Special Guest: Keith Wilson

Keith Wilson is a licensed mental health counselor and former certified substance abuse counselor in private practice in Rochester, NY. He’s had more than thirty years of experience with a diverse population ranging from: troubled youth, troubled marriages; domestic violence victims and perpetrators; addicts and alcoholics; sexual abuse offenders, survivors, and non-offending spouses; the seriously mentally ill and the worried well; and the people who love all of the above.

He is the author of three self-help books: Constructive Conflict: Building Something Good Out of All Those Arguments; The Road to Reconciliation: A Comprehensive Guide to Peace When Relationships Go Bad; and How to Make an Apology You’ll Never Have to Make Again. He has also published three novels, Who Killed the Lisping Barista of the Eiphany Café?, Fate’s Janitors: Mopping Up Madness at a Mental Health Clinic, a satire of the mental health field, and Intersections, which takes readers on a road trip with a suicidal therapist. Early parts of what may be his next books, Searching for an Inner Adult, A Field Guide to Feelings, and The Reflective Eclectic can be found on his blog at www.keithwilsoncounseling.com.

You can find Keith at:



[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship Revival Show, I’m joined by Keith Wilson. Keith is a licensed mental health counselor and former certified substance abuse counselor in private practice in Rochester, New York. He’s had more than 30 years’ experience with as diverse a population as troubled youth, troubled marriages, domestic violence victims and perpetrators addicts and alcoholics, sexual abuse offenders, survivors and non-defending spouses the seriously mentally ill, and the worried well, and the people who love all of the above.

[Jon Dabach] 00:30
He’s the author of three self-help books, constructive conflict, building something good out of all of those arguments, the road to reconciliation, a comprehensive guide to peace, when relationships go bad, and how to make an apology you’ll never have to make again. He’s also published three novels and early parts of what may be his next book searching for an inner adult A Field Guide to feelings.

[Jon Dabach] 00:53
And the reflective eclectic can be found on his blog at Keith Wilson counseling.com. You’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with Jon Dabach, also known as Mr Spirituality. 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] 01:27
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. Keith Wilson, thank you so much for being on the program with me.

[Keith Wilson] 01:42
I’m happy to be here.

[Jon Dabach] 01:44
I I am fascinated by all the different types of people you’ve worked with in terms of the population. Is there a reason that you’ve had such a diverse experience in your in your life? Or is that just kind of accidental?

[Keith Wilson] 02:01
Oh, well, I’ve been doing this for a long time. So things kind of accumulate that way. For the longest day, you know, in any career, it takes a while before you get settled into something. And so I worked with kids who we used to call juvenile delinquents back in the beginning. And then alcoholics, and then folks with severe mental illnesses, some sexual offenders, so many victims that I wanted to private practice.

[Keith Wilson] 02:41
And that opened up a whole new field of folks that I work with. So, at this point, I’ve seen just about everything, and heard everything, and it’s kind of hard to shock me. Has there

[Jon Dabach] 03:00
Been a population or, or a type of client that was specifically hard for you? Or that you’re specifically excited to work with?

[Keith Wilson] 03:13
Well, I think there’s aspects that are hard about every problem, you know, of course, it’s a problem that people are bringing to my office. And it these problems can get me discouraged as much as anybody else. But I try to find just what the problem is there for what the function of it is, and try to be adaptable to anything that comes along. Now, many people have got things going on that I have not personally experienced.

[Keith Wilson] 03:53
That’s probably the case most of the time. Yeah. So then the problem is to set aside my own personal biases and knowledge and try to, you know, not lose that entirely, but to, to enter fully into the world of the other person, so I can understand where they’re coming from, and what it’s all like. And then I like to, you know, return to my world so that we can compare and see, see what we can learn from each other.

[Jon Dabach] 04:30
Very interesting. I like that approach. I mean, I think everybody I’ve talked to who’s a counselor has somewhat of a similar approach because there’s no way you could be an alcoholic and a victim of sexual abuse and this and that and like and also be a therapist, right? So you have to, you have to kind of be able to put your yourself in their shoes a little bit

[Keith Wilson] 04:52
Longer. Is there any way that you can attend all those trainings? Right. You can’t you can’t educate your Self fully for anything that can come in through your door. So I think a good therapist learns from their clients. But you know not to stop there. Because, you know, if all we know is what the client knows, then we’re stuck too. So we have to some somehow get beyond that as well.

[Jon Dabach] 05:23
Yeah, that makes sense. How did you how did you discover your passion for writing? And how did you decide to become an author?

[Keith Wilson] 05:33
Well, I’ve always had a passion for writing, that’s really something that preceded being a therapist. Oh, wow. Yeah. And I got to, like, many shrinks, I got to take everything back to by my parents. And my father grew up with a writer, his mother was a maid in a rich person’s home, and the rich person was, was an author, and he admired him. And so all I needed to do was go to school and write a story.


[Keith Wilson] 06:06
And he was all over me, praising me for the story. And that, that, that stuck, I enjoyed doing that. So when I finally went to college, I initially was going to be a literature major, I always wanted to write and, and read, of course, but you know, any literature major has to endure that question of, what do you do with it? And so I wasn’t sure what to do with it other than to teach and take the crapshoot of trying to write and hoping that that would earn me a living. So but I found I found therapy and being a counselor, as a perfect thing that an aspiring writer can do.

[Jon Dabach] 07:00
Why is that? Why is that such a perfect fit?

[Keith Wilson] 07:03
Well, I think my background in reading, prepared me to listen to other people’s stories. It prepared me, particularly when you read novels, you’re, and you’re getting into the head of the character. Yeah. All right. So that prepared me, I think most there is a thing called Narrative Therapy. But really all site psychotherapy is narrative therapy, because that’s the only thing we have to work with is the narrative.

[Keith Wilson] 07:38
So I sometimes think of myself as my clients, editor, someone who takes their story and organize helps them organizes it, and helps them prepare it for other people to understand. And also themselves. Yeah. And for them to understand. So I think there’s a perfect fit there.

[Jon Dabach] 08:09
That’s so interesting. I you know, as I only work with couples, and I mean, it’s individual from couples to but I often will use an analogy too. I tell people, I’m a translator, right. You’re speaking one language, she’s speaking the other. And I’m really just there to kind of translate. I love the idea of kind of framing it for your clients as an editor. Organizing the thoughts. That’s brilliant.

[Jon Dabach] 08:34
Yeah. What? When you feel compelled to write a book because you have written so many? Where does that compulsion come from? How do you decide what you’re going to write about what the topic is, be itself help or novel?

[Keith Wilson] 08:56
Well, I started with fiction. I started with writing short stories. And my first well, except for when I was a kid, when I started getting serious about writing. My first short stories were largely inspired by my clients. At the time, I was working in an inner city mental health clinic and I had a lot of people who were African American, they had experiences very foreign to mine.

[Keith Wilson] 09:30
They were largely severely mentally ill and, and drug addicted and alcoholic and backgrounds of being abused and all that sort of thing. Yeah. And I wanted to, you know, it’s one thing when I see a client’s and I write a clinical note afterwards, I kind of have to put in all that clinical language Sure, which I found terribly restrictive. I hate it, what I would much rather do is become adept at speaking the client’s language, and to be able to see things through their eyes.

[Keith Wilson] 10:14
So I would start to write short stories, not that I would copy my clients stories into a short story form, but I kind of imagined myself as a person growing up in that, that kind of background. Now, today, there’s a little if I were to do this, now I would be running the risk of appropriating there, their stories. And I, I would take that very seriously.

[Keith Wilson] 10:48
And I never even thought about it in those terms, then. But at the time, it was it was a chance for me to live a bigger life than I was living by living other people’s lives this way.

[Jon Dabach] 11:06
Yeah, there’s that imaginative exploration that that comes with being an author. Excuse me, what about on the self-help side? How do you decide, you know which topics you want to write about?

[Keith Wilson] 11:19
Well, my first self-help book was constructive conflict. And that was a case of having either couples in my office or individuals who had conflict with their loved ones, and wanting to give them some practical tools to, to handle these conflicts.

[Keith Wilson] 11:43
I started off looking at some of the literature, and I wasn’t very happy frankly, with any of it. So I kind of wrote my own, I didn’t really break any new ground. Constructive conflict is not a terribly original take on, on, on, on communication with other people. But I tried to, you know, put it into the terms that the people I was seeing would understand and be very clear and direct about things.

[Keith Wilson] 12:17
Right. So I started with that. And then the next book was The Road Code reconciliation. And that arose from the fact that I was seeing many clients who all had breaks of some kind with loved ones, either through something that they did to hurt the loved one, or maybe illness hurt it hurt them. Yeah, they did try to hurt them, but their illness did, by being depressed or anxious, or whatever.

[Keith Wilson] 12:49
Or they were victims of the loved one hurting them. And I’m looking for a way of helping them with this. And I attended a restorative justice conference. And I don’t know how much you or anybody listening knows about restorative justice.

[Jon Dabach] 13:07
But let’s assume that no one knows anything so that we can

[Keith Wilson] 13:11
Well, basically, it works like this. I can’t say let’s say a teenager, goes and paints swastikas on the parking lot of a synagogue. Okay. And he gets caught. While he comes up before Judge, and the kid ever regrets doing it already, you know, he’s not trying to make excuses or anything, he regrets doing this. What what’s the judge going to do?

[Keith Wilson] 13:42
The judge can send the kid to jail where he’ll probably, you know, meet a bunch of skinheads and become even further radicalized. Or he’ll give the kid probation, and will probably be perceived as slapping them on the wrist, things like that. Or the or the judge could sentence the kid to see a restorative justice counselor.

[Keith Wilson] 14:12
If he sees the counselor, then the counselor will talk to him about, you know, if he’s really sorry to this, and how he imagines it might have affected the congregation, and what he’s willing to do to make amends. And then the counselor will talk to the congregation, and, you know, hear their story about how this affected them and how they think the kid might make amends.

[Keith Wilson] 14:40
And then if everybody is still with the program at that point, then he’ll have them all meet together and work something out some way to, that the kid can make events. So I went to this conference to learn how to do this because it’s a time I was new in private practice and worried that I might not have enough work.

[Keith Wilson] 15:06
So I went to this conference, and I thought about using the same principles with the people that I was already seeing, you know, the alcoholic, who, you know, is following his 12 STEP program and you know, needs to make amends, but doesn’t have all that good structure to do that.

[Keith Wilson] 15:29
And so I tried to figure out how to guide them to do that. And I also had, you know, a lot of people I was working with who were victimized, and yet, somehow either want to make peace with the victimization, or they wanted to make, you know, reconcile with the person who hurt them, and how can I guide them without running into all the hazards that they could run into.

[Keith Wilson] 16:00
And as I thought this through, you know, one of the best ways I have of thinking, is to write so I would write, I would write these things from my blog. And then, you know, over time, then this evolved into a book. And so we had a book.

[Jon Dabach] 16:19
And that’s on reconciliation. That’s the book, yeah,

[Keith Wilson] 16:22
The road to reconciliation, the road comprehensive guide to peace, when relationships go bad.

[Jon Dabach] 16:29
So what are some surprising things that people who are struggling with reconciliation would find in your book, maybe some, some kind of give us a sneak peek, if you will, into kind of the method of thinking that you kind of outline?

[Keith Wilson] 16:46
Well, when I tried to apply this restorative justice method to sake couples? Say you have an alcoholic husband, who’s, you know, got a DWI. And now the whole family’s got to pay for it. I mean, that’s a harm done to the family. And if you stop there, I mean, you could just work with that and just stop there. But really, when you dig into it, you find that the it’s not that clear, who’s the victim?

[Keith Wilson] 17:28
Quite often. And who’s the perpetrator? I mean, you have perpetrators kind of making excuses that, you know, you made me do this. But I mean, still, that’s a factor. You don’t want to, you know, rationalize their bad behavior. By that means, but it’s still a factor.

[Keith Wilson] 17:50
Yeah. So came up with this idea of the victim cycle where, where, you know, when you’re victimized, the first thing you want to do is, you know, make some restitution or retribution, I mean, and then that, that, that turns you into an offender, okay? And then the other person is victimized, and then they become an offender, and you go around and around and around. So where do you start a case like that?

[Keith Wilson] 18:29
So my answer to that is, well, you start with a person is, you know, so if I have an alcoholic in my office, who says, all my wife makes me drink, you know, she nags me so much. If she makes me drink, you know, the old day was just dismiss that and said, you know, you’re making excuses. You made a choice to drink. But now I take that much more seriously. Okay. In I, I might start with that person, as a victim of nagging,

[Jon Dabach] 19:04
Which is a totally different approach.

[Keith Wilson] 19:06
Yeah, yeah. And it but I wouldn’t stop there. You know, horse, I would start there, then we would investigate how being a victim is a hazardous profession. You know, there’s lots of mistakes you can make by being a victim. And one of them is by committing these offenses. And so then we get to that point and then and then people are much more willing to set aside their victimization, to talk about how, how they have hurt somebody else.

[Keith Wilson] 19:51
Now, if I have a person who wants to start there, that’s fine too. But I still, let’s just say that they’re, you know, If a wife cheated on her husband and is really sorry about doing that and wants to save her marriage, so she wants to go and make it up for her husband, I’ll help her do that. I’ll help her figure out a way to make amends, much like you would with restorative justice. But I wouldn’t stop there either.

[Keith Wilson] 20:19
I would, I would want to then take a look to see what the victimization that preceded it was? Because if I don’t do that, then it’s probably just going to happen all over again. Right, you have to look at both sides of the of the ledger here.

[Jon Dabach] 20:40
Absolutely fascinating. Where can people find your road to reconciliation book? What’s the easiest way for them to get it?

[Keith Wilson] 20:47
It’s on Amazon. And Barnes and Noble. Okay, great. Yeah.

[Jon Dabach] 20:54
And I’m sure they can learn more about you on your website, Keith Wilson counseling as well. Yeah.com I didn’t put

[Keith Wilson] 21:02
It I didn’t say the.com things. A lot of things posted there. Yeah, Keith Wilson counseling.com

[Jon Dabach] 21:08
Well keep writing I’m excited to see what you come up with next and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and time with the audience. If you’re interested in learning how to get the absolute most out of your romantic relationships then you’re in luck because I have put together a free workshop or masterclass if you will, about three secrets that people in happy relationships have discovered.

[Jon Dabach] 21:32
You can view the workshop and mrspirituality.com/three secrets again, it’s completely free. Just go there and watch it. It’ll help you on your journey give you some wisdoms and things to think about. The website again is mrspirituality.com/three secrets. That’s mrspirituality.com/the Number three, the word secrets. It’s all yours. Enjoy.


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