Elizabeth Kromhout, LMFT
Marriage & Family Therapist
- Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in adolescents
- Director of LA Teen Therapist
- Vice President and Executive Director of Personal Development Institute
- MA in Clinical Psychology at Pepperdine University – emphasis in Marriage and Family Therapy
- BS in Clinical Psychology at California Lutheran University
- EMDR Basic Training Certification
- Trained at South Bay Human Service Center
August 6, 2020
Marriage and family therapist Elizabeth Kromhout talks about common misconceptions about teenagers, how to find the right balance in parenting teens, and her fascination with biohacking.
- Her YouTube videos with tips and solutions to common problems, including her analogy of adopted children as sea turtles who need to struggle to build survival skills
- How she graduated high school and went to college two years early because she hated her cliquey high school
- Her thoughts on addiction, grief, and anger – that you need to sit in your feelings and experience them rather than avoid them
- How parents need to relate to their kids without their cell phones because basically every single teenage client she has complains that their parents are on their phones too much
- Adopted children and the trauma of being inside one parent and then being raised by other parents and how that manifests later in life, as they can be mad at their adopted parents in place of their birth parents
- How grief is like debriding a wound – that you need to get in touch with it rather than stick a bandage on it to truly heal
- Why she was interested in the first five years of life and babies and mothers
- Why she encourages parents to let their children rebel while they’re in high school and figuring out their identity, especially while they’re under their roofs
- Why parents shouldn’t always be helicopter parents but should let their children fail or succeed themselves
- Her love of biohacking and how she and her husband go to bed at 10pm every night
Why psychiatry is important for some people but not for everyone
- How online therapy can be great for people who don’t have access to an in-person therapist but going in person is preferable
- How even though internet friends can be great for lonely or socially awkward kids but the cult of social media likes and comments is detrimental and masks reality
- How bad sleeping habits like sleep apnea and mouth breathing can be contributing to a child’s ADHD
- “When I’m talking to people on YouTube or online, I’m really direct with “here’s your answers.” But I feel like not anywhere near as effective as sort of helping my clients in the office, sort of protecting them from the birds as they walk across the sand and find their own answers and find their own – they run their own experiments to figure out what works for them individually.”
- “To be 16 years old, hanging out with 20, 21 year olds and drinking all the time and partying and that’s how I ended up in a therapist’s office in the first place with my mom and we were both crying and screaming at each other and the therapist looked like a deer in headlights. She had no idea what to do. And I remember in my 16 year old mind thinking “I could do this way better than you.”
- “Everybody has to run an experiment to figure out what works best for them. There is no “one-size-fits-all” of coping mechanisms. A lot of times for grief, I will tell kids, you just have to turn on music, lay in bed, and cry. Don’t do anything else to get rid of the feelings – just lay there and cry.”
- “It’s not anger that you need to make go away. You need to use it up. And we have to be able to sit with the entire span of emotion because otherwise we’re always chasing happiness. If we’re not happy, then we’re always unhappy. You’re fine to be suffering for a while. You’re fine to be grieving.”
- “It’s sort of like debriding a wound – a metaphor I use to say you get in a motorcycle accident and you have your arms all skinned up and there’s rocks inside. If you’re scared and you don’t go to the doctor, it heals over, but there’s still rocks inside, so it hurts all the time. If you go to the doctor, they’ll cut it open and pick the rocks out. Yes, it will hurt more, but then it can heal all the way so it doesn’t hurt anymore.”
- “In general, I encourage parents to kind of let their kids go on a longer leash and just monitor and watch. It’s okay that they’re giving you snide, snooty remarks. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be a bad kid forever or a bad person. They’re just having a phase.”
- “If you try something for 10 minutes and it works, you don’t really care. But if you try something for a couple of weeks or a couple months and then you succeed, you feel really good about it just because you succeeded at it. And when parents do everything for their kids, the kids don’t get that opportunity to feel that feeling.”
- “I spend a ridiculous amount of time (it’s my favorite hobby) researching and learning sort of biohacking stuff. So optimizing sleep, hygiene, figuring out nutrition, different types of supplements, different kinds of hobbies.”
- “I think it’s definitely better to see a real person in real life. However, I came from the middle of nowhere. I completely understand that’s not possible for everybody. And in those cases, I definitely think online therapy is a great thing.”
- “Internet friends I think are great for a lot of kids who are lonely or socially awkward or wouldn’t have any other friends otherwise. Internet friends give them an option to find kids who are like them, who might not be at their same school if they’re far away in Colorado or whatever. But I like Internet friends. However, I do not think that the social media system of likes and comments and filters, etc. – I don’t see the point of that.”
- “I’m not doing this to reach clients. I’m doing this because I care about the people who do not have access to good therapists in their area. I want to share information to help them. I mean, sort of to help the people in Minnesota where I’m from.”
- “If your child has an ADHD disorder, check their breathing when they sleep. Make sure that they’re breathing through their nose and make sure that they’re not snoring and make sure that they do not have sleep apnea. If they do, take them to the ENT or the doctor and get it fixed because bad sleep habits are very highly correlated with ADHD symptoms and may be causing it. So check and make sure that people are not mouth breathing.”
I had a client say something that kind of struck me. She said, my Instagram looks so good that my friends don't understand that I'm sad. They expect me to live up to my Instagram and it sucks. They have no idea who I am. They think that my life is so perfect, so when I'm depressed they tell me to get over it.
Elizabeth Kromhout, MFT
The number one thing, I think if anybody remembers anything from this podcast, this is the most important. Parents need to relate to their teenagers without their cell phones. Now, not the teens without their cell phones - the parents without your cell phones. Because every single kid, almost every single client I ever have complains about their parents on the phone too much.
Elizabeth Kromhout, MFT
I think partly that's what Doctorpedia is effective for - saying, ``okay, I really want to know some tips and some tricks. Let me Google and then I'll implement them myself and see what works.`` And Doctorpedia is good for that.
Elizabeth Kromhout, MFT
Daniel Lobell: (00:00)
Okay. Today my guest is Elizabeth Kromhout – a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in working with adolescents. How are you? Good to have you on the show.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (00:09)
Good. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Daniel Lobell: (00:12)
I’m very excited to talk to you because not only am I a fan of yours, I’ve watched your YouTube videos and I have to tell you they’re terrific.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (00:22)
Daniel Lobell: (00:23)
And I’ll tell you why they’re terrific because you have such a great way of articulating the ideas that you’re presenting to your audience. They’re not boring. They’re not drawn out. They really get to the point and they very clearly and specifically give solutions to certain things, which I think a lot of YouTube people miss the boat on.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (00:47)
Yeah, thanks. I was trying to be direct and to the point. It’s kind of – I feel like it’s in contrast to what I do when I’m sitting with clients because I’m not as directive. We get to all of those things, but it’s more I listen. So my YouTube channel was made for me to say, okay, these three things are what I would try.
Daniel Lobell: (01:04)
Right. I actually love that. I’ve been to many therapists over the years personally, and I know that what you’re saying is pretty accurate [to me.] I think it’s a style of therapy, right where you want – actually, you know what it reminds me of? You have this great analogy that you talk about with the sea turtles when you’re talking about adopted kids, and I know that that’s jumping around a little bit, but you know what I’m talking about, right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (01:36)
Daniel Lobell: (01:36)
It’s this idea that you say that when baby sea turtles are born on the beach, some people try to save them by bringing them right into the ocean so that, you know, instead of when they see them struggling through the sand to get there. But that is often what winds up killing these sea turtles because they need that struggle to build the survival skills when they get to the ocean.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (01:58)
Yeah, I was going to say that that is sort of really relevant to what we’re talking about here. When I’m talking to people on YouTube or online, I’m really direct with “here’s your answers.” But I feel like not anywhere near as effective as sort of helping my clients in the office, sort of protecting them from the birds as they walk across the sand and find their own answers and find their own – they run their own experiments to figure out what works for them individually.
Daniel Lobell: (02:22)
Exactly. That’s where I was going with it and that is how a lot of therapists operate where it’s like, I know you know the answer but you’re making me fight my way through the sand to get there. And I guess that that’s a pretty effective thing. I also love this more direct way as well. Sometimes you just want the answer, you’ve struggled for a long time and you’re like, I don’t even know where the ocean is. Can you just, you know, tell me what’s going on here?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (02:47)
Yep. And I think, I think partly that’s what Doctorpedia is effective for – saying, “okay, I really want to know some tips and some tricks. Let me Google and then I’ll implement them myself and see what works.” And Doctorpedia is good for that.
Daniel Lobell: (03:01)
Absolutely. Sometimes we just need answers, right? We’re just like, come on, give me the goods. What do you got?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (03:10)
Or we need ideas, yep.
Daniel Lobell: (03:10)
So I want to get into your background. I want to talk to you about how you became who you are and why you do what you do. But let’s start at the very beginning. Where are you from? And tell me a little bit about your family background.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (03:28)
So, I’m from Minnesota. I was born and raised there. I counted down the days until when I got to move away to a big city for four years, so I wanted to run away and have an adventure.
Daniel Lobell: (03:39)
[laughs] Too cold?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (03:39)
You know, I didn’t mind the cold. Not at all actually. I kind of miss it. But I wanted a big city. I wanted different cultures. I wanted people who spoke different languages. And in Minnesota, everybody’s white and the same.
Daniel Lobell: (03:52)
I guess. And Minneapolis does have the word “mini” in it, right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (03:56)
Yeah. Well, Minneapolis, I guess – I shouldn’t generalize. Minneapolis is more diverse, but I’m from the middle of nowhere – like a town of 10,000 people.
Daniel Lobell: (04:03)
I always think it’s funny that people always put themselves right in the middle of nowhere. It’s never like off to the edge or “I’m 50 yards to the right of nowhere.” I’m just right in the middle.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (04:16)
We definitely were.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (04:16)
So you were dreaming of the big city life?.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (04:21)
Yeah. I was dreaming of the big city life. I really wanted to come out here. I skipped the last two years of high school because I hated it. My even small school was very cliquey. It just was not fun. I went to college two years early, took my best friend with me. It was across the street from the high school, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. We finished two years of college for free, which was nice. However, it was different to be 16 years old, hanging out with 20, 21 year olds and drinking all the time and partying and that’s how I ended up in a therapist’s office in the first place with my mom and we were both crying and screaming at each other and the therapist looked like a deer in headlights. She had no idea what to do. And I remember in my 16 year old mind thinking “I could do this way better than you.”
Daniel Lobell: (05:07)
[Laughs] And I think that’s how people get into most things. Like anytime anybody becomes really good at something, it’s always from that judgmental moment where they’re like, “I could do this better than that person.”
Elizabeth Kromhout: (05:19)
Right. I wanted her to help us so much and it was just not going to happen. So I was disappointed, but also like a snooty 16 year old.
Daniel Lobell: (05:29)
Right. So I want to bring up this quote of yours and discuss it with you. It says “the goal in life isn’t just to be happy. It’s to feel the entire span of human emotions and be okay with it. By gaining this strength, one can stop reacting to the external environment and sit with emotions as they come and go, remaining centered and becoming one’s authentic self.” I love this quote so much and why I love it is probably if there’s one word in here (or not one, but one little piece in here) that I think really spoke to me, it’s sitting with emotions. One thing a therapist once told me was with regards to the fact that I’m overweight and I have an eating disorder and I often eat out of stress and anxiety. They said, sit with your feelings, in other words, sit with your emotions because the alternative is much harder. The alternative is health problems and possibly an early death (you know, G-d forbid.) But as hard as sitting with your emotions is, the alternative and turning to substance (in my case, food) is much more difficult. So this really spoke to me in this quote.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (06:49)
Yeah. See, I think addiction especially is this whole idea of feel everything, not just happiness is really relevant to addiction. How do we sit with them? I think it’s practice. A lot of times when you’re really happy, you practice not going to have a drink. A lot of people drink when they’re happy, they drink when they’re sad, they drink when they’re angry. You have to practice other things, whether it’s to call a friend or take a shower. Same thing when you’re in grief. Everybody has to run an experiment to figure out what works best for them. There is no “one-size-fits-all” of coping mechanisms. A lot of times for grief, I will tell kids, you just have to turn on music, lay in bed, and cry. Don’t do anything else to get rid of the feelings – just lay there and cry. Or if you’re super angry, figure out a way to go boxing, to scream into your pillow, to hit your bed as hard as you can with a tennis racket, to go run until you’re exhausted, but you have to metabolize up the anger. It’s not anger that you need to make go away. You need to use it up. And we have to be able to sit with the entire span of emotion because otherwise we’re always chasing happiness. If we’re not happy, then we’re always unhappy. You’re fine to be suffering for a while. You’re fine to be grieving.
Daniel Lobell: (08:03)
Yeah. I feel like society is really pushing a different narrative on people. Do you see that as well?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (08:10)
It makes everybody unhappy. Yeah, definitely. There’s a huge place and a need for resilience. There are definitely times in life and phases where most things suck and you have to be able to withstand it and to bear it until the phase changes.
Daniel Lobell: (08:23)
So one thing we have in common is as a comedian, I’ve gotten the great opportunity of working with adolescents with drug addiction and using comedy as a therapy for them, which I’ve done now for three years in different rehab facilities.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (08:37)
That’s really cool.
Daniel Lobell: (08:37)
Yeah, it’s probably my favorite thing that I do. You know what I also really loved about your YouTube videos, is it comes across very clearly that you are constantly trying to grow and improve your game. You’re always looking for new pieces of knowledge. You’re quoting books, you’re quoting ideas. And I feel like I share that as well and I’m always looking to ask other people for ways to improve what I do. So some of my questions here for you are specifically targeted towards that, like relating to teenagers. Is there a certain way that you feel is most effective for people? And people I hope who are listening are not necessarily therapists (although they could be) but just people who may have teenage children and are trying to figure out for themselves how to relate.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (09:34)
I’m trying to think if I could give any blanket advice, but I think specifically I’ll speak to parents first. The number one thing, I think if anybody remembers anything from this podcast, this is the most important. Parents need to relate to their teenagers without their cell phones. Now, not the teens without their cell phones – the parents without your cell phones. Because every single kid, almost every single client I ever have complains about their parents on the phone too much. And teenagers do not – I mean, you would know if you have teenagers – they don’t answer your questions and go into how their day was and how their friends were and XYZ happened with the teacher – when you are ready to listen. They do it when they want to talk. I think it’s really important when you pick your kids up from school, try your best to have your phones done and your emails done and just be present with your kids. Be present watching TV with them without any other screens. That’s the number one thing I would do to be able to relate to teenagers better as parents. As other providers or other people in their lives, other mentors? I think you just have to do it over and over and over again because they speak a language that’s not, it’s almost incomprehensible to adults because the words are so different that they’re using – they change every week and one of the things you can do is learn their lingo. Not necessarily to use it because then they will make fun of you and say, “I can’t believe you said that.” But to be able to understand them speaking in their own native like dialect now I think helps them loosen up and feel a lot more comfortable with you.
Daniel Lobell: (11:17)
Definitely. Yeah. I can relate so much to both of those things. Like I’ve tried, I have tried and failed to use the words and also been mercilessly made fun of for not knowing what they are. [Laughs]
Elizabeth Kromhout: (11:31)
And it’s hard! I can barely keep up sometimes. I have a couple of kids who interpret all of the new lingo to me. Otherwise I would have no clue. It changes so fast and there’s so many different words, but they only really talk to each other through memes anyway, I think.
Daniel Lobell: (11:49)
[Laughs] Tt’s true, though! It’s like almost like talking someone from another country and they’re like, “why should I listen to you? You’re not… you don’t know my culture.” You know? So you have to sort of put people at ease that you’re like, “Oh no, I understand the culture. I understand your language. I understand where you’re coming from. I can help you.” Right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (12:09)
Yeah. So I guess more broadly just to understand their culture in general.
Daniel Lobell: (12:12)
Yeah. One of your specialties is children who are adopted at birth and so many of these kids wind up in rehab. I found your YouTube video on this very fascinating because I’m always trying to understand like why this phenomenon is occurring and I want to kind of let you put it in your words to my audience rather than me botch what you said. But if you had to in a sort of concise way answer this for people, why is it that we find so many adopted adolescents either in rehab facilities or in therapy or with generally just behavioral problems?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (12:52)
I would say primarily – and first we have to differentiate kids adopted right away at the hospital from kids adopted an orphanages at five years old because I think everybody understands why the five-year-olds would have trauma. But the immediate one, I think their biggest factor in contributing to their sort of state of being and mental health when they’re older as teenagers is they have absolutely no idea that their adoption impacted them. And it’s not the adoption specifically. It’s the fact that they were grown in one mom – they shared blood, they shared hormones, they shared oxytocin, they shared a heartbeat, they were comfortable with that woman’s voice. And one day they were born and then they were handed to somebody else who threw a party and was super excited, but maybe nobody recognized and nobody held that baby and said, you know, I’m so sorry. You must be scared. You don’t hear her voice anymore. I don’t have the same extreme levels of oxytocin that you do. I can’t share that with you. So it’s a lot of grief that never got acknowledged. And it’s not anybody’s fault, they just don’t know.
Daniel Lobell: (14:00)
Elizabeth Kromhout: (14:00)
And it comes up in my office, when the kid will say to me, “I’m so sad. I feel devastated.” They’re crying really hard and they’re like, “I have no idea why I’m so sad.” Or another thing they’ll say, “I hate my mom. I’m so angry at her. I make her life miserable every single day. And truthfully, I have absolutely no idea why. She didn’t do anything.” And it’s not that mom – it’s not the adopted mom they’re angry at – it’s the birth mother, but they don’t realize it. So one of the most important things I do for families like this is have the parents read the book Primal Wounds. And every family has come back to me saying, “oh my G-d, I had no idea.” Now we can move forward helping our child grieve because the grief is stuck. You can’t grieve something that you don’t know what it is.
Daniel Lobell: (14:49)
Do you think if these kids were never informed of the fact that they were adopted, they’d still be feeling these feelings inherently?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (14:55)
Yes. Because what we’re talking about – they were way too young. I mean, the minute they’re born, that has nothing to do with verbalized or picture memories. That’s in their body of, “I was comfortable with one voice, one set of hormones, and one blood and I got handed to somebody else.” So yes, it’s in their bodies. They know that they were separated from that at birth.
Daniel Lobell: (15:18)
So, it is a feeling of rejection, whether they’re conscious of the fact that they were rejected or not, in other words.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (15:24)
I don’t know if we can say rejection across the board. I think I know many people feel that, but I would use loss across the board.
Daniel Lobell: (15:33)
I use the word rejection because I’m actually specifically thinking of a client I worked with over a year ago who was adopted and kept bringing up this idea of being rejected by their birth parents. And one thing I remember that I said to them, and I just said it and it really seemed to make an impact on them for months to come, was I’m like, “don’t think of yourself as rejected, but think of yourself as so special that a family that didn’t even have you once you so badly.” Like, you know, everybody loves their kid that’s their kid. That’s easy. But to be so madly in love with a kid who’s not even your kid, think about it like you’re even more special rather than, you know, flip it, reframe it as from rejection. So to me I’ve always thought, or at least since then, that a lot of it has to do with feelings of rejection.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (16:30)
And it does. I think a lot of times it has to do with rejection. And along the same things of what you’re saying, I would be careful of not minimizing the loss and the grief that they do feel. But I’ve heard in a book someone said, it’s not that I was abandoned because abandoned is like left in the dumpster. A lot of babies weren’t were abandoned, like on the steps? And those were not abandoned. They were left to be found. Because sometimes it helps to change the narrative in your head – I wasn’t abandoned. I was left to be found. So I think that fits better with what you’re trying to say.
Daniel Lobell: (17:03)
Right. I have a joke I’ve been doing on stage as a comedian about reframing ideas where I’m like, “you know, you’ve got to reframe things in your life. You know, with me with dieting, I think of it like I didn’t fail on all these different diets. They all just brought me one step closer to where I am now, where I’m continuing to push forward.” And you know, it’s all about reframing and the joke is like, you’ve got to be careful how far you take it though, because you could reframe yourself right out of reality, you’re like, “wow, I got this new place. So much natural light! It’s like, buddy, you’re homeless. Take it easy.” You know? So there has to be a line, right between reframing things in a positive way and reframing things to a point where you really are not in touch with what’s going on and how do you tell a client like where that line is? Like, what should you reframe and what shouldn’t you?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (18:02)
Oh man. I think part of that might just have to be a feeling that you just intuitively know in the moment, which reframe is usually letting the client reframe themselves, but I think you have to be careful not to minimize, especially because with someone who’s adopted, we’re trying to get in touch with their grief, not stick a bandaid on it. We want them to be able to feel how sad they were and how sad they are and how rejected they feel and the loss and fantasize over what could have been or why this happened or why that happened because it has to go through those phases in order to heal over and accept it and be like, “yeah, it’s okay, it just happened.” It’s sort of like debriding a wound – a metaphor I use to say you get in a motorcycle accident and you have your arms all skinned up and there’s rocks inside. If you’re scared and you don’t go to the doctor, it heals over, but there’s still rocks inside, so it hurts all the time. If you go to the doctor, they’ll cut it open and pick the rocks out. Yes, it will hurt more, but then it can heal all the way so it doesn’t hurt anymore.
Daniel Lobell: (19:04)
Wow. What a great metaphor.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (19:04)
It’s the same thing with adoption or so many other things is we have to go through it, sort of pick the rocks out. This is going to hurt and then it will heal over and you’ll feel better.
Daniel Lobell: (19:13)
Are there case studies where we find kids who were adopted who have absolutely none of this and is there anything that we see in common with those kids, if so?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (19:23)
I’m sure that there are some kids that feel nothing bad about it, but I guess I don’t meet them in my office, so I don’t feel educated enough to really speak to that and they don’t really get books written about them either. It’s the people who are really struggling and having a miserable time that I come in contact with that there are books written about for advice,
Daniel Lobell: (19:41)
I find like sometimes it’s almost as important to do case studies on the people who don’t have the problem in order to help people who do. Right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (19:51)
Daniel Lobell: (19:51)
I hope I’m not being too personal and asking are you adopted?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (19:55)
No, I’m not.
Daniel Lobell: (19:56)
So what attracted you to working with kids who are?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (19:59)
I really liked studying the first five years and the very beginning of life and I liked studying attachment and birth and all of that. So it kind of, the adoption was sort of an accident when I realized one day that about a third of my current clients at that time were adopted, all were handed to their adoptive parents first at the hospital. It was all immediate and I kind of just found a thing that was happening over and over again and I just was interested in wanting to learn more and read everything I could possibly find about it.
Daniel Lobell: (20:33)
What fascinated you initially about that first five year period?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (20:37)
You know, people have asked me that and I can’t remember. I can’t, I don’t know what started the fascination. I just kind of always have been. Babies and mothers interest me. NICU babies and incubator babies are another fascination, who get separated from their moms for a couple months and they have to live in a box. I was always interested in that stuff too.
Daniel Lobell: (21:00)
I was one of those babies. I don’t think I was separated for months, but certainly for some amount of time I was in a box now I think outside the box, but I was a box baby. Yeah. I wonder if that has anything to do with my eating disorder.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (21:17)
It could. Having an inability to self-soothe and so you go to food for it instead? I don’t know.
Daniel Lobell: (21:25)
Maybe there was scarcity of food in the box.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (21:27)
Could be. Or you were starving. Who knows? Depends on how early you were born.
Daniel Lobell: (21:31)
Interesting. I never thought about that. Okay. What are some common misconceptions that people have about teenagers?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (21:39)
I would say one of the most common is that they’re really difficult to deal with. They’re all trying to rebel and, uh, do impulsive, nasty things that hurt themselves. I mean, I think for many of the parents that I see, I reframe rebellion as a healthy thing. The teenage developmental phase is where they try on their own identity, they figure out who they are. That’s the way to cut their hair like every couple of months and dye it different colors. They’re testing out different ways of being and one of the things we want them to do while they’re in high school and still under their parents’ roof and still being watched and monitored is rebel and go test out values and go push boundaries a little bit so that they are able to separate while being monitored. We would prefer that to happen in high school rather than in college when we were not really monitoring them at all. You get the kids who are really good through high school and then go crazy in college, that’s more risky. So I encourage parents a lot of times, and it depends on the kid, right? Some kids go too far and they need a lot more, a lot stronger boundaries and less responsibility and privileges. But in general, I encourage parents to kind of let their kids go on a longer leash and just monitor and watch. It’s okay that they’re giving you snide, snooty remarks. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be a bad kid forever or a bad person. They’re just having a phase.
Daniel Lobell: (23:12)
Yeah. I think another one of those areas where people don’t know where to draw the line is between being like a helicopter parent and being like more too hands-off. Right? Like finding that perfect balance. It’s funny, I heard a parent recently say that they wanted to bug their teen’s room but they found out it’s illegal in their state. I’m like, well, maybe that’s taking it a bit too far. Right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (23:41)
Yeah. Well, I think that goes back to the sea turtle metaphor and the helicopter parents who want to pick up the turtle and bring it to the ocean. Like, no, no, no. Don’t email your kids’ teachers for them unless they’re really sick or there’s an exceptional situation. Facilitate your children and your teenagers to do things themselves, that’s much more important than getting the A on the test because you emailed the teacher.
Daniel Lobell: (24:04)
I agree. That seems consistent with what I’ve seen. It always comes back to sea turtles, right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (24:11)
Yeah, I think it does. I mean it comes back to a lot of things. If you look at a side effect of doing a lot of things on their own and being successful at it, it’s self-esteem. I mean, yes you can build self esteem by positive affirmation, but you can also build self-esteem by learning how to do really difficult things and succeeding at it. If you try something for 10 minutes and it works, you don’t really care. But if you try something for a couple of weeks or a couple months and then you succeed, you feel really good about it just because you succeeded at it. And when parents do everything for their kids, the kids don’t get that opportunity to feel that feeling.
Daniel Lobell: (24:46)
Right. They don’t have that independence and they don’t ever feel like it’s their accomplishment, right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (24:53)
Right. Or that they can accomplish something that’s difficult. So they get anxious and they shy away from it.
Daniel Lobell: (25:00)
Going back, one thing I was telling you that I loved about your YouTube videos is that you’re always pushing, you’re always expanding your knowledge base. What have you recently learned that sort of changed your perspective or excited you in your field?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (25:17)
Hmm. I spend a ridiculous amount of time (it’s my favorite hobby) researching and learning sort of biohacking stuff. So optimizing sleep, hygiene, figuring out nutrition, different types of supplements, different kinds of hobbies. I researched light, like sunlight, vitamin D. The most interesting one I figured out that I’ve implemented and has really impacted my life is my husband and I set ourselves at 10:00 PM bedtime every single night. Like we’re little kids. And it’s actually been amazing because if you go to bed at 10, we can set our alarm at 6 every single day. We get eight hours of sleep. We wake up just before the sunrise, watch the sunrise (which is really, I guess healthy for your eyes to actually watch the sunrise and set it, regulates your circadian rhythms and helps you sleep better and hormones, everything.) So I think one of the things people could implement if they wanted to was setting a strict bedtime and then being able to wake up eight hours later, exactly, seven days a week.
Daniel Lobell: (26:25)
I’ve tried to do that and failed so many times. What is the trick? Where am I missing it? Because, like, I’m always like, you know, “I’m going to bed at this time” and then like an hour later you’re like, “Oh no.” So how do you do it? How do you get strict with that bedtime?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (26:41)
So the equation, okay, look at your schedule. What day do you have to get up the earliest and what time?
Daniel Lobell: (26:49)
You’re asking me specifically? Or are you saying in general?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (26:51)
Daniel Lobell: (26:52)
Elizabeth Kromhout: (26:54)
Like on Tuesday I have to get up at 8:00. Or on Wednesdays I have to get up at 6:45.
Daniel Lobell: (26:58)
Wednesdays I have to get up very early.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (27:00)
Okay, so you would take that time on Wednesdays, we’ll say Wednesday at six o’clock or Wednesday eight o’clock. And then you go eight hours back from that and then you go to midnight. So your goal time of going to sleep is midnight.
Daniel Lobell: (27:15)
Elizabeth Kromhout: (27:15)
It’s tough to make yourself do it. I think with everything and every new habit you’re trying to do, progression, is the most important thing. So it’s not all in or all out. You just try your best over and over and over for a couple of weeks.
Daniel Lobell: (27:30)
Are there any books you would recommend that really spoke to you?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (27:33)
Hmm. I probably read 35 books in the last two months, there’s a lot of them. I’m trying to think… Overall, I still want to recommend Primal Wound. That’s my favorite book that I recommend to more people than anything else.
Daniel Lobell: (27:49)
Even if you don’t have an adopted child.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (27:51)
No. If you don’t have an adopted child – I’m looking at my bookshelf right now – any parent of teenagers, I recommend Parenting In The Eye Of The Storm. That one also is written for adopted teens, but it’s sort of irrelevant. It applies to all teenagers. Primal Wound is specific to just adopted. If I could recommend one for everybody, I would say it’s called A Mind Of Your Own by Dr. Kelly Brogan. She’s a psychiatrist who is really into a holistic approach and sort of all the things that you can kind of check off the list if you’re struggling with a mental disorder before you go to the psychiatrist. So she writes about all the different like bio-hacky things and tips like going to sleep and getting more exercise and like really detailed things before you go to the psychiatrist. Because I do think that a lot of people go to a psychiatrist before they necessarily have to.
Daniel Lobell: (28:50)
Yeah. What are your views on psychiatry in general? Are you for or against medicating?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (28:58)
in general I’m definitely for it, but not for everybody. I think there are some people who have bipolar or schizophrenia or severe disorders that they absolutely need the medication to be able to function at all. And then I think for some people with really bad clinical depression, they also need something to lift them up just enough to even do healthy coping mechanisms. Because when you get so depressed, you can’t move, you’re not going to the gym, you’re not going outside, you’re not calling your friends. Sometimes you get too far in the bottom of the pit and you need some medication to lift you out high enough to do some things for yourself that might make you feel better. So I’m definitely for it. Not for everybody, but we definitely need psychiatry.
Daniel Lobell: (29:41)
Yeah. Sometimes it’s that assist that helps you, even temporarily, while you work on yourself. Right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (29:50)
Yeah. But that being said, I personally strongly believe in doing everything else for yourself at the same time. Like regulating your sleep and going for a walk or at least walking up the stairs. If you can’t get yourself to exercise, probably still get yourself to run up the stairs at every building you go into. It’s more about being practical than it is idealistic.
Daniel Lobell: (30:15)
I’ve on and off, been able to get myself to do that. Consistency is been a challenge for me with these kinds of things like habits.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (30:27)
Yeah. And I always have goals written down in my phone of like, okay, I’m going to go to bed at 10 o’clock or I’m going to run up the stairs at my office and you do like one or two of those per week and progressively you get better and better at it. It’s not always going to happen overnight.
Daniel Lobell: (30:42)
And ultimately we all become super humans, right? Or, or super sea turtles? I don’t know,
Elizabeth Kromhout: (30:48)
Super sea turtles. I guess by the time we can make it to the ocean, we can swim.
Daniel Lobell: (30:53)
All right. Let’s shift the conversation for a minute to technology. What’s your view on the online mental health space right now?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (31:03)
I think it’s very valuable for areas of the country that don’t have access to the right type of therapists in their area. So would I recommend it for somebody in LA who could come to a regular office and see somebody? No. I think it’s definitely better to see a real person in real life. However, I came from the middle of nowhere. I completely understand that’s not possible for everybody. And in those cases, I definitely think online therapy is a great thing.
Daniel Lobell: (31:32)
Right. And in your experience, when patients have come to you and they’ve been online trying to educate themselves beforehand, do you feel that that’s more often than not misinformed them or helped them when they get there?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (31:48)
Just in my experience, it’s the teenagers who Google beforehand and they have diagnosed themselves with everything under the sun.
Daniel Lobell: (31:57)
[Laughs] I’ve been there.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (31:57)
I don’t necessarily think it hurts them. Sometimes it does. I mean it’s kind of easy to tell if they have Google because the way that they’re describing their symptoms or answering my questions sounds a little bit like Wikipedia, but I don’t know that it really hurts them. I think, I don’t know. I think separately after they’ve been to a therapist or a psychiatrist and have gotten a diagnosis, it would be ridiculous not to go home and Google it. You need to be your own advocate and in charge of your own healthcare and you are the main person doing it. Everybody else is just your consultant. Whether it’s your doctor or your therapist or your psychiatrist or whatever you need to be spearheading the whole thing. You should Google a lot of different sources so that you understand a broad knowledge of what it is your disorder is and not just one.
Daniel Lobell: (32:51)
What do you think social media has done with regards to impacting teenagers’ mental health? Has it been positive, overall? Negative? Where do you fall on that?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (33:03)
I would say it’s negative with the exception of internet friends. Now, I don’t know if that’s really different than Instagram – it kind of is. Internet friends I think are great for a lot of kids who are lonely or socially awkward or wouldn’t have any other friends otherwise. Internet friends give them an option to find kids who are like them, who might not be at their same school if they’re far away in Colorado or whatever. But I like Internet friends. However, I do not think that the social media system of likes and comments and filters, etc. – I don’t see the point of that. I think the teenagers are all so roped into it that they’re messaging each other on Snapchat so they can’t delete the app. They have to keep it in order to even talk to their friends. So they’re hooked. I don’t know. I hope, I think luckily, and I don’t know if this is just my population that I work with or not, but it seems like it’s gotten better in about the last year or two where kids are not on it so much. But I can be biased. I don’t know. A lot of them are talking about how they hate watching their friends have parties without them on Snapchat. And yeah, hopefully it starts to die down in the next 20 years from now.
Daniel Lobell: (34:21)
I hear that about Instagram, like the kids who I talk to in the rehab facilities are always like, everybody seems like they’re living a better life than me on Instagram. I’m like, well, they’re only posting the best parts of it. And with filters, you know? Like it’s not realistic and they could be miserable at those parties and then they just smile for a selfie. Like you don’t know what’s really going on.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (34:41)
I had a client say something that kind of struck me. She said, my Instagram looks so good that my friends don’t understand that I’m sad. They expect me to live up to my Instagram and it sucks. They have no idea who I am. They think that my life is so perfect, so when I’m depressed they tell me to get over it.
Daniel Lobell: (35:00)
Yeah. It’s so weird. It’s pushing people towards a fake reality, like presenting a fake reality to the world. So it’s like the opposite of finding your authentic self.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (35:11)
Yeah. It’s trying to become whatever marketing tells us we should be.
Daniel Lobell: (35:16)
You have videos up on Depressionpedia. How do you think that video content is helping you reach clients? And how important is it for reaching out to young people specifically?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (35:29)
As far as reaching clients, I’ve had a full practice for a while. I’m not doing this to reach clients. I’m doing this because I care about the people who do not have access to good therapists in their area. I want to share information to help them. I mean, sort of to help the people in Minnesota where I’m from. What was your second question?
Daniel Lobell: (35:51)
I asked you about connecting with young people specifically through these videos if it’s been important.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (35:58)
Oh, connecting with them. Yeah. I mean it goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning is that I do it in a completely different way. I don’t sit in my office and tell kids to do one, two, three steps. There are the occasional clients who want that and they’re going to implement it. So then I talk about that, but it’s completely different. I wanted to be able to say, try this, try this, try this. So that’s what I’m using online for, to reach other kids – to help them with tips and tricks, which is one thing I can’t do in my real life,
Daniel Lobell: (36:29)
I love it. I’m wrapping up. This interview of course, is for Doctorpedia and we want to know here at Doctorpedia is what we can do to best assist the mental health space. What do you think should be our focus and our goal?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (36:47)
I think as with anything, when you’re researching something, you need as many sources as possible so that you get all different perspectives and you’re able to sync up the information and say, okay, these three things are the most applicable to my life individually. So I would encourage Doctorpedia to just keep interviewing different types of therapists and different types of specialists and getting different angles of the mental health field so that people or patients or clients, however you want to call them, are able to educate themselves and advocate for them.
Daniel Lobell: (37:20)
Call them sea turtles.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (37:23)
Daniel Lobell: (37:25)
Awesome. Well, thank you so much and is there anything else that you wanted to add before we wrap up the call or direct people to?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (37:34)
There is something else I want to add. It’s kind of random and maybe it’s just a teaser for people to Google and look into themselves. A lot of kids who have been diagnosed with ADHD lately have breathing disorders actually and it’s gone undiagnosed. If your child has an ADHD disorder, check their breathing when they sleep. Make sure that they’re breathing through their nose and make sure that they’re not snoring and make sure that they do not have sleep apnea. If they do, take them to the ENT or the doctor and get it fixed because bad sleep habits are very highly correlated with ADHD symptoms and may be causing it. So check and make sure that people are not mouth breathing.
Daniel Lobell: (38:17)
That’s really fascinating. I heard another thing this week – I don’t know if you can back this up or not – but that ADHD diagnosis also often have to do with or are symptomatic of bad health in your gut.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (38:31)
Yeah. I mean, serotonin is built in the gut. We’re learning more and more as time goes on with the research. But gut health is extremely important for, I think, all mental disorders. And not all probiotics are good and most of them are not. But I think VSL is one of the best. The doctors have told me it is the best with a lot of research – called VSL. I would recommend probiotics to anybody who thinks diabetes, depression, ADHD, any type of disorder going on.
Daniel Lobell: (38:59)
V – V for Victor, S, L. Is that right?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (39:03)
Yes. Victor, Sam, Love.
Daniel Lobell: (39:06)
And how does that come as a capsule?
Elizabeth Kromhout: (39:10)
Daniel Lobell: (39:10)
Alright, cool. I’m going to try them. I’m excited to try it. I’m always like, you know, part of the pro-antibiotic fight going on in my body, which biotic will win? Alright, cool. Elizabeth, thank you so much for being part of this interview on Doctorpedia. It’s been a pleasure having you on.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (39:34)
Yeah. Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.
Daniel Lobell: (39:35)
Awesome. Have a great day.
Elizabeth Kromhout: (39:37)
Okay. Yep. Bye. Bye