2016 can be the year that you enjoy the strongest, most fulfilling relationships that you have ever experienced! Sound too good to be true? Well, licensed marriage and family psychotherapist, Dr. Keisha Downey firmly believes it is something all of us can achieve even if a little help is necessary. Dr. Keisha Downey has been busy helping teens, families, individuals, couples and celebrities on VH1’s show, Couples Therapy. Nevertheless, we recently had the honor of interviewing Dr. Keisha Downey and she shared with us just how it’s possible to develop healthy relationships during 2016. Enjoy!
1. What encouraged you or motivated you to take up a career as a psychotherapist?
I was born and raised in North Chicago, Illinois. I was raised in a single parent household. Despite the challenges that came along with this, I always wanted to help people. However, it wasn’t until I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree and started a job at a college working with students, that I realized my true purpose was to help others in need of guidance. Back then, students received my message of encouragement as a tool to get through their program, which was rewarding for me. It was at that time, I decided to further my education in psychology, specifically toward becoming a doctor and psychotherapist. Now I am here, 11 years later, with a career in the mental health field.
2. Most of us will never be thrust into the spotlight, but would you say there are any differences in treating or counseling a celebrity than your average Joe or Joanna?
No, I do not feel there are any differences. As a psychotherapist, I look at each individual, celebrity or not, as a whole. I assess a client from birth, throughout adolescence, until adulthood to better understand who that individual is. Every person, no matter what their status may be, is unique in their own way. As a result, therapy and/or treatment is catered to that individual person and whatever their current issues may be.
3. What has been your favorite moment thus far on Couple’s Therapy w/ Dr. Jenn?
I do not have a particular favorite moment. Each season, celebrity couples are each given intense therapy by Dr. JennMann to help improve their overall relationship. As a Resident Counselor and being a part of Dr. Jenn Mann’s treatment team, my job is to make sure I am supporting each couple as thoroughly as I can throughout some of the most challenging moments during their time in treatment.
4. We absolutely love that you mention that you have your own “style” of therapy. What makes your style or methods different?
My style includes using my own life experiences, training, and education to help clearly understand my clients. When working with different people from various backgrounds and/or demographics, I understand that I will be addressing a variety of issues that will not be resolved overnight. As a result, I have to see through my clients’ eyes how they view the world, themselves, and others and this starts with rapport building. I make sure I provide a comfortable atmosphere, work toward making each session a safe and nonjudgmental space for my clients to fully express themselves no matter what those thoughts or feelings might be. I further assess and help my clients dig deep in order to help them express the most horrific aspects that may have occurred in their lives. I can’t do adequate work if I do not fully understand my clients’ entire history and present circumstances that led them to therapy.
5. It seems like the dating world is constantly changing, for anyone who has made a resolution or wishes to improve their relationships in 2016 what suggestions would you give them?
Relationships can be tough and challenging at times, but also rewarding and worthwhile. My suggestions include partners allowing each other to simply be themselves and to not holdonto negative feelings and/or emotions. Both men and women should work toward stimulating each other mentally, emotionally, and physically as a way to build and maintain a connection. In addition, continue to take time out to understand what one expects from each other.
6. One subject we are always contacted about is dating or being married in a technology driven world. People are texting, snapchatting, Instagraming and sometimes problems occur because there is no real communication like in times past. They are so busy communicating virtually they almost forget to do so in reality. Some women have expressed they have began to feel neglected, pushed aside, uncertain or no longer the center of attention. Do you think it’s possible for men and women to still be good communicators or could the problem be something much deeper?
Yes, I do feel it is still possible for both men and women to be good communicators. Spending a significant amount of time on social media can definitely have a negative impact and lead to neglect in the relationship. In my experience working with couples who have issues that stem from social media, it will be important to formulate ways to reconnect with each other, such as going back to the basics, i. e., when on dates, make a conscious effort to turn off or put away cell phones and engage and talk directly to each other. This helps to rebuild the foundation and places the attention that is lacking in the forefront of the relationship.
7. From your experience, is there a common problem that most couples face and if so, are there any tips that can fix it?
Yes. I feel the most common problem couples face is partners tend to not seek to understand each other…Each only want to be heard, which can negatively impact the communication within relationships. Partners do not take time out to listen to truly understand each other, how their partner may feel, or even what is being said. The best tool that helps to counteract this is to learn to listen empathically, be attentive to each other’s needs, practice articulating their wants and needs to each other in an effective manner.
8. How would you say therapy could benefit and help teens heal?
Therapy helps to give teenagers a voice, especially during difficult times. Therapy can help to strengthen the foundation for school and social relationships, which tend to be the most challenging aspects of any teenager’s life. This is done through encouragement, reflective listening, unconditional acceptance, faith in their abilities, and recognition of their strengths.
9. What are your final thoughts on how any individual can have and develop healthy relationships with others?
It all starts from respect. Both women and men have to have self respect before they begin to develop a healthy relationship. Be appreciative…not a complainer. Don’t be fearful to speak your mind about likes and dislikes, especially in the initial stages of any relationship. Be open to learning the many facets of your potential partner’s life in an effort to truly know and understand who he or she is.
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