We had the good fortune of connecting with Katja Cahoon and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Katja, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking means diving in, being outside your comfort zone, stepping away from the well-worn path, and sometimes putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, being vulnerable – as Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, emotional exposure.” Risk requires courage and open-mindedness. It does not require the absence of fear.

Initially, I did not have choice in terms of living an adventurous, risk-taking life. When I was six years old, we moved from Germany to Australia. I was sent to grade school without speaking a word of English. It was quite scary but also exciting: a challenge to be conquered.

We traveled through the outback, even got stuck in the middle of nowhere, looked for gold in abandoned gold mines, and played boccia with strange, bitter melons we found by the side of the road. We traveled a lot in general and then again moved to Canada for a few months when I was 16. Traveling abroad as well as living abroad always has some risk attached to it. I learned to understand and deal with new and different environments, people, cultures and all the smaller and larger risks that come with it.

I studied in Germany, France, and England then started my career at Audi headquarters: a very solid and safe job. At age 29 I gave it all up to move to the United States to work for a very small consumer insights company. My dad said, “why are you doing this, in the US it’s hire and fire, you have a job for life with Audi.” But he also understood, after all he and my mom had brought us along on their adventures abroad.

About 15 years into my business career, I went through a terrible divorce. It threw me into a bad tailspin. I experienced anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and other issues. I had a wonderful therapist and her help and support inspired me to take a very big risk: leaving a well-established career to completely start from scratch. I went back to grad school to get a Master of Social Work and worked under supervision for three more years to get my psychotherapy license. I built a practice in Silicon Valley, focusing on high performing professionals who also deal with mental health challenges. And I continue to dive in: I trained as a yoga teacher, I am currently doing at two-year training with Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield as a meditation teacher, and trained in and started practicing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy. I have done and continue to do a lot of work on myself, with the help of therapists, mentors, spiritual guides, and other teachers. Learning and growing is risk taking, too, because you leave behind things you are comfortable with.

At the same time, I have often experienced elevated levels of anxiety and fear. And yet, I have done these things because I learned from an early age on that you can experience fear and still succeed. As Helen Keller says, ““Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I deeply understand what it is like to be a professional and have mental health challenges because I have been there. Life can look so good from the outside and yet it can feel like an incredible struggle, a house of cards that might collapse at any moment. And I also understand what it is like to feel at the mercy of your emotions, to feel like emotions (and your body) are an enemy that needs to be tamed and conquered because I have been there, too. My motto and mission “Befriending your emotions is the most rational thing you can do” speaks to that.

I love working with high performing professionals and helping them make sense of their emotions, build tools and skills, heal childhood trauma, and ultimately, live a more integrated, balanced life.

We heal through connection with others and through integrating and befriending all aspects of ourselves. And that often requires many modalities, not just working with our mind or cognition. Just talking about issues rarely leads to change. We need to repair old wounds, integrate our greatest ally, our body, and courageously go to difficult, sometimes dark places. Therapy is the hero’s journey – it means diving in deep. I don’t offer quick fixes, I support people on their quest to truly change and live life in a more empowered, whole way.

My model is action oriented. Change does not just happen in the therapy office but through what you practice in those hours outside of session. Mindfulness is a well-researched, evidence-based model for that – I am big on teaching those skills – really a way of life – to my clients and beyond. And I see great promise in psychedelics – they are not a cure-all, but integrated into therapy and practiced responsibly they offer amazing potential for healing and change.

I love what I do! To see a person change and grow and experience relief and freedom is amazing. And it is not always easy. Sometimes I cannot help someone change and that is hard. Sometimes people experience setbacks or feel change is not happening fast enough. I have to remind myself that I am a social worker, not a miracle worker.

The longer I practice the more I realize that the biggest aspect of being a good therapist is working through an attachment lens and creating a space in which people can heal. It is similar to what good leaders in business do. They are not offering fixes but create space and an environment where people can perform at their best.

Following your dreams and being a small business owner is not always easy – sometimes it is frustrating and overwhelming but I can wholeheartedly say, do what makes your heart and soul sing and the rest will follow. You’ll figure it out as you go along!

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First we’ll go hiking at El Corte de Madera Creek Preserve, there is a wonderful two hour hike near Methuselah tree. Early on a weekday there is no one there, we can see the sun rise and experience the fog rising through the redwood trees. Let’s have breakfast at Buck’s in Woodside after. Later, we’ll do a steam and cold plunge at Watercourse Way, followed by a massage. Dinner at Sun of Wolf in Palo Alto. The next day we’ll drive down to Carmel on Route 1, hike along the beach and Garland Ranch Regional Park followed by a visit to Refuge for soaking, relaxing, reading. We’ll grab a bite at Cafe Guarani, authentic Paraguayan food.
Day three, if we are feeling adventures, let’s go surfing in Santa Cruz, Surf School Santa Cruz will provide everything we need, including awesome instructors. After cleaning up let’s grab a book and hang at the Library & Bar at the Rosewood Hotel in Menlo Park and chill.
After all that activity, a myofascial massage by Wendy Figone is an absolute treat. She is also a certified forest bathing guide, so let’s have her take us on a forest bathing trip.
Well, and there is always shopping at the Stanford Mall, visiting the beautiful Stanford campus, followed by dinner at Bird Dog in Palo Alto.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents deserve a shoutout for teaching me to stand on my own feet and to have courage, and for making many of my adventures possible. I had wonderful teachers in high school and throughout my career. My husband Jason who has been there through the ups and downs, the highs and lows – he is my rock. My wonderful friends, many of which I have know for many decades. And books! Books have been with me from the moment I could read. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho started my quest into the mystical. Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn started my mindfulness journey, which has been life changing. Brené Brown’s work, especially Daring Greatly, made me more comfortable with vulnerability. Sebene Selassi’s book You Belong helped me understand that belonging is always possible. And there are many, many more (I give a shoutout to some of the above and more here: https://youtu.be/InlUEqOh4mM).

Website: https://katjacahoon.com/ and https://kckap.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/your_change_champion/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kcahoon/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAVjYrWPqYrRVmvSoEvYBtw

Other: Podcasts: https://linktr.ee/championingintelligentchange

Image Credits
Additional Photos: Katja Cahoon

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