It Evokes Your Emotions

Brooklyn Business Trends (March 30, 2010)

by Tim Ronaldson

Christine LaCerva believes that you can often learn the most about yourself from people who are the least like you.

Using that as a sort of motto, LaCerva, as the director of the Social Therapy Group, helps people from all walks improve their lives. And as the practice of social therapy continues to grow and evolve, the company is providing help catered to business professionals.

LaCerva said it’s impossible to separate a business owner from his or her business.

“They think they can grow the business without growing themselves,” she said. “People leave themselves out of it, in a certain way.”

LaCerva’s interest in the business aspect of social therapy has evolved much as the field itself has. The practice of social therapy came out of a movement in the 1960s when psychology practices were questioning regular therapies. The leaders of the new focus thought people could go to therapy to improve their life and not just because something was wrong.

Before she became director at Social Therapy Group 25 years ago, LaCerva helped entrepreneurs get to the “next level” while working in the Women Small Business Owners program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. At FIT, LaCerva incorporated her world view as a therapist, helping with the “normal” aspects of business improvement such as marketing but also with the emotions of being successful as a business owner, taking a close look at the emotional interface and how it affects people.

LaCerva found that a lot of her clients said they didn’t have time to do anything and were bogged down by the stress of what they were doing, causing them to feel isolated. Worse still, they weren’t sharing these feelings and emotions with others.

“A lot of people have two emotions: anger and anger,” LaCerva said. “It (running a business) can be very stressful and challenging.”

Including social therapy into the dialogue on business improvement adds another dimension “that is key,” she said. There is a lot of valuable help available that most business owners are aware of, such as SCORE and Chambers of Commerce, but social therapy asks the question, “what’s missing for you?” Everyone has “problem solutions,” where all your thinking is going into solving that problem, but LaCerva says there is a better approach.

One of the things social therapy analyzes is how the kind of question you ask can often determine the answer you receive. Asking different kinds of questions can open up a whole other area for people, in terms of marketing, social networking and what it means to be a community business, for example.

“If you look at the totality of what you’re doing…it may be a very different way of looking at the problem, because you end up shutting down very creative work that would change the problem for the better,” she said. “I think creativity is essential in running a business.”

A key focus of the recent business world has been working in a group and with a team.

LaCerva said that workers sometimes have trouble getting or keeping a job because of their inability to work in a team, so more people are turning to group therapy for help.

To reach more of the business community, the Social Therapy Group is hosting a Small Business Owners’ workshop on Monday, April 12, from 6 to 8 p.m.

At the workshop, LaCerva and her team hope to investigate what types of challenges business owners are facing these days, how they are addressing these challenges and with what new tools, and how being a business owner affects their personal life. Once the workshop is complete, LaCerva is going to identify what the attendees’ needs are and how they can create new performances as a business owner.

LaCerva recently completed a similar workshop for her own business where she put together a team of colleagues and friends who aren’t in the therapy business to give her new ideas.

“I’m finding it incredibly helpful, being able to talk to people who have something different to say,” she said. “This is a therapy that you don’t even need a problem to be in. It’s an emotional workout.”