For Beth Koritz, it came on very suddenly.
“I went from being fine to being lifted out of the car by a security guard at the hospital within 48 hours. That was my wake up call,” said the native St. Louisan, now 56. “The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Things have to change.’”
That wake up call was a bout with a rare autoimmune disease that left the Shaare Emeth congregant paralyzed for days and in recovery for much longer. But it also helped her to realize she wasn’t living the life she wanted. That turning point, along with a great deal more, is covered in Koritz’s recent book “Resilience Road: Exploring your Authentic Life Path.”
Koritz’s life path has certainly been an adventurous one. A one-time co-owner of Pumpernickle’s Deli, she has gone through everything from bankruptcy during the economic crisis to serious illness and found herself in careers that ranged from building houses to working at Camp Sabra.
Finally, she went back to school to do post graduate work, earning a master's degree from the University of Missouri after age 50 so she could pursue her present calling as a psychotherapist and life coach, a role that allows her to guide others in locating their own paths.
“My specialty is helping people find their voice,” said Koritz, who is certified in body positive psychology and thought field therapy, “and feel empowered to use their voice and become the best versions of their authentic selves.”
Still, despite everything she’s been through, she admits that it is her work as an author that stands out as a particular challenge.
“This book is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” she laughed.
What is your approach in assisting others through counseling?
A lot of times people will come to me for depression or anxiety. They are feeling stuck. They feel like they are in a role they shouldn’t be in or they don’t know what is next. That’s causing anxiety and depression. But really the underlying cause is that they haven’t learned to use their voice or they feel as though they are living an inauthentic life.
What kind of advice would you give to someone going through those issues?
I would hesitate to give you a pithy quote for that because sometimes depression is a chemical issue and I don’t want to give the impression through a quote that just do this and you are no longer going to be depressed. It can often also be a medical issue. But here’s what I find happens a lot. When I say to people, we’ll work together so you can be your best authentic self. People will often tear up and say, “I don’t even know who that is.” One of the first things I do is to help them get to know themselves, get to know who they really are and not just a mom or an accountant or a hockey coach but who they are as individuals and what their passions and goals are that they may have lost along the way.
What’s the first step in your counseling sessions?
On the intake forms, I ask them what their goals are and what they feel could prevent them from reaching their goals. I kind of start there. I get to know them so that I can help them get to know themselves.
Is that a common stumbling block that a lot of people run into?
I would say that that is feeling the need to live up to societal expectations. I think we all get stuck in “what we are supposed to be doing” with our lives. That freezes people. They have to give themselves permission to do what they feel is best for them regardless of what other people are going to think about it.
Tell me about your illness.
I was paralyzed from the shoulders down. I was on life support for 10 days and I had to relearn how to use every muscle from scratch.
You said things had to change. Why?
I just realized that I wasn’t living the life that I wanted. That saying that life is short? It is true. You can lay in the ICU on life support for 10 days and realize just how short it is and that it is not a game. You’ve got to be purposeful about your life because it either flies by or it can end.
What other advice do you have for those you help?
I would say, be bold. Be fearless and don’t be afraid to go after what you want.
TITLE: Psychotherapist/life coach
Home: St. Louis
Greatest professional achievement: “I had an adolescent client who brought a badge that she made at school. They had an assignment to make these badges for people who had had big influences on their lives. She made one and brought it to me. It said I was a VIP in her life. It hangs on my office wall.”
Hobbies: Knitting and crocheting
Family: Two grown daughters