186 Transcript

Dr. Jeremy Sharp Uncategorized Leave a Comment

Dr. Sharp: Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Testing Psychologist podcast, the podcast where we talk all about the business and practice of psychological and neuropsychological assessment. I’m your host Dr. Jeremy Sharp, licensed psychologist, group practice owner, and private practice coach. 

PAR has a number of remote testing tools that will help you stay safe during social distancing times. Measures include the RIST-2, the RAIT, the TOGRA the IGT-2, and the Wisconsin Card Sort Test. Learn more at parinc.com\remote

All right, y’all. Hey, welcome back. I’m glad to have you here on the podcast. Today’s episode is a really unique episode and an unexpected episode in the sense that I thought that would be having a certain discussion with my guest about inclusivity and anti-racist practices, and we took it in a whole different direction that turned out to be pretty amazing. 

My guest today is LaToya Smith. LaToya is the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency, a group practice located in Fort Worth, Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or at the place where they became wounded. She encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcome.

LaToya launched STRONG WITNESS which is a platform designed to connect, transform and heal through the power of storytelling. And we talk quite a bit about STRONG WITNESS during the episode. She also serves as a consultant with Practice of The Practice and helps therapists build inclusive and anti-racist practices as well as develop their speaking and presentation skills through the power of storytelling.

So like I said, I thought that we were going to be having a conversation around racism or anti-racism and inclusivity and so forth, and we really ended up talking more about storytelling and creativity in business, how that shows up, and how we can use storytelling both to help ourselves and our clients. As you can tell, LaToya is a strong believer in storytelling and has even developed a whole separate platform for folks to tell their stories. She talks quite a bit about that.

So, this is another episode that isn’t specifically testing-related but has a ton of content for any of us as we look to improve our business skills, our speaking skills, and just our connection skills. I hope you enjoy it.

You will notice at the end, the audio cuts off a little bit abruptly. That’s because we did transition to talking more about racism or anti-racism and inclusivity, but I’m going to save that for a later episode.

If you are a beginner practice owner and you’re wanting to launch your testing practice here in 2021, the beginner practice mastermind group is starting on March 11th. This is a group of 6 psychologists who are all in that beginning phase of practice. And it is a group coaching experience where we will hold you accountable, give you support, and help you through those beginning stages of launching your practice. So if that sounds good to you, you can go to thetestingpsychologists.com/beginner and get some more information. 

All right. Let’s jump to my conversation with LaToya Smith.

Hey, LaToya, welcome to the podcast.

LaToya: Hey, thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it. I am excited about our discussion.

Dr. Sharp: Me too. I love making connections like this where we just connected and “met” a few minutes ago, but it’s a mutual connection through Practice of the Practice, through Joe Sanok. I totally trust those connections. And it’s like, yeah, here we are, we’re just doing it. I’m excited to talk with you. 

LaToya: Yeah, those Practices of the Practice connections are always good connections I’ve found. It’s always good. 

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I had no concerns when Joe was like, you should have LaToya on the podcast. I’m like, great, let’s do it, let’s just roll with it. So, thanks for jumping on.

LaToya: Yeah, no problem.

Dr. Sharp: Good things to talk about. Let’s just start off. I’d love to hear about some of the work that you’re doing, but really why the work that you do is important to you.

LaToya: I really like that question because to me it’s a really deep question. I came to realize this light bulb went off for me last week, but I think the work is important to me now with the counseling and the way I’ve branched off in certain areas because I find that it’s really the things that I needed but I didn’t receive. And so, now I find myself wanting to build those platforms or those opportunities when I notice that they were missing in areas that I needed the most. So it was giving back, but giving back in a different way or creating. And it may be out there, but just when it wasn’t there for me so I make sure I can try to create that for other people. So I really like that. I like creating.

My friend told me years ago, everybody is an artist. And I’ve been looking great because I could never draw or paint, but I’m an artist at whatever I choose to do and to let my creativity flow. So that’s the part I love. When you can. I like that. 

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I have so many thoughts and questions right off the bat, and none of them are what I planned on. Question one, what do you like to draw?

I think that’s so true though. I don’t think a lot of people conceptualize business in that way, that it’s a creative pursuit, but I’m totally with you that we have so much agency and there are so many ways to be creative in our businesses. That’s a really important thing to highlight.

LaToya: That’s the kind of thing we hear a lot too, especially through Practice of the Practice. Certain things we don’t learn when we’re in grad school for one, and then two, when you learn business, nobody says be creative with it. It’s these steps you got to follow which make sense because you want to start a business, but then once you get in the groove, implement that creativity earlier. I wish I would’ve known that, and said, it’s okay, follow these steps but also flow as you want to flow. But I feel like I’m getting into the flow now and it feels really good, like liberating.  So, I liked that. 

Dr.Sharp: That’s awesome. It is liberating. It really is when you can break out a little bit and make it what you want. That’s why we presumably go into business for ourselves.

LaToya: Yeah.

Dr. Sharp: It’s funny. It’s that time of the year we’re doing employee check-ins and one of my psychologists was saying, can I do something besides just seeing clients here at the practice? And I was like, “Sure, what do you want to do?” And She was kind of like, I don’t know. Let me think about it. But I was like, let’s create it. Work backward from whatever you think would be your perfect job and we’ll try to create it for you. Just having the flexibility there and just to not have to like, well, let me ask my boss. I’ll go to my supervisor and we’ll run it through the chain and bureaucracy and maybe you can get an extra half hour a week to whatever.

LaToya: I love that answer. I would’ve loved to work for you, stuff like that. Normally, bosses will say no because they can’t see outside of the boxes though. That’s a great answer.

Dr. Sharp: It’s fun.

LaToya: Yeah, I’m excited. 

Dr. Sharp: Okay, here we go. Yes. That makes me want to ask right off the bat, how are you being creative in your business right now?

LaToya: I have a group practice so I have several other therapists with me. They have different areas, different strengths, different talents. What I like to see and we’re working on it now is, again, like the question you asked, so what did you want to do, at the team meeting today. I want to continue to explore that with them. Like, what do you want to see? Would it be group work, or do you want to do more presentations, or do you want to do a workshop or what type of client? And let’s go after it. And why not?

So, I love those conversations. I love creativity. I love envisioning it now, not the best person admin where I am like, take these steps, but I’m like, it can happen. You name it and let’s do it. That excites me. I love to see people come up with something creative and out of the box, and new. I get excited when my friends start new businesses and then I can share that stuff. I just like that. I like thinking outside the box.

I told myself in grad school, I’m sitting here in my own office, but I remember thinking in grad school, man, I don’t want to be that person in the office seeing 8 people back to back all day long. And then I haven’t practiced that. And then you start doing that. But you said the person with you had said like, listen, what else can I do? How can I come out of the box, off the page and still be just as effective, or reach people that wouldn’t even come into the office or on a virtual screen? What can we do? That just excites me and it gives me that energy.  

Dr. Sharp: Have you always been like that? Were you a super creative out-of-the-box kid or has that developed over time or what?

LaToya: It has developed. I think I always had it. I always had these thoughts. I didn’t know how to do it, or it didn’t have the resources. And then I had thoughts and maybe I was scared. What makes now such a special time is I’m at a place where I can have access to, and I’m at a place where I could get things going and if I need to. I still don’t have all the ways to do it. I’ve always been a dreamer with an imagination. Now I feel like I’m seeing things come to fruition. And that’s a really good feeling. 

Dr. Sharp: That is amazing, yes. There’s so much. I think we’re off to a great start.

LaToya: My brother is an English professor. So he is definitely a writer. We joke now about the little character we came up with when we were younger. I guess we were always dreaming in certain ways or being creative.

Dr. Sharp: It sounds like it. Well, I think it’s a cool model to bring creativity into a different venue than art.

A lot of people say that I’m not a creative person. I’m not artistic. I can’t draw anything, but there are other ways to do it, right? Maybe it is writing. Maybe it is business. Maybe it’s how you relate to people. Maybe it’s giving people opportunities and thinking of creative ways to let them shine. Who knows? 

LaToya: Even collaborating is creativity.

Dr. Sharp: Sure.

LaToya: You know what I mean? Putting things together that weren’t before or tying two pieces that people don’t normally see, but need and then putting them together. That’s awesome.

Dr. Sharp: I love it. Well, I think that dovetails well with something that we wanted to talk about, which is your focus on storytelling. That’s a big part of your practice and the work that you do, right?

LaToya: Yeah. I love stories. And again, going back to childhood when I was younger, I always just loved listening to people or connecting people that way or finding some type of similarity.

When I was younger, I was painfully shy. I wish we can go left and a bunch of stories there. I had to find some type of common ground to connect. I had three brothers so I played a lot of sports. My sister didn’t play any sports, but I have three brothers who love sports. And even doing that, like, okay, we can play sports and I can connect with you. Sometimes just going to school and asking a question about that and hearing people’s stories play out or you find to see where you’re from and then the story. And then it becomes at ease when you can find something within there to connect to.

So even now, whether it be meeting the client at an intake and some questions is just listening and then hearing their stories. And it doesn’t have to be anything dreary. It could be, I like your sneakers. And then we can go off someplace else. So just the power and the energy behind it, hearing more people’s voices, finding my own voice, and that’s how I began to find it, the more I told more of my personal story because the pain point is I had certain things locked up on the inside of me. And then once that broke, once I could release it, I felt like I could say anything, and I’m unstoppable or I can connect with so many people in different ways with the power of my voice and with the creativity of my words. 

Dr. Sharp: Right. I think that there are probably so many people out there who are saying, I don’t know what my voice is. I don’t know how to unlock that. Can you talk through that process? What was that like for you? How did you unlock it? How did you get to this place of being able to share more of your personal voice? 

LaToya: Yeah. When I was younger, unfortunately, that’s the other side of it, I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. And that’s something I just kept bottled up. We’ve all heard the stories. We all heard you lock it up, you seal it up, and it was really like that. 

I was on a friend’s podcast last week and I had to say it. I could just see almost just like a movie screen, like Fade to Black. And that’s how it got locked up and just sealed. And then carrying that for years, and then all of a sudden in my adult years somebody said, why don’t you write a letter? I wrote the letter and sent the letter off. And I was like, I felt strong. You can tell me I just did something amazing. I was like, wow, that works.

And then everyone said well, if I can write the letter, I’ll send the letter off. Now I can start talking more, because once I began to say, hey, I wrote a letter and I sent the letter off, then letter for what? Boom. And I could start talking to different people. And the more I started talking, more people would come up to me and be like, you know what? That I can identify with, or I would love to send this off too, how did you do? 

And then I have another platform called STRONG WITNESS and it’s just that, just the strength in my voice and I’m a witness just like a testimony. So, from that point forward, just having different platforms where people can come up and share themselves and begin to use their story. Now it’s more virtual, but really that space and the healing part of storytelling.

There’s a connecting part and there’s a healing space once I began to talk because when it’s shut up on the inside, there’s no healing there, right? Now, it’s more shame, it’s more fear, and it’s actually like this wall between me and another and it’s blocking so many relationships and so much growth and so much creativity. For me personally, when I say creativity with that part, just the healing power that came when I began to speak. I feel like you can’t stop me now. When it comes to that, now I just want to share, because I know I’m helping somebody else and still helping myself.

Dr. Sharp: That’s amazing. It seems like compound interest in a way. The more that you do it, the more you get back from it, and then you’re building these connections in this goodwill and just good vibe, and then it keeps coming back. And now it’s unstoppable.

LaToya: Yeah, that’s how I feel.

Dr.Sharp: So tell me about a STRONG WITNESS. What is this? 

LaToya: It is just a storytelling platform. So a space for people to just share their stories of whatever topic that we say we want to share about, or somebody may email me and just say, listen, I want to talk about this or share my story on this. So, it’s a space we would open up to share. Sometimes I may give a prompt, this is the topic we’re talking about. April: Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Awareness month. I’m intentional about having that in that certain month. Even last year, talking to some teens that were graduating high school and they didn’t get a chance to what school stories were a problem? What was that experience like? 

Last February, I did a segment on making black history and I talked to people from Fort Worth who were from this area who were doing something powerful in this community. So I love the idea of people sharing and connecting but also healing with the story. And once they do that, I just get so many people that come back to me, that was so great. Thank you so much. Do you know what I mean? For being able to share and connect and to be heard because a lot of times they aren’t heard or feel like nobody would care. So it’s definitely just a platform just for healing space, but also building relationships.  

Dr. Sharp: How do people find it? What are the logistics here? I’m very curious about how this works. 

LaToya: You mean how I put it out there? So right now, really, it’s an Instagram page. It’s a Facebook page. I just connect. If I put it out there, then the people I know, and I may even say, if you got a story, this is my email, email me. They have a story and they may see it shared from there. 

And if I have an idea, I may reach out to somebody else and be like, listen, I bet you got to do a really dope story. I would love to hear your story on this. And some people are like, I don’t know. And everybody’s not there and that’s cool. And I try to tell people, I don’t care if it’s artwork, I don’t care if it’s a song, I don’t care if it’s writing, but if you want to share it, I’d love to put it out and then we’ll go from there.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah and then it just goes out on the social media accounts or is there like a video or is it audio, is it written?

LaToya: Its berries. One person, I remember asked me, so I’d rather write? Okay, you can write. There are different videos on the page of just people speaking. We did a little one-minute video promo just talking about it. So, it comes either way, but on the Facebook page, there are different videos. There’s a STRONG WITNESS Facebook page. It’s just that name where these videos have been shared.

And we actually did a STRONG WITNESS event with Practice of the Practice. It was back in the summer, last summer, 2020. It’s called Can you hear you hear us? So it was 5 black therapists that shared their stories either personally or professionally of dealing with racism. And it was heavy. I heard some of their stories. Every time I watch it, the weight of it. And that is on the STRONG WITNESS Facebook page. I thought it was powerful because we’re looking at these professionals that have personal stories or professional stories of dealing with this. So, it was pretty heavy.

Dr.Sharp: I can only imagine. I definitely want to go and watch that and some of the others. I’m sure you see this, like there’s such a strong connection to these sorts of things. It has a very Humans of New York flavor to it.  The way you describe it, it’s people just being human. This is their humanity that’s showing through here. 

LaToya: Yeah, and I’m glad you said that because a lot of times we will ask people, share your story? Well,I don’t have one. Everybody has one. I think people think I don’t have anything that’s that deep. Listen, everybody has a story. It doesn’t have to be the pain point. It could be, what’s your story from this morning, the time you woke up to this moment right here? Tell me about your day. Boom. You tell it, you just shared your story of today.

So sometimes we think it’s way deeper and we don’t have it. We all have so many. If only we would talk and share them, how better the world would be, honestly? I’m sounding like a cliche by that, but really if only we would talk and share the little things, we would break down a lot of walls and communicate way better. 

Dr.Sharp: That’s so true. Have you ever seen it go wrong when people share, I don’t even know how to ask that question, shared too much, or don’t share it in a way that people can connect with?

LaToya: Oh, yeah, but in context. Maybe we’re staying in a certain timeframe and somebody shares for 20 minutes and you only had three. Yeah, I’ve seen it like that. And then you lose people. And I try to tell people, listen, when you’re sharing your story, share the important, deep details to the story.  If the lady on the corner with the red raincoat but the black umbrella doesn’t fit in your story, you don’t have to describe her to a T. You can just stay and flow. 

So sometimes people get lost because they’re saying way too much and like losing people. That’s more like in the formal sense of staying up in storytelling. It can go different ways. People can tune out. And then the other part that sometimes I wouldn’t say it goes wrong, but now if I’m talking about personally sharing a story with somebody else, sometimes not everybody’s ready for a story. So when they can’t handle it or tune out, it doesn’t mean your voice isn’t powerful or you weren’t dropping some gems. It just means that sometimes everybody can’t handle the weight of what we say either.

Dr. Sharp: That makes sense. That’s right. Both people got to be in the right place. 

LaToya: But I haven’t had it happen like violence and throwing tomatoes or chairs or anything like that. It hasn’t been to that point and hopefully, it never gets there, but I’ve seen it. I’ve seen other things happen.

Dr. Sharp: Let me bring it back to the clinical side. How do you bring this into the clinical work that you do with clients?

LaToya: I think just sitting with people, which is what we all do, and listening, but really I want to hear. Do you know what I mean? Tell me. What’s going on with that or where are you at today? 

A lot of times we are hearing stories each week. Each time somebody comes in and shares but also letting them know that, one, you got to change the narrative of either what people told you, how they told you the story went, the stuff that you believed, and you got to recreate this stuff for yourself with factual information, don’t makeup stuff that never happened, but you got to recreate it for yourself and use your voice.

And now it becomes, instead of dreary and pain points, now it’s, I’ve owned this space, and now it becomes more positive. And now you’re stronger when you tell your story for yourself and not just take the pieces that somebody else gave to you, not take what was handed to you, not accept blame, not accept that life has to be this gloomy space, but we can look at that from a different angle. And then that healing power is there.

Dr. Sharp: That’s so powerful. It just got me thinking of all the different stories we have in our practices with folks who are doing mostly testing and assessment. We often have multiple parties involved. We’ve got a client, which might be an adult or a child. If it’s a kid, there are parents involved. So the kids got a story. The parents have their stories.  If it’s an adult, sometimes there are family members involved as well, sometimes not. I’m just thinking of all these layers of stories that are so important to tune into and recognize that as clinicians, we have a big role in helping folks rewrite their stories.

LaToya: Exactly, because a lot of people have been told that it doesn’t matter. A lot of people are told, your voice doesn’t matter, or maybe people that have been there to help them in the past didn’t want to hear it. They were dismissive and basically told them how it’s going to go. Or they’ll never change. Or some people don’t talk anyway. This is the first time they’re sharing or saying things. And just realizing like, thank you so much for sharing that with me, because they’ve never shared it before and to see them relax their shoulders or say, yeah, okay. It’s new and it’s fresh because it just wasn’t a thing to share your film. 

And I can think when I was younger, I grew up in a house where there was maybe some complaining or sighing and saying something, but it was never what are you feeling or how does that make you feel?

Dr.Sharp: I’m right with you. It sounds like we grew up in similar houses in that regard.

LaToya: So storytelling, if it wasn’t a joke or something funny that happened when it comes time for deeper emotions, it was foreign. Like what is that? You’re going to listen to me and it’s not going to be awkward? This is awkward. Let me back out. But it’s pretty cool.

Dr. Sharp: Sure, it is cool. So how does this influence your disclosure with clients? Maybe that’s the question. How does it influence how much you disclose with your clients? How much do you bring your story into the work knowing that it might vary? 

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All right, let’s get back to the podcast. 

LaToya: Honestly, I think it depends. If it comes to the situation of abuse, I have to know that it’s helpful and I’m not giving all the details. I may just say, I fully understand where you’re at. I get it. Because years ago when I was in grad school, my professors said, listen, therapists need therapists too. 

And while I was there on campus, I went to a therapist who had been a victim of sexual assault as an adult. But even hearing somebody else talk about it when you don’t normally talk, I was like, you get me. So that is part of storytelling.

And then sometimes, honestly, when I’m in these sessions now, and especially, I still have clients that come in because, at the practice, I see predominantly women of color. Some of them still come in and say, this is my first time getting therapy. So when they come in and they have somebody that they can relate to, sometimes the different stories that we may share or different jokes that we may get or different lines that we may say, and that’s needed for connection. A certain bit of banter is needed for this connection.

And there are stories in there or remember when or this song or whatever. I think that helps to build rapport. And it also lets me know that this client is comfortable with me because this is the space. They can’t do this maybe at work or they can’t do this in other environments, but in this space, they can just relax and laugh. I laugh really loud. I laugh a lot. I don’t laugh at them. I tell them. We always laugh together, but there’s a lot of great stories shared in that space.

Dr. Sharp: Absolutely. I think I found over the years that the more that I’m willing to share and be genuine,  the better things go, whether it’s talking about failing as a parent or with my adolescents, I’m like, I was playing Fortnite last night, what do you think of that new… and it just, it goes. Now, I know there are clinical settings maybe where it’s less accepted, I think about forensic staff or hospitals or who knows, but for the most part, like in outpatient private practice, it goes a long way.

LaToya: It does. I’m glad you said that. It’s the little things that go a long way and make a huge difference when you show them that you are human too. I was watching that same show last night. Listen, when I left for work, I ate this big slice of cake too. And they just laugh. And it’s okay because we are human. It is what it is. And then people, instead of seeing us as this authority over them, now, they still respect us in our position, but now it’s relatable and they want to share more instead of being so guarded.

Dr. Sharp: Well said. Yes. Now, do you carry this forward into marketing, website? Does it extend beyond just the way you are with people in person? 

LaToya: That’s the part I need to do next. I feel like you’re in my head. My website person has been waiting for this content for I don’t know how long. I was the one who answered that question. Like, ssh don’t answer that one, but I’m working on that stuff to put it in there. I just got to get her the content. That’s what I want people to see. 

But sometimes it’s hard for people, like I said a minute ago, to relate to the idea of storytelling. It’s so foreign. They think it is a performance, and it’s not. It’s really just sharing or you just did it or this is what’s happening or how do you feel about it? Okay, how do you put this together? So everything is not like a theater in a play. It’s you being you, but opening up and sharing. So, find a way to say that to people so they can really connect with it. 

Dr. Sharp: Right. Do you bring it into your group practice at all? Is this somehow a value in your practice or something that you try to foster in your employees or contractors as well?

LaToya: Yeah. We got together, we were distant but we were together, in a room about a week and a half ago. And it was so much fun because they’re hilarious first of all. But then it just helps to make us closer especially since the pandemic we don’t see each other that often, but then just the idea of getting to know each other a little bit more in story, whatever it is.

And it could be a couple of sentences. It can be where you’re at. Some of them have full-time jobs so where are you working now? Or even sharing pain points and helping to see people differently like, Oh, I didn’t know and connecting or just clowning each other, and telling a story about something hilarious that happened and laughing about it. It was so much fun, but I know that drew us even closer. And I appreciate that whether we weren’t deep in work. It’s not going to be a team meeting like today, but it was just a different space where we can just over food, just laugh with stories like that. And I think it helps to build a better team. I think that people want a stronger team there. There has to be space for that.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, I totally agree. Again, just going back to these employee check-ins that we’ve been doing, so many folks are just like, when can we get back together in person? So there was always that layer. It’s been challenging for us to stay connected remotely, but it’s also been a nice opportunity for creativity, right? So different little chat rooms are blown up in our practice where people are sharing different things. We have a jokes chat room and you just do the best you can. Clearly, people want that.

LaToya: Yeah, it’s enjoyable

Dr. Sharp: Yes, definitely enjoyable. I love this idea of storytelling, and just thinking about how we can do more of it and help our clients do more of it. At least for me, that’s really what an intake is for us because we’re not doing as much therapy. It’s really more, like I said, just testing and evaluation. So, it’s like, what is the story? What are these parents bringing into this experience? What does this kid believe about herself that we need to know about?

LaToya: That’s a good point though. A lot of it isn’t intake. It’s ongoing stories, but a lot of it you do grab that and I just want to hear whether it be from the client or the parent. I like that. I always loved that space. And that’s what I was saying to people when I was younger, always getting that from people that I want to hear more of that stuff. I don’t think it was being nosy. I think it was hearing the stories.

And I think too the more we have meetings like what my team did a week and a half ago, where we can be personable and talk, I think that helps to carry that over in other areas of our life when it comes to the session. Again, not being unethical in any way, but if we can relax and realize the power of this connection, that’s going to spill over in different areas. I think that’s important. 

Dr. Sharp: That’s so true. Do you have any thoughts or tips maybe for clinicians who might be listening and they’re like, how do I do this? This sounds foreign to me.  How do I bring more stories into my practice? Do you have any ideas on how people? 

LaToya: I would definitely say when it comes to, especially if they’re in a group practice like I was saying a minute ago, it’s the little moments like that. Like sitting around. Amazing things can happen with food. If you don’t know how, I bet you, first of all, do it anyway. And so maybe it’s just taking note of either it’d be like a coffee meeting with somebody. Well, I understand it’s COVID, but still, you know the pandemic, or meeting with the team or virtually. I bet you there’s way more storytelling going on and we know. And if we take those times and those spaces to kind of put the agenda aside, and maybe it’s just a time for connection, we’d be amazed at the amount of stories that we hear. 

And I think sometimes we got to be willing to come off the script. The same thing with sessions. If we go in with an agenda that is really not the client space, it’s ours and we’re just trying to get through it and take payment and get out of there. But if we get to the point where we’re like, listen, if we’re willing to come off the script.

I just heard this Sunday at church, my pastor was intentional to say, listen, we’re not going to do this right now. It’s time for healing. And there were people that needed hugs. They needed to hear apologies from other people and with this, space was created. It is there all the time, but it was intentional. And it was absolutely beautiful that we all shared in it.

And I think it’s just like that. Whether it be with the team, whether it be personally in our lives, whether it be with clients and saying, listen, let’s move that to the side. Where are you at? Even when I hear somebody’s voice, today, and listen, what’s going on? You know what? Let’s put that stuff to the side because you’re saying good, but that good is like, [sighs] and I need to know. So, what’s up with that good? 

And it’s really just leaning back. We do it anyway, but sometimes we do it with this agenda to get to where we need to go, or we do it and it’s like, okay. But really being present, I think it’s so powerful. And then once you go deeper, you don’t want to come back from that. You want to stay in that space with everybody.  So not being afraid to be present.

I can say for the therapist personally, in safe spaces with a team, not being afraid. Ask those questions like, well, how are you doing? Where are you from? Like when we were chatting. You’re from South Carolina, I’m from Jersey. Okay. Well, I know about snow. And that could have gone to different places from Colorado, snow, and Texas is beginning to snow. And then just chatting and being present and letting stories appear as they may without coming with a pocket full of stories. Like this is the story. I can’t wait to get to my Krispy Kreme story. I got to put it in there. No, let it flow and it’ll pop up somewhere. 

Dr. Sharp: I want to hear that story now. No, I’m with you. I like the way you frame it basically because I think we all hear, establish rapport, try to be yourself, and make a connection, but framing it like, this is your story and the client’s story makes a big difference. That makes it less clinical, certainly, and just more human.

It reminds me, I interviewed, I think it was a woman. Her name was Rita Eichenstein, and she said when she first meets with families, that’s how she opens, she says, tell me your story rather than what brought you in today or even tell me how I can help, but she says, tell me your story. I had forgotten about that until right now.

LaToya: I may have to start with that line, tell me your story. One thing I help clinicians with too is the idea of making sure they tell stories when it comes to presentations or Facebook lives. We did one last night where I was just talking with one of the therapists here. We did a Facebook live because she’s got groups for the superwoman complex. And we talked about that. And just listen, just tell a little bit of a story because it helps you connect with your audience because if we get right into…

That’s why with these Zooms. I don’t like coming back with a presentation and bullet points because I can’t see people’s faces. I need to see your face. But it helps to decrease that stress when you leave with a story. Now, I’m connected to you, as opposed to what are they talking about? And now you are on bullet points. We’re just 30 seconds in and you just did like 50 bullet points and a bunch of charts and I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if I tell a story, I grab my audience’s attention, they’re locked in and now we can flow because see now our hearts…

There’s this one person that talks about it. It’s almost like when you tell the story, you get in rhythm with somebody else, almost like synchronized swimming or dancing. So now that we’re talking and now we’re vibing in such a way that is like this rhythm and we’re connected as opposed to me being like, so anyway, and then I’m trying to catch up because I’m writing it and I’m looking. So that story in a presentation, if you leave with it, if you do  Facebook live and you connect with the story, people get locked in there as opposed to just many charts or anything like that.

Dr. Sharp: For sure. I’m just thinking, people who are listening, they’re like, I don’t know how to tell a story. I don’t know how to even be compelling or interesting. I know that people have those narratives going on. It’s funny to break it down like this when you’re talking about just like flowing and vibing and everything, but is there a way that people can get more comfortable being a storyteller in those situations?

LaToya: Sure. If you’re doing a presentation, you’re planning anyway, right? So you want the story to have some connection to what it is that you’re talking about. You want them to be able to lead right in. I think if you start with a story again, it grabs your audience’s attention. You want your story to be factual. You want to start at the high end of the story. So again, you don’t want to lead like, I woke up, I turned my alarm off. Do you know what I mean? Like, walk until you get to 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon when that’s the part of the story.

So you want to start at the height of the story, of course, and then be so engaging. You want to keep the details. You want to talk about the pain points. You want to talk about, just like any great movie, you want to start the height but do you want to lead up a little bit, the height, the pain points, and then how you’re changed because of it. It could be anything.

Well, how did you get strong? Well, listen, a camp gladiator had me out there running laps today and I had to do 50 lunges. I’m there at the 48 lunges, like what? I saw your eyes get big, like lunges. This is great. It could be anything, but you want to be able to connect with people starting at the height. How would you change because of it? And now what are you going to do differently afterward? And you want to tell stories, your audience can connect with.

So, I’m not going to tell a story about 6 inches of snow in Miami in the winter. Maybe they’re like, “Why are you telling me this story?” Unless it has something to do. Maybe they’re traveling up there or you guys can relate because we used to get all this snow, that may not be the story to tell. But if it’s about overcoming something, if it’s about trial, if it’s about what led me from here to Miami, then I would tell that story.

So I think it’s really about finding the story that you think connects to the audience. Speaking to your ideal client or speaking in the way that you want them to go and then also the pain point, like what was that moment? Because that’s the stuff people identify with, right? The most embarrassing time or how I got my business started. All the tears at first and now we rolling or the time or where I celebrate. Man, I overcame this and that’s the part that they want to grab hold to because now it’s like, listen, I don’t know anything else, but I know that emotion. Okay, now, how am I changed because of it? And now this is where I am, and this is where I want to help you get to.

And so, I think if people really map those things out and begin to when they share, post some stories, be personable. Let other people know that you are a human being, that you feel emotions and you’re not a robot, that you’ve gotten through situations, that you can identify with what’s going on. I don’t know your whole situation, but I know this emotion and then moving out from there.

Dr. Sharp: I love that. I think about the parallels with how we might write an About Me page on our website, for example. This is a great formula for telling the story there to me. A lot of times clients will try to connect with us there

LaToya: Definitely. I like what you said. What you wrote really spoke to me. I read that and I’m like, that’s why I’m calling you. When I’m calling, I want to speak to her because I read what she wrote when they called in. I love that. I love hearing that from people. 

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, for sure. I will say just from personal experience, the work that I do, especially on the consulting side, just took a huge leap when I edited my website. We were talking about it before we started recording, and told more of the story.  And it’s that story that starts, “Let me tell you about how I woke up depressed the day after my wedding” and then you’re like, oh, okay, let’s see what this is about. But that personal connection is huge.

LaToya: Yeah, I think so. It is.

Dr. Sharp: Yeah, the way that you describe it, it’s inspiring and I can tell that it’s something that means a lot to you. And the fact that you’ve taken it to another level, like this other platform to help people very actively tell their stories is so amazing. 

LaToya: I enjoy it.

Dr. Sharp: Good. We’ll have links to all that stuff in the show notes so that people can check it out. I think that’s super cool. What else? Are there other aspects of storytelling or even creativity that are important to you that you’d like to talk with folks about the way that we maybe haven’t chatted about?

LaToya: I think I touched on the most significant parts, especially the healing piece. That’s the part I love. And you know what, one last thing on storytelling and I hit on an admittedly, but really the listening part, because just to keep in mind that when people are sharing their stories with you, how important that is, because sometimes we’re the first person they told it to or sometimes it takes a whole lot for them to amp up and get ready to share.

So whether it be a therapist like amongst the team in the practices are in, and we’re talking about building a team and connecting with each other, whether it be a client who’s saying something, not to take that for granted when they share something to be the first time they say it, that’s huge. Or the first session and unloading so much, that’s huge. There are people out there that have nobody. They’ll say, I really don’t have anybody to talk to. And so the idea that they share that with me, I don’t take that for granted because I think that’s special. So really when it comes to storytelling, I talk a lot about the speaker and the power of our words, but that listener is so important. 

Dr. Sharp: That’s so true. It’s so easy to forget that. We do this every day, multiple times a day, right? But for that person, for that client or that parent or whomever that kid, it’s like, maybe this is their shot. This is that thing that they’ve been losing sleep over for two weeks since they knew their appointment was coming up or that they’re worried that we’re going to judge them or whatever it might be or say they’re crazy. So, I think that’s something that we always got to stay aware of. It’s easy to forget though. These are special moments.

My Gosh, I found out we started out our conversation and I was hoping to talk with you about… I know you’re doing a lot of work around inclusivity and anti-racism in your practice, that’s a big deal also. Our time is really flying and I don’t know if I want to dig into that with not a ton of time left. 

LaToya: It’s okay. We don’t have to do that if you don’t.

Dr.Sharp: Okay everyone. Thank you as always for checking out this episode with LaToya.

Like I said at the beginning, this definitely took a different direction than I was thinking and I think it turned out really, really well. LaToya is so genuine. And I had a really good time talking with her and thought about this interview for quite a while. I still think about this interview, things that we talked about.

Like you could tell, we cut off our conversation there toward the end as we transitioned over to talking about inclusivity and anti-racist practices. Be on the lookout for that content in a future episode. You do not want to miss that.

And if you are a beginner practice owner and you’d like some support and accountability as you launch your practice, check out the Beginner Practice Mastermind which is launching on March 11th. You can get more information at thetestingpsychologist.com/beginner and schedule a pre-group call to figure out if it’s a good fit.

Okay, everybody. I hope you’re all doing well. Take care. I’ll see you next time.

The information contained in this podcast and on The Testing Psychologist website is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this podcast or on the website is intended to be a substitute for professional, psychological, psychiatric, or medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please note that no doctor-patient relationship is formed here, and similarly, no supervisory or consultative relationship is formed between the host or guests of this podcast and listeners of this podcast. If you need the qualified advice of any mental health practitioner or medical provider, please seek one in your area. Similarly, if you need supervision on clinical matters, please find a supervisor with expertise that fits your needs.

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