Expert Profile - Nicole Christina
Nicole Christina, LCSW
Nicole Christina’s Bio:
Nicole Christina, LCSW, has been a clinical social worker in Upstate New York specializing in eating and food disorders for 30 years. She’s also the creator/host of the acclaimed Podcast Zestful Aging, now heard in 93 countries. The interview show looks at all facets of aging well, including the emotional, physical, emotional and spiritual. She’s currently working on her book “Not Just Chatting: How to Become a Master Podcast Interviewer” and is training for the Senior Games in tennis, which she sees as a major investment in her own mental health.
What life events or challenges that you’ve experienced (could be minor, could be major) – whether you’ve experienced them directly or via someone close to you, have had any type of impact on your desire to pursue a career in psychiatry?
My little brother had brain cancer as a child. I was in middle school at the time and my mother couldn’t cope. I remember being on the pediatric cancer ward and seeing the parent’s grief. I remember one mother in particular crying in the hallway–it was a very formative experience for me. In addition, my own son is on the Autism Spectrum. Dealing with the school and mental health systems have illustrated how much we still have to learn about not pathologizing people with diverse ways of thinking. My choice to become a psychotherapist is about helping people see their challenges in more kind and forgiving ways.
How did those events impact you emotionally/morally? How, if at all did those events impact the way you view how our current system teaches us to treat patients with mental health challenges?
I challenge clients to see the adaptive ways they had to cope. Defenses are there for a reason. I take a non-judgemental approach, and challenge clients to see some of their challenges as obvious attempts to feel better. I encourage them to see their challenges as ways to bring their body and mind back to homeostasis–it’s not a moral failing. One of my typical sayings is, “Of course you felt that way!”
When and why did you decide to actually focus on practicing Integrative Psychiatry, specifically, and how was your decision shaped by the experiences above?
As a social worker, I was trained to consider the environment and how it shapes our beliefs. Pathologizing never made sense to me, especially once I understood how political the DMS is.
I’ve been practicing psychotherapy for 30 years, so I’ve had the opportunity to see clients thrive after they’ve had a rough patch. Practicing this long has given me the perspective that life has phases, some easier than others. One’s challenges are part of a much bigger picture. I’m particularly offended when I see psychotropic meds advertised aggressively. As I’ve learned more about the mental health system, the more I’m convinced that there are more compassionate and healthy ways to approach mental health.
What methods or practices do you utilize to help individuals get/feel better?
I talk to my clients about the “footprint” of trauma and recommend books like “The Body Keeps the Score”. My goal is to help them move away from a notion that they are broken or have weak characters. I like the phrase, “That’s what happened to you, not who you are.” I encourage basic self care including getting out in nature, sleeping well, and some kind of quiet practice. I’m also a fan of tapping (EFT) and other mind/body tools. Sometimes medications are necessary, but I don’t see them as the first line of treatment.
How did people react when you share this Integrative/Holistic approach with them – whether it be patients or other doctors?
They are usually open to it. I suggest something like EFT and say, “see if this fits.” That way they are in control of their own treatment. I see psychotherapy as a collaboration.
Location: Syracuse, NY
Address: 339 Scott Ave., 13224
Availability: Nicole Christina is not accepting new patients at this time, but tune back in for updates.