My guest today is Debbie Runke. Debbie is an LMFT working out of the Seattle area. She came out of retirement to become a therapist and her journey to helping people is something we should all be inspired by. She shares her approach to couples work, why she got into it and what’s next on the horizon for someone who has started their work in this field at a slightly later stage in life.
You can find Debbie at:
[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship Revival Show, we’re talking to therapist Debbie ranke, based out of Seattle, she’s a super sweet, amazing couples’ therapist that kind of uses different modalities in a really what seems like effortless way.
[Jon Dabach] 00:16
And she’s just completely having this soothing voice that I know you’re going to fall in love with. In addition to that, she has an amazing story about how she became a therapist, she actually went out of retirement, to get into the therapy field, which is inspiring, that shows just goes to show you that you don’t ever know what is going to be in store for you in life.
[Jon Dabach] 00:37
And it’s never too late. It’s never too late to get out there and start helping people and start a new career or a new passion. She’s completely inspired me in an amazing way. And I know she will do the same for you as well. You’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with John Dabach, also known as Mr. Spirituality.
[Jon Dabach] 00:57
That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy.
[Jon Dabach] 01:19
And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends who are also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives. Thanks for stopping by.
[Debbie Runke] 01:29
My journey is not traditional. This, I don’t know if this is my second, third fourth, I don’t know it’s not the first career. I started working in a financial services company and gravitated over a number of years into the technology part of that company.
[Debbie Runke] 01:51
Along the way, as I was moving up through supervision and management ranks, I became quite interested in what caused people to be motivated to do their work. And as a supervisor, of course, I’d be interested in that. And I started taking some college courses on motivation and behavior and got really so interested in psychology, human relations. To the point I eventually got my undergraduate degree in psychology.
[Debbie Runke] 02:26
However, I was this while you were still working? Yeah, yeah, nontraditional. I have to laugh; it actually took me 32 years to get my undergraduate degree. I was working full time, and I could only fit in a few courses. It didn’t help that I changed my major four times, from architecture to computer science to management, which was the only place I ever got B grades. And then
[Jon Dabach] 02:56
ironically, that’s where you were getting paid to
[Debbie Runke] 02:59
write that then I ended up finalizing my undergraduate degree in psychology. It was so interesting, the day of my graduation, I was standing there and my cap and gown sweltering because it was hot and humid. And I was doing one of those internal reflections on my journey to get there and kind of smiling to myself, you know, I can’t believe it took me 32 years to get here. At about two people behind me, I hear this woman speak up. And in a very clear voice says I can’t believe it took me 33 years to get there. And I’m clapping. I guess I’m not all that special then.
[Jon Dabach] 03:43
But anyhow, timing, right.
[Debbie Runke] 03:47
Every so often, you are reminded that you need to have some humility that you really not all that great. And that way for one thing we constantly are great at that, right? Yeah. But one of the things as I moved up through the ranks of management into a senior management position, one of the things that I realized that I loved most about my job, was working with people that were struggling at work.
[Debbie Runke] 04:14
One of the things that was most frustrating to me about working with people that were struggling at work, is most of the time, their problems had nothing to do with work. They were coming in from home with them. There were you know, relationships that were failing.
[Debbie Runke] 04:29
There were parents that were dying. There were dogs that were dying. There were kids that had just really profound medical needs infants, young children, just the whole realm of disruption to our relational life. And it was frustrating to me because that really limited my ability to offer help or so I thought. Eventually I was in a position where I was table two. I thought of it as retiring.
[Debbie Runke] 05:03
The company didn’t think I was old enough to retire. So, they don’t they call it really resignation or I don’t know, something like that. But I was able to retire, which was great about that time. Two things that were really pivotal for me happened. One was that I was diagnosed with MS. And the second was that I met and married the man who was to be my husband. I’d never married prior to that time; I was all about building the career and being independent.
[Jon Dabach] 05:36
When asked how old you were at the time, yeah.
[Debbie Runke] 05:40
mid late 40s. I don’t recall exactly. Mid 40s, I guess.
[Jon Dabach] 05:46
Is that being that an early diagnosis for Ms? Or is that kind of typically,
[Debbie Runke] 05:50
as I understand it, at that time, my neurologist told me that that was pretty common that middle aged women would discover they had Ms. Which I remember being somewhat indignant, like who are you calling middle aged? The medical profession is another one of those areas that give us feedback that remind us that we’re really nothing all that special. Yeah. But yeah, so around that same time I met the man who would become my husband.
[Debbie Runke] 06:23
And we, as I retired from work, he was able to retire from his career, we decided that we were going to start life as a retired couple together. But seven weeks after we got married, he ended up having a spinal cord surgery, the first of five as it turned out, and it was linked to both.
[Debbie Runke] 06:54
Well, the ultimate injury was exactly that it was the result of an injury. But he also had a lot of problems with spinal stenosis. And I, as I think of it, it’s more of an arthritis in the spine, where you get these growths that impinge on nerves, and all, all of that to say that, with that first surgery.
[Debbie Runke] 07:19
We started to realize that life isn’t going to be exactly what we thought. But we ended up for many years, enjoying things that couples that are not working are able to do, we did some traveling we one of the most uplifting things that we did is he had this idea of starting a an after-school reading program and one of the city recreational centers in the city where we lived at the time.
[Debbie Runke] 07:52
And we spent countless hours years even working in this center with kiddos that needed help learning to read or to strengthening their reading skills, which for the record is the most fun I’ve ever had done any job. Really? Yeah, it was so much fun.
[Jon Dabach] 08:12
I, you know, I’m gonna write down a little reminder, because I have four kids and helping them with reading is actually quite difficult for me. So any pointers? You have? I’ll definitely take later.
[Debbie Runke] 08:23
Yeah, it’s simple. Read with them. That’s it. Well, there’s a little more to it than that. But yeah, read with them. Okay, probably one of the most impactful things you can do with your kiddos, especially when they’re young. When they’re 14, and you want to sit down and read with them, they’re probably not going to be all that interested.
[Jon Dabach] 08:45
It’s hard. It’s hard. Yeah. Yeah, well, that’s a kick in the butt for me that I that I probably need it. So
[Debbie Runke] 08:53
provide them with reading material.
[Jon Dabach] 08:56
Yeah, that we were good about. But I think you’re I think you’re right, spending the physical time reading with them. I did it with my oldest. And I saw that as hugely helpful, especially because they’re reading in their head. And sometimes they don’t know how to pronounce things.
[Jon Dabach] 09:11
And they need to, they need a little bit of guidance. But if they’re doing it in a way that’s with someone they love or trust, and they’re having fun. Yeah, sorry to get off topic. But you know, selfishly, that was important. So, I appreciate it.
Especially the young ones are really skilled at committing things to memory. And it’s quite entertaining to see a young child pick up a book that’s upside down. And it’s been read to them so many times that they will read it to you. And they’ll actually be correct.
[Debbie Runke] 09:41
But, you know, clearly, they’re not reading, right? They’re using some other form of memory. I don’t know exactly what that is. But it’s interesting. Yeah. So anyhow, that’s what we did during our retirement kind of one of those volunteer activities.
[Debbie Runke] 09:55
We ended up expanding well he not we ended up expanding During that program to a total of three recreation centers in the city, it was staffed with a collaboration of people that were from the community, many of them from local churches, we collaborated with the local libraries to have access to their books, in addition to actually building small libraries.
[Debbie Runke] 10:22
And each one of these centers, we worked with some amazing people that were staffing, you know, that were city employees, if you will, one man, in particular man by the name of Eric Rose, who ran the first center, that we operated in just an amazing guy, met some really wonderful people and the kids.
[Debbie Runke] 10:46
What’s not to love about sitting down with a kid who doesn’t read very well, and finding a book that interests them, which is so amazing, the books that are available than just reading to them, you know, it’s that it is, well, for me, it was just a terrific experience. But that’s what we did in our retirement. My husband had been born and raised in Seattle; we were living in upstate New York at this time.
[Debbie Runke] 11:21
What that’s where we met. And he had said to me, shortly after we met, you know, I have this dream of retiring to Seattle. And I said, Great, I have a dream of not retiring in upstate New York, which I now kind of regret, because there’s much to love about the area that we lived in, we made the decision to pick up and move to Seattle, which is where we’ve been since his health continued to deteriorate this entire time, to the point that he passed away in 2015.
[Debbie Runke] 11:55
So almost eight years ago, probably six months or so after his death. I was having one of those existential crises, in which I was thinking, well, I am not employed in a paying job. I don’t want to go back into the arena that I had been in, I am not interested in working in a corporate environment. Even though I had spent so much of my career working in information technology, I don’t really love computers, I don’t love.
[Debbie Runke] 12:30
And I find them interesting. But that’s not what gets, gets me out of bed in the morning. So I didn’t want to go back to that. As it turns out, I had lunch with a friend, I think it was two or three days before Thanksgiving, in 2015, in which this friend shared with me things that were really pretty vulnerable.
[Debbie Runke] 12:55
And at the end of that time of sharing with me, said to me, you know, you ought to be a therapist. You’re good at this listening thing, in which I metaphorically like smack myself upside the head, like, psychology was my undergraduate degree. Why did this occur to me?
[Jon Dabach] 13:15
Maybe because he had three other majors.
[Debbie Runke] 13:18
I didn’t actually get the majors. I just started and stopped, started and stopped, which tells you something about my attention span, sort of like a net with some things.
[Jon Dabach] 13:28
But when we’re also busy, I mean, you had a husband attend to was six. Yeah,
[Debbie Runke] 13:33
yeah. But the next day, after that luncheon conversation, I got on a plane and flew to North Carolina, where one of my four brothers lives with his family. And during the two weeks that I was there, I interact with interacted with, I would say, minimum, six different people, most of whom I had never met before.
[Debbie Runke] 14:00
A couple of them I had but didn’t know well. And each of these conversations, I wasn’t trying to make this happen. Each one of these conversations would end up with them sharing with me, things that were painful, how their life was falling apart. And I didn’t know what to do other than listen. And every single one of these conversations would wrap up with the person saying, you know, you ought to be a therapist. Okay.
[Jon Dabach] 14:31
All right. Alright. I’m telling you something. Yeah,
[Debbie Runke] 14:33
maybe I ought to be a therapist. I came back to Seattle, started taking a look at what kind of fields related to psychology might I want to get into? And I looked at social work, I looked at mental health counseling and I looked at marriage and family therapy, found a program at one of the local university, Seattle Pacific University I thought to myself, if I were going to design the perfect program for me, it would look a lot like this one.
[Debbie Runke] 15:07
So, I got in touch with the university went in and met with the chair of the department and kind of their coordinator spent three hours there. This is I think, December 17, if I recall correctly, but the under this conversation, ask them so I know I’m not your traditional student. I mean, at that point, I’m in my late 50s. I know I’m not the traditional student, would I be a good fit for this program. And they were enthusiastic about it.
[Debbie Runke] 15:41
Definitely apply to the program. And as I’m standing there with my hand on the doorknob getting ready to leave, they said, oh, by the way, the application deadline is January 8. So, I’ll three weeks in the future. And one other thing you do need to take the GRE before the Graduate Record Examination.
[Debbie Runke] 16:02
No pressure there. Yeah. So, I bought one of those self-study books for the GRE and crammed over the next couple of weeks took the GRE the week between Christmas and New Year’s. And I didn’t care how well I did as long as I met the bare minimum, which isn’t worse. Yeah. I mean, up until that point I’d all been about, you know, it’s got to be perfect. Yeah, but no, I just needed it to be good enough.
[Debbie Runke] 16:31
It was I applied, they accepted me and I completed my master’s program in marriage and family therapy there. This has been, for me just the most wonderful field to work in. I just human relationships are so interesting. They are so challenging. They are the sources of our greatest happiness.
[Debbie Runke] 17:04
They are the sources of our greatest anguish. And I just like working in the field. And finally, after all these years, for some people, I feel like I am able to make a difference in a way that I couldn’t when I was working in the technology field. So that’s the journey of how I got here. What’s your practice
[Jon Dabach] 17:31
look like today? How many? How much of it is family therapy? How much of it is individual? How much of it is couples?
[Debbie Runke] 17:39
Zero is family. There’s a reason for that. I’ve discovered that I am easily overwhelmed by more than a couple of people in a room. Okay. I don’t know why I didn’t know that before. But yeah, that’s one of the reasons that although I am presently doing some group therapy work, it’s one of the reasons that I’ll be exiting that is because I don’t feel that I don’t believe that I attend well, to more than a couple of people in a room at a time.
[Jon Dabach] 18:20
It’s important to know your strengths for sure. Yeah.
[Debbie Runke] 18:23
Yeah, I think so. I do see some couples that they represent maybe 20% of the work that I do. Most of the work that I do is with individuals. And that said, oftentimes it feels like I’m doing couples or family counseling, because so much of the distress in people’s lives, somewhere along the line includes relationship distress, and even though their partner or their family member is not sitting in the room with them in a more emotional and, and kind of like spiritual way.
[Debbie Runke] 19:07
They are there. Yeah. So, one of the professors that I had at SP you had said something to the effect of, you know, every session is a relationship session. I don’t know that that’s completely true. But I think it’s true more often than not, or at least that certainly shapes the way that I think about and interact with the people that I see. I don’t know what your experience has been. But that’s mine. Well, I’m
[Jon Dabach] 19:37
a little different because I exclusively work with either couples or people talking about their relationships. So if someone comes to me and just talks about their own anxiety or depression, my first question is, well, where are you in your relationship?
[Jon Dabach] 19:53
Yeah, yeah. So, it’s a you know, so maybe we’re not so unlike I mean, obviously if they want to discuss their anxiety isn’t related to the relationship. I’m always going to meet the client where they are, if that’s what they want to talk about. But, but yeah, I, you know, personally, the reason why I focused on this is there were struggles in my marriage when I first started.
[Jon Dabach] 20:18
And once we were able to figure that out, everything in my life became so much richer. And I feel like people gravitate as practitioners of any kind of counseling in areas where they’ve, they have the experience, to where it makes sense. I mean, my wife is a therapist, and she specializes in perinatal issues, because she had postpartum depression. So, it you know, and I spoke to a brilliant therapist ahead of Atlanta, Atlanta.
[Jon Dabach] 20:50
And she’s in a step family herself as a stepmom. And so one of her specialties is working with blended and step families. So, I think you know, that, that that authenticity that you bring to it just feels right. And, you know, I think if I were to, I don’t think I’d be the best shot child therapist.
[Jon Dabach] 21:10
I don’t I’ve never worked with him. But I don’t think I’d find a kinship there. Just like you don’t have a kinship and dealing with families at large. So yeah, yeah, that’s kind of my approach. Do you have specific approaches to therapy or modalities that you connect with? Or is it kind of like a buffet of different techniques that you use and tools,
[Debbie Runke] 21:34
I often say that I am not a true believer in one specific modality, meaning that I don’t automatically default to the same therapy method in interacting with a client. That said, I do tend to gravitate towards the work of various therapists who have been giants in the field. When I am working with couples. I am very much drawn to the work of the Gottman is John and Julie Gottman, and have to this point completed two levels of their training.
[Jon Dabach] 22:14
Party right total. Yeah, three. Yeah.
[Debbie Runke] 22:17
Yeah. So, I’ve done too. I think that they resonate so much with me, because they seem practical, and they seem broader than then the more emotional focus that you get with the works of Sue Johnson, for example. Yeah. Which Oh, I think she’s amazing and the work that she does, but yeah, maybe it is a better fit.
[Debbie Runke] 22:45
To look more at and use more of the Gottman work in what I do. I will cherry pick things from other couple modalities. I look at Imago, for example. There’s I don’t even know who it is, I probably should look it up. But there is a website and a Mago website in which they have like a flowchart.
[Debbie Runke] 23:13
I might even have a copy of it here. I’ll take a quick peek. They have a flowchart of how to listen and validate your partner. Well, I work with an awful lot. Yeah, it’s berbere Reichlin. Is her websites B Reichlin. S W dell.net, a Mago works.com. I love her receiver flowchart. And it’s something I routinely use with many of the couples with whom I work. Many individuals that I see or our couples is one of the partners if not both work in technology. And that’s good Seattle, right? Yeah, of course.
[Debbie Runke] 24:01
And that’s a field that really attracts people that are more into their left brain. And some of the more soft, emotional cre well, they’re not I don’t want to say creative, but some of the softer people skills are not as developed. So to hold up something and I do, I’ll hold it up, like looks like this. That’s a flowchart.
[Debbie Runke] 24:30
And we’ll walk through when your partner has something to say when you’re when you need to talk about something that may be difficult. Follow these steps. I use this all the time. I don’t use any of the other Amalga work but this I love, right?
[Jon Dabach] 24:45
It probably feels empowering for someone who is more left brain to have a map like this.
[Debbie Runke] 24:52
Right? Right. And by the way, this is actually you know, I can go to the guy and work and find in there How to Be a good listener I can find, yeah, the same steps. But the presentation of this, like a flowchart is really helpful to some of the people with whom I interact.
[Jon Dabach] 25:14
That’s so interesting, I have the same thing where I cherry pick analogies or tools from other, I always come back to Gottman and some of my spiritual background as well, because that’s just where I feel at home. I think when I first saw, what because I went through a lot of the Gottman training as well, when I actually saw actual sessions that were recorded from Julie Gottman that was so eye opening about how to conduct a session in such a powerful way in transformative way.
[Jon Dabach] 25:46
But I find myself explaining what secure attachment is from EFT even though I don’t do much else with it during the session just because it’s the I use my analogies I’m like, it’s as if your partner has their own little home base. And they have an elastic band and they keep trying to venture out but they’ll snap right back in if they don’t feel secure. And that analogy or painting that picture for a lot of my clients is helpful just like that flowchart.
[Jon Dabach] 26:15
And then you kind of go back to the processes and tools that that you’ve that you really feel a master of that, that have proven to work for you. Do you find yourself when you do use Gottman? Kind of going through softening techniques? Or do you do you go through like the emotional bank account and like that formal way? Or is it more conversational?
[Debbie Runke] 26:35
It depends on the couple. The concept of an emotional bank account, it was interesting to me. A few weeks ago, I was working with a couple and they seemed unfamiliar with the idea of an emotional bank account, which caught me a little bit off guard. But we were having that conversation because we had done the Gottman assessment to the couple’s relationship assessment.
[Debbie Runke] 26:59
And we were walking through the results. Like many couples that are in distress, they were more in a state of negative sentiment override. So, as I was talking about that, and kind of explaining what that was like and encouraging them to think about how that shows up in their relationship, I made a reference to the emotional bank account. And they’re like, what is that? Well, it’s like, it’s a natural thing to talk about right now.
[Debbie Runke] 27:25
And and then that led into some of the other gotten interventions that I also talk about, you know, it’s like you make these deposits into your bank account with your bids for connection and how you respond to them and how you navigate through conflict and how you repair after client conflict, how you listen to one another.
[Debbie Runke] 27:50
You make these deposits when you invest in your friendship, and you’re continually learning about each other and helping each other’s great dreams grow and fostering romance and passion and all of those things. Did it’s such a fun conversation for me to have. Because it makes sense.
[Debbie Runke] 28:12
Well, it’s not a single conversation. And clearly that’s a lot of times. But it’s just so much fun to see a couples start to have compartments, if you will, it’s probably not a great word, but categories to put their experience in their observations in to understand the interactions between them how they, it provides context. Yeah, it does. And it did for me, and I think I think that’s why I tend to keep coming back to it.
[Jon Dabach] 28:46
You talked about interventions. And I know we talked very briefly when we first had our first call about you know, inappropriate behavior, whether it’s infidelity or things that can be even construed. What’s your approach, when you have either addiction issues or abuse issues or infidelity issues?
[Jon Dabach] 29:06
Working with couples, I know it’s not a one size fits all. But you have such a calming presence. I’m much more animated. And so sometimes I got to check myself where it’s like, you know, talking to you, I kind of feel like I’m at a spa, which is kind of nice.
[Debbie Runke] 29:22
Segue off into a side conversation. I’ll come back. Sure. Many years ago, when I was working in the corporate world, I had a one-on-one conversation with a colleague, and during the course of our conversation in his office, like, I can picture this so clearly, he sort of slumped over in his chair and oh, I thought he was having a heart attack or something like Ken Ken, are you okay?
[Debbie Runke] 29:51
With sort of startles back into awareness. I had put him to sleep. So, when people say to me you have such a calming Voice slip like periodically. I do try to remember to have a little more animation on voice, because I’m not looking to put people to sleep. Well, that I
[Jon Dabach] 30:09
think there’s Yeah, I don’t think you have to worry about it too much, because the content you’re saying is so invaluable. But, but yeah, don’t look at it negatively. I think if you wanted to do like recorded meditations, you’d have a kind of a natural voice.
[Debbie Runke] 30:23
There are so many others that are out there that are really great. I don’t feel the need to add to that. Sure. Sure, sure what’s available? But yeah, so you know, in answer to your question about working with couples, or individuals, when there’s been inappropriate behavior, or addictions of some kind, we can take a look at an I do take a look at some of the work that Robert Navarro did under the goblins.
[Debbie Runke] 30:49
Working with couples, I forget the name of that particular program. But it’s where addiction is a part of the story. I found that I continue to find that helpful and framing my thoughts my approach. One of the very first things that while there’s a handful of things that need to happen pretty quickly, the Gottman Navarro model has three basic steps of see if I can remember what they are, it is a tone, a tune, and attach, which I for me, it’s helpful to keep that in mind in the atoning the very first step in that particular approach to working with interventions, I think you can further break that down. And here I do wander a bit away from using only that model.
[Debbie Runke] 31:49
And I use, don’t remember the name, I want to say the last name is Porter, I can get that to you later, show you more of the work that this individual has done specifically for couples that are in distress around some sort of sexual infidelity or inappropriate behavior.
[Debbie Runke] 32:11
And he points out that you have to begin with establishing safety. Certainly, for the betrayed partner. But I think there’s more to it than that as well, because we’re about to ask the person that has done the harm, to step into an area where they’re going to have to hear things, talk about things that are shameful, that are painful. So, we have to make sure that they’re in a safe place as well.
[Debbie Runke] 32:47
We have to do a lot of work around emotional regulation. Because when a couple is rocked by this sort of discovery, or this sort of behavior, and it it’s profoundly distressing. The emotions are running rampant, understandably. So some of the very first work that we do, that I tried to do is to one to ensure that there is safety, not just emotional safety, but I need to make sure that there is physical safety as well.
[Debbie Runke] 33:25
Not from a threat of violence, necessarily, although it could be that. But you know, if somebody has had sexual interactions with another partner, you want to make sure that they’re not coming home with an STD or an STI is so there’s that the partner who’s been betrayed.
[Debbie Runke] 33:47
Oftentimes, I will say her because majority of the people that I interact with are women in this regard. I don’t mean to imply that it’s only women that are affected by this. But there is so often a physical effect to her new chronic pain, new disrupted sleep, new digestive issues, new weight loss, new whatever, and I need to make sure that there’s safety, care for her in those areas as well.
[Debbie Runke] 34:23
And like and I want to, again, emphasize I’m not talking solely for women, that just happens to be sure that the population that I tend to work with most but from there, it becomes necessary to establish what truth is, what is the reality of the behavior that’s happened?
[Debbie Runke] 34:47
There’s a natural tendency on the part of someone who has been kind of caught out to want to minimize the damage we’ve got in minimizing the damage That often translates into, I’m not going to tell you what I’ve been up to, or I’m not going to tell you all of it, or I’m not going to tell you at the time us, there can be an awful lot of denial, there can be an awful lot of gaslighting, which, again, has a profoundly negative effect on the partner. Because the partner No no no longer knows what’s even real, or what’s truth.
[Debbie Runke] 35:21
So, we have to get into an exploration of what actually is true. And that’s were having for each of the partners to have their own individual therapists around that can be helpful. I’m, I tend to weigh in on the side of there needs to be complete truth. Having said that, I have worked with a couple of partners that are so fragile that at this point, having complete truth is not something that they can withstand.
[Debbie Runke] 36:00
Yeah, emotionally. They’re so devastated, so fragile, and they’re usually people that have their own pre relationship with this person. trauma history. Yeah. No, so it’s a delicate, and I think it’s sacred work, to step into that space, to establish truth. To share it, there’s a process of grieving that the couple individually, but also relationally know, needs to go through. Because what they thought they had is, I’m sorry, I’ve got yard work. People have just shown up out here.
[Jon Dabach] 36:41
I don’t think I get here, you’re okay.
[Debbie Runke] 36:44
You probably will at some point. But it’s the it’s sacred work to sit with an individual or with a couple that is so disoriented about what has just happened in their world. Or maybe it’s been happening and one person has been aware of it for a long time. But how do you hold that?
[Debbie Runke] 37:06
The couple has to decide, are they even going to stay together? And that’s not a onetime division decision. That’s a recurring decision. Am I willing to work on the relationship? Well, maybe I am, only until this point, and then we’ll reassess. So, I don’t know. Did that answer your question? I have a tendency
[Jon Dabach] 37:36
to Yeah, no, no, no, but it did. It explained your approach to interventions? And I mean, it’s complicated. That’s the short answer is it’s complicated and using whatever tools you need. And it seems like, you know, you have your own experience with grief, probably as a widow, you had your existential crisis.
[Jon Dabach] 37:53
So, I think that’s hugely helpful, whether you’re dealing with grief or interventions that have grief involved. So I could see that being hugely helpful. This what is there? Is there something on the horizon for you? Are you just enjoying being a therapist? Is there something next for you just kind of want to continue the great work you’re doing?
[Debbie Runke] 38:13
I am right now, in a place where I’m looking to reduce the volume of work that I do. I like to inter introduce other things to the work that I do like this, for example. This is fun to me. I have had the opportunity several times over the past several years to go into organizations where somebody has died unexpectedly, perhaps violently, and do what is known as a critical incident stress debrief.
[Debbie Runke] 38:46
I’ve gone into schools where students or faculty have died by suicide, I have gone into businesses where employees have died. Unexpectedly there’s been some really traumatic for the rest of the people that witnessed, you know, some sort of a traumatic event. And that can be an accidental death. It can be a health-related event, like somebody has,
[Jon Dabach] 39:13
like challenging but rewarding work. Well, I love
[Debbie Runke] 39:17
doing it. Yeah. And I’ve also had the opportunity to do education sessions for local businesses to talk about mental health issues. That was particularly in demand in the early stages of the pandemic, as businesses were just reeling from the mandates that they needed to have workers at home.
[Debbie Runke] 39:41
People that had been accustomed to those so-called watercooler conversations, all of a sudden, we’re feeling really isolated. We saw a lot of mental health issues that really emerged to be front and center for employees during that time. Which by the way, they’ve not gone back to their pre pandemic levels.
[Debbie Runke] 40:02
But we saw and I’m sure you encountered this. Yeah. Record numbers of people with anxiety with depression with addictions with suicidality. Yeah. And so, businesses, some of them, Seattle tends to be much more progressive in that particular focus on employees. There were certainly local businesses that wanted mental health professionals to come in and talk to their employees about navigating different domains, a different element of that, you know, I have talked about in early days, what did zoom fatigue look like?
[Debbie Runke] 40:41
You know, and how did you minimize that I’ve talked to businesses about worked with a local health organization talking about burnout, and the providers, as their patients were suddenly no longer coming into the facility. And the staff had no idea about how the patients really were doing that particular facility. They worked with young children, you know, and they, they had no way of really fully knowing how the kiddos were doing.
[Debbie Runke] 41:13
And it was very stressful to the staff that was trying to provide the service. I mean, they heard their own crises of this disruption in their own lives of being at home confined in a small area with their own families, and all of the dynamics that came along with that. And then because they’re in the caregiving field, to be so overwhelmed by how do you provide care when you can’t be with someone. So, I love doing that.
[Debbie Runke] 41:47
Those additional kinds of things. I love therapy, it’s what gets me energized. I also love having the opportunity to do other things. Like the critical incidents, I mean, that’s a one-off sort of thing, you go into a business, you there are maybe a handful of times, you interact with people a handful of times, but you help guide them through the, you know, they, I’m thinking of one situation in which a group of people witnessed a coworker, have a horrifying ski accident and lose his life.
[Debbie Runke] 42:25
You know, so and they were they were helpless to do anything about it. They there was there was nothing they could do. They just watched it happen. really devastating for them. I’ve worked with people that have been held up working in a store where someone came in to take what was really there’s, you know, so people that have been traumatized by being on the receiving end of tangible real threat to their lives.
[Debbie Runke] 42:57
Yeah. And so that, that that plays into my interests, I mean, I I’m interested in not only grief and attachment, which you get from kind of my own story, but so much of what underlies grief and attachment injuries or traumas. So that’s a space that I really am drawn to working in, I love working in it.
[Debbie Runke] 43:24
And whether it’s in a therapy room, or whether it’s in a kind of a lunch and learns sort of session, or whether it’s in a debrief session when somebody has died unexpectedly. That’s work that I feel comfortable doing. I really, I think it’s worthwhile work. It has meaning and purpose for me, and I, and I do love it.
[Jon Dabach] 43:51
That’s wonderful. Well, Debbie, Ron King, this was an amazing exploration of your history and the way you practice for people who want to reach out they can go to always hope therapy.com and get in touch with you that way. You’re based in the Seattle area. I assume you do the whole state, though, correct?
[Debbie Runke] 44:13
Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the benefits out of the pandemic is everything went virtual. And now I have a wider reach than I would have before. So yeah, ever all the way to the eastern end of the state.
[Jon Dabach] 44:24
Wonderful. Well, thank
[Debbie Runke] 44:25
you so much for what you do in Iowa, because I had a client that moved there and we wanted to continue to work together. So, I do maintain an Iowa license. Although aside from that one client I don’t have a practice there. Okay,
[Jon Dabach] 44:41
well, if you’re in Iowa or Washington listening to this, and you think Debbie could be the perfect fit for you and I you know, listening to you, I think there’s a lot of people who are going to resonate with your tone and some of your specialties.
[Jon Dabach] 44:53
So, again, the website is alwayshopetherapy.com And yeah, Thanks again it was it was a lot of fun to talk to talk to you.