Imagine if your family could talk about conflict in a way where everyone involved felt heard, cared for and supported; with each of you joined by your own therapist, who brings compassion and respect for everyone involved.Gennifer and Noreen talk to Tan...
Imagine if your family could talk about conflict in a way where everyone involved felt heard, cared for and supported; with each of you joined by your own therapist, who brings compassion and respect for everyone involved.
Gennifer and Noreen talk to Tanya Cole-Lesnick, LCSW-R, an expert in navigating family dynamics, about The Nest — an incredibly supportive and nurturing opportunity innovated at The Lighthouse Retreat & Wellness Center located in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. We chat about The Nest as an integrated family therapy experience that offers an alternative to more traditional programs. Some of their tools include:
⭐ 💚 ⭐ In-the-moment live journaling: where clients can capture situations as they are being felt (vs a week later after processing it). This allows the individual sessions to focus on the deeper work so time isn’t wasted on catching up.
⭐ 💚 ⭐ Being a Professional Witness:* where the therapists bring their professional training and relationship with their client to the group meeting and at the same time hold space for this experience on behalf of the client and the therapeutic relationship. *name coined by Noreen in an aha moment
⭐ 💚 ⭐ Loving support: from the therapists, not just for their clients, but for all individual family members involved, making this a very inclusive, collaborative experience to help a family heal and move forward together.
We hope this conversation inspires curiosity and wonder
about new ways to thrive.
Disclaimer: Everything we share here is for educational purposes. We are not providing medical, psychiatric, or psychological advice or treatment. Please seek out professional help immediately if you're experiencing any serious psychological or psychiatric conditions.
Noreen: [00:00:27] Hello, YPMers! It’s Noreen. Holiday season 2020 is just about here and I think almost all of us would agree that anything that gets us closer to the end of this year should be celebrated. Yet the season's going to be different from any other we've known. As we're all pioneering new ways for family to connect , it's a safe bet that gratitude is not the only emotion that's going to come up.
[00:00:51] As we've said before, Gennifer and I, and the whole YPM community, are here to support you as you all invite more grace, ease and joy into your life. And, we acknowledged that perhaps not everyone in your immediate world does as well. As you shed what doesn't serve you to embrace what does, there's often pushback from those you love. That's why we asked Tanya Cole-Lesnik here today. She's a licensed clinical social worker with The Lighthouse Retreat and Wellness Center.
[00:01:20] She's going to talk to us about family dynamics and the entrenched dance that so many of us can find ourselves in. She also goes into an innovative integrative approach to family therapy that they've pioneered at The Lighthouse, called the Nest.
[00:01:37]Let us know what you think. Leave a message by clicking on the mic icon on the lower right of our homepage at yourpracticalmagic.com.
[00:01:45] While you're there, make sure that you're subscribed to our biweekly newsletter and to the podcast itself. That way you'll receive it automatically every two weeks.
Now, let's dive into what happens when you go into the n est to learn a fresh new family dance.
Off we go.
Gennifer: [00:02:01] Hi YPMers! It's Gennifer and I'm here today with Noreen and our special guest, Tanya Cole-Lesnick. She’s [00:02:10] a licensed clinical social worker with The Lighthouse Retreat and Wellness Center, which is located in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Thank you for joining us, Tanya.
Tanya: [00:02:21] Hello. Thank you so much. It's really exciting to be here.
Noreen: [00:02:25] We're excited that you've joined us today. We're going to have a really interesting conversation, not only about Lighthouse and the services they offer, but really something innovative that they've put together called The Nest. That's your little teaser.
[00:02:38]I'd love to know just a little bit about The Lighthouse. The name is so evocative of what you guys are trying to do. And are you focused primarily or entirely on mental health and how do you approach that?
Tanya: [00:02:50] So The Lighthouse was started by Cathy Anesi. She's the founder, the owner, the director. She put it together and, I think, was interested in alternative healing practices just supporting different ways of helping individuals and being a resource for our community. She's brought together some amazing therapists. We all have different styles and different specialties.
[00:03:16] One therapist specializes more with teenagers and parenting. Another one does a lot of bodywork and young 20-something-year-olds, mostly. Cathy and I work with adults, but then we bring everybody together and work with families and do groups. And Cathy does Reiki and there's some integrative movement therapy.
We just started a live journal, so we're always trying to add different tools that we think can support growth and work and going deep. We do not shy away from deep work.
Noreen: [00:03:54] These are my people. Yes!
Gennifer: [00:03:57] Yeah, exactly.
Tanya: [00:03:58] Yeah.
Noreen: [00:03:59] That's so interesting, ‘cause I love what you're saying in terms of — it's kind of a classic model, in that there's individual one on one sessions — but you're adding this community approach, growing a holistic supportive community.
[00:04:13] So that comes with the classes and the online work that you guys are doing and the journaling, which, please tell us more about that. What is the live journal?
Tanya: [00:04:20] We've been doing it for a number of months actually, but we just launched it as an actual service that we offer. Technically, it's a Google document, but it's shared between therapist and individual. And so the client can write in it as much as they want, and the therapist will respond three to five days a week.
[00:04:42]Then, during sessions we're caught up, number one. Number two, they speak about perhaps things they feel a little vulnerable about; so they might be a little shyer to bring some of that stuff up in session.
[00:04:56] But with writing, it feels a little bit safer, so we can go deeper. And also when somebody's in an emotional moment and they're having that experience, they can write about that So that, as a therapist, you can see what that looks like instead of them telling you about it a week later, when you have the emotional distance.
Noreen: [00:05:16] And it's already been processed a little bit or repackaged or anything along those lines. Hmm, that is — I've never heard of that, and that is a really, really smart idea. When you said live journal, I did not think that, the transparency that's there, you know, the trust building between the client and the therapist.
Gennifer: [00:05:32] That's incredible.
Tanya: [00:05:34] The trust building, absolutely… Learning more… Also, it makes the sessions a little bit more focused on the deeper work because you're not doing all the catching up. For clients, sometimes I think they, they know they want to work on stuff, but they're not quite sure where to begin, and so if we've been following along with what's going on, then we can get right into that work.
Noreen: [00:05:58] It really helps you as a diagnostic tool as well, because you're really knowing where people are at. And if they want to spend 40 minutes eating up their session or, you know, they want to clear the deck and dive in. That's cool.
Tanya: [00:06:12] Yeah.
Gennifer: [00:06:13] If you were, you know, working with a family and they're all doing this, do you have different prompts for the younger kids versus the older, or is it just open dialogue in the journal and write whatever you want?
Tanya: [00:06:24] It is a newer tool, so I've only done it with adults. One of the other therapists might've done it with some younger people, but, it's customized. Really, you start a little bit free-form and then see how they do with the free-form and if that stuff just comes up, great.
[00:06:41] But then you're looking for triggers. You're looking for patterns. Then you can do prompts as well. So that can be added as you identify what's going to be most helpful... and shift. You can shift from it too; it could be, 'Let's focus on your inner critic for a little while.’ And so just even having a heading, 'Inner Critic,' so each day the person remembers to touch on how the inner critic showed up for that day. And so that becomes the prompt, and then when you feel like that's started to ease up and that's not the primary focus so much anymore, you can change and shift.
Gennifer: [00:07:19] It really is a great idea. And so that's stuff that you were also rolling into The Nest program as well?
Tanya: [00:07:24] Probably more in the individual work, which will make that work more thorough, which makes The Nest program more effective. Because the more we know our clients, the more we address what needs to get addressed for each one of them, the more we learn what their truth is.
[00:07:41] And that's what this tool can help us do, is really get to the deeper stuff, learn what the truth is. Then the more we can support the process when we're in session together.
Gennifer: [00:07:52] So when you guys are working individually with your clients and then you come together as a group again, are the stories usually consistent or do you see any changes when they start repeating that stuff in front of everybody? Or how does that work?
Tanya: [00:08:06] That's a really good question. Honestly, I think that's why Nest is so powerful. Because I think what happens if, if you have a separate family therapist all together, then they will present differently, probably, with a different person, but that person doesn't know them on the level of individual therapy.
[00:08:26] So they can't really call them on that necessarily because they won't know some of the other levels of their truth. So when we're in a Nest session, one of my clients, for example, might shy away from being as honest about some of their frustrations or something like that during a session. So depending on where we are in our work together, it might be something that I would push separately when we’re [in] individual.
[00:08:57] So that when we come back to a Nest session, they're ready. And that client knows that they're going to get a bit of a push if they don't do it. Or, it could be, depending on the relationship and where we are during the session, I could even say, I feel like you told me something different about this and kind of encourage them to say more and it could help them get to that more raw expression.
Noreen: [00:09:25] I love that. It's just, it's really so dynamic and fluid. So it really is just this, group, family dynamic exercise in presence. There’s, in the best sense, nowhere to hide.
Tanya: [00:09:42] Right. That's exactly right. Yeah. So we really can get to what's real. I think it can be easy to hide in therapy. Or, or, perhaps you're honest in individual, but not honest in couples, or not honest in family, because it feels scarier to say some of those truths. So it helps to go to that place with support, with time to process, with a shared experience too. Because if I had a client in family therapy that I wasn't a part of, I would hear about it, probably, something about it, but I would not get the nuance. I would not be able to observe the dynamics. And so my ability to use that in our sessions is very limited. By my being there, it’s very powerful, ‘cause I can say that wasn't my experience or you were different or whatever it might be.
Noreen: [00:10:45] It's a bit of a hybrid. What I would call it is professional witness. You're bringing your professional training and your relationship with your client.
[00:10:55] And at the same time, there's this important, almost amorphous aspect of, of being witness and holding space for this experience and experiencing it yourself in that real way.
[00:11:07] Hearing you say that — it’s so fascinating that the standard paradigm is to have two different experiences, an individual therapist and a family therapist. It really makes no sense to me. It's kind of intriguing that you innovated this model.
Tanya: [00:11:23] I actually do both. I do couples therapy and I do Nest, but the more we've done this, the more I find myself even gravitating more towards Nest. As a therapist to two people in a couple,
[00:11:37] I think that there is, even when you're seeing them separately, ‘cause I do that a lot in my couples’ work, there's a slightly more neutrality. Whereas in Nest, when you're only — you have your individual, then there's a little bit more just candid for that one person and that one person's work and then you come together with that individual. So it just feels more stable. And I think we're able to push our individual clients a little bit more towards their truth, which we get to learn when we are with them separately.
[00:12:13]The other thing I was going to say about [the[ individual therapist who does family therapy as well, is that's usually the model when there's one person as an identified client. And then you bring the family in, but what we're finding is it's not that one person is the problem.
Noreen: [00:12:34] Of course not.
Tanya: [00:12:35] There's this dance dynamics stuff that just gotten developed over the lifetime of this family. And The Nest allows us to really help each family member and support what they each need and what their truth is and what they each need to face — all of that. So again, it's just more stable and I think it, it addresses the need in a, just a more consistent, bigger way.
Gennifer: [00:13:04] It must be so healing for the individuals to feel like they have someone who's devoted to them to be like, I, you know, that you're witnessing what I've been telling you, you know? And experiencing…
Tanya: [00:13:15] Yeah.
Gennifer: [00:13:16] I'm going to bring my family. [laughing] That's really incredible. It really is.
Tanya: [00:13:20] I think that, and I also think what happens too, is, as therapists, we connect to the other clients that are not our individual clients in a different way.
[00:13:31] So we might support somebody or want to hear something, and that also is so powerful.
Gennifer: [00:13:39] And there must be a lot of trust between you and the other practitioners. There can't be any competitiveness or anything between the four of you or however many there are.
Tanya: [00:13:47] That's huge. We really have a very collaborative approach just in the work that we do. We meet twice a week and talk together as a team. Talk about what we each need in our work as individuals, what we might be working on with families that we share, where might be stuck. We all do our emotional work. We're all aware of that question, like, is that something you need to work on or is that something the client needs? Using that collaboration to help us get really clear about that.
Noreen: [00:14:23] So, how did you guys come up with this?
Tanya: [00:14:26] I think really what started this was the fact that as clinicians, we did start to work with different members of families. So that's where it kind of started separately. We had individual clients, different members of the families. And then often, it might be a question in traditional therapy, ‘Who's going to do the family session?’, that kind of thing.
[00:14:49] Maybe the issue is coming from the kid, maybe that kid's therapist would be the one who would have the family session. But I think what happened is when we were exploring that question even, the family that sort of started this off was a complicated family that had some really tough issues and
[00:15:10] we had a gut sense that together we would do a much better job than we would separately. And so somehow that became part of what we decided. ‘Well, let's just do it together.’ And we started to do that and realize how powerful it was and do different combinations it's really been such a more telling way of what's needed that we can get much more quickly to the heart of things.
Noreen: [00:15:40] You know, it's funny that you say the heart of it. ‘Cause I was thinking what you said earlier about helping people go deep and live in their truth, and then you add the heart component and that's really the integrative work that we're all trying to do. I call it the marriage of the intellect and the intuition.
Tanya: [00:15:56] Yeah. You were talking about how the team itself has to really trust each other, and that's very true. And not only trust each other as clinicians, but trust that we each have something different and special to offer and that our styles are different and unique.
[00:16:13] So there's something that's so nice about the parallel experience of us communicating healthfully, um, really honoring each individual and trusting and moving forward together as a group and then sitting with families who we want to help do something similar, although obviously it's not a real family, but it feels often like that.
Gennifer: [00:16:37] I know therapy is all year long, but, um, do you find like an uptick around holidays or certain times a year where there just seems to be more stress in general, around the pressures of performing as a family if you will, at functions or…?
Noreen: [00:16:52] Or just after holidays. [laughing]
Gennifer: [00:16:53] Yes.
Tanya: [00:16:54] Right. Definitely our time, and we'll see what happens in COVID holiday time. COVID has definitely been a thing. All the homeschooling that people have had to deal with, all the togetherness that people have had to deal with; stressors have surfaced that may have stayed a little quieter if people were going out and about.
Noreen: Your outlets, I guess, to blow off steam, you know, and kind of reset, are not available. But in a way that's great, because you know, they do get to take a, a clearer look and make a decision to, to improve the dynamics, to heal. [00:17:35] That's very cool.
Can a family member be part of The Nest if they're not in individual therapy?
Tanya: [00:17:41] That is a good question; one that we are exploring actually as a team. We're trying to figure out where we insist on certain things, because we recommend it as clinicians, versus what's going to support the family. So, I think we're looking sometimes to encourage people towards individual therapy; it's gonna help do a stronger job. But sometimes, if that's not going to happen, it's still helpful to have the Nest session.
I’ve done it with a parent; that one parent's in therapy, the other parent wasn't in therapy and the kid was in therapy, that kind of situation. Or, we've done it when somebody had been in therapy with us, but hadn’t been in therapy in a while,
[00:18:39] and then coming together as a Nest session and then, perhaps moving towards therapy. So there've been a couple of situations where somebody who's a little bit more in and out, like maybe in a parenting session. We do recommend but we understand that it's not always something that somebody would choose. It’s still powerful.
Noreen: [00:19:01] Yeah, that's what I was thinking… if there's just that one resistant member of the family, but someone who is invested enough to maybe show up and help —help the others, you know, ‘cause they're fine.
Gennifer: [00:19:13] Exactly.
Noreen: [00:19:15] I feel like I want to ask this question in anticipation for the audience, bt how does this differ from an intervention?
Tanya: I've never done one, but I see an intervention as something where you bring people that matter to somebody together to really give them a wake up call, as best you can. And everybody's together, putting their emotional experience with that person to help that person see why they need to go towards some kind of treatment, because they're in trouble.
Tanya: [00:19:47] This is more…seeing entrenched patterns in a family. Seeing… really the stuckness in it, right? So we can see things cycle around and around and they're kind of in this… everybody does a dance, every family does a dance, everybody does a certain kind of a dance.
[00:20:04] And so we see that happening and so we offer kind of a different way in. It's not a one shot deal, it's a process, but we may not do it as often as the individual. So maybe there's a Nest session. We see how that goes. See what people, how they shift from having that experience, if at all, we come back again, do another Nest session... I think an intervention is designed to be very harsh because the role is really to get somebody to be…moved, and it's somebody who's been struggling to recognize that on their own.
Noreen: [00:20:44] Right. Really at a certain point, it's like, do you care enough about us to make this change?
Tanya: [00:20:50] Yeah, exactly.
[00:20:52] Nest is — there's more buy in, usually. People who are doing Nest, they recognize the dance. They know that they've got entrenched issues. The’re frustrated by them and maybe feel a sense of, ‘Ooh, I don't know what's going to help.’ And so it's a chance to give something, I think, a try, that feels bigger. And then, when we do it, I think typically people realize that there's some power to it. They can feel the strength in that. People feel heard and, listen, it’s not always easy… I mean, it can be sort of intimidating as well, and there can be some difficult things to face.
Noreen: [00:21:33] To me, that is the takeaway; that support that you're providing is allowing people to go to difficult places that might have otherwise been ignored or just become a place of apathy. So you're really letting them get in there as a family, you know, obviously really. And be listened and heard. It's kind of like your, the, um, accessory kit, you know, like we need ad-ons here.
Tanya: [00:22:01] Right. Yeah.
Gennifer: [00:22:03] That's funny.
Tanya: [00:22:04] I think you're right about that. And I think too, when we decide, when we would recommend Nest, we want to make sure people are ready for it. And I think those relationships have to be built. Some trust has to be there and some vision has to be there about why are we doing this…
[00:22:22] what are we going towards? How can we support what this family needs, as just a next step. It's very organic. So we can't really go much beyond the next step. And then we reassess and see where we’re at.
Noreen: [00:22:36] That makes sense. And you started to share what you've experienced people getting out of it. How do we know that someone has, flown the nest, you know, and that they've, they've taken something away?
Tanya: [00:22:47] I think usually what happens is people live in their truth without so much butting heads. Because what happens when somebody is in individual therapy… as somebody starts to identify what their truth is and start to speak up about it, there's a lot of pushback, especially with parent-child dynamic or couples.
[00:23:08]People are maybe starting to have more of a voice, but there's not a ton of harmony yet.
[00:23:15] What this allows for is to show the process of honoring each person going deep. And then, as that becomes the norm in this process, I think people get a little bit more aware of what the discomfort feels like, that’s actually healing and productive and they can tolerate that a little bit more. And what it means to go towards your truth and what it means for your partner to go through their truth or your child to go towards their truth. And so then, it becomes a little bit less, of the butting heads experience.
Gennifer: [00:23:58] It's more honest and loving and supportive. Is there anything else you want to share Tanya?
Tanya: [00:24:03] I guess the only thing that I'm not sure if I said a lot about is just that the group therapy is also a form of the individual work we do with people. They have various alternatives. We have a lot of groups also that we offer.
Noreen: [00:24:18] Do the groups tend to be thematic, you know, whether it's mothers or teens going to college…
Tanya: [00:24:26] Yes. We have one group, ‘Pearls for Girls,’ which is teens. Then we have another one called ‘Flourish,’ which is for young twenties (around.) I do a group called the ‘Inner Circle,’ which is for adult women. And I just am launching a new one that's combining with the live journal so that we can really go deep, quickly.
[00:24:50] Cathy does a group called ‘Time,’ that is for adult women and goes through alot of journaling, self care, trauma history stuff, so…
Noreen: [00:25:04] How would her Time group differ from your female adult group?
Tanya: [00:25:08] Hers is more, I think, trying to look at stories that they've been carrying through their lives, by doing some journaling and getting into the stories and seeing where those stories have interfered with how they live their lives and different thought patterns, she would do a better job of explaining it. Whereas mine is a little bit more like, the stories as they're coming up in their day to day life, so it's a little bit more — not that hers isn't present time, but she's connecting it much more directly to the past stories.
Noreen: That's cool. I was just curious.
Gennifer: [00:25:50] Nice. So, Tanya, one thing we do with our guests is ask some James Lipton-type questions to know you a little bit better. Well, I'm going to start off with one of my favorites, which is, what advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Tanya: [00:26:06] Ah, my 20-year-old self. Oh God. I think I would say just trust yourself. You're fine. ‘Cause I used to worry so much and now it's like, ‘Oh my God, just be listened to yourself. Trust yourself.’
Gennifer: [00:26:23] That's beautiful — and true. I agree. I agree with the advice you were giving to yourself!
Where do you see yourself in 30 years from now Tanya?
Tanya: [00:26:33] Honestly, I feel like I'm still going to be doing some form of this work, even though I'll be quite old then! Let's say 30 years from now, I'm going to be 85 then. So to really be continuing… maybe live journals will continue to be a thing, maybe. I don't know, but I feel like I, this work feels like a calling to me and I love it. Also, some beautiful house somewhere and very relaxed and probably with a dog and my husband, and grandkids by then.
Gennifer: [00:27:09] What's your favorite time of day?
Tanya: [00:27:12] My favorite time of day? I feel like… late morning, you know? I just, I feel fresher then, than later in the day, but not too tired. ‘Cause I'm not really a morning person. But late morning I feel a nice sense of ease.
Noreen: [00:27:34] Sweet!
Can you think of a time where the practical and the magic collided in your life?
Tanya: [00:27:40] You know, it's funny. The thing that's coming to my mind is… years ago, I went to some organizational conference. It was like this Franklin Covey system...
Noreen: [00:27:52] We know those!
Gennifer: [00:27:54] We trained in those.
Tanya: [00:27:56] And so I just never knew that what I learned in there would help me feel clear about my goals and what I want. There was just something about that process that helped me feel confidence
[00:28:14] and being on top of things and, really the letting go that happens from that, because then I don't feel worried or disorganized about certain things, cause I I'm clear about how to hold all that information together.
Noreen: [00:28:31] That's so cool. That's such a fun, great answer. We'll put a circle and a check on that one! [laughing]
Gennifer: [00:28:37] Yes.
Noreen: [00:28:39] …inside Franklin joke.
Gennifer: [00:28:40] Or an arrow to delegate it to tomorrow.
Noreen: [00:28:46] Um, let's see, what's your best new discovery and you can answer however you would like.
Tanya: [00:28:53] Really, it’s the live journal. It's the live journal. Being able to get closer to the deep stuff more quickly, more consistently. Really; it feels like gold in a way that feels so much quicker and targeted.
Gennifer: What is your favorite word Tanya?
Tanya: [00:29:13] It’s funny, I think about that a lot. I think, ‘Oh, if I had a band, what would I name it?’ Not that I'm even musical, but I think, ‘It's gotta be a good word. Right?’ I'm really into words. Um, I don't know what my favorite word is, but I would say the word cozy. I just love that feeling so much that there's something about... that.
Gennifer: [00:29:42] Tied to your nest.
Tanya: [00:29:44] Right. Right.
Noreen: [00:29:45] Tied to the nest!
Noreen: [00:29:48] And it's funny. I was going to say, that’s the transition to our last question, which is, what brings you home?
Tanya: [00:29:55] When I'm with family we — my husband and I — have two daughters that are grown and the four of us are not together all the time. But when we’re together and often going out to dinner or just sitting on the couch together, that’s the best.
Gennifer: [00:30:13] That's so nice.
Noreen: [00:30:15] That's really beautiful. Thank you for sharing with us.
Gennifer: Tanya. With COVID, I would imagine that you aren't really able to do as much in-person family therapy or Nest sessions… how are you doing with virtual? How is that working?
Tanya: [00:30:29] Yeah, we're doing everything virtually. So we do most things through Zoom. We always encourage people if we're doing Nest, for everybody to have their own little square. So we are available now, worldwide.
Noreen: [00:30:43]How's it feeling, to be doing individuals, and groups, and Nests virtually?
Tanya: [00:30:46] Feeling good. I think, at first, it felt very tiring ‘cause just being on the computer for such a long time. But we've all adjusted. I think we really like it. The work feels just as deep, honestly, and being able to see people in their home environments, it just helps give us that much more information. Who has a private space, who gets interrupted, that kind of thing, is also really helpful.
Gennifer: [00:31:14] Yeah, I can imagine.
Noreen: [00:31:15] Extra info.
Gennifer: [00:31:17] I am sure that people want to know a lot more about this information. How can they reach you or learn more about The Lighthouse?
Tanya: [00:31:24] Check out our website and then it's got all the contact information. www.The lighthouseretreat.com and our phone number: 914-589-7188.
Gennifer: [00:31:43] Tanya, this has been such a pleasure. I am so glad that we got to learn more about this. It sounds really fascinating, and because this is something that really everyone can use.
Noreen: [00:31:52] It's a very cool integrative approach. And I think it's very eye opening for a lot of people. And we're really happy that you shared it with us today. Thank you.
Tanya: [00:31:59] Thank you both so much. This has been a lot of fun and I - you can tell that I'm excited about it so I love an opportunity to talk about it.
Noreen: [00:32:07]It makes sense that you are. You're really helping. It's actually exponential. So that's it for this episode, YPMers! Until next time.