In this episode, Harold Reitman, M.D. speaks with returning guest Dr. Lauren Gerber, author and psychologist. Dr. Gerber talks about the importance of trying all therapeutic options before prescribing medication, her experience providing therapy for client with autism and ADHD, the challenges of helping someone in a crisis, and a special four-legged friend that assists her in her sessions.
For Dr. Gerber’s previous episode, click here.
For more on Dr. Gerber, visit: DrLaurenGerber.com
Look for her books on Amazon:
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HACKIE REITMAN, M.D. (HR): Hi this is Dr. Hackie Reitman welcome to another episode of Exploring Different Brains. We are lucky to have with us today, the author and psychologist, Dr. Lauren Gerber. She has written such books as Autism and You, Kitchen Table Therapy: The practice of Parenting, and Does God Have an Email Address, something she wrote with her son when their Labrador retriever died. You can find Dr. Lauren Gerber at drlaurengerber.com and you can also find her right here because she’s with us right here. Hi Lauren how are you?
LAUREN GERBER (LG): Hi Hackie, Thank you for having me.
HR: Now your office is in Boca Raton, FL do you get patients from all over or are they mostly local or how does that work?
LG: I do I get patients from South Florida but I also still have patients from Chicago with whom I work on Skype and some have moved out of Chicago and across the country with whom I still speak
HR: Tell us about telemedicine in the practice of psychology now a days.
LG: I think it’s really becoming a helpful tool. Originally the face to face contact was what I think psychology was based on, the relationship building and now that the internet and telemedicine you can have that face to face contact and still have private portal in which to communicate. I think more and more people are going that route. It’s a good thing. It’s a positive thing.
HR: So like take us into your office, what are the common things you’re seeing?
LG: I see many young families who are struggling in the school systems with children who are not successful on the spectrum, which is about 50% of my practice. 1 in 68 children right now. I see children who don’t have enough individualization in their education program to feel the daily happy successes. So we try to create goals that are successful for them. Because living life in happy and healthy ways is one of the goals of coming into my office.
HR: What’s the biggest single thing about psychology that a nonpsychologist like myself doesn’t get do you think?
LG: I don’t know. I think that is a good question. A hard question. I think psychology is the study of people so psychologists get to work with people all day long in a different way then other people interact because they’re actually taking it, looking at it, breaking it down and trying to get underneath what is going on. So it’s a deeper study.
HR: Do you work hand in hand with any psychiatrists who prescribe medications?
LG: I do I have a psychiatrist in my office, Dr. Gill Lichstein. He’s a wonderful psychiatrist; he sees many children and families also. A pediatrician is also sometimes prescribed, but there isn’t a medication management tool right now for Autism as a diagnosis itself. So you’d be treating other symptoms as well, the depressive symptoms or the anxious symptoms or the attention and focus symptoms.
HR: I want you to tell our viewers your thoughts on medications and ADHD
LG: Medications and ADHD, well I think there is a place obviously for. I’m very holistic in my approach. So people ask me is diet a good thing and I say yes in moderation, nothing extreme but should you have a healthy organic diet without chemicals if you can that would great. People ask me about medicine and if they’re having trouble sleeping should I try melatonin and natural cures or should I try a sleep aid that someone prescribes and I want to try did they first try meditation, did they try progressive relaxation, have they tried some apps on their phone. Are they using the bedroom in quiet ways where they don’t have TV on and screens on and things that light up the brain and get it excited and then they can’t go to sleep. So medication for me is invasive, and I hope a lot of other therapeutic options have been tried prior to medication. But working together with MDs and medication is part of our work so it’s often a combination.
HR: Now you have very, very close, close individual who helps you with the therapy who lives with you, who keeps you warm at night and he is one of the most important people in your life. Tell us about that individual.
LG: I have a therapy dog in my practice, Giovanni or Gio for short. He is not here today. He would have liked to have been here today. He goes with me to work everyday and patients that come into my office, if he’s not there they say Dr. Lauren where is Gio and they miss him. Because he brings to the room a non-verbal acceptance love and positive regard that makes every session better. So he’s wonderful.
HR: Who likes him more the kids or the adults?
LG: Everybody likes him, he comes out to the waiting room and meets people and greets them and brings them in. He’s 100 lbs. so if you’re not used to very large black Labrador he can be a little alarming but he’s a big gentle giant.
HR: How did you decide to bring him into your practice?
LG: I’ve always had a therapy dog Hackie for my practice. This is the third or fourth that I’ve had trained by therapy dogs international so that they could participate and work with the children. I find the children on the spectrum are calmed and soothed by having his presence.
HR: Beyond therapy, what do you think about families and individuals you treat about having pets and dogs?
LG: Well I’m an animal lover so I think if families can handle it and the jobs that go with it, walking them, feeding them, carrying for them isn’t too cumbersome then it’s a wonderful addition to the family.
HR: Bring our audience up to speed on the present state of the union that I’m going to call baker acting someone, you have someone who you perceive is a danger to themselves or society, they’re in your office, what do you do?
LG: Usually if they’re in my office we can talk about it and I don’t have to end up what your calling it, baker acting as hospitalizing someone with out their permission, against their will because they need to be kept safe. Generally is someone has a strong therapeutic alliance and they come to the office and they don’t feel like they can carry on together you find a way to find that hope, that window of opportunity and they can move forward in a better direction. So that suicidality doesn’t come to fruition.
HR: Do you feel that telemedicine or seeing people over video are going to replace the office?
LG: I think it’s going to add flexibility to the office. Because there are many individuals who can’t travel to you, maybe they are in a wheelchair or maybe it’s hard for them to get to where they’re going so there is a physical reason or geographical reason or they need your specialty and you’re not near them. So I don’t think it’s going to supplant, but it’s going to be added in a positive way that someone can reach me when they are not in Florida and talk to me and see me face to face and see Giovanni. So I’d bring him next to me.
HR: Giovanni can’t give them a hug over the Internet
LG: He can’t but does he does know how to give a hug and he was trained by a wonderful trainer Pamela Kent who taught him how to if someone is emotional deregulated, he’ll put his paw around them, get on the sofa next to them which is exciting and hug them. So it’s very adorable.
HR: What kind of visuals do you use such as illustrations in the therapeutic setting?
LG: We do quite a bit of Art in sessions. So I have books that are called coping books and patients will draw and I have a little easel and some markers and crayons and they’ll draw during a session. It can be about anything, it can be about loss, it can be about something happy, it can be about graduating from junior high. But we’ll compile these pictures and put them in a book over time. So art and illustrations are a big part of my work.
HR: What are the big problems you see? Like is it depression, is it anxiety, is it ya know what is it? If we take out the Autism per say.
LG: If you take out any diagnosis people come in because they are not feeling good. They are not feeling happy. They are not feeling as if they are reaching their potential or their family is not feeling that way. And they’re looking for something. They’re looking for guidance to find ways to reach mind, body, and spirit connections where they feel positive energy. Where they can share their gifts with the world in ways that are meaningful to them.
HR: When do you feel the need to refer one of your patients to the psychiatrist?
LG: When they have tried all the different tools therapy wise that I can think of and they are still having symptoms that are causing them a tremendous amount of distress. So sleeplessness, depression where they feel dangerous to themselves or others, anxiety that is causing them to not live a full and happy life. So extreme situations, on a continuum if it’s a zero to ten and zero being we’re fine, anything that hits eight or nine usually we’ll bring in some other minds to decide if there is medication that needs to be added.
HR: And of course the biggest red flag is any thought of suicide?
HR: What are your career goals at this point, you have a successful practice, you’ve practiced a long time, you love what you’re doing, you’re writing books, what are your career goals at this point.
LG: Well the last few years I’ve been teaching also at the University and I have several interns at the university in my office. I’m training other to do child and family psychology. So as time goes on I have taught and written and been practicing and now I’m teaching others to practice. So a little bit of everything.
HR: We’ve been speaking today with the psychologist and author, Dr. Lauren Gerber. Lauren it’s been a real pleasure to have you here.
LG: Hackie, thank you for having me.
This video is owned by Different Brains Inc, kindly donated by it’s original producer PCE Media LLC.
Different Brains® Inc. founder Harold “Hackie” Reitman, M.D. is an author, filmmaker, retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, the past chairman and president (and current board member) of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, and a neurodiversity advocate. However, it was his role as a father that led to the creation of the DifferentBrains.org website.
Hackie’s daughter Rebecca grew up with epilepsy, 23 vascular brains tumors, and underwent 2 brain surgeries before the age of 5. Her struggles and recovery put him on the road to, through 26 professional heavyweight boxing matches, raising money for children’s charities (to which he donated every fight purse).
Rebecca eventually went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Discrete Mathematics, and Dr. Reitman wrote and produced a film based on her experiences there (The Square Root of 2, starring Darby Stanchfield of ABC’s Scandal). After graduation, Rebecca received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Hackie, shocked at his own ignorance of the topic despite being an M.D., embarked on years of research that culminated with his book Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity (released by HCI books, publishers of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series).
This experience revealed to Hackie the interconnectedness of the conditions that fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, while alerting him to the in-fighting and fractured relations that often plague the organizations tasked with serving the community. Convinced that overcoming these schisms could help all of society, Hackie forged the Different Brains philosophy of inclusive advocacy: “Supporting Neurodiversity – From Autism to Alzheimer’s and All Brains In Between”.
In the company’s initial years of operation, Hackie self-financed all of the content on DifferentBrains.org, all of which offered free to view to the public. Currently he is the host of our weekly interview show Exploring Different Brains, writes blogs for the site, and tours the country speaking at conferences, conventions and private functions, all with the goal of improving the lives of neurodiverse individuals and their families, and maximizing the potential of those with different brains. Separate from Different Brains, Hackie is the founder and CEO of PCE Media, a media production company focusing on reality based content. He recently co-executive produced the documentary “Foreman”, the definitive feature documentary on legendary boxer and pitchman George Foreman.