CNX Podcast

Counseling for Kids Unwrapped: Romi Grossberg's Holistic Journey - CNX Podcast Premiere S01/E01

February 04, 2024 MC Ash Pemberton Season 1 Episode 1
CNX Podcast
Counseling for Kids Unwrapped: Romi Grossberg's Holistic Journey - CNX Podcast Premiere S01/E01
Show Notes Transcript

Launching into the podcasting cosmos with a bang!

Join us on the inaugural episode of the CNX Podcast, where Ash takes the helm in a delightfully personal conversation with the ever wise and humble Romi Grossberg!

Step back in time as they recount their first meeting during a Doi Suthep hiking group in the jungles of Thailand, setting the tone for an adventure like no other.

From Koh Phangan to Chiang Mai, Romi's journey unfolds, revealing her role as a therapist and her dedication to holistic counseling.

Dive deep into the fascinating world of Holistic Counseling with discussions on writing therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and the crucial significance of mental health in teenagers.

Romi shares her dream of spreading awareness globally through her book 'The Key,' a dream we're excited to be a part of.

Romi also provides an exclusive sneak peek into her upcoming memoir, "Hip Hop and Hope," unveiling her impactful experiences in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This isn't just a podcast episode; it's the launch of a sonic journey, meeting the most interesting people and places of Thailand along the way.

Tune in now and be part of the CNX Podcast's historic lift-off!

Ash:

Okay. Okay. Guess who we've got today? We've got Romy Grossberg. Thank you for coming and seeing me.

Romi:

My pleasure

Ash:

Do you remember the first time we met? I I do.

Romi:

Pickleball?

Ash:

No. That was the fourth on my list. the first time we met, we were going on what was like a Dois Suthep hiking group. You jumped in my car, and we've drove to the walking so now had image of you as being A Chiang Mai resident and a nature lover and someone that likes to walk in nature.

Romi:

I do like to walk in nature. That was the first time I'd ever joined a group. I thought, I don't know where to hike. Let's join a group. I hadn't been in Chiang Mai probably that long at that point. And, yeah, you had a big car, and I had a small car. And we were driving up a big mountain, so I jumped in your car.

Ash:

I'm glad you did because now I get to know

Romi:

Yes.

Ash:

We'd actually cross paths before then. Don't know if you know when that was. I believe work at the sanctuary in Ko Phangan

Romi:

I did.

Ash:

I went there for a week just to get away from everything and everyone. I was determined to be by myself for a week, but I remember seeing you.

Romi:

Okay. You must have stayed by yourself if you didn't meet me.

Ash:

were there, and you were talking to a couple of other ladies, but I was just very insular that week. I just kept myself to myself. But that now makes me conclude that are a therapist.

Romi:

Great conclusion.Yes, am

Ash:

You also have a history in Kho Pangan??

Romi:

I lived in kho Pangan for close to ten years, I've been down there a long time.

Ash:

Should I be good. Can I tell you about the third thing I know about you and the third time we met? I needed some parenting coaching. have a teenage daughter who I love dearly, and I was struggling to communicate on deeper level. And I asked around from in my little network, and someone said, oh, you should talk to Romy. So I bought you a coffee, and I just wanted to say thank you for that advice that you gave me that day. You gave me some real a smack around the face. that I already knew but just needed reminding. And maybe we can touch on to a couple of those bits gold that you gave me that I still use, still think about, and that's definitely helped me communicate better with not just my daughter, but my wife.

Romi:

Good. A lot of people say of me, I think it's a compliment that working with me is a little bit like having a slap across the face, but having your hand held the same time. funny that you said that I slammed you around because Apparently, that's my thing. I hold hands at the same time, so it's a loving slap.

Ash:

It was. It gentle. It wasn't a wet fish or It was, just a very kind reminder about teenage girls and how their little brains

Romi:

Yeah. True. I do get very passionate about it too.

Ash:

That's actually one of the main reasons why I invited you in today. I just thought, oh, people need to know this. You can just, off the top of your head, give us valuable advice and guidance. And as parents, It's hard when it's your own.

Romi:

Yeah. It's very hard to be objective, And like everybody says, there's no manual to parenting.

Ash:

And then the fourth

Romi:

one Oh

Ash:

god. is what you thought was the first one. The fourth one is I know that you play with Thai Tom

Romi:

Yes.

Ash:

Who I'm gonna say is my pickleball mentor. I've hired him a couple of times, but I've played with him a few times. What really nice pickleball player.

Romi:

Oh, and lovely man and lovely player. I've played with him a bunch of times. And What for him is so easy for me is more than my best, and, he just kicks my ass. He's so good.

Ash:

Well, for anyone that doesn't know, I think he's the Thai champion.

Romi:

He is. I think he just did he win again last week in Pattaya?

Ash:

He broke the news to me. He said, I've played in eleven tournaments, Ash. And I was like, okay. He said, guess how many I've won? Yeah. was nine, But what I really admire about him, what I like about him is his grace and style. Yeah, very generous, very encouraging.

Romi:

Yeah.

Ash:

A super guy to play pickleball with.

Romi:

Yeah. When I play with him often, I wanna impress him because he's taught me so much, and he'll often turn around, look at me, and smile, and just Romy. Relax. Have fun. And you do. You forget to have fun sometimes when you take it a bit too seriously and get competitive with yourself more than anyone else. love playing with him because he reminds me to have

Ash:

Yeah. Vital. Cool. So there were four things there. nature lover and Chiang Mai resident therapist in Koh Phangan. The third was that help with mental health For teenagers or for everyone? With emotional stability, with self development. with those four, I was just gonna put it to you. What would you like to talk about? There's so much to you.

Romi:

You know I'm gonna say pickleball just because that's the easy way out. We can talk about other things too. I've actually been off pickleball for the last month because I've got injured. So a

Ash:

to me right now. Yeah. let's drop pickleball, and let's go for the mental health. Twice in my life, I've gone to someone external of my family asking them to help with my children. And both times, They've helped me, and they've never met my children. My children have no idea, but they've just helped me become a better parent. Is that

Romi:

the way you It depends on the issue. think we need to remember that kids are a product of parents. whatever we're doing as the parent will impact and affect what our kid is doing. the ideal way to work with teenagers or adolescents or someone's kids is actually the kid themselves, the parents, and the school. If you can do a three pronged approach, then Everything's amazing because in a kid's life, got themselves. They've got their school, which is where they spend most of their time, And then they've got how they relax and interact at home. So if you can actually address all three, then that's the ideal situation, actually. Not so easy to do because you gotta get into schools. You gotta get parents on board. Not all parents wanna get on board. Sometimes they might want their kid to go to counseling, but they don't necessarily want to learn. Often, parents will think my kid has a problem, and often the kids will think my mom or my dad has a problem. But sometimes the problem is actually just the interaction or the communication or the misunderstanding between. So kind of wanna look at it from all the different angles.

Ash:

Have you worked in schools?

Romi:

I've done different things. in different countries, I've either worked with the students themselves, sometimes as a one off workshop, sometimes as like a three month program. I've also done parent night at schools for all the parents who've come in. I've done professional development with teachers of adolescents, so all sort of high school teachers' professional development around understanding mental health of adolescents. That's been really fantastic because the teachers will often come up to me at the end and say, we didn't know what to look for, or we didn't know what our role was, or knew something was up, but we didn't get it. So that's, I think really effective. If you can educate all of the staff, then everyone's on the same page, and they understand what to look out for, what are the signs, what's happening, even understanding in terms of psychology, the developmental age of adolescents. Every age group has a different thing going on in terms of psychology. And if we don't understand that for starters, then how do we know how to work with them? So I love doing that kind of stuff, professional development in schools. I've done it in lots of different ways and been to a lot of international conferences around Australia and Asia, working with teachers and working with schools. And most recently, actually, at the beginning of this year, I was at South by Southwest EDU in Austin, Texas, which was crazy as an Australian in Texas. That was wild. And I went there as an adolescent mental health mentor. I met one on one with people in Texas, with people from all around America which was incredible. You've got thousands and thousands of mostly Americans coming together to talk about adolescence and education and mental health and well-being, and with them gun violence and stuff like that because it's America. But amazing how what a spectacular experience to do on such a big stage, such a high

Ash:

Yeah. This was my point. I know that's a massive stage.

Romi:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I loved telling Americans that I was going because if I said it to my Australian friends or English friends, they're like, oh, okay. You're going to a conference. And then I'd say to an American, oh, I'm going to South by. And they're all like, oh my god. That's amazing. That's like The biggest thing in the world. And then I could get all excited with them, which is super cool.

Ash:

Just tell us a little bit more about what you did. you said one to one, but then you went the

Romi:

stage. No. I didn't present on the big stage. That's for the super famous people. I'm not super famous yet.

Ash:

Yet.

Romi:

the mentorship program is there's a room of different mentors and I was one of them. people come to have one on one sessions with you. sometimes it's a teacher or a parent. There was a few parents that just came because anyone can attend South by. And then it was mostly educators, so people in decision making positions and stuff like that. Were some interesting ones with more techie people that were curious to know how could they put my book and my curriculum, into an app or some kind of technology that then could serve more people. have lots of different discussions all around adolescent mental health with people in different sectors across education. it was fantastic, and the organizers were amazing and supportive and wonderful. It was quite amazing.

Ash:

one thing you said then was to know what the signs are. Just dive into that a bit more.

Romi:

Teachers are doing so many things. They have a very big job to do don't get a lot of gratitude for already, and their job does not necessarily include having knowledge on mental health. entirely different system. And also it's in the school, so kids don't necessarily want to be seen to be going to the counselor. know? I remember when I was at school, you would never wanna be seen to go to the counselor. don't have a system that's set up for Teachers and schools generally to understand what's going on in mental health. I think in today's world, it's getting a little bit better. People are talking more openly about mental health. The stigma is a little bit less. It's not anywhere near where it should be. The number of adolescents and adults to be fair, but adolescents with mental health issues has been on the rise since before COVID, and then COVID just exacerbated it completely. So there are some very basic things that you can look for that you don't need any degree to learn. and the main one really is changing behavior. that is obvious. You can't miss that. Even a teacher that's very busy will see it. Hopefully, a parent, no matter how busy will see it, friends will always see it. So for example, If you have a student in school that is always outgoing, funny, life of the party, sociable, messing around in class, passing notes. Some of these days, they're probably passing text messages. I don't know. There's no notes anymore. If you've got a student that's always doing that, and they have been for weeks or months on end, and then suddenly, they're quiet. Okay. So they're not being sociable. They're playing up. They're not sending text messages. They're not being funny or silly or having a laugh. know, Everyone can have an off day. if something happens, like maybe there was a death in the family or, something that is genuinely Setting then yes. You allow for a few days or even a few weeks of a change of behavior. But if there wasn't an event, and then you've got a child that's gone from behaving one way to behaving a different way and staying in that space, that is a big red flag of something's going on internally, something's going on in their mind that their behavior has shifted. that's what you're looking for. So what it doesn't matter if you're going from quiet to loud or loud to quiet, stopping doing your hobbies you are an avid pickleballer or tennis player or swimmer or whatever it is, and then you suddenly quit your team for no real reason and go, I don't like it anymore. It's what's going on? a change in behavior is the easiest thing you

Ash:

can afford? I can totally relate to that. actually takes me back to when I was about thirteen, and my behavior changed. I was pretty well behaved, and then I just started behaving really badly and just really not caring about work. And one of the teachers that actually, I'm gonna say, was on the lookout for stuff like that, the teacher that actually cared and knew about Picked up on that. And all they had to do was ask the question, what's wrong? Oh, and I just burst out in flood of tears because I was upset my mom and dad were getting divorced, And it was that. And it I didn't even

Romi:

that. Mhmm. And imagine it had gone unnoticed, and you bottled up this divorce at that age, what that leads to throughout your whole adolescence and way into adulthood.

Ash:

should see my face when you say that Because I've got a feeling that did happen. Before we do this, before we go any deeper on that, what the other signs?

Romi:

things could be In a classroom, I would say that's number one. That's the main thing you need to know Also things like withdrawal. Facial expressions depending on how, tuned in the teachers are. There's a lot of facial cues and body cues that we can look out for that will outwardly display stress, anxiety, depression, A lot of people can't describe or explain what a lot of the mental health issues are, but they talk about them. whether it's depression or anxiety or stress, We don't often know how to define them, but we talk about them. So the only downside of talking so much about mental health is that don't really know what we're looking for. something like depression, for example, the definition that you would be looking for there a change in behavior where you stop doing your hobbies or habits? there's a lot of opposing things. You're overeating or undereating. You're oversleeping or undersleeping, so it gets quite confusing. the one that you're looking for is there's a feeling of real sadness, loss of hope, purpose, focus, But you're looking at for all or most of the day, for all or most of the week, for a minimum of three weeks.

Ash:

You mean don't jump to conclusions?

Romi:

We're all entitled to have a bad day or

Ash:

see. I see.

Romi:

But if that stays, if that's sustaining for a few weeks on end, then you wanna start looking at what's the root cause? What's going on? Are we leading toward depression? Is this something that we can resolve more quickly before it becomes more a bigger problem?

Ash:

How important is it to go back and track, what's happened to you as a child in your childhood? we always go back and try and work out what's this Trauma or this sadness in your inner child? And is it worth doing for someone

Romi:

almost fifty? well, If every time you think about it, talk about it, or somebody else brings it up, you burst into tears, then, yes, you would wanna go back and revisit That particular one. But is that true of all cases? Not necessarily. I personally think it's worth going back for some things. I would say for you, it would be worth going back to your parents' divorce because and without putting you in the spot, but this is how it works. the last twenty minutes, you've brought it

Ash:

up, what, four

Romi:

or five times. there's something there. that's what it is. It's if I'm thinking about it much more often then is relevant to my day to day existence, then it's stuck in me. It needs to be process sorted through, worked out, you can do differently now as an adult. your eleven, twelve, thirteen year old self would have understood what was going on very differently to your fifty year old self. now with the hindsight and objectivity and brain understanding a grown up man, you will be able to reflect in a different way that your twelve year old self couldn't do back then. So there it is worth then looking at what it is. doesn't, for me, mean you need to go through every single part of your life and work out all the

Ash:

Well, That was gonna be my question because I've done an exercise, which we we can touch on, to help me with that. So now I can talk about it. I can tell you something ironic and funny about that, and I don't burst into But I just wonder, oh, I bet there's other stuff too. even if you don't know what it is, do you take people back and have no idea

Romi:

what they're gonna say? Look. Often, especially when I was down south, one of the most common things people would come to me with was, don't know why I'm here, But I felt the need to talk to you. I liked your energy, so I thought I would come. often people don't know why they're there. When they sit and we start talking, people will say to me, I don't know why I just said that. Like with your parents' divorce, it literally just came out, and the first thing is I don't know why I said that. I'm like well, you said it

Ash:

Yeah.

Romi:

matters. then you start there.

Ash:

There's a really nice quote on your website, which I'm gonna read back to you. I've been called a gypsy, a nomad, a hippie, a bookworm, a rebel, Sporty Spice, crossword junkie, and the grass is greener girl. And then you put at the bottom, I'm gonna paraphrase, I think I'm all these things. That's good. There's a lot to you. I knew that already. But there's one big one here that I actually don't really know, and I wonder if you could shed some light on it. For almost twenty years now, I've been a holistic counselor.

Romi:

Mhmm.

Ash:

an holistic

Romi:

counselor? I've I wouldn't say I coined the praise, but I call myself a holistic counselor. It's interesting when I look at the therapeutic world because People normally like to identify maybe by their qualification. we're all doing counseling. whether they're a psychologist, whether they're a psychiatrist, a social worker, or a counselor. For me, holistic counseling is very interesting, and it started because I work in always international settings. The way I look at it in terms of holistic is that our nationality, our culture, our religion, our family, our society, all of these things play a role, in how we grew up, what environment we grew up in, how we think, how we act, how we react, how we behave, even if we rebel against it, even if it's my family was religious or whatever it is or traditional, and I'm not, that's still an act against religion, whether it's for or against. So All of those things do matter to influence how we grow up and how we think. holistically, you wanna look at all of these things And also recognizing that we're multidimensional people, I'm not just going to look at just your mental health or just your physical health or just your spiritual health. I'm gonna look at the all of you also from a therapeutic perspective from my angle, it also allows me to do whatever type of therapy I think is relevant for you and whatever type of therapy I think will work best. whether it's CBT, like cognitive behavioral therapy, Whether it's narrative therapy. Sometimes it's meditation whether we're talking about mindfulness. a lot of them are actually combinations like mindfulness integrated cognitive behavioral therapy. some sort of pull together, some pull apart, but it's about me being allowed to go into whatever therapeutic model I think will work for you. A counseling is almost always the same, but the language changes. for example, if I'm working with a thirty year old, fairly spiritual hippie kind of woman. can talk about chakras and meditation and mindfulness even and stuff like that, and I can talk about mindfulness in almost, a spiritual perspective. If I'm working with, say, a fifty year old male that's not particularly spiritual and doesn't really believe in that kind of thing, can do the exact same things without ever using the word meditation, chakras, it'll be the same information, but the language gets switched. Because if I'm talking to you about meditation and you don't believe in meditation, then I might as well be banging my head against a brick wall. and you won't receive my information because it's not something that you care about, you know about, you're interested in.

Ash:

That's just your skill set, That counseling or therapy, and I don't really know the difference between the two if there is a difference. You deliver that in a way that they understand. I totally get that.

Romi:

in terms of language, I've actually been thinking a lot about the language, like therapy counseling, like you just said. For me, therapy is the umbrella, I can be a massage therapist. when someone says to me, what do you do? If I say I'm a therapist, the next thing they'll say is what kind of therapy. So I often just say I'm a counselor or I do counseling because it just skip one step and go straight to what I actually do.

Ash:

Earlier, you listed a few of those different types of therapy you deliver. Could you tell us few more because they were all words to me and put some names on them and give us an overview of what they mean.

Romi:

There's lots of different types of therapeutic modalities, I'm a huge fan of writing therapy. which is really fantastic way of getting to know yourself better. When we are thinking, Our thoughts can go very circular. We can think in circles, we forget that We think all day long. We talk to ourself all day long, and talk to ourself more than any other single person. So we're looking at what's the language, what are we saying to ourself. if I'm alone with my thoughts are gonna go in circles. The big issue there related to writing therapy is I will often have a lot of half thoughts and incomplete thoughts. for example, if you said to me, how was your morning? could answer in my head. Yeah. Cool. But There's no words in there. And even if you said to me verbally, was your day? Yeah. Good. Alright. That's not really an answer. Yeah. Good. Alright. it was in my head, it'd be like um, yeah. Fine. They're not words. Now if I said, How was your day? Actually, I want you to write it down. You're gonna say my day was good. Actually, no. It wasn't that good. You know what? andnow we start writing.

Ash:

It's more thought, more detail.

Romi:

Yes. Because we're as humans, it's very unnatural to write nonsense, literally. once we start writing, there's also in whatever is your language, there'll be a forward momentum. So if I'm writing from left to right in English, there will be a forward momentum. of me moving from left to right and almost a rocking nature. And that forward momentum will help in my thought process where I will start moving forward and through a thought and into the next thought. the actual motion of using your hand pen and paper, start creating this momentum of moving forward. And then there's endless writing exercises that you use for different topics. whether it's letting go of something, grief arguing with someone stuck in your head, decision making. There is a different writing therapy technique for each of these different things where you get to then learn what to do, and then you go and you do I do that with people very often. of my books have a lot of writing therapy in them. They're all interactive books that you write in. So never sort of something that you read. It's something that you do.

Ash:

You had explained that really well.

Romi:

Oh, good.

Ash:

Thank you It makes perfect sense to me, and I can see how that is Incredibly valuable. Writing therapy. We I get

Romi:

Yes.

Ash:

Any others?

Romi:

cognitive behavioral therapy.

Ash:

What does that mean?

Romi:

It's all about thoughts, emotions, actions. So you've got the triangle of the three different things and how they all affect each other. what are the thoughts, What are the feelings? What are the actions? And changing one of those things can change the others. The easiest one is usually the action or behavior because it's quite hard to change how you feel. Some people find it hard to change how you think. behavior or the action is a good one. if you're standing Very in a I suppose it's a sad or a down position, and your body language is down. your shoulders are down. Your chin is down. You're in This kind of protecting your heart, protecting your self space. If you go into that position and then into Superman position, Put your legs apart. Put your hands on your hips. Put your chin up, chest out. You automatically feel better. It's very hard to feel depressed or sad when you're in full Superman position Because you've changed action, your behavior, which can then start to influence your thoughts, which can start to influence how you feel. I'll do that if I'm feeling really down and maybe I have to go to work or I have pump myself up or do something. either put on a fantastic song that gets me up and dancing, changes my behavior, changes my mood, changes my thoughts. I'll do Superman pose. Or do a shake literally a body shake and shake it off. Same like they do at sport. if you're a sports coach and there's a kid that's having a bad game, they kicked the ball and it went awry or whatever happened, a coach or a mother might say, you shake it they do that at the elite Same thing. Shake it off. Literally have a shake. There's all these very micro things that we can do in a split second that change by changing our behavior, which can then affect we think and how we feel. obviously, that's not for deep depression and deep anxiety, but that's The very basic of things that you could do if you had a meeting in an hour and you were in a different weird kind of space, you could just do that and then move into a meeting quite easily. these are all micro things we can do in the

Ash:

I like that. even just hearing about, I think, oh, I could just do that for myself.

Romi:

Hundred percent. I think what I'm most known for in terms of my work and and in terms of being an author is, that I can make seemingly complex issues, break them down into bite sized easy things that we can all do Today, I'm not giving you a ten year plan of if you do this in ten years, you might be able to do that. It's And it's not gonna change your whole life right now, but it's gonna help you in the day to day. And in the day to day when they start getting better, then that does have a knock on effect also. it totally depends on what's wrong and how deep seeded the issues are also.

Ash:

Is it fair to call these the tools of your trade? did you have to study to be able deliver? What sort of studying have you done in the past?

Romi:

my first degree was in social science back in Australia. where I think I majored in law and minored in sociology. I learned a lot. I can see now as an adult looking back. I finished school young, so I was seventeen when I started doing that. what did I care? at Seventeen. I'd rather I wanted to be at the pub. I got through it, but I didn't care about it. But I'm glad that I did do it because it meant that already I was getting into the Australia, in a more post grad world where I could go back to university in a different way because I already had my that graduate degree. But after I did that, I was actually a sports teacher, and a photographer. So I had a bit of a hiatus into different careers. Funnily enough, when I was a sports teacher that I would often say to the schools, and give me your worst team. And I did that because I don't know where it came from or why I noticed it, but I did notice that if you can teach a kid to throw a ball, catch a ball, run, be healthy, fit in, you can save a lifetime of bullying. how to feel comfortable in their body, and how to play the sport at a level that reasonable and where you feel respect for yourselves and you're respected by others. And I did it outside schools also. I would take the worst team, and I would take them through to finals. then I went into photography, and I became a photographer and ran my own business for like, eight years. And I would lecture in photography back at photography school in Melbourne. And, again, I would say, give me the beginner's class in, how to understand the camera or the studio lighting. because I remember when I learned the basics of the camera, finding it really confusing. know, it's a lot of maths. apertures and shutter speeds and light meters, and And, way I learned, and this is back before digital was used manual cameras. And then when I went back and taught, I would take everyone's camera, flick it to manual, and tape it down, I knew how to teach it because I know how I learned it, and I found it difficult at beginning to learn, think over my lifetime, I've always loved teaching people had to do things that seemed complicated or seemed like they couldn't do it. And I'm like, of course, you can. I guess it was somehow in my blood. I don't know. bEfore and so that was all after my first social science degree. then I actually went back to university. I went let's formalize this into actual skills. And I went back, and I did social work in Melbourne.

Ash:

Okay. And So that's not studying. That's hands

Romi:

on Social work. Both. Studying.

Ash:

Study. University. Oh, to study, to be a social worker.

Romi:

Mhmm. And, again, social work means something different in most countries yes. Because I looked it up because I was wondering what it meant in different countries. I met a social worker here from the UK, thought I wonder what that means for her And then in America there's a different hierarchical system, and there's different language around all of these words, even Australia, America, UK, because I looked them all up. And I don't often talk about what degrees I have or what qualifications I have

Ash:

of the way

Romi:

it's labeled social work in Australia is very counseling based, obviously. Everything is around counseling. Big focus on mental health counseling, all the different aspects of mental health in the DSM five, which diagnosis tools in psychology how the brain works, all of that kind of stuff. I did drug and alcohol also. Then you look at aged care, child protection, working with young kids, working with adolescents, working with adults. you actually cover the aspects that you would need to cover to do counseling in any area, you also cover things like policy. I like social work in Australia because it actually covers everything that you'll ever need to know in terms of the counseling arena. and in Australia, my first few jobs were Working in homelessness, mental health, and drug and alcohol, all three in one job. I learned a lot working in those three areas all at once, and I was very fortunate to have such Incredible supervisors and mentors. and it's so important. I learned so much the people that I worked with, from the teams that I worked in. gave me a lot of confidence. And then I started getting into community development stuff and went back to university again. I was doing my master's in international public health, which made my brain hurt on levels I didn't know were possible, like biostatistics and epidemiology, you lot of science, medicine math, things that are not necessarily my strong points. that was you I'm more humanities, was very difficult. And I went back because I was really interested in community development work and how do you work in communities and create actual change. So rather than, say, counseling a person, how can you work in a community and really create change? creating culture change in a school, it's the same as creating culture change in a community. Because I was so fascinated with that, I spent six months in India on a World Health Organization project looking at rates of depression and suicide in the outcast colonies in the villages. I lived out there. I worked in Vietnam. spent three years in Cambodia. I did a lot of work around that. So I was doing my masters in it was actually when I got my last job and was posted to Cambodia, which is how I ended up there. And the intention was I held on a two year placement in Cambodia to run an organization called Tiny Tunes. that's a hip hop center working for street kids. out in the slums And looking at mental health, emotional health, hygiene, HIV, drugs, sex like, everything. It's an all inclusive center working mostly with gangs and victims of violence and poverty.

Ash:

Wow. I you have this vast experience and well educated on your subject.

Romi:

you

Ash:

an author. Yes.

Romi:

Tell me more. I have put you I have written three books.

Ash:

I have published two. Okay.

Romi:

Yeah.

Ash:

that mean? One coming soon? Okay.

Romi:

So exciting. Look at my even face is so exciting. My smile's gonna break off my face. What's different about this new It's different in every part of my body two that I published are more work related. Their workbooks for adults and for teenagers in schools. And I love them, and they're really important and really beautiful. And in fact, I met with Mosaic Market in Chang Klang just yesterday and was teaching the staff there about those two books because they're gonna be selling them there as of today, I think they're putting them on the shelf there. and I'm really passionate about those books in terms of spreading the information around mental health and emotional well-being. I really strongly believe in those books, but they're the self help realm of my life, then there's the other side of my life, which is my memoir. this book that is not out yet, it's happily sitting on my computer called hip hop and hope, and it's the memoir of my life as a well educated western white skinned female living and working out in the slums of Phnom Penh, Cambodia running a hip hop center. So it was a Crazy experience. So that so my memoir starts with me landing in Cambodia And often ask what's the definition of a memoir versus biography, autobiography. memoir is a snippet of your life. versus an autobiography or which is life story.

Ash:

Okay. Got you. And hip hop, the relevance of that is just that it Related to the kids on the streets in Cambodia, or is there something more to hip hop?

Romi:

center existed before I arrived. it was founded by a guy called KK, which is nickname. His real name is Toysoo Bill. was a breakdancer when he was young, living back in Long Beach, California. He's a Cambodian American deportee, he was born in the Thai refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge, taken to America when America opened its borders in the late seventies during the war, then he ended up because a lot of them ended up there poor and, in the poorer neighborhoods and being Cambodian teased a lot and all of that stuff, and ended up, Firstly, in a breakdancing crew and was a breakdancer, and then in his later teenage years ended up as a gang member and then committed a crime. And after nine eleven, when they changed the laws about aliens living in the country, everyone who was an alien that had committed a crime got deported back to where they came from even if they'd done their time in jail. So it's a very long Interesting story. lot of it is actually in my book because a good contextual backstory to what is this place. when he got to Cambodia, he didn't really speak the language. He didn't feel Cambodian. He looked Cambodian, only by facial structure. He dressed say a gangster. He'll kill me for saying that. but, the white clean shoes and, the white sort singlet and all that kind of stuff. But Kids in Cambodia, when he arrived, he started just wanting to because he didn't know what else to do. So when he was in Phnom Penh, in the capital city, was looking for kids in trouble to help and to see what he could offer that no other kids had to go through, difficult life. It started very organically, and then children from around found out that he used to be a breakdancer and would come to his house saying, can you teach us to dance? And for a very long time, he said no because he didn't think he had anything to offer. He was fairly uneducated himself. He didn't think he was the right person to mentor these kids. But they persisted, and eventually, he gave in, and he started teaching breakdance just in his small one bedroom home kind of thing. that grew and grew until it became this kind of center. when they When they got in touch with me, like, we've got this amazing big center Two or three hundred kids, bunch of people teaching stuff. can you help? And I'm like, help? am I meant to do here? it was like how can we total chaotic, brilliant, beautiful mess into something that's functioning and sustainable. And story will start with me arriving and go through know, the reality you know, when I started writing it, it was very much with the idea of how can I teach other people that study community development and international development, the realities of what happens when you land on the ground? Because what you learn in university doesn't really prepare you for what you see when you get there. know, I'd lived in India, Vietnam, and then Cambodia, nothing prepared me for any of that. No. Nothing in a university could ever prepare you for what happens when you're in one of these countries faced with the ethical dilemmas, faced with poverty that you is unimaginable, faced with violence that is unimaginable, faced with neglect an abandonment that's unimaginable, and then being the person in charge of all of that. I started with the idea of being further education for universities, then suppose it just turned into, a story, And then it became the story of from when I landed. So So you're still learning that information, but through the story of how does this work, how is it that we are now family, and I call KK my brother, and I go back for every funeral, wedding, baby that's being born. does that work? Because it's such a beautiful story, and it's full of ethical dilemmas and just the wildest things that happen that You can't fathom, and that they all happen. a very interesting story.

Ash:

awesome. I like seeing the big smile and the smile in your eyes when you talk about that book. so when will that be out?

Romi:

It's a good question. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Ten years. Ten years

Ash:

that took me You're serious.

Romi:

Yeah. To ten years to write. Ten years to write, edit, polish, finish. Ten

Ash:

Wow. There you go, people, if you're listening to that. Don't give up on your dreams of writing a

Romi:

Yeah. Ten years is normal a novel, like, for a book, different from a, say, a self help book that was more work related. So I remember at the beginning asking people, how long does it take? And when they said, long is a piece of string or they said ten years, and my first thought was, What's wrong with you people? Just go write the bloody thing. Like, seriously. I didn't understand. look, there's been a lot of times along the way where I've cleared that it's finished. I finished. It's a hundred and sixteen thousand words, and everyone's like, really? And then I finished. It's a hundred and twelve thousand words. I finished. I kept announcing to the point where my friends stopped listening to me. but now it is finished. Been through three different editors. You wanna really get get to know your editors, work American editors, Australian editors, polish it to be the absolute best, cleanest, best, most riveting, Beautifully written story. So the book is ready. I'm now looking at things like, the book cover, do I want it to look? And it's also how do they want them to look? Tiny tunes like KK, what do they think? It will be in discussion also that they love it that they're proud of it, is important that everyone on the same page and everyone is happy. So sort of Doing it a bit slower to make sure that step of the way, we're all on the same page.

Ash:

Yeah. Thank you. You've given us insights as to some really great work that you've Done. And you clearly care about people and want to help people. what would you like to do in the future If nothing was holding you back, if schools were open to you, if people were accepting of your books and your wisdom, What would you like to say? That's the project I would like

Romi:

do. That's the impact I would like Are Are you asking me what do I wanna be when I grow up?

Ash:

I? I probably

Romi:

a beautiful question. And as you listed different things, it sparked a thought in all different aspects. I didn't know I had so many thoughts on the matter. iN relation to my memoir, I would love it to be huge. I just want it to be really well received across the world, That would make my heart sing. It It's such an important part of me, my book, hip hop and hope. So that's in that aspect. think with my books that are already published, is the five minute guide to emotional intelligence, And that's a journaling style book that teach you how to do self inquiry and self awareness through five minutes of journaling every day, and there's a thirty day challenge of prompts. day, you can actually answer a question for yourself. there's that one. then the yellow one called the key, and the key is a social emotional toolkit for teens. very much a guidebook in mental health, emotional health, social health, spiritual health, and it's a very much a step by step guide what is anxiety, how do we feel it, what do we need to do, and then there'll be questions. So what are the steps you need to do? So it's very much a step by step

Ash:

teaching tool. Mhmm. Does it need a teacher? Does it need to be led? Or is it Just something that I could give a teenage girl and say, here you go. There's your present.

Romi:

could give a teenage girl and say, there's your present. first edition was very much I needed to teach it. And In Australia, I went to one of the the top school in Victoria, And I taught it myself for three months to twelve and thirteen year olds. And then I did feedback edited it So that, anyone could teach it. any teacher with zero knowledge of mental health, zero knowledge of anything. maybe a twelve or thirteen year old might not get all the concepts. but from fourteen, fifteen up, absolutely. I also have a lot of adults that buy it saying I never learned these things when I was younger. I've thought about revising particular book for adults, Just changing the examples from school and class based. So why I bring them up? Is the yellow book the key when you say, what do you want? When I wrote that book, my dream probably was a bit like hip hop and hope. My dream, and I was so serious about it, was I want this in every single school across the world. I want every student, every young person, every teenager, every adolescent worldwide have access to this book. If every teenager learnt is anxiety and what do I do about it, what is depression and what's the difference between depression and sadness, How does my mind work? Why am I thinking what I'm thinking? How do I make decisions for myself? What are my values? How do I create empathy? do I talk to my mom and dad? How do I respond to my brother and sister? How can I look in the mirror and like what I see? it covers everything. And if Every single teenager I always said I wanna work myself out of a job. If I have no adults to do counseling with, It's because I did my job on the book, the key, and every teenager doesn't need a counselor because they got their shit together, because they learned it young enough Before, like you said, with your parents' divorce, if you'd learned it then, you wouldn't need to talk about it today. that for me is the dream. it's a hard dream to keep alive because a lot of schools are not that interested, which is devastating to me. that makes me wanna cry. Like, Because if mental health is not a priority in your school, then I don't know what is. You shouldn't have had to come and invite me for a cup of coffee because those things should have been taught to your kids at school and should have been taught to you when you're at school. And the fact that neither you nor your children nor your wife have learned any of these things means it's not being taught. because that's quite difficult to get into schools They can't just add a subject, which is why I then moved more into professional development, and let me teach your teachers. I've done that in a few schools here, and I've done that in quite a few schools down south. I've done it in lot of different parts of Asia. I've done it in Australia. I even did an online one recently to Cambodia, that was working specifically with the counselors, know, we Always need professional development. We don't know everything. I attend lots of professional development still myself. And I hope they're doing amazing professional development. I don't know what they're doing. I can't say that I do, But I hope to God that mental health and emotional health and this kind of training is somehow being prioritized so that our kids get what they need.

Ash:

Awesome. What I like most about your answer there was that your initial response was like, I want every child in the world, every school in the world to learn this. But what I liked about it is you've actually done something about that. You've actually written the book that allows that to happen. I like that. Does that make you free of anxiety? seem to be quite proactive with your goal, with your ambition.

Romi:

I'm proactive, in the areas that I understand. I know how to write a book. I know the topic back to front and inside out in every which way. Where my anxiety kicks in is we were talking about it off air. I have no technology skills really. I'm not great with technology, marketing, social media. So there are days where I sit at home and think, Well, if it's not in every school, it's because I haven't done that part, and I don't know how.

Ash:

Okay.

Romi:

Listen,

Ash:

people out there, listeners, this is the whole beauty. This is what I actually strive for in this podcast. It's like connecting people. There's so many interesting people and there's so many talented people in Chiang Mai. It's not possible that you would be able to do everything. You're not gonna be Publicist, the writer, the author, the teacher, the marketer, the social media,

Romi:

too

Ash:

for one person. So I just hope that what we get as a minimum out of this is more exposure for the work that you do And the fact I now want to pick them up. want to see what they could do for me and my family. want to introduce them to our school. That's what we get from this because I think you've done a really good job. I really love your work. I Really enjoyed this interview.

Romi:

If you wanna help get the book, the key into The schools, what I have learned from experience here is it's the Parents. teachers don't have the power, unfortunately. The higher up people don't have access to them. But for me, when even Two, three, four parents go to the school and say, why is Romy not running professional development on the key in your school? They're the ones that pay the bills. And the minute the parents say it, the schools phone me, and that's how I get in. I know that sounds crazy, but

Ash:

Okay.

Romi:

that's the only way in.

Ash:

That's good to know. And, also, With a book title like The Key, people might find it quite hard to find you. if they're gonna Google to find out more information about this, they probably need to type your name too.

Romi:

Yes.

Ash:

The key.

Romi:

Vicky. Vicky is

Ash:

social emotional talk is the same. And if it's a big yellow book, You know you've got the right one. Yes. Cool. Thank you so much for

Romi:

My pleasure. I really enjoyed it. What fun. Next time, we'll be either hiking or playing pickleball.

Ash:

Who knows?

Romi:

just

Ash:

I'm more of a

Romi:

bit more. Yeah. Me too. Thank you so much, Pleasure. Thanks, Ash.