Interview with Dr. Jessica Romeyn, The Romeyn Collective
July 13, 2020
Dr. Gwen: Hi, friends. Welcome to my channel. My name is Dr. Gwen. I'm a clinical psychologist who's obsessed with empowering disabled individuals and the amazing families and systems that support them. In this video, I interview a therapeutic and educational consultant, Jessica Romeyn. We get into what therapeutic and ed consultants do, and Jessica's love of supporting clinically complex individuals. We also uncover how Jessica literally pulls back the sheets to sleuth out what programs, services, and supports are bespoke for her clients and their families.
Jessica has a knack for seeing people authentically. As she says, "You are not a diagnosis. You are a person." Timestamps are in the description below. I always feel seen whenever I have an interaction with Jessica, and this interview is no different. Enjoy. Hi, Jessica. How are you?
Dr. Jessica: Hi. I am well, Gwen. Thank you so much for having me.
Dr. Gwen: Thank you for being here and for sharing your expertise and, of course, always being generous with your spirit and time, as you always are.
Dr. Jessica: Always.
Dr. Gwen: Why don't we just get into who you are? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dr. Jessica: Sure. I grew up here in Los Angeles, California. I live two doors down from where I grew up, so native Hollywood person. I have a family. I have a beautiful six-year-old. I went and got my degree in psychology. I have my doctorate in psychology, but I am working as a therapeutic and educational consultant with a wide range of students, ranging from young ones, 9, 10 years old, all the way up to older individuals, 30, 35, that are really struggling with different life choices or different life events.
Dr. Gwen: A little bit of side background is that you and I have known each other for a really long time, and that I have always seen you to be so passionate and so sophisticated at understanding the mental health needs of students and clients and individuals, and how really meeting those emotional needs is really ... That's okay. That's okay.
Dr. Jessica: Cut.
Dr. Gwen: Well, you have a sophistication. There is a sophistication to you because you see the whole individual. You not only see the whole individual, but you see them in the context of their family system. There's a lot of facets to that. That's important, as you're thinking about, how do we support this individual, this person, to thrive in this world?
Dr. Jessica: I think that's why I love what I do and why I'm so passionate about it, because I get to go into the home. I get to sit on the couch. The dog jumps up on my lap. Immediately, there's a connection there, whether it's an adolescent or a young adult. It's like, "She's okay. The dog likes her. She's okay." I get to go and see the kids' bedrooms and their bearded dragons. There's a connection there that is really important to me. It's almost like a mystery or a puzzle when you think of things holistically. You put it up on the wall, and you say, "Okay. Anxiety, nonverbal learning, trauma." There's so many facets, like you said, to somebody that trying to understand how everything is interconnected. Then, you take in the community and you take in school. It's really how do you approach an individual holistically and address everything to help them be successful, which is so cool to me. That's why I love what I do.
Dr. Gwen: You're really able to pick out the very salient pieces of the situation and put them together in a way that's meaningful for someone. Maybe, what we can get into is define what a therapeutic learning and educational consultant does. I don't think a lot of people fully have a grasp of what that kind of specific niche thing is that you do.
Dr. Jessica: I think part of the problem is the industry. It doesn't really know what it is, right?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah.
Dr. Jessica: You can call yourself anything you want, educational consultant, therapeutic consultant, clinical consultant, but the reality is everybody is an individual and the way that you approach your practice is really how you're defined.
So, how I'm describing what I do is not necessarily what the other person does. Right? Being a psychologist by training, I get to dive into the clinical, and I get to wrap my head around what's going on, where are the symptoms, how are they presenting, what are some prior clinical documentation, neuropsych exams. I can kind of track the patterns. Then, I talk to the psychiatrists and the psychologists. I talk to everybody. So, I get a really full clinical picture before I even start talking about my recommendations.
The recommendations could be staying home and developing a team to wrap around the individual with coaching and therapy and psychiatry and social skills groups. Or, it could be, let's do a little bit more of an intervention and do an outdoor wilderness program, or an acute stabilization where you go and you get testing done, all the way down to residential, which could be 10 to 12 months, boarding schools 12 to 15 months. That's the fun thing. Again, it's putting all these pieces together to affect change.
Really, where I come from is much more of a family systems approach, which is keeping the family together. If I can keep a kid home, I always say, “I like to work myself out of a job all the time.” It's really about getting the best services and keeping the family intact, as long as it's clinically appropriate.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. So, we see this very dynamic application of taking a bunch of pieces, looking at where things aren't working for a family or for an individual in the context of their family, and then, figuring out those pain points, right?
Dr. Jessica: Yup.
Dr. Gwen: And, meeting them where they are. When do you see the application of a therapeutic learning or ed consultant to be appropriate or necessary? When do you see people-- I want people to think to themself, "I'm in that situation. That's who can help me at that time." What is that kind of population?
Dr. Jessica: I think that's such an important question. I'm so glad you're asking it, because parents always say, "I wish I would have known about you." For me, the earlier, the better. I would rather meet with you for an hour, hear about everything, give you some quick fixes and see how it goes, and track you, and then, be able to intervene before it's too late. That's my style. So, I would rather get you on the very front end when you're, let's say, starting the IEP process, or you've had multiple hospitalizations and you're not sure what you want to do.
So, I get a lot of referrals from hospitals, from case managers, that say, "We don't really know the best program for this individual." So, I'll go into the hospital and help them create a plan. I think the hardest thing for me is when parents find me after, let's say, the second or third placements and they weren't necessarily successful. And, now, they've either mortgaged their home or their child has gone through multiple failures. And, now, they come to me and it's like, how do I pick up the pieces and really ensure success?
And then, there becomes funding issues and timing issues, especially, if we say 16-and-a-half, 17-year-old kid who's going to be 18, I only have, basically, 10 months to affect enough change to help this kid redirect his trajectory or her trajectory before they turn 18 and become an adult. So, the sooner, the better that I get to meet families and talk them through this process, the better.
And, I'll tell you, I've met with families two, three years ago where I made a really simple recommendation, "Call this advocate. Call this lawyer. You need to get an IEP." They go and they do it, and they come back to me a year later, two years later, and say, "Okay. We have the IEP. We have the funding. Now, help us." And, that's what feels really good, because now they've got district funding in place, they've got all of their ducks in a row. We've done it in a way where we haven't experienced failures. If I had a formula, that would be it, is really starting off as soon as possible.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And so, when families start to feel that pain and not really know what to do, when they're faced with their child not, maybe, being able to be educated, let's say, in the traditional sense of school, when that's starting to break down, maybe, when there's some emotional factors that come into play that is the reason why they're not learning in a traditional setting, it's uncovering some of these pieces and figuring out how you're going to support that student or that client systemically, really.
Dr. Jessica: Yeah. And, the thing is you've got educational consultants and you've got therapeutic consultants, right? I like to call myself a therapeutic because you can't address the educational until you have the client clinically stabilized. It doesn't work that way. So, if you've got a kid that is a frequent utilizer of hospitals, in and out of hospitals because of self-injury, or because of suicidal ideation, we have to get that cleared up and stable before we can talk about, "Okay, here's where they're going to be educated."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And, there's a huge theme with really sophisticated professionals who look at the whole person, which is psychological safety and stability is the foundation for everything else, whether it's to have relationships with people, or even to learn, because learning is risky. Right? Learning is a business. And so, we need to feel safe and we need to feel that we can trust our systems in order to take those risks.
Dr. Jessica: Right. Yeah. And, your home environment, it's like our hierarchy of needs. We need to have shelter. We need to have food. We need to have warmth. But, you can't start ripping off the bottom foundations and expect to make it up to the top. It just doesn't work that way. And, I think, a lot of times, people try to fast forward and they think that they can have the quick fixes. And, it's the quick fixes last a month, last two months. And then, we're right back where we are.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And, I think the other piece where I really see your value is that, a lot of times, parents and students and clients know what they want, they just don't know how to get there.
Dr. Jessica: They think they know what they want.
Dr. Gwen: Right, they think they know what they want. Maybe, there's some need for a formal process to clarify those goals, to articulate them, to balance them with the reason, to balance them with what's available to-- maybe, even balance the expectations and what expectations might be reasonable.
Dr. Jessica: I think that's exactly right. It's all about expectations, right? If you have a very high-achieving family, there's enormous amount of pressure and social pressure on the individuals, on the kids. We may have a high achieving family who wants the child to go to a high-end boarding school. Well, the kids got learning challenges and social deficits that's not necessarily going to be appropriate for your child. So, let's take a step back. It's not about your values. It's not about your expectations. Certainly, your values, but not your expectations. Let's try to refine them and see how can we best support your child in this situation.
There's a lot of times there's that, is that we want this, but that's not appropriate. We need to go this way. I think it's also the emotionality around it. Parents don't want to send their kids away. I have a son. I wouldn't want to send him away. But, at a certain point, when you can't keep your child safe, it's not necessarily a reflection on you. It could be any number of factors. It could be a chemical imbalance. It could be a trauma. It could be something having to do with something in the community. I think that's the hard part, is parents, sometimes, internalize, "This is my fault. Therefore, I'm not going to send my kid away."
I always try to reframe it. It's not that you're sending your kid away. It's that you're giving your kid an opportunity. Programs are opportunities. A lot of these programs are really, really wonderful families and really wonderful kids that, maybe, have made some bad choices. But, ultimately, you're saving-- at sometimes-- I have a client right now, the therapist said, "This mom saved her life." If she did not enter into this program, she would have probably passed away. I think we need to kind of remove this stigma around "sending away" and think of it more as an opportunity.
Dr. Gwen: When we can remove that piece, it is really seeing the client for who they are and what they're struggling with, and embracing them and accepting them where they are. And then, responsibly meeting them. That iteration is so lovely. We have kids. But, that's what we want to happen for any person, is to be seen and to be met. I want that for myself as well.
Dr. Jessica: Yeah.
Dr. Gwen: Right? This is where I really see you connecting the dots between those things and connecting people to resources that there are a lot of overwhelmingly so.
Dr. Jessica: We joke about, pre-pandemic, I was on the road three weeks, I've seen over, I don't even know, 250, 300 programs. That's also the really nice thing. It's when you're working with the family, I can say, "You know what? I ate the food. It was terrible. The food in the salad bar was incredible. The beds were uncomfortable." It's that boots on the ground that every parent wants to know, that there's that sense of safety and security, that is nice. There's lots of programs out there. That's for sure.
Dr. Gwen: There are lots of programs out there. What's right is that's where your expertise comes in. I will have to share the story, just for those people that don't believe that you are really boots on the ground. I've visited programs with you.
Dr. Jessica: A lot.
Dr. Gwen: And, I have never ever, ever been with anyone who, when we visited a dorm or a living situation, one of the first things that you do is open the fridge.
Dr. Jessica: Anybody who's watching this is laughing right now.
Dr. Gwen: I'm laughing.
Dr. Jessica: You've got to look at the milk. What kind of healthy food is in there? What are you feeding these kids? If I open it up and I see nothing but frozen processed food, I'm wondering, again, how are we addressing this client holistically? I want fresh fruit. I want fresh dairy. I know. People always makes fun of me because of that.
Dr. Gwen: I love it. That, really, to me, was it was that behavior that I saw in you that really solidified why you're so good at doing what you do. It's because you know what details are important.
Dr. Jessica: I ran a program, right?
Dr. Gwen: I know, yeah.
Dr. Jessica: I ran a residential. So, I know, when we had scheduled visits, we went out, we bought new shower curtains. We went and touched up the paint. When I go to programs, it's the little things that I look for. I pull back the sheets. I look at the quality of the mattresses. Remember, I go to the shower and I look at the drains.
Dr. Gwen: Literally. Literally.
Dr. Jessica: It seems like it's the little things, but as a parent, especially when parents are relying on me for accurate information and making sure that their clients are going to be safe and healthy and happy, I want to have integrity in this process, right? I need to be able to say to you, "I had that food. I met the cook." And then, on the flip side of it, I know the clinical director. I can pick up the phone and I can call them. And, I can say, "Listen. You know what? My client's struggling with this. We're having some issues. Let's look at the clinical goals. Let's talk about the treatment plan. What's appropriate? What's not appropriate? Let's get everyone on the same page." It's not about triangulating the system. It's about all working together to make sure that this kiddo is having a positive experience. So, it is. It's very like, get in there.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. You do. And, you're very invested in it, and you put your whole heart in it. And, it's just very obvious to me. But, yeah, now, if I'm ever without you, I always open the fridge.
Dr. Jessica: Good.
Dr. Gwen: I do. I learned that from you.
Dr. Gwen: Okay. So, Jess, what would you say are success kind of outcomes for you? And, it doesn't have to be the same, and we can just be more thematic about this. But, when can you say, "Yes, we did it. We did it?" What would that look like? What's the outcome?
Dr. Jessica: And, that's a really good question. And, I'm actually, because a lot of parents ask that, how do you know success? How do you get success? And, really, there are a lot of different measures but there's no real evidence-based practices around this process, because there are so many different ways of going about it. Of course, you can do a depression inventory and see the scores going up or down, but realistically, it's about the individual. I have so many cases right now that I feel extraordinarily blessed to have worked with, from kids that I worked with at my residential program 10, 15 years ago. Family still keep in touch with me. They may have had some success, and then, they went into college, and they still had my phone number.
So, this is a kid that was in middle school who's now in college and is struggling, and the parents remembered me, and remembered that relationship, and they call me up. And so, we say, "Okay, let's figure out how we can make this work." So, it's those long-lasting relationships, working with three and four children out of a family, working with kids for four and five years.
Not everything has to be a crisis, right? It could just be a check-in or a tune-up. And, for me, success is, if it's you're really an acute case, and we're talking about pretty significant self-injury and a hospitalization, if we can get them stabilized into a residential, and then, they're graduating residential and moving home and being with their parents, that's success. I think, any time we have family reunification, if it's clinically appropriate, it's a success. And, sometimes, it's not. If family system's back intact and everybody is operating at optimal levels, that's success.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. That's so awesome. And, I think, ultimately, that's what families want. Okay. Let's talk about your kind of in the pocket client. It's kind of this magic sauce. It's like when you get this kind of client, you, with this client, magic happens. What is that? Can you describe who that client is that comes to you? And, it could be the family as well. Where things really just, they mash.
Dr. Jessica: Yeah. I think that it's hard for me because I really love the clinically complex. I love the multi-level dual diagnosed. A perfect example, we had a kid, or a young adult, that came in and was diagnosed schizoaffective, had a lot of different issues going on to, possibly, schizophrenia. Who knows what happened? And, through our interviewing and talking to everybody and talking to parents, it came out that he had a traumatic brain injury from a soccer injury. And so, the traumatic brain injury mimicked all of these symptoms. And so, instead of putting the kid on antipsychotics, instead of institutionalizing him, we got him brain work and exercising in specialists.
And so, for me, to unpack all of that and to figure that out, that's my love and my sweet spot, is really trying to work with very complex systems, families, kiddos, and just really trying to support them and get them the services. I love working with kids on the spectrum. This is where you and I connect. I did my pre-doc, and we were together on that. And, that's also why I love working with you, because not only do we share that passion, but your expertise, being able to bring that into the folds.
And, I think, that's also, probably, an important facet of mine, is it's about collaboration. It's about the collective. But, really knowing my strengths, knowing my weaknesses, and bringing the best people on board to help. So, that's my sweet spot, is kind of that really meaty clinically complex spectrum.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, I see this in you all the time. And, there's this real beautiful thing that you do which is you have this ability to see people very authentically. And, that soccer injury is, really, a significant story, because you and I both know what that potential schizoaffective schizophrenic label does, when that's not the heart of the problem or that's not the heart of where the rubber is meeting the road, and he's skidding out, right?
Dr. Jessica: Right.
Dr. Gwen: And, I really feel like this is where true empowerment comes from. You're empowered because you see yourself authentically, or you see someone authentically, and you meet them where they are without judgment. Being able to do that with complexity, that's so challenging. But, that's what I mean about there's a sophistication that you have, because you do sleuth things out.
Dr. Jessica: I do.
Dr. Gwen: Whether it's looking into someone's fridge or it's talking to multiple people and having relationships, you have established so many relationships with people that you can reach out. You know what you know, and you know what you don't, and you reach out and you ferret that stuff out. It's really awesome. I don't think anyone can duplicate your model because you are really uniquely you.
Dr. Jessica: I don't know.
Dr. Gwen: But there is this kind of comprehensive approach. That's for sure.
Dr. Jessica: Well, it is. And, you know what? I was just going to say, I've been working a lot with clients that are transgender or questioning gender identity. And so, I've partnered up with some of the top people at children's hospital and at gender clinics and brought them in, and really educated myself on learning the language. What's the difference between acceptive and being affirmative? So, I think it's really about education. I will never stop wanting to learn, because I always want to be that better person for people. You said something earlier, I'll have to remember. But, yeah, sleuthing around, I do enjoy that.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, you do enjoy this. There's a curiosity you have. And, that probably goes back into being a lifelong learner, because that's kind of what we're talking about is that perpetual curiosity about something.
Dr. Jessica: Just like going back to relationships, right? That's why I love coming at home. That's why I'm not a psychologist in an office one-on-one. There's some people that are really good at that. I'm not great at that. I want to be in the community. I want to go take a walk. I want to go sit in your garden, because, really, you're not a diagnosis, you're a person. And so, let's really figure out how you are functioning in this world aside from label. Develop that relationship, develop the rapport and the trust, and then, dive deep.
Dr. Gwen: Yup. Yup. Love that. You're not a diagnosis, you are a person. So, let's see you for that. I love that. Hey, Jess. How do people typically access your service? What's the traditional ways that people can get to you and access what you do?
Dr. Jessica: Great question, and I really wish that there was many, many more ways. I have a website that you have to kind of know how to find me. Sometimes, people Google, "educational consultant." But, you need to know even what that is. So, I will say most of my referrals come from hospitals. So, case managers in in-patient hospitals. I will get referrals from psychiatrists, psychologists, neuropsychologists. So, I get a lot of my referrals through professionals.
I've been really trying to work more with schools, going into schools and meeting with learning specialists, learning support, school psychologists, to sort of let them know that there are people like me out there. I mean if it's not me, I have multiple professionals in the Los Angeles area that are also wonderful that have different specialties.
There's also, really, wonderful Facebook groups. I've been very fortunate to be working with some families that have posted my name on Facebook groups, so I think I get more referrals that way. But, it's hard because you only find out about me if you're already in a crisis if you're already reaching out. So, I think, the next step would probably be reaching out to pediatricians and making sure they know that I'm available. So, again, the earlier we get clients, the earlier we get the kids, the better off we are in terms of the long-term. So, that's kind of how I get them, and that's also my hope to reach out to those professionals.
Dr. Gwen: Right, right. And, do most people pay for your service privately?
Dr. Jessica: They do. I wish there was an insurance billing co, but there is not for consulting. It is privately paid. But, like many others, I work on a sliding scale. I am more than happy to discuss financial considerations and plans. There you go.
Dr. Gwen: It's life, babe. It's life, babe.
Dr. Jessica: It never stops.
Dr. Gwen: No, it's good. It's life.
Dr. Jessica: So, payment plans, sliding scales, anything that I can do. I don't ever want finances to stand in the way of supporting your family. I don't. Probably, to my detriment, but it is what it is.
Dr. Gwen: I've witnessed. I've witnessed. Your heart's in it, that's why. And, you care so much so authentically for people. And, especially, people who are suffering.
Dr. Gwen: You know what I mean?
Dr. Jessica: Yeah.
Dr. Gwen: I know.
Dr. Jessica: How do you know?
Dr. Gwen: I love it. I'm just going to call you special ops.
Dr. Jessica: I used to talk about "House." Remember the show, "House?"
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, of course.
Dr. Jessica: They put everything up and write it and circle it. I always describe that.
Dr. Gwen: I love it. I love it. Okay. Here's how I like to end all my interviews. Which is, if you could only choose one skill to empowering your clients, what would it be and why?
Dr. Jessica: I would say asking for help. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Why? Because you're not alone. You don't live in a silo. There are so many people around you that care about you, and that are wanting to help and wanting to affect change. I think that's the first step, is saying, "It's okay I can't handle this on my own."
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely, okay, that's amazing. That's amazing.
Dr. Jessica: I say that, even with my own kid, I sit back and I'm like, "Oh, god. I need help." And so, it's hard as a parent. This is a hard job, man.
Dr. Gwen: The hardest there is. The hardest there is.
Dr. Jessica: And, it's funny because when I was in graduate school, my supervisor said, "If somebody questions your age or questions if you have a family, you should redirect, and say, 'Well, why? Do you think that I would think of this differently?'" And, it's like I want to go back and look at my supervisor and be, "Are you crazy?" Yes, I would look at it differently. Oh, my younger self. I think, absolutely being able to relate and being able to take a step back, it is so important to develop those relationships and that trust in order to move things forward.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, yeah. And, that there is this idea that asking for help is weakness. And, it's very opposite, right, because when we put ourselves out there to ask for help, it's actually one of the most courageous things we can do, because what we're saying is, "I don't know it all, and I'm struggling here. I feel uncomfortable about something. And, I don't have all the answers. And, I don't live alone."
Dr. Jessica: Yeah, not at all. I think that that's, probably, the most important thing, the most important take away.
Dr. Gwen: That's awesome. Okay. My dear, how can people find you? What are deets?
Dr. Jessica: My deets?
Dr. Gwen: Yeah, your deets?
Dr. Jessica: So, Jessica Romeyn, R-O-M-E-Y-N. And, my website is TheRomeynCollective.com. So, T-H-E-R-O-M ... It's the dogs.
Dr. Gwen: It's all right.
Dr. Jessica: E-Y-N.com. You can just Google me or call Dr. Gwen.
Dr. Gwen: Yeah. And, what I'll do is I'll put all of your details in the description below. And then, that way, people can just find you there and can get to you, for sure.
Dr. Jessica: Yeah. And, let's just have a conversation. I don't charge for conversations. I probably should, but I don't. So, it's like, you don't know-- again, I talk about I work myself out of a job. You don't know what you don't know. And so, if we can talk about what the process looks like, if I can answer some of your questions, I'm more than happy to get on the phone and do that. It's my pleasure.
Dr. Gwen: Thank you. Thank you for existing in this space, my dear. Thank you so much.
Dr. Jessica: Thank you for being a good friend and colleague.
Dr. Gwen: Thanks so much for watching. I hope this interview with Jessica resulted in some kind of meaningful shift for you. Contact information for Jessica is in the description below. If you got any value from this interview, please hit that Like button and subscribe to this channel, where my goal is to empower through connection, inspiration, and transformation. See you in the next video, and thanks for watching.