Potentia Spotlight: Chris Cessna, LMFT, MFC
Where are you from?
I’m originally from small town Central Illinois, a town of 650 people called Potomac.
Why did you become a therapist?
That’s a long story! Throughout college and after moving to San Diego, I always had this vague desire to “help people”, but I had no specific direction or vision for that. After working for several nonprofit organizations where my caseload was enormous (as high as 115 clients) and I felt like I wasn’t having the depth of impact I’d hoped for, I began looking into options that would allow me to really dig deep into people’s stories and offer the opportunity for healing, hope, and real change. That led me towards pursuing a career as a therapist.
What is your philosophy to healing?
I believe people have the best opportunity to grow when they can experience a felt sense of safety. Through providing a safe emotional space for people to engage with the reality of their struggle, they can begin to pay attention to their story in a different way, make sense of the ways they have tried to cope in the past, and find freedom from the shame and pain that has kept them stuck. Understanding how our brains and bodies respond to threat and trauma, we can literally change the functioning of our brains and live a wholehearted, integrated life.
How do you define self care?
Paying attention to what we need to be at our best, and taking steps (sometimes small, imperfect, and inconsistent steps) towards those things. When we attune to the things that are important for our minds, bodies, and relationships, we are not being selfish. We are giving ourselves and those around us more than we possibly could when we are exhausted, frustrated, and burned out.
Why do you think so many people are uncomfortable asking for help?
We are constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we are not enough. Very often when we feel like there is an issue that needs to be addressed, those messages are amplified. We hear in our minds what we imagine others would think – our families, our friends, and our faith communities. It is so easy to get stuck in inaction because we think we should be “stronger”, able to “move on”, or that if we only had “more faith”, it wouldn’t be a problem. Yet until we are able to look honestly at what is going on in our lives, we aren’t able to move through it or beyond it.
What is your go-to self care ‘tool’ or ‘practice’?
My preferred self-care includes long hikes out in nature and laid back time with friends. The reality of a busy life doesn’t frequently allow for this, so self-care typically involves time alone in silence and reflection. Being still, listening to music, and creating space to breathe without an agenda or a to do list.
What do you do for fun?
See above! I love hiking, especially getting out for multi day backpacking trips in the Sierra. I have three young children that provide a lot of laughs and entertainment.
What are your favourite books?
This one is hard to narrow down for me, but The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is at the top of the list. It addresses the impact of traumatic experiences in a way that is helpful for therapists and for people who are dealing with the aftermath of trauma.
Others include The Developing Mind by Dan Siegel, The Science of the Art of Psychotherapy by Alan Schore, and Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. There are so many more!
What is your favourite book to recommend?
There are so many, but the one that I seem to recommend most is Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. It is such an accessible and relevant book for anyone, and the way she communicates about shame and vulnerability seems to have an impact on everyone who engages with it.
The Whole Brain Child by Dan Siegel is the book I most often recommend to anyone hoping to address issues in parenting.
What is your favourite quote or mantra – and why?
“Faith does not need to push the river because faith is able to trust that there is a river. The river is flowing. We are in it.” – Richard Rohr
This is a reminder that faith is about trust, not about striving, working, or putting together a perfect formula.
“We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark, and you numb the light.” – Brene Brown
I see this play out in my work daily. Trying to numb our pain inevitably leads us to an inability to experience joy, happiness, and connection.
What is your favourite meal to cook?
I love making pulled pork on my smoker. It is a 12-16 hour process that is a lot of fun for me and results in absolutely delicious food.
Call Chris at 619.819.0283 ext 2