No Shoes Allowed: Spotlight on Jordan Marks, LMFT
We ventured out of the office on the worst rainy day LA has seen in six years. Our purpose? To pay a visit to local Santa Monica LMFT and SimplePractice customer, Jordan Marks.
At first glance, Jordan’s office exterior looks like a cozy bungalow settled among a collection of warehouses neighboring Bergamot Station. He has two open parking spaces directly in front of his office, with signs that read “Mind Body Healing Center.” Parking in Santa Monica is hard to come by, and we’re happy that we’re relatively dry as we approach the front door.
Upon entering the office, Jordan asks us to remove our shoes. I look down and notice that he, too, is shoe-less, and is welcoming us in bright magenta polka dot socks. After exchanging hellos and complimenting each others’ sock choice, we settle into Jordan’s spacious, warm office to talk about his career as a solo practitioner, and the entrepreneurial drive that remains one of Jordan’s defining characteristics.
Natasha: We’re so grateful for the opportunity to meet with you and are excited to learn more about who you are and what you do as a therapist! I’d love to start off by learning about your specialty.
Jordan: Likewise. And, sure. There’s a dying breed of people who do cognitive behavioral therapy… and psychodynamic therapy (which is basically “Lie down on the couch and tell me about your mother”). What we know now is that neuropsychology, neuroplasticity and trauma work is the effective way to rewire the brain using advanced body-oriented therapeutic techniques.
My specialty is somatic therapy, body-oriented psychotherapy. One of the techniques I practice is called autogenics. Autogenics is the way that you talk to yourself. So if you had a project coming up soon and you kept saying to yourself, “I can’t do it,” then your body starts to actually believe that. On a more serious note, I’ve had some kids in session who’ll say, “I’m ugly.” If your body believes everything that you say, then you start to develop physiological symptoms that are toxic to the body.
Somatic therapy focuses on how to find regulation and equilibrium in the body, and then the symptom of that balance is having a healthier, emotional state. The circular quote is, “The mind is the body and the body is the mind”. We know that they are inextricably linked now through a lot of research. Because of neuroplasticity we know that the brain can change.
N: How did you arrive at somatic therapy as your specialty of choice?
J: I went to an open house one day and the way the program director spoke of somatic therapy was magical.
He had all of us in the room close our eyes and imagine our favorite place in the world while taking notice of how it made us feel in our body. After that, he told us to imagine being reprimanded by an authoritative figure, and I took notice of what that felt like in my body.
In a real life situation where maybe your boss yells at you, your stomach constricts, and 80% of the neurotransmitters in your brain happen to be developed in your stomach. So if your stomach is constricting all the time because you’re in a fight or flight mode, then you’re gonna have symptoms of anxiety and depression. At that moment it clicked, I was just like, “That’s exactly what I want to do.”
N: What are 3 things you wish you knew when you were first starting out?
J: Definitely how to market. Having that perfect elevator speech. I wish I knew what burnout was and what I needed to do to avoid it. I also wish I knew that I should keep myself far from isolation by reaching out to others, joining peer groups. To not do it alone. Yes, those three.
N: All good advice. How did you grow into the entrepreneur-therapist that you are today?
J: Therapists get zero training on how to be a business person. It made it really hard to be a good business person if you didn’t come from a business background or you’re not going to a school that’s teaching you how to be a good business person.
When I moved to LA and was looking to start my own thing, I cold-called pediatric neuropsychologists, people who do testing, therapists and psychologists in the area, teachers in the area, UCLA professors. I cold-called around 200 people over the course of two months. I went out to coffee about 75, 80 times in the course of two months. I did my little song and dance: “This is who I am, this is what I do.” I had a lot to offer starting out because I had a lot of training under my belt, so it was easy for me to sit with another therapist or a neuropsychologist or a professor and just talk about what I do. Through talking with local people in my field, I got 10 good referral sources.
J: Therapy is a relational, in-depth process that affects all systems of you and is related to your history as a human being. The depth of therapy is real and it’s sacred. How do you capitalize on something that’s sacred? It’s challenging and I don’t want to trivialize the process.
Therapists ultimately want to achieve a full practice. But what they don’t fully understand is that there’s a cap on your income, even with a full practice. That’s it, that’s all you’ll make, and if you don’t work, you’re not making money.
That’s not how a business person thinks. I’m learning the vicissitudes of business school after I got my license to be a therapist because I don’t want to just be capped.
Therapists are weird people. There’s some idea that got planted in therapists minds where you have to be cutthroat in the business and you just have to be a better therapist than the one next door, but that hasn’t been my experience at all. The more therapists I know, the more referrals I get. We’re in this together and I don’t see why people are so competitive. I don’t know. I think we should be doing this together.
N: What would you say is the most gratifying part of your job? What makes you feel like “Yes, this is why I chose to pursue this”?
The one thing that I love the most is watching epiphanies happen, watching that moment where it’s like, wow, that’s where it’s from or just to have that veil lift and to witness it happen. Those are the best moments.
I help my clients understand their readiness to change. I help them understand problems that are persisting. I love my clients! I really do, the ones that stick around. I love being in relationships with people. It feels very freeing.
I always tell my clients that my job is to have you fire me, and I mean that. Therapy should not be something on going for years and years and years, in my opinion. How do I get you to leave? How do I get you to a point where you don’t need me anymore.