Jenn Brandel, LICSW, was kind enough to talk with me about her work as a social worker and writer. She has two books and provides some awesome, free assessments on her website.
1. To start off, can you tell me about your professional background?
I am a licensed clinical social worker and have been practicing for over 20 years. I spend most of my days seeing individuals and couples for psychotherapy in my private practice, as well as providing clinical supervision to other therapists and offering consultation and trainings to colleagues, organizations and communities. I love being a social worker and am so grateful to be doing work that is so integrally connected to my values and social justice work.
2. I see on your website you have some excellent, free assessment tools – how did you come up with these? And who do you recommend them for?
I’m a visual learner and I’ve personally been helped by tools and strategies that help me pull some of the noise out of my head and get it out in front of me. All of the tools on my website are things I developed in my work with clients over the years. My hope is that if one person found it helpful, it might resonate for others as well. I try as best I can to create tools that are adaptable and as relatable to as many people as possible. Some people have used the tools within the context of their therapy – bringing them into sessions or working on an exercise alongside their therapist. Others have appreciated having resources they can use on their own or share with others they care about and with whom they want to communicate better.
3. Tell me about your first book, My Crisis Plan? How did this project come about?
The social isolation and strain of the pandemic really affected most people in pretty profound ways. As a therapist, I found myself trying to offer help and support without full access to the kinds of interventions and tools I might have had if I could be in a shared space with my clients. I wanted to find a way for people to take an inventory of and mobilize their vast internal resources to care for themselves while also helping overcome obstacles to asking for help. We know that when we are overwhelmed, we may lose access to our thinking brain and instead move into a more reactive state. That’s just our natural human crisis response. I wanted to create a tool that would allow someone to capture their insight, creativity and resourcefulness in a simple, visual, easy-to-access way for those times when it’s harder to ground themselves and find solutions. My Crisis Plan is meant to be super straightforward and personal – a way of recording what you need, who your supports are, what tools are available to you and what you want to remind yourself of that may help you feel comforted and centered during difficult or painful times. I’ve heard from a lot of people that the simplicity and clarity of the book has made it really accessible – when we’re distressed, we may not feel able to read a full chapter of a book or do a deeper reflective exercise. And it’s been useful for adolescents and adults – even for some younger kids who are able to understand and write out their responses. It’s been a real joy getting to share it. I was able to donate boxes of the book to several national crisis hotlines and all profits from the book go to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – that feels really good.
4. Tell me about When Rabbits Spill Their Tea (great title by the way!)? What made you decide to write about metaphors?
I’ve always been a very expressive person and tend to do a lot of story-making – it’s part of how I learn and how I make meaning of experiences I have. Throughout my work as a therapist, using images and metaphors to convey some of the emotional aspects of being human, the stuff that’s sometimes hard to put into words, has been incredibly helpful. It’s really cool to co-create or share a metaphor with someone and then hear them using that image to reflect a deeper understanding of themselves, to gain perspective or even work something out that helps them make changes or heal from something painful. For years, colleagues and friends have been encouraging me to write down some of the most common metaphors I use and I’ve spent the last few years capturing them and figuring out the most clear and accessible way I can share them. The images are important pieces of the work – my hope is that the visual cue and the brief prompts will offer something experiential and relatable to everyone who reads this book. I wanted to write the kind of book that I would want to gift to my best friend if they were struggling and that’s what I feel When Rabbits Spill Their Tea is. The book is so important to me and such a reflection of who I am as a therapist and, really, as a person.
5. What other projects do you have coming up that you’d like to share?
I’ve been doing a lot of workshops and trainings lately and am really feeling energized connecting with and collaborating with other helping professionals. I’m also focusing a lot on balance and am exploring opportunities to connect more of the social justice, compassion and mindfulness work I care so deeply about with other things that drive me, like play, humor, art and kindness practices. And maybe I’ll write something new! I thrive outside of my comfort zone so who knows what my next challenge might be?