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Women In Wellness: Dr Lesley Tate-Gould Of Lido Wellness Center On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lesley Tate-Gould.

Dr. Lesley Tate-Gould is a Clinical Psychologist, Somatic-Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) and Co-Founder of Lido Wellness Center, a program specializing in treating primary mental health conditions. Dr. Tate-Gould specializes in complex trauma, eating disorders, anxiety, depression and attachment. Dr. Tate-Gould believes in an integrative model toward lasting healing and change which utilizes the mind, body and spirit inviting patients to deepen their awareness to shift into greater personal freedom. You can visit Lido Wellness Center’s website at www.lidowellnesscenter.com

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I used to believe that my decision to become a psychologist was informed by early exposure in an advanced placement course during my junior year in high school. The instructor of the course fascinated me in her willingness to push beyond the typical bounds that I was familiar with in my formal education experiences. She spoke about the curiosities of the mind, the complexities of the human experience and condition, all while sharing her personal tales of walking amongst the fringe; getting married on Halloween and dressing in black. Given my upbringing this flexibility, this freedom in her choice making fascinated me and terrified me- I wanted to know more about what makes people choose the things they do and say.

I majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology with the understanding going into this field that graduate studies would be necessary. This emphasis in study led to my pursuit of my master’s and then, with some not-so-subtle nudging from an advanced graduate professor, I decided that in order to have the freedom I desired in working in a wide variety of clinical settings I would need to obtain my doctorate. I graduated in 2011 and at the time specialized in treating children and families, hopeful about enhancing my background through my pursuits as a Registered Play Therapist.

My career took a turn when in 2012 after becoming a licensed psychologist I was introduced to the treatment world when I accepted a position at a prestigious center specializing in substance-use disorders and their impact on adolescents and their families. I still lovingly recall my greenness in the world of addiction being abruptly called out on my first day when a young 15 year-old woman inquired about my legitimacy, asking intensely, “Are you a Normy?” My chest-tightened having been so quickly sniffed out, all the while internally not even knowing what I later discovered was a term selected for those not struggling with alcoholism or addiction in their lives.

I fell in love with this work, continuing to specialize in addiction and later adding eating disorders to my area of specialty in 2014. My energy and style, which some have accurately called some version of “hard-ass” fit right in with the addiction realm. I thought many times during this phase in my career that I had arrived, I was right where I was born to be, working with highly impacted youth and being a small part of their journey toward freeing themselves from the grip of addiction.

I was approached by my CEO at some point during this period and informed of the need for all practitioners to specialize in trauma-informed approaches. Despite my history of working with children, adolescents and family members, at this time trauma was not a term used as we now understand and accept it today. At this person’s direction, I enrolled in the Somatic Experiencing course in the summer of 2014, believing at the time that I would gain some great tools for my already bursting toolkit and looked forward to bringing this back to my team and clients in a matter of days.

Within minutes of arriving at the training, I discovered with shock that this training was not simply a long weekend, get in get out type of training. I was about to commit to three years of meeting every 3–4 months in order to gain access to the healing powers of the body. Full stop. I was not mentally, emotionally, nor spiritually prepared to take on an investment of this magnitude. However, something intrigued me about this approach. Having been trained as a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) practitioner, this introduction to the healing powers of the body was quite literally a paradigm shift for me. Suddenly, there was a rich landscape of powerful tools all that required no more than what we already bring with us to every experience- our body. As they say, the rest is history. I became a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) in 2017 and this approach has influenced all aspects of my professional and personal life. I attribute the intuitive, trusting belief in my body for how I welcomed my children into the world just a few months and years later.

The founding team at Lido Wellness Center came together with a vision and belief that healing requires an integration of our minds, body, spirit and community. As a clinical voice within our organization, I get to model and empower our clinical team into utilizing the body as a powerful tool toward healing. Our emphasis and clinical focus have shifted my expertise yet again into primary mental health conditions, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders and attachment-trauma oriented work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

This question seems near impossible to conceptualize fully in words, the equivalent of asking someone to commit to naming only one song that they conclude is their favorite for now and forever more. My career has taken many twists and turns, all the while working with human beings which are anything but dull! The complexities that I welcome into my practice while taking great care to meet people where they are at with deep compassion and curiosity is a truly humbling experience. I have been witness to courage and vulnerability that other professional settings would simply not accommodate.

For the sake of sticking to the question I will offer readers this: when I began my training as an SEP I used to believe that the way in which I excelled through the world was with my deep understanding of thoughts and their impact on our emotions and later our behaviors. This made perfect sense to me as a traditionally trained CBT practitioner. However, when I leaned into the body as a healer, I tapped into a resource within myself that my greatest gift to bring into a clinical setting is my intuitive awareness of my sensations and images that emerge organically when I am with a client. I often refer to this with clients as my “running marquee in my mind” that truly guides our journey together as material emerges naturally as we dive into the work. This frees us both up to trust the material coming into the room, rather than relying too heavily on what we are “supposed to talk about”. There is a level of trust, resonance and connection that is foundational to the approach and I am grateful to call upon these unique discoveries to guide our work.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

What I now know of mistakes is that they are incredible teachers, which as a self-acknowledged perfectionist in recovery this was not something that I used to embrace as I do now. Historically, I compared myself to seasoned clinicians and worried greatly that I would never be up to par with how they did their work. When I began the SE training there was such an emphasis on touch-oriented interventions that I worried that given my limited incorporation of touch in my practice that I would be considered fraudulent in the way this trauma approach was helping people restore their lives. I really wrestled with this, with thoughts of self-doubt undermining the trust in myself that the approach was merely a map, whereas I was the captain of the ship and leading clients through the stormy seas in a way that was unique only to me. The last few years have shown me that when I give myself grace for the mistakes, struggles and challenges I have encountered while leaning into trusting my instincts as a provider, the outcome is that everyone wins. I feel more connected to the work and my patients, and they leave feeling more hopeful and inspired, taking this bursting energy with them into their work life, relationships, and communities.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

This work requires tremendous courage from both parties involved. The clients that come into my organization and practice are taking a step toward liberating themselves from self and other-induced suffering. I have the honor of bearing witness to stories that some have never uttered to anyone, even their most trusted allies. I distinguish that the work requires not only courage of the client but also the practitioner because our natural inclination is to remove someone’s suffering, often through expressive empathy and validation. While these are essential ingredients for a therapeutic relationship, a practitioner capable of inspiring real change also takes the risk of holding up for a person the patterns, beliefs, and barriers that they may be unaware of or greatly defensive of changing. There is an unfortunate trend in this work that is requiring skilled clinicians to abandon their courage to take the path of least resistance, filling their practice with clients that continue to on one hand feel deeply validated, while on the other continuing to justify their defense strategies and externalize the real work indicated to set themselves free. People seek out supportive affirmation from their friends and family. A therapist is a trained professional that can step outside of this role and into one that can inspire a person to cultivate a greater awareness of themselves and to take ownership of actions in their life that may no longer be effective. Freedom can be restored when we can discover our incredible capacity to have a positive impact on the world when we can get out of our own way.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

Lean into discipline: Change is not a passive activity that happens to you. When a client takes the bold step by entering into therapy that is a signal to themselves and others that they mean business. However, our negative beliefs about the difficulty we are embarking on can be crippling to allow a person the momentum necessary to get started. This is where discipline is extremely useful- it removes the feeling out of the equation. Take a project or behavior that you have been longing to begin or complete in your life and commit to action-oriented steps to get there each day. Choose behaviors that no matter what is happening in your life you can stick to the plan for at least one month to give yourself enough time to really begin to feel the impact of this new action. This can be as small as the discipline action of making your bed or as large as in my case, setting aside time multiple times a week to sit down and write.

Meditation Practice: I emphasize the word practice here. Sometimes when I introduce even the word meditation in a group I welcome the groans and excuses of why meditation does not work for them. Meditation is not something that will spontaneously cure your anxiety, make your spouse treat you nicely or manage the daily carpool route. Meditation however provides the space necessary in the mind, body and spirit to begin discovering how often you may be operating in one channel versus another. For example, when I have a very busy week ahead, I may notice that my thoughts during meditation are louder, more involved, walking me through my long list of items needed to see me through the week. Whereas, when I practice meditation at other times, I may notice greater access to a feeling or sensing state. These access points have delighted me when I will be greeted with a spontaneous solution to a problem that has been rolling around my mind for days, even weeks. The space meditation provides us offers a greater sense of connection to ourselves and the divine, both of which are needed to navigate life on Earth.

Reconnect to Play: When we cross the threshold from adolescence into adulthood, we often lose access to the playful, natural wonder that we had when we were children. Or, sometimes given the rocky circumstances of our childhood years, this absence of play may begin much sooner than this passage into our more mature selves. Children and adults need play to survive. I chuckle every time I pass over a parenting magazine or book that emphasizes the teaching of play. Play is intuitive, inherent and does not need to be taught. The only thing necessary to invigorate play back into our lives is to give ourselves permission to do so. This is why I am a big believer in the teaching capacity of children. As adults, we can learn so much from watching the children that we may be graced with in our lives, whether it be our own, a friend’s or even just observing children playing at a nearby park or beach. A great number of adults tell themselves some form of, “I will get to play when I finally get through all this work!” However, play is a restorative, nourishing activity. It is like quenching your thirst with a glass of water after a long hike. Do not deprive yourself of this life-giving drink on a daily basis.

Nature for the win: It is not by accident that when people plan vacations they seek out destinations that are inherently abundant with beauty. We are fulfilled and restored when we connect to the Earth- feeling our feet on the ground and seeing the horizon. When I lead guided meditation walks near the beautiful marina where the clinic is located, nobody returns from the walk sharing how grateful they felt after wandering to the crowded parking garage. Overwhelmingly, on these excursions people are drawn to the water, to the local foliage, to people smiling while they are enjoying brunch. We are built to be outside and enjoy the beauty of this world- step outside and you may just inspire yourself beyond the confines of your own mind.

Prepare and eat meals with your family: Food is more enjoyable when shared. There is something wonderful about sharing a meal, whether that begins with preparing the ingredients or ensuring that you can all be together to enjoy the eating. Depending on the ages of your family members, this can also be a helpful way to all practice mindfulness and patience as great food can take time. When the time is shared there can be mutual anticipation, watching the oven or stove and having a sense of contribution to what will be enjoyed later.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Courageous parenting- less emphasis on hovering over our children and trying to protect them from every life experience/feeling and rather supporting them to learn from valuable mistakes and feel their feelings which in the long term allows the developing young person to be more prepared for what is to come in adulthood, including not getting overwhelmed when feelings like disappointment, grief or hurt are experienced.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

Embrace the many pivots and changes that will occur over the evaluation of your career- looking back it was hard to believe that when I faced challenges these were actually necessary steps toward preparing me for what I am actually supposed to do with this short time on Earth. If I had become stuck in my own thinking which back then told me some version of “it wasn’t supposed to happen this way” I would have missed the lesson altogether.

Let go of people that you have outgrown- I used to get stuck in an unwillingness to grieve relationships phase, running over and over through my mind what I could have done differently to maintain what I believed was a close, meaningful relationship. However, what I later discovered is that we are all growing and evolving creatures- so perhaps at a certain season in my life that friend from my early 20’s made sense, whereas heading into my 40’s no longer makes sense. Rather than get stuck in the sting of the loss, I now look toward these relationships with gratitude for teaching me the values of friendship, what I love about relationships and where I still have room to grow.

Never underestimate the power of growing and learning- As I mentioned earlier in this article, I consider myself a recovering perfectionist. In my graduate school days, it was much more difficult for me to embrace my greenness as a young inexperienced therapist. I wanted to impress my supervisors and my clients with my dazzling skills, most of which were learned behind a classroom door. My real learning was gained in the actual work; having to risk day after day appearing totally inept, particularly when my area of emphasis took a turn after I became licensed. However, rather than become stuck with my own limitations brought upon by perfectionism, I learned that out of necessity I could only improve as a provider if I also admitted how little I knew, prompting me to dive into reading, research and consultation with others I admired in the field. Humans are complex creatures, and when we can bring humility and curiosity to our learning everyone wins.

There is no expiration date on career shifts- We need experience, both in our lives and careers to gather information on determining where we are headed. However, being creatures of habit sometimes we stay far too long in an environment no longer serving us because we question whether we will be able to make it elsewhere. Challenge this fear- when we are connected to what we are doing each day it fulfills rather than taxes us.

Create room for balance, even when this seems impossible- Graduate programs are sometimes lovingly referred to as some form of hell on Earth for a reason. The high demands for memorization and productivity, all while working sometimes (at least in my case) two jobs to get by does not promote mental health and balanced wellbeing. The secret that I wish I was told long ago was that it is up to me and only me to create room for necessary balance, whether that was to incorporate meditation practice long before I actually took the plunge and did, or to challenge the norm that the only way to unwind after a busy week is to drown my intense schedule pressures into a bottle of wine. While the world normalizes and has reached an unfortunate acceptance of more work and no play, I am reassured that by making these important shifts to restore balance is not only possible, it is essential.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

This is a no brainer- I have dedicated my time, passion, energy into creating change through the power of the therapeutic relationship and freeing others from the barriers brought on by mental illness. Mental health, along with spiritual, emotional and physical health deserves to be understood and integrated in a full-body perspective toward healing.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

Information on my work and practice can be found at www.lidowellnesscenter.com

Thank you for these fantastic insights!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.