Dr. Katie Yancosek lived in nine different cities before retiring from the Army as a Lieutenant Colonel in 2017. She lived in San Antonio for nine years. Katie holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in occupational therapy and a PhD in rehabilitation science. She has co-authored 38 publications. Katie runs a private practice called Upward Call Rehabilitation to help clients with neurological and behavioral health issues. She and Barry, her husband of 26 years, have two sons, Joshua serves in the US Navy and William serves in the US Air Force Reserves while attending college at UT Austin. Houston News Today welcomes Dr. Katie Yancosek to share her expertise on the issue of rehabilitation in a pandemic-struck world.
Dr. Katie Yancosek Talks Rehab with Houston News Today (HNT)
HNT: Hi Kate, it’s great to have you for a char here. Would you like us to start with you telling briefly about your rehabilitation work?
Katie: I work with clients who have cognitive (mental) and/or behavioral health problems. Oftentimes there is overlap because when people are stressed and have unresolved emotional issues, they also cannot focus, think clearly, or problem-solve and plan their day. If they have experienced trauma – and most have – they will likely be prone to dysregulated (disruptive) “fight or flight” behavior which affects every aspect of their lives.
HNT: Since the onset of this COVID 19 crisis, have you seen an increase in the number of your patients?
Katie: Yes, I have seen an incredible upsurge in patients. I have seen a dramatic shift in baseline stress levels. People are sensitive and fragile to the fear of the pandemic, the isolation of the lockdowns, and the volatility of reactions (social and relational tensions) of the mask and vaccine mandates. It’s like people have been stripped of their security, routines, and even many comforts. There has been an undeniable trend toward unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking too much alcohol, misusing substances including over-the-counter sleep aids, emotional violence in relationships, overspending through online shopping, overeating, mindlessly binge-watching television, etc. People have sought help and I applaud them for the courage it takes to reach out.
HNT: Does your military background help you in any significant way in your rehab work with civilians?
Katie: Definitely. I put on the US Army uniform at age 18 and wore it until I retired at age 42, so the military completely shaped my mindset. My clinical work in the military with the severely wounded service members significantly informs the work I do in my private practice. I deeply understand trauma, chronic pain, brain injury, and post-traumatic stress disorder from having worked closely with the catastrophically wounded. I understand the relationship issues that affect the families of someone who is facing the mountain of a substance use disorder. I relate to families who are working toward non-violent emotional exchanges, which requires breaking familiar habits and interaction patterns.
HNT: So how you came to be a writer and what led you to write Grace and Mercy?
Katie: I wrote Grace & Mercy in response to an overwhelming tug on my heartstrings to share Pastor Chris’ sermons with a larger population. Even the parents of the students who attend CrossBridge Community Church in San Antonio were likely unaware of what the Wednesday message was for their child attending youth group! I have heard from so many of them, who have enjoyed the book. It gives an up-close look from a few different angles. Because life swirls by us so quickly, this book was also an effort to slow my thoughts down and have a second look at things. It was a collaborative effort with Chris Dillashaw and we both enjoyed the process of working together.
HNT: What is the role of faith in your rehab work?
Katie: I incorporate faith in each client’s recovery program to the extent that he or she is interested in doing so. Sometimes people don’t have a clarified philosophy of evil and they struggle to grasp why bad things occur. No one has ever started therapy because too many good things are happening and they can’t stand all their joy and blessings. So, I meet people in therapy when they’re at the end of their rope. When someone can’t make sense of their own struggles, it is unnerving (anxiety-provoking). Having a biblical worldview (a workable theology, if you will) can help a person construct a meaningful philosophy and a more “wide angle” view of life. Taking the time to sift and sort through the debris of their experiences and how they think and feel about them offers self-efficacy (power) and often creates a psychological infrastructure for them to build some coping thoughts and behaviors.
HNT: Is it helpful if the patient you are seeing is a person of faith?
Katie: I am happy to work with anyone at any stage of their faith development, including early seekers or non-believers. I only turn away clients if I am unqualified (or even just underqualified) to help them.
HNT: Throughout this COVID crisis, have you found any new meaning or insight into the human condition – anything new you discovered?
Katie: I won’t go so far as to say I have made any new discoveries, but I have certainly taken the time to sit down, think deeply, and demanded myself to make sense of my own beliefs and philosophies. During 2020, I wrote Recover in Color which is a year-long recovery workbook with 52 lessons (one for each week of the year). Each lesson relates to one of four categories of personal development, spiritual healing, relationship health, and emotional literacy. There is a coloring page and a journal sheet with question prompts for each lesson. This work was the result of me thinking about what was going on in the world during the COVID-19 pandemic and considering the tension between the fragility and resilience of humanity. The work I did in the Army left me with awe of the delicateness of human life as well as astonishment for the incredible resilience of a human being. There is an Ernest Hemingway quote that sums it up nicely: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are strong at the broken places.”
HNT: What is one thing that you love about Texas and hard to find it anywhere else?
Katie: I love everything about Texas! Having lived in many different places, I immediately knew there was something special about Texas. The state used to be a nation which I think has provided a passed-down strength and pride that most states lack. The people of Texas have a can-do attitude that is a nice mixture of personal independence and cooperation with one another. In 2017, just after my military retirement, I helped our church support the American Red Cross after Hurricane Harvey. It was impressive to see the way Texans rallied to one another’s aid. I still marvel at the power of collaboration in that recovery effort. Also, Texas has the best food of any state I have ever lived… except lobster. I ate better lobster in Massachusetts!
HNT: Are you currently working on any other writing project?
Katie: I am writing a second volume of Recover in Color and both volumes are set for publication in March of 2022. Writing the one-page recovery lessons has become a way for me to keep searching for ways to assist people who are pursuing mental and emotional wellness. After I wrote the first volume, I just knew I had another 52 lessons in my mind to write.
HNT: Thanks a bunch Kate for participating in this correspondence.
Katie: Thank you for your interest in my work. I have enjoyed this chat.