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An Interview with Dave Herz and Leslie Potter of Vive!

David Van Nuys, Ph.D.
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Dave Herz & Leslie Potter of ViveIn this edition of the Wise Counsel Podcast, Dr. Van Nuys interviews Dave Herz and Leslie Potter of Vive! Inc., a therapeutic mentoring and parent coaching service. Based in Boulder, Colorado, Vive serves families with teens in crisis using a creative and variation on an intensive outpatient model. Three therapists engage with family members: a "mentor" works with the teen, a "parenting coach" works with the parents and one who works with the family system in a supervisor role. Much of the work happens out in the community rather than in the consulting room. Terms like mentor and coach are used to denote that the relationships involved are both less formal and broader than what would normally be thought of as therapy. In particular, the mentor functions as a "Big Brother/Sister" in very hands on community-based ways so as to promote the teen's safety, social and occupational functioning and ultimately, ability to relate to the parents. Similarly, the parent coach helps the parents to solve problems in their social and occupational spheres (such as unemployment, chronic marital arguing, etc.) which interfere with their ability to be good parents. Additionally, the coach and mentor serve as a buffer and a lens through which, respectively, the parents and the teen can learn to better understand each other, and ultimately work towards bettering their relationship. Through this entire process, the Vive team members emphasize what they call a "heart-centered" model, which is very much in the spirit of Carl Roger's conceptions of unconditional positive regard and the client-centered approach.

David Van Nuys: Welcome to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC, covering topics in mental health, wellness, and psychotherapy. My name is Dr. David Van Nuys. I'm a clinical psychologist and your host.

On today's show we'll be talking with Dave Herz and Leslie Potter, both of whom are with Vive, Incorporated, a therapeutic mentoring and parent coaching service. Dave Herz is founder and also director of therapeutic services at Vive. Dave has an M.A. in Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He's a certified psychotherapist and has worked with kids and families as a teacher, counselor, therapist, mentor and coach for more than 20 years. Leslie Potter is director of training and parent coach support at Vive. In 2004, she joined Vive as a parent coach, creating and implementing Vive's parent coaching model. In addition to delivering nurturing support to hundreds of Vive parents, Leslie's passion is teaching and training her colleagues in the heart-centered model. She is also the founder of Pure Joy Parenting, based in Boulder, Colorado, and has been in private practice for 19 years as a master's level, body-oriented psychotherapist.

Now, here's the interview.

Dave Herz and Leslie Potter, welcome to Wise Counsel.

Leslie Potter: Thank you.

Dave Herz: Thank you.

David: Let's start with you, Dave. Tell us a bit about your background and training.

Dave Herz: I've got a master's in education, and I was a high school teacher for a number of years and from there sort of morphed into getting my psychotherapy degree because I wanted to work more one-on-one with individuals. And I got that and went into private practice for a number of years, and then from there spun off and created Vive.

David: Okay, and your current role at Vive, then, is…

Dave Herz: I wear a number of hats at Vive. I'm the founder and president, and in addition to that, I'm the director of therapeutic services. So I oversee the clinical side of the house.

David: Okay, and Leslie, let's have you introduce yourself.

Leslie Potter: I was trained in a body centered psychotherapy process called Alia process, so I've been a practitioner of that for almost 20 years now. And then I adopted my daughter when I was 44 years old as a single parent, so parenting became my true love; that became my dedication. And I've known Dave for probably 19 years now, so when I was ready to come back into the work field after being with my daughter and staying with her for a few years, Dave invited me to come to Vive and begin to create a parenting model in our heart-based model that we use.

David: Okay, and we'll be getting to that model in a little bit, but maybe we should start, Dave - or either one of you really - talking a bit about what is Vive.

Dave Herz: I can begin with that and, Leslie, jump in whenever you feel. But Vive is a program that works with families who are struggling with a teenager or young adults. And we've been doing that for about 10 years, and we do that in a little bit different way, in that when a family comes in to Vive, they actually get a number of practitioners. The teenager or young adult gets what we call a therapeutic mentor - that is a therapist that works with the kids. And then the parents get a parent coach that is a therapist that's all theirs. So there's two different practitioners working on the team.

And we do that purposely because we're a relationship based program, and we're built on authenticity, and we want the kids to have someone that's really their own, that they're working with, and that they feel is on their side. And then the parents have their own person. And then a third person oversees that whole team - we call them the therapeutic team leader - and they're working behind the scenes to support the team in doing a good job.

And what makes it a little more different, also, is that the mentor that's working with the young adult or teenager is not working in an office setting; it's more a real world, community based approach where we're out there, meeting them sort of on their turf and building that relationship, and then building competence through action, not just through talking. So we might be helping them find jobs; we might be there when they get fired from a job. So we're really involved in their lives. And, Leslie, maybe you can explain a little bit about the parents' role in this.

Leslie Potter: Yeah, we feel that the parents are the major, safe, emotional container for the teen. So, often when their families come in, the family is in a quite a turbulent state; there's not a lot of emotional safety for anyone in the family. So as we have that young teen out in the world, working with an unconditionally loving presence of a mentor and helping them grow, the parent coach is over on the parents' side, really helping them come into their work and how they can begin to work with some of their triggers, the things that are happening in their lives, so that they can be that emotionally safe place for the child to come.

And that's our eventual goal, to get that relationship connected again, to make that a safe place where the teen can come back to the parent, and know that that parent's going to be there and really be able to be a guide with them, or an influence, not a controlling force.

David: Okay, now, when I was on your website, which is very instructive, I somehow got the impression that all the work that you're doing is online. But from what you said, Dave, I now have the impression that maybe there actually is some physical meetings.

Dave Herz: Yes, I would say actually most of our work is face-to-face, so the mentors are working with the kids. They're always meeting at least once a week face-to-face. There's a lot of phone calls and text messaging in between, but it's all really built on that actual contact in person. And then the parent coaching tends to happen probably 50% on the phone, other 50% in person. So there is a lot of in person contact.

David: Okay, somehow that didn't come through to me when I was on your website. You might want to think about that, because that really changes my take on the program quite a bit and probably would also affect other people's take on it as well. So I don't know if you already mentioned this: how old is Vive?

Dave Herz: Vive is in it's 10th year.

David: And how did you come up with this model? It seems like a very interesting model.

Dave Herz: It was a very organic process, David. Between private practice and creating Vive, I was working for a company that worked within what's called the therapeutic boarding school industry, and this is an industry where young adults or teens typically go off to wilderness programs for one to two months and then on to long-term treatment programs. And then, when they come home, it was seen that they needed some kind of transition to make that transition from that very structured environment to the real world. And I went to work for that company, so I got to know really what that whole industry was all about. What I saw was that, in that program I worked for, it was still very structured, and there were young adults 18 to 25 that were still living in a place where their food was paid for, their rent was paid for. It was still pretty easy for them. So I just thought we needed to morph into more of a community based program that didn't actually have brick and mortar, that you're really sort of out in the real world. And that's what we did; we just sort of branched off and started doing it.

David: So I gather you felt that it would be more effective to intervene in their real world lives than to have them off in a sort of retreat setting.

Dave Herz: We did. Not that that's not beneficial for some kids - they need to go to that retreat setting - but at some point, they've got to return to the real world, and they're going to need support on how to take what they've learned and incorporate it into what's happening in the real world. And so that's why we have these mentors, who are right there in the real world with them. They're there helping them find jobs or with school, but they're there when they fall down, when they just got in a fight with their parents or with their girlfriend, or they failed the test, or they got fired from a job. We show up and we're right there when it's happening.

David: And you're available 24 hours a day, if I recall.

Dave Herz: We don't say that. There's a little difference: we're available around the clock, not 24/7, and there is a difference. I think I'll let Leslie sort of answer that.

Leslie Potter: Well, if a family is in crisis or we know that they're going to need us, on the parent coach side, we make sure that our phones are on. But we also have lives, and like for me, I set a boundary around 9:00 at night unless I know that a parent really is going through a difficult time, and then I make myself available. The mentors are a little bit more available; they have a little bit more connection because the kids often aren't waking up at 10:00 at night sometimes. So each mentor kind of sets their schedule, and they do it specifically with each kid. They'll start to realize what their hours are, when they need support, and they all set it around their needs.

Dave Herz: I would say with that, David, especially with the mentors, that we want to be there when the sort of juicy moment and the opportunity for growth happens. So it's not unusual; when I was a mentor I, at times, was up at 1:00 in the morning, going down to juvie to pick a kid up and go to a coffee shop and talk about what happened. So we want to be there.

David: This makes me wonder if, to any extent, these people are court referred.

Dave Herz: You know, very few, although we have worked with kids who, when we go to court with them because they have a court hearing, and they hear that they're doing Vive, the judge just jumps right in and says, "Well, you keep doing that. We're going to make that part of your probation." But we don't get a lot of direct court referrals.

David: I would think that that would be a terrific market for you. Do the courts really know about what you're doing? It sounds like really a great model.

Dave Herz: Thank you. We've tried breaking into the court system. The problem is a lot of people that get referred to the courts have financial issues, and a lot of them can't afford us, unfortunately.

David: Okay, and I guess since we're on that topic, can you say anything about what the financial structure is?

Dave Herz: Sure. We work monthly. We recommend to people, though, that for best results, they stay in the program a year. But it is month-to-month, and it ranges from $2,700 to $3,000 a month for the full program, which is one 2-hour meeting a week with a mentor, and one 1-hour meeting a week with the parent coach. We include a family meeting in there once a month, if it's necessary, with the whole team. What's included in that is those in-between phone calls and text messages and crisis calls.

David: Okay, so people probably need to be in a pretty fair state of crisis, to have a young person who's acting out and they're at their wit's end, it sounds like, in order to be motivated to kind of commit to that kind of money. And, by the way, does insurance reimburse for the program?

Dave Herz: They do some. We will create an insurance bill for parents, and typically they've had success getting reimbursement for the mentoring piece; more difficult to get reimbursement for the parent coaching piece, for whatever reasons. So, typically, they can get somewhere between 25% to 50% reimbursement.

David: Okay. So what are some of the typical scenarios for how people find you and presenting problems?

Leslie Potter: I'd just like to go back one step because Dave was talking to you, really, about the mentoring part. And I just wanted to speak about in our program, when Dave started the program, that he was basically pretty much a full mentoring program because he loves being with the kids. And when I came in five years ago, Dave began to see that the parents were such a critical piece, that this was a family systems model, and if he didn't have the parents on board, that the kids - he could get them to a certain place, but there wasn't a full movement in the whole family.

So five years ago, we really opened up into bringing the parents in, creating the services for them because we really feel that they are the mature ones, and they have such an incredible influence on their kids, and they are a powerful force in the family. So we found that when we began to open up to a new way of being, helping the parents rebuild their relationship with their family, with the kids, that things began to exponentially shift in the family.

So I just wanted to really stress that, for people that are listening. We really try to empower the parents back into having joyful parenting again because, many times when they get to us, they feel like hostages in their home. They feel like they don't even want to get up in the mornings. They feel like their kids are the CEOs of the emotions in the home. So it's very exciting when we start to see the whole system shift, and the parents are usually the lead.

David: That's a good segue into what are some typical scenarios that lead to people seeking help? What's going on in the family or with the kids that will… what are some of the typical scenarios that will drive people to seek out your services?

Leslie Potter: Many scenarios. I'll give you an example. One family came; their daughter was 15 and basically had left home, was on the streets. She was living out there by herself or with friends and was doing drugs, and they were just scared to death. So we'll have people that come in with those situations. We have situations where families come in where kids - their grades are really going down. They won't get up and go to school; they decide that they're just not going to do school. So there's a lot of power struggles with families that will show up many different ways. We have kids that might be abusing drugs. So when families come to us, it's usually something where there's a lot of - a feeling of powerlessness, especially within the parents.

David: Okay, and how do people find you? How do they find out about the service?

Dave Herz: A lot of them right now find us either through our website or through the programs themselves, those long-term treatment and wilderness programs that they're coming out of. Or if they've hired a person that's called an educational consultant, and these are people who families hire to find good placements for their kids. They're really the experts in the field, and they know a lot about us. Then one of the things we're going to be doing, David, over the next month is really increasing our web presence, so that families are going to be able to find us much easier on the web.

David: Yeah, what kinds of search terms are they using when they do find you? Do you know?

Leslie Potter: I think a lot of times they're "troubled teens," "at risk teens."

Dave Herz: "Drug abuse," "out of control," those kind of things.

David: Well, Leslie, you're one of the creators of what you've described as a love-based parenting model. Now, I would hope that all parenting would be love-based, but you must mean something in particular. So tell us about your model.

Leslie Potter: Yes, I'll compare it a little bit with our traditional parenting models. And, again, I totally agree that we're all trying to come from a place of love, that we love our children. And yet what happens in the traditional parenting model that we saw out there, and what most of us were using, is that the focus was more on modifying the teen's behavior through consequencing, punishment, or rewards and control.

So when you look at any one of those things - consequences, punishments, rewards, control, any of those - a lot of it they're based on fear. So even though we may love our child, we are using fear techniques to try to get our child to behave in a certain way.

So in the heart-based model that we use, we see behavior as a communication, and through our deep relationship with our child, we seek to understand the root cause of this behavior, and then, therefore, that opens us up to being with our teen on a deep level.

What that looks like for parents is that we really work on our own triggers. We take responsibility for our own feelings and try to, as I say, set up that unconditionally loving presence for our teens so that we can actually be that guide. We can be on the journey with them instead of trying to live into our agendas for them.

David: Now, I didn't warn you about this in advance, but I wonder if maybe some kind of case history comes to mind that would help us to see and understand what you're talking about. Is there an example that comes to mind?

Leslie Potter: Yes, I can give you an example. I'm going to change it a little bit around, but an example of, let's say, this 15-year-old boy that was on the streets, not living at home because there'd been so much control, not going to school, was drug dealing, was out, just completely gone. And so the parents sent this young man to a program, and he was out in the program for about eight weeks and a lot of growth happened; parents did their work and the kid did also.

But when they came back home, they began to really put strong parameters on the child and began to ground all these rules, boundaries - you have to do this, you have to do this - a lot of control; a lot of punishment and consequences when the child didn't come into the rules and the boundaries. And so, within two weeks, this young man was back out on the streets again.

So when this family came to us at Vive, the decision was do we send them off to a long-term program, or how do we be with this situation? So we began to work very deeply with the parents' agendas, with their triggers and what was happening for them. We made sure in our program - what's so lovely about it is we did have a mentor with this child in the world, so we basically knew where he was; we knew who he was hanging out with, so the parents got to have some level of safety, even though we can't guarantee that safety. We did know that there was a connection being made.

So with that connection happening, what could happen in the parental model was that the parents could start to relax their fear and their agenda for their son. So what we recommended for them was to begin to invite him to tea. On Thursday at 3:00 they were going to show up at Starbucks, and they would invite him, and they would say, "We'll be there at tea. If you'd like to come, that's great. If you don't, we'll still be there." So he would always show up, and during that time of tea, we would encourage them not to talk about: Are you going to school? Where are you living? What are you doing? Just to have a relationship with their son, to be with him, to enjoy him.

So this happened for a couple of weeks. Then they would start to do dinners. They would say, "We're going to be at this restaurant at 7:00. Love for you to come. If you're not, we'll be there." He ended up going on a rock climbing trip with his father; same thing: "Be here at 3:00 on Friday. If you want to go, love to have you." Went on a trip with his mom.

As this began to happen, the parents began to relax more and more because they began to love who their child was again. They began to see who they were instead of fighting that battle. Within two months, they heard a noise upstairs one night, up in the room upstairs where he lived, and they realized that he was coming in up on the roof and sneaking in. And I remember the parents so deeply saying, "We were so excited to hear the pitter-patter of those feet up there because we knew he was home."

So within three months, this kid was back home having the best relationship he had ever had. He chose to go back to school on his own; he sat in session and said, "I wanted to do it for me, not for them." Got a job and within, I would say, probably, I think it was about six months from when they started till Christmas, and they said they had the greatest Christmas they'd ever had with their family together and connection.

David: Well, that's a wonderful story, a great example to be able to pull out on the spur of the moment. Now, I notice your program describes itself as offering "therapeutic mentoring" and "parent coaching" and seems to be steering away from saying that you're therapists. I'm assuming there's some kind of conscious process behind that. Dave, maybe you could speak to that.

Dave Herz: Well, it's evolved over the years. That started more so with the kids. The kids that we worked with, especially if they were coming out of program, had been what they would say "over-therapized" and they were tired of therapists. So if they knew they were coming home and had to start working with a therapist again, they would have rebelled against it. So we changed it to mentors. First, it was just mentor, and it was more than just therapy because we were out there doing a lot of big brothering, big sistering, also. But the nice thing for the parents was is that these mentors were also therapists, who could have a deep level of communication and understanding of process, and when they need to pull out those tools, they could. And they do arise. But we just didn't want the kids to shy away. The parents don't really have as much of a issue with their parent coach being a therapist, but Leslie, maybe you can speak a little bit to this. I think some of them do shy away from wanting to be in therapy.

Leslie Potter: Yeah, and we found that the parent coach model actually works better because it's a more in the present moment model. As I say, you can be in session every week and have tremendous insights, but when you're in the middle of that action, when you're screaming at your child, it's really hard to stop, no matter how many insights you have.

So in our parent coaching model we try to bring it more to present moment awareness, such as if a mom is in that place of yelling, we've worked on some skills for her to be able to stop, take a breath, maybe go out and pick up the phone and call me. I may not be available, but just that she made that movement to step away from that argument and go to the phone, gives her what we call a grace gap, where she can begin to pull herself together and then be available for her child. If she's able to work her triggers in a present moment arena, then she's going to be able to show up for her child in a different way. So we just find that - as I say, I've been a therapist for a year. I actually like the parent coach model better; it puts me much more in a present moment.

David: Well, actually, I've heard of therapists who are now calling themselves coaches, I think partly for that same reason of the word therapy has so many connotations, and some of those connotations, unfortunately, are negative in the public perception. Dave, you were talking about big brothering and big sistering and Leslie gave us an example, kind of, of a case perspective from the point of view of working with the parents. Maybe you can give us one from the point of view of the mentoring of the kids.

Dave Herz: Sure, I'd love to. When I started the program, I was a mentor, and it's very dear to me. And I look at our mentors as super-charged big brothers and big sisters, and that they're therapists also, who know how to show up in the real world. So one of the kids that I worked with - I tell this story many times - is a young man who was 20 years old, who did not have a drug problem at all, but he had such low confidence that he had dropped out of high school, even though he was the star soccer player. And he was really struggling finding a job, and he didn't even want to find a job. He was really stuck on his couch, basically, not working and being very, very angry - not dangerous in any way, but just, you know, he could kick a hole in the door or something like that - he was just very angry.

To me, it was obvious he was just terrified, and he wasn't going to let his parents help him because they're his parents. So, as I came in as mentor, we built a relationship and if he didn't want to go back to school, then it made sense that, you know, you're 20, go find a job. But I didn't even approach that until I had built a relationship, and we did that through food because we both love food, and we would go out and eat, and go find the greasiest dives we could find. And through that, we built a relationship.

And then when it became time to find a job, it was very clear to me, even though the speak he was saying was: "There's no good jobs out there; they're all stupid, and they don't pay enough. But under that, he was just terrified. And once our relationship was strong enough, and we started looking for a job, that's when it was clear to me. This was not a young man where I could say, "Let's make a list of places to go look for a job, and let's report back to me in a week." Nothing got done. So I was like, "Well, let's go together." And when we pulled up, literally, to a pet food store that had a help wanted sign, I could see that his hand was literally shaking. And I realized he was just terrified.

So that was the first baby step, was "hey, do you want me to go in with you?" And he was like, "No, I can do it." Went in, literally just got the application, but that was a success. And so for me as a mentor it wasn't like "no big deal; why were you making that such a big deal?" It was like "hey, way to go." And then I was like, "Let's go to the next step." And he was like, "What's that?" And I'm like, "Well, let's fill it out." So we filled it out together, and that was a whole process because he didn't know how to do that and actually speak highly of himself.

So a long story a little shorter was we took all those steps until he finally did get that job, and I was with him every step of the way. And so that's what our mentors really do. It's what we call action therapy; it's showing up and being there. And I got news for you: that 20-year-old young man, he lost his job a week later because he walked off the job, and I was right there when that happened to support him around his emotions of what happened at that time, so that he could get back on the horse the next day and go out and job hunt some more. So that's really what our mentors do really well.

Leslie Potter: And as you can imagine, David, the parents can't do that, usually, because of their triggers and their agendas. So it's really hard for them. When the kid walks in, they want him to get that job right away. Or if they lose the job, they're all upset. So they get so invested in their agendas around that, that like Dave said, they can't stay that rhythm. They can't see the successes with their child. So it just puts a lot of space in there, and then, as the parent coach, I can be letting them know this is how the mentor's working with your child, this is what's happened. When they say, "Well, he lost the job," I can say, "We're so excited. This is great, that he lost the job," because now he's going to get to work through why he can't stay at a job or what happens for him.

So we're always reframing; as a parent coach, we're helping the parents see from different eyes because the mentor doesn't have all those many agendas and all the expectations on the young teens. It's beautiful; they get to see through the mentor's eyes, and then I get to guide them with: All of these challenges are opportunities; they're opportunities to press, to see where we can build the relationship again, and meet that teen where they really are, get them the support they need to move forward.

David: You know, it sounds like such a wonderful model, and right now there's this national discussion, debate, going on about changes to health care. I almost wonder if something like this shouldn't be supported by government. Do you have any thoughts about that and whether or not it would be feasible for there to be some kind of either government support or government operated program along these lines?

Dave Herz: I love that idea. We haven't taken that discussion quite that far, David, but we have had discussion, even before our new president came into office and the discussions around health care. It's how can health care companies offer this as part of their benefits? And we have started discussions around that. It takes a while, but it's something that I would love to take to the next level and for it to be government sponsored.

Leslie Potter: Because you were talking about parents that get to us are usually in major crisis, our favorite work is preventative work. When we can get a family that notices things are starting to go off a little bit, and they come in with their 13-,14-year old, and we can get it right at the get-go, it's so wonderful.

David: Yes, so let's see if we can sort of move towards some things that might be useful to parents who are listening. How can a parent know when their teen is just experimenting with things versus when it's time to be worried about their teen's behavior?

Leslie Potter: I look at it very differently. First of all, that's an external, so I look at the parent in really supporting them and having a very strong relationship with their teen, if they make themselves an open and available person for their teen, and with their curiosity, they're trying to build a communication and a connection where that teen is actually always sharing with them.

What happens often: let's say a kid goes out and tries marijuana. They come home, and they tell the parent that they tried it. If that parent has a trigger, or they go to the future - like "oh, my God; they're going to be a drug addict now" - their fear, the way I describe it is, it closes down their heart. So all of a sudden, they put a barrier up between them and their child, so the teen doesn't feel like it's safe any longer.

So what do they do? They kick off of that wall, and they start going to their peers, or they start going to other people because they are experimenting at that point. So they'll go to other people instead of their parents. So I always work with parents first of all as to make that the most important piece of your parenting - what is that relationship?

When you are triggered - because you will be when your daughter comes home and tells you she's had sex for the first time, it may trigger you - and can you really take ownership of that trigger, breathe through it and be there and get curious? Be happy, open to, that your child wants to come and tell you about their experiences. Then, at that level, you will know, and you will be able to begin influence with them.

David: Okay, you know a challenge that many parents face these days is knowing what sorts of limits to place on their teen's digital life. For example, how can a parent talk with their teens about texting or what I guess is being called "sexting" now, the Internet and technology? We're hearing so much about privacy and Facebook these days and so on. Say a bit about that.

Leslie Potter: Again, how I work with parents around that is, first of all, we have to see that this is the place where our teens get their excitement and their joy. When they open up to that, that opens them up to their peer groups, to their friends. So when we look at it that way, we're like, "Oh, okay, so my child is getting an experience that's bringing them expansion, bringing them joy. But it closes me down because I get scared. If I get afraid, then I want to control that experience instead of giving them something that brings joy, which would be our relationship."

So I would tell parents if you're going to take something away from your child, if you're going to limit their texting, if you're going to do that, it has to be in the name of "I see that that experience is an incredible one for you. It keeps you connected, makes you feel popular, it makes you feel whatever it makes you feel. And I want to create that in our relationship. So can we find time to be together?" So that's always the anchor; you're trying to pull your child back, so that they can get connection with you. Because if you're always the one saying no, no, no, and control, control, control, where do you think they want to go? They want to go to the place that's bringing them joy, which is the texting, right?

David: Right.

Leslie Potter: But they look over at us, and we've got this sour face, going no, no, I know what's best for you. And they're going the other way. So I always help parents to try to see it's not the texting, it's not the computers, it's not those things. It's what those things give your teen. And if you can really go into that and be with them and meet them in that place, you're going to have a stronger capacity. You won't be able to stop it all - and that's not the goal - but you will be able to move them back into a balance, so that they're getting some of that connection and that nourishment with you, as the parent.

David: What's your advice for dealing with negative behaviors such as defiance, disrespect, lying?

Leslie Potter: Well, first we try to support the parents in working with their own triggers when these behaviors arise. As soon as you make a judgment about a behavior, and you have a belief that you need it to be different, you're not in the present moment with the child, and therefore, you can't hear the communication that the child is trying to tell you underneath that behavior.

As I said in the beginning, we see behavior as a communication. I always tell parents, when you're really angry and you're pissed off at your partner, are you pretty? Do you go up and say, "Oh, I'm angry. Can you help me?" Right? We yell, we scream, we call people names, but we expect our teen to come to us and say it the right way.

So when we really look inside and realize when our teen, maybe, is disrespecting us or screaming at us in our face, that they're trying to communicate to us about a state of being that they're in. And when we can really, as I always say, even take some of that - like "tell me more" - if we don't take it personally, and if we don't get triggered into our past response or what it brings up in us, we can actually see that our child, maybe, is really struggling inside. They must be hurting.

Often, when you can really be there for a child and hear them, they may tell you. They came in and yelled at you, but what happened was their girlfriend just dumped them. And if they don't have a safe place to tell that, that comes out sometimes in "it's all your fault, Mom" because that's the safest place they can go. And then if Mom takes that personally and thinks that they're being defiant, and "you must talk to me a different way," now she needs them to be okay and treat her in a way, and she can't really show up for them.

David: Yeah. Leslie, do you have any books that you ever recommend to parents?

Leslie Potter: Well, we are getting - can I say this, Dave?

Dave Herz: Absolutely.

Leslie Potter: We're getting ready to - we just sent our book to the presses, David.

David: Honestly, I didn't know that.

Leslie Potter: Yes, I think it went yesterday to the presses, so we should have a book out, probably, about the second week in September, Dave?

Dave Herz: Yes, it'll be out the second week in September.

Leslie Potter: Yes, and it's going to be called Chaos to Connection, and it's nine heart-centered essentials for parenting your teen. So we are real excited about it because it is definitely cutting edge, we feel, because it's all about the parents. It's not about controlling or behavioral modification techniques for the teen; it's more about how the parent can really come back into themselves, get in touch with their triggers and their awareness, and show up as that unconditionally loving presence.

David: Wonderful. Now, on your website, I see you've expanded to a number of cities around the country. I guess you started in Denver, and now you're in Atlanta and San Francisco and Los Angeles and Chicago, New York City, Boston, Austin, Texas, and San Antonio. Do you have future expansion plans beyond these?

Dave Herz: We do, and we'll just sort of follow wherever there's a need, David. So as our book comes out - and it's actually more than a book; it's a book and four DVDs - and when that boxed set comes out, hopefully we'll start to learn where there's more demand, and we'll go where that is. Right now we see that, possibly, we could be Seattle or Portland or Minneapolis, Tampa. But, wherever it is, we plan on opening, within the next 12 months, another five to ten more markets, and we'll just let demand dictate where that needs to be. But what we have learned over the last few years, is how to go out and find good quality mentors and parent coaches in a timely manner. So we're ready to mobilize as necessary.

Leslie Potter: And I just want to say one other thing about the book. We're really excited because we feel we can get this out to people that can't afford our full services. So that's where we wanted to give something to people that actually can't afford and actually can begin to start using that within their home.

David: I'm glad you raised that because it just sort of popped into my mind to wonder if, given the costs, if this is sort of strictly a white middle class clientele.

Dave Herz: Right, and that's a good point you bring up, and it has been that way. And that's not our goal down the road; we want to make sure that Vive is available for everybody, and one of the ways to do that is to put out this product. And the other way is, eventually, our goal is to be able to create some kind of a foundation/non-profit that sits next to Vive that can scholarship families. And that is something that will happen at some point, and we hope that the product can be a launching pad for that.

David: Yeah, that sounds like a wonderful idea. Well, as we wind down, I wonder if there are any final thoughts that you'd like to leave our audience with, maybe either some question I haven't asked you or something you're dying to say.

Leslie Potter: Well, I would just love to say, because many times when I work with the parents this way, they begin to feel a lot of guilt and feel bad about, maybe, how they have parented in the past. And I really work with trying to release parents. We're learning new things every day about the brain, of how the brain works, how stress works with the body; and we've all done the best that we can do with the knowledge that we've had.

So, as all these new things are arising, this heart-based approach, or being more in relationship, I just really support parents in really knowing that, as you said, it's all based in love. They did the very best that they could; their children are doing the very best that they can. And if we can start from that basis, even with all the chaos and craziness that's going on, if we can all know that we've done the best we can with the knowledge that we have, then we can step off on a new journey.

Dave Herz: And I would add to that, Leslie, that always what amazes me about parents that come to Vive - and they do come with a lot of shame and guilt - is that they've been through such challenging times, and they never give up on their child, and that's what we hold. They're really warriors, and the fact that they just will not give up is astounding to me, and so we really admire all the parents that come to us.

David: Okay, well, Dave Herz and Leslie Potter, this is a wonderful program you've described, and I really want to thank you for being my guest today on Wise Counsel.

Leslie Potter: Thank you, David.

Dave Herz: Thank you for having us.

David: I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Dave Herz and Leslie Potter. As far as I know, the program they've created is unique, and it sounds like it provides a valuable service to those who can afford it. And, perhaps, as I suggested, it also provides something of a model for government supported programs. However, the current economic climate probably makes that a long shot.

You've been listening to Wise Counsel, a podcast interview series sponsored by CenterSite, LLC.

If you like Wise Counsel, you might also like ShrinkRapRadio, my other interview podcast series, which is available online at Until next time, this is Dr. David Van Nuys, and you've been listening to Wise Counsel.


About Dave Herz & Leslie Potter of Vive

Dave Herz of Vive

David Herz, MA


As the founder of Vive! (Originally Confident Living) over nine years ago, Dave has worn every hat in the company-from mentor to parent coach to director of finance! Dave's passion is to help young people find the courage and inspiration to move toward responsible, productive, joyful young adulthood, while helping parents engage this process with less pain and more hope.

As the director of therapeutic services, Dave leads Vive! mentors and parent coaches in their application of the Vive Approach. He takes great pleasure in ensuring that the services delivered by Vive! practitioners are of the highest quality, and that they are each engaged in their own process of personal and professional growth. Dave has an M.A. in Education from the University of Colorado - Boulder, is a Certified Psychotherapist and has worked with kids and families as a teacher, counselor, therapist, mentor and coach for more than 20 years. He has been a rabid Cubs fan for over forty years and plans to be there with his dad and sons when they win the pennant…soon. Dave's roles as son, father of three teenagers (two boys and a girl), and husband are what keep him both humble and deeply passionate about his work with parents and young people.

Leslie Potter of Vive

Leslie Potter


Leslie is one of the foundational personalities at Vive. In 2004 she joined Vive as a parent coach, creating and implementing Vive's powerful parent-coaching model. In addition to delivering nurturing support to hundreds of Vive parents, Leslie's passion is teaching and training her colleagues in the heart-centered model. She is also the founder of Pure Joy Parenting based in Boulder, Colorado and has been in private practice for 19 years as a Certified Alaya Process Practitioner, a master's level body-oriented psychotherapy. Leslie's greatest adventure and passion is parenting her daughter who awakens her daily to the merits of "unconditional" love for herself as well as her daughter. Together they continue to remind each other that only love is real.