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Jul 25, 2022

Therapy for Executives and Emerging Leaders

Curt and Katie chat about how therapists can support leaders. We look at optimal leadership, leadership identity development, barriers for emerging leaders, challenges that executives face, and how therapists can support these leaders. We explore specific interventions and career assessment questions. This is a continuing education podcourse.

Transcripts for this episode will be available at!

In this podcast episode we explore how therapists can help leaders

During times of turmoil - like a global pandemic, an unstable economy, and social unrest - we want to be able to rely on our leaders to help us weather the storm. We look to our employers, our legislators, and our community leaders to solve problems and remain calm. But who supports our leaders? It’s important for therapists to understand leadership and the unique challenges that leaders face, so they can help. Further, therapists must be available to provide support to emerging leaders who are coming from much more diverse backgrounds and perspectives who may need help navigating a system that doesn’t always accept them or align with their lived experiences. We talk about leader identity development and how leaders develop over time. We look at common barriers and challenges for leaders at all stages of development as well as suggested interventions to address these needs.

What do therapists get wrong when working with leaders?

“We may be hindering folks that we don't see as leaders based on what we know about them: either their identity and the kind of the societal bias, or based on what we know about how much they're struggling. And so, we won't be able to help these folks move into these positions of leadership and help them elevate themselves in that way.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Therapists don’t include career assessments and leadership assessment
  • Understanding the interrelation between work and mental health
  • Bias related to stereotypical leaders and not seeing leadership where it shows up outside of able-bodied, tall, white men
  • The calm, peaceful, work-life balance versus optimal performance and ambition
  • Cosigning on poor work behavior and overwork

What is good leadership?

  • Leadership can be taught and can be beneficial for every client
  • Concepts of leadership as a process and a position
  • Interdependent, collaborative
  • Servant Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership

What does leadership identity development look like?

  • The 6 stages of the model created by Komives, et al.
  • Moving from identifying leaders, understanding positional leadership, then moving to more of a process and interdependent relationship
  • How leadership identity development impacts adult clients

What impacts emerging leaders?

  • Identities, especially marginalized identities
  • Relationships with authority figures
  • Resources, privilege within typical leadership development opportunities during childhood and early adulthood
  • Relational trauma, boundaries, communication
  • Marginalized identities and stereotypes with no sure-fire way to perform acceptably
  • Lack of safety and empowerment

Career and Leadership Assessment

“Oftentimes, these stereotypes [related to marginalized identities] can really hit someone, and that can get in the way of them being able to be a good leader. First off, because they're not given the positions. But it's also something where they're navigating these stereotypes and having to twist themselves into pretzels, in order to fit in that little tiny line that is between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’.” – Katie Vernoy, LMFT

  • Career trajectory
  • Leadership identity development stage
  • Current employment
  • Work/life balance
  • Role of work in client’s life and within family system

Therapists Working with Leaders

  • Life experience that therapists can draw upon
  • Identifying what you don’t know
  • Understand your own work trauma and leadership development
  • The CHAT Model (or Katie’s model: clarify, imagine, simplify, act)

Our Generous Sponsors for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide:


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Receive Continuing Education for this Episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide

Hey modern therapists, we’re so excited to offer the opportunity for 1 unit of continuing education for this podcast episode – Therapy Reimagined is bringing you the Modern Therapist Learning Community!

 Once you’ve listened to this episode, to get CE credit you just need to go to, register for your free profile, purchase this course, pass the post-test, and complete the evaluation! Once that’s all completed - you’ll get a CE certificate in your profile or you can download it for your records. For our current list of CE approvals, check out

You can find this full course (including handouts and resources) here:

Continuing Education Approvals:

When we are airing this podcast episode, we have the following CE approval. Please check back as we add other approval bodies: Continuing Education Information

CAMFT CEPA: Therapy Reimagined is approved by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists to sponsor continuing education for LMFTs, LPCCs, LCSWs, and LEPs (CAMFT CEPA provider #132270). Therapy Reimagined maintains responsibility for this program and its content. Courses meet the qualifications for the listed hours of continuing education credit for LMFTs, LCSWs, LPCCs, and/or LEPs as required by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. We are working on additional provider approvals, but solely are able to provide CAMFT CEs at this time. Please check with your licensing body to ensure that they will accept this as an equivalent learning credit.

Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Katie’s Leadership and Management Books Worth Reading on Pinterest


References mentioned in this continuing education podcast:

Ben-Noam, S. (2018). Cracking the Intrapsychic “Glass Ceiling” for Women in Leadership: Therapeutic Interventions. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 38(4), 299–311.

Chang, Ting-Han. ”A Critical Study of How College Student Leaders of Color Conceptualize Social Justice Leadership.” Indiana University ProQuest Dissertations Publishing,  2022. 28964612.

Chen, C. P., & Hong, J. W. L. (2020). The Career Human Agency Theory. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(2), 193–199.

Cullen, Maureen E., "Understanding Women’s Experience in Undergraduate Leadership Development Through a Transformative and Intersectional Lens" (2022). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 102.

Komives, S. R., Longerbeam, S. D., Owen, J. E., Mainella, F. C., & Osteen, L. (2006). A Leadership Identity Development Model: Applications from a Grounded Theory. Journal of College Student Development, 47(4), 401–418.

Murphy, S. E., & Johnson, S. K. (2011). The benefits of a long-lens approach to leader development: Understanding the seeds of leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 22(3), 459–470.

Oldridge, K. (2019). A grounded theory study exploring the contribution of coaching to rebalancing organisational power for female leaders. Coaching Psychologist, 15(1), 11–23.

Tang, M., Montgomery, M. L. T., Collins, B., & Jenkins, K. (2021). Integrating Career and Mental Health Counseling: Necessity and Strategies. Journal of Employment Counseling, 58(1), 23–35.

Wallace, D. M., Torres, E.M., & Zaccaro, S. J. (2021). Just what do we think we are doing? Learning outcomes of leader and leadership development. The Leadership Quarterly, 32(5).

*The full reference list can be found in the course on our learning platform.


Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:

What to Know When Providing Therapy for Elite Athletes

Millennials as Therapists

Financial Therapy


Who we are:

Curt Widhalm, LMFT

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making "dad jokes" and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy, LMFT

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt's youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch with Curt, Katie, and the whole Therapy Reimagined #TherapyMovement:


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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:

Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano