Dr. Kristen Casey is a licensed clinical psychologist and founder/owner of Evolve Psychological Services, a telehealth private practice. Dr. Casey specializes in insomnia, anxiety, depression, life transitions, trauma, and gender/sexuality concerns.
In this enlightening interview, Dr. Casey shares more about her experience as a therapist, where her passion for helping people stems from, how she’s using her voice to take up space and help others, and how she is helping create a safe community for others to share their emotions and experiences.
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1AND1: Was there a particular point or moment in your life that made you decide to pursue a career in therapy?
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Dr. Casey: I was an EMT before I was a psychologist, and I distinctly remember that I looked forward to helping those who were experiencing an emotional, mental, or behavioral crisis. I can’t imagine what it’s like for someone to feel scared or uneasy when they’re going through a big experience, and it was an honor for me to be there for people in those moments. From that point on, I knew I wanted to help people more. Being an EMT was so fulfilling and stressful all at once; I would help a person and never know what happened to them after I dropped them off at the hospital. I wanted to make more of an impact, so pursuing a degree in psychology felt like the right move.
I never knew I wanted to be a psychologist; it kind of just happened. Not all psychologists provide therapy, but I’ve always enjoyed holding space for others and connecting deeply. I find myself to be a very introspective, “in my head” kind of person. It’s nice to hold space for others when they need an open ear. Learning therapy techniques in grad school made therapy feel like an art and a science. I always wanted to be an artist, so I was essentially meeting my two loves: creativity and rational logic.
1AND1: How has your experience with therapy shaped your approach and perspective as a therapist?
Dr. Casey: Being on both sides of the chair has afforded me an opportunity to truly imagine what it *might* be like for a client. Of course, I’ll never know exactly what it’s like, especially for my clients who are different from me. Being in therapy may help me empathize a bit deeper with clients. It helps me realize that 45 or 50 minutes may not be enough to know someone or the inner workings of their mind truly. Being a therapist in therapy has also helped me gain a sense of gratitude for this work in ways that wouldn’t be possible if I was not in therapy. People are complex with many feelings and emotions, and just having a space to feel heard or be seen can be so healing.
1AND1: You specialize in various issues like insomnia, anxiety, depression, etc. Is there a personal reason why you chose these areas, and if so, would you feel comfortable sharing why?
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Dr. Casey: I’d love to share my “why” for my specializations. Psychologists sometimes specialize based on their training or the available training during their graduate studies. We have required rotations that we don’t have much choice over (depending on the program), so sometimes, we fall in love with a specialization just based on this! I reluctantly specialized in insomnia. My supervisor suggested I run a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) group when I worked in a Primary Care unit at a hospital and dreaded it because I struggled with insomnia at the time. I was like, “How the heck am I going to help someone fall asleep when I’m up all damn night!?” Being an EMT, I worked varying shifts. Hence, my sleep was a *mess.* However, I fell in love with the treatment because people quickly improved. Of course, there were outliers, and people needed help in ways other than a CBT-I group, but it was inspiring nonetheless. I kept it going, then joined a social media app during the pandemic to spread the word about sleep health, and it took off from there.
In terms of anxiety, depression, trauma, and sexuality concerns, these are all topics that many people in my life have struggled with, including myself. I’ve always been a bit anxious and had depression off and on my whole life. And trauma, well, where do you want me to start? (Dr. Casey says with a light chuckle)
Without divulging too much, I’ve been in therapy over the years to help with these issues, and I’ve come so far. It’s been a journey, and I can manage my anxiety and symptoms better than ever.
And, for other therapists who may read this: you are allowed to experience mental health issues. We all do in some capacity, even if it’s basic stress. We just have to be mindful of how this affects our work, and if we cannot remain objective, that’s when we take a break! It’s the same as a cardiologist who takes heart medication. They’re still able to be objective, sound providers. If they cannot do their job because of their heart problems, they may need a break to get their health in order.
Additionally, I’m bisexual, and it was sometimes hard to figure out where I fit in the world. I used to struggle with appreciating and celebrating my sexuality. I had a few training experiences in grad school that helped my clients flourish when processing their gender and sexuality. I have a special place in my heart for the LGBTQIA+ population, and I like to pay it forward by helping those within this community in my private practice now.
Even though these are my experiences, it doesn’t necessarily mean my clients will experience anxiety, depression, trauma, sexuality, or gender similarly. It might help a bit because I know what it’s like to struggle in these areas, but it doesn’t mean that I am an expert on the client’s experience. That is their truth, and it’s up to me to create mental space to know that our experiences are different.
1AND1: We learn so much from therapists who help us daily. Do you learn any lessons from clients that help you keep going or give you a different perspective on life?
Dr. Casey: My clients teach me life lessons all the time! Of course, this isn’t the point of therapy, but a fun bonus every once in a while. The people that I’ve met have truly changed my perspective on life. Everyone has something to teach you, even if that isn’t the intention.
I’ve also learned that life is always changing. I can meet with a client one week; life is peachy, while the next week is a struggle.
My clients, colleagues, and social media friends have helped me live a little more playfully, be more in the moment, and cherish moments in general. We never have the same moment twice, and I’ve learned to really be mindful and take it all in.
1AND1: How do you continue to pour into yourself when you continually have to pour into other people?
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Dr. Casey: I’m really good with boundaries. That is one of my strengths, so I like to brag a bit here (and you should celebrate your strengths, too!!). I try my best to take intentional time off. This used to be a struggle for me. I never took my PTO or called out sick for fear of what would happen to my clients or job. However, I learned that it made me burnt out, stressed, and anxious, and not a fun person to be around. Now, I have 3 day weekends, try to unplug during the weekend, and have intentional routines at night that help me fill up my cup. Some activities I enjoy include engaging in art, spending time with friends, going for walks, being in nature, crying (yes, it helps me!), watching sentimental videos, and journaling.
1AND1: These days, we see how therapists use different platforms to connect with people and create videos about mental health. How are you using your voice and platform to uniquely connect with others + be of support for someone’s mental well-being??
Dr. Casey: I love that therapists and other mental health professionals have shown up in social media spaces. My main goal on social media is to spread awareness about mental health in funny and relatable ways. I tend to post memes, funny tweets, and reels that aren’t super deep, but get the point across. I think it’s important for therapists to realize that us showing up in this space is enough.
It’s important to put out accurate information and be ethical. That is honestly the most important. Therapists have a ton of ethical guidelines to keep in mind, so sometimes we don’t have the full range that other creators might, but I’m so glad to spend time with people, help others feel less alone, and hopefully, they learn about their minds along the way.
1AND1: Sometimes, so much information we see online about mental health can be overwhelming or misleading. What would you like to see change in how mental health topics and advice are delivered to people?
Dr. Casey: There are no major guidelines for therapists on social media other than our general ethics codes. Our licensure level determines our ethics codes. For example, social workers and psychologists have different guidelines to adhere to, but some guidelines overlap, such as we aren’t allowed to have multiple relationships with clients or provide therapy to strangers on the internet. We have to be mindful of how our information is coming across.
Psychologists do have some guidelines outlined by the APA. I have some ideas for therapists if they’re on social media. I’d love to see more disclaimers (e.g., this isn’t a replacement for therapy, but it’s educational) and less extreme language (e.g., “This is the ONLY way to heal from depression”) from therapists and mental health professionals. Laypeople may view a video with misinformation and think they are doomed if they cannot follow through with whatever is outlined in the video. We call this “pop psychology.” Honestly, people want a quick fix, but mental health is a bit deeper than that. I think it’s helpful to see tips and tricks but to have a disclaimer that it may not work for everyone.
Therapists are also in a tricky position because we are showing up on social media to help educate, yet therapy continues to be inaccessible, especially for minority populations. So, people usually turn to social media to learn about their minds, making it all the more imperative that we use it carefully and with intention.
1AND1: How do you plan to keep using your voice to build a safe community where people feel heard and challenged to do better?
Dr. Casey: I intend to create a space where people feel safe learning about their minds while challenging their inner critics. It’s not really up to me if someone finds me to be a safe person, although that is my intention. It’s up to my community to decide if I’m safe.
I don’t know everything, and I’m pretty open about that. Nobody knows everything, even if you’re an expert in an area. You always have something to learn, and someone always has something to teach you. I think humility can be helpful for connection, and compassion can be a great facilitator of change.
I continually take feedback from my friends and colleagues. The therapist’s social media community is quite small, and we have the best intentions for each other. We look out for each other if we notice a video has something in it that may be misinformation or if it will land incorrectly. We can manage our intention but not really the impact. So, being mindful of our impact is helpful to continue to create communities that feel safe for others.
1AND1: Lastly, if there was one piece of advice you could give to someone considering a career in therapy, what would it be?
Dr. Casey: Can I go back in time and give myself this advice? Where is the time machine (nervous emoji)
You are *you* first and a therapist second. You are a therapist and do therapy for a living, but don’t forget who you are deep down inside. It can be hard to turn off being a therapist because we are trained to assess, diagnose, hold space, potentially develop strategies, use manuals to assist people in reducing their symptoms, and more. Being a therapist can feel all-encompassing. We hear our friends when they’re going through a tough time; we ask the cashier at the grocery store how they’re really doing; we find it easy to be the mediator for family conflicts, which can become exhausting and overwhelming. Keep your work at work and be a human, too. That might mean keeping people who help you be playful and fun or having a life outside your work.