“A hot mess of a disaster” is how trauma therapist and author Britt Frank describes her former self. After recovering from addiction and her own mental health issues, Frank decided to go to graduate school at KU and become a therapist in her mid-thirties. Now, she has her own private practice in Overland Park.
In addition to running her own practice, Frank gives lectures on healing and trauma work at different events and festivals like the Kansas City Wellness Consortium.
Frank just launched her new book, The Science of Stuck, in which she contemplates burnout and dissatisfaction, feelings heightened in our post-pandemic world. After fifteen years of studying and researching therapy techniques, trauma and self-help books, Frank decided to compile a single book with basic tools meant to help people move out of feeling stuck in life.
We talked to Frank about writing The Science of Stuck, becoming a therapist, techniques for becoming unstuck and a few of her favorite spots in Kansas City.
What inspired you to become a therapist? I became a therapist because I was a hot mess of a disaster throughout my twenties and into my thirties. And then I got better. And after I started to get better, it was like, “Oh, my God, if people knew just a few things about the brain, they’d know things can change.” I had this huge life pivot from what I was doing to going to grad school and becoming a therapist in my mid-thirties. Becoming a therapist was sort of the outpouring of my own journey to sanity, so to speak.
In The Science of Stuck, you talk about easy-to-use techniques that helped keep you afloat when you were facing your own struggles. What are some of those techniques, and how did they keep you going? It’s not magic. It’s not like, “Hey, smell this essential oil and all of your problems will be gone.”
You don’t need giant shifts to get unstuck. The little micro-changes that we’re all capable of making today, we’re so quick to write off.
I hear this every day. “Well, yeah, I went for a five-minute walk, but it’s not like I did a marathon.” But if you don’t start counting the small wins, you’re not going to get to the big changes. We’re all so concerned with getting to the end. And the book is really about the bridge between where you are and where you want to go.
Just knowing a little bit about the brain can help us make small changes. If you’re feeling like you’re procrastinating, exposure to cold is a really good way to get your system out of stuck. The problem isn’t in our thinking; the problem is in our bodies. We get stuck because our bodies do physical things that keep us stuck. So if you know how to work with the body, you can start to create space to make better choices.
The book talks about mental health not being a mental process, but a physical one. I think many people would push back against that notion. Can you explain what you mean? People get mad at me about that one. And I’m the first to say that I’m a drug addict, I’m in recovery from eating disorders, I have clinical depression, and I take psych meds. So I’m certainly not saying that anyone’s symptoms are fake or that pain is not real.
But it’s important to know that you have a nervous system. We drive around our lives in these bodies, and for many of us, it’s like being in a car and not knowing where the brake is.
If you don’t know that your nervous system has something called a freeze mechanism, the symptoms of freeze can look like clinical depression, but it’s not the same thing. And the symptoms of being stuck in flight [or fight] are going to look like a panic disorder, but it’s not a disorder.
It’s often that a nervous system that is stuck will present as a mental illness. And there’s no stigma or shame in having a mental illness. But it’s really helpful to know that your body has a gas pedal and a brake pedal. And if you don’t know that your brake pedal is stuck to the floor, that’s gonna look like depression. Mental health is not just all in our minds.
Sway Salon in Roeland Park: “Kristen Asher is my stylist there—I have to give her a shoutout.”
The Bar: “I live right up the street from The Bar in Mission. My husband, my dog and I sit on the patio there all summer.”
Finefolk: “Finefolk is my favorite boutique in the city. I go to Leslie for all my media styling. Her taste is curated—I love it.”
Mary Henn is a national award-winning writer with an MFA from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She is the current associate editor at Kansas City magazine.
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