Photo ID: In front of a brick wall: a blue couch missing cushions next to a red bench with a photo of Rwenshaun Miller to one side and text overlay

Being a Therapist on Both Sides of the Couch, An Interview with Rwenshaun Miller, MA, LCMHC, NCC

An interview with Rwenshaun Miller, LCMHC, where he shares what therapists get wrong when understanding the client perspective and how to genuinely connect with clients. Curt and Katie chat with Rwenshaun about tough questions on racial bias in diagnosing and the impact of systemic structures in Black and brown communities. They also discuss a vision for an ideal mental health system and suggestions for how to start advocating for change.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

Interview with Rwenshaun Miller, MA, LCMHC, NCC

Photo ID: Rwenshaun MillerRwenshaun Miller is an accomplished author, motivational speaker, counselor, consultant and philanthropist who has dedicated his life and career to, not only reshaping the negative connotations often associated with mental health, but also directly impacting the lives of those living with mental health challenges. Of all his accolades and roles, Mr. Miller proudly first serves as a Mental Health Change Agent. As a result, Mr. Miller has globally impacted the lives of many through his awareness efforts.

Mr. Miller’s relentless passion and commitment derived from his personal experience living with Bipolar Disorder. Through his journey, Mr. Miller initially encountered similar challenges many face, including that of acceptance of a mental health diagnosis. Eventually, Mr. Miller decided to not allow this diagnosis to define and debilitate him realizing that Bipolar Disorder is not what defines who he is. Thus, he embarked on a path to help uplift, empower, encourage and teach others who live with mental health challenges how to “thrive” in life.

In this episode we talk about client perspective, racial bias and more:

  • Rwenshaun’s story of encountering systemic barriers while facing his own mental health challenges and how he uses his experience as a client to inform his work as a therapist as well as educate other therapists.
  • Looking at “both sides of the couch” and bridging the differences between what we learn as clients and what we are taught to do as therapists.
  • Discussion of what therapists do wrong when it comes to understanding the client perspective.

One of the first things [therapists get wrong] is treating a client like a client and not a person….[trying] to put everybody on one particular box, but those things are not necessarily true, especially when you’re dealing with different types of populations, and from different cultures and just different backgrounds.” – Rwenshaun Miller, LCMHC

  • The utility of diagnosing as well as problems with treating someone like a diagnosis (impact on self-perspective, living up to the diagnosis, etc.)
  • Examining how inherent white bias shows up in diagnosing and how to consider environmental factors when conceptualizing a client’s behavior.
  • Exploration of how systemic structures impact the mental health of BIPOC youth and the need to challenge the systems that hold these individuals back.
  • Looking at ways to step outside the box of conventional therapy techniques to meet client’s where they are at and connect with them as a person (engaging clients in video games, basketball, yoga, etc.).

“I always tell my clients that ‘I’m not here to fix you, and you’re not gonna get all of the answers in this hour-long session so you need to actually do the work outside of therapy.’ And that’s something that I realized that I had to do.” — Rwenshaun Miller, LCMHC

  • Discussion of how to set the stage for therapy to ensure it is comfortable for the therapist and client.

“I’m an expert in certain things, but I’m gonna [rely on] you to be an expert in your own life, and then me to help guide you through those particular things. So that’s when you really set that tone. And they’ll be like, ‘Alright, this person is going to walk with me instead of drag me, pull me or push me.'” – Rwenshaun Miller, LCMHC

  • Exploration of how the stigma of mental health has changed in BIPOC communities and what is needed to change systemically to continue reducing the stigma.
  • Envisioning an ideal for how therapists and systemic structures can support the mental health needs of society, along with examining current barriers and how work to reduce them.
  • The importance of advocating for preventative care to improve mental health care.

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Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Rwenshaun’s website

Eustress Inc.

Eustressin Journal

Injured Reserve: A Black Man’s Playbook To Manage Being Sidelined By Mental Illness

Twitter: @Rwenshaun

Facebook: Rwenshaun Miller

Instagram: @Rwenshaun

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

Therapists in Therapy

Black Mental Health

It’s NOT a Chemical Imbalance

Ally is a Verb

Therapy is a Political Act

Let’s Talk About Race

Cultural Humility and White Fatigue

The Person of the Therapist

What Clients Want


Who we are:

Picture of Curt Widhalm, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcast; a nice young man with a glorious beard.Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Picture of Katie Vernoy, LMFT, co-host of the Modern Therapist's Survival Guide podcastKatie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):

Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).

… 0:00
(Opening Advertisement)

Announcer 0:00
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm, and Katie Vernoy.

Curt Widhalm 0:15
Welcome back modern therapists, this is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast where we talk about all things therapists: things that we do the things that go on in our personal lives. And we are once again today joined by one of our Therapy, Reimagined 2021 speakers, Rwenshaun Miller. And sometimes we know some of the people who are applying to speak for us. Sometimes, we get really amazing people coming from everywhere who somehow find out about us. And when I saw Shaun’s application, we were like, Oh, we’ve got to have this guy. He’s amazing. And so really loving getting a chance to know some of our faculty that’s coming to our conference and can be presenting to us. So thank you very much for joining us here today.

Rwenshaun Miller 1:08
I appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

Katie Vernoy 1:11
We are so excited to have you and the first question that we ask all of our guests: Who are you? And what are you putting out into the world?

Rwenshaun Miller 1:19
Rwenshaun Miller, a therapist based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. I also founded Eustress Inc, which is my nonprofit, to raise mental health awareness and black and brown communities. That’s one of the major things that I’m putting out into the world trying to be who I needed when I was younger, and being able to address those issues, especially within my community.

Curt Widhalm 1:38
Part of what you’re talking about at our conference here is a little bit of this both sides of the couch aspect of both the perspectives that we learn as clients and maybe some of the stuff that doesn’t line up with what we’re taught as therapists and helping to bridge those two differences. So one of the learning questions that we ask, so a lot of people don’t have to make those same mistakes that we have is what do we see therapists do wrong when it comes to understanding a client’s perspective?

Rwenshaun Miller 2:06
Oh, that’s a loaded question, Curt. I will say one of the first things is treating a client like a client and not a person. And not being able to understand you know that there are different layers to just the things that we see presented from an aspect of how we diagnose someone, and how we treat them, as far as what type of treatments are adequate for whatever symptoms they’re presenting. So I think that’s the probably the number one case, because a lot of times, we base a lot of things just off of the DSM, or things that we learned in your diagnosing class, and, you know, assessment class, and all of that. And we tried to put everybody on one particular box, but those things are not necessarily true, especially when you’re dealing with different types of populations, and from different cultures and just different backgrounds.

Katie Vernoy 2:55
What do you think, is the biggest problem with treating someone like a diagnosis?

Rwenshaun Miller 2:59
Oh, man, you miss signs, and you miss things that can be actually effective for that particular client. And it may, you know, keep them into that particular box. You’re not able to allow them to grow, but then also, the client will get stuck into that box too, because I’ve seen people when they receive a certain diagnosis, they will act up to the diagnosis, instead of trying to be better. When you start to treat people just based off of their diagnosis, you will miss a lot of stuff.

Curt Widhalm 3:29
One of the things that you’re doing with Eustress, and a lot of your work is working within black and brown communities. And some of the stuff that I’ve seen on your social media, I heard some of your talks that are available on YouTube is about some of the ways that even some of these diagnostics appear differently across different cultures. Katie and I are pretty white.

Katie Vernoy 3:53
Really white. I think…

Curt Widhalm 3:54
We’re we’re really, we’re really white. We know, we know that there’s a lot of inherent white bias, even in stuff like diagnostics. How are we seeing stuff even like trauma and some of these diagnostics coming across in different cultures?

Rwenshaun Miller 4:09
Oh, man, another loaded question. I would say a lot of times, like even we miss certain things, as far as so I always give this example of, you know, ODD, as far as oppositional defiant disorder, and you you base everything off of a kid that’s, you know, in school, and you just get the criteria based off of, you know, what the teacher says: Oh, the kid doesn’t want to listen in school, or they’re talking junk or they’re talking back or, you know, they’re hitting on other people, or they’re defiant to the different rules. For me, I first of all, look at you know, well, what’s the home structure like? Maybe he’s living in a single parent house, and mom works two or three jobs just to make ends meet. And so when he gets out of school, even though he may be 10 years old, he’s like, you know, I am the man of the house and I get to do whatever I want when I want to do it, so if I’m governing myself from three o’clock to midnight, when my mom gets off of work, why wouldn’t I do the same thing when I go to school. You know, so you taking in those cultural factors that may play a role in there, and yeah, there may be some, you know, defiance there. But then there are other things that play into it. It’s not just that he wants to be that way, but that’s how he lives his life. That’s how he lives in this survival mode. And you know, certain things he understands, this is how I need to act. And if I don’t step up for myself, and you know, refute certain things, it can lead to something damaging for me outside of the school setting. So it’s kind of hard for some people to separate those things. So being when you’re when you’re not paying attention to, you know, the different cultural backgrounds, or the settings that they’re dealing with. Even some of my kids that I work with, when they come in into school, they may not have had any food. You think about when you don’t eat, if you haven’t eaten and 12 hours, think about how angry and you don’t feel like dealing with people. So imagine someone that only food do they get is when they come to school, or if school is and now saying that we’re in a pandemic school has been out for a year and a half. So what are these kids doing now? So you think about all of those, just those different factors, and then also what things do you deal with? What do the kids deal with outside of that, hour therapy that with you.

Curt Widhalm 6:23
Katie and I both worked in various aspects in South LA, which is a predominantly black community within Los Angeles. And I worked in some of the schools there for the better part of a year. And one of the things that I even noticed was just even the way that some of the systems interact with young black men. I live in the suburbs of LA, it’s not the same kinds of interactions with law enforcement, where even just kind of the survival mechanisms of you know, hey, you’re bugging me, again, I’m tired of this that can be really seen in kind of this oppositional way.

Rwenshaun Miller 7:00
Right, yeah, systems definitely play a large role. One of the things that we we don’t always acknowledge is these systems were set up for, you know, white individuals, it’s particularly white male individuals to thrive in these particular arenas. And so if you don’t disrupt those systems, I mean, the people that are oppressed will remain oppressed. And we are always I speak from my vantage point as a as a black male, that grew up in the South. And in rural south of that, I see it all the time, when I was even when I was raised, my mom and dad and my family members would tell me certain things that you cannot do, as a black male. You have to always be on guard, no matter what. Their main concern is, I want you to come home, don’t worry about you know, if you go to jail, or anything I can, we can always bail you out. But don’t, you know, don’t get into an argument with a police officer or any of those particular things. Because I don’t want you to lose your life over something that’s trivial. And you know, you just be show respect, always keep your hands on the wheel, make sure you know, they asked to search a car, yeah, you have rights, but at that particular moment, you don’t. Just I just want you to make out of that alive. But then also not even just with police officers, to be honest with you, I’m in rural South, I’ve seen KKK rallies. And I’ve, you know, witnessed these things. I had an individual that, that I went to high school with, he was hung in his backyard, you know, like, so like, these are this, this is my reality, this, this living in this in this world. But then also, as you go through, you see just so many people that look like me that are constantly still taken out by the police officers. And you’re thinking like, Yo, when is my turn, or my son, my son is two years old, I’m I’m scared for him. And he’s only two. We carry along a lot of these different pressures and stuff as we go through society that I say this in the sense of it’s no fault to all white people, because some you just some people, you just live in your book. And if you don’t, if you don’t know, you don’t know. But you know, I had these conversations, even with some of my colleagues and some of my friends. But sometimes it’s now it’s time for us to push the envelope a little bit further and challenge these systems that hold a lot of other people back.

Katie Vernoy 9:14
Well, and I’m just even reflecting on the comments around people living up to a diagnosis. And I think about the oppositional diagnosis and how many, and I worked in a probation teen teen boys on probation was kind of how I framed in my mind, and there were a lot of oppositional and conduct and ADHD and all of that stuff. And I think even as you’re talking, and I think I kind of knew it, then this was quite a while ago, but I feel like it’s so strong now is that there is all of the cultural elements of at play as well as the interaction with the system, but there’s also so much trauma and necessary hyper-vigilance and so to be labeled as oppositional because you’re in fight or flight all the time, like just it feels like it would really impact someone’s self perspective. It seems like what if it affects how they interact, it affects how people view them? And I know you very publicly talked about your own diagnosis of bipolar. And so what is your relationship with that for yourself? How is it for you being someone on both sides of the couch, given that there’s sometimes utility in diagnosis, sometimes not. And there’s just I don’t know, I’m kind of going all over the place. So I’m just gonna let you I’m throwing it back to you, but, but I just think it’s a really interesting thing to kind of grapple with, because there is sometimes a need for diagnosis, sometimes a utility for it. And sometimes it’s just wrong. It’s just wrong and harmful, so…

Rwenshaun Miller 10:40
And so even even with that, man, I think it comes down to the aspect, so when I received my diagnosis, I refuted it, I did not want to agree that I have bipolar disorder. For one, it’s not something that I was taught growing up, but then also to be completely honest with you all it was who I received a diagnosis from. It was a white psychologist in a psychiatric hospital. And I was like, you don’t know nothing about me. So like, I just want to, I’m gonna just roll with it. So I can get out of here. But then also, as I got older, and then, you know, just like I experienced just battles with with my manic phases, versus my depression phases, and the suicide attempts, I really understood that this was a framework for me to understand how to learn myself, but I wasn’t a you know, I didn’t have to only live as somebody that has bipolar disorder. But then that’s, you know, but that comes to terms with understanding what it means. I mean, what it looks like, for your particular life. And so and then being open and honest with yourself, and understanding that you can, you can thrive beyond this. Because also, I will say, when I received the diagnosis, my doctor didn’t necessarily explain it too well, to me. And so, like, What are you talking about? And, you know, they throw all of this jargon out here, and I was like, you know, this is this stuff is going over my head, I don’t know what this actually means. And so I had to do do my own research and understand what it meant for myself and, and started to do research on myself. And that’s with my own journaling and understanding what does the manic phase look like for Rwenshaun Miller? What does depression phase look like for Rwenshaun Miller? And being able to what things do I need to implement or intervene within in addition to whether it’s medication or whether it’s, you know, exercise, diet, all of these particular things? So that’s what having a diagnosis made me sit down and be like, okay, look, now it’s time for you to research yourself here, and, okay, I they give you this framework of what it looks like. But how can you step outside of this particular box and still be able to be who you are as a person?

… 12:48
(Advertisement Break)

Curt Widhalm 12:50
How have you been taking your experiences on that side of the couch and using that to inform your work with your clients, and also sharing this with other therapists about what it’s what it’s like, in that human relation aspect of being able to connect here.

Rwenshaun Miller 13:09
The human relationship part goes a long way, especially when working with a client because I know I take from being on that side of the couch. I know what I hated. I hated sitting on the couch. I hated it. Someone “Well tell me about your day.” I ain’t got nothing for you. I’m gonna sit here and shrug my shoulders I I don’t know, I also realized that as I started to learn more about when I went into my, when I started to see my educational practices, and techniques and stuff, and these modalities and all of that stuff that was that was taught to me, I was like, Yo, this angle work with the population that I’m working with this angle, work in the hood, this angle work, if I’m doing in house and home therapy, and I got I’m trying to work with a client and he got three or four brothers and sisters running around and doing all this other stuff. This is not going to work. And so just being able to understand people as people and connecting with them, but then also taking my own experience. Like I like I said, I hated sitting on the couch. So even when working with my clients, you know, especially if I’m working with young boys, all right, you know, what are you really into? I’m not gonna talk about your symptoms at first, I want to know what things that you like, or you like to play video games. All right, a part of my own personal training. And I know this is not official training is me learning how to play video games, me playing Fortnight, me playing Call of Duty, all of these particular games, because those are the ways that you’re going to be able to relate to this person. That way they can break down their walls. So I’m playing I have a PlayStation in my office right now. And I when my clients come in, oh, what video game you like, bro? Alright, let’s hop on the sticks, and we playing video games. And while we’re hopping on the sticks, I was like, oh, so what’s been going on with your day? You know, what do you like about this particular video game? Why do you why did you pick that gun? Or why did you like so different things? Then you start to learn more about the person instead of the typical therapy dialogue that you see on TV, right? So you got to be creative with that particular thing. Or I’m taking, I work out with some of my clients, or we’re going to the park, we’re shooting basketball, we’re doing the football. Shoot, a couple of my clients I skate with. So you know, stepping outside of that box, to make them feel comfortable and meeting them where they are, it’s very important.

Katie Vernoy 15:20
I had to have so many questions because I love all of that creative ways that you meet with somebody in person and, and really connect with them in a human way. So anyway, I just because I am starting to do a little bit of like going outdoors and stuff like that. And of course, when I was working with teens, I did it all the time. And so it’s like, okay, I know kind of what I’m doing. But I feel like it’s it’s such a different experience having an experience with somebody versus whether it’s the computer or in your office, just sitting and staring at each other and trying to have a meaningful conversation. For someone that is exactly what they want. But so many people, I feel like it becomes so overwhelming to try to do that. And so I love all this creative stuff. How do you…?

Rwenshaun Miller 16:05
It’s it’s intimidating for people, too.

Katie Vernoy 16:06
Yeah, exactly. And so how do you make sure when you’re connecting with these clients that you’ve set the stage for this therapy in a way that feels comfortable for the therapist and comfortable for the human?

Rwenshaun Miller 16:21
I will say for one of the things is making sure that I’m comfortable. And I’m comfortable with not even just a point of knowing my skill set and knowing how to intervene in certain ways. And the certain jargon out there and how to pull questions out. But then also I’m comfortable, if I’m playing a video game that I don’t know about, I’m comfortable with asking my client, oh, teach me how to play this. You know, and so that creates that, that opportunity for them. It creates the opportunity for them to realize that, okay, I don’t know everything. I’m an expert in certain things, but I’m gonna relate to you on for you to be an expert in your own life, and then me to help guide you through those particular things. So that’s, that’s when you really set that tone. And they’ll be like, alright, this person is going to walk with me instead of drag me, pull me or push me.

Katie Vernoy 17:10
Yeah, yeah.

Rwenshaun Miller 17:11
There’s a complete difference when you know, when that type of therapeutic relationship.

Katie Vernoy 17:16
Yeah, there’s no blank slate when someone’s teaching you how to play a video game that you’re not good.

Curt Widhalm 17:23
A couple of the things that you’re talking about here you mentioning, even from your own story about diagnosis from, you know, a white psychologist. I’m imagining that a big part of this plays within the way that stigma comes across, especially in a much different communities. How have you seen this in your life going from client to therapists? Have you seen any of this change at all, as far as where we’re seeing stigma, because I know, you’ve done a lot of your work promoting mental health in, especially in black and brown communities, you’re doing the work. So what have you seen change if anything?

Rwenshaun Miller 17:59
I’ve seen a lot of changes. So I’ve been working in the mental health field since 2007. So I’m a seasoned vet. So you know, seeing even more celebrities and stuff talk about mental health. You’re starting to, you know, hear people talk about, you know, depression, anxiety, or just those different things, or you start to see people a little bit more open about certain things. But then also, they’re still, you know, a lot of times, especially with men, we, when they’re talking about it, they’re talking about it with a whisper, and they’re only talking about it with certain people. So you know, but again, now at least they’re starting to talk about it. But then also you have people that are still, they still are reluctant to certain types of treatments, whether that be medication for that, you know, people don’t trust medication all the time. I’m not a pill pusher. But I also don’t negate it because I had to take meds myself, and I understand what it does for me. But then just understanding that, you know, this is not for everybody. But then also, I think that comes back down to treating people as human and understanding what works for them. So, I know a lot of people that I work with self help is a lot as a huge thing now as well. So you know, understanding people’s chakras. So I had to learn about chakras. I learned about Reiki, I became trained in Reiki, you know, all of these particular things. And, you know, and incorporating some of the Eastern practices, in addition with some of the traditional African practices, in addition to combining some of the Western practices, and you know, being able to bring all of that stuff together, and I don’t shut down anybody, when it comes, whether it be their religion, their spirituality, all of these, all of these things play a huge role in to who this person is, so you have to still meet them where they are. And so but as I see this particular change, I started to see more churches talking about mental health. I started this you know, you start to see more campaigns on social media about certain things. You start to see people’s understanding the effects of bullying and all of this stuff, how it plays into, you know, one’s mental health. And I mean, again, I language about certain stuff has changed. Like, I hate when people say the word crazy. And so I challenge people to find another word because you don’t have a definition for that word. So and and find another word for it. That’s watch, how are we talking to people, watching how do we criticize and people understanding that we’re not giving people grace to be able to learn. Or we you know, we live in a cancel culture now. How are people supposed to grow if you can’t sit there and hold a conversation user completely exile this person? That’s the same thing we were doing with psychiatric patients 50-60 years ago.

Katie Vernoy 20:32

Rwenshaun Miller 20:32
So at what point does do we change? So I started, you know, we’re starting to see a little bit more progress there. But then also, again, going back to the systems conversation, maybe we need to see more funds go into these certain things. We need to see, you know, certain ways that insurance companies are reciprocating therapists for providing quality care, because some people are not. I know, some, some therapists don’t want to see Medicaid clients, because for one is all around, I hate that paperwork, when it comes to Medicaid [uninteligible]. But then also reimbursement rates, and you know, all of those particular things like I noticed, some insurance companies paid different for virtual therapy than they do in person therapy. And like, it’s the same therapy. So like, I mean, so it’s, you know, just those systematic things also need to, you know, change, and that plays a huge role into the stigma, as well, because, you know, certain insurance companies, they make you diagnose somebody, and that leads to other issues and stuff. But you can’t deal unless you have a diagnosis. And you’re like, Okay, well, what does this person is just dealing with stuff, and I don’t particularly have a diagnosis for them. You mean it to me, I won’t get paid for it? So I mean, it’s so many layers to it, Curt, but I think there’s definitely been some forward trajectory as far as addressing stigma, and being but we still have a long way to go.

Katie Vernoy 21:54
I agree, I think there’s so much that has been done. But that also needs to be done. And, and Curt and I are actually doing a series around fixing the mental health care system in America. And that’s what we keep coming up against is that there’s, there are funding issues, and there’s bureaucracy issues. And, and I think for me, when I’m listening to you, I, I just had this picture of easy accessibility to mental health care and mental wellness or kind of wherever people fall on the spectrum of what they need, without worrying about diagnosis, without worrying about some particular frame, without worrying about some particular checkbox, or some particular paperwork. But people could just come and get support, and truly have it flow in and out of those things. And to me, I don’t know much about the your Eustress Corporation here, your nonprofit, but I’d love to hear more about it. Because it feels like there’s there’s an element of that because Eustress is like, well, stress isn’t bad. It’s just how you take it in. I love that. I love that idea. But to me, it’s like if it’s just kind of integrated into daily life, and therapists don’t make themselves inaccessible, or overly formalized and treating people like diagnosis, I guess, very long way around to the question, which is like, what is an ideal that you see as far as how therapists or the system could provide for the mental health needs of society?

Rwenshaun Miller 23:25
Whoo, Ah, okay. So I will say one of the things is, for one, we don’t have enough therapists, period. So us being able to get individuals that are interested in becoming therapists, helping them with school stuff, and, you know, funding there, and then, you know, helping them connect with seasoned therapists. And some of these restrictions that come come along with, you know, what you can provide over state lines and state licensure, I feel like all of that stuff is, is I feel like it should be a universal licensure for the United States, I don’t understand why there is. Because if I am in North Carolina, y’all know a black male that may need my services in California, you should be able to refer to as long as I have the capacity to be able to work with him, I should be able to work with him. So those are certain things that I feel like needs to needs to happen. But then also, when you have such small, I think a lot of times people don’t understand, we as therapists when we’re working with clients, how much we take on from them client from the clients. And so people look at, oh, well, why do you charge $200 an hour? Or why do you say, oh, because I do a whole lot of work. And but then the insurance companies if they don’t, you know, if they don’t meet those same type of requirements with as far as reimbursement rates, that’s when you have the therapists that are like, either you have someone that takes the insurance, and they’re taking 50 to 60 clients a week and they’re burned out so that quality of care reduces. Or you have someone that doesn’t take them at all. So you have you know, both sides of the fence there where you’re trying to straddle it to figure out where it’s that particular balance. And then some people can take on 20. And don’t feel overloaded, some people can only take on five, but then also you still have to live life outside of this. So how are you, you know, funding your life outside of that? And then also, you know, certain types of therapy I do. So I do a men’s yoga class. Of course, insurance won’t pay for that, because they don’t consider it, you know, or an insurance won’t pay for Reiki, when I do Reiki with someone. So you know, us opening up the gates when it comes down to different types of therapeutic interventions that could be utilized on people, whether it’s a drum circle, or like, again, so we know that I can’t say I play video games with my clients, too, as a therapy session, because then the insurance company’s gonna look at me like, no, that’s not billable. How are you going to, I can tell you what I got out of him in that sense, but I can’t tell you that I play video games, because…so it just has so many layers to it. But my approach even with Eustress, the one of the initial goals was to be able to raise awareness. And I realized that talking about mental health is a difficult conversation, especially in my community. So I make it fun. So I do the Mental Health Awareness walks, just held my sixth annual one here in Charlotte, and do a mental health awareness gala as well. Give people a reason to dress up, and we can come together and have fun. I gave away six scholarships to black males, they’re pursuing their degree in a mental health field from a higher level higher ed level gave that away. But then also, we do it on Adult Coloring nights. So just had one of those last night. Yeah, introducing coloring as and then like, so also understanding that we can teach people, get people to use different tools that they can implement into their daily lifestyles that can help them throughout, you know, their day, whatever they’re dealing with on a daily basis, and understand that this can be a supplement to therapy, because I also always tell my clients that, you know, they’re, I’m not here to fix you. And you’re not going to get all of the answers in this hour long session. So you need to actually do the work outside of therapy. And that’s something that I realized that I had to do. So, you know, doing those particular things. Yeah. And then also, one of the major things I realized, too, is when I’m working with, especially when I’m working with my youth, I have to work with the youth, and I need to work with their direct care support, because like I said, that hour with me goes out the window two days later. I need to get the parents on board, I need to get the siblings on board, I need to get their teachers on board, all of those. That’s why I started the young black male Eustress initiative. So I had seven young seventh graders, I was working with them, I worked with their teachers, and I work with everybody in their household, I did it all for free. But when I worked with the teachers, and when I worked with the with the everybody else that was in that household, it wasn’t about how to serve the actual student, it was about what issues are you dealing with? And what support do you need, because once you change their support, you change the child support system and how they feel about themselves, they’re going to pour that good into the child. So you got to change the ecosystem, about mental health around that particular individual. And then being able to that’s how you really affect change.

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Curt Widhalm 28:14
I’m hearing a lot of similarities of what you’re doing, along with one of our previous interviews with Harry Aponte, about really looking at this beyond the scope of just an individual problem, and really, especially in underserved communities of normalizing that if we just make a lot of things better people tend to do that. But you know, as you know, Katie’s last question and hearing you talk about stuff I’m today years old, when I’m realizing that out of a lot of the health services, you know, medicine, dentistry, you know, ILS, all of those have regular checkups that are covered by insurance, and mental health, you inherently have to have something wrong with you, in order to come into the system, which I think creates some of this barrier and the stigma that, you know, we’re being taught in our grad programs, you know, come up with a diagnosis in 45 minutes. So we’re, you know, grasping at straws, a lot of times to find justifications to make people’s systems better.

Rwenshaun Miller 29:23
Yep. And a lot of times when were getting people, we’re getting them at that worse moments.

Katie Vernoy 29:30

Curt Widhalm 29:32
Oh, and, you know, how many times have we been sitting in sessions where it’s like, you know, if you’d just come in, like five weeks ago, like we could have prevented a lot of this. Like it has to, it has to get to this point where all right, get to your worst moment, then come in to us. But, you know, if there is something for us to do with, you know, all of our advocacy work here, it’s potentially challenging for some of these insurance companies to invest more in preventative care. So that way, we’re not so overwhelmed by people just being in their worst moments.

Rwenshaun Miller 30:06
Agree, I completely agree. And that will reduce the ED visits, or reduce the crisis calls that will start to reduce some of the suicide rates, some of the substance abuse issues, all of these particular things. And but then also you’re, you’re increasing the education of the individuals, you know, in the community, and then developing these peers that can start to intervene a little bit sooner.

Katie Vernoy 30:31
I’m just, I’m just struck by this model of shifting the system. And really, because I worked in a wraparound program, which has a similar flair to it. But of course, the system has to be in gigantic crisis, you know, child protective services have been called, or the kid’s getting ready to be on probation, or there’s been a serious mental health concern requiring hospitalization. And then, you know, everybody comes in, and they include everyone that the person has ever met, it feels like sometimes to try to build the system, but all of it still has that bureaucracy of, I’m going to talk to the parent, or the caregiver, or the coach, or the pastor or whatever, I’m going to talk to that person. But all of it has to be around talking about the kiddo that we’re trying to help, versus really trying to understand this person. And of course, we always, you know, it’s like playing video games, you do what you need to do, and then you document appropriately for billing. It’s such a freeing idea to think about if we could actually do these mental health checkups, have systemic intervention so people are learning these coping strategies that they’re learning how to communicate to each other, learning how to identify what’s going on. And therapists could be in both stages, right? Therapists can be in the preventative care, they can be in these kinds of creative spaces. And they can be in the crisis care, it feels like a doable job, too. I’m just thinking from the from the therapist point of view, like, how cool would that be? So you’ve really created like, a pretty awesome job for yourself, like, that sounds amazing.

Rwenshaun Miller 32:10
It does. And then then let’s say if you’re only serving up to five families, you know, where you’re not too burned out, it cuts down on all of these particular things. And let’s say you’re dealing with close knit families. I mean, that thing could it can easily change the trajectory of generations if you’re able to do things that particular way.

Katie Vernoy 32:33
Yeah, that’s so powerful.

Curt Widhalm 32:35
We’re having you at Therapy Reimagined. For those who are interested in following you, seeing all the stuff that you’re doing, where can people find you before Therapy Reimagined.

Rwenshaun Miller 32:48
I tell everybody, if you can spell my name, you can find me.

Curt Widhalm 32:54
We’ll spell it out in our show notes for you.

Rwenshaun Miller 32:56
Right, if you can spell R-W-E-N-S-H-A-U-N, you can find me. I’m on Twitter, I’m on Instagram, Facebook, then also my website, keep up just the different events that I have going on. But then also check out That’s where I do a lot of this stuff when it comes down to just some of my events like the coloring nights, the walks, and the gala. And also, you know, just whatever else that we have going on. I also have a book that I wrote a few years ago, and I have a journal, a guided journal called why you stress it and why Eustressin Journal as well. So people can check that out. And it’s really based off of my own personal journal that I used to use to do research on myself. And that’s, you know, really tracking you know, what foods did you eat, how much water did you drink? Did you take your meds today? Who did you talk to? But not only who did you talk to – How did you feel before you talk to them? How did you feel after you talk to them? If you’re talking to this person too many times out of the week, and they make you feel like crap after the fact, you may need to reduce the amount of times you’re talking to this particular person, because that’s a risk factor for you, not a protective factor. So you know, being able to teach people those particular things and feel like those things go a long way.

Katie Vernoy 34:09
I think I need that journal. I’m just gonna go get it right now.

Curt Widhalm 34:13
Just being reminded to drink my water here.

Rwenshaun Miller 34:18
We all need help in some particular point, right?

Katie Vernoy 34:22
Yes, we’re all human.

Curt Widhalm 34:23
So we will include links to a lot of Rwenshaun’s stuff on our show notes. You can find those over at And check out the Therapy Reimagined conference with all of our most recent updates, you can find that at And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm. With Katie Vernoy and Rwenshaun Miller.

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