Talk to someone- Talk to someone who is smarter than you are. Who asks you challenging questions and cares a lot about your answers. You can start with a therapist, and then discover others around you who also make you feel strong and confident and resilient.


Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Zakeri LCSW.

Lynn R. Zakeri, LCSW is a therapist in the Chicago area whose passion is to help people figure out what is wrong and help them feel better again. She enjoys assisting in the progress and achievement of attaining goals. Lynn serves on many committees and when she is not working, she is being a soccer mom.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I went into the field of social work thinking I would help people.

My first job was a foster family worker. Without realizing that what I was in fact doing was teaching connections, I taught some children what it was to have a consistent and dependable relationship with an adult. I taught some parents, unbeknownst to me, that if I believed in their ability to do better, they would in fact do better. While working, I also obtained my MSW and became a school social worker. I also got married to my (grade school) sweetheart, and embraced my new career. I learned a lot and truly loved every minute of it. I enjoyed working with the students, as well as being a support to my principal and teacher friends. I statted to hone my clinical skills, and started a private practice on the side. The practice grew quickly, I became a mom, and for many reasons it made sense to go full steam ahead with my business.

As a private practice therapist, I started a blog titled “Connecting Through Therapy” because connections are meaningful and of the utmost importance. I watch clients, adolescents through elderly, grow and grow and grow. Not because of me, but because of our therapeutic relationship, and in turn because of their role in other human relationships. My practice has been full for years, and for many reasons, some I discuss below, I expanded, became Lynn Zakeri LCSW Clinical Services, PLLC and added some associates. I love what I do. Part of who I am is a therapist, and I learn every single day, every single session, from my clients.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I am usually pretty good at “reading the room”. I can tell how hard to push, when to slow down, when to comfort and when to challenge. I met a client who has taught me more than I taught him, and he reminds me of so many of the reasons I truly love what I do. He told me other therapists kicked him out, that he was “too much”. He was, what you might call, a lot.

He laid it all on me with enough vagueness for me to speculate, and I thought his goal was to clear his conscience and find some self-forgiveness for his “crimes”. Fast forward many sessions, many questions, many challenges, and much listening, and this is not the purpose of his therapy at all. He is so much more complicated, interesting, and downright fascinating than his “crimes”. He is potentially the smartest person I have ever met, and will ever meet, and the crux of it is that he probably thinks similarly of me, which is why he keeps showing up. He embraces the trust (which I talk about later), and honestly would shrug at being thought of as resilient. I think he is brave, strong, smart, resilient… and impactful. If only he knew how much he matters to others, to me.

The take away is that I never look through one frame. You are not a diagnosis to me, you are complicated and interesting and affected by a thousand experiences. But I thought I had an idea of who he was, and truthfully, he thought he had an idea of who he was, and together we are discovering who he is.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are so individualized and we really develop relationships. I really think that most of my clients think that they are my favorite because when we are together, I am all in and I really pay attention. We also ask a lot of questions and put puzzle pieces together on a regular basis. No assumptions, no judgments, only growth and understanding. For example, one family I knew for many years I would have thought I really truly knew all the dynamics and ins and outs. As the younger teens became adults themselves, they were able to have insights and give meaning to their past and offer perspectives that would not have been entertained if we were starting the process at this point in their lives.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband really believes in me. He thinks I am smart and can do anything I set my mind to. I don’t think he always felt this way, but over time he has watched me grow as a mother, a wife and a therapist and I think he is at times in awe of me. At least he writes that in my birthday cards, haha. I think he is really level-headed and says only things he means, so it is so validating and meaningful to me that he feels this way. I remember when I talked to him about expanding my practice to add some associates. I was not only full to capacity, but it was really distressing me to turn away people looking for support and I wanted to stop having to say no to really brave people who were asking for help. He was the one who “knew” it would be a success. He was the one who never doubted or questioned. His trust in me, and in turn my respect and love and trust in him, really makes me grateful.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

Resilience in a generic sense is not giving up. Persevering.

How do you adapt when faced with challenges?

It is hard! Finding the strength to go at it again is hard! Take a break. Reset. Reflect. Take your time and then remember your goals and why it is worth it in the end. Hard work adds to your story. This is hard work.

How do you keep going? Same self-talk message. Look for encouragement- the bystanders at the marathon are really important! Who believes in you? Who reminds you of why you believe in yourself.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

TRUST! More than confidence that things will work out, more than faith that things will work out, but TRUSTING that things will work out. When you trust, there is no room for “what if”.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

To adapt in times of challenges takes courage. To persevere in times of trauma takes courage. I prefer the word brave over courage- but either way, to take a risk and keep going requires trust that you can do this, and that is really brave.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I think of Viktor Frankl because of his book, Man’s Search for Meaning. It is really inspirational. I also think of clients who have been through so much trauma. The fact that they keep showing up, keep trying to be better, feel better, do better, shows me how brave and strong and resilient they are.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

It is not common to build a therapy business like mine with out marketers. I don’t think anyone in the whole world knows the kind of client I want to attract more than I do. No expert in web design can speak to future potential clients more than I can. No assistant can respond to emails or handle my intake more intuitively and authentically. For me, it is not a form or standardized. From day one, I built my business on my own. I paid attention to what worked and what didn’t. I trusted myself and my gut about what felt “yucky” and what felt authentic. So many therapist marketers tell you that you need a niche. I don’t have one. My niche is anyone who wants to go all in with sessions and give it a go and trust me tends to be a really good fit. I had to have confidence that I could do it but I more so had trust in my purpose and my integrity with it.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

The year I turned a new decade, I had also lost a young friend and family member to pancreatic cancer. It was simultaneously uniquely cold and snowy for Chicago (so you know it was a bad winter) and so professionally, clients were feeling drained and sadder than usual. I remember feeling drained myself, and even overwhelmed with all that was going on around me. My doctor saw me for a check up and I asked him if he thought I was depressed, and he looked at me and said, “Lynn, you are burned out. You need to recognize all you are doing and all you are holding, and you need to take some more breaks. You are not depressed. You are over-worked and over-taxed.” It was like this weight had been lifted. Someone reminded me of my resilience, and I just had to remember it myself so I could keep going.

How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I did not know that someone could be dependent AND independent at the same time. I was raised to be independent. I spent a lot of time in my room, on the phone with friends, listening to music, getting good grades in school, and doing my household responsibilities. I had my share of rebellion and “trouble” I got into, but because I was not used to depending on my parents for emotional support, I handled my emotions on my own and had to get to know them, discomfort and all. As I became a wife and parent myself, I had to change this. I had to learn to ask for help, I had to learn to share vulnerabilities and say sorry and allow myself to be afraid of losing someone if I didn’t put in half the emotional work.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Routine- If you get used to adapting and succeeding, it becomes your new normal. My teen sons are a great example of this. Soccer and school shut downs happened when I had a high school junior and an 8th grader, and they made a training schedule in March 2020 that took one son to college to play soccer in college this year, and my other son to be the frist freshman high school varsity soccer player at his school in 19 years, and a captain of Varsity his sophomore year. Their routine and trust and confidence that they could adapt to the new normal kept them going, and they grew closer and felt really proud of themselves.

Take care of YOU — just like I found myself questioning my resilience those years ago, it is crucial to take care of things you can control. I like to hierarchy it with sleep being first, nutrition second, exercise third, and weave connections throughout them all.

Connections- Be with people who bring out the best in you. I have a great friend who makes me funnier, I have another great friend who makes me more “chill”, I have a husband who makes me feel like I am doing everything right, and I have parents and sister who make me feel wise. These people really keep me going. When I am with people who trigger my own insecurities, I need to instill boundaries and keep myself protected, all the while being self-reflective on why.

Pay attention- Pay attention to what felt good and what didn’t. Did you enjoy paying for someone else, volunteering, bringing neighbors some cookies? Did you feel excited every time you looked at your garden growing? Did you wish the conversation with someone never ended because it flew by? Part of self-reflection is paying attention to your feelings. It is so much easier to talk about what we DID but pay attention more to what you FELT.

Talk to someone- Talk to someone who is smarter than you are. Who asks you challenging questions and cares a lot about your answers. You can start with a therapist, and then discover others around you who also make you feel strong and confident and resilient.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Self Reflect. I think if you are in a relationship with someone who self-reflects, whether it is your boss (how great is it to have a boss who circles back and says they were wrong, or they were unnecessarily harsh), your employee (how great to have your employee say “I rushed through that and I am sorry” rather than be defensive), your child, parent, friend, significant other (I thought about what I said/you said and I overreacted, or I misinterpreted) it is just so repairing to hear that someone who matters and affects you circled back thoughtfully. Also, be flexible. My family would laugh at me, as there are things about me that really struggles with that word. I value my bedtime and can be rigid about evening plans start/end times, and I really like to know a schedule and what to expect in my day. However, there are times when I embrace your rules, not mine. Being a therapist during a pandemic, I figured it out as I went along. Pivot was the word that was used as we went from standard to accommodating and adapting to lots and lots of changes. Intakes were figured out how to send electronically. Sessions were accommodated based on safety protocols, but most importantly is that I followed YOUR lead. In person? Yes. On video? Yes. A phone call? Yes. The rules were yours not mine, and the ability to decide within minutes of the appointment was also expected and accepted.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I mean… Brene Brown- I joke that her schtick is connections and I started my blog (Connecting in Therapy) BEFORE her first Ted Talk. Chance- as a Chicagoan, I really respect him. Megan Markle- talk about being brave.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

www.lynnzakeri.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.