Dec. 13, 2021

E155: Psychology Demystified and the Healing Power of CBT with Dr. Corey Nigro | Trauma Healing Podcast

In this episode, I speak with Dr. Corey Nigro; we're going to talk about things like excuses, we're going to talk about getting in your way, we're going to talk about setting goals and what it means to architect the life that you want to have...
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In this episode, I speak with Dr. Corey Nigro; we're going to talk about things like excuses, we're going to talk about getting in your way, we're going to talk about setting goals and what it means to architect the life that you want to have, and it was an absolutely profound conversation for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.

Dr. Nigro is a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in doing comprehensive psychological and neuropsychological evaluations. His primary focus is on diagnostic accuracy of psychopathology and working with providers on developing comprehensive plans of treatment and intervention. He also focuses on the Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. He does a weekly podcast called Psychology Unplugged to give legitimacy and parody to psychiatric conditions and instill a sense of hope across all disorders.

We talk about what it means to start to take control of your life. How to let go of the past? How to move forward? How to set goals? How to have micro wins, all through, clinical perspective?

Take some time to listen because I guarantee you that Dr. Nigro will deliver tremendous value for us today. Come and join us, and we’re going to help you in your healing journey!

Learn more about Dr. Corey Nigro at:

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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. Very excited to be back with you with another episode with Dr. Corey Nigro and he is a Clinical Neuropsychologist with a specialization in doing Comprehensive Psychological and Neuro Psychological evaluations. I am so excited for this episode, man, Corey, thank you so much, my friend, thank you for coming on! What is going on in your world today?

Dr. Corey: Well, we just got out of a North Easter. So we lost power for three days, it just came back. We're staying at our best friend's house, we live in Duxbury, Massachusetts, even though, originally from Chicago and people make fun of my accent because I'll say get the eggs or I broke my leg hurts or go on the roof of the house, so our power finally came back on. So it's been an interesting few days.

Michael: Well, I'm super happy that you could be here today and I know that we're going to have an amazing conversation. You know as a fellow Midwesterner, growing up in Indianapolis, you know.

Dr. Corey: It's a good City!

Michael: I think you know, it's like anything in your life where you grow up in a place your kind of like man, but that's kind of my experience in my journey. I was really curious about having you on because looking at your background and knowing the subject matter that we discussed here on Think Unbroken around really the ramifications of the experiences of our lives and how they inform us before we dive in and go deeply into context here. Can you tell me a little bit and share your background your history and how you got to where you are today?

Dr. Corey: But that ground is interesting. I was as an undergrad, I was very interested in going to medical school to study Psychiatry and I thought that was the course I was going to take or neurology. Until I took my first biopsychology course and I remember the professor, I remember his name, but he came down as big lecture room with an actual brain and I distinctly remember him saying my favorite part of the brain him is the medulla oblongata and at that moment, Michael I was just hooked. Do I shift my whole career trajectory to just the science and the architecture of the human mind from an anatomical, and physiological perspective, but then the whole art and science of psychology, the ability to think we conceptualize, and I have never looked back once? So, I spent a lot of time while I was doing my doctorate, I was the Executive Director of Administrator of 192 Bed Inpatient Psychiatric facilities. So I would go to class and I would go to, who's in charge of multi-million dollar budget and I was, very grateful at a young age to be mentored by wonderful people, but I got to see what the textbook said and then I got to see what a really look like and I was always the one in class eight, yeah, but so my mother raised us to go out in the world and question everything. Go out and change the world and she always told me you be to a different drummer. I'm completely very, very unconventional, jeans tattoos, leather jacket, earrings piercing just, you know, never going to see me in a suit and tie my office.

And so I segwayed into the clinical realm because I've always been fascinated and I think there's trying to demystify mental health legitimize it, but destigmatize it because it doesn't have a face. It's not like you have a broken arm and you have a cast and I could say something must have happened to him, that doesn't mean he's broken? No. Doesn't that mean he's damaged? No, but he's obviously impaired in some capacity.

So my office is right above the bakery, in Duxbury, Massachusetts. So, if I am a reasonable human being, I would hope that the door for you because I can see it with mental health, you can't see it, and people think it's so easy to get to play, so I'm having a panic attack, just take a deep breath, not that easy. You have a history of trauma, get over it, it's not that easy. And there really isn't a face to mental health and it was, you know, my dads occurs before he passed away, was like – you like to talk and he liked to educate and do stuff like once you a podcast. So I started the podcast and the whole part is to educate people about not what's on Google or Wikipedia, and I don't pour to know everything in the world, but I have a strong passion for what I do and I try to help as many people and I never thought the podcast would take off from talking to people from other countries and people are flying in from other parts of the country for me to test them as a voice in the radio or whatever medium it is and I do it on Sunday.

So that's kind of was my trajectory, was no starting off in the pure science of medicine to moving into a world where I was able to combine an amalgamation of Science and the ability to think.

Michael: And that's fascinating to me and I agree with you wholeheartedly on so many different aspects of what you said. You know, I think one of the biggest uphill battles personally that I faced in my journey was coming from a background of such immense, trauma and pain and then being in this position in which I would walk into these rooms and people be like, yeah, dude, but you're like six foot four, you're covered in tattoos or like what could possibly be wrong with you? And I'm like – I don't know that anything is wrong with me, but I got this thing I need to work out for the better understanding. And it was really fascinating, never forget one time that I walked into a potential therapists’ office and they were like – you know, your big strong guy, I don't know why you're here and I was just like – that's exactly why I'm walking out the door right now. And so, what I'm curious about as we start to dive into, this is, what do you see or let me rephrase that when you look at the reality of the way that it is evaluated whether or not someone has some type of implication around mental health, from a neuropsychological standpoint. Where does that neuropsychological, excuse my standpoint, how do you know whether or not evaluations are happening in a way that is actually beneficial to the people who are walking through the doors every day?

Dr. Corey: Great question. It was the irony is I do to neuro-psych evaluation for the grace of God every day, six days a week, explaining what I do for a living is actually difficult because the whole point of my job is to figure out what is wrong with somebody. Testing in love ourselves, is not designed to figure out what is right, what are the strengths of an individual? It is to figure out what is wrong because only once you can figure out what is wrong and you put a name to it, only then, can you treat it from us from a cognitive-behavioral standpoint from a psychopharmacological standpoint and so testing and my perspective, I use the analogy, I think therapy and medication without testing are akin to having surgery without an x-ray, you are chasing symptoms, you were chasing some sense symptoms. Just because someone says my thoughts race does not mean, you have bipolar, just because you're sad, does that mean you have depression? Just because you cut does not mean you have Borderline Personality Disorder.

So through the diagnostic process and I am overly anal when it comes to testing, most neural signals like 10 to 12 Pages, mine are 50, 60, 70, 80, 90 100, 150 pages depending on the complexity of the person but these instruments are so sound and valid and reliable and they really are able to deconstruct it individual Psychopathology, not to reduce somebody to it but to at least be able to have the contextual picture and I don't do much therapy anymore. I treat a few people but I primarily focus on treating borderline personality disorder, but I could be seeing something Michael for 2 and 3 years in therapy and there was no way without having stuff from the end of the eye, the Minnesota multiphasic personality inventory, the Adolescent, or the adult version, the Rorschach, the Thematic Apperception Test, there is no way I would ever know the psychological architecture person without having that data, that's why I'm such a strong advocate of in our even Julie who's ventured into private practice with me my wife. We firmly believe that you need testing first because I get several hours with a person and tons of data, a lot of therapists in prescribers and no one's doing anything wrong, you get that first session, I mean, you probably have experienced it and they have to come for the preliminary diagnosis, the problem is that diagnosis never goes unchecked. So the people that walk through my door are either over-diagnosed, misdiagnosed, or under-diagnosed and these are the tools like – if you want to know again if they the irony is figuring out what's wrong with you, but the whole thing is instilling a sense of hope, whatever you have is what you have is not what you are. So that's doing the feedback sessions, that's one of the hardest things I do whether it's with an individual or parents with a biological parent, foster parents, whatever is when they sit across from me, a few weeks after doing the eval. My whole job is to tell you or you as a parent, what's wrong? Now, what's right? And that's something I am very empathic about but I respect the integrity of the diagnostic label, it will you not label people but, you know, I try to draw a parody. It's like I have high blood pressure, it's something I have something you are. If you have bipolar something, you have to do something you are don't define yourself by your trauma. People are getting one of the episodes, I did, my podcast was about resiliency. People are incredibly resilient, they don't just don't realize it and the world pushes people down and we have your confirmation bias where we seek to. I don't know what the term is, I'm sure to be right as chair of the same idea but I know if I took a piece of paper out, when I drew a line down the center, left side all my good qualities, right side my bad, I could do the right side, a lot faster and probably a lot longer. So I think with this fundamental tendency to confirm the negative things that we look at about ourselves, and I know in my work with people individuals, with trauma, it's a huge burden that they carry, all those negative voices and all the things they've been told.

Michael: Yeah, and I'm right there with you. And one of the things that I often come to, and I'd actually love your thoughts on this. In real-time, it's something I've been processing and trying to work through creating a foundational understanding around for probably about the last year and a half. And I think, this is an assumption maybe even more of a hypothesis, and that, I believe, part of the reason why people we'll get stuck comes from this place where through traumatic experiences because it becomes an autonomic response, we learn how to turn ourselves off, IE, we no longer follow our gut and our intuition because every time we have there's a ramification on the backside which then leads to this place in which showing up for our self, right? Living life on our terms of getting unstuck is negatively reinforced by this idea that the fear in front of us when we have crossed that threshold to go and do the thing that we firmly believe, we're capable of doing has already been negative, reinforced to an extent in which the idea of moving towards being who we are as so terrifying that it's paralyzing. 

Dr. Corey:  Absolutely. And I think people don't realize that they have the right and the right and the ability to reinvent themselves. We can't be in the past the beauty of the past as painful as it is, I think kind go more, an existential perspective. It remains the either of time and I'm going to use a metaphor by Wayne Dyer that something I really believe is an amazing metaphor. Again, being from the Midwest, this may sound ironic, I grew up in the city, but he talks about a boat and when the boat goes through the water, it creates a wake and, once the wake is created, nothing by the laws of nature or physics can anything happen to change the wake and people who have a past, I think whatever it is, whether it's trauma or any negative experiences, people look at the back of the boat. Some people will get a six-pack and stand on the back of the boat, others will get a lawn chair and lay in the bed and other people slash the water on their face, in the whole point is who's driving the other side? You know, there's a reason that the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield. It's not saying the past isn't there, not to deny it, but to appreciate it but realize that you can overcome it. I like love your analogy of being a warrior, that's not being a huge part of at least my perspective Psychotherapy is empowerment. You know you can change your thoughts, you change your thoughts, your behaviors will change, you know, what if your behavior thoughts and behaviors changed your emotions change? Again, we can't undo the things that have been done but we can either come to peace with it, some people can take on a victim role, you know, the learned helplessness model. So it's really I think we're somebody is that what they want to do with it.

Michael: Yeah, and I'd actually love to dive into that concept around the victim role a little bit more in the reason why is because, you know, growing up. I think that we operate entirely unlearned experience, right? We take our environment in, we understand it, we assess it, we take what we need, we throw out what, we don't, there are little things that I think said in us, right? In passing stuff that most people would never notice but we carry forever. Great example, growing up, I always heard a lot of blame happening in my life, right? My mother would blame somebody, my grandmother would blame someone, my stepfather would blame someone, everyone's always blaming everyone else for what's happening in their life that seed got planted in me. Look at my life and what I will call my rock bottom being in this position where I blamed everyone until I didn't it. One of the things I'm constantly thinking about is (A) is there a way to mitigate the risk of someone hitting rock bottom via having this victim mentality? And then (B) What can we do to reinforce the idea that we are actually capable of becoming the hero of your own story?

Dr. Corey: Well, I remember being in my doctoral program and being asked this question. There's one reason why people change? Of course, I blurt out an answer because they want to remember the prayer saying, no, like the most logical answer, other students, because they have to, no, because they need to, no. Well, their spouse telling them to, no, what women missing here and when he said the answer, it made perfect sense in. The only reason people change is when they're uncomfortable. So think about adjusting yourself in the chair, we go from a state of perceived discomfort to a state of perceived comfort so from a psychological psychiatric perspective until somebody gets suit place where they say, I'm tired, thinking, feeling, and acting this way, this way, that is, people have changed. So I think if somebody maintains that victim role, sometimes they call them help rejecters, you know, you tell the same story over and over again, you become comfortable in your dysfunction and because it's familiar. You look at people who stay in abusive relationships, so why it makes sense, why you go from one to the other because it's familiar to what I know. When somebody comes along and I'm loving and their carriers, like, hey buddy, I don't deserve that or this going to leave, I'm gonna push you away, so it makes sense. So looking at for more from a clinical perspective, I think people go look for like this is a social perspective like – what was that person doing, but it makes perfect sense if that's all, you know, that's where you're going to act. So I use the analogy of the cram. If you teach a child and take the Crayola crayon, do you tell them to pull the red one out and say that's black and child he did? The child is never told anything differently when they go to school and preschool kindergarten teacher says to pull out the black cram, they pull out the red one and the student, the child that we talking about because the knowledge was never contradicted and that will perpetuate our belief systems, they don't go on the challenge and that already wants that.

Michael: Yeah, that's one of the biggest things that I've come to discover and not only my own personal work but in what I've done in building Think Unbroken, as recognizing something really fascinating like – you've got to be willing to face discomfort in ways that I can't even begin to describe because when I look at my life now 11 years removed and so many of my clients when getting into programs having conversations listening to a podcast like this, it is that place is having the willingness to acknowledge like – yo, if I don't do something incredibly hard, nothing's going to be the difference, everything's going to stay the same. So, one of the things I'm really curious about though again because I'm really trying to narrow into this idea about mitigating the risk of that rock bottom. Is there a way to create change sands that experience? Like, is there anything that we can possibly do to help propel people into discomfort at a pace in which alleviates the possibility that they're going to end up in this place where their life is fucking destroyed?

Dr. Corey: So you're talking about getting somebody to Rock Bottom?

Michael: I'm talking about the avoidance of it because I think that so from a behavioral standpoint my life I just watched myself in passing, do things that slowly took away and destroyed everything that I'd spent all this time effort, building, and it wasn't until I was in this position when I was looking at my life and I said enough, get your shit together, that things started to change and what I'm trying to find out and I ask people this all the time and the answer is simply maybe like it's not a possibility.

Dr. Corey: No, I think, probably circumvent having to get to Rock Bottom. I think if you have increased support systems, you get the person into some form of treatment sooner, not everybody is having hit rock bottom before they can begin to change. I think, there's a misconception in and all psychiatric conditions. The goal is to really prevent them, you know, because that Rock Bottom is really bad, and that's where you can worry about it. Starts to get suicidal ideations, self-injurious behaviors, substance abuse, all three of them, but the earlier that people can recognize and I think, you know, hopefully, what we're doing is educating people on the early warning signs of mental health that you can treat as it, I believe, absolutely, the sooner, you through, you can identify it, the sooner, you can mitigate the severity and the intensity of it. So I do not believe you have to Rock Bottom too, begin treatment or do you know what?

Michael: Let's dive in a little bit here further because why do want people to have something incredibly practical from this? What are the signs that someone should be looking at that are happening in their life, where they need to contemplate the idea that they need help?

Dr. Corey: From a trauma perspective or just in general?

Michael: Across the board.

Dr. Corey: I think they need to recognize. I like the analogy of the mirrors. We love the carnival mirrors; we can stand in front of those four hours, they make us look fat, they make us look skinny, they make us look tall, they make us look round, we get that we stand in front of them, you know, Julie and I, we have mirrors all over the house. Do we use them? No, I use on, to shave, brush my teeth, do my hair. What you have to do is look in the actual mirror and confront yourself and have an honest conversation with yourself and say am I happy? Am I sad? Am I angry? Do I have issues? It's really you know that in this Amazon Society, we do not stop and look that is what is it necessary ingredient. You know Shakespeare said it, the world's a stage and all we are is actors, we played multiple different roles. The goal is to actually stop and look and have an honest conversation with yourself. I'm not saying I do it all the time, I mean, I don't think any of us do, but when we get to those points and we do that, you're not going to always like what you see and that's okay, but it's not for the BSD excuses, that's where the irrational beliefs could that's what cognitive distortions come in. Because what we have to do at night is we have to distort reality in order to put our head on the pillow. That's how we get through the day, but it's having an honest conversation that honest dialogue and then reducing the shame, associated with what has to be the hero. I think I learned a lot and I think was during a public health survey, one, they asked me a question, I said, I don't know it until that point. I thought I had to know everything and I was in my early twenties and since it was a most liberating thing in the world and it's sometimes the patient has two things like I don't know, but I'll find out. I'll go to my books or I'll go to the person who knows and that was one of the most liberating things for me, not to carry that burden of having to do everything.

Michael: Yeah, and I think it's impossible because then you're holding yourself against this ideal that is just unfathomable like it's just never going to happen. And I love what you said about the mirror because it brought me back to my experience, the very like the very moment that pulled me and projected me to where I am today at decade-plus removed, I went and I stood in the mirror and I ask myself, pointedly, what are you willing to do to have the life that you want to have? And the response was no excuses, just results and it really became this incredible precursor for everything that was next. And in that one of the things that I discovered was like – looking at yourself in the mirror, while simultaneously, the most uncomfortable thing ever, is the most empowering thing to create change.

Dr. Corey: It's ironic, isn't it? Comes in but I think that's the necessary ingredient it is. And also I think getting to being in a place where not being the intro, punitive and blaming yourself not being externalizing just being honest, what's the picture, what's going on? What do I need to work on? Independent what the name is? Just be having an honest conversation with ourselves, doesn't mean like we're lighting we see and you have to be aware of how much beat us are we using that's what justifies our behavior.

Michael: In those acknowledgements. So, I'm really curious about this. So in those acknowledgments where you're looking at your life and you're going, this isn't what I want, this is not what I desire, I know that I'm taking all these steps to probably sabotage, maybe you don't have that word but you know, you're looking at your life, I'm destroying my life, it's just destructive.

What does one do in those moments so that what they have the ability to understand is like, they don't have to beat them self's up because I think by default is just almost human nature to do that so what can you do to remove yourself from that?

Dr. Corey: Get into therapy. Start exploring different options mean, there are being mental health is much more accessible, it's everybody's talking about it, it doesn't have the same stigma as it did, you know, working like doing like a structured diagnostic clinical interview and trying to get a family history with maybe something like their 60s or 70s. You know, they didn't talk to, you know, they had crazy uncle Harry in the closet or they have shamed the family members, they don't believe Grandpa what he wasn't alcohol, he just drank a lot, so they didn't put the labels on it. But I think, you know, the availability of resources for mental health, especially in the world of Telehealth. There's really no excuse not to do something. I tell people you get to complain once if you can play in the second time, you do nothing about it, I don't want to hear, doesn't mean you have to fix it but you need to do something.

Michael: Well, that's a hard pill to swallow, man because people are going to look at that and go, well, you don't understand my life, you don't know me.

Dr. Corey: I'm not even saying they have to act after removing it, but just acknowledge it and celebrate the partial victories. Don't worry about the end result, but just being able to just almost being cathartic of like – okay, I know I need to work on this, I don't know what to do, just getting that out on the table think it's very liberating. Don't worry, how fast you get there just put it out there and trust the process.

Michael: Yeah, and I think that's a huge part of that trusting the process and trusting the people that you are in trouble giving them trust to. You know, I think one of the most interesting things that I had to reconcile was understanding like the world actually is not out to get me and that was a really hard understanding that I had, but that only came through in part the scope of EMDR and CBT and then LP and things like that. I would love for you to talk about the benefits and why Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy is such an important role that can be played in someone's journey?

Dr. Corey: Oh my God. The research has been consistent over the years that cognitive-behavioral therapy psychotropic medications, the two converging together have the most efficacy in the treatment of the vast majority of psychiatric conditions, and I'm not talking necessarily about the neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's but the cognitive therapy is such a powerful modality, is really pre-rational emotive therapy by Albert Ellis was kind of the precursor and you can go on YouTube and type in Albert Ellis is songs and talk about someone who was confrontational here I think you did like a song about to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy about major depressive disorder about how depressed people just and all the time. The advent of cognitive therapy and Julie and I disagree very much.

She believes in CBT, but I have a different perspective when it comes to certain disorders, but cognitive therapy is called cognitive-behavioral therapy not cognitive-behavioral of emotional therapy. Emotions really have no place in CBT, you look at the cognitive Triad, if you change your thoughts your behaviors will change, if your behaviors change, your emotions will change. That is the major tenets of cognitive therapy, it does not focus on emotions, you change your thought patterns. The thought patterns and behaviors will change it again emotions are just the byproduct, but it is such a powerful, therapeutic tool the treatment is going to be the vast majority of psychiatric conditions.

Michael: For the sake of context, for those who do not understand what you're talking about or what CBT is, can you dive into that and just kind of give us an overview.

Dr. Corey: Of cognitive therapy?

Michael: Yes.

Dr. Corey: So cognitive therapy is really looking at first initially, identifying one, what are the issues are depression, like anxiety, whatever clinical picture it is. The goal is to really look at the cognitive patterns or what is called mistaken assumptions or rational beliefs. I'm undesirable, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, all my teachers are out to get me, I'll never get married these. It's a very like dichotomous thinking, you trying to show your identifying the maladaptive thought patterns that are perpetuating, the resultant behaviors and symptoms and then through a process called cognitive restructuring you really kind of saying, okay; so the analogy I use is used to do this until you know, I would give people these yellow-tinted sunglasses until I found, I was going to sunglass hut-like – every three weeks and stocking upon them. And I would, you know, say I'm giving you a pair of yellow-tinted glasses, and look out the window, I'm assuming it's a blue sky, what color is it? And generally, people would say yellow or green and I say no, it's blue.

Cognitive therapy, the analogy, I don't want to use. If someone has glasses on, I would go over to them and I slowly took their glasses off and I'm going to redo your prescription, I'm going to put a new prescription back on so you see yourself, you see other people, can you see the world differently? And as a result, you're going to act differently and you're going to feel differently.

Michael: What is the structure within the behavioral therapy that makes it so epic able?

Dr. Corey: Utilization of goals. Can you be the smart model, simple measurable attainable, realistic time-oriented? So, what is the goal? What is the goal for the week? What is the goal for the month? What is the goal for three months? I think a lot of people focus, so much, if you change the way you look at things the things you look at change. So, you know, the goal would really cognitive therapy is very different, like psychoanalysis and stuff like that but it's the homework. And I always tell people therapy does not take place in the office, it takes place in between the sessions in the celebrate, the partial victory. So if we're working on reducing self-injurious behaviors, so you cut 40 times a week, if you cut 39, that is a success, and celebrate that. Don't worry about the other 39, celebrate the one, you didn't cut, that's progress. The whole goal is to encourage the progress, once you kind of get that anchor of like, hmm, I think this thing is working is almost takes on a life in energy and fuel of its own but it's really encouraging people that don't worry about this, the end result, you'll get there, it takes time, but appreciate the work you're doing now, that's what I'm saying. You know, it's like you play ones, but don't put it, if you keep playing but you do nothing about it. How am I supposed to help you? How was this modality supposed to help you? And there are some people that just think that's just what they want to do, but it's the incremental changes, and building on the continuous success has the little victories, I think people like I could take credit for that. Yeah, that's you, it's not me. You're the one choosing that, I'm like a GPS was put in like, what is the end result? It is just like a GPS will give us the route and if we run into a roadblock inside working, will recalculate and I'll be with you every step of the way but I cannot and I will not drive the car.

Michael: It's powerful and I always tell people like, life is about the micro wins, I mean, if you got out of bed today and you showered like that might be a fucking huge victory for you.

Dr. Corey: Absolutely.

Michael: Own it and own it because not only does it reinforce. Go ahead, please.

Dr. Corey: And celebrate it, you don't give yourself credit. Not this entropy of the style like well it only showered once this week, that's awesome because you were doing it before that should be hero change feels like you feel good about that. Yes, you have my permission to feel good about changes you're making, people don't realize that.

Michael: So in this scope of this because I love this conversation, yes, and how do you deal with once you have started to create momentum and you have a fallback or a misstep or you do that thing you said you weren't going to do anymore. How do you continue to move forward instead of that roadblock being what ultimately causes you to just go back down to zero?

Dr. Corey: At least in my experience, the longer, the more established your relationship is with a person you have a better, I think a higher success rate to navigate those relapse has, he's certainly not going to blame, certainly not going to be punitive but you know, I always look at X Causes Y. I can't stand the word trigger. So I think it's used so much of what she does is so overused, even though it's a relevant term, but I think the key is to help the person is not to go to the dark place, not to blame themselves up, but then the let's take a look at what caused it because X causes Y.

So X is if Y is the relapse, what's the X? So then we can start to navigate, take an alcoholic for example, why did you do your early in recovery? What happened this week that you went into the bar in the drink? What was different? Well, there was a roadblock and I had to take a different way home and I drove past the bar, which you've been avoiding for the last six months, doing a really good job at it, but not of convenient, but for whatever circumstances construction, you navigate a pasta bar and you went in, so let's make sure we don't take those routes again. So something kind of long, those ways but not to blame, but to really kind of figure out what again one of those X's because the X cause all we know what the Y is that what we're working on? But what are the things that our perp, you know, initiating that putting you down that path?

Michael: Yeah, I do subscribe to that like – I think about that all the time and so in that like looking at causation and correlation and trying to figure out, you know, how to really step into this place in life where you're taking control over your future, you're working through, whether you have the right team or the right building blocks and doing the things every single day. And I know people are going to hear this like, what role does hope play in this journey?

Dr. Corey: Hope is a huge part because of mental health and I think when I said this Michael, I'm one of the episodes I did borderline personality disorder. I said borderline personality disorder is not only treatable it is curable and it was at that point where I, you know because I get my cell phone number out on the podcast, I give my email out, it was when I said that I just got in and dated with just I talked him really called me and they like I can't believe you actually respond to return my column, write text or whatever but hope is a huge part of mental health and a huge reason I do what I do for a living even though my job is to figure out what's wrong with people but again, taking out the neurodegenerative disorders because those are degenerative in nature, but you the human spirit is incredibly resilient and powerful whether it's through music, through God, through spirituality, through the arts, through science, through fiction nonfiction, whatever, whatever you can grasp onto, whatever you can lay claim to you, the human spirit can overcome things, you can overcome depression, you can overcome bipolarity. Now, you may always, no, bipolar is a neurochemical disorder, so yes, you may need to be on medication, but you can also do that in psychotherapy, but you can mute the intensity of that and the rapid cycling of it. You can do the same with schizophrenia with all psychiatric disorders. Hope is a huge part of what I try to get across in again, doing Diagnostics, but it's an incredibly important message, I think because most people do not believe they think that this is my life is rolling into this.

This is how I'm always going to be, I'm never going to be happy and never get married, never going to get rid of the trauma, I'm never going to stop drug abuse, and I'm going to stop that and it did that. I think people really, really suffer and, you know, you look at it, I think one of the episodes of Julie did is many psychiatric disorders, it's neurotransmission, these are their chemical things, you know, and even trauma affects the brain, the brain chemistry. So I think hope is really important, not hope like, in a fluffy like, oh, everything is great and no one can deny the reality, but I'm a huge advocate in a people, who do the work and if you do the work, you get the results. It's like someone says, I want to go to the gym, all right, what do I do? Well, I don't lose 20 pounds perfectly. However, you work it out? Well, we go 5 minutes every Monday, okay. The reasonable goal of the effort isn't going to get you to the place you want to be but I think, giving people a not a false sense of hope like are you gonna be depressing, two months? Yeah, gonna eat such as a therapy vine, no, but hoping the sense that not only, you can do you overcome things, you could be, you could rid yourself of things. It doesn't mean we can again you said, the past is there, we can't deny it but people are incredibly resilient I don't think they realize especially, you can do like depression, this time of year is tough for a lot of people. So, yeah, hope I think you would probably terms of just what I've read about you I think hope is a huge thing that you try to instill in people as well.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And I think part of also what I try to instill in people is is a little bit of like you got to be stubborn, you got to be willing to fucking step into the arena on this.

Dr. Corey: You gonna selfish if you want to be in therapy appropriately selfish not self-centered reading to get your family or you neglect to respond, but selfishly, I'm going to put myself first, you know, I'm going to do the workbooks, I'm going to do my guided meditation but I'm still gonna go to work, and I'm gonna take care of my family responsibilities, but this is about me and I have a right to do this at every right to make myself well.

Michael: You do, and I think about it every single day because I have seen the worst of humanity, I have seen the best of humanity and I sit here in this position where I go, the reality is that it takes as much effort to destroy your life, as it does to build your life into what you want it to be, and living on your own terms regardless of trauma, traumatic experiences, diagnosis, misdiagnosing, whatever it may be, is entirely an alignment with the choices and the decisions you make every single to move towards being the person that you choose that you want to be.

Dr. Corey: Absolutely. We are the architect of our lives and that's the again, the beauty of the human spirit independent. First, you need to know what you have and that's again why focus so much on diagnostics, but once you know that then, you know, then in June knows what meds but yeah, and then from a therapy perspective then we know what we're treating and all the details and they know that really kind of fill out that crystallized that picture but, you know, you do not have to live that life that you do not want and you have a right to not live that life.

Michael: Yeah, and you deserve to but you're going to have to earn it and that's the reality you're going to have to earn it. Dr. Nigro this conversation, my friend has been absolutely incredible man. I feel like we're going to have to have you back, I want to go deeper into the biological parts of all of this so we'll have to have you back but until then, can you tell everyone where they can find you?

Dr. Corey: You can find me, my podcast which is Psychology Unplugged. You can email me through psychology today, you can call or text me on my cell phone, which is 617 - 7509411 Eastern Standard Time, in Massachusetts. Happy to talk with you guys, it's my passion is what we do, it's a collective journey. So I appreciate the opportunity, Michael.

Michael: Yeah, and I appreciate you being here and my last question for you today though, is what does it mean to you to be unbroken?

Dr. Corey: Being broken is to be able to live with your scars. That we all have scars, we all have cracks, it's okay, don't define yourself by them recognize them the reminders but being unbroken is reclaiming yourself, good, bad, right, wrong, indifferent.

Michael: Brilliantly said, my friend, Dr. Nigro, thank you so much for being here.

Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.

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And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

-I'll see you.



Dr. Corey J. NigroProfile Photo

Dr. Corey J. Nigro


I am a clinical neuropsychologist with a specialization in doing comprehensive psychological and neuropsychological evaluations. My primary focus is on diagnostic accuracy of psychopathology and working with providers on developing comprehensive plans of treatment and intervention. I also focus on the Cognitive-Behavioral treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder. I do a weekly podcast called Psychology Unplugged to give legitimacy and parody to psychiatric conditions and instill a sense of hope across all disorders.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.