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Therapy for Executives and Emerging Leaders

Curt and Katie chat about how therapists can support leaders. We look at optimal leadership, leadership identity development, barriers for emerging leaders, challenges that executives face, and how therapists can support these leaders. We explore specific interventions and career assessment questions. This is a continuing education podcourse.


Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.

In this podcast episode we explore how therapists can help leaders

During times of turmoil – like a global pandemic, an unstable economy, and social unrest – we want to be able to rely on our leaders to help us weather the storm. We look to our employers, our legislators, and our community leaders to solve problems and remain calm. But who supports our leaders? It’s important for therapists to understand leadership and the unique challenges that leaders face, so they can help. Further, therapists must be available to provide support to emerging leaders who are coming from much more diverse backgrounds and perspectives who may need help navigating a system that doesn’t always accept them or align with their lived experiences. We talk about leader identity development and how leaders develop over time. We look at common barriers and challenges for leaders at all stages of development as well as suggested interventions to address these needs.

What do therapists get wrong when working with leaders?

“We may be hindering folks that we don’t see as leaders based on what we know about them: either their identity and the kind of the societal bias, or based on what we know about how much they’re struggling. And so, we won’t be able to help these folks move into these positions of leadership and help them elevate themselves in that way.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Therapists don’t include career assessments and leadership assessment
  • Understanding the interrelation between work and mental health
  • Bias related to stereotypical leaders and not seeing leadership where it shows up outside of able-bodied, tall, white men
  • The calm, peaceful, work-life balance versus optimal performance and ambition
  • Cosigning on poor work behavior and overwork

What is good leadership?

  • Leadership can be taught and can be beneficial for every client
  • Concepts of leadership as a process and a position
  • Interdependent, collaborative
  • Servant Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership

What does leadership identity development look like?

  • The 6 stages of the model created by Komives, et al.
  • Moving from identifying leaders, understanding positional leadership, then moving to more of a process and interdependent relationship
  • How leadership identity development impacts adult clients

What impacts emerging leaders?

  • Identities, especially marginalized identities
  • Relationships with authority figures
  • Resources, privilege within typical leadership development opportunities during childhood and early adulthood
  • Relational trauma, boundaries, communication
  • Marginalized identities and stereotypes with no sure-fire way to perform acceptably
  • Lack of safety and empowerment

Career and Leadership Assessment

“Oftentimes, these stereotypes [related to marginalized identities] can really hit someone, and that can get in the way of them being able to be a good leader. First off, because they’re not given the positions. But it’s also something where they’re navigating these stereotypes and having to twist themselves into pretzels, in order to fit in that little tiny line that is between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Career trajectory
  • Leadership identity development stage
  • Current employment
  • Work/life balance
  • Role of work in client’s life and within family system

Therapists Working with Leaders

  • Life experience that therapists can draw upon
  • Identifying what you don’t know
  • Understand your own work trauma and leadership development
  • The CHAT Model (or Katie’s model: clarify, imagine, simplify, act)

Our Generous Sponsors for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:


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Simplified SEO Consulting

Simplified SEO Consulting

Simplified SEO Consulting is completely focused on helping mental health professionals get their websites to show up on Google. They offer trainings and small group intensives to teach you how to optimize your own website. Their next small group intensive is open for enrollment now and starts in August. Take the first step to reaching more ideal clients with their next Small Group SEO Intensive. You don’t have to be tech savvy to learn SEO!

These days, most people go to Google when they’re looking for a therapist and when they start searching, you want to make sure they find you! Simplified SEO Consulting walks you step by step through the process of optimizing your website with their Small Group SEO Intensives. Led by Danica Wolf, a seasoned SEO instructor with an MSW and strong understanding of the mental health world, you learn what content you need to add to your website and how to optimize it with your ideal client in mind. Then watch your online rankings climb! Next one is enrolling now and begins in August, 2022! Visit to learn more and register.

Receive Continuing Education for this Episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide

Hey modern therapists, we’re so excited to offer the opportunity for 1 unit of continuing education for this podcast episode – Therapy Reimagined is bringing you the Modern Therapist Learning Community!

Once you’ve listened to this episode, to get CE credit you just need to go to, register for your free profile, purchase this course, pass the post-test, and complete the evaluation! Once that’s all completed – you’ll get a CE certificate in your profile or you can download it for your records. For our current list of CE approvals, check out

You can find this full course (including handouts and resources) here:

Continuing Education Approvals:

When we are airing this podcast episode, we have the following CE approval. Please check back as we add other approval bodies: Continuing Education Information

CAMFT CEPA: Therapy Reimagined is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LPCCs, LCSWs, and LEPs (CAMFT CEPA provider #132270). Therapy Reimagined maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Courses meet the qualifications for the listed hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We are working on additional provider approvals, but solely are able to provide CAMFT CEs at this time. Please check with your licensing body to ensure that they will accept this as an equivalent learning credit.

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!

Katie’s Leadership and Management Books Worth Reading on Pinterest

References mentioned in this continuing education podcast:

Ben-Noam, S. (2018). Cracking the Intrapsychic “Glass Ceiling” for Women in Leadership: Therapeutic Interventions. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 38(4), 299–311.

Chang, Ting-Han. ”A Critical Study of How College Student Leaders of Color Conceptualize Social Justice Leadership.” Indiana University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2022. 28964612.

Chen, C. P., & Hong, J. W. L. (2020). The Career Human Agency Theory. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(2), 193–199.

Cullen, Maureen E., “Understanding Women’s Experience in Undergraduate Leadership Development Through a Transformative and Intersectional Lens” (2022). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 102.

Komives, S. R., Longerbeam, S. D., Owen, J. E., Mainella, F. C., & Osteen, L. (2006). A Leadership Identity Development Model: Applications from a Grounded Theory. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 401–418.

Murphy, S. E., & Johnson, S. K. (2011). The benefits of a long-lens approach to leader development: Understanding the seeds of leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 22(3), 459–470.

Oldridge, K. (2019). A grounded theory study exploring the contribution of coaching to rebalancing organisational power for female leaders. Coaching Psychologist, 15(1), 11–23.

Tang, M., Montgomery, M. L. T., Collins, B., & Jenkins, K. (2021). Integrating Career and Mental Health Counseling: Necessity and Strategies. Journal of Employment Counseling, 58(1), 23–35.

Wallace, D. M., Torres, E.M., & Zaccaro, S. J. (2021). Just what do we think we are doing? Learning outcomes of leader and leadership development. The Leadership Quarterly, 32(5).

*The full reference list can be found in the course on our learning platform.

Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

What to Know When Providing Therapy for Elite Athletes

Millennials as Therapists

Financial Therapy

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 a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is a Board Member at Large for the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, Adjunct Faculty at Pepperdine University, 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 about Curt 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. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. 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.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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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):

Curt Widhalm 0:00
This episode of The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide is brought to you by Thrizer.

Katie Vernoy 0:03
Thrizer is a modern billing platform for private pay therapists. Their platform automatically gets clients reimbursed by their insurance after every session. Just by billing your clients through Thrizer you can potentially save them hundreds every month with no extra work on your end. The best part is you don’t have to give up your rates they charge a standard 3% processing fee.

Curt Widhalm 0:24
Listen at the end of the episode for more information on a special offer from Thrizer.

Katie Vernoy 0:29
This episode is also brought to you by Simplified SEO Consulting.

Curt Widhalm 0:33
Simplified SEO Consulting is completely focused on helping mental health professionals get their websites to show up on Google. They offer trainings and small group intensives to teach you how to optimize your own website. Their next small group intensive is open for enrollment now and starts in August. Take the first step to reaching more ideal clients with their next small group SEO intensive.

Katie Vernoy 0:56
You don’t have to be tech savvy to learn SEO. Listen at the end of the episode for more information on Simplified SEO.

Announcer 1:02
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 1:18
Hey, modern therapists, we’re so excited to offer the opportunity for one unit of continuing education for this podcast episode. Once you’ve listened to this episode, to get CE credit, you just need to go to, register for your free profile, purchase this course, pass the post test and complete the evaluation. Once that’s all completed, you’ll get a CE certificate in your profile, where you can download it for your records. For a current list of our CE approvals, check out

Katie Vernoy 1:50
Once again, hop over to for one CE once you’ve listened.

Curt Widhalm 1:56
Welcome back modern therapists. This is The Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is the podcast for therapists about the things that we do and the clients that we see. This being our latest continuing education eligible podcast we are talking about those clients who show up in our office who are leadership track, might be leaders, might be executives, and this coming fully out of Katie’s expertise. And a lot of what she does in her practice. She’s doing a lot of the leadership on this episode today. So I am here as a passenger on Katie’s leader ship. And wow, that one just sank.

Katie Vernoy 2:45
Leader ship.

Curt Widhalm 2:46

Katie Vernoy 2:46
You had to say, leader ship. I’m at the helm of the leader ship is that what you are trying to say?

Curt Widhalm 2:54

Katie Vernoy 2:56
Okay, well, I will take the reins so to speak. When we talked about doing this, I think the thing that felt very compelling about talking about leadership is that I think there’s a lot of folks who are not necessarily invisible to therapists. But I think there are folks that are not necessarily automatically seen as therapy clients. Leaders, executives, folks who are potentially out there very successful, you know, kind of traditionally successful, but not necessarily seen as kind of potential therapy clients. And if we really look at the current tasks of leadership, if we’re looking at navigating through a global pandemic, for example, or recession and inflation and war in international conflicts, or navigating through shipping concerns, or folks who now want to work from home, or you know, all of those things, and the racial reckonings, the social unrest, all of the the rights and having to figure out how do I take care of my people? Right now, leaders are having a very challenging time. If they are aware, I mean, obviously, there’s leaders that would want therapy and leaders that would not. But I think that they are typically seen as other, they’re isolated. They’re often emotionally dysregulated themselves, like therapists their also going through these crises while having to help navigate through these crises for groups of folks. And so I think that just recognizing that the job of leader is tough, and that there’s a lot to dig in there as well as there are more and more folks who are stepping into leadership or should be in leadership who have not felt empowered or prepared to do so because of a lot of bias and a lot of a lot of being passed over in previous iterations. And now hopefully, we’re bringing more folks to the to the table or people are creating their own tables. And they’re stuck thinking like okay, how do I do this leader thing? So therapists need to be prepared. Leadership is important. I’ll leave that there.

Curt Widhalm 5:04
So I’ve had some of these clients in my practice, too. And obviously not as many as you have had, and maybe true to form and to most of our non ce episodes, why don’t we start with? What do therapists get wrong when these kinds of clients end up showing up in our offices?

Katie Vernoy 5:23
I think there’s a lot we can get wrong. I don’t know if folks are getting a lot of things wrong or not. My sense, even in just talking with you before the episode, is that people don’t necessarily see career, maybe counselors do, but a lot of folks don’t see career as their wheelhouse. You know, career assessment, intervening with work, I think folks don’t necessarily see that as their lane. And so if they leave it unexplored, there can be a lot of stagnation unless it’s like this huge problem, and I hate my job. And they bring it as a presenting problem. I think a lot of folks don’t think about actually looking at that as part of the whole person or not in the depth that I think that people should. There was a recent article by Tang et all 2021. It was in, I think, the counseling journal about the importance of integrating career and mental health counseling. And so this is they’re recommending that for every person, you do this thing that you talk about their job, because if you don’t you’re I mean, like if we think about how long people are working, and how much time they spend at work, and not everyone does, but a lot of people spend a lot of time at work, a lot of people have their work is integral in their identity or central in their identity. And so it’s something where when therapists don’t even address it, I think that becomes really hard. I think there’s this other piece of most people, people in leadership don’t know what good leadership is or what leader identity development looks like, or what it means to be a good manager or that there are good managers and leaders and that people have skills and values that are very helpful. And so there’s, there’s a shying away of that, and a misunderstanding of it, that can be really hard for folks who are trying to move into those realms.

Curt Widhalm 7:14
One of the things that first comes to my mind is even just the way that our mental health system is set up that, you know, flip through the DSM for fun and look at just how many of the diagnostics include it has an impact on occupation. I think that the bare minimum of training often ends up just leading us to like make the person better so they can go back to work that that seems to be leading to such a big missing component to what you’re talking about here. And further to that is I know that there’s a lot of hybrid programs here in California that teach both MFTs and PCCs with the major difference being that the PCC component teaches about things like career assessments and this kind of stuff. But even a lot of the students that I talked to who are part of these programs, are talking about how it still doesn’t prepare them well enough to start to even conceptualize that these are major components of what’s the difference between licenses, but even what we should be doing as far as talking about this particular aspect of the majority of somebody’s waking hours, five days a week.

Katie Vernoy 8:32
Well, and even how the DSM describes it is my mental health is impacting my work and…

Curt Widhalm 8:39
Yay capitalism!

Katie Vernoy 8:43
Exactly, but I think there’s also how work impacts our mental health and the interrelation between those two I think we we look at is work okay? Is your depression getting, you know, impacting how well you’re able to perform at work? But we’re not talking about Is your work it making you depressed? You know, are you are you satisfied with where you are at work and the intricacies of that. We’ll get into that more. But I think that there’s not a clear understanding that these things are, they are completely interlinked, like you cannot separate career in mental health. And I think a lot of people do they put them in different boxes. So I think that is one thing that therapists get wrong with leaders. I think there’s also bias. And so shifting a little bit to this bias idea. I think that whether or not we recognize this, when we picture a leader, we picture an able bodied, tall, white man. And I think that we need to recognize that. I think that more and more we’re going beyond that. So I want to honor that it’s not just that. But anyone who’s not an able bodied tall man, white man has seen that if you’re in a group of folks, the check goes to the able bodied white man. The asking what everybody’s doing goes to that person unless there is another leader that emerges. And so if we have someone sitting in our office, especially if they are talking about all of their trauma, and they’re talking about all of the other things that make them feel very vulnerable, and quote, unquote, weak and hard to manage their life, we may not even see them as the leader that they are, or could be. And I think that bias can be very harmful. I know I’ve experienced that where I had someone who was very, very overwhelmed, extremely traumatized. And for a few weeks, and I’m glad it was only a few weeks, but for a few weeks, she was talking about applying for a job that I had no idea was in her wheelhouse at all. It was something that it felt like she was kind of she was going to be let down, she wasn’t going to be successful, because no sense of leadership skills that I hadn’t assessed for it. And yet, she’s now an executive, she’s very successful, and she is more aligned than she’s ever been. Thank goodness, our relationship could hold my bias and I was able to identify it and shift gears. But if I kept pushing back and discouraging her from some of these stages, because I was like, Oh, I don’t know if you’re ready yet, or is this something that that you’ll be able to handle emotionally, like it was something where I didn’t say it that way. But it was something where that was my underlying concern. And that was going to come across. And so we may be hindering folks that we don’t see as leaders based on what we know about them, either their identity and the kind of the societal bias, or based on what we know about how much they’re struggling. And so we won’t be able to help these folks move into these positions of leadership and help them kind of elevate themselves in that way. You’re having an expression.

Curt Widhalm 11:53
You’re talking about the therapists aspect to this bias, too. But I’m certain that this has to be something that has an internalized bias from a lot of clients too that…

Katie Vernoy 12:04

Curt Widhalm 12:04
…also facilitate some of these impasses in therapeutic progress.

Katie Vernoy 12:10
Oh, sure. And we’ll definitely talk about that as part of the assessment and treatment, I think you may see a client as a leader before they do and see the emerging elements of that. And so I think that may be something that a therapist can get, right. But I think if you don’t, if you don’t even consider someone as a as a leader, if you don’t see those elements, I think then you limit their capacity for growth. This is a long answer. So I’ll sum up the rest of what I think therapists get wrong and will I’m sure get into this more as we go along. But I think when when we think about therapists, and we think about what does mental wellness look like? Or what does health look like, I think that we may push for a very balanced, peaceful, calm life. And we talked about this in the episode that you that you lead on elite athletes, and I think we’ll probably end up doing another episode like on optimal performance. But I think if therapists don’t understand the capacity of human achievement, and they push against it, I think that they’re are probably you’re just gonna lose a client, right? Because you’re trying to tell me to slow down. And that is exactly the opposite of what I need to do for my ambition. But I think that there is something where when if therapists kind of go go too into more of a like, this is what work life balance looks like, this is this is the challenge or the badness of ambition and overwork and blah, blah, blah. I think you lose these folks, because they do strive for something bigger than a 40 hour workweek, sometimes, that a regular old situation like they, some of some folks, their leadership is very big for them. And then their goals and the roles they they play within their community or in their business is like, no, no, no, I’m gonna work on the weekend. Don’t tell me not to work on the weekend, you know. And so I think when therapists don’t meet those clients, where they are, and just come from a place of this is super harmful, and you need to stop. I think that that’s really harmful, and it just the relationship won’t work. The reverse is also true if therapists are co-signing on poor work behaviors like overwork and self sacrifice, because that’s what they know. And so I think there is a balance and there is a way to meet clients. Those are the things I think that therapists can typically get wrong, and I think it can be harmful. And we can talk about a bit more on why it’s harmful as we continue forward.

Curt Widhalm 14:48
So I think it might be helpful before we start talking about the interventions here of maybe talking about what leadership is and maybe working with leaders so that way, you know, rather than just jumping right into all of the answers, let’s create maybe more of like a why we’re going in this direction here.

Katie Vernoy 15:09
Sure. I mean, I think with leadership and working with leaders, I think that the, the most important thing to know is that leadership can be taught. We’ll talk about the developmental elements when we go through the leadership identity development model. But even someone that has none of the markers, none of the developmental milestones can still learn leadership. And so I think being able to recognize that any person in your office can learn leadership, may have benefit from leadership, whether it’s leadership within their family leadership, self leadership, and being able to take ownership of the decisions that they make. I think that that it’s important that we understand leadership can be taught, which means you need to know how to teach leadership. So we’ll, we’ll talk a little bit more about that. I think it’s also important and as we go through this, I think paying attention to what good leadership or management is, is really important. What are you? What do you think of traditional leadership? What do you see leadership as? I’m not saying even necessarily what you practice, but when you think of like, like the stereotypical leader, what does that look like?

Curt Widhalm 16:22
The stereotypical leader is somebody who motivates, gets people to do their job, do their tasks, and do it on time.

Katie Vernoy 16:35
Okay. Look at that. It’s kind of hierarchical, right? There’s a leader, there’s a follower, it’s a position, I am the leader, I’m the manager, I’m the boss. I’m the expert, I may be also the motivator, but I am the person that’s in charge.

Curt Widhalm 16:52

Katie Vernoy 16:52
And, and as we’ll see, that is actually only the middle, the middle point of leadership identity development. When we really look at good leadership. It’s not hierarchical. It’s more of a process versus a position. It’s collaborative. And it’s truly interdependent. And I think we can argue that millennials got this before boomers. But it’s really looking at each person can be a leader from every seat that they’re sitting in. Now there, I still believe and you can look at our millennials as therapists episode as part of this. But I do believe that there still can be hierarchy, or at least an expectation and a clarity on roles. But if we’re talking that I am the leader, and people will follow me, that is not good leadership. And that’s actually promoting someone to be stagnated within this identity development model. And so I think it’s, it’s important that we recognize that even what we’re looking at as, quote unquote, stereotypical leadership, it’s not what the current literature is saying about what is truly strong leadership, what is the best leadership, what is the best management.

Curt Widhalm 18:09
What I’m hearing out of this, and really more of the way that I practice in my business is it’s not just hinged on one person being in power, but it’s also that person empowering all of the other parts of their business or company their downline, to be able to make independent decisions in a way that’s cohesive still to the overall philosophy of the organization.

Katie Vernoy 18:36
Yes, yeah. So a good leader is interdependent. They’re collaborative, they are self confident and grounded, because you need to be able to move freely within a non hierarchical leadership process. So you need to be able to take the feedback from the person that just walked in the door, and has some guidance and be able to navigate that. You want to be supportive, encouraging, listen well, accept the folks around you, trusting the people around you, respecting them, and being able to negotiate differences. There’s a couple of terms that, you know, you can Google because it’s, you know, it’s beyond the scope of this conversation. But there’s concepts of servant leadership, and this is, you know, kind of the taking care of your team and working from a place of service. And then there’s also transformational leadership, which I think, you know, these are the ones that are kind of coming up in the literature more frequently of like, these are the ideals, but transformational leadership is being able to lead effectively through huge change and being able to help folks make those transformations around you and transforming the business or the project or whatever it is. And so, digging into what good leadership is and having a sense of that can be very helpful if you want to work with folks who are actually moving into leadership versus just helping each person find their their leadership capacity. And and I’ll put together whether I’ll add it to the show notes or put it as an extra for the course but I’ll get some a reading list that has some, some good notions both for what makes a good leader as well as some of the things that we’re going to talk about later.

Curt Widhalm 20:08
How does that play out with the clients that are coming into our room, because for most of our audience here, we’re not yet going to be going into businesses and talking about, like, overall leadership, not gonna be able to, you know, go and have kind of that systemic change. We’re often just going to be seeing somebody in one of these roles coming into our office and working on anxiety or depression or work/life balance sort of things. Can you get into why it’s important to understand these concepts with some of those individual clients there?

Katie Vernoy 20:44
Well, I think about some of the clients that I have, who are in roles of leadership and are making the transition from this kind of positional hierarchical leader into more of a collaborative “leadership is a process” kind of leader. And the point that really is tough there is there’s not a lot of examples. I mean, if you’ve not had good bosses, or you’ve had bosses that have been in kind of this industrial era model of hierarchical leadership, you’re going to think that I’m the boss, people should listen to me and it can feel very painful to receive feedback, it can be very disquieting to try to have to navigate how do I get buy in from my team? How do I make sure that I’m collecting guidance and information from my team? How do I capitalize on all the strengths in the room? Without feeling like, oh, my gosh, I’m losing myself. And so I think being able to functionally be able to think through this idea of how can this person show up in the best possible way versus helping them just to communicate directions? You know, it’s kind of like, are you teaching them to be a parent of a two year old? Or are you teaching them to be a parent of a teen? And I think there’s, there’s that notion of like, how do you help them to navigate those conversations, and then also manage their own emotional reaction to what they’ve been told. Because if you empower your team members, and you’re actually bringing them all into the conversation, and collaborating with them, and providing them with leadership opportunities within the system, you’re going to get feedback like, I don’t like what you’re doing, or I don’t it feels bad when you say it this way. Like, you’re going to empower feedback that may be really hard to take in. And so having a space to come back to a therapist to be like, they told me this and this sucks, I’m being able to say like, yeah, that’s totally normal. And can you see from their perspective, and what do you want from them? And how do you help them to grow? Like it’s, it’s being able to have those conversations and recognize you’re not trying to get these folks to comply. How do you get your employees to comply? It’s how do you navigate these relationships, recognizing that you need to build trust with them. I mean, all of these conversations therapists have in a lot of different arenas, it’s just knowing what the ideal looks like, so that we can have them related to this particular environment.

Curt Widhalm 23:19
So it’s helping to process more of their reactions to what’s going on within their role at work, which does sound like something that a lot of therapists already have that skill in place for.

Katie Vernoy 23:32
Yeah, I think that the big difference is being able to know what healthy looks like.

Curt Widhalm 23:38

Katie Vernoy 23:39
That makes sense?

Curt Widhalm 23:39

Katie Vernoy 23:40
But some of what you’re talking about is kind of this idea of leadership identity development. And obviously, this is probably for those listening for CEs, there’s probably information here that you wanted to pay close attention to. But I’ve got some sources, I’ll just kind of talk through them really briefly. Komivase or Komivase? I don’t know how to say their name, et all 2006 is one of the ones I put here. But there’s also a lot of research that that author has done. But they’re kind of the beginning of the leadership identity development model. They put the theory, that kind of stuff. Murphy and Johnson 2011 talks about kind of the long lens and developmental approach. Wallace et all in 2021. And then there’s a couple of dissertations that are talking about things more like those social justice leadership and cultural roots and intersectional identities. So I’m pulling from all of those because I feel like I wanted to make sure that I talked through all of development as well as kind of cultural and identity elements that are important to recognize throughout the stages of leadership identity development.

Curt Widhalm 24:43
Going through the stages of leadership identity development, there’s six stages, the first of which is awareness.

Katie Vernoy 24:49
Yes, awareness is like the first time you recognize that your parents have kind of power influence over you. It could be seeing public figures, it’s recognizing that leader exist. That that role exists. That’s what the awareness stage is.

Curt Widhalm 25:08
Okay. And then the second stage is exploration and engagement.

Katie Vernoy 25:13
This is something where and I’m gonna do this one and then the next one, which is leader identified hierarchy. This is where you start playing around what is a leader, and really start engaging in and kind of interacting around positional or hierarchical leadership. There is a leader, and I am a follower. Does that make sense? Like, so I recognize that, that leaders exist. And I think especially for kids, like I have to follow the directions of the teacher, I need to listen to my coach, you know, I need to whatever like it’s, it’s, this person says, I do something and I do it, or the leader says something the follower does it.

Curt Widhalm 25:54
Okay. And then there’s leadership differentiated.

Katie Vernoy 25:58
Moving from leader identified to leader differentiated, I think, is that you start kind of acting within the positional hierarchical role. So you start taking it on, you might see yourself as a leader, and you start kind of playing around with that, and you start seeing the limitations of hierarchical leadership: Why can’t I get anybody to do anything? Okay. And so then when you go to leadership differentiated, it moves into that space of being able to identify how leadership can be from any seat at the table. It’s looking at buy in, and the kind of grounding yourself in the group process and moving towards interdependence. And so it’s, it’s really getting to that space of figuring that out. I think that oftentimes, folks at this stage are they wanting to delegate, but they have trouble with it. And so then they, you know, working through that process of being able to delegate is a big element of this, because real delegation is actually completely handing over a task. I still struggle with this sometimes. And I try to delegate a task. And then, you know, if the person’s not ready for that level of leadership, oftentimes they come back and keep asking for more feedback. But the the notion is that when you can fully delegate and you can fully get into that space, all of a sudden, you’ve now created a whole bunch of leaders sitting at the table, you just happen to be the one that’s at the head and making sure that all the leaders have what they need.

Curt Widhalm 27:25
All right, and then that moves us into generativity.

Katie Vernoy 27:28
And so that’s when you really are rock and rolling in this, you know, interdependent, like, this is what it is. And you may move between roles. So I’m the leader in this situation. But I am I’m sitting in a different, you know, a positional leader in this situation, but I’m a leader from the table in this situation. So you’re really creating and flowing within kind of the highest level of leadership.

Curt Widhalm 27:54
And then finally, that leaves us to integration and synthesis.

Katie Vernoy 27:59
And this is where you’re, you know, there’s integration and synthesis. There’s the reflection, there’s an understanding, but then you start looking at leadership pipeline and mentorship. And so this is you moving into the stage of I want to bring leaders up behind me. And so it’s recognizing that I’m not just holding the reins like the hierarchical leader. It’s, I’ve now moved in and I’ve started empowering folks. And now I’m tapping folks to follow behind me because I’m, whether it’s I’m ready to retire, I’m ready to step back, I’m ready to move into more of a consultant role. And so that is the kind of final stage of leadership identity development. And so just for, for the folks at home, it’s awareness, exploration and engagement, leader identified which is a hierarchy one, leader differentiated, which is a relational interdependent one, generativity, and then the final stage is integration and synthesis.

Curt Widhalm 28:55
So when you’re working with clients, and working through kind of these processes, what do you see as being some of the individual characteristics that might make people fall towards either hierarchy or leadership identified versus leadership differentiated, you’ve mentioned some of this in ways of kind of like developmental stages, but, you know, assuming that most of the clients that are coming into your office are not going to be four year olds be like, alright, I see mom and dad and the teacher and I need to listen to the coach, but that you’re going to be working with adults in, you know, business positions or trying to get a nonprofit started or going off the ground or a new board member. What kinds of things do you see as being developmentally things that clients need to go through to be able to maybe progress from one of these stages to another?

Katie Vernoy 29:55
That’s a good question. I think what I when I see folks and we’ll go more into this when we get into treatment. But when I see folks oftentimes they’ve got they’ve hit a stuck point. So potentially, it’s they don’t know how to delegate, or they’re getting feedback from their team that feels hard, because they’ve started to empower their team, but they’re not really ready to engage in that, that interdependent process. And so they hit some of their, they hit some of their points where it’s just like, well, I just don’t know, like, you know, like, I am capable, I know I’m capable, I care most about it. So delegating this to someone else. I’m just, it’s easier for me to just do it anyway. And so then you then it’s working through how do you help them because there’s a motivation to delegate, whether it’s external, like your boss says, You need to be able to do more, stop doing the little shit. Or it could be internal, like, I’m overwhelmed, I have too much to do, I want to delegate some of this stuff. But it’s so hard because people are bad. They just, I can’t, I can’t get anyone to stick or I can’t get anybody to do this right. And so I think it’s, it’s kind of you hit some of these stuck points, that then is what they bring into treatment, right? Or I’m working too many hours, and my spouse is pissed at me, or whatever it is, it’s like you come into this. And it’s like, okay, well, wait a second. Where are you at? And oftentimes, people are stuck in this hierarchical thing, because they know they can trust themselves, they may not know they can trust anybody else. They don’t have the confidence to sit in their leadership and have people inspect it, look at it, challenge it. And so they’re feeling like they’re hanging on tight, and that they’re there at the highest level of their competence. And they can’t see what it looks like to be at the next step. And so the so to answer your question, I guess it’s helping them to feel more grounded in themselves, working with them on the skills to be able to bring other people to the table, and then the emotional regulation and the perspective to be able to take in what that actually means to because it is a much more challenging way to lead. If you lead with an iron fist, you get folks who want to be compliant, and you get done what you want to do. And it’s it’s stagnant, it’s like only your vision, only your ability is executed. And some people think like, Well, that’s good enough. But when you can, when you can access a lot of other resources, innovation, creativity, freedom of movement, I mean, there’s so many things that can come when you can take that step and really bring a full team on and empower them to take those roles. But, you know, the micromanager, the dictator, you know, like, these are the these are the folks that are stuck in hierarchy and it’s really getting to a space where they see the benefit, have the skills and have the emotional intelligence and regulation to be able to navigate what that actually looks like.

Curt Widhalm 32:55
So helping them is not just dealing with their reactions to what’s going on, but it’s a deeper dive into even how they got there in the first place. Because some of this is I’m hearing you talk about may have, you know, some components based on even just like cultural awareness of a number of different characteristics that people are going to be bringing into this.

Katie Vernoy 33:24
What and I think that the other piece is that, you know, when we’re when we’re talking about assessment, there is this element of really understanding how someone’s culture, how their viewpoint, their philosophical or moral values, those types of things. Like, you’re gonna want to understand that because I think typical leadership oftentimes comes from like an individualist or a capitalist viewpoint. And I think that when we look at kind of the world, I mean, if we’re doing coaching, which we’re not talking about doing that, but like if you’re if you’re talking with folks around the world, and I guess we can do therapy with folks around the world, there may be a very different perspective on what leadership is. And so you want to make sure that we’re looking at leadership from the healthy the healthy leadership point with that, which is which can be culture bound. So I think that’s that part. But let’s, let’s actually talk about the rest of the development because I think that when we start talking about development, you’ll see where therapists can really dig into this stuff. And it becomes very familiar, I think. Now, if we’re continuing to look at like the the leadership identity development model, we, you know, we can start from the very beginning and we understand that how we view leaders are based on the authority figures, our parents, the parenting style, the attachment, like if we have authoritative parents we’re more likely to be authoritative leaders, which actually aligns much better with this kind of non hierarchical, community centered, relational, potentially even collectivist model. But if our parents are authoritarian, we’re going to end up seeing that as how things get done, right? Like the people who are in our lives, as we’re learning what it means what leaders mean, that impacts our view of it, and can be very, very hard to overcome, because you haven’t seen a different way. Right? And so understanding that first piece that you’re seeing with leadership are the authority figures, it can be the attachment style, I mean, and I actually didn’t mention the laissez faire parent that potentially gets leaders that are, they don’t know how to get accountability, because they’ve never had it, right. So I think there’s so much in someone’s early childhood, that impacts the type of leader that they are. And we may have already brought it up in our assessments of our clients. It’s just understanding how that development also impacts leadership development, not just kind of all the other relationships they have.

Curt Widhalm 35:56
So nature versus nurture. And in some of this, in being able to navigate this, trying to picture how this fits when you have an emerging leader. You have somebody who’s maybe on the cusp of moving up where their style or how they were nurtured doesn’t necessarily fit within, you know, the upper level management or higher level people that might come from more of that hierarchical standpoint, or that Iron Fist standpoint that you were mentioning.

Katie Vernoy 36:31
That is a It depends. One of the pieces that can be very challenging when you’re working with any leader, but especially emerging leaders is that they may find themselves within a group that doesn’t align with them at all, you know that they they are in a industry or in a company that is this iron fist hierarchical model. And it could be that they just don’t align. And so you can decide, or your client can decide, and you can help them, whether they work to fit within the system, or whether they try to shift the system. It’s hard to decide which way is best. I think sometimes if you are able to, to shift the system or find a company that’s more aligned with the way that you view leadership, I think that can be helpful. But it can also feel very powerful to be able to shift it. But the piece that you’re not mentioning, which I think is really important, is that some folks are emerging leaders, and it’s not even that they can’t fit into upper management it’s that they don’t, they don’t know or don’t have the skills, or aren’t comfortable with the skills and getting themselves there. A lot of women, folks with marginalized identities are often either ignored or erased. They’re taught to be more compliant. There’s cultural issues around humility that can come into this. If leaders are the superstars, the ones that are pushing themselves out and putting themselves out in the front. You know, introverts, folks who are neurodivergent and don’t necessarily have the same communication style, or the same fluency or, or comfort with putting themselves out front. I mean, a lot of these things, the kind of identity things can stop them much sooner versus just like, oh, well, I’m not philosophically aligned. And so I think it’s, it’s something where, when we’re able to kind of dig into someone’s history, we can identify, you know, identity things, but we can also look at some of the developmental influences. I mean, we haven’t even talked about folks who their interaction with authority is something where it’s dangerous and potentially deadly. And now they’re considering moving into a leadership role. I mean, I think that that we have such huge stories and influences in our life as we grow up on what is seen as leadership, what is seen as authority. Is influence okay? How does someone influence someone else? You know, there’s also all of the elements of resources. If I am barely getting to school, I’m not going to be the president of the math club, for example, if I am barely affording College, I’m not necessarily going to be doing leadership activities. And so I think that there’s difficulty with kind of saying broadly like, okay, hey, someone’s an emerging leader, what’s in the way, because it could be all of their life experiences as well as, you know, the, the cultural underpinnings and there are many, many different elements of their identity may be coming to bear on how they approach leadership or even see themselves as leaders.

Curt Widhalm 39:51
So it makes a lot of sense that not everybody is going to be privileged here. That there’s going to be a lot of factors that come into it. Your assessments, part of what you’re doing in the therapy room is looking for, alright, we might need to be able to develop a treatment plan for accommodating for, okay, these are some of the limitations that might make somebody come from a more marginalized background for whatever reason, as being skill deficits or things to overcome on this pathway towards becoming a better leader.

Katie Vernoy 40:26
Yes, and I think that there’s, there’s so much in someone’s life, and in their development, I mean, even genetics or personality traits, like a need for achievement, or extraversion, birth order, temperament, you know, the folks that are oldest in their class, you know, like, birthdate, within the class year that the oldest classmates are more likely to be leaders than the younger ones, secure versus insecure attachment. I mean, there’s so much that kind of brings us to who we are in this present moment. We don’t need to go into all of this, because this is the stuff of therapy, right, we understand what created the person that’s in front of us. And we recognize that if someone wasn’t in sports, or wasn’t tapped, or sponsored, or mentored by adults in their life, they’re going to have some you’re calling them skills deficits, maybe developmental milestones they haven’t hit yet, is how I’m kind of framing it. We work to help folks bridge those gaps. Like that is what we do as therapists, we help them understand and get more secure attachments, we help them to figure out what they’re, you know, how their parents or their caregivers cared for them, and what that means and what they want to do, whether it’s for their own children, or potentially how they want to interact with the world. I mean, to me, understanding the development and adding that component of what does leadership mean, I think is part of the assessment that I think we include, because it is so critical for people, you know, in their careers, and careers often are central for folks.

Curt Widhalm 42:03
Some people have, you know, whether it’s their background, whether it’s, you know, their birth order, you know, things that they can’t necessarily change that are going to lead to some of these uncontrollable developmental gaps. And you picked up on I use the terminology, you know, skills deficits? These are things that I’m referring to is, you know, things that people may have an opportunity to actually change and to acquire. What are some of the things that we’re going to be looking for here?

Katie Vernoy 42:37
Well, I think if we, if we’re really looking at kind of the developmental gaps, or the skills deficits or how we want to look at it. We’ve talked about kind of the opportunities that folks didn’t have, or the parenting or the interaction with authority figures. But I think there’s also all past trauma, relational trauma can impact your sense of self and your emotions, you know, your EQ, so to speak. And I think being able to identify how that plays out. It could be boundaries, it could be interpersonal, but it’s looking at how do these things that we grew up with impact our ability to be a manager or a leader? I think the big thing that most folks don’t think about, I don’t remember if I mentioned this at the beginning, but being a leader is very isolating, and there’s not really a peer group. And so I think, being able to recognize that and help someone whether it’s find a peer group, and we’ll talk about resources later, but I think there’s that element of understanding, do they have a peer group? Do they feel isolated, if they if they don’t feel as isolated, awesome, but if they do, whether it’s helping them find a peer group, or just have a safe space within session to be able to talk about the things that they can’t talk about with their team members. I think that’s important. The other thing is, especially folks who don’t have they’ve kind of come to leadership more organically. So like I said, women, folks with marginalized identities, usually don’t have like the strategic path, they kind of they take the opportunities that come to them. And so they may have been elevated because of their competence or their hyper competence. And so then that’s where you see kind of that fear of delegating or covering for the team. They are just doing a really good job and that’s why they’re in a leadership role. It’s not that they are good at leading. And so you want to be able to assess those things and identify them. We could talk a lot about identity. And so I just want to briefly talk about it because I think it’s really important. One of the concepts that really hit me as a woman and being a woman leader is this idea of the psychological glass ceiling. And I think and this was Ben-Noam 2018, Cracking the Intrapsychic “Glass Ceiling” for Women in Leadership. I think it’s relevant to folks and other marginalized identities, but I think it is fairly specific um, to women, but there’s different relationships to negotiation or competition, obviously, the family planning can happen. But the biggest concept here that I think is really important to understand it’s this double bind. Where either too meek, your you’re too much of a woman, you’re just demure and too meek or you’re overly aggressive, and you’re too much. And, and then taking that further. And this was from another source, and I’ll put all the links, all the references with the course and some of them into the show notes. But, but I think that there’s, there’s this idea of the angry woman, and this is especially seen with kind of the angry black woman stereotype that I think can be really hard for folks to overcome. Obviously, authoritative women are seen as bitches, or nags, I know for myself, oftentimes, I would be very direct, or my social skills weren’t always the best. And I would be seen as impersonal. And you know, I even got the, I think somebody called me a steamroller at one point. Oftentimes, then there’s also the other end of it is like, I’m not bold enough, or I’m too much. Some of the stereotypes in addition to kind of the angry black woman, there’s also the too passive, humble Asian woman, or the overly emotional Latinx person, I think that there is oftentimes these stereotypes that can really hit someone, and that can get in the way of them being able to be a good leader. First off, because they’re not given the positions. But it’s also something where they’re navigating these stereotypes and having to twist themselves into pretzels, in order to fit in that little tiny line that is between too much and too little. I think it’s truly understanding what someone’s facing, whether it’s these these stereotypes or even, and these, these are the things that piss me off. But like the token hire, or the diversity quota hire where someone with a marginalized identity is potentially seen as hired because of that, and potentially seen as less competent or not having earned their job. And so I think being able to open space for that, and be able to provide compassion, I think that can be helpful, but I don’t, I don’t know that we change that unless we help empower more leaders, more diverse leaders who can then hold space for all types of leaders. So systemically, I think part of the solution is having therapists be able to continue to support folks in moving into leadership effectively. But there’s some pretty nasty stereotypes that I think a lot of folks who are not traditional, quote unquote, leaders face when they try to put themselves out there. You know, it’s kind of that whack a mole, you raise your head up, and you’re getting ready to get popped down until you raise it up over here. And, you know, nope, you don’t fit there. You don’t fit there. You’re too much. You’re not enough. And it’s it can and I think that’s an important part, I think for folks to be aware of.

Curt Widhalm 48:01
So I imagine that. That creates a lot of feelings of around lack of safety, lack of fitting in, lack of even just kind of self worth, as far as Do I really even fit in here? A lot of things that I think there’s a lot of discussion in our field about imposter syndrome. But as this particularly fits within kind of this broader systemic sort of issue that doesn’t necessarily have kind of an individual efficacy about it, I guess, maybe the way of of framing it here.

Katie Vernoy 48:41
Yeah, I mean, I joke that impostor syndrome is, it’s like, oh, well, you are seeing yourself as an imposter. And that’s a problem. But if you are told frequently that you are an impostor, or you’re invalidated, ignored or erased, I mean, is it impostor syndrome? Or is it responding to what people telling you that you are? And there was a study about, you know, kind of looking at how to rebalance organizational power for female leaders. It was Oldridge in 2019. But you’re right. I mean, there’s this lack of confidence, lack of legitimacy and authenticity, but the part that really can get in folks way and I experienced this dramatically, is kind of this tentative leader behavior, where they they do a little bit, but they step back or they’re not completely sure. And they’re trying to, you know, kind of navigate how do I fit into that little, little tiny, narrow window of what’s acceptable. And so then they don’t take the bold steps. They don’t do the things that they think might work because of fear that they’re, quote unquote, doing it wrong. And so then they aren’t good leaders, because they’re being very tentative. And so it’s this kind of vicious cycle, so to speak of whether it’s impostor syndrome or not, it’s it’s being in an unsafe setting where you don’t feel valued, you don’t feel seen, and having to try to really boldly step into leadership because you’re under a microscope.

Curt Widhalm 50:14
So at this point in the episode, I think that we probably have to start moving into what do we do with these clients?

Katie Vernoy 50:22
Sure sure. Of course. And so I think the first thing is being able to just know that these barriers, that these barriers exist, and understand whether or not your client wants to overcome them. Some folks are like, it’s just too much, this isn’t my battle, this isn’t my fight, I’m going to stick in this position and I don’t want to make these steps, right. So to really engage in this, you want to make sure that the person is on board, you don’t want to make sure that, you want to do that kind of full assessment to make sure that you understand What is the goal here? Because I’m not saying that you should go and start working on leadership and career development with every client, you should know if it is a treatment goal, or worthy of being a treatment goal.

Curt Widhalm 51:11
Talk about this with every client or assess this with every client, but know when you need to lean into this and don’t just throw this at everybody.

Katie Vernoy 51:22
Well, don’t throw the work at everyone. I think you want to you want to ask the questions. I mean, there’s going to be folks who are, you know, 20 somethings in their first job, like you want to understand what their career trajectory is, what they want to do, and potentially where they are in their leadership development and seeing if you can support it, but they may not be at the space where they’re like, I’m ready to hire people and I want to, I want to know how to manage them, right? Like, it’s all very much very specific. And I think, at this point, let’s just talk quickly about what a kind of career or leadership assessment looks like. So this is from Tang et all, 2021. And my own experience, as well as potentially some other stuff that that will be within the references. But this is the biggest part. You want to look at, what their employment is, what their work/life balance is, the role of work and the client’s life, how work is integrated into the client’s life and figure out the role of work across the client’s family system. And so it’s really getting a huge picture of what does work look like? And then what what’s the meeting making? How is their career perceived? How do they see themselves perceived in relation to their work? And, and I even do, you know, for some folks, I do an org chart, almost like a do a genogram, you know, understanding what is their position? What is the responsibilities, the relationships, the expectations? And as we were putting to this together, I definitely you and I kind of came up with some of these questions, but I’m gonna create some suggested questions for career assessment that I think are a little bit more therapist-y versus kind of the formalized career assessment that might you might be able to find online. But I’ve got lots of questions, but I think some of the more specific ones are like, who are the key players in your daily work life? What are your relationships with these, this is kind of that org chart slash genogram work genogram.

Curt Widhalm 53:14
Or an organizational chart?

Katie Vernoy 53:16
An organizational chart. Sorry, I that’s another thing that probably therapists should know, is some of the key terms like KPIs and ROI and metrics and base and salary and you know, like, there’s a lot of stuff you might want to know if you’re gonna work with a lot of different executives. But yes, organizational chart, sorry, the organizational chart, aka the work genogram. How does your work or the roles you take on impact the people in your life? And so recognizing where work and and life intersects or actually really is completely integrated and what the people around you think about the work that you’re doing and the way that you’re interacting with work? How do your identities, how does your identity or identities affect or influence your leadership identity? And there was a study that showed that really directly addressing self identity related ship to leadership identity is important. And for some folks, if they had some leadership position, some of it might have been related to one of their marginalized identities, like they were in a social justice group for their marginalized identity, for example. And so, it may be looking at how it intertwines as well as how to separate out what am I going to then take into a different setting if I choose to, where it’s not just this environment where I’m fully accepted by all the folks in the room. And then another one that I think is interesting, and I’ll talk a little bit about it, because I think it’s important is kind of how well does your view of success align with the expectations placed on you? And this one is interesting, because it can be you know, if there is a capitalist expectation of a certain amount of sales or if there is a is a productivity requirement for the folks that are working under you, or there is an expectation around, whatever it is, you know, like, this goes, this speaks to the morals and values and does the work you’re doing and the leadership you’re providing actually align with those things? You look thoughtful.

Curt Widhalm 55:19
As I’m sitting here listening to you, and maybe a lot of early career therapists or therapists who haven’t developed working with this, part of what I’m picturing is just a lot of like, Alright, we’ve talked about like, values oriented matching into positions, but I’m just sitting here appreciating how much more in depth and thoughtful these questions are as far as actually helping clients move from Okay, yeah, I’ve checked those boxes and now, that way, and these evoke just a lot more thoughtfulness than kind of like, identify your values, find a place that works with this, that I feel is just kind of very prevalent with therapists who have not developed this part of their practice yet.

Katie Vernoy 56:12
Well, I think it’s something where there’s also life experience that can be brought to bear on this. I think, for folks who entered into therapy as a first career or are haven’t really had an experience in, whether it’s the corporate realm or a place where they were working in leadership, I think there’s going to be a lot of stuff that you can’t know. And as your life experience expands, and I think about kind of second and third career therapists that have some of this background, I think it’s going through and assessing What choices did I make? What did I see? Because when you’re talking about this, like, there is a lot of nuance, but there’s a lot, there’s a lot to know, to be able to identify that there, is a there there, if that makes sense. I mean, it’s looking and saying, Okay, what your work is telling you to do doesn’t align with your values, you know, for example, your work wants you to get recognized, notarized or awarded whatever, and that doesn’t align for you. But the good work that you want to do and building relationships or bringing in revenue, that is, that is what you think is important. Okay, how do we pull those together? Is there a way to pull them together? Or are they completely separate? You know, and having a conversation about if you’re doing excellent work, could it be award winning, and also bring in money? You know, it’s understanding that there are conversations where we can get to a place of, and this is a question I ask a lot, can you make this work for you? Or do you need to find a new place? And I think, oftentimes, my experience is folks that have less work experience or have not stayed in jobs as long as I have and whatever, don’t necessarily see a pathway to How do I stay here? How do I make this better for myself? Versus let’s just find you a new job, let’s just get you go over somewhere else, because this is misaligned. And so there’s a lot of nuance, and how do we interpret things? How do we understand things? What perspective can we bring to bear on the conversation that I think some of it is life experience, but some of it is an openness, that people will stay where they are. And it may not be what’s completely best for their mental health, but it is best for their career or their personal situation. And so being able to support them in getting as close as possible to ideal within their current situation can be really helpful.

Curt Widhalm 58:48
Know what you know, have some experience, know what you don’t know. And really be open and go through kind of your own process of being able to go through this so that way, you can help guide other people through this. And while we’re, you know, moving more towards the interventions and the treatment modalities here that this seems to be something where kind of like with good leaders, there’s a knowing the pace and the pressure to do things that it’s not just being able to go through and just take checklists and be able to check off boxes of alright, I did this thing and that now it’s done.

Katie Vernoy 59:32

Curt Widhalm 59:33
So speaking of checklists and interventions.

Katie Vernoy 59:38
Before we move on to checklists, I think the piece that just really popped into my head and I think I said this earlier, but I want to emphasize it here is that when someone is wanting to do this work, like directly do this work, saying that they are a career therapist or an executive therapist or whatever, like they really want to dig into this work. I think it’s really important that you understand the impacts of your own work trauma and your own leadership development and doing some of this work yourself, because if our work trauma suggests that everyone’s going to be burned out, or if our work trauma suggests that all corporations are evil or whatever…

Curt Widhalm 1:00:16
Or even on the other side that if you just continue to show up and put your head down and do your work that you’re gonna get recognized.

Katie Vernoy 1:00:23
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think looking at your own trauma and your own bias and your own privilege and all of those pieces, I think that can be very, very helpful. Because the way that we ask these questions, I mean, that’s these are part of the conversation. So I would say yes, the questions that we’re putting together, as well as the ones that, you know, I mentioned on this episode, I think those are part of the, that’s part of the work like it is an assessment. It is an ongoing assessment, but it’s part of the work. But to your point, getting to specific interventions, potentially checkboxes, whatever that you want to call that. I did find something that aligns really well with what I already do. So that’s good. I like to be reaffirmed that I’m doing a good thing. But Chen and Hong in 2020, talked about the Career Human Agency Theory or CHAT. And it really draws pretty heavily on Bandura’s work talking about human agency. So intentionality, forethought, self reactiveness and self reflection, looking at the personal level, the relational level and the collective level. And so the first stage is looking at What do you want to do? And so this is looking at self knowledge, kind of the process of meaning making and the construction of identity. And so part of this is the assessment. And the reason I said it was an ongoing assessment is that it’s, it’s really helping someone to understand what it is they want to do. And if you’ve got an executive who’s already in that spot, it could be: I want to stay in this or this level, it could be: I want to continue forward. Or it could be: I want to get the heck out of here. Because I’m burnt out, I’m exhausted, and I’ve got golden handcuffs, and I don’t want to I don’t I want to make money, but I just don’t have the juice anymore. Right? And so it’s figuring out, what do you actually want to do? And where are you within you know, like, what is the alignment within your identity as a leader or an executive or whatever? Because things change with all folks, they can they can change. But it’s it’s that element of like, know, yourself, and my model that I created, you know, like, everybody’s supposed to create a model for their coaching or whatever. This was the clarify, what is it that you want to do? What is it that’s true in this moment? And really get really clear on that. And there are some folks that are just like, I’m miserable, and I have no idea what I want to do. And there are other folks that are like, I am done, and I don’t see the pathway out, but I, I want to start my own business or I want to move up in leadership or whatever it is. Like it’s really digging in and holding this space for any opportunities that are available.

Curt Widhalm 1:03:07
When I do a lot of teaching, I like to have people maybe reflect a little bit on their own process to drive some of these points home a little bit. So you know, there’s a lot of people go through an example here, there’s a lot of people in our field who want to help people. How would this look for somebody going through that conversation? Like, I want to, I want to help people, I want to have my practice, I want to have, you know the, I want to make the world a better place? Where do you go with something like that?

Katie Vernoy 1:03:39
So I can speak to what I say to folks like that is: Okay, so what about helping people is compelling to you? You don’t you don’t need to answer those questions. So what about helping is compelling to you? What is the best part of it? If you want to practice? What does that actually look like functionally? So what is a practice mean? Is that 30 clients a week, is that five clients a week? Is that 10 clients a week? Is it running a group practice? Like functionally what does that look like? And how does that fit into your work/life balance or integration? And then it’s also looking at what is your mission, vision and values for your life. So what is most important to you, in your life, and mission and vision oftentimes are more specific, than I want to help people. It could be I want to help these types of people, or I want to help in this way, or you know, and usually there’s some story behind it. But values can be very interesting, because you would assume, Well, my value is helping people my value is providing the service,. But some people are like, I want to make a good living. And so understanding, okay, well, let’s figure out what you can do that align with your mission and vision, but make you the most money in the least amount of time. And so this goes into the second stage, which is how can you do it? And it really gets to a place where you’re you’re aligning what’s happening with what you can actually do. And so this goes into career self efficacy, as well as you know, kind of outcome expectation goals and contextual influences. And what all of that means is how well can you do your job? How well do you know your skills? What are the practical things that are in place? Or what are the things that you need to add in order to be able to do what you want to do? And so I mean, this CHAT model thing was like smart goals, a roadmap, and then breaking down things into a series of small and concrete steps. Now part of that is knowledge. Like, can you help someone make those small steps? Do you understand what that looks like? But it’s taking like, ideally, imagine this is my second step clarify and imagine, you know, like, what is it you want to do? What is all the possibilities? And then how do you simplify it down to a specific plan? Like, what does that actually look like in the next six months? What does that look like in the next five years? What is realistic, and then the next step is actually taking action and then being available to process unanticipated outcomes and emotional reactions. So this is the stuff of therapy. Right?

Curt Widhalm 1:06:09

Katie Vernoy 1:06:09
Somebody comes in and says, Well, I went, and I actually had a conversation with my boss about getting a raise. And they said that I’m not ready. And I’m devastated. And then it’s being able to say, Okay, well, what was that? What did that conversation actually look like? What did they say? Why aren’t you ready? What do you want to do with that? Is this a place where here’s some good feedback, you want to incorporate it? Or is it a place where this organization is not going to see your potential? Right?

Curt Widhalm 1:06:41
A lot of unprepared therapists in that situation are just going to ask a very general like, yeah, how do you feel about that?

Katie Vernoy 1:06:51

Curt Widhalm 1:06:51
That just kind of speaks to like, there’s a lot that we don’t know about what we don’t know, in this area, unless you’ve got some of the experience or the deeper trainings that you’re talking about here. That ends up you know, all of those errors that we talked about, at the beginning of the episode, just this is where all right, clients sad and upset about that, what do you want to do with it? That just ends up leaving people spinning in circles.

Katie Vernoy 1:07:19
And I think this, this is definitely where bias can come into, because it’s something where if people get negative feedback from a supervisor. How do we know if the feedbacks authentic or not? And what I’ve seen a lot, and this is when I’ve done interviews with, you know, new therapists coming in wanting to get a job, or in conversations I’ve had, but the assumption that I think happens is, the client’s perspective is accurate. And their supervisor is an asshole. And for me, having been a supervisor, having been a manager, and I’m sure you could go to the same place, is there is a possibility that the supervisor is right on. And this all of this feedback is accurate, or at least accurate to a certain point. And so I think if we disregard uncomfortable feedback from the people around the client, we’re not going to be able to help them to actually make some changes that might be helpful to them.

Curt Widhalm 1:08:21

Katie Vernoy 1:08:22
So. So moving forward, because I know we’re running out of time. I think the finish up this process is what does this mean to you? And this is obviously this iterative, iterative process where you learn from what you’ve done, you process it with your therapist, and then you continue to go through and say, Okay, well, what do I want to do now? How can I do that? What meaning am I making in that? And so the way I describe this process is you clarify what’s real, you imagine what’s possible, you simplify it down into a actionable plan, you take action, and then you reflect and clarify and you start this process again. So it’s a kind of this process that keeps going around, where you get closer and closer to what is it that you really want to do? So the other pieces, I think, that are really important is all of the identity work. And I think we don’t need to go into that. I think it’s something where there’s so many things we know about identity development, that is the work of therapy, and it’s just adding leadership development and leadership identity into those conversations. But it can also be helping with skills, building confidence and personal agency. And so understanding yourself and growing your skills and what you think you need to do as a leader. Attachment work, obviously, this is the work of therapy, we know what that is. And then I think it’s really important to recognize that executive coaching or working with someone’s executive coach, I think can be hugely powerful. I know you you had a question on kind of the difference or something around executive coaching.

Curt Widhalm 1:09:55
When do you where do you draw the line as far as what you do with clients when it’s, here’s what you should do kind of more of the behavioral management sort of things, versus your therapy clients where it’s getting into more of their emotional reactions and we’re working with an executive coach to help round out some of the work that you’re doing in your sessions.

Katie Vernoy 1:10:19
I think if I start with a client who basically has asked for executive therapy, I don’t draw a line, I’m their executive coach and their therapists like, it’s, it’s so many of the skills are the same, you know. Like time and schedule management is a coping strategy, all the different communication skills, all of the pieces of psychological resources and how to show up versus, you know, what’s being asked of you, I think, so much of executive coaching can fall within the larger scope of therapy. And so if someone comes in, they don’t have an executive coach, basically, I’m both. I’m helping them with the skills, I’m helping with them with their leader identity development, as well as all the emotional pieces, and their history and all the things that come to it. If I’m just the executive coach, I will send them back to therapy for some of the trauma or attachment work or the things that are a little bit deeper, that potentially they need to have, whether it’s trauma therapy, EMDR, whether it’s, you know, just being able to process from a different space. Kind of straight ahead, executive coaching is a little bit more behavioral, it is a little bit more structural. And, you know, I’ve even worked with an executive coach that’s actually working with the client and their whole team. And group work can be very powerful for these folks. And so I think there is a distinction, you know, but I think that if you’re, I’m also the person who am the therapist, and there is an executive coach, I’m working on all of the identity stuff that and the emotional stuff that the executive coach doesn’t have the chops for, so to speak. And the executive coach is doing a lot of hands on work with the client and the team.

Curt Widhalm 1:12:06
Got it.

Katie Vernoy 1:12:08
But I actually, I got a release form. So like, it’s something where I see these these folks as really positive collaborators. But if you have both skills, especially for folks that have a previous career, being an executive, don’t be afraid to add executive coaching into therapy, it’s part of the treatment planning for some of these folks, because these are the types of skills that will help them interact better in their relationships, more mental wellness, if there are more competent in these things, I feel like we really can I feel we can we can really take a broad look at this and really, truly be a good support for executives and emerging leaders.

Curt Widhalm 1:12:45
What do you recommend as the starting point for therapists to go from here in order to be able to not just dive in and to poor therapy with people in these roles? But I’m really walking away from this with like, there is what we think we don’t know about this type of work. But then there is the the universe of things beyond that. Where do you suggest that people go for more information?

Katie Vernoy 1:13:15
Well, I think for more information, I’m going to try to put some resources into the show notes as well as under the course. But I think for for someone starting out on this, I think if you don’t have lived experience in a corporate or executive environment or as a leader, I think that’s a place to start is learning about that trying to look at, you know, potentially getting your own work around leadership so that if you want to do this work that you can understand it better from a lived experience place. But really, for all therapists, the first place is really adding more in depth career assessment interaction around career with all of your clients. Because if you can start doing that, you’ll see like, Hey, I love working with leaders or you know, what, I just now I’m providing an extra, an extra space for my clients to talk about something that’s central in their life. And I know a bit more about it. All of us are, are working if we’re therapists and so we have some knowledge of that and can really dig deeply into someone’s alignment with their work and add that in.

Curt Widhalm 1:14:12
You can find our show notes over at We’ll put all of our resources and shareables up there and make sure that you follow us on our social media, join our Facebook group, Modern Therapists group support us and the continuing work that we do through Patreon, or Buy Me a Coffee and follow the intro and outro announcements for how to get your CEs if that’s something that you’re interested in doing and just another way to support us. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy.

Katie Vernoy 1:14:47
Thanks again to our sponsor, Thrizer.

Curt Widhalm 1:14:50
Thrizer is a new billing platform for therapists that was built on the belief that therapy should be accessible and clinicians should earn what they are worth. Every time you build a client through Thrizer, an insurance claim is automatically generated and sent directly to the clients insurance. From there Thrizer provides concierge support to ensure clients get their reimbursement quickly and directly into their bank account. By eliminating reimbursement by cheque, confusion around benefits and obscurity with reimbursement status they allow your clients to focus on what actually matters rather than worrying about their money. It is very quick and easy to get set up and it works great with EHR systems.

Katie Vernoy 1:15:32
Their team is super helpful and responsive and the founder is actually a longtime therapy client who grew frustrated with his reimbursement times. Thrizer let you become more accessible while remaining in complete control of your practice. Better experience for your clients during therapy means higher retention. Money won’t be the reason they quit on therapy. Sign up using and use the code moderntherapists if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free. You will get one month of no payment processing fees meaning you will earn 100% of your cash rate during that time.

Curt Widhalm 1:16:06
Once again, sign up at and use the code moderntherapists if you want to test Thrizer completely risk free. This episode is also brought to you by Simplified SEO Consulting.

Katie Vernoy 1:16:21
These days most people go to Google when they’re looking for a therapist and when they start searching you want to make sure they find you. Simplified SEO Consulting walks you step by step through the process of optimizing your website with our small group SEO intensives. Led by Danica Wolf, a seasoned SEO instructor with an MSW and strong understanding of the mental health world, you will learn what content you need to add to your website and how to optimize it with your ideal client in mind. Then watch your online rankings climb.

Curt Widhalm 1:16:50
The next one is enrolling now and begins in August. Visit to learn more and register

Katie Vernoy 1:17:02
Once again visit to learn more. Just a quick reminder if you’d like one unit of continuing education for listening to this episode, go to, purchase this course and pass the post test. A CE certificate will appear in your profile once you’ve successfully completed the steps.

Curt Widhalm 1:17:23
Once again, that’s

Announcer 1:17:26
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