Series 14: For the Love of Good Change | Episode 06
Therapy is a Gift for Everyone: Onsite’s Miles Adcox
One of the bravest, most impactful good changes we can make is to care for our emotional wellness. Each day we carry so many thoughts, memories and dreams that shape the stories we tell about ourselves. When we’re ready to live a new story, or maybe learn a little more about how to better care for ourselves, therapy can be a long-lasting tool to help us take off our mask, heal our shame, and forge a path toward vulnerability and authentic, joyful living. Miles Adcox is the CEO of Onsite, an emotional wellness lifestyle brand that delivers life-changing personal growth retreats to help people discover a better future. Miles is known far and wide for his expertise and has been part of of Dr. Brené Brown’s Rising Strong Day and TEDx. Today Miles tells us about his own emotional wellness journey and why therapy isn’t for broken people. He gives us a slew of resources about how to find the best therapist for us, and what we can expect to learn about ourselves as we take time to dig deeper. And probably the most encouraging of all, Miles reminds us we don’t just “need” therapy—we deserve it.
Narrator: Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen: Hey guys, Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. I’m so glad that you are here, welcome to the show.
So right now, we are wrapping up a series called For the Love of Good Change, and I have literally loved everything about this series. So many things that I’ve heard over the course of the last several episodes have worked their way immediately and directly into the book I’m writing. So useful is this counsel and instruction. And I’ve really been floored by every single guest, and I’ve learned so much. And I honestly wish it would go on forever.
So I’m just always grateful for really wise teachers who lead us well. And I feel absolutely the same about this next guest.
So, Miles Adcox, you guys, he’s an entrepreneur, he’s a speaker, he’s a host, he’s a coach. Miles is the owner and the CEO of Onsite, which you might’ve heard of. It’s an emotional wellness lifestyle brand that delivers, honestly, life-changing personal growth workshops, and content, and leadership retreats, and emotional care. Miles has been a featured speaker and a facilitator at just a truckload of events, including Rising Strong Day with our fan favorite, Dr. Brené Brown, and TEDx. And he’s consulted major brands on organizational health and emotional wellness. And he’s a mental health consultant to the entertainment industry.
I mention this later in the interview, but he has literally mattered to so many friends of mine who have put themselves under the care of Onsite that I can’t even count them, with absolutely outstanding results from literally every single one of them.
So Miles and his wife Vanessa, who is legit a Hallmark movie star, and their adorable son, Maverick, baby girl on the way, live in Nashville.
So listen you guys, Miles has a list of credentials literally as long as my arm, but he is one of the kindest, warmest, most humble people you will ever meet. And, by his own admission, he’s very weary of experts and gurus, so you know I’m into that.
I’m excited to share this conversation with Miles because we talk a lot about therapy for the next hour. And if you’ve never been, therapy can probably seem daunting because opening up is scary to somebody, a stranger, specifically. And that can be really really hard. And just, “Here’s my stuff, here’s what I’m needing, take it and go,” it’s a pretty . . . it takes courage to do that. But it is so worth it, it has mattered so much in the life of my family, our marriage, my kids, and virtually everybody that I am close to, that I am colleagues with, that I serve alongside of. So I am a huge believer in soul care and in therapy and in counseling. So this conversation is so good, you are gonna love this.
And I just wanna tell you in advance, there is a moment that we both just kind of break because Miles tells a story that I was not prepared for. It is so tender and sweet. So whatever your experience with therapy is, you’re gonna be glad you listened for the next hour. I think you’ll find this really encouraging and really good for you as a human person. And here’s the deal: therapy isn’t for broken people, therapy is for everyone. And I love how Miles talks about it.
Jen: So we’re gonna pull back the curtain a little bit toward the journey to emotional wellness. And with that, I am so pleased to share my conversation with the wonderful and wise Miles Adcox.
Jen: Okay, Miles. Welcome, so much welcome to the For the Love Podcast. Brandon and I, who you know also, just think the world of you and what you do. And we respect and admire you so much, and appreciate your leadership, appreciate your service to people. And I really appreciate your time today, thanks for coming on.
Miles: Thank you, Jen. Thank you for having me, and likewise. I love you guys and what you’re about and what you do. So definitely a fan of how you guys show up in the world, so I’m glad to be here.
Jen: Thank you. In fact, as I was walking up to my office just a minute ago to hop on the podcast with you, Brandon was inside and he was like, “Have a great conversation with Miles,” he’s like, “Listen, Miles is one of those guys that, when you meet him and spend time with him, for a minute you think, There’s no way that this guy can be real because nobody is this good and this kind, but he is.” So anyway, that was Brandon Hatmaker’s endorsement five minutes ago of you.
Miles: Aw, thank you.
Jen: So look, I’ve told our listeners a little bit about you and what it is you do, kind of the scope of your work. But I’d actually love for us first to learn a little bit about you in your own words, kind of aside from what it is you do. I mean, I so deeply . . . so many of us equate ourselves to our careers. I believe that you and I are both Enneagram 3s, so that is our life’s work to un-peel that. But it’s not true, we’re not our jobs.
So I wonder if you could tell my listeners a little bit about yourself.
Miles: Sure. Yeah, and I appreciate the leading to that. It’s been so interesting that I found myself in a career and have a company that helps people do just that: figure out what parts of them are human being and what parts of them are human doing, and find a lane to separate those. And I struggle with the very thing that we teach, as ironic as that is. So I sometimes have a hard time separating myself from what I do, but I really worked on that over the years.
Today, I would proudly start with I’m a dad. I’m a proud father, I’m a proud husband. I am . . . got a little boy and a little girl on the way.
Miles: So we’ll have a new addition in April.
Jen: How old’s your son?
Miles: He’s 18 months.
Jen: That’s what I thought . . . you’re gonna be in the weeds a little bit, in the most glorious weeds.
Miles: Very sleep deprived.
Jen: Yes, yes.
Miles: But a very happy one. And it’s been a humbling and incredible journey, as you know. That’s my favorite title today.
And aside from that, I love what makes people tick. So just have always been curious about human beings. I love community, love connection. I love . . . also, similar passion for the outdoors and all four-leggeds, too. I love animals, grew up with horses, so I consider myself an outdoorsman. That’s where I take my deepest breaths and where I enjoy spending a lot of time. So that’s a little bit about me.
Jen: And you are married to a person who is a part of these beautiful human beings you’re creating, and your wife’s name?
Miles: She’s amazing. An amazing mom, and yeah. Her name’s Vanessa.
Jen: Love it.
Miles: And she’s so talented. But the way she shows up for our kiddos has been something amazing to watch.
Jen: That’s fantastic. There is something . . . some sort of switch does flip when your wife becomes your kids’ mom, or your husband becomes your kids’ dad. There’s just territory you didn’t know to expect. You didn’t know how to perceive it, you didn’t know what it was gonna look like. And it is, for that, it’s a real wonderful delight in sort of the path of marriage. I love it.
So, someone with your work experience that you kind of mentioned, you’ve always sort of leaned in to what makes people tick and just sort of the human part of being human beings. So I’m curious about your background and your sort of own emotional wellness journey. Can you talk about where your own path to healing began? And what sort of maybe initially drew you to this kind of work?
Miles: So I’ve had my share of struggle, and it took me a little bit of time to find the right people to come around me at the right time. When they did, through the lens of counseling and other ways, I just fell in love with the change process.
So the way it looked for me is, I grew up in a wonderful family. But yet not a perfect family, I’ve learned there are none of those. But ours did a lot of things well. And some things we’ve had to change generational patterns and evolve out it. I’d say a big theme is just the idea of emotional literacy and emotional health. We just didn’t talk feelings, you know? We were a very traditional Southern family. And we just didn’t do intimacy as well as we did the other things. We showed up for each other the best ways we knew how. And I am so thankful for that, because there’s a lot of people that don’t have that in their lives.
Miles: That last piece, there was definitely a deficit in . . . So from that, I begin to, I’d say, seek out my place in the world in some not so healthy ways. I’ve got two amazing siblings who adapt pretty well and have done pretty well, and I didn’t. And I see that a lot where people grow up in the same system, and some people go one way and some people go the other. So I definitely took the other route and became kind of the black sheep of the family for a while.
I didn’t know what to call it because I didn’t have the language for it, but I starting experiencing some depression and anxiety early on. And I was in high school and college, leaned hard on popularity and athletics and all the things you do to get accepted. But I didn’t realize that there was a part of me internally that was working overtime to try to get acceptance. Because I just didn’t really know how to accept myself at the time, which it’s so common for that age, but I didn’t stop it. So it moved on into my early 20s, and that’s when it kind of caught up with me because it’s not sustainable, really, for anybody.
Jen: That’s right.
Miles: Chasing their worth externally. But I was doing that became a performer, meaning anything I tried to do, I tried to do it perfectly, which is not a sustainable thing either.
So anyway, I ended up starting to . . . some of the discourse that came from compounding emotion, or not having an outlet to feel, especially as a man, which you already kind of have that script going into the world no matter what, that it started coming out sideways. And it was so uncomfortable I started medicating it and numbing it out, a lot of unhealthy ways. And it was fun for a minute, and then quickly it wasn’t fun anymore. It just kind of leads you towards a lonely path.
So I thankfully had an opportunity to kind of crash or . . . I guess to deconstruct, because even when I felt my worst, I did everything in my power to show you my best, because that’s kind of the message I took from the church. You know that I grew up…
And finally, thankfully, I couldn’t spin all those plates anymore. I got lucky that I didn’t do that into my 50s, because I know so many that just . . . they hold it up, and they wake up one day and they’re miserable.
Jen: That’s right.
Miles: And I got lucky it happened for me in my early 20s. And then that’s when I had those people come around me. And I just got fortunate to start to rebuild, open up and change. And since then, it changed me professionally . . . or it changed me personally, and then it changed the trajectory of what I wanted to do professionally.
Jen: Hmm. So, professionally speaking, it’s interesting. I think therapy has come a really long way, definitely in the last generation in terms of branding and social acceptance, you know? My parents generation, this just wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t common, it certainly wasn’t admitted. It was really poorly understood. But still sometimes, I still think we hold on to some antiquated ideas about therapy. And truthfully, therapy isn’t for broken people, right?
Can you just tell us a little bit more about this, about this sort of approach to soul and mental care?
Miles: Yes. And I’m glad you started with that, because I fully subscribe to it. The more we’re learning about trauma and emotional trauma in my space, the more we’re learning that nobody really escapes it at some level. Now certainly, people experience it as much bigger scales, and you don’t ever wanna get into the comparison thing. But at the end of the day, we’re all humans and we’re all gonna experience significant loss in our lives. And we’ll all experience and show up differently because of it.
So therapy, to me, has been branded all wrong for a long time. It was set up as, “This is where you go when something’s wrong with you.” And it’s really not what’s wrong with you, it’s what’s right with you. That you would take a deep dive on what parts of your narrative aren’t serving you and the people around you, and try to become a better version of who you are.
Miles: And I got . . . In therapy, I will say, it’s like any other profession. It has a wide array of talent and modalities. And it’s kind of like faith or anything else, it’s got conservative arms and very liberal, and faith based and non-faith based.
Across the spectrum. So you really have to find what works for you. But when I found it, and it took a minute, but when I found the right people at the right time with the right processes, I was so excited, Jen, that I walked out of there and I thought, Everybody I know needs an opportunity to experience this. And why am I one that was lucky enough to have this breakdown in my life that I got this gift?
So I’ve looked at it like a punishment. I’ve always looked at it like, oh this is just a gift most people don’t even know they deserve. So many people say to me, “I need this,” or, “I need this,” and it’s a quick redirect. It’s like, “You don’t need it, you deserve it. You just do.”
Jen: The reason that I’m pausing is because I’m taking notes. This is so good. I’m wondering if just for a minute you . . . because you mentioned something that I think probably a lot of my listeners can relate to, which is there’s so many strands and brands of therapy that it has a thousand different faces, like any area does. And you just mentioned that it took you a minute to find the one that works for you.
I wonder if you could walk us through that a little bit. Like for the person listening who is curious here, and this is a place that she or he is wanting to lean into and explore because she or he deserves it, as you mentioned. Do you have any advice, or best practices or general suggestions to offer us in terms of how to find the right place? How to find the right therapist?
Miles: This sounds very . . . I don’t know what the word is, it sounds very backwards in a digital world, but I actually think a third-party referral is the best way to go. And it can come from a professional or it can come from a person. But ultimately, that’s a hard question to ask because typically we wanna get therapy in private. And that’s why the internet isn’t a useful tool, you don’t necessarily wanna go to your friend or your pastor or somebody else and say, “Do you know a good therapist?”
But let me encourage you, those of you that are listening, that’s the best way I found to do it. Because people typically know people and know experiences, and you’re usually a quarter turn away from somebody who has done or that is in therapy.
And honestly, I refer to the people who I know and have relationship with. Obviously they have to be really good at what they do, but I need to know the person behind the credential to know whether or not they’re gonna be able to effectively connect and do the dance that we call effective therapy.
Jen: Hmm, that’s great counsel.
So, let’s talk a little bit about Onsite. I know a lot of our listeners are familiar with it, probably because some very influential and wise and wonderful people have benefitted from your services that a lot of us know. But some of them are hearing, of course, about Onsite for the first time today.
So can you talk about what it is you do there? And what’s your goal for people who come to Onsite for help?
Miles: I’m a big believer that if we can enhance the emotional health of kind of one individual at a time, collectively, we can improve communities and change our culture.
Jen: Me too.
Miles: From our corner of the world, we’re trying to do that in a lot of creative ways. We’re an emotional health retreat center that offers some wonderful therapeutic services. But one reason why a lot of people trust us and come to us is because we’ve done our best to de-pathologize the process and humanize it.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: So we don’t see people as diagnoses. Obviously, there’s a clinically sophisticated approach that we use, our people are masters level trained and they’re really good. But I work hard to make sure that they get permission to show up as people first.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: We’re advocates for anybody that facilitates a service at our place, they’ve actually gone through the program themselves. I don’t like the idea that anybody takes it where they haven’t been willing to go themselves, you know? We want our people doing their own work, especially in our space because there’s just a burnout and secondary vicarious trauma is so high.
Jen: Good point.
Miles: But I know I’m talking at a higher level. But we’re on 250 acres, just west of Nashville. It’s a beautiful campus. A lot of people have called us everything, from therapy camp to who knows what? I like to call us just, we’ve never branded this way, but human school.
Jen: I like it, human school. Love it.
Miles: That people would come so that we learned to be more humane to ourselves, and therefore be more humane to the people around us and the rest of the world. I think that’s where it all starts and ends.
Jen: Well, and one thing I want my podcast community to know specifically is you and I have just a ton of friends and colleagues in common, and I have so many precious people to me that have come to you, that have come to Onsite. And with no exceptions, not a single one, with 100% reporting rate, every single one of my friends has told me that their time at Onsite has changed their life.
And so I respect your integrity and your very careful and tender care of the human soul, and I know from one degree out that it delivers. It delivers what people need.
So let me ask you this. Opening up just in general, it’s vulnerable. It’s such a super vulnerable experience, and I don’t believe that we’re necessarily conditioned to do that. That’s not the messaging that we start getting when we’re young, when those sorts of disclosures can be used against you, right? Or people use them to their advantage or . . . So, because of that, I think a lot of us are afraid to give ourselves over, to give our hearts and souls and minds over to someone who may not understand or do more harm than good.
So, for somebody who might be interested in seeking help from a therapist or a counselor, let’s just say for the first time, how does your staff at Onsite find the kinds of therapists that fit with your culture and your clients? How do you manage that very careful exchange of vulnerability and information in a way that they know when we come to you, we can trust your people?
Miles: I’m still breathing deep from the affirmations you gave me earlier about your feelings.
Jen: It’s real. Every word of it, real.
Miles: Thank you. You know what? Thank you for that, though. That is meaningful and the way you reflected it was powerful, so it was good to hear and very encouraging. I appreciate that.
Jen: You’re welcome.
Miles: We spend a lot of time honestly obsessing about how do we curate psychological safety.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: And in an environment where people feel empowered and not judged and seen and valued and ultimately feel connected at their core. If you’re at home right now and have never made a call to reach out to somebody about a dark secret or emotional pain or some stress and fear, I know that 10,000-pound phone. I have multiple times in my life, and I’m not immune to it now as a professional in my space. When I find myself in a place that is needing change, you can have all the self-awareness in the world. You’re fighting a biological response and a cultural condition that tells you to hide it all costs, and it’s not something that is easy to shake.
I want to set the intention that you can do this in your community in church, in your friend group. You can work on yourself to become better for the people around you. And we spend a lot of time on that, Jen. How do we create safety? How do we sustain it? How does the back office match the service we’re trying to deliver? It doesn’t always. When it’s not, we need to be transparent about it.
Jen: That’s great.
Miles: I guess that would be my quick answer, is we just hold relationships on high and trust sacred and we work hard, as hard to try to accomplish those as we do anything else we might deliver.
Jen: That’s so great.
Taking that kind of one step further, we hear from people often, “Therapy changed my life,” or “Therapy, they brought me into a place of healing,” or “This absolutely revolutionized my relationship,” or whatever it is, but sometimes we don’t know from an outsider’s . . . Like how did that happen? What happened in those sacred minutes and hours and spaces?
I wonder if you could talk through what you’ve seen in your experience. What are some of the very tangible gains that people can get from going to therapy? Like what kind of skills can they develop? How do they become more equipped for human school, as you have said? What are sort of the . . . Of course this varies wildly from person to person, of course, but just sort of from a 30,000 foot view, what would you say, “These are the things that I have seen therapy accomplish in the life of the people that are brave enough and willing enough to step into it”?
Miles: Well, I’ll speak for my own experience and then pivot into my professional thought on it. I was not and am not a candidate for a life changing experiences through the lens of therapy. I mean, I was a typical male, grew up in the South. I got all the messages of masculinity that were damaging about what it’s like to be a man’s man. I’m a hunter, fisherman, I’m an athlete, so I shouldn’t have responded to this the way that I did, and yet it was the most . . . is the most powerful thing I’ve ever encountered and it’s not because I did 180 degrees. I still love all those things. I still am very much . . . I just retooled what it is to be a man’s man. It’s not all those or it’s not all those. It’s both. I can have both. I’m sensitive and I’m tough and everything in between, and I love that part of me.
I guess the biggest thing was [with therapy] I got more self-awareness, I got less shame, I got more permission to not pretend and wear a mask, and I got . . . this sounds a little . . . I don’t know how much of your audience is men. It doesn’t matter. Men or women, it’s the same, but I got permission to integrate both the masculine and feminine in me.
Jen: That’s good. No, we need that too, of course. Women are regularly told that their strength is a threat, that their desire should be squashed in any capacity, that we should be gentle and tender at all times. And so women who are naturally bold or naturally gifted at leadership or have a lot of ambition or very fierce convictions, we also need to be told that we have permission to embrace both sides of our character.
Miles: Mm-hmm. I think it allows you to embrace all parts of you, even the ones you didn’t know about, and there is . . . I can’t even begin to explain the freedom that comes with that, so most people sum it up to that. There’s a lot of ways to get there and for some people, they’re just kind of unpacking old stuff, getting through new stuff or navigating difficult transitions in their lives, but at the end of the day, there’s a lot of people that come to us and life is going really well. They just want to raise their EQ and become a more whole human and that’s how they invest their time.
Jen: That’s a great point. Again, back to one of your original comments, which is that [therapy] isn’t just because people need it, it’s because they deserve it. And there isn’t a type of person that’s a good candidate for therapy. In fact, a lot of people who benefit greatly from it from all outsider’s perspective have it all or they look like they have it all or everything looks like it’s going well, and in some cases it is. And so there’s so much under it. There’s so many benefits sometimes hidden that we don’t even know we need until somebody puts it in front of us and gives us permission.
Jen: Let me ask you this, because I’m thinking about my listeners and kind of where a lot of them are at in their lives, and a lot of my listeners are somewhere in the midst of a transition in life. That’s just of course ubiquitous, absolutely common, normal, good, and looks 1,000 different ways, whether it’s kind of transitioning your family and parenting or your marriage into a new space. It could be career transition, spiritual. That’s super, super normal.
But I would love for you to talk about this because as we sort of encounter natural life transitions, do you think it’s important sometimes to seek outside help as they are occurring? I wonder, even personally, has your own internal processing changed as you got married and then as you became a father?
Obviously so many of our transitions can be beautiful and they’re wonderful and they come after years of longing for them, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re easy to navigate. And so a lot of people find themselves reeling and confused why they are.
What would you say to people who find themselves in the in between and unsure how to handle their shifting emotions?
Miles: I think Brené says it best with the mess is kind of in the middle, but it doesn’t feel like that. It sucks, frankly. We’ve been conditioned our whole life to build everything around us in a way that makes us feel comfortable. We’ve got the skewed perception on comfort, and when I started wrestling with my own story— and when I say” started,” I’m still doing it, and I’ve been doing this for a long time—it’s just become way more enjoyable and way less stressful.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: So I live in transitions. I finally learned that. I wasn’t trying to get somewhere. Life, especially pursuing personal growth or a better version of yourself—and it doesn’t matter if it’s emotional or on the spiritual side—it’s not linear, it’s circular.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: It’s going to continue to cycle back. And so transition initially feels so uncomfortable because it feels so new. Everything in us wants to turn back towards comfort, do a 180 degree shift, and that’s what our goal is. What I would say is don’t set your goal at 180 degrees. Set it on two degrees.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: Sailors know this. Over time, two degrees is gonna change who you are and make you more comfortable with the transition process. Really good companies, really good sports teams, really good creatives, really good . . . any profession will tell you that the more you are able to live and change, the more successful and sustainable you’ll become as a human and a professional.
Same applies here. So ultimately, and I hate to say it because I don’t want you to rush through the hard parts, but for whatever reason, this circumstance that feels out of control, painful, don’t rush through it but give it time and ultimately . . .
The trauma that we’ve experienced, processed, held and worked through appropriately, we can become better, not despite of it but because of it. I’ve seen people do that. I’ve seen people become . . . having overcome difficult circumstances in their life, become more resilient, more connected, more gracious, more patient, all those things. And I can say I have, but I’m one that I don’t look to move through transition, I look to get more comfortable in living in it.
Jen: What good advice. It goes so against our natural inclination to rush it along to its tidy conclusion. But I wish it weren’t true, but you’re telling the truth, which is, golly, that sort of muddy middle is where every one of my best lessons has ever occurred, for sure, in the weight or in the uncertainty or before the light is dawning. It’s so real and it’s so true.
And I like what you just said, which is if we can be courageous enough to start moving through these practices of learning how to be uncomfortable, learning how to sit in the middle, it pays dividends. That means the next time we encounter it, we have muscle memory for it. And the next time we encounter it, it’s even more so, and so it isn’t just situational. This work is not just situational. It has lifetime benefits. I know that’s true in my life, in my marriage, for sure.
I would love to go back to something you said earlier.
You’re an animal guy. You mentioned that. Specifically you’re from a horse family, and you even have a few horses, right? At Onsite for therapy?
Jen: I’m really interested in this. Can you talk for a minute about why you believe animals are so healing for us. And then bringing it just sort of down to where we all live in our own homes, do you think our own pets can provide the kind of healing that you see in your horse therapy programs?
Miles: Mine does, I know that. I’ve always had dogs around since I was a kid. I grew up thankfully on a farm and used to have a pack of dogs everywhere I went, and it kind of hasn’t changed.
Jen: I love it.
Miles: Yeah, I mean, just being in the presence of an animal, and it’s not for everybody because there are people that have . . .
Miles: And allergies and things, but just being in the presence of an animal lowers your ambient stress alone, so that’s a good start.
But then, let’s just talk horses for a minute. Horses have a unique ability to see, to bypass the outside of a human and see straight into the inside and feel the inside. So they typically know what we’re feeling before we do.
Jen: It’s true.
Miles: They’ve had to do that because of their genetics that go back hundreds of years or thousands of years before they were domesticated. They were prey animals and they still are, so they stay alive with their senses. They have to, and we’re predators, as humans, so they have to know not what we’re presenting but what actual true intent is.
Jen: That’s good.
Miles: How beautiful is that, that you get the gentle giant, this 1,100, 1,500 pound animal who’s actually a living mirror to what you’re feeling? You can’t fool it. You can’t trick it. And it will actually . . . They’re the most forgiving animals in the world. A lot of people assume, because it was kind of the cowboy way, that you can’t be nervous around a horse. If you’re nervous around . . . I’ve said this to people and I actually seen some people who are really in touch with who they are, they can put horses at ease better than a 20-year ranch hand, because it’s not really about how anxious or nervous you are. It’s how okay or in touch you are with the nerves and the anxiety.
Miles: That’s integrated, and the horse knows you know it, and they don’t see you as a threat or dangerous. They see you as safe. And plus I think taking people out of their environment gets them into the part of the brain where we often hold pain, because you’re basically creating a three-dimensional, living, breathing experience. Most therapy is a talking profession.
Miles: It goes back, and I think it’s a miss. I think we get wounded in experience, and it’s our job to curate experiences for people to heal. And that takes a little creativity and it takes us getting out of the box and trying to turn stories into pictures and into kinesthetic . . . into movement and in this case into equine, and I’ve seen people tell horses stuff that they never tell another human.
Miles: Yeah, I’m a big, big, big believe in integrating whatever works, and I have really seen horses and dogs and animals be huge assets to the human condition and helping people heal.
So we just had 50 combat veterans come through a seven-day trauma program, and there were two service animals, two service dogs in the mix. And of course we’ve got service dogs on property and we’ve got our horses on property, but I often hear from them. We put them through this amazing therapeutic process and it’s always really powerful, but at the end, what was the most profound? It was literally my time with the horses or I’ll bring some professional songwriters in and help them turn their trauma or their story into a song, or the music. It was something in the senses that they latched onto once we woke it up. So, it’s a powerful means to get more connected.
Jen: I love hearing you talk about that. That’s putting a smile on my face and my experience backs it up too. Last year I . . . Let’s see, I guess it was two years ago. My son, my oldest son was a senior in high school. And it was his senior game as a varsity soccer player, which he’d played since he was, whatever, five. Last game of high school and senior night which in our high school means your parents walk you onto the field. It’s a deal. Having no sense of his schedule, at least eight months earlier I had booked a speaking engagement, having no idea that those were gonna fall on the same nights.
I am normally in pretty good possession of emotional control, and I could not get on top of it. So, I got on my plane and I’m flying to my event, and I just was in distress. I couldn’t stop the tears and I couldn’t get a handle on how I was feeling and I couldn’t slow it down, and I was in a seat with . . . nobody was in the middle. I was on the aisle, and against the window was a seatmate and she had an emotional support dog, like a little one, and he was just laying underneath her feet. I’ll tell you as sure as I’m sitting here, that dog, I sat down and I wasn’t hysterical. I’m not blubbering, but I just was sad, and that dog migrated over and sat under my feet, on my feet, sat on my feet the entire flight.
And his owner told me, she said, “Look, you must be having some feelings.” She said, “Something must be going on in you because,” she said, “my dog does not just indiscriminately go to other people. Certainly not for this amount of time and in this way.”
And I just thought, “That dog just picked up on it. That dog knew that I was feeling really sad and guilty and I had a lot of regret in the moment.” There’s something weird and healing in that moment.
Another thing that I would add, I don’t know if this is your experience too. It might be because you’re outdoorsy, but as you said, a lot of healing comes to us through our senses. I’ve always also found inexplicably and it could be any number of . . . It could look any kind of way, but water does the same thing for me. Like a lake or a river or an ocean or a waterfall or even a bathtub. Something about water and what it does . . . I feel my blood pressure come down. I feel sort of my teeth unclench, and so I appreciate you talking about how healing is not just talking work but it’s essential work too, and that matters too. That counts too.
Miles: I love your story about yes, 100%. I think when we say something to someone, we activate a third of the brain. When we show it to him, we activate two-thirds. And when we make it kinesthetic, and put it into action, we activate all of it.
So, we always think back to a certain teachers in our lives or mentors that just got you, and they understood your learning style. It was usually that the ones that got out of the box, and were able to in some way, mirror back what they hope you might be able to learn and integrate.
And you’re right. I’ve got so many stories with the dogs and horses. I probably should have started with one of those. It was a beautiful one where one of the survivors that was in the Pentagon in 9/11 that was in a closet, a big gelding helped her find her way back into tight places without having the panic attack, and I could walk through how that happened.
But maybe one of my favorite. We had a dog for a long time that we lost a couple years ago on campus named Sammy. He wasn’t trained as a service or emotional support dog, but he was just a natural.
Miles: He was just a natural caregiver. He was amazing. Something we do in one of our group process is help people find who might have been an angel in their life. And if that word is triggering for people, we’ll use another. Just something safe. But basically, as we move people into dark corners or hard parts of their story, we want them to have an anchor point. So who’s somebody in your life that somewhere along the way, was really safe for you, at a pivotal time? It might be a parent. It might be a coach. It might be a teacher. Who knows?
We went around the room, and everybody picked out who their angel was. And then we could have them introduce us to them, and put a chair in front of them and say, “Tell us this person, and how they impacted your life, so we can get it in the room.”
We got to one guy, and he couldn’t come up with anybody. He had a really tough life, just had a lot of abuse and just messy family situation. He didn’t have anybody, but the only thing he could think of was he said there was a dog. I got tears coming down.
Jen: Me too.
Miles: When he was a boy, and that was the only living thing that had ever made him feel safe.
Miles: And so, we obviously couldn’t enroll anybody to play the dog. We broke for lunch, but I knew that Sammy was just down the hill at the office. So we went and got Sammy, and he didn’t know we were going to do this. But once group started back, and it was his turn to introduce us to his angel, which was this dog that was in his life as a boy, we actually opened the door and Sammy came in.
Jen: Oh my gosh.
Miles: And I’m telling you, Jen.
Jen: So dear.
Miles: Ten people in a circle, two facilitators. Sammy walks straight in that room, and it’s a 16 by 16 room. And he bee-lined straight to that man, caught right up his lap and started licking tear off his face.
Jen: Oh my stars.
Miles: How does that happen?
Jen: That’s too sweet.
Miles: Yeah it was beautiful.
Jen: Thank you for telling that. I wasn’t prepared for Sammy, dang it! Shoot!
So, Miles, you mentioned you know a lot of my listeners wouldn’t be able to come to Onsite, but love what they’re hearing you say. And want to do this work. You’ve talked a little bit about how to approach finding potentially a therapist or a counselor in the communities we live in, and I appreciate that advice.
I wonder if you have any other suggestions in terms of resources that you can recommend to people who’re maybe at the beginning of this.
Miles: I think everybody should give counseling at least a shot at some point in their trajectory. But understand that counseling and therapy don’t corner the market of personal transformation and change. It’s not the only thing. And I’m in that profession, and I’m always weary of people who’re in professions that present themselves as, “This is the way.”
Jen: It’s good.
Miles: I don’t trust that. So I would say, don’t trust that either.
Miles: But it is a cool and a great resource. And there are some people, there are some of you, who actually have some significant mental health challenges going on. You might be living with addiction or there’s a number of things it can be happening. And you might actually really need professional support. And if you do, there are resources out there that have sliding scale opportunities. Almost in every town, you just have to dig a little deeper. And there are resources out there that are foundation driven, that can take you for free. In national, I’m very familiar with some of them. We have a foundation. So don’t hesitate to call, even though we can’t usually take the volume. But people who can’t afford our services, we send a bunch through every year, just based on the funding.
But there are other groups that do that as well. If it’s a mental health conditions, SAMSHA.gov, we can link that later if you don’t mind, is a good place to go to find. They’re pretty thorough at finding resources for all socio-economic groups in your area. Sometimes the smaller the town, the harder it is to find the professional resource.
And that’s why I want to say this, is that it doesn’t always have to be therapy or counseling in a professional setting. It can be community driven. It can start with one person, or it can end with a group, or maybe in with a community or a church or whatever your outlet might be. But if you just slowly start shifting the paradigm towards being truthful, honest, empathetic, without an agenda other than just be human to human with another person, that’s transformational. And it’s unbelievable.
My biggest change right now is happening in community, which it’s not we’re taking a backdoor. It’s supposed to be.
Jen: It’s good.
Miles: So, you can do that too. Because there are some great books and great resources out there that talk about vulnerability and change and transformation, both in the therapy lane and not. And I always think reading good content is great and books. But I really recommend find someone, take the emotional risk, to take your relationship to a safe person who you feel can know more of you.
And start making a practice of revealing a little bit more of you. Maybe five minutes a week. It will feel uncomfortable, and it will be a game changer.
Jen: I cannot agree more. That is a practice that I have on the regular, in my real life, with my real friends and my real little small groups. It’s become so normal. Such a normal way that we interact with each other, saying true things, asking hard questions, answering honestly, being vulnerable, that I can’t imagine another way.
But it has not always been true. Early on, I think I came in really guarded in that environment, and would have absolutely withheld. I would have skilled enough to be able to give a community like that enough to make it appear as if I am being vulnerable, but holding back the real stuff. And so I can’t agree with you more that even just taking the steps of being authentic and tender with another person just in your life, in your real life, is a great first step.
Jen: So I would love for you to talk about one last thing. You have your own podcast, bravo. My community is always looking for great teachers like you, new shows like yours. Can you talk a little bit about your podcast?
Miles: Sure, yeah thank you for asking. It’s called the Unspoken podcast. Ultimately it’s based on a theory that I kind of watched happened over my years in the space that I work in. In that I had people say, “What do you actually do? What do you helping people do to become better versions of themselves? Or to have a life changing experience?” I try to really synthesize it down to one thing, and it was hard to do. But ultimately we helped people say the unsaid. And I think saying the unsaid maybe one of the hardest, but most important things we’ll ever do. And sometimes that’s going backwards, and reclaiming something that was taken from you that shouldn’t have been. Sometimes it’s in real time, to define some boundaries or speaking in some things that aren’t working. And sometimes it’s speaking into the future. But, creating creative, sophisticated but simple ways for people to speak their truth. So that’s what Unspoken is. It’s just supporting people in speaking their truth.
I love the way you started this podcast by, or this interview by saying, “Well I know what you do. But tell me who you are?” That’s really the conversations I’d love to have.
Just what I talked about earlier with the therapy component is I’d love for therapy to begin to be . . . Or certain components of it, to begin normalized into humanity. And that’s what the podcast is about. If we have conversations, I don’t pull out therapeutic tools. They’re not a therapy session. There’re a few podcasts, Astro Pearls and others that I love that do that. We’re not doing that. We’re just doing conversations that are deeper and meaningful. And after they’re over, a lot of people do say, “Wow that felt like a therapy session.” And I was like, “I know. It was just a conversation.”
It’s called the Unspoken podcast, and we’re new too. It’s been humbling. Myself, my co-host Ruthie Lindsey, we’re having fun. And sometimes we know what we’re doing, and sometimes we don’t.
Jen: Absolute relatable. When I first started this podcast, I recorded while sitting cross-legged on the floor of my closet, and popping up my microphone in the bin where I normally keep my socks. So yeah, I get that. It’s a learning curve. We’ll have all the links, you guys, over on the transcript page, at jenhatmaker.com, we’ll have the resources that Miles mentioned. We’ll link over to the Onsite places. We’ll link to Miles socials, and we’ll link to his podcast. So it’s all going to be in one place.
All right, very quickly. I’m just going to rapid fire three questions with you. These are three quick questions that we have asked everybody in this series, For the Love of Good Change, which has been one of my favorite series we’ve done in the year. I’m so grateful for your investment here, and for your expertise. And I just cannot think of a better way to end this series.
So, here’s the first one. What’s the best small change you’ve ever made in your life? Just a little, a small dial turn? I know.
Miles: Good question.
Jen: I know.
Miles: One thing I’ve been doing recently, which is small but helpful, is that you heard me say in the beginning of this interview that I struggled sometimes separating who I am from what I do.
Miles: This kind of comes from, it’s kind of Chinese in origin, as best I can understand it. But one thing that someone helped advised me is that when you walk in your house at the end of the day, before you go through the family room, or see or are greeted by kids or spouses or anybody else, actually go straight to your room or closet, and change clothes. Change from your work uniform or clothes or whatever to whatever you might wear at home. And then come out, as if you’ve just arriving, and greet and be greeted.
And there’s something about that little small change, that has helped me be more present at home. It basically is like I’m hanging up work, put it over here. I don’t need to bring whatever the lingering part of it is still there. And I’m showing up, present and ready for family at home.
Jen: That’s fabulous. It’s like Mr. Rogers and I love it.
How about this: what’s one, just positive thing, big or small, that you do most every day?
Miles: Prayer and meditation.
Miles: Those are both important to me. They’re consistent but they change. I’ve got ADD, so I’m not much for sitting meditation guy, but I’m a walking meditation. But I’ve learned to meditate on the move. I love labyrinth, I love being outside and doing mindfulness stuff. So those have been very important.
But I usually start every day with serenity prayer, and that’s been a very helpful easy thing for me to do before my feet ever hit the ground.
Jen: Great answer. And thank you also for saying that mindfulness and meditation doesn’t necessarily have to be still. I appreciate that. I’m not a naturally still person, so that can absolutely be accomplished in your life when you are walking outside, when you are on the move. Thank you for saying that.
Here’s the last one. This is a question that Barbara Brown Taylor asked in one of her books that we love. This can be serious or not. It can be big, it can be small. What is saving your life right now?
Miles: The outdoors has always saved my life. But honestly right now, my son. I think I had . . . I can be serious by nature, and then let a few people see my lighthearted, funny self. I don’t know what happened there. I don’t know why that happened. I probably need to unpack that a little bit at some point. When I walk into a room and I see really funny, quick witted people and they get to show that gift right away, I’m always a little envious or like, “Man, I wish more people can see me that way.”
Because when I’m at home, I’m a total goofball. But my son has brought that back, in a big way. Of course, I guess you just do that as a parent. But I think I needed that. I needed to flex my humor muscle. I needed to not take myself so serious. And every minute we’re making each other laugh. I’m running all over the house. I think my son right now is bringing out a part of my personality that had been buried longer than I knew, and it’s breathing into me currently.
Jen: What a great answer. So, can you just tell everybody as we wrap it up, what you’re working on and where folks can find you?
Miles: Yes. You can find me at @MilesAdcox on socials. Instagram’s probably my favorite. I spend probably a little too much time on there, but I’d love to either catalog family moments, or write thoughts about things that inspire me or things that I’m learning there. And of course I’m on the others as well. At Onsite workshops also. I write some of that. We’ve got some good people. Some of our clinical team, put some of that content out as well. So you can find me at either of those two places.
The most exciting thing I’m working on and the hardest is a book.
Jen: Good for you.
Miles: Yeah. So I’m excited about that. It probably . . . I hope if I can meet some deadlines, it will be towards the end of this year.
Jen: Right on. Good for you.
Thank you for coming on today. Thank you for just who you are, and appreciate your work in this world so very much. It’s not small, and it matters greatly. And I thank you for putting so many healthy leaders in front of me. And for serving them so well, because they’ve in turn served me, and my community too. So I just say well done to you. And I’m cheering you on in every way. And so grateful for you and for the work of Onsite, and what a difference it’s making in the world. So thanks for being on today.
Miles: Well, thank you. This was encouraging, and I had a good time. So I really appreciate it. Thanks for those words. They mean a lot. I’m taking them all in.
Jen: You are welcome. Thanks, Miles.
Miles: All right, thank you.
Jen: He is so good, and so dear. I hope that that served you, like it did me. I should take a picture of my notebook that I have laying next to my microphone, because I was just scribbling some notes as we went, because I couldn’t wait for the transcript to get back to me. I appreciate Miles so much.
As always guys, you’ll be able to find everything we mentioned over at jenhatmaker.com, underneath the Transcript page. All the links, all the stuff, everything that you heard or didn’t have time to jot down, we will have link for you over there.
I just want to give a real quick attaboy to all of you who are taking your own soul care seriously. I’m just cheering for you. I am. And I’m thankful that you have the courage to do this, to face it head-on. And to realize it’s just like what Miles said earlier. It’s not what’s wrong with you. It’s what’s right with you. And this isn’t something you need, but something you deserve. And so bravo, to every one of you. Moving into space so that you can be the most whole and the most healthy person that you can be. So good on you guys.
If you have not listened to the entirety of For the Love of Good Change series, I am telling you, go back and pick up what you missed. There’s not a bad apple in the bunch. Every single one of them to me was so meaningful. Definitely worth your time, even a second listen. One of my favorite series we’ve ever done.
And, guess what? Guess what’s coming up? You’re going to love it, and this is a lot of fun. Starting next week, we’re moving into For the Love of Music. This is one of your ideas that you gave us. As always we’re paying attention to your feedback, and what you say. And a bunch of you say, “Hey, knock knock, we’re very interested in For the Love of Music.” So it’s so much fun. We have so many great guests. I’m tickled. I’m tickled because we’re going to have a great time over the next few weeks. You’re not going to want to miss it. Come back and find our first guest in For the Love of Music next week.
You guys, thanks for being fabulous listeners. I love this podcast community so, so much. So on behalf of Laura and Amanda and our whole crew, we love serving you. See you next week.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!