Rebecca Kase grew up in Missouri and attended the University of Missouri (Mizzou or MU). She declared psychology as her major early in her freshman year of college, right after her first psychology 101 class. She recalls, “I love this. I get it. This makes sense to me. Something just really clicked inside, and I really felt like this is my path.” She also loved taking neuroscience classes and ultimately graduated in about 3 ½ years with a number of graduate level courses in her pocket. Rebecca then took a year to do volunteer work with AmeriCorps helping tutor inner-city elementary school kids in St. Louis, MO and she loved the experience. She used this experience and time to help figure out the next step in her academic journey. She knew she needed to go to graduate school because she thought she couldn’t really do anything with her bachelor’s in psychology, so she considered getting her master’s in counseling, social work, or psychology. In this podcast, Rebecca shares her journey and advice for those faced with a similar decision and discusses how she turned her passion into a successful, and prominent, training and consulting company, Kase & CO, which specializes in comprehensive Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma training for psychotherapists.
Throughout this podcast, Rebecca shares her experience and offers practical advice for those considering a career in psychology, social work, or counseling. She chose to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW); however, her advice can be applied to those in the counseling or psychology fields as well. How do you decide on which path to take or in which university or program to enroll? Rebecca says, “consider your end goal.” She suggests asking yourself “Where do I want to end up and based on what I want for my career, which program seems to fit best?” She also reminds us that “where we think we’re going to end up, isn’t necessarily where we end up.” For example, she admits that she never thought she would own one of the largest EMDR training programs in the country and that she would love running a business but that is exactly what she is doing with Kase & CO Training and Consulting.
Rebecca started EMDR training while she was still in graduate school, so she has been practicing EMDR since 2006. She started her LLC in 2009 and as her LLC grew, she became a trainer and consultant. In 2017, Rebecca started diving into Polyvagal theory as it “really resonated” and helped “explain why our nervous system does what it does.” After looking into Polyvagal theory, she realized that she could combine EMDR and Polyvagal theory to help supercharge therapy and the recovery process, so she started incorporating the two into her training and consulting at Kase & CO and has seen its incredible impact on her clients and their clients. Rebecca is also a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and has been practicing yoga since she was 15 years old. She shares “it has been my saving grace and saved my life multiple times emotionally and physically.” She has integrated yoga into her EMDR training as she points out “research shows that yoga therapy is incredibly useful and powerful to bring into your sessions with clients no matter their presentation or diagnosis.” One of the 8 phases of EMDR focuses on preparation and where you learn about regulation skills and where you build somatic awareness. She says that yoga helps clients who have learned to “check out” from their feelings and sensations and who don’t know how to feel their body.
Rebecca is the author of Polyvagal-Informed EMDR: A Neuro-Informed Approach to Healing (W.W. Norton & Company, May 23, 2023). She said the book started as her pandemic project. She began pulling her thoughts and experiences together and organized them in such a way that one of her friends said “Rebecca, you have a book here.” She explains that both Polyvagal Theory and EMDR offer powerful pathways to healing. She states “and so EMDR gives us this user manual for understanding memory as it contributes to health and wellness, disease, or pathology. Polyvagal Theory talks about what happens in our bodies. But it’s not just one or the other, it’s both. And so that’s why I found that integrating these two gives us this really robust inclusive framework for looking at the whole neurobiological picture when we’re working with common clinical presentations.”
So, how did Rebecca find her passion and decide to open her own business? She states, “I followed my heart and my intuition every step of the way, which is my biggest bit of advice, listen to your heart, your intuition, and your body will always know.”
Interests and Specializations
Rebecca Kase specializes in comprehensive Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma training for psychotherapists. Founded in 2017, Kase & CO Training and Consulting is one of the top training providers in the US. They are an approved continuing education provider with EMDRIA, APA, and NBCC. Their structured courses are unique in the field, with dynamic live and on-demand formats designed to keep you engaged and learning.
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 Rebecca Kase to the show. Rebecca is a force of nature. She is a licensed clinical social worker, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing consultant and trainer, registered yoga teacher and owner of Kase & CO Training and Consulting and EMDR training company. She is an inspirational speaker, author, thought leader, and advanced trauma expert. Her work has been featured in books, articles, podcasts, keynotes, conferences, and workshops. Today, we will learn more about her academic and professional journey, more about her training and consulting practice, and how teaching EMDR through the lens of Polyvagal theory helps supercharge therapy and the recovery process. Rebecca, welcome to our podcast.
Hey Brad, so excited to be here. Thanks for sharing space with me.
Well, thank you for being on the show with us. I’m excited to talk about your journey and as you’ve seen probably in other episodes of our podcast, we love talking about your background, your journey, a little bit more and then talking about what you’re doing with your credentials, your experience. So, to start off, you know, can you tell us a little bit more about your background and the journey that led you to become a licensed clinical social worker and EMDR expert, consultant, and trainer and then eventually owner of Kase & CO?
Yeah, absolutely. So, I got my undergrad in psychology. I declared my major in psych pretty early, I think my freshman year, after I went to my first psych 101 class and I was just like oh my gosh, I love this. I get it. This makes sense to me. Something just really clicked inside, and I really felt like this is my path. I didn’t know exactly what my path would look like, but I knew it was along the field of psychology. So, I took a deep dive in undergrad. I graduated early actually and graduated with a number of graduate level courses, uhm, in my pocket because I just loved going to class. I loved taking neuroscience classes. So, I graduated in about 3 1/2 years with my bachelors in Psych. And then I took kind of a break year to figure out what’s the next step. And in that break year, I did some volunteer work with an amazing group called AmeriCorps. Probably a lot of people have heard of it. I bet a lot of people in this podcast have actually volunteered with AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps is an awesome organization, nonprofit, that works in a lot of different settings. And so I was in St. Louis, MO. And so, I was in an inner-city school, and I did inner city tutoring with elementary school kids. And I absolutely loved it. And as I was taking kind of that break year that gap year and volunteering with AmeriCorps, I was also trying to figure out what’s the next step. I know I gotta go to grad school because I can’t really do anything with the bachelors in psych. And there’s so many options do I wanna get a doctorate? Do I wanna get a master’s in counseling or do I do I wanna do social work? What is social work? And so, I started really comparing programs. And a couple of things that finally landed me in social work. One my experience in AmeriCorps was very much I feel a social work kind of experience. You know, I was working with these kids who came from the inner city of Saint Louis living in poverty, had a lot of A scores. I didn’t know about the A study back then, but had a lot of adverse childhood experiences, really struggling in school. Often had a lot of chaos in their family lives and so I felt really involved and engaged in multiple systems of their experience of their day-to-day lives and systems was very much a focus of social work. So, there was something that kind of primed the pump with that. And then as I was looking at different programs, I was certainly interested in some master’s in counseling programs and looking at social work programs and, to be completely honest, two of the one of the things rather that really drove me to social work was I didn’t have to take the GRE for a number of the schools I was applying to. And I just really didn’t want to take the GRE, so I’m not gonna lie, that was a factor. But then when I really looked at what I would learn in a social work degree. It became very clear to me that a social work degree would create a lot of opportunity in my professional career. I mean, as a social worker you can be macro or micro focused. You can do government work, you can work for community organizations. You can do direct clinical work. And so, something about the adaptability of a social work degree really spoke to me, along with the focus on systems so social workers are very much focused on micro, macro and meso systems that people interact with and we’re also very focused on strengths. We’re not overly focused on the problem; we’re focused on what is working. And really integrate that into our practice and our values and the ways that we show up to our work. So, I pursued a social work degree at the University of Denver. I chose Colorado. It ended up being between Denver and a school in Chicago. And I thought, well, I kind of want to go live near the mountains. So, I picked Denver, and I’m so grateful I did. It was. It was a great experience and I ended up living in Denver for 15 years because I just felt so connected to my community of social workers there and the agencies I worked for.
That’s a very nice summary. You covered like two or three of my questions during that response. So, thank you very much. One thing that I did want to cover was you received your bachelor’s in psychology. Where did you attend for your bachelors? Yeah, I went to the University of Missouri Mizzou in Columbia.
There you go, and I assume you did. You receive a BA or a BS there then?
OK. All right. And then you already answered my next question about where did you go and now the follow up question to why did you go to DU or University of Denver is you wanted to see the mountains, any other reason other than that or was that the primary reason?
It was a big factor. The location, the geography, I mean, I grew up in Missouri, so I had lived in, you know, Missouri for 23-24 years at that point. And well, Illinois was a different state. It’s not all that different from Missouri. It’s still the Midwest. And I felt like I wanted to really take a leap and branch out on my own and create some new roots in another location. DU’s program was also really of interest to me based on some of the professors I would get to study with. When I looked at Professor biographies there were a couple of individuals who really stood out to me, some of the offerings the program had so at the time they were offering a trauma certificate program and that really kind of lit something inside of me, a little spark. And I don’t believe that the Chicago program had that at the time. And so, something really drew me to working with trauma because of just the resiliency of the human spirits that we all go through trauma in our lives and. And we can come out the other side stronger and more resilient because of it.
And you have studied trauma intensively and and are are helping others with traumatic events in their lives as well. Let me go back for one second and you mentioned something that I that I loved. You. You said, you know, psych or social work and the AmeriCorps experience as well as some other experiences led you down the path more towards social work. So what advice, any other advice that you’d give to aspiring students who are just starting their academic journey and they can’t really decide, hey, should I go the social work route or the psychology route or another route? Any other thoughts or advice for them?
Well, I think first is is really listen to your gut and your intuition. You know, when your cognitive brain starts getting in the way and says, well, what about this or I should do this, or this is what so and so told me. What does your body tell you? Our bodies are so wise, they are full of so much information. And as you look at programs, as you look at locations, as you look at degrees. As you look at, you know, kind of the academic material that programs cover, what happens inside of your body? And can you use that to help guide you intuitively to the right program for you? I of course I’m very biased. I think that everybody should go to school for social work. I just think it gives you a lot of opportunities. But at the same time, a degree in psych is going to really hone you in on the academia of psychology, the academia of clinical practice. If you go on to get, you know, PhD or doctorate, you know if you want to do testing actual psychiatric testing with individuals and that would be the route to go. So, the other thing to think about is, what is my end goal? Where do I want to end up and based on what I want for my career, which program seems to fit best? Now the other thing I would advise with that is where we think we’re going to end up isn’t necessarily where we end up. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would own one of the largest EMDR training programs in the country. That was never on the list when I was looking at programs so. I would also advise you to pick a program that allows you to adapt. As life changes, as your interests change, when you burn out, because you will absolutely burn out in the field of counseling in the field of clinical work, no matter what hat you have on and your job, you will burn out. So, knowing that you will burn out one day. What opportunities are you going to offer yourself based on your degree to kind of be your burnout recovery plan or to change gears to change jobs? And I think that’s really important for students to think about because our industry has one of the highest burnout rates of all the professions. I was looking at getting life insurance, long term disability, just as a CYA, right? As somebody who owns her own business. You know, if something terrible happens, I need disability coverage in case. And the rates that I was quoted for long term disability were so impractical and unaffordable, and I was told it’s because I’m a social worker and because we’re one of the highest burnout fields and therefore one of the most problematic professions to cover. So that burnout thing is real.
Well, that’s very good advice. The burnout is something that you have to keep in mind. And what else can you do with your degrees and your experience to almost morph it into another career path? And so, the other thing that I remember when I was going through grad school is I was looking at the percentage of people that stayed within their field. And back then I wanna say ohh. Less than half of the people actually stayed in the field. Now that was, you know, back in the day. I don’t know what it is now, but it’s logical to assume, especially if you’re in these high burnout, turnover, you know, type of careers that a lot of times you’re going to have to think about what would be my second or even third career when you come to this. So, any, any advice or any specific experiences or opportunities that a student just starting out their academic journeys should pursue during their education to help them determine which career path to choose?
I would recommend just having conversations with individuals with different degrees and with, you know, different professional hats that they wear. If you can take someone out to coffee, you know, buy them a meal if possible. I know that when we’re students, it’s not like our bank accounts are swelling with money. So. But you know, how can you offer? I just a thank you for someone giving you some of their time and their wisdom and insights. This podcast is a great one to listen to find your way. I think even looking at social media for thought leaders and people that you’re really drawn to and looking at what are the activities that they’re engaged in and who really inspires you. If I wanna be like Renee Brown, one day I wanna be like Janina Fisher one day or I wanna be whoever that is. And what is it that they’re doing that you feel called to and drawn to? And also, that’s gonna be very much informed by how you feel. So, notice your body again.
Sure, yeah. The other thing that I would suggest is if you’re not sure about what career path, go ahead and find somebody in your academic in your school. And you can shadow them. You can ask them. Hey, do you have a few minutes, go out for coffee as you said, volunteer for some social work opportunities as well. That way you’d expand your network and then if you’re thinking about psychology, psychotherapy, clinical work, volunteer for a lab do some studies. And once you do that then you’ll find ohh, I really love this, or this isn’t really for me. So, you’ve knocked something off your list. Hey, I know I don’t like this. Let’s go search for something else. And so those are some other bits of advice that I’d suggest as well. And don’t find that once you commit to something and then all of a sudden you hit a barrier, or you find something. That ohh my gosh, I don’t like this. Don’t be afraid to go ahead and switch as well. You don’t commit yourself and then feel regret because ohh I’ve been wasting my time for years doing this and I don’t really like it. So those are some other thoughts. Personal thoughts from me. Now, when I looked at that, I was telling you before we started the podcast, one of the fun things and I keep saying this on my podcast. But it’s true. I actually love doing all the research on all my podcast guests and looking at your journey. So, I noticed that you were a psychotherapist at Community Reach Center for over 7 years. You were a clinical manager at All Health Network for about four years. And then you were an adjunct professor at the University of Denver in the Graduate School of Social work for over 7 years. And then you were a psychotherapist and consultant and regional director at Heart Centered Counseling. There are many similarities between a career in psychology and a career in social work, so you know, I’m going to ask you in a different way. How did you decide? Hey, I’d rather go the social work route. Is it more of a, other than the GRE and other than, you know, some other things, what were some other, you know, aspects of your decision-making process, hey, social work is a better fit for me. Probably one of your answers is I listen to myself. You probably listened to yourself. One thing. Anything else come to mind?
I knew that, so I knew that I wanted to do psychotherapy, so that was very clear to me. And so I could practice psychotherapy as a clinical social worker. Or I could practice psychotherapy, as with a masters in counseling. So I could have done any of those jobs. I could have done all of my jobs with the counseling degree. So, I’d also say to listeners. Don’t burden yourself with if I choose social work and I should have gone to master’s in counseling, you’re not going to, like, set your future up for, like, Doomsday, like, it’ll probably be fine. But what really spoke to me was just I’m a very positive person. I’m always looking for the silver lining. I’m always looking for what’s working. I’m always looking for. You know, how can we pull out someone’s strengths and so that is just social work embodied. I think social work is so focused on strengths and adaptability and resiliency. That doesn’t say a master’s in counseling isn’t focused on those things but in social work those are really core values. So there was something about when I just looked at the values of the profession of social work, and I looked at the values of the profession of counseling, both spoke to me, but it was really this constant thread of strength space looking at systems, looking at the community, looking at the family system that just resonated with my personality and my style of thinking. So, I think that’s also really important to consider as well, because if I went into a program that didn’t resonate with my learning style, with my way of thinking, then then I might not have had such a good experience, because like ohh, I’m kind of in the wrong in the wrong place. Like this doesn’t fit me exactly, so that’s also something important to consider. What you know about yourself and what you value about yourself and relationships in the world. How do you find those little glimmers in programs that you’re looking at? Or if you don’t feel those glimmers, then maybe that’s not the right program for you.
Very good summary. I like that. It’s more of an introspective, reflective kind of thing. Instead of that cognitive. Ohh. My gosh, this is the thing that everybody’s telling me I should do. But you should listen to yourself a little bit more than others because that’s when you’ll find more of the true happiness and where you belong. You started your LLC in 2009, and as your LLC grew, you became a trainer and consultant. At what point in your journey did you know that you wanted to open your own business?
I think I knew that coming out of a grad school honestly, so I worked in a couple of community mental health centers, Community Reach Center and All Health Network are two community mental health centers in the Denver area. So, I started out in community mental health, which I think is a great place to start for anyone coming out of grad school. You just learn so much and usually you just have access to a lot of training, a lot of knowledge. It’s a lot of different clinical presentations. So, you get to learn a lot about a lot of diagnoses. But as I was doing that work, I also something inside of me just always said I’m gonna own my own business. I don’t know what that is. I don’t know where that came from. I didn’t grow up in a family of entrepreneurs. It’s a skill that I’ve really found I’m very good at and I don’t know if I had an ancient ancestor who was an entrepreneur or something. I don’t know. Somehow, I inherited something, but there was always this voice inside of me that said I’m going to own my own practice. And I started my own psychotherapy practice in 2009, and so I was working community mental health, and I was doing that kind of on the side. It was very small. I just had a couple of clients and then eventually I left full time practicing community mental health and was kind of doing half and half contract work and commute community mental health and then half private practice and. There’s a lot of challenges in private practice. I’m not gonna paint it as some idealistic. This is the best job ever. It’s very isolating. It’s takes a lot of discipline to run your own business just because you’re good at your trade doesn’t mean that you’re good at running a business. Those are different skill sets, and they don’t teach you how to run a business in a counseling program and a psychology program or in a social worker program. And so, I did private practice for a little bit. Then I went back to community mental health and managed some programs and left after four years and was really burnt out. So, burnout is real. I promise it will happen to you in this field multiple times. And that’s really when I decided, you know, I’m gonna go back to my LLC that I still had going, but I wasn’t doing a whole lot of work in, and I’m going to turn it into something else. And I had a couple of opportunities. Kind of divine intervention that showed up right at that time that set me up to open Kase & CO to start this training business. And again, like I said, when I started, I thought it was just going to be really small little side business. I never dreamed it would be what it is today, but I followed my heart and my intuition every step of the way, which is my biggest bit of advice, listen to your heart, your intuition, and your body will always know.
Well, thank you. I know that Kase & CO seems to have a unique approach because you offer training, consulting and a certification program in EMDR. And can you tell me a little bit more about your philosophy behind your training and consulting practice?
So Kase & CO is in the field of academia, but I like to say that we are not necessarily overly academic. We don’t feel incredibly academic. If you train with us. The academic fields can feel really unsafe. I think to many of us we are lectured by, you know, these experts who maybe aren’t practicing anymore that tell us what to do with our clients, but haven’t seen a client for, you know, well over a decade. The field of academia is often founded in white privilege and white supremacy. There’s a lack of cultural diversity and inclusivity in the academic field. And so, when I started my training business, which is an academic business, I did not want my business to embody any of those vibes. We’re to be taken seriously. We’re teaching people how to treat trauma with EMDR therapy, which is an evidence based, highly researched therapy. But I wanted to be a breath of fresh air for folks. And so, when people come to train with us, we regularly get the feedback of, I felt like I could be real. I felt like I could be vulnerable. I felt safe enough to learn and to be curious here. And one of our kind of go to mantras, everything is resting on this statement in Kase & CO which is “we create shame-free spaces for learning.” We know that shame can be a very toxic emotion, but yet shame is very much present in the world of academia, we feel shamed by a professor we feel ridiculed or overly criticized or mocked, or “no, that’s the wrong answer” or “no, you shouldn’t do that” or “why would you do that?” I mean, I think all of us who have been practicing in the field for a while have experienced shame from a person in power in an academic setting and it does not help us, it doesn’t help our clients. And I really believe that to be an effective healer. You have to be vulnerable. You’re doing vulnerable work with people you’re meddling in people’s lives. That takes a high level of vulnerability. It requires a lot of self-awareness of your own stuff and how your own stuff shows up in the room with clients or groups or families or people. It requires us to be embodied, to walk the walk and talk the talk, and to not just preach skills for self-regulation, but to actually practice and embody those. And I think that the way to do that is to create an embodied organization where everybody who works for me as part of Kase & CO is authentic, relatable, vulnerable, humble, humorous. We talk about our mistakes all the time. We talk about our hard learned lessons. Because we want people who train, what with us to get this feeling of it is safe here to make mistakes, to talk about mistakes, to be real, to be curious, to challenge the status quo. And I think that that’s all founded in creating a shame free space for learning. So that’s, that’s really why I see Kase & CO as a different kind of vibe in the field of training.
Well, you already mentioned a couple things regarding my next question, I was going to ask in your experience, what qualities or characteristics do you believe are most important for a successful psychotherapist training, consulting practice? And so you already mentioned one, be authentic. Don’t be afraid to break the mold. Don’t be afraid to talk about and joke about your mistakes and learn from them. Anything else for those who are listening or watching our podcast thinking oh, I never thought of doing a private practice this way instead of the clinical aspect of it. So, any other thoughts on any other characteristics or qualities that one could possess or should possess or acquire some skills to become successful?
Yeah, two things that come to mind. First is, do your work. Do your own work. Go to therapy. Find your healers, work on your own stuff. Whether you have big wounds to heal or small wounds. We all have stuff to work on and I think to be a really effective therapist, you need to heal yourself, because otherwise our clients. Do a great. Job of kind of reflecting to us our stuck points and you’re going to get stuck with the clients that you feel stuck around similar issues in your own life. And they will probably just happen to show up in droves on your caseload, which is the universe saying, hey, you have some stuff to heal. I found, you know, Kase & CO, we trained hundreds, thousands of therapists. And the therapists who come to our training, who have done a lot of their own personal work, show up in a much more advanced and insightful and effective way, learning the skills and practicing EMDR than the clinicians who come and say I have never gone to therapy myself. Now some programs require it. I think all academic, you know, graduate level programs should require that clinicians go and do some therapy, but that’s really a step towards embodying this work. Gandhi once said, one of my favorite quotes is, be your message. And so how can we be these, you know, professionals in clinical psychology that say, you know, this is what health and wellness looks like. And this is why regulation is important. And this is how you heal your nervous system and heal your trauma. But we don’t embody that. You can’t be your message if you aren’t your message. So that’s my number one thing, big soapbox there that I feel so strongly about. And then the second piece is to stay curious, stay really curious. As I mentioned this fields, I mean psychology was founded by white men that started with very much kind of you know pathologizing female presentations, we’re hysterical and emotionally dysregulated and completely misunderstanding the role that trauma played. Exploring the cultural components of racism and prejudice them and how that affects someone’s presentation was, you know, has been completely missing from the picture for most of the history of psychology. And now while our kind of grandfathers in psychology got a lot of things right, and I’m grateful for a lot of theories and research and work that they did. We need to be mindful of what voices and what social identities have not been included that at the table and the development of some of our evidence-based practices and some of our theoretical models and some of our clinical approaches. And so, this isn’t to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but it is an invitation to be curious and critical of whose voices have not been included in our research and the development of theories and the development of skills. And I think. That this is an area that is still very much lacking in the field of counseling. It’s getting better but being aware of the cultural nuances that go into certain clinical practices of differences in presentations based on someone’s social identity, how your race and ethnicity and gender and sexual orientation and religious beliefs, and neurotypical or neurodivergence. How does all that factor in is very much missing and so when you go through programs just be very curious and critical knowing that this is a gap and an area for growth in the field of counseling.
I like that you said that we pride ourselves on having a wide variety of guests on our program to reflect any and all different statuses, cultures, classes, social identities, everything. And what’s you know, as soon as you started talking, I’m thinking it’s interesting, you know, when you look back at, you know, white males started the psychology field. But who is, who are the practitioners who are typically out there? It’s mostly women and mostly, you know, the men are the minority, you know, in the field now. And I’m not arguing that it should be equal. I’m just saying that that’s how it is now, and I agree with your statement that we should have more people from different a variety of social classes, social identities, sexual orientations reflected in the field as well, and I’m talking almost any field, whether we’re talking, you know, social work, psychology, psychotherapy, anything like that. So, one thing that I wanted to mention your, your practice is unlike any other. It’s grown tremendously. You teach Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR, through the lens of Polyvagal theory. So, tell us a little bit more about Polyvagal theory and how you incorporate it with EMDR in your training.
Yeah. Love that question. Thank you. So Polyvagal theory is a theoretical model that’s developed by Stephen Porges, based on decades of his research really studying heart rate variability and how heart rate variability intersects with autonomic responses to stress, danger, safety. So let me break that down so it doesn’t sound quite so scientific. Polyvagal theory is known as the science of safety and it helps us to understand what our nervous system needs to feel safe and when we feel safe, we feel regulated and how our nervous system responds to queue, queues of danger. So Polyvagal theory gives us this very robust kind of user’s manual for understanding our trauma responses. Kind of we all have probably heard of fight, flight, freeze and collapse. So, Polyvagal theory is kind of the science behind those responses and helping us makes sense of why our nervous system does what it does when it responds to stress and what it needs to be safe. So EMDR is an evidence-based therapy for PTSD. So of course, polyvagal theory blends really well with EMDR because both are focused on trauma. Both are focused on neurobiology of understanding, you know, symptoms are all just representations of different flavors of neurobiological kind of distress. So, when you feel anxious, that’s your nervous system getting activated about something. When you feel depressed, when you feel happy, when you feel love or joyful, it’s all based on how your nervous system is functioning. And EMDR and Polyvagal theory both focus on the nervous system. EMDR really focuses on how we store memories. How we form memories, how we store memories and how memories contribute to health and wellness or disease and pathology. And so, for example, with PTSD. In PTSD presentations, people have been through a trauma or multiple traumas, most typically, and those experiences are maladaptively stored in the brain. What does that mean? It means that when those memories get activated, they get activated in our whole body. And so, we think about that event or that event gets triggered in our brains and all of a sudden start we start reliving it. We start thinking about what happened and there’s all these distorted thoughts that come up and we feel anxious or depressed or shamed, and we feel shut down or we feel like we want to run away, right? Just our body starts to relive that memory. And so EMDR really focuses on identifying those memories that are maladaptively stored that are stuck and causing yuck. That’s one way I like to think about it. Memories that are stuck and causing yuck. There’s a whole protocol with EMDR in which we target and reprocess that memory using Polyvagal theory to help guide that whole kind of dynamic experience and exchange that’s happening in neurobiology to the point that people think about the experience they’re like, it doesn’t bother me. I feel calm and regulated, you know what? In fact, I believe I am a good lovable person. I no longer think I’m a terrible person who doesn’t deserve love. I mean, there’s this, just this huge shift because the nervous system has resolved and integrated the experience to a point of resolution.
Thank you for that nice, insightful, easy way to understand both of them and by themselves. Each of these are very powerful, but when you combine them, they actually, you know, I looked at one of your websites and I love the words how they can supercharge therapy and recovery process. And so, with that in mind, I’m going to share my screen and I am sharing the screen, you are the author of Polyvagal-Informed EMDR: A Neuro-Informed Approach to Healing and so tell us a little bit more about the book and why you wrote it.
Yeah. So, I think that as I’ve talked to some other friends who have written academic books, writing this book was the hardest thing I have ever professionally self-imposed on myself. You write an academic book because you just feel like you have this idea or these thoughts that absolutely must be burst. Like you must get it out and so. I really started diving into it in 2020. It was kind of, it started as my pandemic project, I would say. It was my escape from reality. It was my escape from the dumpster fire of 2020. Pull, pulling these thoughts together and organizing them to the point that I recognized and one of my colleagues one of my friends, Robin Shapiro, said “Rebecca, you have a book here.” Oh gosh, I have a book and the reason that this came about, so I’ve been practicing EMDR since 2006, I actually started EMDR training when I was still in grad school, so I was in my second year of my social work program. And just fell in love with the EMDR personally, I found it to be so life changing as I worked through my own traumas. And as I’ve used it with a variety of clients with lots of different traumas it just produces, you know, changes that are sustainable over a period of time where people no longer meet criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. So, I love EMDR, and then about 2017, I think I started my dive into Polyvagal theory and really resonated with just this model to help explain why our nervous system does what it does? So Polyvagal theory really describes what happens in your autonomic nervous system. You can think of your autonomic nervous system as your automatic nervous system. It just automatically moves you into fight, flight, freeze, or collapse responses when it perceives you’re in danger and it needs to help you survive. But it’s not all about what happens in your body, which is really where the autonomic nervous system lives, it’s also about what happens in your brain. And so, from the PTSD literature, we can understand that PTSD is very much about experiences that are stored in the brain as memories. And so EMDR focuses on memory. Polyvagal theory focuses on the autonomic nervous system. And so, as I learned these two, I found here is a whole framework for understanding the whole kind of light show that happens in your nervous system when you have PTSD or when you’re depressed or when you’re anxious. Because you don’t just think your memories, you feel your memories. So, you pull up a memory, for example. Think about a food that you would love. And you think about that food because it’s stored in your memories, you have an experience of that. And then what you notice in your body if your mouth starts salivating or you’re like, oh, I’m really hungry. Or you can kind of oh now, now my stomachs, you know, gurgling. And that’s your autonomic nervous system. Now, if you think about a food that you really dislike. Notice how that changes. That’s still based on a memory of that food that you’ve had before that you know I don’t like that. But the differences that happen in your body and your autonomic nervous system are still part of that autonomic process. And so, you don’t just think your memories, you feel your memories. And so EMDR gives us this user manual for understanding memory as it contributes to health and wellness, disease or pathology. Polyvagal theory talks about what happens in our bodies. But it’s not just one or the other, it’s both. And so that’s why I found that integrating these two gives us this really robust inclusive framework for looking at the whole neurobiological picture when we’re working with common clinical presentations.
So Polyvagal theory kind of in my own thoughts. It’s the neuroscience that happens behind everything. And so, you know, earlier in our discussion, we were talking about, well, how do I decide if I go social work, if I go psychology, if I go to psychotherapy, you know, if I become the. Clinic go, you know, become a clinician, go the clinical route. You know, a lot of these careers share similarities and the reason I’m bringing this up is somebody who wants to stay in the psychology field can actually become a neuropsychologist and start looking at the neuroscience related to this as well. And so, I’m just bringing that up that, you know, all of these different career choices and different branches have some similarities. They’re not distinct, you know, unique different entities and so, you know, when I look at how you can combine both of these, you know EMDR and Polyvagal theory, what kind of conditions can this combined approach treat? Obviously, PSD, PTSD as well as trauma, some other ones. What other conditions can they actually approach and treat?
Yeah. So EMDR is recognized as evidence-based therapy meaning there’s a lot of research supporting its effectiveness with PTSD. But there’s also research that demonstrates its effectiveness with other very common presentations like anxiety disorders, depression, grief and loss, chronic pain, and even addictions. So, we can think about EMDR as being a potentially useful therapeutic approach for any clinical presentation that has a non-organic basis. So that means that if it’s not about just the way that you’re wired or a deficit, like a brain injury. If symptoms are due to experiences that happened that have led to kind of maladaptive changes in the nervous system, then EMDR could probably be useful for it. There’s actually no diagnosis that’s a rule out for EMDR. It’s just about the clinical presentation and the client’s readiness. So EMDR is not going to, for example, clear up manic episodes, and someone who truly has a bipolar disorder diagnosis. But EMDR could be used to reduce the likelihood of a manic episode relapse by maybe targeting trauma that individuals experience that when they get triggered when that trauma gets triggered, it increases their susceptibility to a manic episode. We could also use the EMDR for, let’s say, someone has uhm a psychotic disorder diagnosis and it’s really about like something that’s wired in the nervous system and, you know, brain chemicals and things like that. We could use EMDR to target the terror somebody feels when they have a hallucination. I used to have a client who when he would hallucinate, he’d picture skeletons in his bedroom dancing at the end of his bed. That was terrifying. We used MDR to target his fear related to that. It didn’t change the skeleton showing up, but it changed his relationship to them. So, we could use EMDR in lots of different ways and Polyvagal theory is not a therapeutic orientation. It’s really a model to just help you understand how people operate, how the nervous system operates. And so, I think everybody should learn polyvagal theory because it just helps you make sense of yourself and the world’s other people, people you run into at the grocery store, cut you off in rush hour traffic like it’s just going to give you a wealth of information to understand the human condition.
Well, thank you. I like that summary. You are also a registered yoga teacher, so you know I read a little bit more about your training, consulting and and here’s a question, how would the combination of EMDR therapy and yoga increase healing potential?
Hmm. So, I started practicing yoga when I was 15 years old, and it has just been my saving grace and saved my life multiple times emotionally and physically. Literally, a couple of times. And so, as I just continue to grow as a therapist and I continue to practice yoga, I got curious about how I could use yoga in therapeutic settings. And what the benefits of that could be and we know the research shows that yoga therapy is incredibly useful and powerful to bring into your sessions with clients no matter their presentation or diagnosis. So, I really integrated yoga. EMDR has 8 phases and one of the phases of EMDR is all about preparation. You learn kind of regulation skills and you build somatic awareness. You learn to feel feelings and feel your body, and that’s a big place that I’ve brought in yoga. So, helping clients who have maybe been really dissociated from their body. Have learned to check out from feelings and sensations who don’t know how to feel their body, who find their body to be a scary place. Yoga therapy has been incredibly impactful. My practice the last couple of years has mostly been primarily focused on veterans, and so they’re all coming with a PTSD diagnosis, some because of combat, some because of their military experience, some because of childhood and other stuff. But they also all have chronic pain issues, and so yoga has been something that I brought in and used with all of them, whether that’s in my office or over telehealth and have helped them to not only learn to manage and reduce some of their chronic pain, but also helped prepare them for EMDR reprocessing of those memories that their nervous system is storing by helping them learn to feel feelings and connect with their physical body.
So, I want to share my screen one more time here. You have a personal website as well. So, for those of you who are wanting to learn a little bit more about Rebecca Kase, she has her own website rebeccakase.com. I love this because it talks a little bit more about you, your history, your background and then it goes into EMDR Training Consulting and a link to Kase & CO. And then a little bit more about some of the news and some of the other stuff that is happening or has happened in your life as well. So, I want to share that and of course, we’ll share this website once we go live. I did notice that you you’ve achieved a lot and so one follow-up question is. What other professional or personal goals do you have for yourself, and you hope to achieve in your career?
Ohh, that’s a fun question. Well, I’m currently working on two other books. Well one is a flip chart about Polyvagal theory. So, I have a publishing contract for that and then I’m also working on a Polyvagal theory self-help book with New Harbinger. So, I’m excited to write more. Very much looking forward to that. I am also, I mean as I mentioned, I didn’t grow up with this entrepreneurial mindset or a family of entrepreneurs, but it’s a been a new discovery of myself in my late 30s and early 40s that I love running businesses. It just. It’s just something that lights me up inside and I love running businesses that are committed to healing and helping the world be a better place. And so, I have some ambitions to start some additional businesses in the future. Some group counseling practices specifically because I love leading people and creating work environments where your mental health is better off because you work somewhere not. You’re not in a worse position because you work for a company, so that’s something that I really love, you know, everybody who works at Kase & CO we don’t have turnover. People don’t leave, people love working for Kase & CO because we’re embodied. We’re authentic. Everybody can show up as their authentic selves. And I think that the world needs more of that. So. Wherever that takes me, I’m not sure. Just as I started Kase & CO, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was going, and so I’m just going to follow my heart and intuition that I want to create more embodied spaces for healers to work so that we can heal the world because there is no shortage of suffering.
That’s a wonderful goal. You already answered my next question, but I’ll say it anyway and ask it anyway, because you might answer and provide a little bit more. I said. What do you love most about your job?
What I love most about my job? Is how many lives I get to touch. I think about throwing a pebble into a pond and watching it ripple out and, you know, doing direct clinical work, when I you know was just doing psychotherapy or when I was managing programs and overseeing some clinicians. I had a ripple effect. But owning a company as large as Kase & CO and writing and getting positive responses on my ideas and my thought leadership tells me that my ripple is significant and I don’t take that lightly and I don’t say that with a big ego, I say that with so much humility and just appreciation that I have the privilege and honor to be in the place where I am, where I can teach and inspire so many individuals, and I think about how that ripples out to the clients that those people work with and to those clients’ families and loved ones and to those communities and to the world. And that’s what keeps me showing up and fueled every day that I have a lot of people to show up for and I don’t take that lightly. That’s the that’s my biggest why.
OK, well good at the end of our conversations, we usually ask some fun questions. So the first one I typically ask is tell us something unique about yourself.
Something unique about myself. I am learning how to sail. My husband and I just bought a sailboat and so I’m learning how to sail. I live in Washington state on the sound and kind of serendipitously, we had this sailboat come into our life, and so I’m learning how to sail and challenging myself to learn new things.
That is fun. Is your husband an experienced sailor or is he learning as you go as well?
Ohh, he’s learning as we go. He knows a little bit more than me; he took a three-day class. So, and he’s been out. He’s made a friend who’s a mentor in the area who’s been teaching him, so he knows more than me. But we’re both newbies at it and it’s fun to be new at something.
That sounds fun. That sounds fun. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why?
My favorite term I just think of a go to phrase I have which is be humble, be brave. That’s my own phrase. I think it’s just an important way to live your life.
I saw that on your website as well. What’s one of the most important things that you have learned in your life thus far?
To keep your ego in check.
OK. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology or psychotherapy or social work?
I encourage you just don’t take yourself too seriously as, as I mentioned, you know, if you pick social work, you one day, you’re probably not gonna look back and be like, oh gosh, I would have, I wish I had picked a master’s in counseling or vice versa. People on my team, we have marriage and family therapists, master’s in counseling, we have social workers, and we have psychologists. And we all speak the same language, and we all get along just fine. So. You know, make a choice. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Wherever you’re trying to get to, you can probably get there no matter which path you choose.
Very good advice. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
If I had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, oh, I think I would go to Japan. I really want to go to Japan, and that’s where it’s on my it’s on my list of places to visit in the near future, but that’s where I would go right now. If you gave me a couple thousand dollars, that’s where I would go.
Sounds fun. Sounds fun. Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
No, I don’t think so. I’m just so grateful to share space with you and for those of you who are listening, be humble, be brave. You got you got some exciting goals and dreams ahead of you, so keep going.
Rebecca, thank you so much for sharing your space with us as well. We we truly appreciate learning more about your journey. Thank you so much.