We had the good fortune of connecting with Ilene Kaskel, Psy.D. and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ilene, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
It is difficult to choose just one thing, as I believe parents have a greater impact on children’s development than many may realize. What does come to mind, however, is my attempt to allow my child the space to experience her feelings, to validate these experiences, and to teach her that, sometimes, it is ok to not be ok. This is not an easy feat and I am in no way perfect in my efforts, although I try. I think the reason validating a child’s experiences and feelings can be so challenging is that many adults struggle to do this for themselves. In today’s society, there is a great deal of pressure to “get over it”, “dust yourself off”, and “get back in the saddle”; so much so that we often do not permit ourselves the chance to grieve our losses, difficulties, or pitfalls. Although there are certainly some benefits to pushing our hardships aside, the long-term negative impact to our mental health often outweighs the advantages. So, what does this mean in terms of my day to day interactions with my child? It means that when something happens that makes her feel sad, angry, or frustrated, I resist the urge to tell her “Its ok”, “You’re fine”, or “Stop”. I encourage her to verbalize her feelings. I try not to offer solutions right away and, instead, just listen. Sometimes I ask her what she needs to feel better and, in other instances I simply express empathy. I try to adhere to this practice even when I think her responses are unwarranted. This does not mean I neglect to address and, at times, consequence some of my child’s behaviors. Rather, it means that I acknowledge her feelings that accompany the behaviors, as well as allow her the opportunity to work with me to find more adaptive paths to meet her needs. Notably, it is not easy to empathize with someone; particularly if you cannot relate to his/her experience or response. Sometimes, a child’s tantrumming behaviors/outbursts precludes any real opportunity for heart-to-heart talks. Like many other parents, the stresses that life brings have, at times, clouded my judgement and affected my actions, causing me to be short-tempered and unsympathetic. After such moments, I try to verbalize this to my child, validating what she has likely already noticed but may not have been able to put into words. As an example, I may tell my child, “Even though I was frustrated with your behavior, it was not helpful for me to yell- especially because I was upset with you for yelling”. Perhaps my parenting choices are, to a degree, reflective of my own journey to self-acceptance, which has been challenging and, at times, painful. I am not perfect. I have (and will) make bad choices. I will make mistakes and I am learning the art of self-forgiveness. In addition to showing my child that my love for her is unconditional, my hope is to teach her to love herself- even during the times she worries she may not deserve to.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Initially, I had not intended to enter the field of psychology and actually started out as an English major. After completing various psychology classes in college, however, I realized that I found the subject to be extremely interesting. I excelled in these courses, and ultimately decided to change majors. As I neared the end of my Bachelor’s degree, I was faced with the decision of whether or not to apply to graduate school. In the end, I chose to pursue my Master’s and Doctorate degrees, as I felt these would afford me the most options in my professional future. Throughout college and graduate school, I envisioned my future with me in a cozy office, providing weekly therapy services to patients. As fate would have it, however, my practicum, externship, internships, and postdoctoral positions were largely testing-based. These were difficult experiences but well worth it, as I became competent in a vast range of psychological and neuropsychological tests. Further, acquired the ability to effectively learn how to administer and interpret tests, which is a skill in and of itself. At present, I am a licensed clinical psychologist. I own and operate a private practice, Center for Clinical Psychology, where I provide comprehensive neuropsychological and psychological assessment services. If I had to choose a commodity that sets me apart from others in my field, it would be the speed with which I am able to interpret the findings of a comprehensive evaluation, as well as write and edit a report. As patients are often eager for their results, efficiency is essential. I should add that, in addition to my efficiency, I also feel confident in my proficiency with testing, as well as in my ability to seek help from appropriate resources when needed. Although my practice is largely assessment-based, I do offer psychotherapy services to children, adolescents, adults, older adults. I was initially trained in an assimilative integrated approach to psychotherapy and later pursued additional training in Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Additionally, I completed an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) didactic and supervised practicum and became an EMDR International Association-approved clinician in 2018. What is particularly rewarding to me is the ability to help a patient feel validated and understood. Believe it or not, for many people, this is a completely new experience. I always strive to be thorough and comprehensive in all of my work, as well as to cater to the individual needs of each patient.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
As the mother of a young child, this question is a bit difficult to answer- I tend to do a lot of child-centered activities! What does come to mind, however, are the beaches here in Florida. I really enjoy spending time outdoors and the beach is a favorite for me. I would probably also suggest snorkeling, perhaps at Blue Heron Bridge.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to express appreciation to my parents, They have always loved me unconditionally. Additionally, while they always encouraged me to see the good in others, they also taught me that it is ok to distance myself from hurtful people. I’ve also learned a great deal from Brene Brown’s works about vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame.