Source: Courtesy of Dr. Wynette Green
Dr. Wynette Green, Ph.D., LMFT, who is in private practice with a focus on women’s issues and couples counseling, discussed her passion for helping couples solve communication problems, and how the pandemic has revealed the urgency for mental health.
A personal desire to help herself led Dr. Green to help others.
ML: Dr. Green, you made a significant career change from accounting to marriage and family counseling. What sparked you to make the switch?
WG: I made that change almost 20 years ago, primarily because it was very important to me to live my life on purpose. I wanted to start living. The mantra for my practice is “Living our best life ever, now.” This change gave me that opportunity. I’m doing that.
ML: I love those keywords, “best,” “life,” and “now.” Why put off into the future when now could be better than yesterday?
WG: I love to say it is a choice and to make that decision on whatever that first step is; if someone says yes, they choose. I encourage affirmations and comparisons to the wind. We can’t see it, but we feel it.
ML: You wanted to live your best life by helping others live their best lives. What told you that what you needed to do was couples counseling?
WG: My story has so much to do with initially not being fulfilled. When I was just existing, that equated to challenges with depression, self-esteem, and anxiety—a lot of the issues women face on a day-to-day basis. When we are not pursuing purpose or making intentional choices, we want to experience something different. Knowing I didn’t like the way I felt was very powerful along my journey. I had external things like a two-story house, a really nice car, and babies. But there was still something missing. My background included a lot of trauma. I wanted to take those lemons while I was healing and transform them into lemonade. I live that every single day. That’s why I love what you’re doing. It’s a whole other level when you can take the power from a negative experience and help others for their journey.
ML: In what ways has the pandemic revealed the urgency for mental health care?
The pandemic revealed the importance of mental health care.
WG: Prior to COVID, everyone was so busy being busy, and ignored mental health, distracting themselves from its importance. Along with COVID-related losses came increased emotional pain and increased anxiety around uncertainty. Most people want to believe they’re in control of their life path. To a certain extent, we should have control, but the pandemic increased anxiety over things that we have no control over. As human beings, I believe we’re created to be in connection. With the isolation, needing to stay safe, and restrictions on connectivity, that resulted in the increase in depression. I don’t know any clinicians who aren’t busy.
Challenging emotions can be transformed.
ML: Helping people with your own personal experience of depression and anxiety is authenticity. Plus you have the credentials. With over 15 years in practice, what’s most rewarding?
WG: It’s the countless stories of my clients’ transformation. They start off with challenging feelings like sadness, worry, and sleeplessness. Seeing them transform into empowered beings is so rewarding. They take it a step further and build up others. I love it. That takes it to a whole other level with purpose. My philosophy for treatment includes what I call emotional check-ins. Just like a physician sees us annually for blood work and they tell us how to make adjustments to our diet and lifestyle. The same should happen for our emotional and mental health. Clients’ problems may initially be very intense and they’ll come once a week. As a motivator, we transition to twice a month. We do check-ins once a year. So I’m listening for the challenges, but also the wins.
Physical check-ins and emotional check-ins measure progress.
ML: A physical check-in is easy to understand. Blood work and checking vital signs. Describe an emotional check-in.
WG: Allowing the client to lead me. We already have that therapeutic relationship, so we start off where they would like. We talk about hurdles that might be oppressive. By the end of the session, we balance it out with the wins. They can elaborate. I also am very intentional in covering all areas of their life. My training is called “Systems Thinker.” Each of us comes with an aspect of different systems of our wholeness. One aspect may be personal, career, family, or family of origin. I check in with all of those systems.
ML: So it depends on what the couple’s challenge was to start with. Maybe it was a communication challenge on how to take care of their kids. Their win might be a new whiteboard to define how each parent takes on different responsibilities of child-rearing, whether it’s helping with homework or picking the kids up from soccer practice.
WG: That’s an excellent example.
ML: I want to get into celebrating wins for a second, because a lot of people have a hard time with that. They have impostor syndrome and believe what they’re doing isn’t real or doesn’t count. Celebrating could be anything, like a bubble bath—anything they enjoy and have been putting off. We can affirm ourselves and say, “Yes! I did it and it counts.”
ML: Have you seen an uptick in brain fog among Black women? Is it primarily from long COVID and is it revealing underlying mental health challenges?
WG: That’s a great question, but I have not seen it. A lot of studies on that are out right now. My specialty is for people experiencing relationship problems with themselves or with others. If brain fog does come up and it’s prevalent for them, I’d refer them.
ML: Is that COVID brain fog primarily neurological or psychological?
WG: It’s very much a psychological thing. I’d either refer the client to a psychologist who studies the brain and/or a psychiatrist, who is the MD under our umbrella.
ML: Describe a client who was reluctant to seek mental health services and wound up with greater insight and thriving.
WG: Almost once a week, I get to see this. It happens in couple’s therapy; it’s usually the male partner. Gender differences wire us differently. I love to tell my couples clients that they must love each other very much to come to me to work out a solution to a problem. It’s awesome to see them not knowing what to expect, stone-faced, until they go through the process and then they take the initiative to continue forward with individual therapy. It’s very rewarding.
ML: To get a client like that to pay attention to their feelings, identify them, and then express them in a healthy, constructive way to keep their relationship intact must be amazing.
WG: Without a doubt.
ML: Thank you so much for your time.