Cultivating Joy – Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, President and CEO


0:00:00 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
It’s 8:22 on FM 97.3 WZBG. Guest this morning, Executive Director of McCall Behavioral Health Network, Maria Coutant-Skinner. Good morning, Maria.

0:00:17 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Good morning, Dale.

0:00:18 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Welcome to the show.

0:00:19 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Thank you.

0:00:20 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
And, of course, we have an interview once a month with McCall. They have a different theme each month, and it’s interesting. On the heels of what they call Blue Monday. This is going to be a show about encouraging joy and happiness.

0:00:34 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
That’s how we’re going to roll this morning. I love it. So, I know I asked you right before we came on, is it too corny to start with a knock-knock joke?

0:00:42 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Not at all. Not on this show.

0:00:43 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
So, are you ready?

I’m ready.


0:00:47 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Who’s there?

0:00:48 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Interrupting Cow.

0:00:49 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Interrupting Cow …MOOO!!   I was going to tell that joke.

No way.

0:00:52 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
No Way. I have known that joke since my kids were little.

0:00:56 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
I love it. My dad told it to me a long time ago. I love it. It’s so silly and ridiculous. And I thought, just like you said, contrasting what’s going on right now in our world, in this climate, in this chapter in our lives, there’s so much intensity, there’s honestly a lot of pain and suffering.

There is.

And so, are we being intentional about finding joy? And do we have permission to find these moments of just being silly, being light, and finding some laughter?

0:01:32 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
I think we have to give ourselves permission to do that. And it really is hard. I mean, because there are so many challenges facing humanity right now, and there have been so many tough hits. COVID was a big one. You know, we still are counting up the damage to people of all ages, but particularly our young people because of the isolation caused by all of that. And that’s just one glaring, you know, low light of what’s become a very anxious and difficulty culture-wise in finding happiness.

0:02:03 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
So we really gotta work for that, don’t we?

We do. I think that’s exactly the the right phrasing too. And I think I have this visual of what it’s like right now and it feels like there’s sort of this pressure and intensity and that there’s not a lot of space. And that we have to create some space for that. And how do we do that? We do it by slowing down. We do it by noticing. We do it by naming. So even on the drive over here, I was like, okay, let me take a quick check in of what I’m feeling like, okay, are the roads icy? I’m a little bit nervous. I want to do a good job with Dale. And then I’m like, okay, let me notice that. Let me name that. That’s like, I can feel it right here in my stomach a little bit. Then I noticed the light. It was gorgeous. The winter light. I drove along the Farmington River and the beautiful snow and the trees and everything else. And I’m like, okay, I can make space for that and feel good and at peace right now.

0:03:06 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
My mantra for this month has been find the sunshine and have an attitude of gratitude. Is that right? I see your… I wrote that down. I said, I got to share that every now and then, because we all are challenged by that, you know? And I find myself looking for the most positive things in my life. I just shared three of them with you.


My grandkids. And the other is those people that light up our lives, because it’s easy to find kind of a dim view of humanity right now when you look around the globe, but there’s also those bright lights that make us appreciate humanity. So I feel like we need to think more about those people in our lives and their compassion, their empathy, their spirit that help lift us all.

0:03:57 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
I’m choked up by that.

0:03:58 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
It’s so beautiful.

0:03:59 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
It’s daily effort though.

0:04:00 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
It is.

0:04:01 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Oh my goodness, that just resonated with my heart. I think that’s such good advice and definitely, well, that felt like a gift. I’m going to hold that. I see you that way and I don’t have to look far to find those people that bring light and joy. And I think it brings up another thought, which is we have to make a plan. We have to be active participants in our lives to make sure that this is happening. And I, you know, so one thing I thought about was there’s a lot of people that eat three meals a day alone. And loneliness is, that is crushing. And so if we’re actively making sure that we have plans, text that person, you’re not bothering them, call that person, make a plan. You can find the time. Have a meal together. It’s maybe lunch, it’s dinner, but don’t eat three meals a day alone. That’s important to do. Make sure that you’re being that light for somebody else. Do something kind for someone because acts of service give us joy. And you’re probably providing joy for somebody else and being that light for somebody else.

0:05:09 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Exactly, and it tends to exponentially build on itself and people pay it forward. Breaking bread is of course one of the great cultural touchstones in which we connect. We connect over food and drink. It’s one of the best ways because you’re nourishing the soul and you’re nourishing the body at the same time and you’re connecting. All those things are important. It’s funny you opened with a knock-knock joke because Betty White was born 100 years ago today.

0:05:38 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Oh, today is Betty White’s birthday.

I’m sorry, no, it was 102 years ago today. But yeah, today is her birthday. And I was, and she lived to be almost 100.


And you think about her bringing laughs, and you think about the people that make us laugh. You notice their longevity. Oh my gosh, that’s so true. Betty White’s occasion point, Norman Lear, Mel Brooks.

And who got a bigger round of applause at the Emmys than Carol Burnett. I know. You know? Yeah. These people that bring us joy, you know, and boy do we need it, right? But those examples are right there. And look at, because they laugh, look at how long they’ve lived, right?

That’s a great point.

So another reason to just kind of find the happy, you know, find the sunshine, get that attitude of gratitude. And we know it’s hard.

0:06:24 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Yeah. Yeah, I think we want to avoid the traps too because some things I think look like peace, contentment, relaxation, joy, but they might be what distracts or numbs or provides escape. It feels like kind of junk food for our soul, which everybody, you know, a little bit junk food every once in a while is okay, but I think things like drugs, alcohol, disappearing into our screens, binge eating, those are things that we can kind of justify and rationalize and say we deserve it because it’s been a hard time. Maybe there’s been grief or loneliness or divorce or something, but you have this moment of maybe feeling escape and then you end up feeling worse afterwards. So I think the other strategies that we’re talking about this morning are sustaining their nourishing and they’re not those traps that we can sometimes fall into.

0:07:16 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Make that first place. That’s the first place you go to. And you really open the show with talking about that, getting in touch with yourself. If you’re bothered by something, figure out what it is and own it. And then process it and get back to a happier place. And it’s not always easy to do because it seems like it’s all coming at us at once right now. It’s like, all right, let me see if I can just try to get to the worst of it and sort it out. So, it is a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on.

0:07:44 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
And I think if you’re doing these things and you still feel like you can’t access it, like laughter feels like you can’t even remember the last time you laughed hard, or if you did then it felt false and you didn’t really feel present and it was so hard to do all of these things.

Forced. Yeah.

Then that’s stuff that we can work with at McCall. We can do a screening for depression, anxiety. We can help because you don’t have to stay in that place. That’s a dark, difficult place and you don’t have to stay there. There is help and healing available.

0:08:20 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Actually a very good way to wrap up our interview, which is just about there. Maria Coutant Skinner is our guest this time. We’re talking about finding that joy as we start the new year. Always great spending time with you.

0:08:30 [Maria Coutant Skinner, LCSW, CEO]
Delightful to be with you, Dale. Thank you so much. Delightful to be with you, Dale. Thank you so much.

0:08:32 [Dale Jones, WZBG]
Thank you, Maria.