Normalizing Mental Health with Dr. Lawrence Jackson

Normalizing Mental Health with Dr. Lawrence Jackson

by Chris Tompkins | September 22, 2022

Dr. Lawrence Jackson, a.k.a., “The Black Male Therapist” or Dr. J, is a psychotherapist and sports performance coach who works with professional athletes in the NBA and NFL. Among his other titles are speaker, author, and marriage and family therapist. His mission is to share a piece of the PIE (Promoting mental health awareness, Inspiring youth, and Empowering others). Dr. Jackson uses his social platform and the apparel line that has grown out of it to expand his reach to a wider audience.

Representation matters

When questioned about his Instagram handle, @theblackmaletherapist, Dr. Jackson talks about representation and wanting the population he is passionate about serving, to be able to find him easily. It’s significant because when he was starting out at conferences he would rarely see other black therapists. He alludes to the fact that culturally, things were “kept in the house” or “left up to the Lord,” so therapy wasn’t something that was pursued often — not to mention as a career. To this day, the black youth that he talks to want to play sports or be entertainers because those are the black men they see as being successful. He wants to help increase the visibility of black doctors to Inspire youth — the most important tenet of his mission to share a piece of the PIE.

Building trust is key

According to Dr. J, the entry point into helping young people who are experiencing mental health issues is about meeting them where they are and not hoping they’ll grow out of it. He explains that the key to engaging youth is building trust. The most important thing parents can do is create space for meaningful conversations by devoting, for instance, a specific time each week to talk. Another way to build trust, according to Dr. J, is through intentional listening, which is listening and being empathetic, even if you don’t agree with them. Validating the child’s experience is important. And finally, Dr. J draws on his own experience as a camp counsellor, saying that getting kids to respect you is about doing what they do and engaging with them in a meaningful way — whether it’s playing their sport or helping them with a subject in school.

Social media: the great leveller

When Dr. J was publishing articles about mental health and relationships in academic journals, he felt like there was a disconnect. The people who would benefit from his research the most, didn’t have access to the articles. So he started his social platform. Through social media and his clothing line, he has been able to disseminate his work more widely, helping reach those who could benefit from therapy but don’t have the resources, while simultaneously furthering his goal to normalize mental health. He stresses that even if it’s not his platform, social media and the internet in general, is a great first step for parents who are looking for resources to help their kids.

The importance of emotional intelligence

Dr. J reiterates that the best thing we can do as parents is give our kids space to talk about their emotions.

“We really have to cultivate a space as parents where our kids, no matter who they are, are able to express, share, and have an opportunity to understand their emotional experience,” he says. “Because if we don’t do it at a young age, [they’re] going to struggle as adults.”

But Dr. J also cautions that as parents it’s important not to beat yourself up. If you don’t feel like what you’re doing is getting through to your kid, don’t worry — it doesn’t necessarily happen on your time. You can’t control other people’s behaviour, he explains, but controlling your response as a parent by giving yourself grace, will help you better respond to circumstances.

For more of Dr. Jackson’s perspective on navigating mental health among our kids, listen to the full episode of the Shaping Our World podcast in the player at the top of this post.

Visit our website to discover a variety of other guests that we’ve had on the show. Shaping Our World episodes are also available wherever you get podcasts.


[00:00:11.770] – Speaker 1
Well. Hey, I’m Chris Tompkins, and welcome to the Shaping Our World podcast. My goal is to invite you into a conversation that will leave you more confident in understanding and inspiring the young people in your life. Each episode, we talk with leading experts and offer relevant resources to dive deeper into the world of our youth.

[00:00:29.910] – Speaker 2

[00:00:31.070] – Speaker 1
Today we have Dr. Lawrence Jackson on the show. Dr. Jackson is a licensed psychotherapist and sports performance coach in the NBA and NFL. He’s also a speaker, author, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the states of Nevada and Florida. His mission related to mental health wellness is to share a piece of the pie P-I-E: Promoting mental health awareness, Inspiring youth, and Empowering others. Additionally, Dr. Jackson utilizes his social media platforms to normalize mental health through the use of psycho education and apparel. If you’re looking for him online, you’ll find him under the name “The Black Male Therapist” or under “Black Therapy Friday,” a platform he created to live out his mission and help others navigate the complicated world around us. Let’s welcome Dr. Jackson, or Dr. J, as his friends call him, to the show. Great to have you today, Doctor J!

[00:01:35.710] – Speaker 2
Thanks, Chris. I appreciate you all for having me.

[00:01:37.880] – Speaker 1
Yeah, great to have you join the show today. So we always ask these kind of questions off the top. I want to get to know you a little bit more. What shaped your world when you were a child or a teen? What are kind of the biggest influences in your life growing up?

[00:01:52.120] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think when I thought about that or thinking about that even as we’re talking about it right. I had a very diverse friend group. I went to our private Christian academy, all the way up until almost high school. And so I had friend groups that were, of course, at school, but also live in a different neighborhood than a lot of my friends went to school with and so have friends in our neighborhood or growing up in church, sports, things like that. And so I definitely think I had a diverse group of experiences early, right. Different people who thought differently. So from our early age, I really had opportunity to see a lot of different sides and then utilize that and just kind of take it in and process it and just kind of learn from it. I think one of the biggest skills I have now is my adaptability in a lot of different places, I think basically because of my experiences as a kid.

[00:02:47.940] – Speaker 1

[00:02:48.350] – Speaker 2
But definitely coaches, even my parents, even, of course, my father in particular, he was very instrumental. He was a coach himself, and so he fathered me in a coach way in some ways, right. As a kid. Sometimes your DAREarts are talking yak like you don’t want to listen, like you didn’t hear anything. It’s crazy how much stuff I use today is things he told me when I was younger that I say to clients or I say to other individuals, whoever I’m working with, I’m just like, this man was wise.

[00:03:22.170] – Speaker 1
Totally. I hear that sometimes when I repeat, I have a 16 year old daughter, and when I say things, I’m like, oh, my goodness, I heard that from my dad when I was that age. Yeah, at the time, you maybe don’t think of it that way, but yeah, I think coaches and parents and people really shape us growing up.

[00:03:40.930] – Speaker 2

[00:03:41.810] – Speaker 1
What’s shaping our world today? Tell us a little bit about you personally.

[00:03:46.050] – Speaker 2
Yeah, so I’ve lived in plenty of different places. I’m born and raised in Dallas. I went to HBCU in New Orleans for undergrad.

[00:03:55.170] – Speaker 1

[00:03:55.660] – Speaker 2
I got my masters at UNLV. And then I went to Florida in Tallahassee for my PhD. But what I’ve learned is that every place I moved to, I learned more about myself. I learned what my limitations are. I learn about my things. I want to grow again. Think about the adaptability standpoint as though it’s within the US. A lot of different coaches in these different areas. And how do you implement, how do you insert, but also how do you just kind of fit in with those different experiences? And luckily, I’m happy that I’ve been able to have lifelong friendships in each of those places. And I definitely think all those people, how different and amazing they are, really influenced me the day. I’m one of those people that really recognize that conversation, dialogue is a great way to understand other people’s experiences and how they see the world. And that’s something that’s really important to me as somebody that views himself as a social constructionist and really meaning that I construct my world about what I see and what’s around me, and that includes conversations I have, conversations I watch on TV or things like that, knowing that all those things are influential in my life.

[00:05:06.680] – Speaker 2
Those are different things that really save my life up until this point.

[00:05:10.500] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And I love hearing that because that’s really, in a sense, what this podcast is about to hear from people like you to help shape some of the constructs that we have as human beings, and particularly around when it comes to how we interact with the young people in our lives. So I want to transition to that. So what are you doing now in your work that you can talk broadly, too, just to help us get to know you, but even particularly, you’re a marriage and family therapist. So how does your work today kind of shape the lives of families and young people?

[00:05:43.510] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I do have a private practice as a licensed family therapist currently in the state of Nevada and in Florida. So I work with families, I work with couples, I work with individuals and youth as wells from anything from adjustment to anxiety, depression, but also Corey performance that’s something that I’m big on in particular because of some of the experience I’ve done in NBA, NFL, doing some work around sports performance, and so those are some of the things I do. In addition to that, I’m always speaking right. There’s a situation happening in the state of or innocent about it. In the city of las vegas, earlier in the summer, they had a youth summit, and I thought it was really cool, and I was one of the panelists and speakers there. Just I can engage. Right. I think as much as they’re learning for me. I’m learning from them. And it helped me figure out how I can continue to engage and adapt and continue to share messages in a way that I think they can hear and understand. But most importantly. How light years ahead I feel like kids are today then I was when I was a kid in the years and years before.

[00:06:56.470] – Speaker 2
TikTok is a crazy thing. There’s a lot to learn from outlets on social media and things like that and how much they just know. It really is amazing, and I think it puts us a lot as parents and as professors and therapists that we got to stay on our a game, because the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. Right. And I think it’s important to us to take that kind of one down approach and be willing to learn.

[00:07:25.200] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So I’d love to get into some of the things that you’ve heard and learned and in some of these conversations and the work you do and kind of as a stepping stone into that. I would just love to talk a little bit like your instagram handle is the blackmail therapist. And I’d love to ask, why did you choose that name, and how does your lived experience inform the work you do in the mental health field?

[00:07:50.790] – Speaker 2
Yeah. Ironically enough, d blackmouth therapist, there was a movement that happened a little bit before that. It was something called black therapy fridays.

[00:08:03.000] – Speaker 1
Right, okay.

[00:08:03.550] – Speaker 2
And black therapy fridays is something that I put together probably four to five years ago, and it was an opportunity for me to kind of talk about things that I’ve learned that I thought would be beneficial and then people really were engaging at. Right. And I was kind of doing it just kind of just any day, anytime. And then someone reached out to me, like, look, I’m missing all these good stuff, like, you yuill in tea. You got some good information. How about you pick, like, a day, like a friday in particular? Right. Like, maybe call it black therapy friday? And I was like, oh, this is genius. And the more I thought about it, the more I really kind of resonated with it, with the word black therapy friday, and the more I kind of shaped into my own thinking about black friday. It’s a lot of opportunities for companies from going to red to get back to the black. Right. What I utilize is kind of like my tips, the things I utilize and say and share with my listeners on Black Therapy Friday. I think it’s just an opportunity to kind of just maybe help them a little bit to have a better functioning day or a better functioning week a month, and so kind of like that little bump up.

[00:09:02.540] – Speaker 2
If they’re struggling, hopefully I can give them some information that resonates with them. So the first thought was black therapy Fridays. And then from that, I had to figure out what is my own handle, right? This is my movement, right, that I’m big on, and I’ve grown into apparel, and I have a lot of supporters buy a shirt that Lily just says, tune into Black Therapy Fridays, right. And things like that. So I figured out, what can I do? Well, as a marriage of family therapist, I’ll go to conferences, and a lot of times I wouldn’t see people look like me. It was hard to see people look like me for many years, and I felt like, am I the only one that’s trying to be a therapist and trying to do these things? And ironically so, I got a lot of pushback from my family when I said I wanted to go into therapy, because I think ultimately that’s not something we’re used to doing. I think I grew up on a mindset of, you leave it up to the Lord, you know what I’m saying, to go to therapy or you keep things in house and things like that, right.

[00:10:06.060] – Speaker 2
And so it was a very different mindset when I wanted to be a therapist, particularly because if you’re used to keeping things in the house, how you’re going to help take things outside the house that can make things better and easier, right. Personas keeping things under the rug. But because of that experience and really talking to other friends and things like that and people that I interacted with, it’s always a struggle to find a black therapist and always a struggle, right. There’s a lot of reasons why I feel that is the case, but I’m not going to go into those. But because of that, it wasn’t until almost when I was in my doctoral program, I’ve done years of therapy that I started seeing more people that look like me, right. But it was hard to find people that look like me in my area in particular. And so I think because I just kind of embodied it, I can embody that who I am. I’m a black individual. I’m a black male. And so I kind of just took the name the blackmail therapist. I remember I was making my LLC, the person who was doing it, I was like, you sure it’s the name you want?

[00:11:11.790] – Speaker 2
This is a really unique name. You sure?

[00:11:14.180] – Speaker 1

[00:11:15.270] – Speaker 2
But I was like, yeah, let’s do it. And I think wells, I know there are more black male therapists and nothing that I’m superior above any other. I just really just kind of accept them parts of my identity and really the populations that I want to reach out to and serve. And so I wanted to make people easier to find me.

[00:11:38.710] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s awesome. And what an inspiring story. And I think that was what was even really intriguing for me is like, for our listeners to be able to provide a total diverse experience of people who are working in this field and have different life experiences that shape the information that we’re processing and giving out. And so, yeah, that was one thing that I was like, man, we got to get Dr. Jay on the show to talk to us from that. So also really intrigued by your mission as a therapist and you talk about sharing a piece of the pie, which is promoting awareness, inspiring youth and empowering others. Can you tell us like, what that means for you and why you’re giving your life to further that?

[00:12:25.910] – Speaker 2
Yeah, so I think while I started like every Friday in particular, I wasn’t really sure about like a mission. I didn’t really had a go or a mission, but by the time I got to the handle the Blackmount therapist, I wanted to be a little bit more serious.

[00:12:38.740] – Speaker 1

[00:12:39.010] – Speaker 2
And so I didn’t want to just throw things out there. I wanted to have what I like to look at it as a vision. Right. And if you think about the business plan you have your mission statement that if you do it enough right over time is to get you closer to your vision. Yeah, my vision was really to reach people that look like me, that wouldn’t be able to get my services in other forms of fashion or wouldn’t be able to have access to certain things. And so because of that, I made it a mission to promote mental health awareness, inspire you to empower others and sharing a piece of pie. And I think about sharing a piece of pie. It’s kind of like giving something, right? Giving something. I could benefit myself but wanting to give it to others. And when I break the acronym down even more, I think any and everything I do, I want to promote mental health awareness. Right. I want to increase the awareness around mental health because I think awareness is the first step to change. Right. And so if we’re willing to make changes, we need to continue to improve as society, improve as individuals, particularly with people of color.

[00:13:41.920] – Speaker 2
I want to create awareness around different ways we can do so. And so promoting mental awareness is something I’m really big on. The other one is expiring youth. Even in undergrad in college when I was my Master program or even in my PhD. Think about my theatres when I think about my dissertations, cater to you right. Because I thought about the future and experiences that they could have. And so one of the things I do recognize is that I never thought about as a kid, really being a therapist, until kind of later on. Right. I really had a unique path. I wanted to be a neuropeia surgeon, I want to be a sex therapist. I didn’t really know why or where did I come from? And everybody else looked at me like, oh, that’s cool. Here, read this book. Right?

[00:14:26.700] – Speaker 1

[00:14:28.890] – Speaker 2
But I realized that sometimes when you think about watching things and you see the lack of representation, how much I can plan to give kids, particularly kids of color. And when you think about kids, you want to be entertained or you want to be athletes. I’m not surprised. Why? That’s what they see themselves being successful. I see older versions of themselves, people that look like them. That’s what they’re doing. There’s not a lot of us as doctors, lawyers and pharmacists are being expanding the visibility of us so that we can inspire youth. And so one of the most important things I think is important is inspiring youth by invisibility and accessibility to make myself available and chances where they can see somebody that looks like them, that talks like them, that maybe has some experiences that have been able to do certain things. And so that’s why I sparred. To super important to me, even when there’s times when I’ve done talks, when I’ve talked with maybe police officers and lawyers in the height of the things that are happening in Colby and police brutality. And if kids were to pass by and see they see black individuals doing these things, right, it’s super important to see them on this side of the spectrum, or having conversations with other black therapists at doctoral levels or physicians and things like that.

[00:15:46.020] – Speaker 2
Again, wanting them to see these things more often in a day to day. And not just how media portrays whatever, but really the nitty gritty, the real, authentic, genuine versions. And I think authenticity and genuineness is the key to genuine connections, right? And so, like, strong connections are built on those two things. And so wanting to make that as visible and accessible as possible by just passing by my social media page one time. But most importantly, the opportunities I try to do to reach out and just be available is super important. And empowering others is just recognizing that there are more people in the world. Right. And what I hope is that the things that I give the tidbits, the little skills or whatever case may be, can help them feel empowered to want to take that next step for themselves.

[00:16:32.440] – Speaker 1

[00:16:33.430] – Speaker 2
And so with my passion, I think when you see you speak with people with passion and motivation speakers and things like that, you feel empowered, you feel excited. And this is an area that I’m really excited about I really love to do. And so I think naturally, I tried to make that contagious excitement go into the listeners and the people that are sending this information. So that’s why those three things are extremely important to me in my work.

[00:17:01.250] – Speaker 1
That’s amazing. I love hearing that. And I want to now kind of segue into taking all of that, your mission, and now kind of helping us, myself, our listeners, kind of process some of the stuff that you see out in the world. And I want to ask you a little bit about kind of mental health and young people today. So just as an overview, I think we hear a lot in the news. And I can tell you in my work here with young people and parents, you hear a lot about this. Like, oh, young people are really struggling today with mental health. What does that mean to you? What do you see? Is that true? Where is it unique? What are some of the things that you’re seeing that if you could highlight a few things on describing the mental health challenge with the young people that you see or encounter or work with, I will agree.

[00:17:55.180] – Speaker 2
I think, you know, young people in particular are so mental health, and I think most importantly, because there is more exposure to what that looks like, right? There’s a lot of times, maybe in our generation or before we make filtering things, but we didn’t have a name, we didn’t have a complete understanding of what this could look like, right? WebMD, maybe what’s not there, and different things like that. And what I mentioned particularly about social media, things like Tik Tok, there’s so much information you can get, right? Kids are learning about bipolar disorder. They’re learning about major depression, anxiety, all these different things, just be bringing them on our phone, but by putting in some symptoms of things that they feel like they’re recognizing that may fit for them or may not, but just feeling connected to some of those things. I think one of the things I mentioned earlier that kind of resonate now, the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know, right? And that can feel very challenging and kind of almost destabilizing in some cases, and not feeling like, you know, how to convey communicate what’s going on with you, what’s happening.

[00:19:01.990] – Speaker 2
And I think that’s a really big challenge. I think, interesting enough, when I learned about my own emotional regulation and experiences and gain a little bit of emotional intelligence, it wasn’t really until I was in a master’s program and because I really grew up on happy, sad matter, angry if you’re not one of three or four of those things and you really can’t understand your emotions.

[00:19:21.670] – Speaker 1

[00:19:22.190] – Speaker 2
And while I definitely think that’s not the best way to explain it simplified things, right. I had to put everything in these categories, and if it didn’t work, I was really confused, but I knew it had to be in those categories and give it more time. Right. But I think understanding there’s more emotions, there’s more things we can feel and really kind of figuring out how do we solve these things, how do we cope with these things effectively? That’s the challenge. That’s the challenge. So I think that’s something kids definitely are experiencing right now. I just use that as in general. Another thing I think is really huge is the belief that they’ll grow out of it. Right. Whatever it is, they’ll grow out of it. I think that is an extreme challenge, particularly that maybe us as adults or parents and things like that put on kids, like, oh, man, this is something to grow out of, and not recognizing that these are very formidable years. And if you think about the ways that we cope with things, when you think about me, the first time we learn these things, it’s probably when we’re young, probably when you’re a youth.

[00:20:19.460] – Speaker 2
And so recognizing some of those experiences and recognizing that we got to be willing to engage at this point in time and figure out how we can figure out how to help them to cope with things healthy in a way that’s more effective and beneficial for them in the long run. And recognizing that kids a lot of times pick up behaviors from our parents or from the people that are around the most. I always say a blind club is not going to learn how to hunt unless it sees the lion’s hunt. Right. Kind of that social learning theory of learning that kids are paying attention to how you handle stress, how you handle challenges, how you handle things when you’re upset. And they’re learning from that first hand, whether they’re trying to or not intentionally, they’re picking up on these behaviors.

[00:20:57.410] – Speaker 1

[00:20:57.710] – Speaker 2
And so when you think about that growing out stage, I think some of the things keeping in mind is that we got to figure out how to share with them other ways to adapt more effectively and efficiently in the world around them.

[00:21:07.720] – Speaker 1
Yeah, man, that was so good. And I love some of the things that you’re saying there. You highlighted maybe one of the misconceptions we have about mental health. I love that, like, the belief that kids will just grow out of it, right? Just give it some time and let them mature, and some of these things will work out. And maybe there’s a small part of that that’s true, but I love that idea of how do we engage with young people in where they are. And so what I’d love to do is even start there. Like, if you have a parent that’s like, okay, yeah, maybe our kids won’t just grow out of it, what would be some pieces of advice? Where would you start with a parent like that? That’s watching their kid kind of struggle with things and looking to name. What are some things right off the bat that you would do to encourage them if they don’t even know where to start?

[00:22:00.910] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think the very first step that we really need to prioritize and spend a lot of time with this one that doesn’t really have to do with engaging in that fixing behavior, trying to adapt behavior, support behavior. I think we got to start with building trust. Right. Trust is so important in any of the work that I do, I know that I can’t be effective if trust is not there. Right. And the same thing with DAREarts, with their teens or with the youth and things like that. Building trust is super important. I have a piece coming out at the Garden Institute. They have a blog that is coming out, actually in September, talking about billion trust for teenagers. It’s five different steps. There are five different things we can do to build trust. And I’ll discuss a couple of those things. First and foremost, we got to create a space, right? We got to create a space where they can have some discussions. We got to create a space where they’re able to talk about some of these things above and beyond, just, hey, how are you doing? In passing or picking them up or we get them home, but really saying, hey, on Tuesday at 03:00, I just want some time, just me, to spend time talking to me, right.

[00:23:10.540] – Speaker 2
Or whenever it may be. I think that’s super important. Another step that’s important is being an intentional listener. Right. I think being intentional listener is super important because sometimes kids may share things with us or you may share things with us that we don’t like or you want to comment or you want to be like, no, don’t do this. It’s terrible. Right. But sometimes you just want, just like anybody, you want to feel validated, you want to feel heard. And I think intentional listeners, being able to be able to hear them and validate them without calming, but just really understanding their pain, their experiences, and just leave them where they’re at. I always tell people that empathy, you don’t have to agree with somebody to be empathetic towards them.

[00:23:48.020] – Speaker 1

[00:23:48.350] – Speaker 2
And I think that’s a misconception, is that you have to agree with them to understand their pain. Right. And it’s bigger than that. I think you can see why that could upset somebody even if you disagree with how they got there. Right. And taking the time to do some of those things is important, I think. Another thing that I think I would say that I would want parents to kind of do above and beyond just being building trust. And it’s kind of part of building trust, engaging. Right. Find ways to engage, find things that your youth are interested in and take the same interest in it. Right. I was a youth counselor at some Arsenal camp back in dallas, Texas, in Garland, where I grew up. Right. And one of the most important things I’ve learned, I did it for three years, particularly when I was in college, all the camp director. The most important thing I’ve learned is that if you want these youth to respect you, you got to do what they do. So if it’s time where we’re playing sports, right, go out there playing sports with them, if they’re doing the math portion or go out there and just kind of help them through that right.

[00:24:58.400] – Speaker 2
It was opportunities for them to see me through them even though I was older and even honestly, indirectly inspired them. There was a lot of great opportunities. I heard from like, my youth really enjoyed this. They hated science, but you are their science teacher now. They really loved it and math. Now they’re engaged in school or they didn’t think about going to college or getting a master. They didn’t know the masters was or doctorate or cases being now they’re interested. Right. And so just finding ways to engage, take interest in what they’re interested in, because I think a lot of isolation comes because you don’t feel like you have opportunities to connect. Right. We want to isolate or we’re isolating ourselves. Even as adults, we don’t feel like we’re able to connect. And so putting opportunities in front of their face where you aren’t connecting, it’s harder to ignore those things. So finding ways to engage in the things that they’re interested in is super key.

[00:25:49.590] – Speaker 1
Yeah. That’s amazing. I love that. I probably have said this on the show before, but I think I’ve probably heard or absorbed that advice about engaging before. And it’s probably the only reason why I listened to Taylor Swift is because my daughter was pretty passionate about listening to Taylor Swift and would always want to put her on in the car. And so that started to become our thing. And next thing I’ve got like, every album on my Apple Music, which maybe is a little embarrassing for me to admit, but I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that. Doctor Jay, I want to go back because you talked about Building Trust and just so we don’t skip through it’s, the Gottman Institute that you mentioned right. That is releasing this blog later. So it’s G-O-T-T-M-A-N institute. So if our listeners want to track I know you do some work with them in all this field. So that’s just I would love our listeners to be able to access that blog because I think you hit the nail on the head with Building Trust. And I love that idea of creating space and like. Formalizing times to connect in a schedule and that also communicates to our kids that we value them as well.

[00:27:00.700] – Speaker 1
Right. If we’re going to carve out space and say, no, this is important, and it really validates who they are in our life, And shows that we actually care beyond just it kind of happened flippantly and by accident through the week. So I really love that part about creating space. And again, we don’t have to agree to empathize as a parent. I think sometimes we always want to try to get the kids on the same page that we are and agree that this is right or wrong or whatever it is they’re navigating. And I think sometimes we can miss empathy in that part of the conversation because as you mentioned right, it is tough to be a kid. And I remember just doing some of my in my youth development work, just thinking through all the hormonal and developmental changes, ignoring even the societal pressures and fitting in and navigating the world. It’s tough to be a young person. All of us have that in adolescence. Right. I think when we look at some of the behaviors and situations, we can easily miss the empathy side, that it’s tough to navigate some of these things today with young people with all these messages coming at them.

[00:28:12.870] – Speaker 2
I agree.

[00:28:13.600] – Speaker 1
I love that, too. I want to ask a question you talked about and I’m going to forget the quote. What did you say about a lion cub hunting? That was great. Yeah.

[00:28:23.150] – Speaker 2
So a lion cub doesn’t know how to hunt into a lion. That teaches them.

[00:28:27.750] – Speaker 1

[00:28:28.350] – Speaker 2
It’s kind of a nod to Bandura’s social learning theory. Right. Which I think is really highlighting that a lot of behaviors, whether we like it or not, our kids are learning from us.

[00:28:38.910] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And so because of your background, I’d love to ask this question. I don’t know if I ever really asked someone. On this podcast, we talk about parents modeling behaviors and stuff. Since you’re a family and marriage therapist, how do you see the marriage impacting the child family relationship and in that behavior? I think sometimes we always think it’s the stuff that directly happens with our kids, but what happens with other relationships that our kids observe? How does that interplay in that modeling behavior that you kind of talked about?

[00:29:15.430] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think it’s really key. I think it’s really key. So it kind of brings me back into back when I was in my Master’s program, I used to be what they calce it a Cope presenter, which is really the state of Nevada. Before you have children, you get a divorce. They would have you go through a three hour kind of seminar educational about the experience that you could be going through, which your kids be going through at different levels of their life and how to handle that kind of moving forward more effectively. Right. And I taught that three hour course for about a year and a half until I left Vegas at the first time. And what I found was that sometimes we play videos. Right. We play videos about maybe parents arguing things that they would say and I wells see many of them crying and being upset and being really hurt by seeing those videos and what I’ve heard in particular after I inquired about what’s going on, what’s your experience right now? And they’re like, that’s the first time I’ve been able to see what my kids are saying when we were arguing, when we were upset and the things that I say or how that we act.

[00:30:24.050] – Speaker 2
And it really just hits home that when you’re in these moments and you don’t see red or you’re upset, you’re not worrying about how your kids are impacted by this, but that was a front seat to what they could be experiencing and parents watching. Right. And that was super dynamic for them. I think a lot of parents came in and not wanting to be there in the beginning they’re just like, oh my gosh, nothing got to check off. But by the end they’re just like, man, I would have learned this before when I first got married, when I first started having kids, this is a really powerful, great information and I think it kind of pushed me to do some work even on my own. I think I even did my master’s thesis on the impact of crown divorce on children’s confidence levels. Right. And looking at differences between high conflict, low conflict couples and what that looks like or where they choose to have homes, they can win. But I think it inevitably has an influence on their expectations regarding relationships and that’s just not romantic relationships, that’s unfamiliar relationships, let’s play time relationships.

[00:31:30.010] – Speaker 2
I think we have our Disney kids. I feel like everything is happy ever after and everything’s going to end that way. Right. And that’s not a lot of our experiences. Right. The divorce rate is about 50%. Honestly, 50% of our experiences can be completely different than that. And I can change our expectations regarding relationships. I think people don’t get married to get a divorce or don’t get together to not break up as a solution to the relationship, but sometimes that’s the best move for them. Right?

[00:32:00.150] – Speaker 1

[00:32:01.750] – Speaker 2
And understanding why and understandably so. Right. But regardless, I think it’s important to recognize that we got to be supportive of our kids and their experiences and what they could be going through to those different times. And if we don’t take care of that, then think it’s no big deal. And although we could be struggling with that as parents as well, it could be some long term adverse impact for them.

[00:32:25.910] – Speaker 1

[00:32:26.790] – Speaker 2
The biggest thing I like to say though, regarding this, sometimes when parents decide to go their separate ways for whatever reason, and maybe the other parent is not as engaged as actively there, they always wonder, what do I do? What can I do? This doesn’t want to be involved, they don’t want to be around. What can I do? Right? And it’s such a tough question and I can completely understand that. And I used to say originally, you just got to be the best parent you can be. Right. If you do that, it’s going to be enough. Right. The energy you put into what the other parents are doing is energy that you’re taking away from being a better parent that you can be for your kids. And it was tough for me to say that because at first I really didn’t. I understood that. But it’s not pleasant, doesn’t feel good. When I did my research thesis on my master’s program, looking at some of those dynamics, what we found was wasn’t the quantity of support, it was a quality of support that made a difference for kids. And I really reiterated that. It made me feel some of them are better.

[00:33:28.070] – Speaker 2
Sharing that message, knowing that there was data that backed up the quality. It’s not about having both parents and grandparents, everybody ran and closed. It’s about the quality that’s there and how impactful it is for the adjustment of kids through this process.

[00:33:41.790] – Speaker 1
Yeah, that’s so helpful. I think one of the things I’d love to add to this is I think you talked about when couples are near divorce or how we navigate the fracture of relationships, quite a significant fracture of relationships, but I think we can back out a little bit, too, to say in all of our relationships we have conflict and how we choose to navigate that. And my wife and I, and I’m not ashamed to say this like we’ve been to therapy to help us in our relationship. And it doesn’t have to be at the point of disaster for us to seek outside support and help. And I think that’s another way to model for our kids is to say that it’s actually okay. And sometimes the best choice to have professional people help navigate what’s going on in our lives. Whether that’s just a child with their mental health or the emotional challenges they have. Or even as adults. To say.

[00:34:40.910] – Speaker 2

[00:34:41.150] – Speaker 1
We’re not perfect at this and we want to do this well. And therefore we’re going to get help from the outside. And I think that’s back to some of those stigmas that we talk about. Right. To say, actually it’s actually really appropriate to get professionals like you to step in and help us navigate some of these challenges.

[00:35:00.580] – Speaker 2
Absolutely. And the good thing about, I think, therapy is that you don’t necessarily go to therapy when things are bad. Right?

[00:35:08.460] – Speaker 1

[00:35:09.380] – Speaker 2
I look at therapy like a resource, kind of like tutoring. Sometimes you want to tutoring because your failing want to pass C, make A, B or B, make an A or a keeper, a or B, two to one day. Right. In the same way, I really think that therapy is a resource at any time. You can benefit from it if you have the time to access the ability to do so. It doesn’t have to mean when things are not going well, when things are going well, you just want to be better. Right? And I’m a big proponent of that, is utilizing at this opportunity to continue to build and continue to grow as individuals.

[00:35:40.210] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And I think inviting wells, I always call it like an oil change, right? Like, you do these things to keep your engine running the way it should be. You don’t always wait till the car breaks down to take it to a mechanic. So I think that’s really helpful. And I think it also shows, beyond even therapy, that as parents to invite other people into the journey with our kids to speak into it. And we all need coaches, not just like athletic coaches, but adults that care to be able to come alongside us as parents and our kids as they grow. I want to switch a little bit just because you’ve talked about you have practice, you work with young people, but a lot of the work you do is online and you’ve got some great content on social media. And we talked about some of the blogs and stuff with the Gottman Institute and other things like that. What are the benefits to talking about mental health online and what might be some of the challenges that you see as you kind of put your stuff out there for the world to navigate?

[00:36:49.810] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the coolest benefit is that I can span my reach, right. I remember when I was conducting research and publishing, particularly in academic journals, right, and I would talk about issues that are influencing parents or school systems and they don’t even have access to it. Right. And it sucks because I was doing this work to make these or to help these different entities and they weren’t getting the opportunity to read it or benefit from the process. And so that’s why we like social media. And I utilize that as an opportunity to expand that reach and continue to reach people that I don’t know, that I’ll never even meet in life, that they can benefit from some of the work that I do and some of the things I share. I absolutely love when people reach out and be like, yo, this is right on time. Thank you for sending me. This is that is so rewarding to know. Because to me, it’s not about the likes, the comments, it’s about the people that appreciate the value with whether they say it to me or not or people that are willing to share it.

[00:37:57.120] – Speaker 2
Like, I know somebody can benefit from this. I love that. Right? So I love the ability just to be able to expand the reach. And I wish I could get everybody some of this information. I think it’s going to make their life easier and help and helpful along the way, but I just don’t have access to that. But this gives me an opportunity to expand that region a little bit more.

[00:38:15.270] – Speaker 1
That’s awesome.

[00:38:16.410] – Speaker 2
But at the same time, when you do that, you lose control of your audience, right? You lose control about who sees what. And while I’m not really worried about that, that is a risk. When you expand or you use social media to do anything, you don’t get control who sees it or who witnessed it or who engages with it. You’re completely out of control of that. But I really like it because you can send that information and give people new things. Like I said, I love the validations, but I also recognize that sometimes I talk about some very challenging stuff, right. I’m talking about systemic oppression and social justice issues. Not everybody can be happy about that. I’m talking about issues that are real life now. People are happy about that. They’re not afraid to share it. I experience the hateful comments and threats and things like that even on the social media platform. And while that is completely upsetting, I think it’s important to have those experience because it lets you know where at in the world, right. It gives you a barometer. Right? And I think that barometer is super important to just kind of have a better understanding where we are in the world, where can we engage, where the conversations need to lead at, where they need to start, where they need to begin at, right?

[00:39:30.070] – Speaker 2
I think those are super key, but yeah, I think in those things, I think the cool thing is that I’ve been able to kind of grow an apparel business out of it. And like I said, there’s a show called the Tune in Black Zippy Friday. One of my favorite shirts is a knock on Marvel Black Panther. Instead of saying Black Panther is Black therapy, right? But it has a Black Panther kind of theme to it, and it’s just rated R and R stands relevant today’s, society and world.

[00:39:59.370] – Speaker 1

[00:40:00.430] – Speaker 2
And I love just different things like that. I love wearing those shirts or people asking or most importantly, people reach out to me being like, yo, wearing your shirt. And somebody reached out to me or stopped me, said, yeah, what is this about? Right? And not that they’re going to be able to share with them everything and everything, but this may be given the resources. And now they’re thinking about their breathing wells, and I think about mental health themselves. It’s another opportunity to promote mental health awareness, which is something I’m really big on. So I really enjoy just how things have grown and how they continue to kind of just make the way for their ways, right, and get to where they want to be.

[00:40:32.750] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So on that note. Including your own stuff. What are some resources and places online that you could suggest parents who are listening to this and are like. Man. I’d love to know more about young people today. Or some of the work you’re doing from your perspective or just even like a good place to go when issues like we talked about the definition of things. When my kids struggling with depression or has panic attacks or whatever. Just as that initial entry into this conversation for mental health and young people. What would be some resources or places online you’d suggest our listeners to go?

[00:41:13.020] – Speaker 2
Yeah, that’s good question. I agree. I think social media is a great way. I think you can plug in what you may be looking for. And there’s information out there which I think is really cool. All you need is hashtag, right?

[00:41:27.170] – Speaker 1

[00:41:27.570] – Speaker 2
But above beyond that, I think naming the CDC, even, they talk about parent engagement, health in school and health there’s something calce Parent Team Connect. Yeah. Again, what I really appreciate is that sometimes you just got to Google these things or put these things in there’s, opportunities, and maybe not get the answer you’re looking for, but to get you close to where you want to be.

[00:41:54.220] – Speaker 1

[00:41:54.580] – Speaker 2
And so you really just take it in mind, some of those things from that lens. I do like when particularly parents do some work that could benefit them but also benefit their family. Right. And so I remember talking to a client of mine and we’re talking about some book recommendations that could be just helpful and Allie and everything, right. You brought in anatomy a piece. And Anatomy A Piece is a great book that really just kind of about not what you do, but the mindset processions behind that. Right. And I really like that book in particular because it helps you figure out different things you can do as a parent, as a spouse, or just anything not what you’re doing, but your mind behind it that can keep you at war or I can keep you at peace. Just thinking kind of indirectly how they can influence some of those dynamics. I think that’s really cool, too.

[00:42:47.100] – Speaker 1
That’s great. So we’re kind of coming to the end of our time, and there’s one question that just popped into my head. So I have two more and maybe give me kind of your snapshot of these answers. So the first one is I just love this, just to kind of take a left turn real quick.

[00:43:04.660] – Speaker 2

[00:43:05.260] – Speaker 1
You do a lot of work now with sports performance and athletes, and you’ve done stuff with the Pistons and different things like that.

[00:43:11.180] – Speaker 2

[00:43:11.740] – Speaker 1
What have you learned from working with high level athletes in mental health? What’s one thing that you’ve kind of navigated and worked through there that you think would be helpful for parents of kids? Like, what have you learned about that process that would be really helpful for parents?

[00:43:28.510] – Speaker 2
I think the biggest thing is that one thing, I look at it, they’re no different than us. Right. Even with more money, even more acts for different things that still have very similar experiences, but one of the things I think is really big is this emotional regulation piece right. And being able to learn what your emotions are, how to be able to cope with them. Right. And fostering an environment where that can happen.

[00:43:57.210] – Speaker 1

[00:43:58.160] – Speaker 2
I think particularly for just individuals, but we live in a Western society where we have these attributes that contribute to masculinity and femininity. And one of the things we contribute to masculinity is not being too emotional right. In quotation. Because the biggest thing is we all have the same emotions. Some of us are better at describing them, labeling them, understanding them, and working through them. Right. And I think we really got to cultivate a space as DAREarts where our kids, no matter who they are, are able to express, share, and have an opportunity to understand their emotional experience, because if we don’t do it at a young age, we’re going to struggle as adults. Right. And those are very key pieces that can help us be successful no matter what we do.

[00:44:40.620] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And the emotional regulation starts with actually acknowledging what we’re wrestling through. And I love what you said earlier. Right. Mad, sad, the small, limited emotions we kind of grew up with and how we expand that. And even the most successful NBA athletes may feel alone and fearful at times.

[00:45:03.500] – Speaker 2
Yeah, absolutely.

[00:45:04.810] – Speaker 1
If they feel that, too, then it’s totally normal for our kids that we love and care for to have a wide variety of motions, even at that age. So I love that insight. So, Doctor Jay, as we kind of wrap up, would love any final thoughts, words of encouragement for parents right now who are kind of staring down some tougher mental health challenges with their kids right now at home. What would be kind of your final thoughts and encouragement for them today?

[00:45:34.870] – Speaker 2
Yeah, I think recognizing that it’s a challenge right. I think it’s not easy being a parent, but it can definitely be a rewarding experience. Of course. Right. But I think recognizing that is just hanging in there, knowing that you’re doing the best you can, the information that you have at the time that you have it right. And just allowing yourself to give yourself some grace if you’re in those moments. I think we can beat ourselves up a lot of times as parents, as therapists, as coaches, as it can be that like, man, they’re not getting it’s not getting through. It’s not helpful, it’s not beneficial, and it doesn’t have to happen on our time.

[00:46:12.690] – Speaker 1

[00:46:13.340] – Speaker 2
But it doesn’t mean that’s not effective. It doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial. So just keep an eye on it. Keep doing the best you we can, and recognizing that we’re doing that, being okay with that. Right. One of the things out of our control is other people’s behaviors, other people’s experiences. But we can also control reaction or responses. And if you’re controlling your reaction by giving yourself grace, you have a better response to circumstances as well?

[00:46:36.640] – Speaker 1
Yeah. That’s amazing. I think today you’ve really been able to further your mission with us and promoting awareness and inspiring youth, and I hope from our conversation, maybe empowering others to navigate their world that they’re facing. So I really appreciate your time today. Thank you so much. And all the best in your work that you do as you continue to be a role model. An example for young people, young black men who are thinking about career choices and therapy. Really appreciate the work you’re doing. Really grateful for you. So thank you.

[00:47:09.500] – Speaker 2
I appreciate you, Chris, having me on here. It’s been a lot of fun. You.

About the Author

Chris Tompkins is the CEO of Muskoka Woods. He holds a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Guelph, a teacher’s college degree from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in Youth Development from Clemson University. His experience leading in local community, school, church and camp settings has spanned over 20 years. His current role and expertise generates a demand for him to speak with teens and consult with youth leaders. Chris hosts the Muskoka Woods podcast, Shaping Our World where he speaks with youth development experts. He is an avid sports fan who enjoys an afternoon with a big cup of coffee and a good book. Chris resides in Stouffville, Ontario with his wife and daughter.
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