LHC: Hello there and welcome to the Let's Make a Health Connection: Your Local Health Connect podcast series in Vancouver, Washington. In this series, we interview and showcase the many healthcare providers and resources that are featured on our website, localhealthconnect.com. For those of you who don't know us yet, Local Health Connect is a hub where our community can easily search for local resources and connect with providers for mind, body, and spirit health. Thanks for listening today. I'm Jennifer Barber, a licensed clinical social worker in Washington and Oregon, and I'm happy to be part of our community of providers. Hi everybody. Today we're talking to Dr. Kathy Sovorow. She has a doctorate in lifestyle medicine, which is an evidence-based profession that integrates her specialties in plant-based nutrition, physical fitness, quality sleep, social and emotional intelligence, and resiliency. The essence of her coaching psychology practice is to help clients build an optimal foundation of health, wellness, and overall well-being that allows all other endeavors to flourish, including meeting the clients she meets. She works with clients where they are playing to their strengths while integrating her skill set with an understanding that we are wired to thrive. I love that. Hi, Dr. Kathy Sovorow. How are you today?
KS: I'm terrific and thank you for having me on Jennifer.
LHC: Oh, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Let's just jump in and let's hear a little bit about what your practice is and what you have to offer the community. My understanding is that you've practiced cognitive behavioral therapy for decades, but this is a little different from what led you to transition to coaching psychology.
KS: Yeah, You know, it's a great question. I have zig-zagged professionally throughout my life and it's always been in the behavioral sciences. A couple of lifetimes ago, I was an audiologist and speech pathologist, and then I went into counseling psychology and got really interested in coaching behavioral therapy and did that for a really long time. I deal with the whole person approach. I lived my life that way. So I wanted to work with people that way. So that's why I have an exercise physiology background, counseling background, nutrition background, quality of sleep, etc., and resiliency stress management, of course. So because I live my life that way, I want to work that way, and so that's why I got the skill set I did. To work with people and why I transitioned from therapy to coaching psychology is that. There's a razor thin difference between the two, one is that I would be the total expert but still kind of working in the same way. Coaching psychology is that the client guides me and I kind of follow the client and then use great communication skills to let them hear themselves and help them use their strengths to be motivated and work through challenges and achieve what they want to achieve. I guess that's how I would describe it.
LHC: That makes a lot of sense. You have stated that coaching psychology is not about fixing or helping. How does it differ? Tell us a little bit more about that.
KS: I guess my Buddhist readings would integrate into this as how I make the difference between fixing and helping. So when I was a cognitive behavioral therapist, I always thought of myself as working collaboratively with my clients but kind of having my expert hat on. I put my fixing hat on, my helping hat on, and thought that they needed me more than anything. So what I do in coaching psychology is really stay away from that. I have to ask a lot of questions. I bear witness to what they're telling me and then I compassionately act, collaborating with them to facilitate strategies and solutions. So I don't fix anything and I don't help because they're fixing and helping themselves and I'm just kind of supporting them. I'm walking side by side with them, using my skills to collaborate with them. Does that make sense?
LHC: Absolutely. I think what might be even more helpful is if you could explain, like, if somebody were to come in to see you for the first time and they had only ever seen a cognitive behavioral therapist. They've never seen a coach before. If they come to see you for the first time, how are they going to feel that the experience is a bit different?
KS: That's a great question, and I think at first they wouldn't feel that it's any different because we would be in a discovery mode of just learning about why they got in touch with me in the first place. So we would be doing this kind of dance of getting to know each other, creating the relationship and setting the foundation, so that would seem very similar. And then, where it would take a bit of a change, is me saying to them, "What is your vision for what you want to accomplish over the next several months?" That's how long we worked together and how would you feel? What are your intentions for getting there? So I would want to dig a little bit deeper with them by just asking them those questions so that they can reflect upon them and we can get to know them a little bit more. So I think for me, that's how I see it differently. I'm not sure they would see it that differently. I would just be asking. I would be asking things of them in a different way than I would if I were playing the therapist role.
LHC: I got it. Thank you so much. What do you want people to understand about lifestyle medicine? I'm wondering if this is a fairly new term. Is it not time to get a doctorate in lifestyle medicine? Well, I certainly haven't heard much about this. I don't know what the majority of people have, so what do you want people to understand about that term?
KS: That's a great question too, because, uh, I belong to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. It's an organization that is fairly new itself, and what we realized a couple of decades ago is that chronic illness was taking over. Things of this nature include hypertension, heart disease, pre-diabetes, diabetes, etc. Where it wasn't acute, people weren't coming in to get biomedical help. They say things like"they have a heart attack" or "they're in a car accident" or something like that. But they actually, in the way that they're living their lives, have an effect upon their health, wellness, and quality of life. That's what lifestyle medicine is, and I want people to understand that they have a great deal of control over their health and well-being. It's the choices that they make in how they eat, what they eat, and how they move their bodies. the quality of sleep that they get. Because life is stressful, they show how resilient they are in the face of stress. But if we didn't have stress, we wouldn't be alive. So, understanding the psychophysical nature of that and realizing that, "hey! you know what? I really am in control of my health. " Then, of course, there are going to be things that happen to us that genetic factors come into play that we don't have control over. The biomedical field is just fantastic to go hand in hand with lifestyle medicine. So that's what I want people to understand, that it's a hand in glove, two professions working together, and I think that we're starting to see that in medical centers and hospitals around the world.
LHC: So I know that you wear several hats and one of them is as a researcher, and I'm wondering if we might be able to bring some of that into our discussion today. researching chronic illness, researching resiliency, researching moral courage, and I'm wondering what kind of research link there is. Let's talk about linking chronic illness to this idea of moral courage and resiliency.
KS: Research in chronic illness is so vital in this day and age because we've got to understand what people are doing and what their behaviors are like that are leading them to this. One of the things that I have a great deal of experience and interest in is the pre-diabetes stage of diabetes. When people are diagnosed with it, diabetes gets as much attention as it should, but pre-diabetes gets none. It's kind of a misnomer because people," say, "I don't have diabetes yet, yet they've probably been 10 years on a path that's not looking really good for them in terms of blood sugar, and so what I researched was using coaching psychology to help people reduce their blood glucose, reduce their blood pressure, reduce those biometrics so that they can get a handle on pre-diabetes." I'm not sure we can absolutely reverse it, but I know we can reduce it significantly so that they're in a healthy range for the rest of their life, because when you go beyond pre-diabetes and get into the diabetes stage, then you're into a heck of a lot of comorbidities and we're in a global pandemic right now and it's teaching us lots about how viruses can be so damaging to people that already have comorbidities and take them into more difficult health stages. That's where my research has been, and I've found some really significant changes when people realize. It makes me smile because when people realize they have pre-diabetes and you start working with them like that, they really want to change it. They're like, "Oh you know, all I have to do is know a little bit about this and then I can get a handle on it." They don't have to eat in a specific way. When they realize that the options are really good, they become motivated and realize that making some behavioral changes isn't that difficult.
LHC: What about that moral courage and resiliency? Can you describe a little bit of your definition of moral courage?
KS: Yeah, and to just define moral courage, I have to step back and define what leads to its moral distress. "Moral injury" is what happens when we get overly stressed about something. It can be anything. Let's take, for instance, the healthcare world and the nurses, doctors, social workers, and therapists who are so overwhelmed with working with people in this global pandemic. When moral injury and distress set in because they're fatigued, they're understaffed, overworked, they're getting burned out. So when they realize that we've got to really get them to a point where they say, "I've got to back off and give myself some time to learn some real mind-body techniques or lifestyle techniques," Mind-body techniques like breathing deeply so that you can change your heart rate so that you can feel more self-regulated. That will lead you to moral courage, and that moral courage is something that I'm really passionate and excited about. I'm not burned out from what I'm doing at home, at work, and in my personal life. I'm really happy about what I do, and resiliency and moral courage are linked in that way, because when we learn these practices and these tools, we can avoid moral injury and distress and live in that moral courage and resiliency world where it doesn't really matter what the challenge is, because we're going to have challenges every time we turn around. It's how we handle that and the tools that we use to self-regulate ourselves so that we can move through that. As Robert Frost said, "the only way out is through." People learn this and then become more resilient, and when you're more resilient, you're healthier. Your wellness is in a really good place, and the quality of life just skyrockets.
LHC: Thank you for describing that. I think that's beautiful and really a shout out to all of the frontline medical workers that are out there right now just hunkering down and doing this really hard work. I also wanted to just ask you. Bringing people into your practice and helping them or walking alongside them when they identify that there are certain behaviors that they have been living with and utilizing during their life that might not be working anymore. They're not serving a purpose or they're not helping with maintaining health and happiness. And so it's part of your practice to be able to identify what those behaviors are and then to walk alongside and create or envision new behaviors. Can you walk us through what that might look like?
KS: I think one of the things, and it comes from my cognitive behavioral background, is that in order to change anything, you've got to measure and manage it. So you've got to figure out ways. First you identify the change you want to make, then you identify the motivating factors for why you want to make that change, and then you look at the challenges that you face when making that change. And what this is doing is giving you a vision of this whole thing: that it's not out of your grasp, that it's within your grasp. So we get through that through discovery, and we talk about that, and then we talk about ways that we're going to measure from week to week. So they do what they do so that they stay really motivated to do things and then how they're going to measure that. For instance, let's go back to pre-diabetes. One of the things that's really easy is that you just pick a biometric like, say, blood sugar, and you get these really easy little blood glucose kits, and every week you just take a finger prick. So from week to week, you can see what your blood glucose is doing while you're making nutritional changes, and you don't have to make big nutritional changes, but little itty-bitty changes at a time. For instance, if somebody is eating a lot of dairy in their diet and they want to make a change there. Then I'll say, okay, so you drink milk, can you go a week without? Can you go five days without drinking any milk? And then we see how you feel and you've marked that on your calendar and they go, "Okay, I'll try that" and then the next week they come back and they go, "You know what? That wasn't really hard at all." I think I'll go another week without doing that. Let me see what I can do instead of milk. Let me see what I can substitute in. " So it's always having a vision for what you want to change and what the strategies are that you're going to put in place to do that and then measuring it so that you're always actively involved in your own behavioral change. If you're doing something constantly to make that change, so that you can then sustain it, Got it?
LHC: I've got it.
KS: So often, I often tell people, if it's about weight management, we do all kinds of different things with that. Don't let's just put your scale on. If you have a body scale, let's put that in the closet for a little bit because it's not telling you anything. I don't know what your lean body mass is. I don't know what your percent body fat is. It's just giving me your body weight. So let's just put that in the closet and then if you still want to take it like every month or so, do it. Then we choose a day once a month and see what your body weight is, and we go on from there. So you know, it's always up to them what they want to do.
LHC: Do you think the majority of the people you work with are primarily interested in nutrition, or do you see people who aren't interested in nutrition?
KS: Outside of nutrition, I think it's all of it because when they realize that it's the whole person that I'm dealing with, we start with the thing that's most top of mind for them, and a lot of times that is nutrition, because a lot of times it's about weight management for them. So we'll say, okay, so nutritionally, what do you want to do? I do this thing where I send every client a wheel. It's kind of a wellness wheel that I created in the different aspects of their lives, and then next to it is a measuring tool of their level of confidence. I have them circle what your level of confidence is that you want to change something. nutritionally, something. professionally, something. intellectually, something. socially. And then they fill that out and then we look at it and say, "Okay, so what do you want to start with?" Most of the time, they'll start with nutrition, and then we'll go into fitness and movement. A lot of times, stress just integrates with that, so then they start realizing that their nutrition has a lot to do with their stress or their movement, so they start realizing how the whole puzzle fits together and we're dealing with all of those areas that make them who they are.
LHC: Wonderful. So Kathy If somebody's listening to this podcast right now and they're thinking, "Wow, Dr. Soverow really knows what she's talking about, I think I want to get in touch with her and start working with her." How might they go about finding you? Where do you practice? Let's share a little bit of your contact info if you don't mind.
KS: Perfect You know, I am a telehealth practitioner. I can do zoom. I can do Doxy. There are lots of ways that I can get on video conferences, but I send them the link, but they get in touch with me first by calling me at 818-581-5869, and then they can also get in touch with me via email, which is Dr.KathyS.Soverow@protonmail.com . So they can get in touch with me by email or phone and then I will send them information and then we can get started.
LHC: We'll have all that information in the show notes, so anybody finding this podcast at the tail end of it, they'll see those notes at the bottom, so we'll get people directed your way.
KS: Thank you.
LHC: We're running toward the end of our interview here. I'm wondering if there's anything that you are working on right now that you want people to know about. If there are any other bits of information about yourself that you'd like to share that people might be interested in,
KS: I'm getting really interested and deeply involved in researching moral courage and resiliency. So if people hear me and keep looking at me on the site, stay in touch because when the research project starts, Maybe within the next five to six months or so, maybe longer. I'll be looking for research participants, and so that's what I would like for them to know, because especially at this time, I want people to understand that it could look dark, but there's just so much positive and they've got it within themselves. Research will help show how human beings can be resilient during such times.
LHC: I love it! Dr. Soverow Thank you so much for taking this time with us today and just being part of this community of providers so that people can find you when they're ready. I love what you say. You know, there's an understanding that we are all wired to thrive and sometimes we just need a little coaching like what you're doing right now. So I'd like to express my appreciation for the work you do.
KS: Yes, and thank you for your work, and thank you for having me today, Jennifer.
LHC: Awesome. We'll have you back. Thanks so much, Kathy.
KS: Bye Bye, Thank you, Bye.
LHC: Thank you again for listening to Let's make a health connection. You can find us on the internet at localhealthconnect.com. You can also search for us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The links and show notes for this interview are available on our podcast page. I really enjoy putting these interviews together, and I hope you made a health connection. We'll talk again next time. Let's make a health connection, copyright 2022,all rights reserved, is the exclusive property of MBS Therapy, LLC, a Washington-based company. Local health Connect is inclusive and does not endorse any political or religious group. Thank you again for listening, and we'll see you next time on localhealthconnect.com.
By Jennifer Barber, LICSW 1-11-2022