”
So “Dry January” is people making the decision OK. Basically, in the program they call it going on the wagon. Now they have this fancy term, “Dry January” but they’re going on the wagon for a month. They’re, they’re not using alcohol or drugs. It came from also like, wow, I’m partied out after the holidays. So, I want to dry out. And so that’s what it is. It’s, it’s like putting the plug in the jug as they say in the program, it’s stopping not using alcohol or drugs. But that’s only, in the field of addiction, that’s the tip of the iceberg, but at least it’s a start. If someone wants to further their commitment to being clean and sober and sober.
Yeah. Then. Oh, go ahead.
OK, so where DBT could help with this is they have a skill. Looking at the pros and cons and it’s a four. It’s a the pros of drinking the cons of drinking the pros of not drinking the cons of drinking. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting, but they cover all bases with that. And so, you look at OK, is this do I want to continue pick up a drink again or drug because most of my clients who have done dry January feel better. If they’re not already in recovery, and even if it’s not necessarily to the level of a alcohol use disorder, but most people will say they feel better all the way around. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. And DBT could also help with they have an interpersonal effectiveness. Looking at your values so wow January I spent more time with my kids or with my partner and I felt, you know, we had a more intimate connection that feels better or what are your values, you know, well, see, alcohol use, you know, using, you know, having two glasses of wine every night doesn’t really sit with my value of spending time with my family in the evening or with my partner, or how I the hangover in the morning doesn’t work with working out, so there’s many different tools that Dr. Lina Hantar discusses, and it can be used with looking at your relationship to alcohol and drugs and seeing, OK, so now where do I want to go? You have a clear head right now. Do you really want to go right back? I remember when I was before I went to recovery to rehab, they had this woman from AA came and talked to me. And she goes, OK look, just try it for a year. If you don’t like it, you could always have your misery refunded. And that stuck with me. And it’s like, so I suggest to my clients just why don’t we keep going? You could always have your misery refunded. You know you could always go back to where things were, I mean, but, you, you went on this for a reason.
Most people do “Dry January” for a reason. They don’t just do it because oh having one or two drinks a week, I’m fine. No, that’s not usually the case.
Right, right. So, I found a statistic. According to CGA, “Dry January has been growing in popularity for a number of years,” and in “2022 saw participation grow to 35% in the US, a significant increase from 21% of consumers who took part in 2019.” Furthermore, they said, “out of those who intended to abstain from alcohol, an impressive 74% claim to have succeeded versus the average 8-10% of consumers who stick to their New Year’s resolutions.” So, this tells you that more people are interested in doing Dry January and more, more and more of them are doing that over the years and not only that, but almost 3/4 of them claim to have succeeded versus the average person who makes these New Year’s resolutions only 8 to 10% of those actually stick to those New Year’s resolutions as well. So, I found that interesting and it, it related…
…to, you know, what you’re doing as an addiction specialist and your new book as well. And so, I believe your new book draws on your clinical knowledge as well as your expertise and some of your personal experience as, as you’ve already talked about. What else would you like us to know about the book or the tools that you can learn from recovery?
So again, it builds off of the 12 step program. So Bill W suffered from major depression for several years and after he came out of that, he really thought it’d be so great if a psychotherapy program could be intertwined with the 12-step program, because for him, he said, this is what I needed and I think many people in recovery do. So, this book builds on the 12-step program, meaning like I stated earlier, Bradley, that OK now the second step here is, you know, I just give a brief like a one paragraph background on what that step is but then here’s all these other tools you could use. So that step is about, you know, learning about balance. So, you could use the tool of looking at what’s healthy, what’s not healthy, what you could do to add more health and, and balance in your life. The third step is about turning your life over. Some people have trouble with the God part of AA so I try to soften it and offer different suggestions like the great outdoors or the group of Drunks. Bradley, you’re frozen.
Oh, I’m still here. I’m still here.
Can you hear me? OK.
Yeah, OK. I don’t know if it’s your internet that’s unstable or mine, but anyway.
And so that’s just an example of how the book it really you look more in depth at each step from a different angle. Uhm, from your emotional health, because the DBT talks it, the main goal is about emotional regulation and most people in recovery suffer from emotional dysregulation, so it’s a way to be emotionally sober.
Well, one thing I should mention about the book. I like the summary here is, you know, DBT is, is a type of talking therapy tailored to those who feel emotions very intensely. Exploring skills and strategies drawn from DBT that correspond with each of the 12 steps, this book provides a new road map to reduce emotional distress symptoms and support your sobriety and mental health. And so, I encourage everybody to check it out. Again, it just came out yesterday. Laura, what do you love most about your job?
What do I love most? I really love helping people, making connections, helping them make the connection. Like for them to have an aha moment. I love seeing the growth. People making progress, being there through their struggles. Uhm, offering them hope. Know that that you can get through this. And, uhm, and here’s how I’m, you know, basically going to help you like giving this book is like the road map. This book is part of my survival guide that I now am teaching my clients of how to get to a better place, healthier, less dysregulation. And a more solid recovery. But, and I really like seeing clients in person again. During the pandemic I built out my back bedroom into an office and it’s just so great to see people in person again to see clients in person because like you said, there’s a difference. But also, just our presence, you know, just my presence, let’s say with the loved one, it’s different than if I’m Zooming with them, you know, a big difference. But, just someone’s presence is so healing. So, I like that advantage too, of working in person.
Yeah, definitely. Looking toward the future, what other goals or plans do you have for yourself?
Well, it’s interesting you mentioned that. I’m actually going to be presenting at the MN Psychological Conference or psychology conference at the end of April. Uh, DBT, my workshop is DBT for Alcoholics and Addicts, and I’m going to be doing a book reading too, although I, I don’t have a bookstore yet, but maybe you could even help me with that or give me suggestions. I’m looking for a bookstore to host me. And, overall, I’m going to be doing readings in New York and Chicago all over the country. I got invited last week to do some trainings out in Australia for people who work in addiction medicine. So I’m kind of going where the road is opening up to and I have to say, it’s opening up really quickly. It’s so, I’m so excited. It’s really exciting.
Well, it sounds like it. It’s always exciting to have a new book out and then actually do some book readings and go to this conference as well. So, I’ll, I’ll share that on the website when we go live. Any other advice that you’d have for anybody who’s the least bit interested in the, in breaking into the field of psychology?
Here’s another idea. See if you could shadow someone that is working. Like, can you shadow someone for a day or observe, you know, or go to a clinic and maybe you’re just observing? Because I know because of confidentiality, you can’t be in a session, of course, but it helps to just be in the setting and see how you feel. You know, how does this feel? So, if you could shadow someone or interview someone already in your field like you’re interviewing me. Interview someone you know because it may not be for you. But you need to do more research then. And research the programs you’re in. Like honestly, I wish I would have researched my PhD program a lot more thoroughly. And, and I’m, you know, kind of regret that because there’s schools that are a lot less expensive and that’s the route I think you should go.
OK, all right. Near the end of most of our podcasts, we usually ask some fun questions, so I usually ask this one, but you’ve already shared a little bit to answer this, but I’ll ask it anyway. You might come up with another aspect of this. Laura, tell us something unique about yourself.
I am also a rap psychologist.
You are. What does that mean?
So, I know you look at me with my pale white skin now my blonde curly hair and you’re thinking to yourself, I bet that you can’t even swear. Well, you just try me. Hurry up your *. So then press your work right behind me. Soon you’ll be saying she’s not a doctor you could slam. Soon you’ll be saying, Dr. P can.
There you go. Perfect. Wonderful. Now in terms of the second one, you’ve already, I already know one answer to this. So, what is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why? The given is DBT, but if you come up with another term, principle, or theory, and why?
The other one would be gestalt therapy.
Gestalt therapy looks at the whole person very much in the moment. Looking at the interaction between the client and the therapist, also dealing with emotions that are coming up as well as of course family of origin issues, but it’s a very a, very personable and contact, not physically, but, uhm, connecting with your clients.
OK, very good. What’s one of the most important things you’ve learned in your life so far?
I think one of the most important things I’ve learned is to keep going. You know, one step at a time, 1 foot at a time. This too shall pass. And it gets better.
Very good. Laura, if you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
One project? You know it’s, it is because I’ve been thinking about this. I don’t know exactly how it would work out but I really, another goal or project I’d like to have is, uhm, you know, suicide prevention. But to, to be on site, so to speak. So, I’m part of what’s called the Angel Team on the Bay Bridge. We walk the Bay Bridge and we have like Red Arm bands on and if we see someone we think is in distress or alone, then we each have each other’s number and a contact number, but you know so many. So many people are committing suicide. It just. It really just breaks my heart and I, I want to somehow work towards, uh, I’m not sure how I could like I even think of they have legal suicide in Sweden like I would love just to escort someone to those pods and really just be there for their moments even though I mean, part of me, would like to talk them out of it, but, if that’s not an option, at least to be there. So that’s, that’s something I don’t really have a totally framed, but that’s something I’ve thought about lately with, you know, so many suicides that are talked about lately. Like The Trevor Project. I really admire that. Something like that. I’m not exactly sure, but something like that.
Well, it’s interesting that you bring that up. I’ve been to San Francisco plenty of times and, and been, of course on the bridge and I didn’t know that you had the Angel group or whatever you were saying, you know, doing that.
So that’s actually interesting and fortunate and, and hopefully that helps people and gives somebody some hope to avoid that. Laura, is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
No, I, I really want to thank you again, Bradley, for inviting me to your show and sounds like you’re in Minneapolis so is that correct?
I am. I’m actually in a suburb outside of Minneapolis, Saint Paul, so.
OK, so maybe when I’m there in April, we could do this offline, maybe connect in some way.
Yes, definitely. Laura, thanks again for sharing your journey and advice with us. I, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to be on the podcast. Thank you.
Thank you, Bradley. Really appreciate it.