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Featured Therapist Interview
Lucene Wisniewski, PhD, FAED, is a clinician, trainer, and researcher whose interests center around using empirically founded treatments to inform clinical practice. Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, Lucene has taught more than 150 workshops, lectures, and presentations internationally on Cognitive Behavioral and Dialectical Behavior Therapies and has over 40 publications in peer-reviewed journals and invited book chapters. Lucene has been elected fellow and has served on the board of directors and as the co-chair of the Borderline Personality Disorder special interest group of the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED). In 2013, the AED awarded Lucene the Outstanding Clinician Award to acknowledge her contributions to the field of eating disorder treatment. She is the owner and founder of The Center for Evidence Based Treatment Ohio (www.cebtohio.com), which offers therapy, training, and consultation in evidence-based approaches to mental health conditions via traditional and teletherapy platforms. Though her practice is in Ohio, Lucene holds a PSYPACT certification and can see patients in many other states.
Lucene and the clinicians in her practice provide individual therapy as well as DBT skills group therapy, specializing in a variety of disorders and conditions. CEBTOhio excels in matching adolescent and adult patients with the right clinician who can address their specific needs. Lucene has 3 (nearly) adult children (25, 23 and 19) and has a particular interest in helping parents with emotionally intense children.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
As a practitioner, I’ve dedicated my career to helping clients through evidence-based care. Having been trained in the Boulder model, I advocate integrating science and practice to effectively treat each individual and their unique problem set.
What “tips” can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
If you’re just opening a practice, don’t go it alone; seek out clinical and business support—there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel. Hire a therapist that you look up to for consultation. For example, four years after I finished my postdoc, Kelly Koerner provided me with advice as I continued to develop my DBT therapy skills. If you’re a business novice, consider taking a class to learn how to operate a small practice. Or find a business mentor who can guide you!
How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?
As a psychologist, I think behaviorally and believe in the power of reinforcement schedules. In meeting with a patient, I reinforce small changes and highlight what a patient has accomplished effectively. It’s important to start a session this way, before we work on what didn’t go well. Or to redirect a client, in the case that a person wants to start with negatives.
For example, I saw someone recently who started our session by telling me about the areas in which she felt she had failed that week. After listening to her, I validated her feelings: “I know how frustrated you must feel that you set goals that you didn’t follow through on.” I then asked her to tell me about the things she’d done well that week.
After sharing several positive examples, she was in a much better frame of mind and able to look at negative points without so much shame, so we returned to explore areas in which she wished she had done things differently.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
Yes! In addition to my private practice, I train therapists through talks and presentations, and I supervise PhD candidates who work in my practice. I conduct research and write, publishing journal articles, textbook chapters, and blog posts on my website. Not only do I find teaching, research, and writing enjoyable, these activities keep my brain active, help me become a better clinician, and keep me informed on developments in my field.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor?
I’ve been fortunate to have had several wonderful mentors. When I attended graduate school in the early 1990s at the University of Pittsburgh (arguably the Mecca of research and practice on eating issues at the time), I started out first on childhood obesity with Dr. Len Epstein and later focused on adult obesity with Dr. Rena Wing. Later, I moved into eating disorders where I was lucky enough to be mentored by Drs. Marcia Marcus and Walter Kaye, both international experts in their own rights.
Smart, kind, and an incredibly giving person, Marcia Marcus had the most profound and long-lasting impact on my career—I worked with her through my dissertation, internship, and postdoc. Her influence on me was such that, for years, the acronym “WWMD” would enter my mind on a regular basis (WWMD means, of course, “What Would Marsha Do!?”).
Working as a therapist in Marsha’s first randomized controlled trial for binge eating was among the most important experiences in my career. This was my first exposure to CBT for eating disorders. Dr. Christopher Fairburn trained me and my team, opening my eyes to the power of evidence-based treatment.
Marsha was an incredible mentor and person, and I am grateful for everything she’s given me.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
In addition to spending time with my family, I love playing tennis, gardening, knitting, and vermicompost—I have a worm bin in my basement!
We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
Where do you see behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
Looking into the future, I believe behavior therapies increasingly will focus on evidence-based practices and guided self-help. The trend of reaching more people through Zoom will continue. CEBTOhio has been offering expert care in Ohio via Zoom, and now PSYPACT is allowing us to reach people in many more states, which is especially important for continuity of care for college students as well as others.
How do you use the local or social media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT?
CEBTOhio communicates about the benefits of CBT mainly by word of mouth, through Zoom webinars, and via our blog, and email list. We have not jumped into social media (yet).
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
I have been a proud member of ABCT since 1990. In graduate school, I was encouraged to join professional organizations, so I did. ABCT has become my intellectual home (as well as the Academy for Eating Disorders). I recommend every therapist join professional organizations! Through ABCT, I developed important relationships with other members who were also starting out in the field of EDs: Carolyn Becker, Drew Anderson, Kerrie Boutelle and Carol Peterson.
Later, through ABCT and ISIT DBT, I developed crucial relationships with people in the DBT world.
Though I’ve never attended a high school reunion, I consider going to the ABCT meetings annually as a reunion: I can’t wait until we’re back in person!
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
Through ABCT, I’ve developed lasting professional and personal relationships, and I learn about the latest developments in treatment.
In the beginning, I attended trainings only in my subject area—in that way, I developed my expertise. Now, I come to ABCT meetings to learn about areas in which I am not an expert. I trust ABCT to provide the highest quality training, confident I can incorporate their ideas into my work.
As an adjunct faculty member at Case Western Reserve University, each year I’m asked to give a talk on the cognitive behavioral treatment of eating disorders. The professor who teaches the class has told me that my lectures are on par with the quality seen at an ABCT conference, a compliment that’s among the highest accolades I could receive!