Terri Faith, PhD
Dr. Terri Faith is a licensed Psychologist (PSY 27580) in Santa Monica, California. She focuses on Buddhist Psychology theory, mixed with evidence-based practice of Cognitive-Behavioral methods, which combine to provide patients with a more conscious, focused, healthier mindset. She also provides Custom Guided Meditations.
Since 2011, she has provided specialized therapeutic services to those dealing with challenging life experiences, anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and obsessive thought patterns. In addition, she likes to address health, fitness and life coaching, if the need arises. She tailors the sessions to meet the needs of the individual using an eclectic, holistic style.View Full Bio
Psychologist Dr. Terri Faith talks about overwriting personal narratives, the arsenal of thoughts to combat anxiety, and how Buddhist principles and cognitive behavioral therapy can help people learn about themselves and their identities.
- How she was always interested in psychology but went into other areas and then returned to study and finish her BA at 28
- How she became interested in neuroscience and neuropsychology after her father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis
- How her former professor Dr. Stanley Krippner told her to do her dissertation on something she was passionate about and she came up with a new intelligence
- How she combines Buddhist psychology with cognitive behavioral therapy to treat patients with anxiety
- The two parts of our brain – the observer (the Einstein Brain) and the the active (the Frankenstein brain)
The different types of dementia and their causes
- How Buddhism teaches that your identity is within yourself, rather than external things about you like your profession or relationship
- How she teaches people to “swipe” away thoughts that will lead them down a bad path of thinking
- How she wants to write a book about “The Arsenal Of Thoughts”, which is where you can override bad thoughts that cause you anxiety with other thoughts
- The different types of OCD and anxiety disorders
- How she uses guided imagery and brain waves to relax people and help them see their thoughts so that they’re not attached to them
- Why she recommends that people read The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer and The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield
- Why the most important things for a therapist to do are to empathize and not judge
- How social media and comparing yourself to other people is a huge cause of social anxiety
- Why being a people pleaser is not necessarily good for you and that you need self-compassion to put yourself first to be there for others
- How there are a lot of “armchair psychologists” and misinformation online that people need to be wary of
- “I worked in different areas in fashion and real estate and things like that. And then at 28 when I was in real estate, I thought to myself, you know what? I need to do something more meaningful. And I was always interested in the brain and in human behavior. And I loved some of the courses I took. So I went back and finished my BA when I was 28.”
- “[Neuroanatomy is] not just the simple parts of the brain like the lobes of the brain and the different areas of the brain that are affected by different disorders and issues or medical issues and the behaviors that come from those lesions. But what I was doing was down to the spinal cord, the spinal column, the pain pathways, and I had to do a presentation on the dorsal horn of the vertebrae.”
- “It’s kind of a combination of Buddhist psychology mixed with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an evidence based practice and psychology.”
- “The observer is your true self who’s observing the thoughts, but in 90% of people or even more, the observer (which I call the Einstein brain) is asleep and people don’t know about it. The other part of us is the one that’s the most active. That’s the talking brain that I call the Frankenstein brain – the one that’s constantly commenting.”
- “Most people identify with things outside of themselves like, “I’m a psychologist, I’m a mother, I’m a wife.” But those things can disappear. You can be a mother and unfortunately maybe you lose your child or your wife and you get divorced. Then your identity goes. I work with people who are going to be retiring and they get very depressed because their whole identity is in retirement.”
- “A lot of the things that we say to ourselves are not true. And I sit with people and while they’re talking I write down some things they say. And then later I’ll say, “is that true?” And a lot of times they can’t think of what’s true about it. Even if someone says “it’s so sad, that’s so sad.” And I’ll say “what’s sad about it?” And they’ll think, “I don’t know.” But they’re saying it. It’s not really sad, but they’re saying it. So then that makes them sad. So this voice creates the depression and the anxiety.”
- “I’ve also been with people who had traumatic religious upbringings, like Christian science and certain sects where they weren’t allowed to watch television or play music or things that have affected them on a very deep level. So religion isn’t always a soothing thing.”
- “The thing is what I find for some strange reason is the majority of people that come to me are girls in their twenties with anxiety. I’d say probably 80% and then the rest, the 20% are all other types. I think social media has a lot to do with it. Comparing yourself to people. That’s one of the biggest causes of social anxiety is comparing yourself to other people.”
- “The thing is when you can’t say no to somebody because you’re afraid of confrontation or what they’ll think of you or want to please people because if people around you are happy then you’ll be happy instead of having to make yourself happy. So really the main thing is you have to come first and so people don’t realize, they think it’s selfish. You have to have self-compassion, you have to put yourself first, you have to help yourself and then help others.”
Most people are acting on autopilot. They don't know why they're angry. They don't know why they're sad. Sometimes people will cry when they're on the couch and I'll say, why are you crying? And they go: I don't know. Or if they're angry: why are you angry?: I don't know.
Terri Faith, PhD
I find that there's a lot of people who are armchair psychologists and they're calling people narcissists and psychopaths and they talk about bipolar disorder the wrong way. You know, they think if someone changes their personality that they're bipolar, but that's not what bipolar is.
Terri Faith, PhD
I exercise, I do yoga, I eat properly, I try to drink as much water as possible. Sleep is important - very important. And then mentally, just everything I talked about. Try and stay in the present moment as much as possible. You have to make sure that you don't let your mind go to places that are going to make you anxious or depressed.
Terri Faith, PhD
Daniel Lobell: (00:02)
Dr. Terri Faith: (00:08)
Daniel Lobell: (00:08)
Hey, this is Danny from Doctorpedia. How are you?
Dr. Terri Faith: (00:11)
Hi Danny, I’m good.
Daniel Lobell: (00:13)
Should I say I’ve been looking forward to this interview with anxious anticipation?
Dr. Terri Faith: (00:22)
Sure, you can say that. [Laughs].
Daniel Lobell: (00:22)
Because I know one of your specialties is dealing with anxiety, which I am really looking forward to hearing about because I know myself and so many people deal with this. But first of all, welcome to the Doctorpedia podcast. It’s so great to have you here.
Dr. Terri Faith: (00:37)
Daniel Lobell: (00:37)
I’d love to know a little bit about you. What made you go into psychology?
Dr. Terri Faith: (00:43)
Well I think I was always interested in it. When I was in undergrad I majored in psychology and then I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I kind of just did the first year of my BA. And then I worked in different areas in fashion and real estate and things like that. And then at 28 when I was in real estate, I thought to myself, you know what? I need to do something more meaningful. And I was always interested in the brain and in human behavior. And I loved some of the courses I took. So I went back and finished my BA when I was 28.
Daniel Lobell: (01:20)
Dr. Terri Faith: (01:22)
And then I went and did my master’s degree in the 80s. I can’t remember the exact year now, but I did my master’s degree and my father came down with Alzheimer’s dementia. He was diagnosed with it I think in 1989 and so I became even more interested in neuroscience and neuropsychology. It is very, it is extremely fascinating to me because it’s almost like space. It’s kind of uncharted.
Daniel Lobell: (02:04)
Dr. Terri Faith: (02:06)
There’s a lot of interesting things that we don’t know and then there’s things that we are learning. And so I wanted to know what was going on with my father because there were all kinds of different parts of his brain that were being affected. So I decided to do an internship in neuropsychology. And I did that in Toronto at the Rotman Research Institute, which is the top Alzheimer’s research Institute. It also has a Jewish home for the aged where there are a lot of dementia patients. So I started becoming more interested. I did an internship there and then I did a course in advanced neuroanatomy at the University of Toronto and I did some presentations to neuroscientists–
Daniel Lobell: (02:54)
–Wow. Let me pause for a second. Advanced neuroanatomy?
Dr. Terri Faith: (03:00)
Daniel Lobell: (03:00)
For somebody like me who doesn’t know from this world that you’re in, what does that mean? You’re looking at the brain?
Dr. Terri Faith: (03:08)
Well, it’s not just the simple parts of the brain like the lobes of the brain and the different areas of the brain that are affected by different disorders and issues or medical issues and the behaviors that come from those lesions. But what I was doing was down to the spinal cord, the spinal column, the pain pathways, and I had to do a presentation on the dorsal horn of the vertebrae.
Daniel Lobell: (03:39)
Dr. Terri Faith: (03:40)
Yeah. So it was pretty involved. And then I also did something on Alzheimer’s – it’s on the internet, but it’s kind of old now. And I did pain pathways – how pain gets distributed to the brain and how it works. I became more and more interested in dementia because of my dad and then I worked in a hospital in neuropsychology for this internship. And it was around the time that I was doing my PhD now. Actually I’d finished the PhD work and I had to do a dissertation and I had all of my data at the hospital with the neuropsychology but for some reason I was sitting down and I couldn’t write it because it was boring. And I went to the APA convention (American Psych Association) in Toronto and I was talking to people about, “what did you do your dissertation on? How did you figure out what to do?” And they said, “you know, you should go talk to Dr. Stanley Krippner.” And I thought, “Stanley Krippner was a professor of mine and he’s a psychologist that works with extracurricular, kind of like spirits and other-worldly things. That’s why it’s called parapsychology.
Daniel Lobell: (05:09)
Is that why his name is Krippner too? Like you get into crypt? [Laughs]
Dr. Terri Faith: (05:14)
[Laughs] So I didn’t know how I was going to get in touch with him and I know he’s an older man and I hadn’t seen him for a while. So I’m at the booth getting my badge for the convention and I see Stanley Krippner’s badge sitting there and I said, “is he here?” And she said yes. And I turned around and he was right behind me. So I went up to him. I said, “Dr. Krippner, I know this is a weird question. You were a professor of mine, I don’t know if you remember me, but somebody told me to ask you what I should do for my dissertation?” And he said, “do something you’re passionate about.” So I looked back at a class I took on intelligence and there were only seven at the time – seven intelligences that Howard Gardner out in his book Frames of Mind, which is a groundbreaking book – I came up with a new intelligence and I was so passionate about the whole thing that I every single day went and wrote on it and then I called famous people to get their comments and they would pick up the phone. Everything was flowing. And I did it in two years. So I graduated with my PhD in 2007, I graduated.
Daniel Lobell: (06:25)
Dare I say, that sounds very intelligent?
Dr. Terri Faith: (06:27)
[Laughs] Yes. So it took me a long period of time working in between and gaps in between the actual degrees. But what happened was that somewhere along the line I got involved and interested in Buddhism, even though I’m Jewish, I got interested. All of the Buddhist teachers or great Buddhist teachers – or a lot of them, not all of them – are Jewish.
Daniel Lobell: (06:54)
I think that’s called a “BuJew”, right?
Dr. Terri Faith: (06:57)
That’s right. Ramdas, Jon Kabat Zinn, Jack Cornfield, Judy Goodman, Sandra Goldstein, Joseph Goldstein. So I became interested and I started studying it on my own. And then when I got licensed, which took three years – it was extremely difficult to be licensed in California – I finally got my license in 2015. Anxiety is probably 85% of my patients. Depression, I don’t see very much and OCD and then I have other things I deal with, but mostly what comes to me is anxiety – the people that come to me. So over time I’ve developed – through my own sort of dealing with people – I see trends and I see patterns and I figured out what the best formula would be and I’m one of the few people that’s doing this. It’s kind of a combination of Buddhist psychology mixed with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an evidence based practice and psychology.
Daniel Lobell: (08:11)
Right. I was going to ask you about that. So they sound like two very different things. Are they or how do they combine?
Dr. Terri Faith: (08:20)
They’re actually almost exactly the same. CBT was developed by Aaron Beck and oh gosh, the other name is slipping my mind now, but Aaron Beck is probably the last great theorist who’s still alive because the other theorist passed away a few years ago. I met him at the convention and the name will come to me or maybe you could look it up for me. Look up rational behavior therapy and you’ll see, oh, Albert Ellis.
Daniel Lobell: (08:51)
Okay, cool. I was looking it up just for the record. [Laughs]
Dr. Terri Faith: (08:56)
So, Buddhism is thousands of years old and it’s kind of based on looking at your thoughts. So it’s like you have an observer and then you have this crazy talking part of you, right?
Daniel Lobell: (09:10)
Dr. Terri Faith: (09:10)
The observer is your true self who’s observing the thoughts, but in 90% of people or even more, the observer (which I call the Einstein brain) is asleep and people don’t know about it. The other part of us is the one that’s the most active. That’s the talking brain that I call the Frankenstein brain – the one that’s constantly commenting. Constantly, we’re talking to it and it’s talking to us. And that part of our brain is a collection of thoughts, behaviors, memories from our whole lifetime: our childhood, things that people have said to us, what our parents have said, books we’ve read, religion and we develop this kind of false sense of self that’s based on other people’s ideas and things they say to us.
Daniel Lobell: (10:01)
So is that the brain part of the brain that’s most affected by Alzheimer’s or dementia?
Dr. Terri Faith: (10:07)
No. This isn’t a physical part of the brain, that’s the interesting part of it.
Daniel Lobell: (10:13)
Okay. I’m trying to follow. Okay.
Dr. Terri Faith: (10:15)
Yeah. When you talk about dementia, dementia is a medical disorder that affects parts of the brain. So the memory part of the brain, which is the hippocampus and the right temporal lobe, which is sort of their short term memory – It’s a whole complicated thing. But what happens is there’s five different types of dementia and Alzheimer’s is just one of the types and you can get them different ways. Vascular dementia you get from strokes in the brain, dementia is usually inherited and it’s plaques in the brain. Then you have pugilistic dementia, which you can get from like boxers get it from being hit in the head. There’s Pick’s disease, there’s different types. So this is all a medical, actual part of the brain. But when we’re talking about this Buddhist thing, we’re talking about an abstract thing where you know when you get ready in the morning and you go, “Oh, I got to grab my coffee. Oh I have to call so-and-so.” And then you think about the day before, “Oh, remember when this person said this to me? That was kind of hurtful.’ That’s the kind of Frankenstein brain I’m talking about.
Daniel Lobell: (11:27)
Dr. Terri Faith: (11:27)
Like if your mother said that you had thunder thighs when you were a child, now you think you have thunder thighs and you work your whole life to try and slim your thighs down. Those are comments that affect us and are part of that voice,
Daniel Lobell: (11:41)
Right. So you’re talking about the inner voice. You’re talking about when people take a negative critique and incorporate it into their identity. Right?
Dr. Terri Faith: (11:51)
Right. And that’s another thing – in Buddhism, your identity is within yourself. But most people identify with things outside of themselves like, “I’m a psychologist, I’m a mother, I’m a wife.” But those things can disappear. You can be a mother and unfortunately maybe you lose your child or your wife and you get divorced. Then your identity goes. I work with people who are going to be retiring and they get very depressed because their whole identity is in retirement.
Daniel Lobell: (12:20)
Yeah. I went through a bit of that myself when I moved to California. On so many levels, everything had changed for me. I used to identify as a New Yorker. Here, I was not that anymore. I identified as a comedian and when I got here, nobody knew me as a comedian. I was like starting all over again there. I had a radio show in New York. When I came to LA, I didn’t – I wasn’t the radio guy anymore. Suddenly, I was very secular in New York and I started getting into religion when I came to LA. I had this breakdown when I got here that I don’t know who I am, you know? My identity is gone.
Dr. Terri Faith: (12:59)
That’s it. So in Buddhism they ask the question, who are you? And it’s not your name, it’s not the family you were born into necessarily. It’s part of who you are, but it’s not really who you are. And really who you are – there’s similarities, because I do this in my dissertation – between Buddhism and Judaism and the main two main similarities are you’re born pure. Like in Catholicism you’re born a sinner, I guess. I don’t want to criticize a religion, but just pointing out the differences. So you’re born pure. Okay. So you’re born with your true self, right? So if your mother tells you what you were like when you were six months old, like my mother used to tell me that I used to have to diaper myself. I used to climb up, she would put the diaper down. She also told me that I used to take the bows off my dresses. So that told me that I don’t like frilly things, that I’m very independent – which is still true today. So that’s my true nature. And there’s other things. Most people have no clue what that is. And the person that they are and they see and they’re living is this false sense and it’s not really a false sense. I’m trying to think of the word–
Daniel Lobell: (14:17)
–Would you say it’s a self constructed identity?
Dr. Terri Faith: (14:21)
It’s a self-constructed identity, it’s a life-constructed identity. And a lot of the things that we say to ourselves are not true. And I sit with people and while they’re talking I write down some things they say. And then later I’ll say, “is that true?” And a lot of times they can’t think of what’s true about it. Even if someone says “it’s so sad, that’s so sad.” And I’ll say “what’s sad about it?” And they’ll think, “I don’t know.” But they’re saying it. It’s not really sad, but they’re saying it. So then that makes them sad. So this voice creates the depression and the anxiety.
Daniel Lobell: (15:01)
Dr. Terri Faith: (15:01)
And what anxiety is, is it’s future thinking. So it’s usually “what if” things, so the voice in the head’s going, “what if I do this?” And then this happens. And “what if I go and do this presentation and then I can’t remember what I’m going to say and then people look at me?” And then it goes down this chain of thoughts where you end up in a panic attack. It’s all future thinking and it’s usually unproductive thinking.
Daniel Lobell: (15:27)
Right. And when you do that – speaking from experience – you can spiral and I’ve had sleepless nights where my brain wouldn’t shut off with the “what if” thinking. What do you recommend to people for something like that?
Dr. Terri Faith: (15:41)
Well, this is all through my own work with myself or with people I work with. I found that panic attacks happen because it starts with one thought. It’s usually a common thought that we can think of in our unconscious minds. And so let’s say you sold a house three years ago – this was one of mine – I sold a house years ago and I made nothing on it. Now it’s tripled in value. Okay?
Daniel Lobell: (16:06)
Dr. Terri Faith: (16:06)
So sometimes randomly the thought will come in – why I shouldn’t have sold that house. And then I’ll start going down this path where I end up homeless. [Laughs].
Daniel Lobell: (16:15)
Dr. Terri Faith: (16:19)
You know, I could have been $3 million richer, whatever. All of the thoughts end up where I’m homeless. Okay. So now what I tell people to do is know what the first thought is of the chain, because it’s always the same chain. Our brain isn’t very creative that way. It’s like there was a CD for different themes in our lives. So I help people to figure out what the themes are with their anxiety. So it could be if someone doesn’t text you, let’s say. So anyway, with my thing with the house, whenever I have that thought come in, “you shouldn’t have sold the house.” I stop it right off the bat.
Daniel Lobell: (16:55)
Dr. Terri Faith: (16:56)
I say, “I’m not going there. I tell myself not going there and I swipe it. That’s the word I use to tell people – I swipe it. So I swipe it and it doesn’t come back for a while and then maybe someone will tell me they just bought a house and maybe it’ll come back. And then maybe I’ll start going farther than I want to – “I shouldn’t have sold the house because if I still had the house, I’d have an income. And if I had an income, I wouldn’t have spent all this money in my savings.” Then I go, “uh-oh” and I thought myself maybe on the third thought. It’s hard to stop it sometimes, but you have to practice and you have to train your brain and then when your brain picks up that “this isn’t a thought she wants.” I know it sounds funny, but the brain is like a computer and if you go online and you see a commercial or an ad and you click on it and it says, “we won’t show this to you anymore” – that’s what your brain does. This is what I’ve found. And there is some research being done at The Mindfulness Institute about this.
Daniel Lobell: (18:00)
I’m interested in how this correlates with some of the things you learned when you were studying the brain with regards to dementia and Alzheimer’s. And before you answer, I just want to–
Dr. Terri Faith: (18:09)
–It doesn’t, that’s the interesting thing.
Daniel Lobell: (18:11)
Okay, well I’m still going to add this in. In my work as a comedian one year, I performed for a convention that was Alzheimer’s research. Maybe you were even there – it was in Corona, Queens at the Queens Science Center.
Dr. Terri Faith: (18:30)
No, I wasn’t.
Daniel Lobell: (18:30)
Anyway, I watched a lot of the people present and one thing I thought was really fascinating was that they talked about these electro-frequencies in the brain that sort of shrivel up and die in Alzheimer’s patients.
Dr. Terri Faith: (18:49)
Daniel Lobell: (18:49)
And they said one of the ways – they haven’t found (at that point, and I assume probably I would’ve heard about it) they hadn’t found a cure for dementia – but they had found certain ways to stall the development of the disease. And one of them, which I thought was really interesting, was by teaching the patient a new fact every day you can create a new neural pathway in the brain.
Dr. Terri Faith: (19:16)
Daniel Lobell: (19:16)
So this kind of reminds me a little bit of what you’re saying.
Dr. Terri Faith: (19:20)
Yeah, it is.
Daniel Lobell: (19:20)
It’s almost like you’re voluntarily asking these neural pathways that are giving you bad information to shrivel up and die.
Dr. Terri Faith: (19:27)
Exactly. Yeah. I call it like overwriting a narrative. So let’s say you have a narrative when someone doesn’t text you back. It’s usually exactly the same and I’ve done research on myself. As soon as you feel anxiety, you’ve got to say to yourself, “what am I thinking?” And let’s say it’s the texting, the person didn’t text you back for a whole day. And you’re going, “why didn’t this person text me back today? Did I say something wrong?” You know, whatever. And you notice that it’s the exact same narrative every time. It’s like your brain is putting in a CD and saying (I know that’s an old fashioned word now) but it’s like here’s the CD for this. But it puts it in. And so what you have to do is in the moment right there we say in psychology, in vivo, right in the moment you change the narrative. Now I’ve done this and I’ve also done it with picture thoughts. There’s picture thoughts. If you listen to Jack Cornfield, The Wise Heart – it’s an amazing book, it talks about the storytelling mind. He talks about that we have picture thoughts. So I had a picture thought that I didn’t want to have. I don’t want to go into what it was, but it kept coming in and I decided to start swiping it. But when I first started swiping it, I realized there’s like a space. So I thought I’m going to put in another picture of the same person, but a happier picture. And that’s what I started to do. And after a while, that first picture never came back again and even now when I’m talking about it, I don’t see it. Then after a while, I could take away the intermediary thought picture thought, and then that’s it. Now that thought or picture thought doesn’t bother me anymore. So it’s like my brain has gotten used to that new way. So when you change the narrative, when you have anxiety and you look at your thoughts, the thoughts are creating anxiety. So if you overwrite it with things that change. So in other words, if you don’t get the text and you’re saying, “what did I say wrong? Did I do something wrong? Why don’t people like me? Blah, blah, blah, blah.” You can say, “you know what? I was fine before I met this person. I’ll be fine now. He was a little strange when I talked to him the other day, so maybe it’s not that big a deal if I’m not friends with him.” I’m just throwing things out.
Daniel Lobell: (22:03)
Now to play – not devil’s advocate, but to give you a different scenario – what if it’s a family member and not somebody who can replace?
Dr. Terri Faith: (22:12)
If it’s a family member that doesn’t want anything to do with you?
Daniel Lobell: (22:16)
Oh, I thought you were saying the idea of being like, if this person’s hurting you, you can just detach from them.
Dr. Terri Faith: (22:23)
You can find other things. Like you can always find things. So I go over it with people and I call it “the arsenal of thoughts.” I want to write a book about this.
Daniel Lobell: (22:30)
I like that. Yeah, that sounds good.
Dr. Terri Faith: (22:33)
The arsenal of thoughts that you have ready. So the reason I got this idea was I did this little course for my license. There’s this guy that’s new and usually what they used to do with anxiety is tell you to breathe. Okay. But that doesn’t do anything about the underlying cause of it.
Daniel Lobell: (22:53)
Dr. Terri Faith: (22:53)
So there was this guy, and I can’t remember his name, but in vivo, he’ll take people who are having an anxiety or panic attack, they’ll go right into the anxiety. So you go right into the anxiety – that’s where I got the idea for this. And you look at what you’re thinking, you change your thoughts and the anxiety melts away. And that’s what I’ve found with myself and with people I work with.
Daniel Lobell: (23:15)
That sounds phenomenal. Yeah.
Dr. Terri Faith: (23:16)
Yeah. And if you do it with each theme – different people have different types of anxiety, like some people have social anxiety when they go to a party or when they’re doing a presentation they have anxiety. There’s different types of anxiety. And then there’s anxiety based disorders like OCD that can also be cured with this. So with OCD, there are three kinds and I do work with that too. There’s pure O, which is just the thoughts. There’s OCD, which is with the compulsions, which is like going back and checking if you locked your front door five times.
Daniel Lobell: (23:54)
Dr. Terri Faith: (23:55)
And then you have OCD personality disorder, which is overly meticulous and neat. Like to the point where it’s affecting your life. It has to be where it’s affecting your life in psychology. It has to do with frequency, duration, and intensity. How frequent is it? How often is it happening? How long does it go on for and how intense is it? Otherwise, it’s not really diagnosable if it’s not affecting you. Some people have a lighter form of it. We all have it. We all have mild forms of OCD. When I was a kid, I used to take three gulps of water after I brush my teeth, because if I didn’t do three gulps, something was going to go wrong. So there’s also superstition involved with it. So with Buddhism, it’s mindfulness. So what I say to people who lock the door five times and have to go back and check, when you lock the door the first time, make a mental note: I’m locking this door.
Daniel Lobell: (25:00)
Because they’re just acting on autopilot. Is that what it is?
Dr. Terri Faith: (25:03)
Exactly. Most people are acting on autopilot. They don’t know why they’re angry. They don’t know why they’re sad. Sometimes people will cry when they’re on the couch and I’ll say, “why are you crying?” And they go, “I don’t know.” Or if they’re angry, “why are you angry?” “I don’t know.” So I start digging down and I find there’s a background app – I have all these terms – running underneath that’s deep down that people don’t know is there. And we go down deep and we find what it is. Okay. Now the other part, when you were asking me about CBT. CBT, you’d think was just invented by Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, the fact that our thoughts are usually false or irrational, that’s their thing. But it actually comes from Buddhism because Buddhism is all about looking at your thoughts, looking what they’re made of, what kind of thoughts you have, when you’re thinking them. And that’s it. I mean, there are principles of Buddhism which just make sense. It’s not really religion. A lot of people think it is, and I have to tell people it’s not. One of the principles is: grasping and clinging causes suffering. That’s one. Another is: if you’re not okay with what is, you’re going to suffer. So if you’re 65 and you don’t like being 65, you can’t do anything about it. So what do you do? You try to say things to yourself or figure out ways to talk to yourself so you’re okay with it, or are you going to suffer. So Buddhism is about not suffering. [Laughs] And this voice causes most of our suffering when it’s not an actual real life situation, like somebody passes away or there’s an accident. Even then, though, there’s ways of thinking about things. And I work with people to do that. People who are grieving, there’s ways to look at it.
Daniel Lobell: (27:17)
So you’re a Buddhist side is saying “don’t suffer” and your Jewish side is saying “we suffered!”
Dr. Terri Faith: (27:24)
[Laughs] That’s right! But even with grief, if you look at most grieving, it’s really about ourself. And in Catholicism if you’re very religious, you have to grieve for the rest of your life. You have to wear black. If you go to Greece or Italy, you’ll see these women wearing black. They can’t remarry and they have to wear black. So that’s it. Right? But I read a book in the 70s called Happiness Is A Choice by Barry Kaufman. He’s the one that cured his sign of autism and it was a famous book Sunrise that he wrote, but he also wrote this book, Happiness Is A Choice. And he talks about how sometimes we don’t want to look like we’re over it when somebody passes away and we may prolong the grief so we don’t look like we don’t have any compassion or we didn’t love the person. Some people don’t feel as much pain when somebody dies, but most of the pain that we suffer from and somebody passes away is our own pain about “this person’s not in my life anymore, this person used to be my rock,” but maybe if it’s a child, that’s a little different. It’s both. Anyway, there’s so many things to talk about–
Daniel Lobell: (28:52)
–Yeah. I’m fascinated by everything you’re saying. I know you mentioned the picture thoughts – I know you use holistic therapy therapeutic interventions with guided imagery for the OCD. Is that what you’re talking about?
Dr. Terri Faith: (29:09)
Yeah, I use guided imagery where it’s kind of like hypnosis. You’re putting someone in – you know we have brainwaves, right?
Daniel Lobell: (29:17)
Dr. Terri Faith: (29:17)
We have alpha, beta, theta, delta, and gamma waves. So the beta and alpha are the awake brain waves and they’re usually more like the Rockies if you look at them. And then we have theta brainwaves, which are slower and longer. Those are the ones we have when we’re dreaming. When you’re half awake, half asleep. You know when you wake up in the morning and then you go back to sleep and you have a dream?
Daniel Lobell: (29:43)
Dr. Terri Faith: (29:45)
And then the Delta waves are deep sleep. Like halfway through the night you’re in a deep sleep. So the waves are even longer. So anyway, what I do is I do a relaxation and that puts people in a theta brainwave state, so they’re half awake and half asleep and they’re following their breath. What I do is with people that have thought issues, racing thoughts, is I had them imagine clouds passing and I have them look at the thoughts on the clouds and the clouds are passing by. So the thoughts aren’t inside of their heads. They’re outside and they can see them and look at them but not attach to them. That’s what they do in this Buddhist meditation called “seeing the waterfall” where you want to see your thoughts, so you let them come in, but you’re not attached to them. So you look at them and that’s how you know what kind of thoughts you have and you can even name them. This is “the judgment thought”, this is “the thought about my mother”, this is “the thought about that I don’t look as good as I used to”, this is “the thought that my mother when I was five years old said this and now I have low self esteem”–
Daniel Lobell: (31:01)
–and then you debunk them?
Dr. Terri Faith: (31:04)
Well you don’t attach to them and you look at them. Like I had someone who couldn’t get over a relationship for months and months and I had her put this, “I love so-and-so” on the cloud. But when she looked at it from the outside, she saw it floating by. She saw that she didn’t love him. She looked at it, she thought – like she told me this afterwards – “you know what? I looked at that cloud and that thought and I felt like I didn’t really love him anymore.”
Daniel Lobell: (31:32)
She was able to realize it was a false narrative.
Dr. Terri Faith: (31:35)
Yeah. That was the end of it.
Daniel Lobell: (31:37)
In my early twenties I remember thinking at some point that I’m not a good person and therefore I don’t deserve respect and this and that. And I took an inventory of my life and I thought, “what’s the evidence that I’m not a good person?” And I went through the different scenarios that I was working to come to that conclusion off of and I added in context, which I’d never done before. And when I added in context to why I acted the way I did in those scenarios–
Dr. Terri Faith: (32:08)
–and the context is probably life experience and things you’ve accomplished, right?
Daniel Lobell: (32:12)
Well, no, I was just looking at certain ways that I had behaved at different points in my early life and deciding I must be a bad person for taking action in that way. But when I added the context back in of “why did I add act that way?” I was able to sort of pull these notions apart and come to the conclusion that I’m not a bad person. I realized maybe I’m not a good person, I’m a neutral person and now I can work towards being a good person. And I’m proud to say I’ve been doing that.
Dr. Terri Faith: (32:43)
Wow! That’s amazing. Most people don’t do that. But you know what’s interesting? I have everybody read the book The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer because he talks about when he first discovered the voice and that the whole book is about this crusade to figure out what it was, because it was back in the 70s and he was a teenager at the time and this guy Mark Waldmann gave him the book, The Pillars of Zen and he said, “that’s it. That’s it. It’s Buddhism.” And it’s this whole story about his whole life from then on discovering this voice in the head, which he calls “the roommate.” So it’s kind of like a pop psychology introduction to this Buddhist idea of the roommate and the observer, the witness and the roommate. And then the second book I recommend everybody is The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield, which goes through all the Buddhist principles and it goes through the identity that we talked about and the storytelling mind and all kinds of things. But the interesting thing that Michael Singer talks about is that what happens is we get these layers that cover our heart – layers of life. They cover our true nature. That’s why children are closer to their true nature. So when I used to see kids, they got this really quick and there was a little boy that gave me the word swipe, the one that I got the word swipe from.
Daniel Lobell: (34:20)
[Laughs] That’s a good word.
Dr. Terri Faith: (34:20)
Swiping the thoughts. And he also came up with where he had a shelf where he had the box with all the past stuff and a box with where if he was thinking about the past and making him feel depressed going into the past, he would put it in the box in his mind on the shelf.
Daniel Lobell: (34:40)
Well that’s good. And then disattach from it. And that way it’s there if you need it, but you don’t need it.
Dr. Terri Faith: (34:45)
It’s there if you want it and you need it. But thing is, Buddhism is about not suffering. Right? So if it’s a sad thing like my dad passing away, let’s say. If I want to remember him and go into it and delve into it, I could choose to do that and I could choose to cry and everything, but on a daily basis when I don’t want to feel that way, I don’t go there.
Daniel Lobell: (35:12)
Dr. Terri Faith: (35:14)
And I don’t go into the what if stuff in the future. So the whole idea is to be in the present moment.
Daniel Lobell: (35:22)
I have a theory about anxiety as well that I wanted to run by you. And I often think it comes from a lack of faith – alack of faith that things are going to work out well for you. Is there something there, do you think?
Dr. Terri Faith: (35:36)
What was that? Repeat that?
Daniel Lobell: (35:38)
My conclusion that I came to about anxiety is that it’s a lack of faith. You get anxious because you don’t have enough faith, you don’t have enough faith in you know, if you’re religious, G-d or if not something larger – that things are going to work out well for you. You believe the worst case scenario for yourself.
Dr. Terri Faith: (35:58)
You know, though, I mean, if that works for people, I think it’s wonderful. I look at it as a little bit of a crutch. Just because – I mean, if it works, I’m totally for it. My whole idea is to help people not be anxious and not be depressed and if that works, all the power to you. But if you don’t have that, then this is the best way to go.
Daniel Lobell: (36:26)
I hear you. Cool. Cool. Well, I’m glad you’re saying there’s something to my theory. Well I wasn’t saying religion per se, but just the idea of faith that things are going to work out for you. That there’s some larger something that’s making things work.
Dr. Terri Faith: (37:08)
Daniel Lobell: (37:08)
I’m not saying specifically in organized religion, but just a faith that things are going to–
Dr. Terri Faith: (37:15)
–Like the universe?
Daniel Lobell: (37:15)
Sure, whatever works for people, but just some idea that there is something in control and that the outcome is not going to be horrible for you because you know, I think so much of anxiety is this idea that it’s like there’s nothing and no one looking out for me and things are going to go terrible for me, you know?
Dr. Terri Faith: (37:36)
Yeah. But for some people that’s the reality, you know what I mean?
Daniel Lobell: (37:39)
Yeah, I hear you.
Dr. Terri Faith: (37:42)
And for some people, they have had horrible things happen, you know?
Daniel Lobell: (37:48)
Dr. Terri Faith: (37:50)
Like when you get into the whole Holocaust thing, too.
Daniel Lobell: (37:52)
Yeah. All right, well let me shift gears with you for a second. I know you spent some time as a therapeutic writer. You provided intervention for anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD. What were the main outcomes of that writing?
Dr. Terri Faith: (38:10)
Well, the writing I did was really mostly my dissertation and I am writing a book right now on all of the things I discussed today.
Daniel Lobell: (38:21)
I want a copy. It sounds great.
Dr. Terri Faith: (38:25)
[Laughs] Okay. There’s a lot of people that write about it, but they put their own spin on it and then there’s the core of it, which is like Wise Heart. People call it the monkey brain, they call it the roommate, they call it, you know, I call it the Frankenstein brain. Everyone has their own spin on it.
Daniel Lobell: (38:45)
All right. Well let me ask you this: As a therapist, what in your estimation are the most important facets of the therapist client relationship?
Dr. Terri Faith: (38:56)
Well, I think that empathy. So I like the Rogerian – I don’t know if you don’t Carl Rogers–
Daniel Lobell: (39:03)
Dr. Terri Faith: (39:03)
He had this idea about empathy and kindness. All of the famous theorists had their own theories about things. That’s important – empathy. You don’t want to be talking to someone who is sitting there writing and doesn’t have any… And I also think that being an equal and not having someone have to call you doctor, but looking at you as an equal human. So there’s humanitarian psychology. So that’s kind of something I like. And also the Therapeutic Alliance, which is about trust. Confidentiality, trust, that that person could open up to you and feel comfortable crying in front of you. So you have to learn how to not judge. I mean, I think I’ve heard everything that a person could hear in the last five years. Because I worked in West Hollywood for a year and a half too, which was an interesting experience. But I cannot show – or I even rarely feel – any judgment and they actually say in the ethics code that if you disagree with somebody’s whatever it is, you don’t have to be their therapist and you probably shouldn’t. I’m pretty open minded about a lot of things and I look at the person’s heart. I don’t really look at the way they look or what color their skin is or what religion they are. I just look at the heart, which I think is very important, so I’ve had a wide range of people. The thing is what I find for some strange reason is the majority of people that come to me are girls in their twenties with anxiety. I’d say probably 80% and then the rest, the 20% are all other types. I think social media has a lot to do with it. Comparing yourself to people. That’s one of the biggest causes of social anxiety is comparing yourself to other people.
Daniel Lobell: (41:14)
Yeah, that’s a tough one. I used to do that a lot. I’m glad to say that’s not the case anymore. Now I compare them to me. [Laughs] I’m kidding.
Dr. Terri Faith: (41:27)
[Laughs] I think being in Los Angeles makes it harder, too. Just LA itself, I could write a book on the stuff that’s going on that’s trending. It’s big social anxiety here because you’ve got people in their twenties who have a lot of money, which you might not find in Kansas City. You have 20 year olds driving Maseratis.
Daniel Lobell: (41:42)
Yeah. And you go on Instagram and people present this false idea of what their life is. It’s their life on steroids. And then you sit there and go, “oh my G-d, what’s wrong with my life?” Right?
Dr. Terri Faith: (41:56)
Exactly. But that’s probably not their real life anyway. And then you break up with someone, you can see them – I’ve had people, I’ve helped them get through a breakup and then two months later they’ll call me: “I saw them on Instagram. He’s at a party. He was laughing. He forgot about me.” And I was like, “oh, here we go.”
Daniel Lobell: (42:19)
Yeah. You never used to have that window into other people’s lives before.
Dr. Terri Faith: (42:23)
Only celebrities do, right? They can see what their exes are doing if they’re celebrities.
Daniel Lobell: (42:28)
Yeah. But the average person, when they detached, they could really detach before social media. What’s the biggest compliment a client can give you?
Dr. Terri Faith: (42:39)
That I’m warm, that I’m easy to talk to?
Daniel Lobell: (42:45)
I would say that’s true.
Dr. Terri Faith: (42:47)
That I don’t judge, that they feel comfortable with me. I always ask people at the end of a session, “do you feel comfortable with me?” And I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone say no.
Daniel Lobell: (43:03)
That’s great. Yeah. I think you sound like a wonderful therapist. I remember having a therapist once – I’ve had several, I’ve had some great ones – but I remember having one who I just felt so judged by and I had a hard time breaking it up, breaking up with the therapist and I didn’t. I’m ashamed to tell you. I just waited until she moved to another place and then that was the end of that. But every time I kind of dreaded going there, it’s like, “oh, she’s going to judge me again.” You know? It’s not a conducive way to open up.
Dr. Terri Faith: (43:37)
Why did you keep going? See, these are the kinds of questions I ask people.
Daniel Lobell: (43:42)
Because I have a hard time letting go, not just to things but of people. But also of things, I have a really hard time with, with letting go.
Dr. Terri Faith: (43:55)
Well that’s why they say Buddhism, if you attach to something and you grab onto it and grasp it and cling onto it, you’re going to suffer. It’s just that simple. It’s one of the Buddhist principles and we do form attachments, but some of them are not good attachments – codependent and things like that. But there’s also the aspect of people pleasing.
Daniel Lobell: (44:15)
I have that problem.
Dr. Terri Faith: (44:16)
There are a lot of people out there who are people pleasers and it’s not a good thing. People think it’s a good thing and it really isn’t. There’s three or four reasons why people are people pleasers. So the other thing I talk about a lot is different types of people. Everyone has a certain type and there’s a lot of people pleasers out there and peace keepers.
Daniel Lobell: (44:36)
I’m working hard to become a people disappointer. I think that that’s the cure for people pleasing. [Laughs]
Dr. Terri Faith: (44:44)
[Laughs] The thing is when you can’t say no to somebody because you’re afraid of confrontation or what they’ll think of you or want to please people because if people around you are happy then you’ll be happy instead of having to make yourself happy. So really the main thing is you have to come first and so people don’t realize, they think it’s selfish. You have to have self-compassion, you have to put yourself first, you have to help yourself and then help others. That’s a key thing. Because if I didn’t do any work on myself, how could I help? If I was anxious and depressed and people walked in here, they wouldn’t want to be here.
Daniel Lobell: (45:22)
Great advice. Yeah.
Dr. Terri Faith: (45:24)
It’s the oxygen mask on the plane – you put it on yourself and then on the kids, right?
Daniel Lobell: (45:29)
Yeah. I used to have a joke about that. You know, “you have to put on your mask before you put on your baby’s because your life is worth more than some stupid baby’s.” That was the joke.
Dr. Terri Faith: (45:44)
[Laughs] Yeah, well the thing is that if you don’t survive then the baby won’t survive.
Daniel Lobell: (45:46)
Right. I know. [Laughs]
Dr. Terri Faith: (45:47)
You have an interesting sense of humor. [Laughs]
Daniel Lobell: (45:47)
[Laughs] Thank you. That’s a nice way of putting it. This interview of course is for Doctorpedia, which leads me to this question. What is your view on the online health space? Do you encourage or discourage your clients to look for information online?
Dr. Terri Faith: (46:11)
I find that there’s a lot of people who are armchair psychologists and they’re calling people narcissists and psychopaths and they talk about bipolar disorder the wrong way. You know, they think if someone changes their personality that they’re bipolar, but that’s not what bipolar is. So I find a lot of that going on. It’s really hard. You have to really read articles or things that are written by psychologists or psychiatrists and not by lay people. I think that would be my advice – or look at the diagnostic manual of disorders and criteria.
Daniel Lobell: (46:51)
Well you have to go somewhere like Doctorpedia to get something credible.
Dr. Terri Faith: (46:54)
Doctorpedia! Yeah, experts.
Daniel Lobell: (46:54)
How do you think that Doctorpedia can best assist the mental health space?
Dr. Terri Faith: (47:01)
Well, like with what we were talking about today, I have personal experience with hundreds of people. So I know that a lot of people have the same problems. So it would also help knowing that they’re not the only ones that have those problems. And also getting a clear idea of what these disorders are and not diagnosing people. And just getting through the proper channels. And listening to people who work with people every day and what they see. I think that’s an interesting thing.
Daniel Lobell: (47:43)
Yeah. Now you offer tele mental health services.
Dr. Terri Faith: (47:48)
Yeah, I do.
Daniel Lobell: (47:48)
How is video important for reaching and connecting with clients?
Dr. Terri Faith: (47:53)
Well, I’ve worked with some pain clients for a company called IMCS and some people can’t come to the location because they have different things physically wrong with them. And then there’s people who live in other cities or too far away to come to see me. I can only see people who live in California because my license is in California. So it could be someone in San Francisco or Bakersfield, you know.
Daniel Lobell: (48:30)
Right. Well first of all it’s been a real pleasure talking to you.
Dr. Terri Faith: (48:36)
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking to you as well.
Daniel Lobell: (48:36)
Thank you. I found the whole conversation to be absolutely fascinating and I really can’t wait – do you have a working title for the book?
Dr. Terri Faith: (48:43)
I was going to do Mind Over Brain.
Daniel Lobell: (48:46)
I love it. I’ll look out for that one.
Dr. Terri Faith: (48:50)
Daniel Lobell: (48:50)
I ask everybody to round off the interview: what do you do to stay healthy?
Dr. Terri Faith: (48:56)
Mentally or physically?
Daniel Lobell: (48:57)
Let’s go with both.
Dr. Terri Faith: (48:58)
Okay. Well physically I exercise, I do yoga, I eat properly, I try to drink as much water as possible. Sleep is important – very important. And then mentally, just everything I talked about. Try and stay in the present moment as much as possible. You have to make sure that you don’t let your mind go to places that are going to make you anxious or depressed. And one of the most important things about that for physical health is that when you’re in a state of anxiety all the time, which some people are, there’s a diagnosis called general anxiety disorder, GAD. That’s when you have this low level anxiety going most of the time – that’s very bad for you physically because it actually brings up, you know, your nervous system gets revved up from the fight or flight thing, right? And everything’s running faster and your adrenal glands are secreting cortisol, which is the stress hormone. It’s not a good place to be. You want to be calm. You know, they’re starting to find that stress can cause a lot of different diseases and things. I’m not going to go too far into that because I’m not a medical doctor.
Daniel Lobell: (50:21)
Right. But I believe at 100% I always think the mind and the body are so connected and you can make yourself ill with your thoughts.
Dr. Terri Faith: (50:29)
Oh, there’s a couple of films that some friends of mine made here. One of them is called Adam Shoemaker. He made a film called Heal, which is about four people who have cancer who were holding onto things from their past. And then there was another movie called The Cure Is, which is also very interesting. Not The Cure – The Cure Is. David Scharps, if anyone is interested.
Daniel Lobell: (50:59)
Yeah, and of course conversely I think you can make yourself well with your thoughts as well.
Dr. Terri Faith: (51:05)
Daniel Lobell: (51:06)
And that’s why people like you are so important in this world. Is there anything that you wanted to add before I end the interview that I didn’t touch on?
Dr. Terri Faith: (51:15)
No, not that I can think of right now. I’m sure things will pop up in my mind later, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Right? [Laughs].
Daniel Lobell: (51:21)
Right. Don’t dwell. [Laughs].
Dr. Terri Faith: (51:23)
I’m not going to say “I wish I talked about this. I should have talked about that.” I’m not going to do that.
Daniel Lobell: (51:34)
[Laughs] If there’s one thing we learned you cannot dwell, let it go.
Dr. Terri Faith: (51:38)
You can’t go back and say “shoulda, woulda, coulda” because that’ll just cause problems for you.
Daniel Lobell: (51:44)
Copy that. Thanks so much.
Dr. Terri Faith: (51:46)
Okay. Thank you. Bye.