Dr. Stephen Dansiger – Interview @ Wellness Day 2011
ONE80CENTER Executive Director & Primary Therapist Dr. Stephen Dansiger, PsyD as interviewed at this year’s Wellness Day 2011.
Dr. Stephen Dansiger has provided training, education, leadership, coaching and therapy for a diverse population for many years. Holding a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology, he has created and run groups at several top treatment facilities, as well as serving as a Primary Therapist. In his private practice, he specializes in all substance and behavioral addictions, as well as working with PTSD, Complex PTSD, depression, anxiety and other disorders. Dr. Dansiger is a fully EMDRIA Certified EMDR therapist and uses it extensively in his private practice as well as with clients at ONE80CENTER.
Please bookmark our YouTube Channel and keep checking back here often. Many innovative minds in the recovery world were interviewed at this year’s event and footage is being rolled out gradually over the coming weeks to the greater community.
Transcripts and links to the remainder of Dr. Dansiger’s interview are available below:
QUESTION 01 – Tell us a bit about what you do. (link to video)
My name is Steve Dansiger. I am executive director at one80center. I also have a private practice in Beverly Hills. I am the overseer of the wellness program at One80. I also work director with the clinical director Berni Fried directing the clinical operations here
QUESTION 02 – How did you get in to the recovery world? (link to video)
I got in to the recovery world through the door that many people do, my own recovery. What happened was I was drinking too much and taking too many drugs and when I was 26 years old I had a bottom. I also had many other bottoms. My other bottoms were more devastating and physical. This bottom was more spiritual and emotional, like “I cant do this anymore .I surrender” kind of deal and so that brought me in to the world of recovery as a recovery person and I didn’t get in to it professionally for many years. I was a high school teacher and I was a musician and a writer and then I got in to a form of education that really put me in contact with people’s problems. I was a diversity trainer and managed conflict resolution. All those kind of things and so I always felt like I was a therapist. And then I had an experience where I was working with a small group of young people and I realized they all had substance abuse problems and that moment was kind of life changing and I wondered ‘I wonder what it would be like to help them and if that would help them get out of some of the problems they were getting in to”. So that’s how I got in to it and the way it went. I went back in to school. Ever since I became a therapist I’ve always had one foot in the recovery world
QUESTION 03 – What do you think are the of the more important innovations or new knowledge in the field of treatment? (link to video)
I think the reason it’s exciting to be in the field is because there’s a ton of them. Some it has to do with the neuroscience, which is not my forte – but something that I’m really interested in. We’re literally starting to know enough about the brain to be able to actually say things about it – whereas before it was really all conjecture. We’re starting to know more about the plasticity of the brain, the healing potential of the brain – which opens up a whole world. One of the worlds it really opens up is trauma-focused therapy and all of the theoretical orientation behind that. I specialize in EMDR therapy, which is heavily predicated on the idea of the brain having plasticity, being able to heal itself – and us as therapists being able to give clients the opportunity to have those things engage. So there’s a whole shift in a paradigm towards trauma focus and looking at trauma… it’s taken us a lot of years to get here… to look at trauma not just as a precursor to addiction, but to look at it as it’s own separate thing that allows us to heal the addiction and the trauma. The person is then less prone to relapse. So for me, personally – and professionally as a therapist – that’s the biggest innovation. EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, other therapies that address those issues and see addiction through that prism.
QUESTION 04 – What, if any – wellness activities do you incorporate into the treatment of your clients / patients? (link to video)
I’ll answer that in two ways. One in my private practice: I’ve been meditating in the Zen tradition for over 20-years now. Meditation and Mindfulness and those kind of constructs are brought in all the time. I think as a person and a therapist who has done that practice for as long as I have, it becomes part of the way that I relate to the client. I think it’s almost automatic. Also in my private practice I have a great spirit of curiosity about all of the different aspects of wellness in a person’s life. I am listening for keywords, I’m listening to what kind of resources we can bring in. At ONE80CENTER, it’s our primary focus. A big part of my job is to work with our Wellness Director to find every single resource that’s out there that can potentially help the client. We had a speaker today, I think it was Dr. Timothy Fong – who was talking about medications, but also talked about using all modalities… looking for the thing that will help that particular person. What can be a cure for one, can be poison for another. So it’s really trying to understand what each particular person is bringing to the table and what might represent an increase in wellness for them. Basically, we bring the kitchen sink – but not throw it at them. We, as a staff – listen to the client and try and help to guide them… from spirituality and nutrition to exercise. Mind, body, spirit.
QUESTION 05 – If you are in recovery how do you think that impacts the way you approach your work? (link to video)
I think is that there is a positive side to the fact that I have gone through a lot of the experiences. There could be a negative side to that too because that could lead me to project my own experience on to someone else but because I realized that a long time ago and had many mentors beat that out of me, of course I could slip in to it always have to track myself. But I think that I have become pretty good at utilizing the fact that I have been there on the clients behalf, without it being sponsorship in AA. It’s a clinical relationship where because I have that experience and I have had that exposure to and worked with all these wellness modalities I feel like it definitely feeds my perspective and helps me better understand what a person is going through and heal them .I am very careful not to think “they are going through this and this is what I did when I went through this. “ I think my clinical training helped me to see that this is not clinical. I am also very careful not to think of my clinical work as my recovery. My recovery is my recovery. Before I got my doctorate I got my masters and my first semester the only thing I learned was ‘you are going to need to take care of yourself in this profession.’ That was it. That was the only thing I learned the whole semester. So I am really aware that I need to be very vigilant about my own recovery and recovery and working as a clinician in recovery.
QUESTION 06 – What do you believe are some holistic ways that can beneficially supplement more traditional means of treatment for addiction towards a positive outcome? (link to video)
Just in thinking of the word holistic, our speakers today were a very eclectic mix of perspectives. But the one unifying theme I heard today was that each different perspective is actually part of one holistic approach. I think of the traditional approach as being part of the holistic approach. It’s more about how the different modalities might interlock with each other and provide the best outcomes. The ones that are near and dear to me are trauma focused therapy, somatic experiencing. It’s strange with all this new data to support it, that it’s still looked at as cutting-edge or labeled with an undeserved cache as alternative treatment. It’s actually just really, really good therapy. So EMDR and Yoga are treatments in addition to all the other things that it is. It really changes the brain and the mind, body, spirit connection. Any and all other practices like that, I come from a Zen background – so sitting meditation, focusing on breathing… and then there’s some things that people think of traditionally, but forget to really individualize like exercise. It’s not one size fits all. Finding ways to bring treatment teams together, all talking to each other – to find ways to bring meaningful activities to people in recovery.
QUESTION 07 – What do you think about the role of nutrition in early recovery? (link to video)
I think that it is utterly crucial and a couple of our speaker addressed it today. And I addressed it today wit an anecdote about a friend who remarked that if he were in a bad mood he would think he had to get a new therapist or a new AA group , or break up with his girlfriend or get new friends but what he really needed was a cheeseburger. People just getting hungry or people not eating right can sabotage anything and everything else they try. I have had eating issues around me in the past and I have seen many types of diets. I tried a vegan diet for a couple of years, vegetarian, and a pescatarian, I have gone all over the block and then there was a point where I was just chasing cattle down the street. So I have been through all these phases and I really have noticed the difference. Regardless of which of those diets I was on, there is a way of doing each one of those correctly. Then the other piece of it is nutrition. Like anything else there is a lot that we know that is general knowledge that works for most people but again it is not cookie cutter either. What we talked about today with assessments and seeing MDs and holistic healers and other people who do tests and blood work etc and work together and get a sense of what is going on with one person nutritionally that can be adjusted to provide them with more energy, a better mood, and more ability to deal with their general recovery.
QUESTION 08 – What are your thoughts about incorporating a better understanding of wellness as it relates to the treatment of addiction within the field of treatment professionals? (link to video)
I think that a large part of that is what we are doing here at one80center by inviting the local community to be a part of our community and by that I mean the local community of treatment professions. One of our goals is to create a better understanding of all these modalities and all of these ways of looking at treatment. There are times that we have outside therapists and they will join our treatment team and be part of the person’s treatment. And they may be looking through a different prism and we get to learn from them what’s working for them and they get to learn from us all these pieces of wellness we are so concerned with. There is a reason why we have chosen wellness day to be a theme of our major event every year. The idea is that if we can spread an understanding, I wont call it message, of what seems to be a remarkable truth that has been around a couple thousand years or so. That in addition to the scientific knowledge that we have acquired over time, that the more treatment professionals see this as a pathway to peoples healing the more people will get the healing. So I think it is radically important.
QUESTION 09 – What do you think are the most important wellness related components for a clients recovery and why? (link to video)
Again I think again it’s going to be very individual. I think this was a theme here today. I think that the real wellness or the core of it, is going to come from the feeling of safety. And it’s going to come from a feeling of interconnectedness and community and being heard. I think that there are many pieces to wellness and I think those ones that I just listed are the ones that open the gateway to the others. If a person feels safe and heard then they can then hear themselves or people on the outside saying ‘hey there’s a yoga class’ ‘hey have you thought about eating this.?’ There are the gateway drugs and theses are the gateways to wellness.