“You do your personal work. We really believe that we’re the change agents and we can’t take our clients anywhere we haven’t gone.” ~Adena Bank Lees

Adena Bank Lees, LCSW, LISAC, BCETS, CP is an accomplished speaker, author, experiential trainer, and consultant working in traumatic stress and addiction. But wait, there’s more! She’s a leading authority on, and advocate for, psychodrama, a modality that employs guided role-play in private or group sessions. But wait, there’s more! Adena’s encyclopedic knowledge of her field is as impressive as her compassion and empathy are genuine. That is to say, Adena rocks. This is one of those rich, inviting conversations that begs to be bookmarked for future re-listens; it’s just that good!  

“What I’ve learned over the last 30 years – and continued to learn – about how to be with people  and how to help guide them is… we all have a self with a capital S. ”There’s no better partner on the path toward that capital S than Adena. She’s a bona fide master at weaving therapeutic technique with organic exploration. 

“Psychodrama says we have an autonomous healing center. And Buddha says we have a wise self. So my thing is, how do I help someone get reconnected with that part of them? Their intuition, their gut…whatever you want to call it…because they have all the answers. I don’t.” 

Adena clients face a wide range of challenges, from transgenerational trauma to covert emotional incest. She creates safe spaces in which intuition helps them rework their personal stories. This isn’t an erasure of the past. Nor is it an exercise in traditional forgiveness.

“It’s the feeling, it’s the understanding, it’s the grieving of the losses, of the hopes and the dreams. And the I wish my childhood was like this. It wasn’t. I can’t go back. But, I got to grieve and at some point to make the choice. I’m not going to hold onto this anger.” Their release from trauma’s hold isn’t predicated on the difficult (and sometimes harmful) maneuver of absolution; patients don’t have to go there if they don’t feel safe doing so.

Accepting that we can live vibrantly and wholely with our wounds is a byproduct of owning one’s agency. It’s for this reason that Adena adamantly advises therapists to embark on self-healing journeys so they can better understand the client experience. 

Asked if she considers herself a wounded healer, she says, “I don’t see myself as wounded anymore. I have parts that are wounded, but me as a whole? No. And I believe that was an important stage, an identity for me to have. And to be and to move through. I have wounds and I am in the process of assisting other people to heal.” 


Note: This interview was recorded well before shelter-in-place orders were instituted across the United States in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Consequently, the conversation does not reference the crisis. 




Sierra Treatment Center



EMDR Therapy

Richard C. Schwartz, Ph.D

Jean M. Campbell, LCSW, SEP, CPC, CET3, TEP

Jacob Levy Moreno

Dr. Dan Siegel

Bessel van der Kolk

Caron Treatment Centers

Dena Baumgartner, Ph.D, TEP, LMFT, LPC, CGP

The Meadows 

Dr. Gabor Maté

Alcoholics Anonymous


NARM Training Institute

Covert emotional incest

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