S1E1 Introducing the Docs of WEMW

In this first episode, you are introduced to Dr. Pete Economou from New Jersey and Dr. Nikki Rubin from California. They met while training in New Jersey, and both practice 3rd wave cognitive behavioral therapies (CBT) where they use mindfulness-based interventions. Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin quickly realized they were cut from the same cloth AND were quite different at the same time. Throughout WEMW you will find a blend of education and entertainment. Enjoy and nice to meet you!




Intro Music

Pete: This is when east meets west. Hey, Nikki what is going on?

Nikki: Hello.

Pete: I'm so happy to introduce ourselves to everybody. So this is our introductory episode. So people get a little sense about who we are.

Nikki: Yeah, for literally from east to west, in case you guys are unaware of, probably haven't looked at our website yet. But Pete’s actually at home in New Jersey on the East Coast, and I'm in LA, on the West coast.

Pete: So check it out. But it's a summer so I got my tank on so I look like I just came from the beach. I did come from the pool close to the beach, but not the LA beach. That's for sure. I think I'm really excited for this project that you and I are working on. This episode is about introducing to who we are as people and so I'm going to start with myself, which I always joke because I think I don't like introductions, you know. And introductions for me are always like really uncomfortable because they're also like, long. And when like people read this stupid bio, I'm just like, goodness, that person, I'm right here. You know, I don't need to read this

Nikki: That's why it's my job. And Pete I've joked about this for that. I'll definitely slide in and say my bragging statements about Pete.

Pete: You will.

Nikki: Yeah, I will.

Pete: I mean on you.

Nikki: Yeah, I know. I know. You know, I'm happy to do the intro. I want everyone to know about all the awesome stuff that you're doing.

Pete: Yeah, well, then people will start to see like, how annoyingly we get along, you know. So, Pete Economou. And often like my students, my clients, they call me Pete. And for the purposes of this series, we're going to go Pete and Nikki, first names. I do have a lot of athletes and high performers I work with who call me Pete. And I think that's great, because I think it's the humaneness of what of what we do. So I do have a private practice. I work with high performers, as I just said, so I've worked with, you know, professional, high level collegiate athletes, that's kind of transferred over to also working with some high performers in New York, whether it's like law or finance, things of that nature, and really helping people just to kind of find some balance in this world and this thing that we call life. So I have a PhD in counseling psychology. I am board certified in cognitive and behavioral therapy and, you know, I am an associate professor at Rutgers University, which is over here in Jersey. So the whole thing, the east and the west, right?

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: I've been there for about two years but I was a professor before that for about seven or eight years. So right now I'm running a master's program within the Graduate School of Professional and Applied Psychology and I'm just so thrilled to be here. I've got two dogs, and I think life is great. I think life is tough.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: And life is great.

Nikki: And lovely. Yes

Pete: Yes. So that's who I am. And I'll say that for a minute. But I’ll think about our mindfulness practice, but introduce yourself, Nikki. And I met Nikki when Nikki was living on the east coast. So that's our east meets west.

Nikki:  And maybe I'll use that as a bridge before I talk about my own personal background because it's actually about to be our 10 year friendship anniversary.

Pete: Nikki’s so good at anniversaries. You’ll learn that about her.  

Nikki: Yeah, you will, you will. So literally, in a few days will be 10 years, since Pete and I met and we met on our clinical internship, which in psychology is basically like residency for psychologists. And yeah, we just really hit it off right away.

Pete: When we first met, I remember we were walking. We were in Newark, New Jersey, which is beautiful. We were walking from one building to the next and I remember us, like really kind of hitting off talking and you're like, I’m from LA, and my best friend at that time was from San Diego. And I was like, oh, yeah.

Nikki: I do. Remember and I was like, oh, I really love it.

Pete: Like, you've never heard that before from someone from the east coast got a friend from the West Coast.

Nikki:  Yes. When I was living in New York I got very used to that, but that's okay, I understand it, they're two very different places. And, you know, we also found that we share some similarities, though.

Pete: We shared a lot of similarities.

Nikki: A lot of similarities. Yeah.

Pete: You’re my female version.

Nikki: I know. Well, you're my male version [inaudible 04:52]. We are kind of the same person sometimes on the inside.

Pete: So true.

Nikki: Not on the outside, though because Pete is very tall and I’m very short.

Pete: And you’re very brown and cute and I’m not

Nikki: Well, I'll use that. Now I guess. I'll talk a little bit about my professional background. So I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. I'm a licensed clinical psychologist, I'm licensed in New York from the time I practice there. And then now in California, when I moved back to my hometown of Los Angeles, and my background is also in cognitive behavioral therapies, and mindfulness, because we'll talk more about this in a moment, but I came to in graduate school. I love cognitive behavioral therapies. I love behavioral science. I'm a huge, huge dork for them. I'm also an assistant clinical professor at UCLA, where I trained doctoral students in acceptance and Commitment Therapy Act, which is a type of CBT. Outside of a dog, a giant, giant.

Pete:  We love dogs.
Nikki:  Yeah, we love dogs, crazy for dogs. Yeah. I think that's it, right?

Pete: You're just one of the like, best and most amazing clinicians I know and you'll have an app out at some point

Nikki: Yes, at some point, working on it. We're about to do some data testing on that.

Pete: Amazing.

Nikki: So yeah, working on an app for the general public out there.

Pete: Yeah, because one of the things that you and I are both committed to is really like helping people manage their suffering and I think it's important. One of the things we'll say you guys are, you know, you've already heard this, you’ve read this but this is not therapy. And so while with our clients, we like to help them work on gaining tools to manage their stress and to live a life more fully, this is not therapy. And so what we're trying to do is both educate and I like to say entertain, Nikki's not so thrilled but we’ll get there.

Nikki: I understand it, I hope people are entertained and this goes back to the very dorky part of me about behavioral science. I'm really into the getting the information out there so to Pete's point, yes, this is not therapy. That's the big legal disclaimer here, right? That our lawyer wants us to make sure we're clear about. What we are doing, though, is providing accurate information about mindfulness and behavioral science. Because unfortunately, this bums me out to no end. There's a lot of great information out there.

Pete: That’s so true. And especially because I when we first met 10 years ago on the anniversary. You know, I think you really helped me form my own. I have always been very CBT in my practice, I didn't always have the language to formulate it but really, you helped me do that. I know we've talked about it, but I must want to say thank you. Like, I think that was really, yeah.

Nikki: You’re welcome, I'm glad.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: My passion for case formulation. I wouldn't shut up about it.

Pete: No, good don’t.

Nikki: I would not shut up about it. Similarly, though, you know, Pete really helped inform my flourishing, blossoming mindfulness practice, which I'd come to in graduate school. As I said, though, you know, Pete himself, I don't think you mentioned this yet. Is a Zen practitioner.

Pete: Oh, perfect segue.

Nikki: Yeah, I don't think he said that, right.

Pete: I didn't. But we'll talk about mindfulness.

Nikki: Yeah, let's talk about this.

Pete: So, you know, the idea of like, East and West is, we're bridging this gap between the Eastern spiritual practice, which is this term mindfulness. And you and I are going to be breaking this down over the course of this podcast, so that people when they hear it, it's not just this word mindfulness, like it's got on the cover of times. Anderson Cooper's had it on CNN, you know, it's everywhere now, like Dan Harris with 10% happier. And so what we're going to do is say, like, yeah, these are great resources, we're glad that you're talking about it. And we're going to be able to articulate the science behind that practice. Right?

Nikki: And the history, I would say that, that what's amazing about it being such a now very popular word and practice in the United States is that more people are open to it and doing it. Where like, you know, 15 years ago, definitely 20 years ago, it was kind of looked at as, like this woo, woo thing that no one wanted to touch. Though, you know, the problem with the Western approach, too, is that sometimes it can lose some of its context in the historical piece. Wouldn't when you agree with that?

Pete: A 100%, and so one of the things I find myself saying is like, I think it's one of the differences of training in the West, because I think my training and Counseling Psychology kind of looked more at like, historical context, multicultural context. You know, whereas historically this has changed but historically, clinical psychology was more sort of pathologizing and medical model of things but what these are going to be. So for me, I am a Zen practitioner. I was in the world of Zen-ish, like sampling at the buffet, as I was getting into grad school, which Nikki will talk about how for you grad school really kind of entered you into that. I think I was sort of sampling right as I was getting in.

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: Because I didn't understand it. So like for you, you had

Nikki: I didn't either. I mean, I've said this to many a patient actually let them know, people that are turned off. I was turned off to it because growing up in LA, there was, you know, again, this sort of like, woo, woo presentation, and I just never understood what it was. To me it seemed, I don't know, it just it didn't resonate with me, because I didn't frankly even know what it was.

Pete: So what we know now is when you're ready, it resonates.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: And it's when you're not ready. It doesn't resonate. You don't get it?

Nikki: Well, Yes, I agree with that. And I think who's communicating it matters. And so what I found was when I really learned what it was the actual practice of what it was when I had the real data about it resonated right away, it connected deeply with it. The way it was, I would say misinterpreted and presented a lot of times didn't resonate with me.

Pete: Yeah, I can't even think of some of my like early introduction to it. Certainly my faculty didn't give it to me, I can tell you that. That's where I feel really jealous of your training, because you got some of that during your training. I didn't get it. So I happen to meet this guy who's still my teacher named Robert Kennedy, who is a Jesuit priests in Zen Roshi. And so with him, I started studying Zen and it was really kind of eye opening just to sort of see it and, of course, as a good grad student as a, like, blossoming professor, I was like, I need to do this the right way. Yeah. Can you relate to that Nikki?

Nikki: Yeah, as a rule follower myself, I can. Yeah,

Pete: Yeah. And I we work with a lot of perfectionist. So there was a perfectionist in me that sat down and said, like, hey, Roshi, how do I become the best Zen practitioner because I want to like drink what they're drinking because, like these people that you see, look, so chill, and so calm and I wanted to find that. So that's how I embarked on my journey and then that led me to like, really dive into some trainings, but also now some research and what the science is, which we haven't even talked about yet the mindfulness but, you know.

Nikki: Really cool, people like that. Yeah.

Pete: And then how to apply it to this Western world of suffering. And I think the thing that's key there for me, that you and I will talk about before you talk about your relationship with mindfulness is that Jon Kabat Zinn, that the man who kind of brought this to the west. Mostly, I mean, yeah, Kinlan was there before with focusing, one could argue, but at the same time is

Nikki: Popularized as.

Pete: It’s popularized.

Nikki: Yes.

Pete: And he said that like modern psychology in the West, is like the attempt of relieving suffering that the East just accepts is natural.

Nikki: That's right. And, and in the West, culturally, and in the United States, obviously, we're in the United States, so we can speak best to that. We're not very good at talking about painful things.

Pete: No

Nikki: We're really not. We're really much more into let's, you know, chin up, see the place kind of thing.

Pete: Yeah. Hey, how are you? “ Good”. Yeah.

Nikki: Good. Yeah. I hear that a lot. In my practice, people saying they don't like the phrase like, how are you? Like how am I supposed to answer that. And I'll say, well, you know, it's a greeting. In American English it's a common greeting and I understand why that's bothersome. Because yeah, you're not always good.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: That's the expectations to say, yeah, I'm good.

Pete: Yeah. So you got this in grad school? And so where would you say you are today with mindfulness and the relationship with it?

Nikki: In grad school, I got it very early on with my first actually therapy supervisor, Dr. Aaron Vieira, he brought it into our training right from the get go. Connected with that then I was involved in these third wave cognitive behavioral therapies which integrate mindfulness as essential and foundational components to the work and that actually, also, I want to mention, brought me to yoga. A friend of mine who from grad school was a big yoga practitioner, and I also had a judgement about it and it was before yoga had exploded, you know, as it has, in recent years. And I started having a pretty serious yoga practice, which I've been doing for about eight years, I guess. So, where I'm at with mindfulness now is in terms of my personal life, yoga is extremely consistent in my life. I'm always maintaining a committed practice to that.

Pete: We’ve done it together.

Nikki: We've done it together many a times. Pete has a great sweatshirt from a yoga studio we went to

Pete: Oh my God, I love that [inaudible 14:55]

Nikki: Yeah, yeah.

Pete: [inaudible 14:56] are my favorite sweatshirt.

Nikki: Yeah, so a lot of yoga and then in terms of meditation, I go in and out of a sitting practice, you know, kind of based on what's going on in my life. In the current climate of the pandemic, I actually made a commitment to sit every day, which I've been doing and really enjoying. And I'm going to try to continue that in the months to follow, though I don't have any judges myself, I should or shouldn't it's kind of like what works for me.

Pete: It's relationship.

Nikki: It is.

Pete: I mean, no relationship in life is great. Are they?

Nikki: No.

Pete: I mean, look, that's the bottom line but also there's an up and down.

Nikki: Yeah, it's an up and down. Its ebb and flow of what's workable. So run flexibility, which I was really into.

Pete: That’s right. Yeah.

Nikki: So yeah. So that's where I'm at with mindfulness. And I guess as a practitioner, mindfulness is what I consider to be the foundation of all of the work that I do because it in my personal opinion, beautifully aligns with behavioral science, because mindfulness is a behavior. It's a behavior of being present, a paying attention.

Pete: Yeah. So defined this behavioral science because I think that's one of the things we wanted to also touch upon.

Nikki: Yeah. So behavioral science is kind of a broad term that encompasses the study of behaviorism. So the mini behavioral science lesson I'm going to give to our listeners is behaviorism goes back, when was Skinner 1920s?

Pete: Oh, don’t ask me that . But either ways it was people rats chasing to the end.

Nikki: Rats in the mazes, right learning.

Pete: Yeah, the 20s

Nikki: Yeah. An easy way to explain it is when people are if you're if you're training your dog, and you're training them with reinforcement, and what's called extinction. Where with your kids, you're trying to get them to stop the tantrum, and you're ignoring them. That actually all comes from behavioral science called operant and conditioning. Pavlov's dogs, the dog salad.

Pete: Everyone knows that.

Nikki: Everyone knows that that's called classical conditioning. These are all theories of learning, how do we learn certain behaviors? And we know a lot about that it's really old stuff. Modern behaviorism has continued to evolve where they've now studied language as a behavior. So there's a type of behavioral science called relational frame theory, which is extremely complex, unfortunately, not taught a lot and a lot of grad programs. So pretty cool stuff, honestly.

Pete: Yeah. Because what I'll say to my, like, the listeners or clients, I'll say, like, think of a ball tree or a pencil. And the minute I just said those words, you had an image, and you may have even had like a memory about it. And essentially, those are the neurological pathways of relational frame theory that says, like, words create images, they create feelings, they create memories, there's all this stuff that happens. And that's how I do it.

Nikki: That's a great way, that's actually probably one of the best, simple ways [crosstalk 17:35].

Pete: I'm simple.

Nikki: Yes. Hey, I thought that was fantastic. I was I think when I taught RFT and a grad class once and how long to make the slides because it hurt my brain so bad as I was working through it.

Pete: I think it's because some of us just gets caught up in it, you know, and I think one thing we could say is that neuroscience is so new, you know, we've been doing surgeries on the heart for like, hundreds of years. And, you know, so I think that the brain is just so new, like, we just don't get it. And what I say to people in general is think about mind.  Where is it?

Nikki: I also like to say that the mind it lives in our skulls, not the same thing as the brain, the brain is an Organ. Brains, sometimes they don't work so well.

Pete: And I said, what’s to say, your mind is not at your knee? Or what to say your mind is not out in the universe, you know, I really go really philosophical on you.

Nikki: So you get you get into the consciousness? Or we're going to get into quantum physics here?

Pete: No. Eventually we'll do that but not today because I really challenge people to think about what this all means.

Nikki: Sure.

Pete: Because the thing about mindfulness is that people are threatened by their thoughts, and what we're doing is diffusing from it. And that's relational frame theory and that's the bridging of behavioral science with Eastern spiritual practices.

Nikki: Beautifully said Pete. I could not have said it better myself. That was excellent.

Pete: Because actually you’re  a much better teacher than I could ever be.

Nikki: I don't think that's true.

Pete: That is so true.

Nikki: I was just going to say this is where everyone's going to get annoyed where we're going, No, you.

Pete: No, you.

Nikki: No, no, you hang up. It’s like that.

Pete: Oh, I think I remember that. That was the worst. Oh God. And then when those adolescents come to us like for clinical work of like, I broke up with someone. I'm like hey.

Nikki: I know.

Pete: That’s why. In full disclosure, Nikki and I tend to work with adults.

Nikki: We do. We do work with somehow; I do love my adolescence too.

Pete: I love my college age. Yes. And they all go through a breakup. Life.

Nikki: Life. Well, that brings us back to sort of why we're doing this is because both Eastern spiritual traditions and Western behavioral science have really important things to say about how to navigate all these difficulties. While also creating a life that's filled with connection, and joy and love and depth that they're not mutually exclusive, which I think is the framework in the United States. A lot of times ,you know, in order to have joy you have to get rid of the awful painful stuff.

Pete: Yeah, think of all the celebrities that have not made it, you know, that have either taken their lives or how many people that make a lot of money. And, you know, it doesn't solve anything. So I think it is about what I love how eloquently you said it, and its values like what's important. And I think, you know, one of the things we can talk about really quick as we're wrapping this up already, is that for us, this is not our value to put ourselves out here in a very vulnerable way.

Nikki: Yeah.

Pete: But what's important to us is that we educate so that people might suffer a little bit less, because I think for us, it is important that we bring this science to folks. Because there's not a lot of great science out there about the actual work that we do in a clinical room, in a classroom or things of that nature.

Nikki: Yeah, agreed and maybe to just reframe that slightly, it's like, actually, there is a lot of great science just not a lot of access to it.

Pete: That’s right.

Nikki: Not a lot of general knowledge about what exists. And yeah, it's a value of Pete, nice if hopefully I can speak for you a little bit here to get to contribute and share that.

Pete: Yeah.

Nikki: Yeah, it's not it's not my preference to actually do a podcast or be public. You know, Pete [inaudible 21:16]

Pete: But I twisted her arm.

Nikki: He's been trying to get me to do something like this for years, and years and years.

Pete: A really long time. It worked people, it worked.

Nikki: And I'm a pretty private person, even though I don't sound that way I am. And so, thank you for helping me be more willing to move on with my values and be uncomfortable to do this.

Pete: Well, and also, thank you for being willing to be vulnerable. And that's what we're going to talk about in an upcoming episode. So this the episodes, y'all are going to hear things and I'm not from the south, I just say y'all sometimes, but you're going to hear things about like the eastern Western practices. You know, coping skills, basic cognitive and behavioral therapy behaviorism, you're going to hear things about obviously, mindfulness, meditation, racism, all topics is, frankly, what we do see is psychological science can be framed, basically, anything. You can't talk to me about going to the grocery store, or going to the disco, or going to the beach without having some psychological science in the decision making to get there the behavior to get there, and the judgment that occurs while you're there.

Nikki: Well, because, all those examples you just gave are human experiences. And we can't ignore psychology. If we're humans, you know, the human condition, the human experience. We have ways to talk about it and we want you guys to have that information. And hopefully, you'll understand not just how your brains work, maybe a little bit better. You'll also understand how to interact with those brains in ways that maybe can be helpful to connecting with the life that you want for yourself.

Pete: That's right. Well, Nikki, this was awesome. I cannot wait for these upcoming episodes.

Nikki: Same here.

Pete: And y'all, tune in, like us, follow us and I can't wait for the upcoming episode. Tune in next.

Outro Music

Pete: This has been when east meets west. I'm Dr. Pete Economou.

Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. Be present. Be brave.

Pete: This has been when East meets West all material is based on opinion and educational training of Dr. Pete Eeconomou, and Nicki Rubin.

Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only