Entrepreneurial Counseling Insights and Reimagining Mental Health Support, with Dr. Kimberly Grocher of Life by Design Therapeutic & Coaching: Ep. 32
- Episode Topic:
In this engaging episode of Mastering Counseling, Dr. Kimberly Grocher shares her remarkable journey in counseling and therapy, which led to the establishment of Life by Design Psychotherapy. She discusses her multidisciplinary approach, integrating psychotherapy, executive coaching and counseling, mental health and mindfulness practices, offering valuable benefits to her clients.
- Lessons You’ll Learn:
In this episode, you will explore emerging trends in counseling and technology’s impact, evolving client demands, and the role of education. Dr. Grocher’s advice, holistic care strategies, and resources for professional development provide valuable lessons for aspiring counseling entrepreneurs.
- About Our Guest:
Dr. Kimberly Grocher, with a diverse educational background and extensive training, focuses her research on using media and technology to enhance mental and physical health for Black women. She provides psychotherapy, executive coaching, counseling and teaches at prestigious institutions. Her expertise spans various areas, from health to counseling and wellness to media and cultural humility.
- Topics Covered:
Throughout the episode, we covered Dr. Kimberly Grocher’s counseling journey, her unique approach, and key takeaways from her studies. Dive into current trends in counseling, the integration of technology, evolving client demands, mental health and the role of education. Learn from her entrepreneurial advice, holistic care strategies, and resources for professional growth in the counseling field.
Our Guest: Dr. Kimberly Grocher, Founder and CEO of Life by Design Therapeutic & Coaching
Dr. Kimberly Grocher holds a diverse educational background, including a BS in Psychology from Towson University, an MSW from Howard University, an MA in Media Studies & Media Management from The New School, and a PhD in Social Work from Fordham University. She’s received additional training in Psychodynamic Couple Therapy, coaching, yoga teaching, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). Currently, she’s working on her Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification.
Her research is centered on using media and technology to improve mental and physical health, especially for Black women, and she was a fellow in the Media & Medicine program at Harvard Medical School, focusing on health disparities in Black women through yoga.
Dr. Grocher has extensive experience providing psychotherapy, mental health counseling, executive coaching, and consultation services in various settings across different regions. She operates a virtual private practice, offering psychotherapy and counseling to couples and professional women dealing with mood disorders, anxiety, trauma, and reproductive mental health concerns. Her executive coaching and counseling are tailored to professional women and creative entrepreneurs aiming to balance career and wellness goals.
Furthermore, Dr. Grocher is an educator, teaching at institutions like Columbia University School of Social Work, Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service, and Weill Cornell Medical College. She frequently presents on topics related to health, wellness, media, anti-racism, cultural humility, and is an expert speaker on performance, leadership, counseling and non-profit management in organizations, contributing to national and international conferences.
Becky Coplen: Welcome to another enlightening episode of Mastering Counseling, the podcast that delves deep into the world of therapy and the business of helping others. I’m your host, Becky. Today we have a remarkable guest joining us, Dr. Kimberly Grocher, founder and CEO of Life by Design Psychotherapy, PLLC.
Becky Coplen: Dr Grocher, Grocher. This is going to be a thing, I can tell. Dr. Grocer brings a wealth of experience in psychotherapy, executive coaching, and wellness integration. So thank you so much for being here today.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Becky Coplen: She has a whole realm of things and work that you’re doing. So we have so many questions. And I look through your website and there are so many avenues from coaching to holistic yoga and helping all types of entrepreneurs. So I’m excited. We’re going to learn a whole lot today.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Thank you.
Becky Coplen: Dr. Grocer. Can you take us through your journey in the field of counseling and therapy? And what inspired you to establish life by design psychotherapy?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Yes. so it has been quite a journey. It really started back in middle school when I realized that I really enjoyed listening to other people, listening to their stories, really having a curiosity about why people, especially adults, you know, did the things they did, and what influenced them to make the decisions that they made. And so I realized, at that time that that I looked it up and that job was a therapist and a counselor. So there really wasn’t a lot of talk about therapy or counselors in my community until my small, private catholic school hired a guidance counselor. So that was my first real understanding of, like, what this is and that this is actually a career path. And so from that point on, I knew I wanted to do it. So then in college you know, I took up psychology, I went to school for social work and that’s really how it all started in my MSW program at Howard University and then moving to South Florida and starting to work in the child welfare system down there. and then decided around that time that I really enjoyed working with adults, I did a lot of work in subacute care, long term care as well. So really getting a sense early in my career of working across the lifespan and then from there moved to New York, did community mental health in New York for many years before moving into something totally different, which was working at a human resources consulting firm. And so I started off as an AIP counselor, but then eventually got moved into doing management training, really witnessing coaching and seeing this whole other side of what we can do, like how much our skills are also needed in the corporate world. So, from there joined a group practice at Weill Cornell in New York City, which was a great learning experience, being exposed to some of the top people in this country, in this world, in the psychiatry field, and then eventually moving into my own private practice full time. So that’s just an overview, a small overview, a brief overview of my career to this point.
Becky Coplen: What a fantastic story. And I love how there are multiple states. So probably different types of cultures and environments and different ways of studying and groups. That is so fascinating. I know we’ll delve more into that. Just to clarify for our listeners, can you clarify the EAP counseling? What exactly did you mean by that?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Absolutely. So that is the Employee Assistance Program counselor. So a lot of organizations, corporations, they have as part of their benefits for their employees, usually in the program, where if you’re going through something or somebody in your family is struggling with something, they can reach out to the AP and be entitled to anywhere from like 2 to 8 sessions, depending upon the plan with a counselor. And so that was what I did. So people would reach out and say, you know, I’m I’m distraught. After Sandy, Superstorm Sandy, if people remember that here on the East Coast, you know, or I’m going through a divorce or I’m having some difficulty balancing work and the rest of my life. And so people like me. EAP counselors would help them for a few sessions. And then if they needed more, we’d help them find a therapist in their community for longer term work.
Becky Coplen: Great explanation. That’s super helpful for everyone. So many acronyms, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with them all.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: It’s so true.
Becky Coplen: So in you touched on this in your background, but even in your practice now you provide psychotherapy, executive coaching, and as well as integrating yoga and mindfulness practices into your work. How did this multidisciplinary approach come about and how do you see that it’s benefited your clients?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Absolutely. So the I told you a little bit about psychotherapy, the executive coaching came into play when I was working at this human resources consulting firm. That was the first time I had ever heard of coaching in this way, ever seen it in practice. And so I was very intrigued. And so I eventually went and got my own coaching training, which was. Mind-blowing, life-changing. I know a lot of times as therapists we feel like, well, you know, there’s such an overlap in the skill set. We’ve already been to school for this, we’ve already done this. And it’s like, no, it’s actually a very different field. The training approach is very different than what we typically our typical training as a therapist. And so there is a lot of overlap. And we do kind of have a head start compared to maybe people who don’t have our therapeutic background. But it is different, you know, and it looks different, especially if you’re working with organizations and employees in those organizations. And so I’ve always really enjoyed working with leaders, really working with executives, helping people navigate their not only their career path or starting a business, but also like aligning it with the rest of their life. You know, I noticed early on that there was so much, separation between what your career is, you know, developing leadership skills and the rest of your life.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: And it’s like, actually, these things should really be going together, you know, for optimal wellness. And so that’s what I do with my coaching. And then so my coaching clients and my therapy clients are they have a separate process and then I fell in love with meditation back in 2014 when I had the opportunity to take a mindfulness based stress reduction class. And I was like, oh my gosh, I have to bring this to my community. Because before that, I really meditation didn’t really work for me. It didn’t really feel like it was something that was for me. But, In that process, I learned how to meditate using mindfulness, and I also learned that yoga was actually mindfulness as well. And so when I was introduced to yoga in that way, it really made sense to me and became a big part of my life. And so again, I’ve always felt like, how can we how how are we separating the mind and the body when they really should be going together? And so that was something that early on in my career, I was trying to find. And so I feel like with my mindfulness and yoga training, it has helped bring it together for me and my clients.
Becky Coplen: What a cool way of linking so many different things. And for your clients to come to you and for you to help them know, do I need the coaching, do I need the therapy? Do I just need better connections? So thank you for that explanation. And what an asset you must be in the community near you and online as well. I know you do some of that too. Let’s talk a little bit about some of the current trends. Counseling and therapy have been evolving rapidly. A lot has changed over the last few years. What current trends do you see in the field, and how do you think these trends will continue to shape the industry in the next five years or so?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: That’s a big question in terms of trends. So let me ask you this for a little clarification with the question do you mean clinically or do you mean business wise?
Becky Coplen: I would say let’s talk about each, because we definitely love talking about everything on here. And sometimes the business side isn’t brought in as much as when people are getting their master’s, you know? So, I mean, I would love to hear your thoughts on both for sure.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Absolutely. So starting with the clinical piece, because the clinical piece is what gets us here, right? So I would say I’m seeing a lot of trends in terms of. Therapists really realize that all of us touch trauma. And think for a long time, like trauma was this separate specialty, but think there’s more of a realization that we should all be trauma-informed or have some type of trauma education. Even if we’re not advertising or saying that we’re a trauma specialist, understanding that trauma has informed so many of our clients experiences and they may not even have. The words for it or even describe it as trauma. But it’s something, I think that we are realizing that we really need to be aware of and know and be sensitive to, and know how to help our clients navigate. Another trend I’m seeing a lot of is is definitely more of this mind-body connection. Therapists really want to do more somatic work in addition to the talk therapy, which again, I think is great, I think it’s very important because the mind and body are literally and figuratively connected. Right. So we really can’t be helping one without really addressing the other. So those are two things I see happening clinically business-wise. Maybe because of what I do, but I do think I’m seeing more therapists realize that if you’re going into private practice, or even if you’re starting your own nonprofit or agency, or doing some type of social entrepreneurship venture, that there is this need to really understand business and organizations and how to. Be a leader in a successful business or organization. I’m seeing that that that is becoming something that’s more desired. Therapists are seeking more information and education about that.
Becky Coplen: Thank you. The business side for sure. We’re hearing that from different therapists and either paying for someone to handle that or getting the knowledge yourself. But thank you for the trauma piece for sure. I feel like I get to go to hear more about being more trauma-informed as a school counselor. And often I’m wishing, you know, you almost wish it was like a mini course in all degrees, no matter what, because there are so many people who have that. And I would say it feels like a lot of people don’t understand it, the triggers and things like that. So thank you for bringing that up. Hopefully, it’ll become just something that more and more of the population are aware of. So I agree. Yeah. so technology and digital platforms have become a lot more prevalent in counseling services. How do you see the integration of technology affecting your practice and other counselors that you’re in contact with? Is there anything specifically with technology that you’ve appreciated or you would recommend to newer counselors?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Okay, so it’s interesting because I feel like. I knew there was going to be this big technology shift like ten years ago and I was kind of wondering why it didn’t happen faster. So I do have a background in media and television production and technology, and for a long time, I was really interested in kind of bringing social work, which is my discipline, and more media and tech together in terms of like, why aren’t we as social workers kind of creating this? So that was my initial interest. But then over the course of my career, social media happened. Right? And so when I was at Cornell, one of the things I did for the practice that I worked in was helped establish our first social media presence and helped develop our website, and was really talking to my colleagues about why this is so important. And eventually, somebody else was able to take that over, which was great. but. I knew from then was going to be really important to get the word out about who we are, the type of work that we do, because this is where people are starting to hang out and get their information and then I was using zoom early on like I said, about ten years ago, maybe a little less. But I felt like this with this new Skyping and video, I was like, you know, it’s just going to be a matter of time before we’re doing therapy this way. Because it’s so convenient for people. And in 2016, when I launched my business, I also saw people in Florida. So what I would do is I would go down to Florida one week out of the month, and I would see my clients face to face.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: And then those clients when would come back to New York, we would see each other the other three weeks of the month virtually. So I was already doing like a hybrid model from 2016. And so a lot of people remember, a lot of people are like, oh my gosh, how can you do that? I don’t know if I would only want to see clients virtually. And I was just like, this is this is this is happening. Like, you know, once people try it, they’re like, oh, wow. Like, this is this is really interesting. This is so convenient and of course. There was a lot of like adjusting to it. And in terms of like, you know, helping clients understand things like, we’re not doing this while you’re driving, you know? This doesn’t mean that you can be in line at McDonald’s and call in for your therapy session. You know, like, there definitely have to be limits and boundaries around it to protect yourself and your confidentiality and things like that. But, when the pandemic happened, for most of my clients, it was a seamless transition. It was like, okay, well, we’re just going to be completely doing Zoom at this point. So I think technology is. Having a huge impact on the type of work we do and know a lot of people are resistant, and I always encourage people to do what works for you. Right. But I do think when it comes to technology, you have to have some understanding of what’s out here and maybe how to use it. And if you’re not using it, make an informed and informed choice so that you don’t get left behind.
Becky Coplen: I feel like there’s a book of your future on the ethics of the ethics of online counseling. How amazing that you called this so long ago, and I bet your phone was ringing off the hook in the pandemic. There, like, this is the person who knows how it works. So many exciting things. And that you could go to Florida for a week in the off time and see your clients. And yeah, I do feel to me it’s quite unique, though, being able to see them and then go online hybrid. Yeah, that’s I know people do that locally living in one place, but that’s so amazing. And I’m glad we brought it up because when I was researching your work, I noticed the multiple places and it really stood out to me. So yeah, very cool.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: I love that. I think that’s another trend too, that I kind of wanted to speak on. You know, like people getting licensed in different states and no certain disciplines nowadays it’s easier to do that with like Psych Pact and things like that. I’m not a psychologist, I am a social worker. So we don’t have that ability yet. But I know a lot of therapists who are trying to get licensed and different places to get more clients and things like that. And I think even with that, there’s a strategy there. All the places I’m licensed in, I’ve lived in at some point in time. And so I have networks there, I have colleagues, connections, and I also am familiar with the culture, which is, like you said, can be very different based on, you know, from state to state. I’m also familiar with the resources. So if my clients need things in that area that I don’t provide, I can help guide them to the right places. So I know there’s a lot of us trying to get licensed in a lot of different states, but I would also say that’s a trend that. We should have a strategy about and make sure that we’re really able to serve our clients well in whatever state they’re in.
Becky Coplen: Great point for sure, and I’m glad you brought up your discipline of social work again and how you not just social work but also media. And I think often those are such separate entities. And for how you brought them together, it’s a great skill set and I think would be encouraging to our listeners because you can do both things and they’re both important. So thanks for mentioning that. You serve kind of somewhat specifically, a lot of professional women and creative entrepreneurs and helping them achieve their career and wellness goals. How do you see the demand for counseling services changing, and what role would you say that master’s and counseling programs would play in the future of the next generation of counselors?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: So I think that. Therapy is becoming. More recognized and seen as more acceptable and more communities. I feel like therapy has always been acceptable in certain areas and in certain communities, but it hasn’t always been as available or accessible or appropriate for culturally appropriate for many communities, ethnicities and nationalities. And I feel like there’s there’s been a big shift with that in the last few years, and I’m happy to see that. And so with more people feeling like they want to reach out or can reach out for therapy services, there’s a higher demand. Right. And so. There really isn’t a lot of us. We mean sometimes as therapists if we’re especially if we’re in private practice and we’re thinking like, oh my gosh, I have to get clients, I have to get clients. It feels like, where are the clients? Right? But there actually is more demand than there is supply. And so, I think counseling programs. Are really important to getting like more of therapists out here, you know, and and having them understand that there is a demand for these services, what that means coming out of your program and also making sure that these therapists are coming out now. Are able to be culturally, have cultural humility. Don’t like the word culturally? The phrase culturally competent because to me it sounds like you become a master of a particular culture. And throughout our life we’re mastering our own culture. So how could we master somebody else? Right? So, definitely a need for more cultural humility in the therapists that are coming out so that we can meet the demands of different people in different areas of life, different stages of life who need our services.
Becky Coplen: Great phrase, cultural humility. That’s too. I love that I might copy it. It’s okay.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Definitely it’s not mine. Okay.
Becky Coplen: So in talking about establishing your own counseling practice, what advice would you offer? And you’ve already shared many things, but is there any other advice that you would say to aspiring therapists and counselors who wish to follow their own path? anything else you would add to that? I know we’ve mentioned several things, but you have lots to share.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Yes, absolutely. So I would say definitely continue to hone your clinical skills. Do not neglect that. Right. Because that is going to be the core of what you do. and you want to make sure you do it well because you’re developing a reputation and that precedes you and then the other thing is really. It’s a really. Find a way to expose yourself to the business aspect of having a practice. Whether that’s through that, that’s through reading books, attending webinars, attending master classes talking to other therapists who are in private practice. Starting to really. Understand that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be an expert in it. You don’t have to have an MBA and a private practice, but having some foundational knowledge that you can build on when you are starting out. So understanding basic accounting principles, understanding messaging. I know a lot of people don’t like the term marketing, but it’s really messaging how to get your message out in a way that resonates with the clients that you want to see. Letting them know that you are here and ready to serve them and I think going back to talking to other therapists, other counselors, I think that’s super important and getting some mentoring. And if you are able to, getting some coaching around it as well, because in addition to laying the steps. You. Also, there’s a lot of mindset work that we have to do to be an entrepreneur, to be a business owner. There’s a lot that we have to work through with our own thinking and our own limitations that we impose on ourselves. And so I think having a really good mentor or coach can help with that.
Becky Coplen: Yeah. Dr. Grocher, when I was reading through some testimonials of some of the clients you’ve served, some of them use the phrase, you know, they were stuck and you pushed them in a good way to be unstuck. And so I hear that with what you’re saying in, you know, a lot of highly competent people, but sometimes they need that extra set of eyes looking on it from the outside to the end. So thank you. Let’s go a little more specifically into the holistic work that you do and how, like with clients that are maybe needing some of that care, how do you incorporate the yoga or other practices in? I’m sure some are resistant. So how do you get them on board? I guess would be a good way to say it.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: No, that’s a great question, because the first thing that comes to mind is it’s an offering. So it is not something that’s incorporated with every single client, because some people will, for whatever reason, they’re not interested in it. Maybe they’re not comfortable with it. They don’t fully understand. And if they’re open to me explaining it to them, then I’m happy to do so. But if that’s really not something that they want incorporated into their treatment, then I won’t. Right. And we talk about that and we talk about why and what the benefits are and making sure they make an informed choice. That is pretty rare, but I do think it’s important to note that, like, it’s an offering, it’s always an offering. And it’s here if they want it. And if they say no, they say no. And if they come back later and say yes, I want this. Or they start and they say, yes, I want to do it this way. Then, then we do. And then they say no. So always phrasing it as an offering and so I’ve incorporated it in many different ways. So from framing it as relaxation techniques. Right. Things that we typically do in our practice anyway from breathwork teaching, breathing exercises, teaching mindfulness techniques to having clients who have actually wanted to do asanas or poses in sessions. And so that’s usually done when I’m working with people in person. Honestly, most of my people who are virtual, they kind of want to just stick to the talking, you know? So, when I’m in person with people, I’ve actually helped clients engage in certain asanas or poses, but again, framing it as like a relaxation technique or framing it as a coping tool.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: So if I’m working with somebody that’s struggling with depression, maybe offering them a couple of poses that can help with connecting their mind in their body, helping to stimulate them a little bit, and then, on the other hand, with somebody with anxiety, helping them to kind of slow things down. So it’s not an all out like yoga class or yoga practice necessarily, as much as it is. These are tools to kind of help you.I do recommend yoga. Like going to a yoga class or something as a supplement to therapy. You know, and helping them develop a practice if that’s something that they’re interested in. I’ve used it as a tool with couples that I’ve worked with where not only does it help reduce tension, teaching them like tools to help them keep themselves from flooding or becoming overwhelmed by emotions or coping with that when that happens but also teaching them what it’s like to be in sync. Teaching them what it’s like to be attuned to one another, because there’s a synergy that happens when you practice with other people. And so giving a couple like a real example of what it feels like to be in synergy with your partner. So those are a couple of examples of how I use it.
Becky Coplen: Yeah. Great examples. That really opens our eyes to how it’s incorporated. And of course offered not pushed for sure. let’s talk. We’re probably getting to the end of this, but What? Professionally. What are some tools or specific books or resources that you feel have been very beneficial to you that you would recommend to the people earlier in their career, or even just considering going into this type of field?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: So in terms of tools, I think trainings are amazing. I’m all about being a lifelong learner. So finding different trainings, whether they’re free, whether they’re paid, that you can start to take to get a sense of like how you want to practice, right? Getting a sense of like what resonates with you. So I know for me, I’ve been psychodynamically trained. I’ve also been trained in cognitive behavioral therapy. I’ve been trained in eMDR. And so while these are. Hot ticket. You know, these popular trainings, they also are they also align with how I kind of think and some of my fundamental philosophies about life. And so using them in my practice has been really great. And ultimately I’ve done other trainings where I’m like, this is this is okay, this is interesting, but this doesn’t really resonate with me or the type of therapist that I want to be. And so even in those situations, like there’s information there. So I would say taking advantage of trainings and, and to help you figure out. Where? Your strengths lie and also where your interests lie. Think early on. There’s a lot of pressure to serve everybody, and that’s fine. You know, because we we do have places and organizations and, you know, where there are many different types of people who need to be served across the lifespan.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: And that’s great. But also not falling into the trap that you’re always going to be able to be effective with everybody. And that it’s okay to to. It’s okay to niche down if that’s what you want to do, and figuring out what that looks like for you and then in terms of books, honestly. I just say read. There’s not necessarily a particular book because I know for me, I’ve read in many different genres and think that all adds. So there’s like the for me, what was the traditional cognitive behavioral therapy book, which was Thoughts and Feelings, all of Beck’s work. That was helpful. But also I read things like You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay, you know, which is maybe like more new agey kind of alternative. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Heart. Heart may be saying his name wrong. Different spiritual texts. In addition to the textbooks we have in school. And and again, in addition to the writing of people who have developed some of these therapeutic modalities and techniques that we use. So I would say don’t discriminate. It all it all plays a part. There’s all there’s a connection. So being open to reading from multiple sources and multiple different types of authors, just because it’s not scientific doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.
Becky Coplen: I love that. I feel like in when you’re working with all different kinds of people, you don’t know what type of novel, more scientific type of reading. You don’t know what it’s going to come out that you could connect with them. So thank you for that great advice. Is there any last minute things that you feel like we didn’t cover or we did cover a lot? Any last words that you wanted to share with people aspiring to be counselors and therapists?
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: No was I would just say it’s a great profession. It’s an honor to be in this profession and and at the same time, be open to what that looks like. Because I think when we’re in school, we have an idea. We’re presented with one way of what this looks like and realize that it can look many different ways and being open to that.
Becky Coplen: I agree all right. Well, what a truly inspiring conversation with Dr. Kimberly Grocher, founder and CEO of Life by Design Psychotherapy, and we appreciate your innovative approach to counseling, blending therapy, coaching and holistic wellness. And that is doing a whole lot in multiple states where you can serve people with hybrid tactics. We’re so grateful for your insights, Dr. Grocher, and for giving us your time today. To all of our listeners. Thank you so much for listening on Mastering Counseling. Don’t forget to give us feedback on Instagram, Facebook, on our website and keep the conversation going. I’m going to sign off today with a warm goodbye. Thank you, Dr. Grocher, and we look forward to our next episode as we continue to explore the ever evolving world of counseling. Thanks so much everyone. Thanks, Dr. Grocher.
Dr. Kimberly Grocher: Thank you.