Meet Kara Lissy, a therapist with A Good Place
What inspired you to pursue a career as a therapist?
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by human behavior and how resilient people can be. I have always been interested in how and why people respond to things that happen in their environment. Helping people raise awareness and make changes in their behavior is something I’ve always known I wanted to do.
As a therapist, what are you most passionate about?
The main thing I emphasize to my clients is we all are composed of multiple selves, and they are always interacting with each other, and often in conflict. This is why self-care, compassion and the practice of mindfulness is so important. I turn to running a lot in my own life to help me through stressful times; I encourage the use of exercise as a coping skill often with clients hoping they’ll receive the same rewards.
What are your specialties and what drew you to them?
I have always been drawn to working with young adults struggling with anxiety and depression, and often find it helpful to look at how past experiences manifest in adult relationships. I believe traumas or disruptions in family-of- origin are shared experiences among us all; it can be therapeutic to closely examine how these experiences often repeat themselves in current life events. As an example, I personally experienced the loss of my father at a young age, and I have reflected on how that impacted me and my development and my relationships over the years. It has allowed me to have a foundation of genuine empathy and I am able to draw on those experiences to help my clients.
What makes you unique as a therapist?
There is a great contrast in the populations that I work with. I work full-time in a psychiatric emergency room helping people in crisis situations. It is a lot of thinking on my feet and acting quickly. Conversely, my work at A Good Place involves slowly building a relationship to establish and collaboratively achieve goals over a period of time. Working in the two environments gives me a broader understanding of the many ways in which clients need help, and how their circumstances contribute. I see the full spectrum of how severe feelings can lead to being in crisis, or can be seen on a management basis. It also helps me to assist clients on de-escalating from a point of crisis.
How would you describe your therapeutic approach?
Multidimensional. I draw on different approaches that are tailored to the needs of the individual as well as cultural and family needs. As I mentioned earlier, I stress having compassion for a person’s multiple selves and what they are going through. Change cannot happen unless there is some self-compassion. I meet with the client and we come up with an action plan and reassess that plan at every visit. I like sessions to be collaborative and fluid — change can happen anytime, and the client is in the driver’s seat. I make sure to ask my clients for feedback on how and where the therapeutic relationship is going and if we are meeting goals.
Everyone needs self-care. How do you practice self-care?
As I mentioned before, I love running. It is a super helpful way to meditate anywhere I am, and is a good way to check in with my body. It is also great at giving me a purpose; I can set distance and speed goals, and I also raise money for charity which gives me a sense of community.
I also believe strongly in incorporating humor into any situation. It lightens the mood and it is always positive to see people laughing, myself included. I enjoy reading and think it can be a healthy way to disassociate from life stressors.
What is one thing that is important for anyone to know?
My favorite quote is “Wherever you go, there you are.” I like it because if you want to change the way you interact with the world, it starts with changing the way you treat yourself. You can change your job or where you live but at the core you are still you and that is where the change has to come from. It is a little reminder to myself and the people I work with. Many of my clients deal with anxiety and their main core of belief is they are not safe in the world and in their feelings. You have to feel safe in your own body to translate that into the world.
What is your favorite thing about being a therapist?
My two favorite parts of the work that I do are like opposite ends of the same coin. I enjoy beingreminded of the vast differences of the human experience - culture, beliefs, sexual orientation, career paths, upbringing, and etcetera. Seeing the world from another’s eyes can be humbling and gratifying. At the same time, it’s grounding to see that at our core we are all the same in a lot of ways. We all feel hurt, angry, have the ability to form relationships and capacity to love and be loved.
What is a personal challenge you've overcome that makes you a better therapist?
I would have to say losing my father in high school. That has been the major shaping factor in my life. I went through my own period of depression, anxiety, guilt, and anger, and had to learn how to deal with that. My mom has also been a guiding force. She is also a social worker, so I have had a good role model for a career and achieving your goals and also a positive influence on how to approach things.
What is most important to you?
Being present. It is something that is very difficult but something I encourage my clients to do, and I feel strongly about practicing what I preach. With electronics and media, the bills you need to pay, and friends and family, it can be a struggle. A lot of people disassociate in really unhealthy ways — using substances and other outlets. It is good to take a minute to check in with your surroundings and what is going on in your body, your thoughts, and the people you are around. It brings you back to earth and can lessen your anxiety.
What are some of your passion projects?
I have always enjoyed writing and someday I hope to be published. I like writing about current events in mental health on a grounding level, such as how we can live happier lives.