Unveiling Patterns: Understanding Family Dynamics

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Dive into the world of family dynamics and therapy in this enlightening episode of the podcast. Explore the journey of a therapist who delves into the intricacies of diverse upbringings and backgrounds, and how these shape individuals in therapy.

Discover the power of genograms in unraveling complex family structures, roles, and hierarchies, providing deeper insights into personal development and relationship dynamics. This episode also sheds light on the crucial role of accountability in relationships, particularly in couples therapy, emphasizing the delicate balance between self-awareness and empathy.

Listen as discussions unfold about the challenges of maintaining familial relationships against the backdrop of cultural and community ties, and the nuanced approach to self-care in therapy. Gain valuable perspectives on intergenerational trauma, food choices, and the impact of cultural expectations on body image and identity.

For therapists and interns alike, this episode offers a unique look into the mentorship and growth journey in the field of marriage and family therapy. Tune in for an in-depth exploration of therapy practices, therapist-client relationship dynamics, and the portrayal of therapy in media


Family dynamics and therapy exploration. 0:02

  • Discussion on the origin story of a therapist’s career, focusing on a diverse upbringing and interest in understanding various backgrounds.
  • Exploration into the discovery of family therapy, with a passion for relationship therapy and cultural norms.
  • Enjoyment in learning about clients’ histories and the use of genograms to comprehend family dynamics.
  • Structuring of questions to effectively gather information about clients’ upbringings, utilizing genograms in every therapy session.


Genograms and family therapy insights. 5:03

  • Description of a genogram as a family tree enriched with extensive details about significant people and pets.
  • Discussion on how clients’ perceptions of their parents evolve from childhood to adulthood, offering insights into personality development and relational dynamics.
  • Insights into working with families, especially siblings, and utilizing genograms to understand family system dynamics and patterns.
  • Observations on the distinct roles and hierarchies within family members and guidance on navigating these dynamics.
  • Focus on pattern work in therapy, aiding clients across various states to identify and alter detrimental relationship patterns, fostering healthier alternatives.


The role of accountability in relationships. 11:54

  • Emphasis on the importance of recognizing behavioral patterns in relationships and taking responsibility for their impacts.
  • Importance of finding a balance between self-compassion and self-awareness for healthy progression in relationships.
  • Discussion on the significance of accountability in couples therapy and its role in healing emotional wounds without enabling negative behaviors.
  • Balancing accountability with empathy and understanding, acknowledging individual readiness in confronting actions and making amends.


Family dynamics and self-care in therapy. 17:43

  • Challenges in maintaining familial relationships while considering cultural backgrounds and community ties.
  • Importance of therapists considering their own experiences and biases when assisting clients through complex family dynamics.
  • Thoughts on self-care and its relatability to clients, considering cultural and financial constraints.
  • Emphasis on the importance of being mindful of clients’ backgrounds and tailoring therapeutic suggestions for effectiveness.


Food, body image, and cultural expectations. 24:18

  • Cultural insights on the relationship between food, love, respect, and identity.
  • Reflections on internalized messages about food and body, and their impact on personal relationships.


Intergenerational trauma and food choices. 28:16

  • Reflection on how past family experiences with food insecurity affect current relationships with food and body image.
  • Acknowledgment of the intergenerational transmission of beliefs and narratives around food and nutrition.
  • Reflections on cultural food practices, the importance of dietary balance, and challenges in maintaining healthy diets in food-abundant environments.


Food cravings and therapy boundaries. 33:41

  • Discussion on personal experiences with food cravings and prioritizing nutrition.
  • Consideration of integrating cooking into therapy, weighing potential benefits and personal limitations.
  • Sharing experiences of healing inner childhood through baking and embracing past experiences while controlling personal narratives.
  • Importance of self-awareness and respecting personal capacities in therapeutic activities.


Internships for Marriage and Family Therapists. 39:12

  • Sharing experiences as a director of internships, mentoring new therapists.
  • Highlighting the development of interns from initial apprehension to confident clinicians.
  • Collaborative work with interns from various universities, providing clinical supervision and imparting new therapeutic techniques.
  • Benefits of working with intern therapists, emphasizing their eagerness to learn and ability to connect with clients.
  • Importance of not allowing an intern’s status to hinder the pursuit of therapy.


Therapy and therapist-client relationships. 46:09

  • Advice on giving therapists a chance and not judging based on the first session, emphasizing the time needed to build a connection and mutual understanding.
  • Highlighting the importance of considering personal preferences in therapy and the value of gradually developing a strong therapeutic relationship.
  • Insights into the media portrayal of therapy and its potential misconceptions, encouraging a realistic understanding of the therapeutic process.
  • Expand for Podcast Transcript

    Family dynamics and therapy exploration

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 0:02
    You’re not going to want to miss this hilarious and honest episode with Allen Michael Lewis talking about our family upbringing, relationship with food and diet culture, and the cultural norms around that. Allen also has a huge impact on the next generation of marriage and family therapist as the director of internships at counsel for relationships. Allen, I’m so excited for you to be on our episode today. Thank you so much for making the time to join us. Of course,


    Allen Michael Lewis 0:29
    I’m excited and excited to have this conversation.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 0:34
    Awesome. So in the beginning, we kind of just dive right in, ask the therapists, kind of like, what’s your origin story? How did you get into the field and just share a little bit about yourself?


    Allen Michael Lewis 0:46
    Well, you know, for me, 1776 a nation was I’m just getting complete works. And so I think that for me, a lot of my origin as a therapist came out of just coming from a very diverse and different dynamic kind of family. I’ve always been curious about backgrounds and upbringings. And like where people started off, and I just kind of thought it was like, Oh, this is interesting. And then I realized that, you know, in family therapy, that’s literally what you do. You kind of like piece together this puzzle of where people are coming from, what they’re coming with, how they learned how to navigate through the world. And I think that when I found out about family therapy, I was like, Oh, this feels good. This is something that I really want to get into. I remember taking my first family therapy course in undergrad. And I was like, wow, this is really interesting. I love it. And other people were like, this isn’t for me. And I’m like, Are you crazy? This is sensational. How dare you? So and then from there, just going into really thinking about what were what do I want to do for grad school? Where do I want to go? What do I want to focus on and it was always, you know, this idea of like relationship therapy, family therapy. And so in grad school, still something that I was really passionate about, after grad school is still wanting that to be a focus of my career. And I think I can safely say without any type of chagrin, that I am a system snob. I very much am I love hearing about people’s pasts. I don’t like to get stuck with my clients in their past. But really thinking about how their past informs the here and now and will inform the future by think that it all comes down to just the fact that I’m like really interested and curious about like, where did you come from? And how did it inform the here and now? Yeah, so I also am a very big nerd when it comes to like genealogy and family research. So it just feels natural.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 3:03
    I love that maybe that’s why we get along as I love the systems work too. And I remember being in graduate school learning about it, and like walking around my parents house like diagnosing everybody one by one, like, Oh, this is my you’re like, This is why I’m like that.


    Allen Michael Lewis 3:21
    Another thing that I do that I think is really niche is I you know, I like to read only fiction, nonfiction, I’m not really a fan. But whenever it’s like a fiction book, I’ll do like a genogram, or like a family tree. Because I’m like, I need to know this information. So you like see some of the books, like open the page, and it’s like a paper, but I’ve been cheated grandma, and I’m like, don’t judge me. This is my process. You know? That


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 3:48
    is hilarious. I love that. I still do that for every session in the beginning. Always do a genogram I love to learn about the family dynamic, right? I think it is so important. Like, yes, we’re individuals. And there’s other things that impact us. But relationships and our upbringing, I feel like is at the core of what makes us who we are. And like, you know, we develop before seven years old, we’re conditioned with all these things, and then it impacts everything else. So I definitely love learning about the systems in the family, too. Yeah,


    Allen Michael Lewis 4:20
    and I owe every session. And this comes from like my internship days, we had to do a genogram with every client that we found. And so even for every session, I’ll start with a genogram with whoever I’m working with. And I always tell the interns that I’m like supervising or whoever I’m supervising, like, I’m not saying well I’m going to do a genogram with you. It’s more of like the way that I structure my questions. It’s like I want to get a lot of information about where you came from. And I am like drawing a genogram is it using all of the symbols? No. Am I kind of like drawing like little things around like like denoting them? But things yes. But I do it with every client that I work with. Yeah.


    Genograms and family therapy insights

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 5:03
    So for the listeners who may not be in the therapy world, can you kind of describe what a genogram is for them? So they understand like what we’re laughing about?


    Allen Michael Lewis 5:11
    Yeah, so I was I was with my clients, I would say like a genogram is basically like a family tree with a little bit more information. It really is just kind of mapping out your family, with the different generations and the people involved. I always say like, the key people in your life. You know, there are some diagrams that include dogs and cats, and, you know, best friends. And, you know, though, you know, those friends aren’t really your family, but they are your family. Because there’s, they’re important to you. And, you know, I’ve done work with clients who have grief because of, you know, their family dog that has died. And so it’s important to have them on the genogram. Because, yes, they’re not human, but they are very important and the work that we’re doing, so it really is just like, like an ancestry.com, but I’m reading it out. And maybe I don’t have all of the like, you know, birth records, but you know, I have the information.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 6:10
    Absolutely. You know, I’m gonna start asking about family pets. That’s a really good point. I never thought about that, because that is pretty huge. I


    Allen Michael Lewis 6:17
    am a very big animal person. Well, with a caveat, I am a fuzzy, animal lover kind of person, reptiles and snakes. If that is your niche, wonderful, it is not my minutes. But it’s also to the other side of like, I do think I was like, you know, humans really missed, missed it when we didn’t domesticate bears. I really would want a pet bear. That is. So anything fuzzy, I’m like, Yes, I want to talk about this. But when clients are like, Well, I have a really big, you know, Python? No, that is lovely for you. In the back of our minds.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 7:00
    That is hilarious. I love to ask the question. For clients like to, you know, describe like your mom’s personality. But before you do, how would you describe her when you were growing up versus now as an adult? Because I feel like that answer is really different. And how they perceive that is really different as well. And you get so much information from seeing the difference between those two answers.


    Allen Michael Lewis 7:27
    Yeah, and I also like asking about, you know, like, the different, like levels, I always say like, so starting off with the person, tell me about yourself, tell me about, you know, who you are in the here. And now. Tell me, do you have any siblings? Oh, tell me about the different siblings? Are you close with them? And then working my way up that way? Because I think that that way, it’s kind of like getting the lay of the land. But then as you’re kind of going through the different levels, it’s like, adding more light into these different areas of like, Oh, me and my brother don’t get along. Oh, he’s very much like my father. How do you get along with your father? Well, he’s very authoritarian. I’m like, you know, so giving us overly like, kind of like building it in that way. And then sometimes I’ll show the genogram to my clients. And they’ll be like, Wow, that’s a lot. And I think that it’s really empowering, because it really shows you all this is going on. Yeah. And now I’m doing this work to prevent, potentially block some of these patterns from continuing or change some of the dynamics or we’re working on this together to, you know, create a new narrative for ourselves. By the loved one, it’s like, oh, that’s a lot. And I’m like, Well, yeah, it’s a family. I mean, it’s a it’s a system, it’s, you know, it’s the nitty gritty of everything. So it makes sense that it’s a lot.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 8:48
    Absolutely. And everyone kind of has their own role. Every sibling, each parent, right, like the hierarchy of things. It’s, I feel like we could have talked about just family therapy for five hours. I don’t know how I didn’t put this on the talking points. But


    Allen Michael Lewis 9:03
    yeah, it’s a lot and it’s in depth, then I know that, you know, as therapists were coming in with our own things, you know, whenever I’m sitting across from somebody who’s like, well, I’m the youngest. I’m like, Oh, me, too. I get it. I get it. Because, you know, then I’ll be sitting across from somebody who’s like, I’m the oldest and the youngest is, you know, they get everything. And I’m like, wow, I don’t think we do.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 9:30
    I speak for the group. And


    Allen Michael Lewis 9:33
    actually, we, you know,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 9:37
    that’s hilarious. And so who do you like, Who do you work with now? Where do you work? What’s the setting that you work in for people to kind of hear a little bit more about that?


    Allen Michael Lewis 9:46
    Yeah, so now I’m currently working at counsel for relationships, shout out to counsel for relationship and I’m doing teletherapy so I am able to see clients in Pennsylvania Joe Delaware, Florida in New Jersey, hopefully New York soon crossed. And so a lot of the work that I have been doing is a lot of patterns work. And a lot of, you know, hey, we’re coming in with this, I’m noticing this in my relationships, I’m noticing this in the dynamic with my partner or with my family members, or whoever I’m engaging with, what does it look like to outline that pattern? Block that pattern from continuing? What would you need to build a new pattern? And how are you going to make sure that that pattern sticks, because I think that’s something that I work with my clients is, you know, we operate the way we operate, because we’ve learned that this is how we can get through life. You know, if I pull somebody in, I get what I want. But then when I don’t want anymore, I distance myself and push them away. And that’s really like the self protective method of doing things. But if I’m in a relationship with somebody, and I don’t want to push them away, but I don’t know how else to do it, then the work really is how do I block that pattern from continuing? What might I need to create a new pattern? And how am I going to make sure that I’m not going back to my old pattern, but that I’m sticking to this new pattern? And I think that I bring up this like pattern work? Because, you know, whether it’s an individual, whether it’s a couple, I’m working on the pattern work? And yes, we’re talking about other things while we’re talking, you know, we’re talking about patterns. But I think that at the core of it, it really is, what do I want to see? How am I going to get there? And what might I need to get there? Because I think that the, the tendency is, I know where I want to go. And oh, if I could just do this, if I could just do this. But folks always forget about evil, you need tools, you need people, you need things that are going to help you to get to where you want to go. Absolutely.


    The role of accountability in relationships

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 11:53
    And I think, especially since you really dive into systems and families is also recognizing where this pattern came from, why it served a function before. And why it’s not anymore. I think that sometimes there’s a gap between that because we think like, we just keep doing this thing, why do I keep doing this, I know it’s bad for me, I know it’s pushing people away, or I’m being too needy or whatever it is, and we’re not always aware have the insight of, well, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, it wasn’t always a bad thing or unhealthy I needed it to survive, or to get through the relationships while I was younger with family members or siblings to get what I needed. And now I’m out of that environment. And it’s no longer functioning the way I need it to. So like now I need to revamp the way I operate in relationships.


    Allen Michael Lewis 12:45
    And I think a lot of the clients that I work with, they come in with a lot of shame or blame about the way that they interact. You know, like, Oh, I’m just unlovable, nobody can love me, I’m just this, I’m just that I can’t believe that I acted this way, I ruined all of my relationships. And I think a lot of the work that we do is the difference between blame and accountability. Like this idea of blame, it really is just keeps you stuck. There’s nowhere for you to go. You’re just holding this immense pressure, you’re holding all of this emotional weight. And you can’t go anywhere for accountability. I think that there is a path forward, if there’s this idea of I’m recognizing my role. I’m recognizing what I’ve done, I’m recognizing the patterns that I’ve played, and it’s informing how I’m going to move forward. If I push people away, I can take accountability, but I’ve hurt people. And also what does that mean, for me moving forward? How do I no longer hurt people? How do I do the work of not pushing them away? Because I know that it’s caused harm. So I think that a lot of our work is this idea of like, well, how do I get to this point of accountability rather than blame? Because I don’t want to be stuck anymore. Yeah.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 14:02
    And that’s a tough balance to get to, especially when the blame is mixed with shame, right? Because we can kind of really get stuck in like, whether it’s self pity or just feeling horrible about ourselves and almost not recognizing the impact because we’re just feeling so intensely about ourselves and the things that we’ve done, that we just associate like I’m a bad person versus these patterns, or the way I’ve learned to interact with people isn’t helpful or isn’t conducive to what I want. Right? And like the other end is like being entitled is just like, well, I can do whatever the hell I want. And it doesn’t matter. So it’s finding like I think it was, I was at a conference. I think it was Terry real he was talking about finding this balance between like stern love with yourself, right? It’s like, you should feel guilty by hurting somebody but you shouldn’t feel so guilty that now you’re stuck in the shame. So it’s like that accountability is that middle piece because If I’m like, Okay, I’m not a bad person, I’ve just done something to hurt somebody, I can learn and move forward.


    Allen Michael Lewis 15:07
    Yeah, and I think that it’s even harder to when you have that shame. And also when you’re doing, you know, like, work with your partner. And maybe they’re not ready, necessarily to kind of like, because I think that it can be like, if I don’t stay in blame, then you get scot free, you get off scot free, or like, we don’t have to ever bring it up, or my feelings aren’t being validated. If I don’t stay here, then you get to do whatever you want. Once again, and I’m not heard. And so I think that in working with partners, especially, really taking into the room of you know, you can take accountability, and still hold the emotion of the other person, you don’t need blame to validate your feelings. Part of our work is leaning into that uncomfortable of being mindful, hey, you hurt me. And we’re still trying to figure it out. And just because you take accountability, it doesn’t mean that my hurt goes away. Because I think that that’s the biggest fear. If I allow this person to move forward, is my pain going to be disregarded? Yeah,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 16:15
    they’re just going to repeat it. Again, it’s not changed behavior. It’s just an apology, and it doesn’t move anywhere. And


    Allen Michael Lewis 16:21
    then I’m enabling them, because I’m allowing it, I’m allowing our work to move forward. And me just forgetting about everything we’ve done.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 16:31
    This is the lovely pieces of couples therapy.


    Allen Michael Lewis 16:33
    Yeah. And I think that I’ve also seen it like in, you know, couples and families, because even like with working with parents, this idea of when I’ve worked with individuals, how can I can understand where they’re coming from. And if I give them if, if I forget what they’ve done to me, I’m letting them off the hook, I can see that my grandparents weren’t great parents, I can see that my parents experienced abuse or neglect, or they were not equipped to be parents. If I take that into consideration, am I then just letting them off scot free? No, my feelings hurt, my pain hurts. So a lot of the work that I even see with individuals is, what does it look like to know that there might not be a similar accountability for your parents, but you can take accountability for what this means for you, and how it informs you moving forward with them. So it’s really it’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of heavy lifting. And so I always tell my clients and like, make sure to be kind to yourself, you’re doing a lot of deep work and heavy work. But it’s worthwhile work.


    Family dynamics and self-care in therapy

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 17:43
    Absolutely. And it’s tough with families, I think it’s a little bit different than a romantic partner. Because there’s this different expectation, or there’s a different level of loyalty or commitment kind of in that way. Especially if you’re coming from a very family oriented background or culture, where it’s like, well, our parents may be a particular way, or they aren’t the best, or they’re not as emotionally available or intelligent as I would prefer may have needed, but I don’t want to cut them out of my life. And they don’t understand or get a lot of these things that they’re doing to me. So it can feel like one sided work of like, okay, I’m gonna empathize, understand them, and they may not always be able to meet me where I need them to be. And it’s okay. Sometimes it’s okay, sometimes it’s not right. But that’s like a decision for the individual to make, like, I’m just going to accept that this is the level of closeness I can maintain with my family in order to still protect myself and not cut them off.


    Allen Michael Lewis 18:47
    And I think that it comes down to what we’re bringing into the room as therapists too, because there are therapists, that would be like, Oh, your parent doesn’t treat you well cut them off. And they’re not taking into consideration the culture, the background, even the idea of like, if I cut off my parents, I’m also cutting off any type of contact to my community. Or I’m cutting off any type of contact to my siblings. And I think that that could be detrimental to the client. I also think, bringing in what you might be experiencing as a therapist, because for you as a therapist, maybe you cut off your parents. And so it’s like, oh, it’s the best decision I made. So why not give it to my clients, when in reality, it might not be the best and it might not turn out the same way. So I think that it’s a really tricky part as a therapist to have, like, what am I bringing into the room? Because maybe I’m not done with all of the work. I certainly have not done with all of my family of origin work. But you know, what am I bringing in? How is that influencing what we’re talking about? Yeah.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 19:51
    And I see that a lot and in terms of like, just being an immigrant as well and like coming from that family oriented background. is rarely are, am I going to recommend cutting off a family member. Because it’s like you said it’s so detrimental in so many different ways. And relationships are really complicated and complex. And it’s not always black and white and having that cultural context. And also knowing that what is kind of the norm within a culture is not going to be the norm, and socially acceptable in let’s say, America, right, or, you know, any a different particular culture. So it’s also kind of not putting our countertransference on somebody else, because, well, my family or how I was raised, that would be really wrong, really emotionally abusive. So like, that’s horrible. You should not speak to them. Like, wow, that could be a whole culture operates. Yeah. So we can’t have everybody.


    Allen Michael Lewis 20:54
    Yeah. And as you were talking, I was, I thought about like, times where in therapy, folks will talk about self care. Because I think self care is another one of those things that really is like, blinded, it can be blinded by a therapist, it’s like, well, you know, what I think you should do, I think you should just schedule a massage. And just go to this local spa, here are some referrals. I don’t like spa, massage, listen, coming from where I came from, I’m not going to a spa. I’m not getting a massage, nobody’s touching me. And also who has money for that, you know, so I think it’s another thing where it’s like, sometimes as therapists, you have to be mindful of being in touch with where your client is and where they’re coming from. Because some of the things you’re suggesting, it’s like, no, that’s never gonna fly. What are you doing? Yeah, yeah. And in self care, just irks in my life anyway, because I think it’s gonna become this, this sense of like, you have to do something grand and big. But that, once again, that could be another five hour conversation.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 22:01
    So I love your Instagram MFT foodie, I actually really look forward, I’m like, Oh, I wonder where he’s at this week, to see like the different coffee shops in the food. And I love that you really promote that healthy relationship with food, would you be able to elaborate or dive a little bit more into that? It is


    Allen Michael Lewis 22:21
    a journey. And I think that it’s a journey that a lot of folks have, where they have this, especially if you’ve grown up in any type of American culture, you know, you have this really weird relationship with food. And it’s like this very big fixture because it’s something that you need to survive. But it’s also this very grandiose thing that can show power and status in all of these really negative things. But I think that we also forget, and we also lose touch that it can be a really nice thing that brings people together, that we’re able to connect with, that you can nourish your body with, but in a way that really appreciates the ingredients and appreciates, you know, the different benefits to the body and the different ways that you interact with the food or even just in, like the cognitive aspect of the pleasure that you can get from different types of food. And it doesn’t always have to be like, deep fried, to enjoy. It can be just like the different flavors and the tastes. And I think that it can be I think that food can really just be this thing that is very divided, when really it can very much be something that you can just bring people in together with. So I think that when I think about MFT foodie, it really is just building this community of people that I don’t have everything figured out. And I don’t want to be on any type of spectrum of I only eat boiled chicken and broccoli and or I eat whatever I want. And it’s all fried and greasy and everything. But there can be this middle where we don’t. We don’t have everything figured out. But we can learn together. Because I certainly don’t have everything figured out. It’s always going to be a food journey for myself. But yeah, I think that I think that that’s really what my mission was when I combined two things that I love food in therapy.


    Food, body image, and cultural expectations

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 24:18
    I love food and food is definitely one of those things we think about pleasure is just all the different memories caught up in like different kinds of food too, whether it’s like from growing up or different places you’re at or like the experience you’re having with food and sharing it with people. And it’s interesting thinking about also from a cultural perspective of how different every culture or similarly treats the relationship with food, but also within the family. And then within that culture of how they expect romantic relationships to or like how you view yourself within that too. Because I’m thinking about, like my background like Eastern European is is very contradictory. You know, feeding your family is a love language. And having you know, your children and your grandchildren eat everything off the plate is like a sign of like love and respect. And if they don’t, it’s like you didn’t like my food, like, you’re gonna be hungry. But then at the same time, it’s like, well, if you gain weight, or if you look a particular way, who will marry you? And it’s like, yes, very confusing and conflicting. And that’s just like, the common narrative around it at least in like my background.


    Allen Michael Lewis 25:37
    Yeah, and I think that that’s why, you know, we’re in a very big season of eating. But then also, I don’t know if you’re a Hunger Games fan, but the the new movie just came out. And I think I’ll read and I’m like, Oh, God, I’m a capital citizen. I’m a capital citizen. For anybody who doesn’t know. Suzanne Collins, I think she wrote as like a symbol of, you know, the traditional overabundance, overindulgence kind of like American mentality for the capital citizens, they always want more, they always crave more, they have a drink that they drink to throw up so they can eat more food. Yeah. So it really very much is this idea of food shows a sense of, oh, this is how far I’ve come. Or I can, oh, this is a big deal. I can do this, I can do this. But then it also has this really negative side of things of like, oh, but don’t get too fat. Like you were saying, Oh, don’t do this, or, Oh, don’t eat this, or I can’t believe you know, you ate that because now you don’t deserve. And that’s a big thing. It’s like LF IV and dessert, I don’t deserve this, or I can’t eat the next day, or I have to exercise out all the food that I’ve just eaten. And it really is this like very big yo yo of these counter intuitive and contradictory statements that we tell ourselves, oh, if I’ve eaten too much, I don’t deserve to have my partner, my partner will never love me. So just a really strange thing. And it’s also those internal messages that maybe aren’t so drastic that we never think about. It’s like, oh, this is a bad food. I don’t want to eat that because it’s bad. And it’s like, oh, what’s bad about it? Well, it has a lot of sugar. Well, sugar in itself isn’t necessarily bad. Some people will be like, No, it is high fructose corn syrup. Okay, that’s fine. But I’m just really thinking about these like internal messages where we’ve just maybe they’re not as drastic, but we carry them around. And they’ve impacted our relationship with food. And we really need to consider them. I have


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 27:46
    a newborn daughter now. And so the way I talk about my body, and my relationship with food, is something that’s directly going to impact her and how she thinks about herself and her relationship with food. So I’m trying to be really conscious of, I’m conditioning myself around that. Yeah.


    Intergenerational trauma and food choices

    Allen Michael Lewis 28:03
    And I think it’s even like socioeconomic status, its its gender, its racial. Because, you know, apparently, well, my family wasn’t well off at all. But my, I think that my older siblings would say, like, oh, you had it great, because we were up enough when I was born. But really being mindful that if you are really struggling to meet, you know, to meet the needs of the kids, or, you know, you don’t have money for food, or you’re relying on donations, or whatever it might be, you know, you really have to think about, I don’t know, when my next food is going to come in, I’m going to just kind of indulge, or it’s going to be high, high fat, high salt, high everything kind of food. And that’s what your body’s going to get used to. So it makes sense that it’s going to be this like, famine and feast kind of mentality. And how does that trickle down? Even if, you know, I was born on the up and up, you know, how is that still going to be something that my family lives off of? And that mentality continues? And I think I even see it with some of the clients that I’m working with. It’s like, Oh, we didn’t have this, but now I do. And now I’m hoarding or now I like consume a lot of or this is a comfort of mine. And really thinking about well, like it has an origin serves a purpose. So it shouldn’t be coming from a place of shame. It should be something that we acknowledge and we honor that that was how you had to really think, and what are some other ways that we can shift that thinking and what are some of the supports that you might need to to assist with your journey?


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 29:42
    Yeah, absolutely. And it’s such a good point to think about that, like ancestrally like throughout, whether it’s like your parents or your grandparents or your great grandparents, right? Because that is passed down like that intergenerational trauma or beliefs or narratives because I’m thinking about like, you know, I came from former Soviet Union and my parents and grandparents and great grandparents and you know, several before that was in communism, or like there was a lot of food insecurity. And like, our diets are made up of meat, potatoes, bread and fat. Yeah, right. And like, I love that, but it’s, you know, thinking about like, yeah, that makes sense why they ate that is to feel full, because otherwise he didn’t have enough food. Or it would go back because there weren’t preservatives and like that being passed down, I think is really important for people to also to recognize, I think that’s such a great point to think about, like, it’s not just you right now. Or even your parents, it’s like, how long ago did this kind of really instill this message of the type of food you needed to survive?


    Allen Michael Lewis 30:46
    And I think like the cutting out of food, too, can also be cutting out different cultural things that are very important to you. I always think about times where it’s like, well, have you ever thought about not eating, you know, beans and rice, they’re very heavy. And I just like feel like this, like, ancestral, like immediate head snap from like, all of my answers. And I’m like, I’m pretty sure that there are 1000s of ancestors and 1000s of parts of the world that have just screamed in their grave, because literally, rice and beans have provided for many multitudes of people. So I think really not going the other side of like, oh, this is bad, let’s cut it out. But more of like, yes, they have survived off of these things. And let’s really put it into context. Maybe ancestors who ate a lot of rice and beans, were, you know, doing a lot more than me who’s doing teletherapy in my apartment, you know? So really being mindful of like, How much am I consuming? How can I still have it in my diet, and also take into consideration my different activity level than what my ancestors would be doing? And because I think that putting it into context allows for a little bit more of grounding and strength, rather than feeling like I have to do this very hardcore thing. And this very restrictive thing, because then it’s going to feel like well, I don’t want to but I have to, as opposed to coming from this place of rounding of figuring it out. And maybe there are going to be some trial and error, but at least I’m coming from a place of strength.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 32:13
    Yeah. And different lifestyle, different environment, different needs and demands of you. Yeah.


    Allen Michael Lewis 32:19
    And I think that it’s really just unfair, that, you know, the high calorie foods are the delicious food, like we said that some people would be like, Well, hey, you know, like, turnips are delightful. Compared to cake. That, you know,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 32:42
    I’m like, I know, thinking about like, not eating a potato. The rest of my life would feel like a betrayal. Like you’re saying, like rice and beans, like, What do you mean?


    Food cravings and therapy boundaries

    Allen Michael Lewis 32:53
    I did, I was in New York City. Food capital, potentially. Delhi, I did hear is, you know, kind of building up there. And I was sitting in a coffee shop, and I just heard somebody next to me. And they were talking about their food. Yeah, I just had this really great dinner. I’m like, this is exciting. Because I’m used dropping. I’m a therapist by trade. So I’m listening. And he’s like, I had boiled chicken or my elbow, me like, and I had some potatoes, just like two. And I was like, like, whole calves. And then he’s like, and then I had some, like, some steamed broccoli. And, you know, I cut it up into half, and then I saved the other half for tomorrow. And, you know, I feel good. And I’m about to go to the gym. And I’m like, in New York City. I don’t know if I would have that restraint. God bless you, sir. Because I listen, I’m going to, and that is my cross to bear. But really, like, did they have to make it? Like, why couldn’t if you bite into a pair, it was like, you know, cheesecake? Or wonderful. You know,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 33:58
    we’ll say some fruit definitely hits the spot.


    Allen Michael Lewis 34:02
    Yeah. And I think that’s something I like. So I work with a nutritionist, shout out to body metric in royersford. Whoo. But they were talking about how, you know, there are certain foods that you’re going to just be craving, and you’re gonna be like, Yes, this is what I want. And as opposed to being like, oh, I can only eat this. And that’s it. But really thinking about how can I have this food and other foods that are going to fill me being atrocious, get me the things that I need for my body to function. And that was a really big change. Oh, you know, like, as opposed to like, Oh, if you eat this one bad thing, you could that’s all you can eat. You can’t eat anything else, because you’re too high in calories. But really thinking about it in a way of like, How can I have this need met, while also getting these other nutrients that I need? And so it’s a more adding to Yeah, as opposed to like taking away from Yeah, and kind


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 34:57
    of listening to what your body needs, right? Because you’re saying And like you’re not always, someone’s not always going to want fried foods just because it’s tasty sometimes, like, we just got a pizza oven, and we have been going ham on making homemade pizzas. There was like, the second day, I was like, I can’t do it anymore. Like, I feel like I just want something fresh, like I want to vegetable I want to salad. And that was just my body telling me like, this is delicious, for sure. And we’re going to do this next weekend. But like, I can’t, I don’t want it anymore, which was interesting, because in my mind, I’m like, I need pizza every day. I


    Allen Michael Lewis 35:32
    think that that’s, we That’s why I can really understand the seasons. Because like, it’s the earth way of saying you don’t need this thing all the time. If, if watermelon existed the entirety of the year, I would eat every day. It’s delight, watermelon peaches. I’ve been in a raspberry era. It’s pretty exciting.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 35:57
    That’s hilarious. I feel like this could just turn into a food show. I’m just thinking about.


    Allen Michael Lewis 36:03
    I actually transition to my kitchen. I’m like, Hey, we’re going to I would love to incorporate that into therapy. But I know I know my boundaries. And I know that if we did something and it didn’t turn out, I would be more than be the client. I’d be like, what you weren’t so hard, you know. So I’m like, I don’t think that I will be incorporating cooking. But I know that it could be really beneficial for people in therapy. That


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 36:32
    would actually be a really cool experiential way to process and heal some things.


    Allen Michael Lewis 36:38
    Oh, there was a really great tic toc or I forget, I think her name is Alicia. No, I don’t think so. But she was talking about healing her inner child. And one of those things was that she bought a box of brownie mix. And when she was a child, they had to do the brownies a certain way. They couldn’t eat them only until their her stepmother said that they could eat them. And they had to be served in a different in a specific way than to be cut in a certain way. And there was a time where something had happened where she was reprimanded for something she didn’t do. And it was really tied to this. So part of her healing her inner child was she made the box of brownies, she did it in a completely different way than she had to when she was a child. And then when they were done, she didn’t wait for them to cool. She cut a triangle, I think it was in the middle of the pan, and then just scooped it out and ate it over the pan. And I thought it was really great because it really was this idea of I’m honoring this past that I’ve had. And I’m honoring what I really wanted from when I was a child. And now I’m able to do it. Because I have a little bit more control over my narrative. And I can really heal that part of me by saying like you didn’t do wrong, just because you did things in a different way. It’s okay to do things differently.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 38:02
    I really love that. That’s also how I eat food. Yes.


    Allen Michael Lewis 38:08
    I am a dance mom when it comes to baking. Because I’ll be like No, not yet, or we have to do this. So that’s why I’m just like, you know, maybe baking is a personal thing that I do for myself. It’s not really a group activity. And that’s part of knowing your boundaries and knowing your capacity. And I talked about that with my clients all the time. Because I think I think, you know, I’ll be talking with friends and yeah, maybe like our kids, you know, like, could come over and you like bake with them. And I’m like, or I get all of the ingredients. And then I send it to your house where you live. You know, like, I don’t want to be that person who is like, No, you didn’t decorate ready to like the chat. Now your capacities, understand your capacities. And it’s okay to honor your capacity,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 39:00
    that self awareness and insight.


    Internships for Marriage and Family Therapists

    Allen Michael Lewis 39:04
    It came at, you know, like, there were a couple of times where I was cooking or baking with something, somebody and I’m like, I have to breathe through. I have to be through it. That was about to lose the plot.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 39:17
    And then there was Thanksgiving dinner. Oh,


    Allen Michael Lewis 39:20
    it’s it’s it’s Christmas. For me. My Christmas has to be this way. But yeah, well, I’ll get there. We’ll get there.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 39:32
    That’s so funny. I did want to touch on so I know that you work at counsel for relationships, and you’re the director of internships. And can you share a little bit about that experience because you have all of these budding Marriage and Family Therapists about to go into the field. So you get to mold the minds of all of these new therapists coming out. Yeah,


    Allen Michael Lewis 39:54
    so CFR currently has 75 Yeah, it is a You can laugh riot. But I think that it’s great because we live, we literally see, folks, you know, some of our interns have never seen clients before, in any type of context, some of them have seen them in other like group therapies or other settings. So it’s really cool to see somebody who’s just starting out and see them go through the different, you know, feelings of being a first time therapist and then getting a little bit more comfortable, and then getting to the end of their program and then launching into the, into the field and having their first clients wherever they’re working. So I think it’s really cool to be able to see, like, literally from the beginning, their growth happening. And I also supervise in the program. So it’s really cool to be able to be part of, you know, people’s initial steps as clinicians, it can come with a lot of trials and tribulations. But overall, it really is this awesome time to really just be able to see people blossom. And I always say it’s like, if you know, when when I use a when I don’t say, when you have the career that you want, and you’ve written your book, or you’ve written whatever you would like to do. Just remember in that little acknowledgement section for Alan was positive, yeah, it might be just positive, you know, you really taught me everything, it also might be that negative for Alan, because I’ve thrived in spite of because there is part of this director role where it is like, you have to do this, you have to do that, to show that you do this, you have to, you know, kind of being the heavy. So whether it’s in spite of or because of the shadow is appreciated. There’s no bad press. There is not.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 41:45
    That’s awesome, though. And so during those classes that you have with them, is it helping them find the internship or they’re interning at Council, and then you’re kind of doing that supervision class with them to talk through everything that they’re going through? Yeah,


    Allen Michael Lewis 41:58
    so they’re interning at the council. So we take students from Thomas Jefferson University, and then we’ve have partnerships with University of Pennsylvania Temple University, Bryn Mawr College, West, Chester University, all of these different places that we’re really trying to build connections with. And so they’ll come here, they’ll do their clinical placement with us. I supervise with the master’s level students. So we’ll meet either for two hours, depending on if I’m meeting with two people or one hour if I’m meeting with one. And it really is to watch over their caseload, watch it, watch their case videos, and talk about what’s going on clinically. Because I think that the thing is that a lot of the folks that are in our internship, they have this innate ability to meet clients where they are talking about what they’re experiencing. So for those who are listening, who are like, Oh, I don’t know about seeing an intern for therapy, no, it really give it a shot. And really, really go with an open mind. Because a lot of these folks are in this field, because they want to help and they want to meet you where they are, you are and they want, you know, you to achieve your goals. And they have the skill set innately of listening or connecting with you or joining or really just holding what you have to say, which is something that sometimes our family and our friends don’t do well. So they really are coming in with these skills that we’re now just teaching, hey, here’s a technique, here are some, you know, theories to apply to what you already are doing. That’s how you do a therapy session, you know, so I think that it is really amazing, being able to invest in the skills that people are coming in with, and allow them to flourish in this new way of, oh, now I’m able to use my skills, but I’m also attaching theory, I’m also attaching clinical practices to it, and helping people in the meantime.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 43:59
    And they really do care. I mean, obviously, we still care as therapists, but I think like when you really start you just like the amount of care you have, and compassion, empathy, and like you just want to do so well, that sometimes we go above and beyond. Brian, you have to like reel it in a little bit. But it is true. I mean, for people listening, if you have the opportunity to see an intern like, I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative experience, just because they’re not as experienced in the field. They actually care so much and want to see you do well and grow and heal. So I think it’s a great experience. I think it’s awesome. That counsel provides that till Yeah,


    Allen Michael Lewis 44:37
    and I think especially, it’s just really interesting. I talked to a lot of people who are like, well, I can’t I haven’t been able to find a therapist and I’m like, what’s going on and they’re like, everybody’s fall or everybody’s busy every I can’t afford it. I think that like price can always be a barrier. So I think that it’s great that we have these 75 people who really are just eager to help and eager to learn, and they’re learning from their supervisor, and they’re implementing it in the therapy. And it really is like a, if you reach out, you really get connected with somebody very quickly. So I think, you know, that’s what I always say like, don’t let the sun go down on interns. I think therapists are just like anything else, if it’s not your cup of tea, or if it’s not the person that connects with you, it’s not the person who connects with you. But don’t let it just be because oh, they’re an intern or they don’t have a license yet, that really deters you from seeing somebody, if you might meet them. And it might be a really great fit, and really good connection and something that you really need where you are then. And that might be somebody who’s like, we don’t really jive together, and that’s completely fine. I always say to my clients, like, if it’s not me, that’s completely fine. I’m here to help you however I can and get you to where you need to be. But I think that it can be really hard taking that first step of, you know, what, if it doesn’t work out, I think that that’s part of the therapy practice. And I think that’s part of the therapeutic journey. So don’t let that be a reason why you’re not reaching out for therapy. Yeah,


    Therapy and therapist-client relationships

    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 46:09
    and I think I say this a lot to clients, or even people who are looking for a therapist, like, it is a lot like dating, you know, like you’re going to meet, I mean, I think you’re going to be really lucky if the first therapists you meet is like the match, because that’s incredible. But that doesn’t always happen. Because you may not even know what kind of therapist you like or need, or the approach that will be best for you until you kind of meet a few people and try. And it’s just, you know, giving it a shot, like you’re saying and seeing who might be a good fit, because maybe on paper, it sounds great. And then you meet the person and there’s just like, no energy between the two of you, for whatever reason, or you might have felt this person wouldn’t be a good match and gave them a shot and like, wow, this is like, perfect. You really get me I feel comfortable. This is a great match. With the caveat like


    Allen Michael Lewis 47:01
    much like in dating that it really be mindful of what is the what is the know for you? It might be like, well, you know, I entered and I sat down and they didn’t say how are you? Oh, okay, that’s that’s the No. Be mindful of like, am I giving this person a shot? And also give it a couple of sessions? Like, is this something that we’re ramping up? Because you are just meeting a stranger? Yeah, I think it can, you can meet somebody who is like, Oh, I feel like I’ve known you for years, it feels good. This feels like good work, clicking, clicking, clicking. But also, maybe it’s a relationship where it takes a little bit of time to get to know the person and like, oh, we do good work. But it’s taken us like three sessions to really ramp up and really understand each other. Yeah,


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 47:45
    first session is not going to be like your world is changed and your heel, right? Like, they are literally just getting to know who you are, and like the lay of the land and what’s been going on. And for a few sessions continuing to do that before we can really offer a lot of insight or help you. Yeah,


    Allen Michael Lewis 48:04
    and I think that that’s another reason why Hollywood has really worked against us, as therapists, because in every movie, or every show, they go to the therapist once. Yeah, and that first session is how everything changes. And you’re really putting bar pretty high. And I don’t think that this is accurate.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 48:22
    Not realistic. I don’t know everything about you.


    Allen Michael Lewis 48:26
    They do the same thing for like dating and relationships and data, but in this world, it is a nightmare.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 48:36
    Oh, my goodness. Well, Allen , I want to be respectful of your time. I feel like we could talk for hours about so many different things. So we’ll definitely need to have you back for another episode. But can you please share with the listeners where they can find you to work with you or to go to counsel?


    Allen Michael Lewis 48:52
    Yeah, so if you want to follow me on Instagram, it’s at MSFT foodie. If you would like to work together, you can reach out to counsel for relationships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And that’s for anybody I do. teletherapy like I said, for folks in Delaware, New Jersey, Florida. Shout out to New York, New York, hopefully soon, like I said, and then also in other parts of Pennsylvania. So going to www dot counsel for relationships.org. And you’ll be able to find me there and hopefully we’ll be able to work together. Awesome.


    Kira Yakubov Ploshansky 49:27
    Allen , thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate it. Thank you


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