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Meet the Therapist - Caitlin Cordial

Sit down with licensed counselor Caitlin Cordial as we discuss brainspotting, puppets, and the importance of adults re-learning how to play.





Click here to learn more about Caitlin's experience and connect with her for a consultation.


B'well Counseling serves Baltimore and the surrounding areas. Clinicians offer in-person counseling in our Towson office, with telehealth and hybrid services available. Feel free to explore our website, or learn more about our therapists and philosophy on our YouTube channel.


Transcript:


Katie Cashin:

Welcome, folks. We are back today speaking with one of our B'well therapists, and the 'we' in this I'm Katie Cashin. I'm the co-owner at be well counseling services. One of our therapists and supervisors here.


Jake Jackson-Wolf:

I'm Jake Jackson Wolf, the other co-owner and therapist and supervisor.


Katie:

And we are meeting with Caitlin Cordial. Help me remember how long you have been at B'well, now has it been since 2021 or 2020?


Caitlin

3 years. In June 2021.


Katie

Which could be 3 years, which could be... I was saying this with Jackie, who we talked to last time. It could be 3 days. Who knows but you have-


Jake:

11 years.


Katie:

However long it's been, you have been here long enough, and in a way that you are really kind of inter woven into the work of our group, and I have gotten to have many conversations with you through supervision and consultation. And just being a part of this team that I'm excited we get to bring some of that to to all of our viewers today. Thank you for joining us. First of all.


Caitlin:

Yeah, of course.


Katie:

Yeah, so we are. We're actually going to start with a question you inspired in one of our group consultations that gave us a really helpful way to think about the clients we're working with. Which is the client Venn diagram. Caitlin tell us - who's in your client Venn diagram?


Caitlin:

I think about it more of like a what? What's in my Venn diagram. So, clients I normally work with have a can like a collection of experiences that relate to each other. So they usually initially come to me experiencing anxiety or and maybe depression, or maybe low self worth but I find that my specialty where a lot of people I work with tends to collect is the intersection of trauma, anxiety and dysfunctional relationships. So then, the core competencies that we work on with those issues are getting to be more compassionate with yourself, getting to know yourself and building a sense of self confidence. Helps you across all 3 domains.


Katie:

Yeah, that especially that compassion piece is like, not something... I don't know about you, I've had folks who want to come in, and they're like, if we could do everything but that, great. I'm like. no, that's one of those baseline things, one of those foundational pieces.


Catilin:

It is foundational, but when I teach it to clients I always tell them it's one of the most advanced therapeutic skills I know of being kind to yourself is such a hurdle and a challenge even people who have so much insight on why, it's hard to be kind to themselves, or what parts get in the way, or what experiences they've had that have made it feel awkward or weird. We could talk about it all day, rationally, but it's still such a difficult experience for them to get through.


Jake:

This kind of leads us into the next question. Knowing you, Caitlin, and and having been in group consultation, and also this sort of like pop in conversations that I think you and I are famous for at this point


Caitlin:

Uh-huh.


Jake:

What does it feel like is, is the thing in in all of this that you're mentioning of of the self compassion and the other 2 things just ran out of my mind. But what is it that keeps people coming in to see you?


Caitlin:

Oh, man! I really... you know, I don't know, and I don't mean that in a self-deprecating way. But I haven't asked my folks. So I guess I could ask my people like, hey, we've been seeing each other a while, like, you know. Why? Why did you come the 105th time, you know. Sometimes I celebrate like milestones with people where we've had like over a hundred sessions. And I'll be like, can you believe we've done this like100 times? Isn't that like so crazy and wild? And what do you think about that? I'd love to to say that people keep coming to me because something about what I'm doing is so like effective and special and just you know, like we happen across paths at the right time. I happen to fit their schedule. And like, I think, from their relationship forms where I meet the whatever requirements are necessary for them to be like, okay, yeah, I'll see that person in 2 weeks or a week, and we'll just keep going.


Jake:

Almost that there's something intuitive about all of it, instead of it needing to boil down to something so measurable.


Caitlin:

Yeah. Yeah. And like, you know, there are many parts of me that would like wish that it would be something measurable, so that I could like sharpen it and hone it, and make it even better, you know. But relationships are not easy like that.


Katie:

No, or straightforward. I think this is the other side of that question. Kind of what keeps bringing you into the work. What's your 'why,' in this work?


Caitlin:

Yeah. So I remember, you guys like... I'd rather seen that question before. Or I've heard it before. And I saw like, what is your why? And I was like, why be a therapist or like, why keep living? Because why comes up a lot.


Katie:

Both, all.


Caitlin:

But for me, like, there's a lot of pride and honor in doing this work. So I love just being able to be around, for when people heal themselves or discover resources they didn't know they had or I don't know even just being able to be somebody that helps someone feel heard. That is like. I think it's easy to underestimate how special that is and how helpful that can be to someone. And so just the basic stuff like that. That's that's really what keeps me going. And I also I therapy changed my life. So of course, I want to give some of what I receive to other people.


Katie:

This isn't on there. I'm kind of curious, and you're sharing that, though, if if it's something that like before experiencing it, did you know it would change your life? Did you believe it would change your life did? Because I think what you're sharing is the 'why' is so much in the experience rather than our plans for it or our agendas for it as therapist or as client.


Caitlin:

Hmm.


Katie:

And the way you describe it, it's like you had an experience, and it feels really powerful when you're with your clients in that experience.


Caitlin:

Yeah, I definitely thought that I was gonna go to therapy for 6 months, and then I would be perfect and then I would never have problems ever again. And that was not what happened. I ended up working with this one therapist for like 7 years. And it was really like one of the formative relationships of my life. Which is crazy to think about it because therapy is so boundaried, right? I only saw this person maybe once a week, for those 7 years that we work together sometimes, actually a lot less than that. But I felt so much closer to this person, and I felt like this person saw me in a way that very few other people did in my life, and I think it was that I think it was the part of being seen fully and having someone who was a consistent like positive for somebody who reminded me of what I was capable of, and the qualities that I already had that really allowed me to access a lot of the resources that I do have as a person.


Jake: I think I love where this conversation's going right now because it it speaks to this thing of what's bringing people to see you. I know that, I frequently-- we have a question on our intake form. Right? That says "what's your timeline for when you think this issue will be resolved?" and the number of people that that put 3 months 6 months and I'm not. I'm not making fun of that at all. Because I I think you're speaking to feeling that I've felt that before. And we can develop this sense of empathy. For yeah. I get that this feels like a 3 month problem.


Caitlin:

Exactly.


Katie Cashin:

I wish it was in some ways.


Jake:

And and I think, especially in the age of here's a treatment that an X number of sessions you will accomplish. Y. There's something really authentic and some commitment to truth that feels like you're showing up with by being able to say that to people that this is not something that is so easily packageable and and saleable in that way.


Caitlin:

Yeah. And then, like, you know, clients have freedom so they can. They're the ones at the end of the day who say whether it's a 6 months of treatment, 3 months, or 6 sessions, you know. Yeah. I had like there was a thought that I had that was really good, and then I lost it, and I don't know where it went. But it was nice, you guys, it was really good.


Katie:

We've been there.


Jake:

It's probably off spending time with some of my best thoughts.


Caitlin:

They're at like a best thought Camp.


Jake:

Yeah, yeah.


Katie:

I love that.


Jake:

Well. One of the other questions we have for you that I I'm most excited to ask you about is, what does a typical session look like with you.


Caitlin:

Well, I usually start with a recap of what we talked about last time. Or we'll review like if there was a homework assignment that we assigned like between sessions. We'll go over that, or I'll at least ask them. Do you want to continue with that? Do you want to go over this thing, or is there something else that's more pressing? And if they wanna pick up where we left off or do the homework review like we'll do that. If they have something else they wanna talk about, we'll go with that thing. And usually, after diving into that a little bit, I'll ask them what they're feeling physically in their body as they talk about whatever the thing is, and those physical sensations are the doorway to whatever else we decide to do in that session, whether it's parts work or brain spotting, or an artistic activity, or like practicing a coping skill. You know, I think it's really important to pair talking about things with either having an experience or preparing the client to have an experience that can help them really learn how to either retrain their nervous system or see themselves in a different way. So yeah. And then, you know, we end either with the homework assignment, or where we're gonna leave off for the day and then we rinse and repeat and do it again.


Jake:

I don't mean to put you on the spot with this cause I know this isn't something in preparing for this, but I know we get a lot of people who are specifically reaching out to you about brainspotting and you also mentioned IFS, do you wanna talk a little bit about how you use either both of those and what you think is effective about them?


Caitlin:

Yeah, I could do that. So well, I guess the best way to talk about it is, IFS is not-- I don't know that I would say I'm an IFS practitioner in the sense that, like I'm not certified through the Dick Schwartz program. And so somebody wants to do parts work the way that Dick Schwartz does,

which is totally fine, I don't know that I'm the best for that, but I do have a lot of fun working with general parts work, which is a nonpathological way to look at how we respond to different things in our lives. I think you know lots of people that our clients of mine now have had kind of general support or CBT before and they get to this juncture where they know what they're supposed to think or they know how they're supposed to feel, or they know how they're like supposed to respond to something. But they just can't seem to make the jump between what they do and what they have talked about wanting to do. And so parts work is a really great way to get in that middle space there, between how you'd like to respond and how you do respond and figure out like what what is happening inside of you that is making those decisions so difficult, and it's a way to do it without shame. So it's not like. I didn't think the right thoughts. Oh, I didn't do the right thing. Gosh! I suck! It's more of realizing that there's a certain part of you that could be really invested in you not doing things the quote unquote right way, right? And so the more we learn about ourselves, even the dysfunctional parts of ourselves, I think that's a great way to build compassion for yourself and for others.


And as an extension like that's kind of where the puppets come in. And I, puppets can be things that can represent different parts of you or important people in your life and it's a great way to like practice coping skills without it being quite so terrifying. You can practice like setting a boundary with a bunny rabbit, and I imagine that's a little bit easier than practicing boundary setting with an overbearing family member.


As far as brainspotting goes, brainspotting is, I would say, a body based type of therapeutic exercise that can help clients deepen their self knowledge, get through stuck points and process past trauma and the way that I use that is typically clients will notice that they're stuck on something. They're at an impasse with themselves or with life. Or they've got some kind of like body reactivity that could be associated with a trigger that they'd like to work through. And then we use brain spotting to kind of get deeper and understand what's happening to them there. And seeing if they have any resources already within them that can help them deal with that issue. I mean, brain spotting's been fantastic because I'm not talking quite as much, which is extremely difficult for me to do, because I am a chatterbox. But it's been great for really showing me that all clients do have the innate capacity to heal themselves because they do during brainspotting.


Katie

I'm so glad we are recording this. As someone who also does both parts work and brain spotting. I'm that was such a wonderful illustration of both.


Caitlin:

Oh good.


Katie:

I'm always tripping over my words and trying to explain it to people to the point that a lot of my clients are like, I think I'll just google it. So now I'm just gonna send them here.


We've talked around this a bit. You've named those moments in session. It may not even be like the pinnacle of healing work with a client, but it's a place where you come to with a client, and they are heard and seen, maybe for the first time, in a certain way. And you've named your own experience in therapy. I want to check in and see as a therapist--as as a human, let's open that up a bit--what inspires you?


Caitlin:

Hmm. yeah, I've had actually written down something that I wanted to remember. Oh, yeah, okay. So I genuinely like my clients. So I might want to sleep in or pretend that I don't have to work for a living but I never dread like my clients as part of the work. Being with them really is one of the most meaningful aspects of my life and I want to do that until I physically can't anymore. You know, I'm a millennial. I'm probably not gonna be able to retire. And I'm happy that I found a job that I can do for as long as I'm cognitively healthy. And I'm always looking to improve my work, and I can't do that if I'm not doing the work. So I'm excited to keep coming every day, like to do that. Also. I have like a cornerstone of my life philosophy is that human life is absolutely absurd, especially like modern human life, and it really grinds my gears that so many people are walking around thinking that the tender, funny, wonderful parts of themselves are unacceptable because they're like too weird, or they're too quirky. Or you know, they're not being adult enough, or things like that really irk me. They irk my soul. And so I love holding a space where I can show people experientially, maybe like leading by example or just session by session, you know of not rejecting them, that I can show them that it's okay to be exactly who they are and that life is weird and you can be weird, too. And that's gonna be okay. And just seeing how people can relax into themselves once they understand that the things that they're doing that might be silly or uncommon aren't things that make them worthy of rejection?


Katie Cashin:

Alright, that's the life is weird. You can be weird, too. It'll be ok.


Caitlin Cordial:

Yeah.


Katie:

That's a I just got this kind of picture. We mentioned this when we were talking with Jackie to therapists especially, we love to talk about holding space, holding space, but it's lost a lot of meaning. And but it's such a part of this work. It's such a part of the skills each of us have invested in in some way. And as you're talking, I'm actually imagining the space and the space around you, as I can see it right now, as like a place your people can come in, and it's like different rules apply here, and one day you'll be able to take those out with you like one day, as enough of you is ready, feel safe enough. You'll be this space, the space out there will start to mirror this space.


Caitlin:

Yeah, hopefully. Yeah.


Jake:

The word that's flashing in big bright lights inside my head is play.


Caitlin:

Yeah.


Jake:

And you know, that's not because of the puppets, necessarily, but it's because of this approach to living, and therefore to therapy that is,not taking anything too too seriously and kind of that like returning to that place of everything's made up and we.


Caitlin:

Yeah.


Jake:

It's sort of so trained out of us right? When we're kids, it's encouraged to be imaginative and and to make things up. And then, whether it's through trauma or the dysfunctional family systems, we start to learn, oh, reel that in, reel that in, reel that in. And I'm just hearing that that your office is a place, or the computer screen, with you is the maybe the one hour that week that somebody can play like, take out the tools. Take out the toys rather, and let loose.


Caitlin:

I think a lot of people would be surprised at how difficult that type of unwinding is for people. You know, I like to be very facing forward with all of the play accoutrement, because they remind me of like exciting and fun things, and I get filled with all of these different ideas that we could do. But I understand that for other people it's like weird and disconcerting to have the opportunity to play, especially with things that are child coded as an adult and so as much as I wish that people would come to me because they're like, Oh, my God! Like I need to start messing around with puppets couple of times a week, because that is just missing in my life. They come to me feeling like stock board avoidance, and like kind of like a shell. And they've actually got like some not so fun cognitions about what it means to play right, that that it's childish, that it's immature, that it feels weird, therefore it must be bad. And I like sitting with those, even if somebody doesn't come around or change the way that they feel about it, just having the opportunity to notice, like something makes you feel weird and noticing what kind of thoughts they have about recreation is, I think, useful.


Katie:

Hmm.


Jake:

Reminds me something of something that Katie says frequently that what is it? Everyone's a great artist until the third grade.


Katie:

Everyone thinks they're like a great artist until they're 8.


Jake:

There we go!


Caitlin:

Hmm. Yeah.


Katie:

I wouldn't like, fact check that, or I would maybe. But yeah, yeah.


Jake:

But it's about hitting that wall right of becoming self conscious, becoming aware of what the "rules" are, in quotes. Where we start to shut those parts of us down and feel like I can't, because I won't be taken seriously, or I can't. It won't be deemed responsible, or whatever.


Caitlin:

Yes, exactly. And so now it's gotten to the point where, like, yeah, play for adults. Usually, means like, has like a sexual connotation to it, or like it has like it's it's got associations with like commercialized sportage, or something that can become like a side hustle.


Jake:

Hmm.


Katie:

I was really curious, Caitlin, what you were... because I always have this saying of like in our home we do a lot of like fun, child-like things. And we have a child who's an age who's kind of embarrassed that she has adults who do fun things, and I'm always like, would you like my recreation to just be going to target on that like? Because that's it feels like that's what's sold as adult fun. We're like... nothing against them. I've actually never done one but those like paint and sip nights like the places where you go, and you paint the thing which it it seems like, that's as close as we get.


Caitlin:

Yeah. And the fact that I have a lot of adult clients that don't want to drink as much anymore. And there are so many like adult fun activities that involve alcohol or center around alcohol and so if you're trying to limit your alcohol intake or any kind of substance use, really, there's less and less options for you to feel quite as welcome, right? Play can be so many things. You know. There's a adult pay play therapist that I really look up to, who encourages people to see if they can experience play while brushing their teeth or doing like monotonous things. And the first time I read it I was like, play while you're brushing your teeth? Like, when what is that? Right? And I'm so I'm still learning all the different ways that people can fit play into their lives. And actually think if you're raising a young person that can be an excellent doorway to re-engage with play. And of course, said young person, at a certain age will be frightfully embarrassed by you doing all of those things.


Katie:

Do it, anyway.


Caitlin:

Yes.


Jake:

I was thinking, this is that one of the only sort of acceptable ways for adults to play in this way that we're talking about is when a kid is involved. You both know, because I've talked about it, I talk about it constantly. Friday mornings I go to music class with a bunch of babies and it's my favorite hour of the week, because we're all dancing and singing and playing instruments and what have you? The only reason that it's sort of sanctioned is because the babies are there.


Caitlin:

Yeah.


Katie:

And you are the parent of one of them.


Jake:

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. If that wasn't clear. I don't...


Caitlin:

Yes.


Jake:

I don't crash baby music class.


Katie:

Yet.


Jake:

When when my child out grows it they're gonna have a hard time getting me out of class.


Katie:

Right.


Jake:

But but this does have me thinking about like that's that's a great reminder, I think, for people that do become parents. It's this like window back into what is this like? But for folks that for whatever reason, aren't parents or are in that in between of, I think, of a lot of like emerging adults where they're right in that place of maybe out of out of college, in that place where it's just the only access to play is like you were mentioning alcohol. That's the reason why people do that, if is so, that they can get silly.


Jake:

We have another question.


Katie:

Oh. it segues nicely. It segues nicely. If this is knowing that play can be a barrier for some clients, for a lot of adults. What are the challenges for you in this work, Caitlin, or that you've faced in general as a therapist.


Caitlin:

Yeah. So you guys actually bring up a point that I didn't consider which is that like a challenge for me as an adult like play therapist or somebody who does a lot of like integration of expressive arts and play. Is that a lot of people don't know that that is a thing that you can miss and that is a thing that you can look for. And so it kinda just becomes like if we're a good fit, like they come in for something like anxiety, and then they find out that there's all of these really cool ways that they can work with anxiety or work with their relationship with themselves. So I guess the challenge for me is like, I wish that we had more of a cultural lingo to talk about the way that adults are conditioned out of their play. I wish that there was like kind of like the way that everybody's become much more aware of neurodivergence through the use of social media, and especially TikTok, like, I wish that there could be another kind of revolution for the idea that play is good for you neuro-biologically, relationally, with your own like existential journey as a human being. So I wish that people knew that. But a challenge in general as a therapist is that I have all this training hat makes me acutely aware of how destructive our current culture is to the human spirit. And I'm just as befuddled, confused, and stuck as my clients when we come to figuring out how we're gonna navigate through that.


Katie:

But I don't know, like, we can vote and debate if you all would like, but I would take that over the therapist over the professional, who either isn't aware of that, or says they have the answer. For that. Yeah.


Caitlin:

Yeah, it's just I get a special kind of I guess frustration as, I think, other maybe researchers or health professionals, do, knowing that child maltreatment is a public health crisis, knowing that universal healthcare, universal basic income would be able to significantly improve the amount of psychiatric disorders that we see across the age spectrum, and just seeing that be pretty frequently discarded by, not just by legislation, but also by like the psychiatric governing bodies. Really, I mean, the APA won't even recognize that child maltreatment needs to be differentiated as a specific psychiatric experience or a disorder. So we've got a long ways to go and just knowing exactly how far we have to go sometimes can be kind of daunting or overwhelming. And then I remember that it's just Monday, and I have so and so and so, and so at these particular times and I refocus that way.


Katie:

But that it's a refocusing and that it's not a disconnecting that it's not like as you're sharing that as someone who is so aware, and who doesn't look away from the gaps in care. The, yeah, the gaps is an understatement. But the the ways in which the system is not set up to name or even support-- that you can look at all of that. And you're inviting people into something that is spacious and, maybe light isn't the right word, but light, that is, that makes room that is playful, that is buoyant. It's just. I think, incredibly remarkable. And I'm so glad. I'm so glad that we got to connect, and you know, put the put the spotlight on you, Caitlin, in a way, and get to talk about the work that Jake and I have come to know and appreciate and be around. So thank you. Thanks for being willing to join us and and share and share openly today.


Caitlin:

Yeah, thanks for having me guys. This is cool.


Katie:

Yeah, well, it's as cool as we get around here.


Caitlin:

Oh!


Jake:

I had a moment in this conversation where I just felt it was cool to get to capture. These are the types of conversations we have in passing around here, and to be able to memorialize that in some way, and and share that with people feels... there was one little part of me to get into parts like which it's like we're we're giving away the secrets here. And there's another part of me that was like, wow! People, you know. People wonder, I'm sure, what it's like, the inner workings of a a therapy practice. And and these are the types of conversations that we have day in and day out.


Caitlin:

Yeah. Man.


Katie:

Yeah.


Caitlin:

I've really been. Oh, I'm sorry.


Katie:

Go, go.


Caitlin:

Oh, no, I was just gonna tell you guys I've really been wanting to put this on my head for like the last 20 so minutes, and I haven't done it because I was like, you have to be moderately professional for at least like most of your video. And then I'm just assuming that you guys can like edit this part out. But I'm I'm satisfying that part of your brain. My brain.


Jake:

The thumbnail.


Caitlin:

That's fine. If it's just the thumbnail, and then no one ever sees it again. That's that's okay.


Katie:

So.


Jake:

Alright!


Katie:

I'm so glad you didn't hold off any longer.


Caitlin:

That's really interesting, Jake.


Jake:

Mustache.


Katie:

We are gonna need some better props.


Katie:

Caitlin, are you seeing folks both in person and virtually now?


Caitlin:

I am. I am open to both. I I think I work better as an in person therapist, but I understand that not everybody's able to make that happen. So I think with the right fit of clients, somebody who's like someone who's highly motivated, somebody who's interested in the type of work that I do, virtual could be just fine. I have some clients I've worked with virtually for well, since I've been here for over like just about 3 years.


Katie:

Yeah, cause it's how we started. It's how you started so wonderful. Anyone watching, if you want to reach out to Caitlin, learn more about the work she does set up an initial conversation with her. You can find her at caitlin@bwellcounselingservices.com and at our website. We'll have a little card after this video where you can find her and thanks so much for joining in watching and listening with us today. Thanks, everybody.


B'well Counseling Services offers therapy in Towson and surrounding areas. Clinicians offer both in-person, telehealth, or hybrid sessions. Click here to learn more about our philosophy and clinicians.


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