We had the good fortune of connecting with Dr. Betsy Usher and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dr. Betsy, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
As a Doctor of Psychology; a psychotherapist, I have come to realize that many individuals seeking to embark on the adventure of therapy to learn about themselves, understand their behavior, and how to make deeper long last relationships, were never formally educated about therapy. Since Dr. Sigmund Freud created the concept of psychotherapy in 1869 there have been hundreds of different types or modalities of therapy one can enter depending on the therapists training and the therapist’s personal preference. This means that an individual decides to enter into therapy, they scroll through the psychology Today profiles or web search looking at the therapist picture and writeup, and then they usually pick that therapist based on a feeling. Each therapist will have a different lens in which they view therapy and modality, and this may or may not match that individual’s lens of how they see the world. If it doesn’t the individual may decide to terminate therapy within a few sessions thinking to themselves, “Well therapy isn’t for me!” However, this may not be the case at all. This therapist may have been working on a Cognitive Behavioral Model (CBT) which is all about changing your behaviors when the person wanted something deeper for trauma like Somatic Experiencing where they learn to regulate their emotions, understand their nervous system that is constantly triggered by small outside forces, and desire to be in tuned with their body allowing it to have a voice. If this person is unaware of the types of therapy because they have never been educated on the different types (understandably) they may unknowingly pick the wrong therapist and then write off therapy forever. Many therapists have learned these older modalities of treating therapy and may not have grown to the new research of what we have learned since they began practicing say some 10 years ago. This would put the client/patient at a disadvantage without even knowing by not receiving up to date therapy. As research has progressed many of us now come from the camp that most disorders are symptoms trauma, such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, OCD, ADHD, and even schizophrenia. Without therapists having up to date trainings to adjust their modality they are stuck in the dark ages, handing out therapies such as CBT to someone with complex trauma which can be very damaging and unhelpful. There needs to be a greater understanding for clients/patients on what type of therapy matches them and then find the right therapist to fit them. I look at it almost like dating; it can take a trying many different therapists to find the right match and an understanding of not to give up if the first one doesn’t fit. Tip: Individuals looking to enter into therapy should google therapy modalities for what they are needing help with and read about each type. Then go onto Psychology Today or the web and look for a therapist that does the type of therapy they believe will help them the most. For trauma survivors I recommend Somatic Experiencing which has actually shown to heal trauma verse most other talk therapies.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My professional career is pretty different than most psychologists in that I’m also an artist and filmmaker for mental health. I made the award-winning viral film “I Am Borderline” in 2016 and Voices of Warriors soon thereafter with a few mental health commercials. I don’t want to just be a therapist; I want to make a dent in the world for mental health. I want to spread awareness, decrease stigmas of certain disorders, and tell compassionate stories of those who live with mental health issues. I have always been a creative individual making music in my band on the Sunset strip in Los Angeles after I left Berklee College of music in Boston; I even write the music to all of my films. Psychology appeared to be creative and was an easy transition to go into during my mid 20’s. Once I was in my post doc at Wright Institute Los Angeles, I was given so much free space by Dr. Michelle Gomes to create whatever I wanted in the way of mental health. It was then working with many individuals with borderline personality disorder and complex post-traumatic stress disorder that the film “I Am Borderline” was born. I had never made a film and enlisted my dear friend Thom Kuo a cinematographer that only shoots on real film (16mm and 32mm) to create all of my visions. Without him there is no way I would have made such beautiful films. There were so many challenges on set I had no clue how to handle and he just led me at each turn. No one, including myself could have known I was about to make an award-winning viral film that got so much attention. As a team we worked together to create multiple works of art that I’m beyond proud of. There were so many challenges that took place before I got to those proud moments. School for instance is a challenge in itself. I never believed a was a good student, I barely remembered high school and certainly didn’t know how to study. I took the plug anyhow and asked people in my classes how were they studying in order to learn how to pass my classes. Turns out growing older I was actually a lot smarter than I originally thought and glad I didn’t take my high school grades as my level of competence. I did really well in school which boosted my confidence and allowed me to believe in myself that I could go all the way to a doctoral program. When you go to school for 10 years you take out a lot of loans for instance which was challenging and scary. However, I just telling myself it’s money I need to borrow in order to get to where I was going. I had to also work two jobs while going to school which was challenging but again I told myself it was temporary and was to get to where I was going; to be a doctor and help others. It was during my film Voices Of Warriors that I found out I was pregnant, a huge surprise for my husband at the time and I since we were told I wasn’t able to get pregnant and had come to terms with it. It was also during this pregnancy that I got sober and realized I was in a marriage that was abusive. The baby growing inside of me awoken something that was a deep knowing that I was in a toxic relationship for 15 years. This movement was the greatest and hardest of my entire life. I packed up my bags and left for Colorado where my family was for protection and support for me and my new baby. This lead me down a path of healing, learning, and growth so I could be there for other women who had gone through the same situation as me. This is how I knew what my purpose was and I’m thankful every day for that awakening and my baby that I never knew I’d be so honored to know and have. It took a lot of courage on my end to keep going every day with an infant alone, to be alone, to be sober, and to face the daily challenge of taking care of an infant. I told myself each day just get up, you’re better once your up and you can get through the day. Over time, learning, growing, and healing, the days stopped being just days and it became my life. I started my own private practice and began helping women and men who have gone through abuse and wanted to make sense of their life and heal the deep trauma’s they endured. I did this by started my certification in Somatic Experiencing at the same time receiving treatments in Somatic Experiencing. This has changed my life and now I have a beautiful life to live.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would start with a day hiking up in the mountains, I love to go up to Vail and hike during the summer, especially in the summer when there are music festivals playing outdoors. I also love to go to the dairy district for ice cream and food. In the evening I would spend it at an art show like the Museum Of Contemporary Art Denver. That is one of my favorites.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Alicen L. Halquist is a psychotherapist in Boulder, CO. She has lead the seminars for the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute at traumahealing.org She has helped me understand the working model of Somatic Experiencing to help heal those stuck in trauma and I finally have away to actual help heal my patients in understanding their nervous systems and completing old stuck cycles that keep them from living their full potential. I’m so thankful for her expertise, experience, and willingness to educated many of us who want to deepen our work.
Thom Kuo Boo Jarchow