Transcripts of the Interview with Dr. Joe Tanti and Kirsten Kachuk of Life Roots Counselling

[00:00:00] Dr. Joe Tanti: All right. Welcome to the another episode of the building, a healthier Edmonton podcast. I’m Dr. Joe Tanti here with my special guests, Kirsten Kachuk . She’s a psychologist here in the city at Life Roots. Welcome to the show, Kristen. Thank you, Joe. Great. So you’re a psychologist. And tell us a little bit about your backstory.

[00:00:25] What led you to the route that you do? 

[00:00:30] Kirsten Kachuk: All right. Yeah, so I’m a psychologist. I completed my master’s of science specializing in marriage and family therapy from Loma Linda university in California. And that specialty focused on learning the science behind relationships and models of therapy.

[00:00:50] That specifically address what I call the space between people. So, what that means is that I have a special interest in [00:01:00] how people interact with each other. What makes that connection secure, safe, comforting, and what makes it unsafe? Threatening distance? And how we can arrive at these destinations. So when working with couples, I like to use the imagery of a couple who is on a ledge and their backs are up against a cliff.

[00:01:24] Like the white cliffs of Dover and in front of them is a dragon, a scary fire-breathing dragon. And that dragon can be anything that dragon can be the stressors of everyday life. Of having you know, two people working at opposing shifts, it can be a death of a loved one. It can be an illness, it could be a diagnosis, a illness of a [00:02:00] child.

[00:02:01] And when we’re facing that, fire-breathing dragon. If we know that. We have someone beside us that as we are putting up our sword, that other person has their shield up to protect us from that fire. Then all of a sudden that dragon, isn’t a scary that we have a sense that we’re not alone and, and we’ll be okay.

[00:02:31] But if we’re facing that Dragon, andwe have our sword up ready to, to wield it. And all of a sudden we feel something poking in our ribs and we look over and the person beside us is poking us with their sword, has their shield up against us. Then all of a sudden that dragon becomes bigger because not only do I have to face this fire-breathing [00:03:00] dragon, but I need to protect myself from.

[00:03:04] From something from a second thing, too. Right. And you know, so that, that metaphor that imagery can sometimes really resonate with, you know, what we’re dealing with and how we’re able to navigate some of the challenges that we face in life. And, and as a kid, 

[00:03:29] Dr. Joe Tanti: Absolutely. I’ve never heard of imaging imagery quite like that.

[00:03:32] And that I think, I think that’s perfect to kind of get the point across of working together and, you know, being on the same side and facing whatever stressor or danger that’s in front of you both compared to Almost feeling like you need to protect yourself from both sides and you don’t want to get stabbed in the back.

[00:03:57] And that way you’re just kind of getting crushed by both, both [00:04:00] sides. And that’s where that relationship really falls apart if that if they can’t work together. Exactly. Okay. And so you work on people helping with their relationships, excuse me. And. Is there any specific type of relationship that you feel people seem to come with you for help with, for example, is it more, I know you mentioned you deal with people with relationships say they have an illness or a loved one there’s health issues or.

[00:04:36] Just trying to rebuild that like an intimate relationship, for example. But also other times people may be in a work environment and they’re having difficulty navigating that work relationship with either coworkers or a boss or even a subordinate, anyone that they work with. Is there a particular field of people that you seem to help the [00:05:00] best or?

[00:05:03] Kirsten Kachuk: Well, I work within the model of attachment. And so whether it’s a, a work relationship or a parent child relationship or a friendship relationship roommate I look at it from a lens of attachment and attachment is really how we navigate anxiety. And the question of am I going to be okay? Right.

[00:05:35] And so there’s four different types of attachment that fall on a continuum of you know, between anxiety and avoid avoidance. So the one that feels the best, that that is the most comforting that we probably aspire to is our [00:06:00] secure attachment. And in secure attachment, it feels like it’s relatively easy for me to be close to others.

[00:06:09] I don’t come become close immediately, but you know, I I, I work on that trust and I’m able to be close to people I’m comfortable depending on others. And having others depend on me. And I don’t worry about being alone. And having others not to accept me. I know that I’ll, I will be okay. Right. If I’m feeling anxious with my connection what I might feel is I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like.

[00:06:56] I’m uncomfortable being without close [00:07:00] relationships. But I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them. So with anxious attachment, we can seek high levels of intimacy needing approval meeting our partner to be really responsive. And if we don’t have this, then then we get worried.

[00:07:25] We don’t know. Am I going to be okay? Am I, I don’t know. And so it can come across as maybe overly dependent, clingy the smothering to, to another person on another end. We can learn and avoid type of attachment and that’s you know, I think of the phrase, no, man is an island. It would be the eyelid [00:08:00] thinking that I’m on the island.

[00:08:01] So I am comfortable with out close emotional relationships. It’s very important for me to be independent, to be self-sufficient I’m not going to depend on others or have others depend on me. It’s I’m if I’m going to be you know, relationships are, are data. I might answer that question of, I won’t be okay if I depend on someone else or if they depend on me, I won’t be okay.

[00:08:36] It’s too scary. So it’s just easier to build that wall and I’ll stay behind it. And then a fourth one is when we also collate between the anxious and the and the avoidance. We have mixed feelings about close relationships. On the one [00:09:00] hand, we desire to be emotionally close on the other hand. It’s if I get what I want, then it’s uncomfortable and I push it away.

[00:09:10] So when we’re off the leading between the two, often we can feel unworthy, you know, where we feel unworthy. Intimacy. And so we push it away, but ultimately we yearn for it. And so we’re caught between between the two. 

[00:09:32] Dr. Joe Tanti: Okay. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I feel as you’re kind of describing those four different archetypes, so to speak I can just picture certain people in my, in my life that I’ve had relationships with.

[00:09:48] And it’s, there’s some people like that. First one where you just kind of click right away. You have it’s, it’s almost that person you meet. And within five, 10 minutes, you, you feel like you’ve known them for [00:10:00] a lifetime. You just are able to kind of mesh right away. And then other times That kind of that needy kind of person who say someone’s in a bit of a relationship with, and they just feel like the person’s super clingy or maybe you’re maybe you’re the clingy one and yeah, just cause, cause you just, you just want that reassurance that you’re they’re doing the right thing, so to speak and I could definitely see all of these different for Types of people, you can have all four types of these relationships with within the same person, right?

[00:10:35] Depending on who their relationship is with. Right. 

[00:10:39] Kirsten Kachuk: And one of the beautiful things is that they’re not static, that they can change from one relationship to the next or from our own self. You know, and, and who we choose in our lives or how we’re choosing to respond and [00:11:00] react to the people in our lives.

[00:11:02] So they’re, they’re not you know, we’re, we’re not having just one and this is what we’re going to live with for the rest of our lives. They can change, 

[00:11:17] Dr. Joe Tanti: right? Personality, isn’t permanent. You can choose to make changes. We have the free will and able to make choices. So and that’s obviously what you help people do try to guide them towards better choices and bettering themselves and bettering your relationships.

[00:11:35] So what, so obviously you help a lot of people with billing rekindling the relationship or rebuilding trust in the relationship with Plethora of different issues. But of course, I’m sure you’ve heard of some people that may be a little hesitant to come and seek your help and expertise.

[00:11:57] There’s a lot of misconceptions, so to [00:12:00] speak in a lot of different fields. And I feel like one in psychology, I’m just thinking to like Hollywood movies, for example, it’s the. You know, the patient is laying in the chaise kind of like a lightly lit room and the therapist is leaning forward in their book.

[00:12:18] They might be writing in a, in a little notepad and of course they’re drawing some pictures that aren’t related at all to the person. And then the bell rings and then they say, That’s a great thought, hold that. And we’re done for today and we’ll catch us up next time. What are, what are some, and again, this is the Hollywood version of things.

[00:12:39] What are some misconceptions that, that you’ve experienced people have and what’s the, really the reality of a situation. 

[00:12:48] Kirsten Kachuk: So those misconceptions and yeah. How, how Hollywood kind of portrayed. Therapists is really [00:13:00] from Freud and Freud. We call the father of psychology. He was generally in the 1930s and it’s 2021.

[00:13:11] Yeah. Now, just to point that out that’s With Freud, he created psychodynamic psychology and his mode of psychology was you’re in therapy for forever for, you know, five years was not uncommon. And his process was he did have a coach and you would lie there and he would sit behind you so that you would not See the therapist and you would simply have stream of consciousness, just talking about your problems or whatever you would like to talk about.[00:14:00] 

[00:14:00] He would write on a pad that he would not show you. And and then that was it. And so through the process of stream of consciousness the, the thought was that people would come to their own conclusions of, of betterment or come to insight, insight, orientation. And that was where we first started.

[00:14:30] Young Carl. Yeah. And Anna and Anna Freud even shifted that dynamic and then come the 1960s, we started seeing with Salvador. Minutian looking at that space between people that, how our relationships, people are coming in and talking about relationships. How are we [00:15:00] impacted by relationship?

[00:15:01] And and so, you know, then research more research with behaviorism came in. And so it’s really, really shifted that the field of psychology since the 1930s to it’s almost a hundred years now with that said, we, you know, even 100 years is fairly young. Or a field of study. And so there’s definitely more that we’re going to be learning that we’re going to be uncovering.

[00:15:37] But where we are right now is there, there is a science, there is a science and knowledge of what makes relationships work and what tears them down. And it’s not you know, it doesn’t have to be a scary and unpredictable that as we, as we [00:16:00] think. So in terms of, in terms of your question therapy isn’t forever, what we’ve found is therapy in fits and spurts is often helpful where, where therapy is like a springboard.

[00:16:18] So I like to think of myself as a process consultant. I’m I’m on the outside looking in you’re on the inside, looking out. If we put our two perspectives together, we get to see the whole and then be able to, to make those shifts and changes. So we might decide. And I decide with the client on a course of.

[00:16:47] Eight sessions of therapy, five sessions of therapy 12 sessions of therapy to have a container [00:17:00] to have a structure for in that time. Let’s see what change we can make. And the definition of short-term therapy is between 12 and 21 sessions. Yeah.

[00:17:16] So that’s therapy therapy. Doesn’t have to be forever. 

[00:17:20] Dr. Joe Tanti: Right. Yeah. A lot to unpack there. So what I’m hearing you say a couple of different things, but the one thing is that there’s that professions change. Imagine that as our knowledge expands, as we learn new things, The practice changes. Psychology has obviously changed over the past 90 years.

[00:17:43] I know chiropractic’s changed over the past a hundred or so years. Medicine has obviously changed. They used to do I think they used to leech people and to get rid of the bad souls or bad toxins or something along those lines. [00:18:00] And they used to recommend that you smoke and obviously. That’s not the case.

[00:18:05] So every, every profession changes and that’s just the natural order of things and that’s for the better, because we will always want to be improving. And from what it sounds like there, there is a PR there’s a method to the madness with what you’re doing with people. You’re not just flying by the seat of your pants.

[00:18:22] You, you have a. Process in place to help how to help people with various different issues that they may be having. And you have to see what works for everyone. Everyone’s a little different. Every relationship is a little different and that’s where you’re doing the trial of therapy at those short trial.

[00:18:41] It’s it’s not once in see you later, it’s maybe a handful of times, okay. That wasn’t as effective. Let’s try this, like maybe a little tweak yeah. Or 

[00:18:52] Kirsten Kachuk: over that was effective. And now we have to make it the new normal. And so we need to allow [00:19:00] for time to, for water, to go under the bridge for life, to happen for us to put these new practices into place.

[00:19:09] And that creates a new normal. And then, you know, when we come back to therapy, it’s now building on that. Into something even more new, right. 

[00:19:19] Dr. Joe Tanti: And, and growing and expanding as a person how. I was like with a lot of these kinds of relationship issues. I know myself sometimes it’s hard to kind of move past things.

[00:19:36] Say something’s happened with a person and you want to try to move on. And as you said, water under the bridge and what, what are some tools that you use? Let’s let’s say in this particular relationship, it was a a friendship let’s say, and they had some type of spat and some argument, and you’re just not able to let something go, not able [00:20:00] to forgive that person for whatever reason.

[00:20:02] And you know, it just. They just kind of split up, but they want, they want us to mend that relationship. What are some tools that you found helpful for people? I know this is a difficult question, but what are some tools people can use to kind of help mend those bridges? 

[00:20:18] Kirsten Kachuk: Okay. So of course every situation is unique and we would look at that.

[00:20:27] And with that said often The piece that is causing the rupture is, is those emotions, those feelings, you know things can be replaced if it’s broken, right? You can, you can fix a car if it got bumped, but it’s the unacknowledged emotions that sit with people. And [00:21:00] so really being able to put ourselves on the back burner in a way to hear the other person and acknowledge what they’re going through in their shoes.

[00:21:15] And it might be different. We might see it from a different perspective. But being able to allow that other person’s perspective to have equal value. Two hours and recognize that it can be different and and true for them. So acknowledging the other person what often kind of can kill a relationship is starting off with defensiveness.

[00:21:47] So no, your perspective. Isn’t correct. This is what happened. This is what’s going on. And, and, you know, often that defensiveness is also [00:22:00] heard with a tone of criticism and we, and, and that is a sure fire away of of eventually killing a relationship. So being able to acknowledge, to validate the other person and to be strong enough, to give an opinion.

[00:22:25] And an apology has more than just saying, I’m sorry. An apology is the acknowledgement of what it’s like to be in that other person’s shoes. And then, you know, saying the words. And then, and this is the part that often people miss is there needs to be a rectification the, like making [00:23:00] a men’s right.

[00:23:02] So sometimes that amends is, you know, I broke your bays. I need to replace it, but also it’s Showing the other person that this is what I’m doing. These are the steps that I’m taking so that I won’t lose your trust again. Right. And then doing it because an apology becomes empty. If the same thing happens again and again and again, 

[00:23:31] Dr. Joe Tanti: right?

[00:23:32] Yeah, absolutely. Excuse me. Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all had relationships like that where someone says, oh, I’m sorry. Then they, it just keeps happening and then you’ll lose the, a, it loses its meaning really? And they’re just empty words, just like you said. And also, I, I really. I feel strongly about having that empathy on the other side and seeing where they’re coming from every time, if I have a I’ll say disagreement with my [00:24:00] with my wife she’s always able to explain herself.

[00:24:04] I use, I I’m getting a lot better, but she able to really explain her side of the situation. And then I, I look at it from that perspective and I, I realize I’m wrong, 99.9% of the time. So and it’s like, oh, okay. And following those steps that you just kind of laid out there. So I feel like that’s really powerful and obviously extremely helpful.

[00:24:26] Obviously this isn’t a direct medical advice follow your, your healthcare providers recommendations but good general information to know What are some useful strategies that people may be able to? So we’ve talked about trying to mend those relationships, but often other times we have relationships with people and they’re not bad.

[00:24:51] They’re not you know, it’s an okay relationship. But it’s not all that it can be. It’s not [00:25:00] flourishing as, as much as you know, that it’s possible to what are some things people can do to. Almost like we talked about before I think last week where you said sometimes people come in to see you and they kind of have, tune-ups so to speak, they’re nothing’s wrong.

[00:25:16] But they just want to be able to make sure they’re communicating optimally and, and have the best relationship possible. 

[00:25:26] Kirsten Kachuk: So, you know, in a nutshell, I guess some things to keep in mind is you know, to look at in that relationship, have you lost your playfulness? We’re so focused on doing and getting through life and, you know being productive.

[00:25:47] How are we playing? We need play for rejuvenation. And an inspiration and creativity and how are we interjecting that creativity and [00:26:00] inspiration and rejuvenation in our relationship. So looking at playfulness it’s you know, people think, oh, play that playful that, you know, little but it really is significant.

[00:26:16] It’s really significant. So making sure that there’s a place for playfulness in your relationship. Another one is acceptance. So being able to accept ourselves as flawed humans and we’re not perfect and we’re still lovable anyway. And accepting that our partner is not going to be perfect and is flawed and can be lovable anyway.

[00:26:51] And you know, for that acceptance, it allows us to then be right. [00:27:00] Right. We can let go of the facade. And sometimes that facade is what’s keeping us away from a deeper connection, right. That we yearn to be loved, not only for our good parts, but for our perceived bad parts too, because in that’s what creates safety, we know that we’re, we’re accepted for our whole, whole being.

[00:27:30] Not just a part. Yeah. 

[00:27:32] Dr. Joe Tanti: Right. Absolutely. So loving the person for their perfections and their imperfections. And that’s really what I think makes everyone unique. If we’re all, you know, perfect automatons in the very robotic and kind of pretty boring, I think. So I think it’s those little imperfections everyone has that it makes life exciting and really fun.

[00:27:55] Yeah. 

[00:27:56] Kirsten Kachuk: And I’ll just add two others. Curiosity [00:28:00] remain curious for long-term committed relationships. We can get into that rut of, well, I know my partner I’ll know what they say. I know what the thing and leave space for that element of curiosity, because over long-term committed relationships, you’re going to be married to a different person for each day.

[00:28:25] Right. We do not stay the same. And so don’t expect it right. And so remain curious and develop that empathy, you know, who better than our, our significant other to work on that empathy muscle and use it on a day to day. 

[00:28:51] Dr. Joe Tanti: Those are some great tips, great advice Kirsten, if people want to get ahold of you or reach out to you and see what you’re doing, [00:29:00] what is the best way for them to do that?

[00:29:02] Get ahold of you and contact you. 

[00:29:04] Kirsten Kachuk: I’d love them to look on our website, www.life routes.ca. I have a little blurb about myself and you can book online. Also I do 20 minute free consultation so that you can talk to me, see how we jive, if you feel comfortable with me and if I can be of service. And and then also you can reach me [email protected]

[00:29:36] Dr. Joe Tanti: All right. Perfect. Well, thank you for your time, Kristen. I’ll thank you everyone for watching or listing and we’ll see, or talk to you next time.

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