Psychotherapist Jeri Kramer was experiencing burnout (and grief) when she discovered the Three Principles. Exploring the understanding that we are all well and whole has revitalized her enthusiasm for her work and brought lightness and laughter into her time with her clients.
In this episode, we talk about how understanding that humans are designed to be resourceful and resilient, and to return to a state of peace and well-being, changes everything for those previously diagnosed with issues like depression and anxiety.
Jeri Kramer is a psychotherapist and mental health coach. She brings 20 plus years of training and practice to her work, and also a wealth of life experiences. She has known many joys and triumphs in life, as well as many struggles and pains.
She’s experienced marriage and divorce and now lives in a beautiful relationship with her husband of 16 years. She’s raised children both as a biological parent and as a step-parent and knows the struggles and rewards of building a blended family. She’s weathered devastating loss and found joy and laughter in the aftermath. And, perhaps most importantly, she’s learned to know that love, health, and ease are always available to every one of us, and knows that where to find it isn’t as hard as we might think.
You can find Jeri Kramer at JeriKramer.com.
- Avoiding psychotherapist burnout
- Extreme anxiety and how to deal with it
- Do we need to dig into trauma to heal it?
- The power within the story of ourselves and how letting that go can reveal our innate well-being
- The importance of feeling grounded and secure
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
- How the wolves of Yellowstone changed the course of the rivers (4 mins)
- This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. Find her website here.
- Dr. Bill Pettit’s website
- Dr. Amy Johnson’s Little School of Big Change
- Angus and Rohini Ross’ Rewilding Guide Training
Transcript of Interview with Jeri Kramer
Alexandra: Jeri Kramer, welcome to Unbroken.
Jeri: Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Alexandra: I’m so glad to have you here. So let’s begin.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got interested in the three principles.
Jeri: I’ve been a psychotherapist for… so it’s always hard to think of this over 20 years, 25, I guess, and doing pretty traditional psychotherapy, one on one, talk therapy, various kinds of modalities, and really enjoyed what I was doing. But looking back now I know it was kind of burned out, didn’t know it then, but definitely was burning out.
So how I ran into the principal’s it was so in 2019 actually begins with a little tragedy: I lost my daughter really suddenly. And right after that COVID happened. So lost my daughter, I kind of shut my practice down. About the time I was kind of gathering my thoughts together, COVID happens, we shut down. I found myself sitting at home, locked down, and we were really locked down.
I had my elderly parents with me, we were being really careful with nothing to do. And at some point, probably about six months, and I realized I was drinking every day. Not a lot but I’ve never done that. I was drinking every day. So I signed up for a 30 day sober challenge. And I wish I could tell you the woman’s name. She wrote a book called This Naked Mind.
Alexandra: Annie something…
Jeri: Grace. That’s it. Annie Grace. So she wrote that book. And I did a 30 day online challenge with her and I just really loved how she was looking at a mindfulness approach. And on that challenge, they interviewed Amy Johnson.
I thought, oh, there is something here. So I signed up for the Little School of Big Change. All the time going, oh, there’s something here, having no idea she was talking about the three principles, because she didn’t say it.
And then she gives you Bill Pettit, who was a psychiatrist, working with the three principals and things just started lighting up. I just knew this was something so much more than I was seeing and got my hands on as many books as I could.
It was COVID, everything was coming online, I just was able to immerse myself and found myself really revitalized, not only personally, but in my work. Really excited to go back to work. Couldn’t wait for things to lift so I could see more people, which is not where I’d been.
And then personally, things were just shifting and changing and easing and just the whole the world. And it continues. So that’s how I ended up looking to the three principals.
Alexandra: When your practice started up again, and you began sharing this, what did that look like?
Jeri: Oh my gosh, I remember the day I walked back, the first time I was ever going to have somebody back in my office, right as it was lifting… actually I take that back. It was in my my office, which is attached to my home, and it was in my backyard. Because we could be outside. And it was beautiful. Here it was, it was springtime. But I had to walk through my office to sit down with that person.
I had a bookshelf sitting there full of all my years of psychotherapy books. And I remember go on, oh my gosh, what am I doing, and that I couldn’t use what I that changed a little we can certainly talk about it. But realizing that everything I done wasn’t going to serve me in the same way or my clients. I was sitting down with so much excitement.
So what began to change is I wasn’t the expert anymore. I was along for an exploration with my clients into really looking at something different. It was no longer what psychotherapy traditionally had been for me, which is identify a symptom, have some kind of technique to deal with a symptom. That’s really bad, go get them to the psychiatrist and they can get medication. That always felt a little thin.
As far as treatment goes, I knew I was always able to give a really good space for people they felt safe. They felt heard. And I think that was really valuable. But this was different because now I could shine the light back on my clients and really see their health. And that was the journey now is getting them home. Giving them something that was theirs.
Letting them see something thing that was theirs, getting them home, and they can walk out with it. And it was theirs. You didn’t need to come back for a tune up. You didn’t have to have another crisis and come see me. So it was like this revelation of hope.
And the feeling in the room changed. There was a lot more laughing. It wasn’t like, let me tell you what to do. And if you don’t do it, you you’re not doing it right or something. Right, just all that change.
Alexandra: Did you have any clients that you’d worked with prior to coming across this understanding that came back? And then you introduce them to the principles?
Jeri: I did it subtly. It was interesting, because I had this artificial gap in there between the death of my daughter and COVID. So people came back. And I just started kind of subtly shifting. I don’t know how subtle it was, what I was doing. And I had a few clients who returned from before and came back. And I had clients that I had seen on and off for years, that at some points I had thought, well, the best I can do is just giving them a safe place to land when they need it. People with some pretty severe mental illness, what I called mental illness at the time.
Now I see those people are well, and remarkably so. So they trusted me enough to think I was too kooky. I was I didn’t say oh, here’s the three principles, I just started living it in connection with them. And I just kept saying, here’s what I see now. Here’s what I see. And that was really important you can only give what you see.
That was another changing space in this. When I started this, it was for me, at one point, I thought a little loss, because I started looking at is like, how can I use this to help my clients, which is what you do when you’re learning. Psychotherapists, you learn it so you can teach your clients.
The thing that became really different is I needed to learn it for me, because that’s all I could give. So all I could do, I had to get off that track of oh, I’m going to tell that to my client, or I’m going to use that metaphor, or I’m going to remember that idea that somebody said, if I didn’t let it be here, it can’t go there. It’s got to come in and live before you can give it away. So that’s also part of the excitement. And you learn it. I sit with a client and I learned and I learn and unlearn while I’m talking.
Alexandra: You mentioned burnout early on, that you were feeling a little burned out.
I’m assuming that changed?
Jeri: Absolutely. I will steal a description I heard somebody else use and it was Angus Ross. I remember him talking to us, saying at one point in his life, and I’m going to steal his story because it fit me perfectly.
He remembers looking around, like, what am I going to do for the rest of my life? I guess I’ll do this till I can retire. That’s how it felt to me. I thought, well, I guess I could show up, punch the clock. I’m good enough. I could do this. I didn’t think I would be of poor service to my clients. But I wasn’t going to be alive. I was just I was like, Okay, how many years? But I can’t imagine stopping now.
Alexandra: Wow, that’s so great. And it’s so funny. You say that about stopping. I mean, Mavis Karn is in her 80s now. George Pransky, too I think. People keep talking about slowing down but and then just don’t do it.
They’re so filled with the joy of life and love and the creative energy that’s flowing through all of us that they can’t seem to walk away, which is so great.
Jeri: Yeah, right and bringing that overflow to the work you’re doing. Doing your work from that space and people benefit from it.
Alexandra: It’s so interesting that we’re talking about burnout. I interviewed Joe Bailey a few weeks ago. And he, I think he worked, he may still work with therapists in the preventing burnout space.
I loved what you said about it becomes a peer to peer relationship. And you’re simply sharing what you see. And it’s the same thing that’s available to your clients, rather than you’re up here and you’re trying to save them.
I love that equal playing field.
Jeri: When I’m up here trying to tell you what to do, I’m the expert. Let me tell you how to fix your life. And if it fails it’s my fault. So you don’t leave people room to to find what works for them. Either it’s my fault, because I’m a crappy therapist, or therefore, because they didn’t do it well enough. Either way, it doesn’t work. But we’re all well, we’re all whole.
Alexandra: Exactly. And you mentioned the Little School of Big Change.
Were there any other trainings that you took or anything?
Jeri: I’ve done a number of pretty extensive. I don’t know what you call them webinars with Bill Pettit, online seminars. I finished six months with Angus and Rohini Ross and the Rewilding program, which is how you read them to me.
Alexandra: Tell us a little bit about rewilding. What does that word mean to you and what does it look like?
Jeri: I know you’re somewhat familiar with it but for the audience, the rewilding paradigm came from the the process that happened when they rewilded Yellowstone National Park by reintroducing the wolves.
The wolves had left the landscape, literally, physically had changed, right, but with the removal of the wolf, so when the wolves came back, the deer population went down. The erosion went away, the plant life came back, the beavers came back, bears came back and the rivers changed course. And the eagles came back. It’s just this remarkable thing.
When nature was restored to its its original way, I guess, is what we call balance. So in the rewilding, that that was the metaphor that really drew me that that we are well and whole and wise and our capacity to balance ourselves and to heal ourselves and to to be well, I guess, to be at ease even through the eye of the hurricane, I think is Joe Bailey calls it.
I was really drawn and that had come out of I’d been drawn to that with Bill Pettit’s work. Nothing broken, nothing lacking is his tagline. So I was really curious about that. That a life changer, for me, and for my own, and for my clients to really see that. Under the noise, always under the noise, we’re well, we are at peace. The noise comes the noise goes. But we are wild nature, if we can rewild ourselves it’s that wise part of us that it knows what it’s doing.
Alexandra: That wolf story from Yellowstone is such a great metaphor. And there’s a video actually, that I’ll link to, it’s maybe five or 10 minutes long, and it tells the story. I think it’s called how wolves rerouted a river or it’s something about the connection between the wolves and the river.
Jeri: I found it by googling rewilding Yellowstone on YouTube. It’s a five minute. It’s so delightful in its hope and promise for our wellness.
Alexandra: I want to ask a bit more about that. The difference you see, we’ve kind of touched on this already. But the difference that you see between the old paradigm psychological approach and this one.
Is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that you notice when you’re working with clients?
Jeri: In the old paradigm, maybe from other podcasts, Psychology has it Backwards, like Christine Heath, and Judy Sedgman said, that it’s a traditional psychotherapy. You have some different schools of thought, but the one of the big ones, which is really kind of seeped into our culture is you go back into trauma, and you dig through it, and you dig it up and you get good with it. And that somehow going back and revisiting all that is going to heal us.
I don’t know that I wouldn’t say there’s no value in visiting our pasts. But to know we’re well first and then we can digest our past is really different than digest your past so that you’ll get well. It’s like going into battle wounded versus being whole. And then not even battle, that’s probably not a good word. But, doing something difficult.
You want to be whole and well, you don’t have to do the difficult thing to get whole. Well, so there’s that, that paradigm shift of digging into a thing to almost resurrect the past to be okay, today. So that’s very different.
For me, I really am very now focused that we may talk about the past, but man, I want us to know we’re whole and well before we we go walking around back there. So that’s from one school of thought.
There’s cognitive therapy, which gets a little closer to three principles. Cognitive Therapy is you change your thinking, so you’ll feel better. You think a certain way and it makes you feel a certain way. But then therapy takes a step up going. But let’s talk about changing that thinking. And so you’re policing your thinking.
In the three principles we do look at our feelings as a reflection of what we’re thinking.
But the kind of therapy then use thinking to fix our thinking. So it’s more thinking about what’s causing us distress, which is our thinking. As opposed to maybe noticing and letting it be okay, letting it be. So all of the strategies that would come from those schools, I don’t use those.
The other thing I think about a lot is exam anxiety is a big one. For me, when I was doing traditional psychotherapy, I got where I wouldn’t, to the best of my ability, I would refer people with high anxiety to someone else, because I felt so hopeless about it. Like so stuck in in not feeling like I could do much for those people other than give them some coping skills.
Now it’s like, anxiety come to that with me, we got this. Let’s do anxiety. I see it so clearly and so differently now and it’s not just like, well, let’s be rational about it, or let’s do a breathing technique, or let’s dig through your trauma that at or let’s look at the thinking. It’s very, very different. And it’s permanent.
When people see that is when they have an insight around it, it’s theirs. They don’t have to remember to practice a breathing technique or remember to scour through the thinking and make sure it’s okay are the second answer that.
Alexandra: I love that. And I love the, I’m going to call it a reversal, that you said approaching things from the position that we are well and if we need to look into the past, we’re going in there with that awareness versus feeling like we’re broken, and approaching life that way that we need to get well.
That’s such a great way to look at it. I love that.
Jeri: Right. And it’s so now it’s just about of discovering our way home, not going back and rebuilding the foundation of the house while you’re living at it and whatever metaphor that would be.
For people coming in who have been given a diagnosis, they’ve been told they’re bipolar. They’re been told they’re OCD. They’ve been told they’re grab the DSM, there’s hundreds of diagnosis in there. And they feel burdened with that label. Right? Like, this is what you walk with. This is now who you are to be able to realize that that’s just a construct kind of laid over them. And that the wellness is still in there and they can burst back out.
Alexandra: That’s so great. I love that. One of the questions I wanted to ask you was what you love about working with your clients? I feel like we’ve kind of talked about that, is there anything you’d like to share about, I don’t know, something fun or interesting that’s happened with one of your clients.
Are there any big shifts that you’ve seen?
Jeri: I’m a little hesitant because I don’t want to give away any information.
There was a couple clients that I had seen prior to three principals who pretty routinely were hospitalized with some severe suicidal ideation once or twice a year for years. Electroconvulsive therapy, tons of medications that I don’t, and I wouldn’t be anxious about. I always felt hyper vigilant around monitoring, and making sure that all the safety, bumpers were in place, right and seeing, seeing these people as fragile, as broken.
First off, one of them hasn’t been in the hospital in two years. Another one, I think has gone once. I don’t worry about it anymore. I just know that they will, if that’s what they need, that will just come up. It’s not this kind of constant assessment, which I think feeds the concept that somebody is so fragile, that they have to be constantly attended to and then how can they not see themselves in that way?
So to me, the most remarkable is that change, that beginning to walk with their own sense of resilience, and while in health and knowing it’s there, even though it may get lost to them sometimes, but that they know it’s there, and they can find their way home. That’s a big one.
The other thing, I think I have a lot of, I just have a lot of fun with this way of there’s a lot of humor and lightness and laughing at ourselves. And really recognizing how wacky we get innocently, but but, gosh, it’s fun.
Alexandra: That’s great.
That makes me think of how powerful the story of ourselves is, the story that we carry around with ourselves and about ourselves, and how powerful that can be in a detrimental way before we realize that it is a story.
Jeri: And what a gift to be able to see it’s a story of your own creation, and you’ve read it put it down.
Alexandra: Exactly. And I guess that’s what happens with a diagnosis, isn’t it? We’re assigned this story, and we feel like we can’t put it down and we have to carry it around. It’s about me and it’s kind of like a leech. It’s attached.
And then realizing, no, there’s fluidity there. It’s not attached to us.
Jeri: Well, and it doesn’t even even if it were something like I mean, I guess there’s some stories that you would say you lost an arm. Like you would walk with one arm, but I guess you would walk with two arms. But you don’t have to have a story of yourself as I’m a one armed person. It’s just not to see us as so much deeper than that.
Labels make people feel like they’re stuck with them. Like how do I don’t stick this thing slapped on my chest or my forehead. I never liked labels before, but they’re even harder to swallow now.
It just occurred to me one of the things I’ve heard Bill Pettit say a number of times is, so one of the things that comes up in psychotherapy is resistance, there’s this term of resistance, like the client is resisting, they’re not doing what I’m telling them to do. Therefore, they’re not getting better. It puts all the burden on the client for not getting getting better.
He has this thing that he’s been saying lately that resistance is the absence of hope that a client is resisting, because they don’t really have hope that what you’re telling them is going to make any difference. And that’s a little bit married to a label. You will have this all your life.
But what I see in the three principles, resistance is not even an issue because their hope springs eternal in that space. It’s not like you have this label that nobody’s ever cured or gotten better for all you can do is cope with it find your way to cope. I can’t remember the last time I thought of that idea that a client was being resistant. Like it wouldn’t work in this paradigm. There’s so much more hope.
Alexandra: So beautiful. I’ve been in therapy myself quite a while actually, before I found the principles for maybe six or seven or eight years after I left a cult that I was involved in. And it was helpful to a certain degree.
Then I got really interested in self help, so then it became reading all the self help books I could find and all that kind of stuff. And what I walked away with from that was that when things didn’t work, I was the problem. When somebody strategy or technique or the way they did it didn’t work for me, that meant that I was at fault.
I love the way that that has changed so much with this, that it’s not about taking somebody else’s advice.
It’s about looking toward, as we’ve said, our own wisdom and well being.
Jeri: And that that is something that’s portable with you for life. Like you’re not forever at the mercy of, I need to go back and see a therapist again, or now I have a crisis, I need to see somebody. Like it’s almost like, for some people, it it was like, Okay, I’m done with therapy for now, until the next problem.
I think that the physical metaphor of this, I love it a lot that , we trust our bodies, for the most part to heal. If we just leave a wound alone, don’t poke at it, and pour salt on it or infect it in general, most times it takes care of itself.
I love that parallel to our emotional world, our psychological world, our mental well being, that why wouldn’t we be built to heal? Why wouldn’t we be built to knit ourselves back together? Because nobody’s making it from birth to death without some kind of trauma or often.
This idea that that always means intervention, as opposed to turning in just feels really profound to me that yet to get people to see that. The other physical metaphor I really love is is how the system is built to give us feedback when we’re misusing our thinking.
If I’m stepping on your toe and it hurts you tell me to get off. But if you’re thinking a certain way and it hurts for some reason, we were never taught to believe that hurt and say quit thinking that way. Somewhere else like that. It’s so exquisitely a one to one feedback system.
If you’re sitting there and dwelling on what somebody said at work yesterday you feel horrible. The system’s going, “Stop this. Get the burning poker out of my hand.” And yet we lean into it, we think harder, like, that’s somehow in our culture, or I don’t know where it came from, but we’re stuck. Many of us are stuck with it thinking that means.
If it feels bad, I need to think some more about it. But that’s like saying it hurts when you’re stepping on my foot. So step harder. In that alone is just like a breath of burden off for for so much of where we get stuck.
Alexandra: I totally agree.
I’m imagining that, that you work with your clients for sort of shorter periods of time now. Is that true?
Jeri: My sessions last longer. That was always really hard in the traditional therapy as there’s the therapy hour, which is 50 minutes. And somehow you were supposed to sit down, and 50 minutes later, leave with it all in some nice package. And that just doesn’t to me anymore. Feel honoring to where people are at. So I have much more open ended.
It was a little scary at first, because I didn’t see people as I won’t have clients. But you get to be done and go away, not be done and be good enough. Right, not be done until the next time. I mean, certainly that there’s things that happen, right. But to know that somebody’s walking out of my out of the work we’ve done together, and they are prepared for so much more than just getting past whatever it was. Or just not having social anxiety more or not having panic attacks, or not having a problem with their boyfriend or girlfriend like it’s so much more. It is a global solution. Not let’s patch this problem together. And then this problem together.
Alexandra: Where do your clients come from?
Jeri: Word of mouth for me as is most of it. When I was more plugged into the traditional psychotherapy, I had a referral stream from other psychiatrists and stuff. I did a lot of couples work. I still do a lot of couples work. So at this point, it’s it’s mostly word of mouth. Which is fine. They know what they’re getting into.
That’s the other thing that’s so different. There, what is there in traditional psychotherapy training, there’s a lot of emphasis on empathizing with where some were there. It was just reporting to say I get it. But it would almost become this. dramatizing of the pain, like really? Oh, my God, that’s horrible. What happened? Tell me it was poking your finger in the wound to hope.
Which made it kind of underscoring that. So back to the inside out things, underscoring that what happened out there as the problem in here, and we underscore it by really getting into it and asking for details and what happened and how, what were you like, really? Making it alive? And then as if that outside pass thing was what needed to be fixed as opposed to this.
Alexandra: Is there anything you can share about working with couples that you see in addition to everything we’ve talked about?
Jeri: When I was trying to work with couples, originally, so 20 years ago, I’d say two things. One of the kind of, I would say kind of unspoken truths in the psychotherapy community is most people don’t like doing it. They don’t do it. But they didn’t want to actually love it. I really loved working with couples, and I still do, but most of the work would be done with a couple together. And it was a lot of trying to get them to hear each other different communication skills, maybe some looking at family of origin problems.
What’s so clear to me now is that it’s almost like you’re talking about like getting well before you walk into the past, I almost do almost all of my work with couples now separately, individually, so that they can come together for a better space.
It’s so important to me that they feel grounded. And if they want to talk about something that happened 10 years ago, that they’re coming to it well, not wounded. That same thing, like, oh, we have to fix that wound, that thing you that betrayal five years ago, or this or that, we have to go back and talk about so we can be okay. I really see a different now, like we have to be pretty okay, before we can talk about that. Or we will just be pouring salt on wounds.
I do that really differently now. A lot more personal awareness and sense of what they’re bringing to the relationship before all before I walk backwards, if we decide to walk backwards.
Alexandra: I hadn’t heard anybody explain that before. In that way. I love hearing that. It’s exactly what you talked about at the beginning. It’s the same thing when we know we’re well. And then going into any situation.
We just always have that wellness with us.
Jeri: And we can recenter and reground and reregulate and not be as insecure. That overwhelming thing of if we’re feeling insecure, we drop several levels of consciousness. And we go to battle. Insecure places is where we do our damage to our loved ones. So I want to make really sure somebody’s secure before we we go to something that’s that’s difficult.
And that we really need to talk about oftentimes when the the security comes back up, and the general level of consciousness is raised, and we see more clearly where our problems are coming from. It’s not what they did. It’s our thinking about what they did. Lots of stuff melts away. It’s just doesn’t matter.
We don’t have to look at it. Right. It’s just Yeah, yeah. So that’s beautiful. If you think about, are you in a relationship, or have been like, the things you fought about?
When we get centered, and we see our own wellness and our security we’re not feeling insecure we don’t have to have those conversations anymore. We don’t have to fight about who threw the wet towel on the bed or loading the dishwasher a certain way or right or whatever.
Alexandra: That’s great. I love that. So we’re just about to wrap up our time together. What is there anything we haven’t touched on?
I feel like we’ve touched on so much, but anything else you’d like to share?
Jeri: I guess my own personal wish is that more therapists knew this and saw this and there’s a lot of good therapists doing good stuff out there but man, it’s like it’s not putting the turbo juice in it. It’s like never getting out of granite gear. I don’t know. So that’s just a wish I have for the world, that this was more widespread.
It’s funny when my brain is going. When Syd banks first brought this into the world he was targeting psychiatrists and psychologists. That’s not what happened. There was the grand scheme, and there’s Bill Pettit and Christine Heath. There’s a few people out there in the mental health field, Mark Howard.
But it didn’t explode like I would have imagined. So it got picked up by coaches and stuff which is great, it moved. But I think there’s more awareness coming. So that’s my hope is that it’s funny almost when I found this, I have to renew my license every two years to continue to be a licensing to licensed therapist. I was not going to renew, like I was so like, Oh, this is not what we need but then I realized I need to renew I need to stay in this. This needs to come to the mental health profession. This awareness needs to come here. So if there’s any mental health therapists listening.
Alexandra: Let’s keep our fingers crossed. Keep spreading the word. That’s one of the reasons I do this podcast. We’ll hope that it will spread out. Ripples in the pond, so to speak.
Why don’t you tell us where we can find out more about you and your work?
Jeri: The easiest is my website, which is JeriKramer.com. I do my personal work in Arizona. I do zoom work.
Alexandra: Well, thank you, Jerry. This has been so lovely.
Jeri: Thank you. I really really enjoyed it.
Alexandra: Me too. All right. Take care.