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Meet the Therapist: Cristian Renzi, R.P.

Every month, we showcase one of our talented therapists and learn more about them, their story, and their approach to therapy.






What inspired you to become a therapist, and how do your personal experiences shape your approach to counseling?


In one word, “trauma” is really what influenced me to pursue therapy. My father was an individual addicted to substances, and eventually ended up passing away before we could properly rekindle our relationship. Seeing his struggle from an early age and the long-lasting impact it had on myself and my family were the main motivating factors.

 

I felt that if I had been through these difficult things, seeing sides of life and needing to be much more mature than I should have had to be as a child, I have a good compass to help other people that are going through it as well. I also had a supportive family growing up, had been in therapy myself, and was fortunate and privileged enough to pursue it as a career.

 

Being supportive and caring to others as well as understanding people were really all I was ever good at in my personal life. I enjoy talking to others and always have from when I was young.  Conversations from people much wiser than me helped me to grow into the person I am today, and I really enjoy connecting with others. I have always said that due to this, if I wasn’t a psychotherapist I would have been a barber, both careers where you get to talk to people one on one and learn about their lives! 


Can you share a bit about your therapeutic philosophy and the theoretical approaches you integrate into your practice?

 

I really enjoy having an integrative view of my practice. I think that different therapeutic perspectives are useful, and all point to relatively the same thing; we have maladaptive coping strategies that we have developed to become comfortable in a very uncomfortable world.  This can look like anything from addiction, to automatic negative thinking; all designed to keep the system safe in a maladaptive way. I believe that if we can find those coping mechanisms, befriend them, and replace them with healthier ones, that is one way that healing can occur.

 

As far as therapeutic approaches go, I think it really depends on the client. I mainly use a mix of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Internal Family Systems, and mindfulness, from a client-cantered existential lens, and most importantly, always trauma-informed.

 

What specific populations or issues do you specialize in, and what unique insights or techniques do you bring to those areas?

 

The main populations that I work with are young men in their 20s and 30s, and I have extensive experience working in addictions. For several years I worked at The Vitanova Foundation, an addiction treatment center in Woodbridge, Ontario. I often say that this is the place where I really learned what it meant to be at therapist, and work with individuals and their families struggling with addictions. The mentorship and friendship that I gained from this facility was essential for me, and I use the wisdom/insights I gained from working there in nearly every session I conduct today.

 

I also have personal insight knowing what it feels like to be the child of an individual struggling with addiction; the pain, fear and difficulties caused for the families, and to an extent the individual struggling. Working at the addictions facility allowed me to hone that personal insight, and use it in a productive way to assist my client’s today.

 

If I could state one insight that I believe to be central in the work that I do, it is that every addiction is born from pain or trauma. I have never met a person who woke up and consciously said “I think my goal for today will be to ruin my family and traumatize my loved ones.”  If trauma has caused pain for the individual struggling, it is the addiction that is numbing the pain of that trauma. If we begin to heal the trauma and pain caused by it, we can begin to lessen the hold the addiction has.


In your experience, what are some common misconceptions about therapy, and how do you work to address and overcome them in your practice?

 

How formal it needs to be! Sometimes therapy can be so intimidating to people that have never experienced it before, and I believe that finding ways to limit this fear and intimidation our client’s may feel is paramount. No healing can happen in a fearful, intimidated state. At the end of the day, therapy is simply a healing, connecting conversation between people, where anything can be spoken about without judgement.


I often address and overcome this by being as casual as possible, without being unprofessional. I prefer not to dress too formally (obviously not dressing unprofessionally), not relying on jargon, and my clients can attest that sometimes I have said an unsavoury word or two during session. This is who I am as a person, and I believe making space for this in therapy adds to being genuine.  


What’s your favourite self-care activity?

 

There are several things that I enjoy but exercise is my go-to self-care; either walking or weightlifting. Something body-oriented is typically what makes me feel calmest, and feel as though my batteries are recharged enough to continue on with the responsibilities that I have. I like these things because it incorporates so many different realms that are important. For example with a walk, it is physical, it connects you with nature, it allows you to focus on your breath and practice being mindful, or can give me time to reflect. 


Similar things go for weightlifting, but it is more socially fulfilling, and less nature connecting than walking. If it is not exercise (and if I have the time), I enjoy going to the thermal spas and melting away in the hot baths.  


What do you find most rewarding about being a therapist?

 

There are so many aspects of being a therapist that are rewarding. I would say to summarize it, the feeling that I am having a direct impact on people and making a difference in society. The beauty of seeing someone make positive changes in their life is extremely rewarding. Taking it further, knowing that I am not only having an impact on the individual, but on their loved ones as well is a very positive feeling.  We do not suffer alone, and when we suffer, the loved ones around us unfortunately do as well, as much as that is not our intention.


Knowing that I am not only alleviating pain from the person I am talking to, but the others in their lives is an excellent feeling.  This feels rewarding, as the difficulties I experienced can be used in a positive way to help the individuals and their loved ones that I work with today. We all have reach, and when we help someone it is exponential, they go on to help others in their lives naturally. A colleague once said something along the lines of “the things we learn are not ours to keep”, and I think this is an excellent way to summarize it.  Knowing the exponential impact we have as therapists is a comforting and rewarding feeling, that feels very meaningful..


What would you say to someone who has never been in therapy before and may be considering taking that first step and reaching out?

 

The first step is the most difficult one to make. Things may feel very scary right now, and therapy may be adding to that fear, or perhaps you have had a bad experience in therapy before, but it will get easier over time. The feeling of empowerment that taking that first step can have is so important in making positive movement forward.  Use reaching out and taking that first step as a way to get out of your comfort zone.  We don’t grow or change when we are comfortable, the only way to do this is to inch slowly out of our comfort zone.  Don’t rock the boat too much, but reaching out for a consult could be an excellent way to start getting out of your comfort zone.

 

20-minute consultations are excellent. They are free, and give you a chance to meet the therapist before actually booking a session. This can drastically help lessen the anxiety, and give you an idea of where therapy can head. Take advantage of these as a way to “shop around” and see which therapist is the best fit for you.  They are extraordinarily useful and commitment free!

Cristian Renzi is a Registered Psychotherapist in Ontario and offers men across the province therapy through our online platform. He works with men on a wide range of issues including substance abuse, trauma, anger, men's issues,

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