Christopher Robinson sits down with us to talk about his practice, the Relief and Solutions Counseling Center in Westwood, New Jersey, and how things have changed in the 20 years that he has been in the treatment industry.
Gina Thorne: Hi everyone this is Gina, and again, welcome to the Lakeview Podcast Series. I’m joined today with Christopher Robinson with the Relief and Solutions Counseling Center in Westwood, New Jersey. Welcome, Christopher. Christopher Robinson: Thank you! Gina: Do you go by Christopher or Chris? Chris: Chris is fine. Gina: Chris is good, ok. Well it’s really nice to have you here in Jacksonville and we’re interested in hearing more about your practice, but before we get started with that, we’re interested in learning about your background. So you’ve been in the industry for a little over 20 years, have you seen the needs of clients change in that time? Chris: I’ve seen the needs of clients change, I’ve seen the stressors as the years pass and circumstances pass effect those needs, those unmet needs. You know, the economy crashed around 2008, I had more than a few clients come to me and all of a sudden they’re in jeans and a t-shirt for their regular Tuesday appointment, and I said, “Is it dress-down Tuesday?” “No, I lost my job. My employer downsized and I’m losing my insurance and I need therapy more now than ever, but unfortunately this is going to be our last session.” So I’ve seen that, too. Gina: And I’m sure just the advances over the last 20 years with technology and the pressures that people are under with feeling the need to be responsive right away to their work and to their family situations is also added to that, too. Chris: Absolutely. The technology plays on different generations and different fashions. All that our kids are exposed to, you know, if a therapist who is in their 40s like I am, just draws on their own personal experience, that’s over 20 years old, of what it’s like going through high school nowadays is sorely out of touch with what it’s like going through high school nowadays with all the technology and social media and the social implications of unfriending someone on Facebook, heaven forbid, and all that. We have to understand what that’s like for the person and the situation, as well as the technology for working people. My main office is in Westwood, I have a second office in Jersey City which is right across the river from Manhattan, and I have people say to me quite regularly that the 9-5 workday is a thing of the past, it’s a myth. Now with technology, with working from home, with cellphones and responding to emails immediately, you know, the four walls of an office are almost anecdotal nowadays, because if your boss wants you, your boss has you. Gina: You’re right. So there’s definitely a whole different set of issues going on with clients that are coming in today than they had years ago and how are we responding to that? That’s a big part of it. Before we continue on in talking more specifically about the nature of what you do, what got you interested in the field of working with psychotherapy and working with clients with addiction or mental health issues? Chris: When I was growing up, I guess different people have different value systems or interests and I always found myself drawn to the helping profession. So when it came time to choosing a career, I really didn’t know immediately when I started college, I was undecided, I was going to college because my parents said, “You’re going to college,” they didn’t say, “Would you like to go to college?” But in exploring teaching, nursing, I found the mental health field and therein specifically as time went on, the addiction field to be an area where there’s an unmet need and an opportunity to help people going through very difficult times and being a beacon of light to you know, maybe, one step at a time, to a better place. Gina: That’s good! Well you work with families. Can you describe for us the importance of the family’s role when it comes to doing patient therapy? Chris: Absolutely. With families, you can’t live under the same roof as somebody without having an influence on each other and it has become en vogue in my profession and I think in the culture as a whole lately. I hear a lot of people saying, “That person makes me so mad.” Well, nobody can make you mad. You’ve got to put an asterisk as the end of that. At the end of the day you can spend copious amounts of time with an annoying person and you’re either going to choose to let them annoy you or not. That said, with family members, if you spend that kind of time living with people, ok they can’t make you feel something but they could sure as heck significantly influence your mood one way or the other. I think the greatest example of that is within a marriage. People play off each other and sometimes they get into tit for tat and they go around and around and it’s important to not be under the misconception that anyone’s problems, if they are within a family system, don’t exist in a vacuum because we all do affect each other and a lot of times we all get worse together or we all get better together. Gina: Yeah, that whole idea that they know how to push the buttons, even though we are in control of our own behavior and the way we respond, they still know how to push that button so it’s important for us to recognize how to change that. Chris: I tell couples that I work with sometimes that over time, as married couples, we become experts at pushing each other’s buttons. They get to be the size of basketballs and bright, shiny red and the challenge sometimes is giving a loving response and not pushing their buttons. Like most of our mothers tried to teach us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Sometimes you’ve got to go all the way back to those basic lessons. Gina: Sure, absolutely. This is your first time visiting us here at Lakeview, so what are your thoughts and impressions? Chris: Amazing, comprehensive, the quality of the clinical staff I am very impressed with. It’s not a place that just looks lovely in the brochure, because anybody can put a lovely brochure together, but if I’m going to have confidence to send somebody that I might work with or a member of their family to a place that, you know, they’re really in crisis, they’re really going to need help, do I want to send them to a place that says they can give them the help that they need at that time when they need it or a place that I have some firsthand reassurance that yeah, they’re going to be in good hands and to play a little Q&A with some of the people that I’ve met here. You know, what if this and what if that, and there are good, solid answers to all those what if’s and then some, when you’re dealing with an addiction yourself, or a family member with an addiction. Gina: Well thank you for that, Chris, we appreciate the feedback and we know that this is an opportunity for folks to hear about your services, and so if someone were trying to access treatment with you, how would they get in touch with you? Chris: Well the main number is 201-666-2400, that’ll get you to our main office extension. And if you’re looking for us on the web, it’s www.ReliefAndSolutionsNJ.com and there you can see a little bit about the services we provide, there’s a little bio and pictures of all the different therapists so you can have some confidence that who you’re going to be seeing is a good fit for what’s bringing you in at this time. I always like to do a little phone intake, screen people, even if they’re looking for a particular therapist, maybe someone recommended them, or they got their name off a list from their insurance company, because we do accept insurance, I’ll still want to hear what’s bringing them in and if it ends up being that therapist, great, but if there is someone that can better serve them and is a better fit, I’ll want to steer them to that person. Gina: Very good. Well thank you again for taking time to visit us here. We look forward to hearing about all the great things you’re doing up in New Jersey and hopefully you won’t have a crazy winter like you did last year. Chris: We’re keeping our fingers crossed. Gina: Very good. Well for those of you that are interested in learning more about Lakeview, we invite you to visit us at LakeviewHealth.com or you can reach us at 866-460-8416.