David Livingston, MA, MFT provides counseling and therapy to recovering victims of substance abuse at Domus Retreat. His work at the center deserves to be highlighted in the world’s journey to reduce the stigma on substance abuse and mental health.
For close to 20 years, David Livingston has worked with Clare Waismann at Domus Retreat, a licensed drug treatment and recovery center for patients who are recovering from substance abuse, and for patients who have undergone detox treatments such as the Waismann Method ® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence. As psychotherapist, David Livingston is also a certified practitioner of the Waismann Method. He has helped patients from all sorts of backgrounds get their life back together. He has shown the “ability to motivate, structure and strategize individuals and couples to achieve defined goals.”
David Livingston also works as the Director of the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness, Inc.
Before his professional career and his stint at Domus Retreat, David Livingston has earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of California Los Angeles, and his master’s degree from Antioch University Los Angeles. He has also received certifications in psychoanalytic psychotherapy from the Los Angeles Institute and Society for Psychoanalytic Studies. He was also a guest lecturer at the University of Southern California regarding the topic of chemical dependency.
Currently, David Livingston is part of The California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists.
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
David Livingston: My early school years were significantly focused on playing competitive sports, leading to a tennis scholarship at UCLA and a short professional career. After that I helped run a company in Southeast Asia for a few years.
During this period of living abroad, I found myself reading constantly. I quite enjoyed biographies and other literature, but eventually my interest moved more toward philosophy and psychology. I really enjoyed people of all kinds, and I liked discovering the ability to understand myself and others.
After returning to Los Angeles, a good friend suggested I consider going into psychology as a career. I had never considered it, but I soon knew that I had found what I wanted to do — a feeling that has been confirmed over the last 25 years of working with wonderful people who are courageous and resilient.
I began working with Clare Waismann at the Waismann Institute® nearly 20 years ago because we shared a desire to provide patient-centered treatment and the belief that the treatment of addiction ultimately comes back to understanding an individual’s needs and their capacities to grow and develop.
While we understand the gravity and dangers inherent in substance use, the process of moving forward is always about the development of the individual. Working with a group of people who are committed to providing a very positive and nurturing patient experience — one that is founded on a strong sense of boundaries and understanding as to what’s going to help an individual get better — has been incredibly fulfilling.
Working with a group of people who are committed to providing a very positive and nurturing patient experience — one that is founded on a strong sense of boundaries and understanding as to what’s going to help an individual get better — has been incredibly fulfilling.
Jerome Knyszewski: According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
David Livingston: I think the stigma about mental illness is complex. First, I don’t like the phrase mental illness. We all exist on a continuum which includes deficits, ways we are conflicted, and the myriad of ways we function and relate well with ourselves and with others. It’s hard to be alive, and there is a lot to manage. Some people have things harder than others — if something isn’t working, getting help is the most practical and honorable thing we can do.
There is no benefit in suffering needlessly. I think the stigma about mental illness is overall much better. I see people with a greater sense that what they are struggling with is part of the norm and not outside of it. That said, we often prefer to minimize or skip over that which is painful or not working well — we tend to not like our vulnerability.
One of the biggest reasons people don’t seek help for mental illness is they consciously or unconsciously fear being let down — meaning having a bad experience along with the possibility of not getting better.
There is no benefit in suffering needlessly. David Livingston, of Domus Retreat
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your 6 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
David Livingston: I have four. The strategies that I use to most help my own well-being are:
- Getting enough sleep
- Regular cardiovascular exercise
- Eating well
- Having good experiences with others
These are the four most regulating processes I know — together, these four strategies help keep me healthy and in balance. I have specific routines that I protect around exercise: Saturday morning, I have a regular game of tennis. Wednesday morning, I go hiking. I have foods I keep at home that I enjoy and are healthy.
My sleep is fairly regular, and if I am not rested enough, I will cut something out to catch up. I also have time to spend with the people I enjoy most. I’m fortunate to have work that I enjoy and that is also meaningful. I have family, friends and colleagues I enjoy and can rely on when needed. I enjoy reading, movies and travel as a way to escape. I don’t think there is anything new or novel in what helps me stay emotionally well, but putting all of these components in place and managing them is a life’s work.
Earlier in my life, my own analytic therapy was significant in helping me discover who I am and what kind of a life I’m willing to work to create. It’s far easier to sustain healthy habits when you know yourself and are not in conflict.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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