We had the good fortune of connecting with Catherine Humenuk and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Catherine, how do you think about risk?
In my personal life I have always been a risk taker. My grandfather once told me that no matter where we go and what we do with our time, no one lives forever. Making the safe choices doesn’t stop time from passing. Taking his words to heart has helped me change careers and move states a handful of times with nothing but a suitcase full of clothes and faith in my new adventure – and I have never regretted it. Professionally, I became interested in risk while I was working in the emergency department doing mental health crisis assessments. After a move across state lines, I learned that the local mental health laws had a huge impact on how risk was conceptualized and managed in the hospital – even though my patients weren’t any different. That experience inspired me to get a Risk Management degree from Texas A&M School of Law, to get a better understanding of the macro perspective. I relied on my personal and professional understanding of risk when I started my private practice. It occurred to me that there was little to lose by following my passion, and a lot to lose if I didn’t at least take a chance. I realized that not only would it be unfair to myself to not follow my dream, but it would be unfair to my (potential) clients if I didn’t make myself available to them when I knew I had a skillset that could change their lives.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
A long time ago, I worked in commercial real estate as an underwriter and an asset manager. And I had this “ah-ha” moment that I wasn’t living my purpose; I wasn’t being useful in the world. I knew in my heart that I wanted to help people who struggle with suicidal thoughts, self-harm, and addiction – which are all commonly (but not exclusively) associated with Borderline Personality Disorder. I knew there was a shortage of mental health providers who were willing to work with people with that diagnosis. I poured myself into books about addressing the deeper, darker parts of our minds holistically, and what I learned was that I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. Dialectical Behavior Therapy provides a framework to help people learn how to manage their overwhelming emotions and self-destructive behavior, and yoga helps people get more in touch with their bodies and their internal worlds. They compliment each other really well. So I signed up for graduate school to become a therapist and I got my yoga teacher training done, with this vision that I was going to integrate the two to help people. It was so important to me to be able to say to people, “You’re not a lost cause. There’s a reason you feel this way, and there’s also a way out.” What I’m most proud of is that I have remained a steady advocate for my clients and for all people with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder – a diagnosis which is still often stigmatized and misunderstood within the mental health system. I opened a telehealth therapy practice in January 2020 – three months before COVID hit. It was important to me to be available online for two main reasons: first, Texas has a lot of rural areas, and not everyone has a local DBT therapist! And second, I wanted to remove any barriers to treatment. People who have childcare or work responsibilities can usually find an hour to log on – but might not be able to drive to an appointment. When I told other therapists what I was doing – an online practice for people with suicidal thoughts – I got a lot of disbelief, but I wouldn’t do anything differently. My practice has stayed busy since I opened, and my clients continue to tell me that the work we do is meaningful and effective. I get so excited when my clients tell me they feel ready to “graduate,” so to say – because it means they’ve gotten to a place where they aren’t having suicidal thoughts, or being self-destructive, or using. It means their lives are tangibly better than they used to be. What could be more fulfilling than helping someone create a better life? What I’d like readers to take away from my story is – if you are struggling, you are not the problem, and you are not hopeless. Whatever is going on in life, there is a different way to think about it, or a different way to approach it. If you think you might need help, reach out – and keep looking until you find a therapist who is a good fit.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love being outside so there would be an outdoors activity every day – a long walk at Arbor Hills Nature Preserve, camping at Ray Roberts State Park, jet skiing on Lake Lewisville, or rowing at White Rock Lake. On my first date with my partner, we accidentally walked all the way around White Rock Lake – neither of us realized how big it was when the walk started. Then later on when we moved up here permanently I was part of a rowing team there for a year. For breakfast, Cafe Mila. For a lunch that will satisfy everyone – including the dog – The Shacks in The Colony. I love ramen so we’d have to go to Hannabi in Carrollton and Jinya in Dallas. If we want to get fancy, B&B Butchers in Fort Worth for steak, or Haywire at Legacy in Plano for delicious locally sourced food. To pass the time and improve our minds, I love Interabang Books in Dallas or the Log Cabin Village in Fort Worth.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Henry and Treadwell Atkins deserve a tremendous amount of credit in my story! I call them my grandparents, but we are not related – they are very close family friends. From the day I was born, they opened their hearts and their home to my mother and I, and they have been a consistent source of love and support throughout my life. And of course, I wouldn’t be worth my salt as a DBT therapist if I didn’t credit Marsha Linehan for developing DBT.