WE Lead!

It was an absolute honor to collaborate and present “Your Best Self” at the WE Lead Malibu conference in January! I was inspired by the ambitious women that attended as well as the creators of WE Lead! ~Dr. Denise

WE Lead

written by Lisa Jane Vargas and Christi Cessna

Yes, we do!  WE Lead is a leadership forum that offers a fresh perspective for growth and elevation for ambitious leaders in the healthcare field.


For the last 15 years, co-founders, Lisa Jane Vargas and Christi Cessna, have worked together in multiple roles in behavioral and mental health.  They experienced mergers, acquisitions, sales, marketing, and leadership roles and the many changes our field has lived through.  All the while, ruminating on the seed of curiosity to what it would be like to help develop leaders in ways that will support their ambitions and dreams in an authentic and ethical way.


In the summer of 2019, the concept and development of We Lead was created.  LJ and Christi decided to host the first workshop in Scottsdale, AZ in July!  Yes, hot July for a two-day experience.  The focus was on ambitious women.


“I had noticed that while most behavioral health conferences were comprised of women, we were still under represented in leadership positions in many organizations.  So, after much discussion, it seemed very natural to focus our workshop initially on women”, says Cessna.


Women from all over the country came for the inaugural workshop and left refreshed, renewed and questioning where they are now and ways they could stretch professionally and personally.


This brand of women’s leadership development was created to focus on giving women the opportunity for personal discovery to heighten her self-awareness through:

  1. tools to understand her behavior and communication style
  2. concepts, tools and planning to manage her brand
  3. holistic strategies to optimize her physical health
  4. discovery of her beliefs and values with money and how to honor her value


This workshop is about a collective in collaboration, helping one another, hence the “we” in WE Lead was an essential meaningful component of its creation.


In addition, each presenter is selected because of their wealth of experience.  The venue is selected to be a comfortable, relaxed environment to allow the safety and honesty to flow in each session.  All while empowering participants to connect, talk, share, feel and express what they need to in order to flourish.  Incorporating a mindfulness yoga practice and encouraging participants to dress comfortably, yoga attire is welcomed!


“The space we choose means a lot to us so that we can give ourselves permission to be who we are today and feel comfortable in this time of illumination”, says Vargas.


The second WE Lead workshop was held in Malibu at the Calamigos Ranch which offered an incredibly beautiful backdrop providing a calm, natural element for all of the senses.

Among the sponsors were J. Flowers Health Institute, Integrative Life Center, Assured Strategy, Milestones Ranch Malibu, Discovery Behavioral Health, Origins Behavioral Healthcare, Meadows Behavioral Healthcare, Avalon Malibu,Viewpoint Dual Recovery, and The Bridge to Recovery.


“It’s such an honor to collaborate with these esteemed programs to help so many leaders”, says Vargas.


The incredible women delivering the messages in their presentations elevated this event to bring value and thought leadership for each women’s contemplation.  It was an honor to have Denise McDermott, MD, Debra Kaplan, MA, LPC, LISAC, CMAT, CSAT-S, and Keyne Petkovic, MS co-present with us.


Some of the highlights we experienced include an exercise like the trauma egg but around our relationship to money and how that may relate to our personal and professional behavior today with finances and our perceived worth related to it.  We dove in to creating our personal mission statement and how that shed like on to how we brand ourselves in our various roles in life. The DISC assessment tool was completed prior to arriving for the workshop. The results were discussed in our table talk where we shared ways to communicate better with our teams and others.   We ended our time together with a bang in conversation with Dr. Denise exploring the expansive opportunities we have to serve and still take care of ourselves with a holistic approach.


There were many special and memorable moments in between and nuggets of take-aways for each participant to plant and implement into their professional and personal lives.


For more information about the WE Lead workshops, please email weleadevents@gmail.com.







Best of 2020

It is an absolute honor and privilege to see my clients go from crisis to thrive for the last 20 years in the South Bay!

Every day I show up with gratitude and a deep passion for being sought out for medical opinions, therapy and life solutions.

I am a Mother, a Healer, an Influencer.

Every one that I have ever met in this lifetime is also part of my thrive.

The challenges, the successes, the road blocks are all opportunities to grow, integrate, evolve and ascend.

I thank all of you!

I love living and working in the South Bay and you all mean something to me.

Let’s make 2020 and the next decade a decade devoted to achieving OUR own personal best!

With love & gratitude~

Dr. Denise

Rocking A Betrayal-Sisterhood

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

~ Martin Luther King Jr.


Dr. Denise has shared an intimate and painful chapter of her life in her series Rocking A Betrayal.  While leaning in to the shame that can accompany falling prey to a financial fraud, she showed us how to take betrayal and, using “cognitive re-framing,” find the positive facets of a difficult situation.  In doing so, Dr. Denise discovered other individuals who report that not only were they betrayed too, they were also betrayed by the  very same operator.  In this podcast, Dorothy Simons shares her story of betrayal, embarrassment and the wonderful world of support and sisterhood she found when she received an unexpected call from our very own Dr. Denise.

Listen here:

Rocking A Betrayal-Red Flags

Hopefully you’ve never experienced the heart-stopping moment of the realization that you’ve been betrayed.  But if you tuned into to Dr. Denise’s Rocking A Betrayal, Part One, you’ve learned that it can happen to any of us and Dr. Denise cast aside shame to stand up and say, “It happened to me.”  In telling her story, she wants to help us all learn from her lessons.  What could she have done differently?  What were some Red Flags that she overlooked?  Answering these questions is crucial fo self-love and protection.  Dr. Denise is always pushing forward in her pledge to #InspireALL with awareness, self-love and altruism.  And she is generous enough to share the details of this incredibly difficult time to assist any of us needing help in Rocking A Betrayal.


FaLaLaLaLa ‘Tis the Season

Fa La La La La — Holidays & Altruism

“’Tis the season” — just those words can make some of us jubilant while leaving others close to tears with all the extra work and commercialism that come with the holidays.  Dr. Denise invited me to talk about altruism, gift-giving and gratitude during this sacred time of year.  Dr. Denise shares how she used Cognitive Reframing to change her own thoughts about the holidays.  Don’t worry, she explains what it is and how to do it in her unique, down-to-earth style.  We also talk about letting kids be kids and how to infuse our core essential values into the holidays and all year long.

Here are some of the links you’ll hear about in our Fa La La La La Show:

~Cathleen O’Toole, CoHost




Listen Here:

Rocking A Betrayal Episode: SHAME

It is with great care and discernment that Dr. Denise decided to tackle this very personal issue on her podcast.  Countless hours of prayer, meditation and consultation with trusted confidantes led her to share an intimate story of betrayal.  Why?  So many of us have felt we’ve been betrayed at one time or another:  your secret told, a partner who strayed, a financial associate who swindled.  Often times, our first response is to feel the heat of shame rise up.  How could we be so foolish?  What will others think?  Dr. Denise walks us through her betrayal, her decision to share with trusted friends and then a greater audience.  She and I talk about turning into shame, instead of running from it.  Her powerful story shows us how to take control of our own narratives by Rocking A Betrayal.

Listen Here:




Modern Prayer & Spirituality Summit

I wanted you to be the first to know that a very powerful and valuable FREE resource will be available to you starting December 1st . It’s called Modern Prayer and Spirituality, and this free video series is packed with tools, strategies, and insights from various experts in the field of spirituality, prayer and a relationship with the Divine, including myself.
This resource is a must have for anybody who has questioned their spiritual path or connection to the Divine.
Have you wondered what being spiritual looks like, where you fit in or even felt like there was more to experience, but don’t quite know what that is?
There are over 20 experts featured in Modern Prayer & Spirituality, and availability is limited so make sure you register now before it’s full.
Here are some of the topics that will be covered in the video interviews:
  • How to create a deep connection with the Divine without identifying with organized religion
  • How to incorporate Modern prayer into your spiritual practice
  • The power of meditation and intention
  • How to recognize the relationship and work with your Angels in your life
  • How to deeply and intentionally co-create with the Divine
  • What are limiting beliefs and how to clear them to open up possibilities in your life and practice
  • You also get to experience the work of every expert in an online retreat experience!
And much more…
Imagine being able to sit front row and listen to the top experts in the field of spirituality giving you insight about enhancing your connection with the Divine and creating a more personal spiritual practice. That would be empowering and invaluable!
Register Now and don’t miss out!

ALIKI ONE Launch! Inspirational Jewelry by Dr. Denise & Aliki Design Founder Dr. Denise Berger!


            It’s all Greek to me!  Full confession, a lot of the words and concepts that came up during a recent chat with Dr. Denise McDermott and Dr. Denise Berger did stretch the mind of yours truly.  But the stretch is definitely worth it.

The Dr. Denises (yes times two!) are teaming up with a most inspirational jewelry line — ALIKI ONE.  It’s inspired by Dr. Denise Berger’s Greek heritage.

And Dr. Denise McDermott’s spiritual footprint is everywhere in what she explains is the vibrational energy of the pieces.  With soul-nourishing meanings behind the bracelets and necklaces, the hand-crafted pieces take the wearer far beyond beauty.  For instance, the Siban bracelet inspires universal presence with this mantra:  “Believing in the unlimited potential of the feminine energy, seeing universal inspiration for all people, imagining possibilities without boundaries, prompting unity and the oneness in the universe.”

            ALIKI ONE also upholdS Dr. Denise and Dr. Denise’s desire to set a new standard for social enterprise.  Twenty-one (21!) percent of the sales price of each piece goes to an orphanage Children’s Educational Development (C.E.D.) Institute  in India founded by Lama Tenzin Choegyal.  Lama Tenzin’s ambitious Pink Pad Project, to aid women who are hampered by the stigma of menstruation in some Indian societies, will also benefit from Aliki One sales.

            Aliki One vibrates from Greece, to India, to the spirit of giving, providing true beauty with the mission to #InspireALL.



Listen here to this week’s Dr. Denise Show where I interview them both about the ALIKI ONE MISSION!

~Cathleen O’Toole, CoHost of The Dr. Denise Show

Siban (essence: the universe, universal presence)
Believing in the unlimited potential of the feminine energy, seeking universal inspiration for all people, imagining possibilities without boundaries, promoting unity and oneness in the universe

Siban (essence: the universe, universal presence)
Believing in the unlimited potential of the feminine energy, seeking universal inspiration for all people, imagining possibilities without boundaries, promoting unity and oneness in the universe


Karthia (essence: the heart, unity of heart)

Building awareness to the likeness of the heart spirit, shining light on shared experiences of love, honoring individuality and togetherness as the center to belonging and hope


Genetiki (essence: genetic code, gene expression)
Unlocking one’s higher consciousness, empowering a mind, body, spirit alignment as individuals, improving the collective human experience

Areti (essence: virtue, virtuous)

Living life with the highest intention of integrity, striving for character that produces happiness for all of humanity, developing honor through resilience and vulnerability

Elomi LIVE LIMITLESS Challenge Interview with Frederika Zappe & Laurel Nash!

I have partnered with Elomi for their Live Limitless Challenge, which is an extension of their existing Live Limitless campaign. It’s all about Elomi fans celebrating who they are. The Live Limitless challenge encourages Elomi’s fans to build on themselves and find even more confidence in their lives.
Elomi wanted to work with an expert for its Live Limitless Challenge, someone who could provide authority and guidance on the series of challenges they offered, which is why they chose to work with me to develop
the 30 challenges.
Get ready to be inspired by this interview with National Fit Specialist Frederika Zappe and Laurel Nash SVP of Sales from the Elomi team about the confidence building Live Limitless Challenge!
Listen Here:
Below, Frederika Zappe, National Fit Specialist and Laurel Nash SVP of Sales both from Elomi come together to explain how taking steps to Living Limitless can help one live their best and most confident life:
Being able to live a life without limits is truly freeing and incredibly powerful, and that’s the movement Elomi is championing.
Elomi is a lingerie brand to be noticed! Created specifically for full-figure women, Elomi completely embodies what being ‘curvy and confident’ is all about. Elomi’s mission is to help inspire and empower women to live their life without limits. This is what the Live Limitless Challenge is all about.
Elomi has a strong community of women that are very engaged and incredibly active on social media.They are confident to take on anything life throws at them, so we wanted to give them the chance to get involved and challenge them to push their boundaries further.
Working alongside Dr. Denise, we have created 30 challenges that make up the Live Limitless Challenge. We utilised her expertise and understanding of confidence-building to create a series of challenges designed to empower and inspire. The challenges vary from small things such as keeping a gratitude list or doing a digital detox. to other fun challenges like learning a new skill or getting out and getting active!
There are no rules for how quickly the challenges need to be completed—our fans can do them
how and when they like, all we ask is that they share their challenges on Instagram to be a part of our ‘Live Limitless Challenge Community’ and use their experience to inspire others to take part.
Fans that take part also have the added incentive of being in with the chance of winning some Elomi collections as prizes.
Elomi has a close connection to body confidence. It comes from the emotive experience of a woman having a bra fitting experience—and it is transformational.
80% of women are wearing the wrong bra size, which can affect their health and posture. When
someone goes in store for a fitting experience and wears their new bra in the correctly fitting size, it can be a truly incredible experience from the difference it can make to your posture, body shape and confidence, while also leave you feeling more uplifted and supported. Their bra becomes their most important and favorite accessory of the day. Once you’ve experienced it, you want to tell others to do the same. It’s the best kept secret to every great outfit. The same rules apply for on the beach, and we also want every woman to feel totally confident in her swimwear.
The challenge has been running for a few months already and we’ve seen a massively positive response from the Elomi community from around the world. We’re really excited to see how it grows and for Dr. Denise to continue on this journey with us and our fans.
Frederika “Freddy” Zappeis the National Fit Specialist for Eveden Inc., the prestigious
UK-based lingerie and swimwear company, and makers of the fabulous luxury brands
Fantasie, Freya, Elomi and Goddess.
A passionate advocate for the importance of fit, Freddy travels all over the country
spreading the Eveden message, and training industry professionals. A gifted motivational
speaker and corporate spokesperson, Freddy is a frequent presenter at lingerie and
swimwear trade shows including Curve NY, Las Vegas. She conducts the Eveden Fit
School, an educational seminar, and a fitting master class workshop.
Freddy’s background is in international modeling and acting, environments that gave her
a unique perspective on the difference between the retouched “ideal” women appearing in
the media, and the real-world women who are striving for that ideal. Hollywood celebs
and New York tycoons depend on her expert advice to look their best.
Eveden’s innovative designs and the extensive range of cups sizes Eveden has to offer,
gives Freddy the tools to create that perfect fit. Eveden and Freddy work together to
make the real woman the truly ideal woman.
Laurel Nash
Title: Senior Vice President of Sales at Eveden Inc. (North America)
Laurel Nash is the Senior Vice President of Sales for North America at Eveden Inc., the parent company
of Elomi. Previously, Laurel worked for Nordstrom for 20 years, where she worked her way from
Department Manager to National Multichannel Planning Manager in the Women’s Apparel Division. She
has also operated as Vice President of Sales at Hudson Kids and Senior Sales Manager at Free People.
She started her role as SVP of Sales at Eveden Inc. in January of 2018.
Check out the winners of the challenges so far!

BE Inspired by Life Style Medicine Pioneer, Beth Frates M.D.

Who inspired Dr. Beth Frates to passionately pursue lifestyle medicine? How does she empower her patients? What motivates her to stay on track with her optimal health plan? This interview takes you through the steps to ENVISION optimal well-being to BE AWARE and then TAKE ACTION!

Listen here:

Guest Commentary

Beth Frates, M.D.



“Do this, not that!” This type of demanding dictator approach does not  empower people to make sustainable lifestyle changes.  People need to exert their own autonomy, feel a connection with another person, and feel competent in order to stay motivated to make change and meet goals. This is described in Ryan and Deci’s self-determination theory. Instead of the demanding dictator approach, the COACH approach is more effective when working with people who are trying to lose weight, start an exercise program, . This approach uses collaboration and negotiation to help people identify their own motives to make a change and to craft  SMART Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. The COACH is a mnemonic that stands for


C = curious

O = open-minded

A = appreciative

C= compassionate

H= honest


When we are communicating with others and working to empower them to make healthy lifestyle changes, we must remain curious about the person’s motivations to change, their past successes as well as failures, their goals and their vision of themselves in the future. Then, whatever their answers, we must stay in a space of non-judgment and keep an open-mind.  If we try hard enough, we can find something positive in what they are saying. We can appreciate any past successes or steps in the direction of healthy change. When people reveal their problems and vulnerabilities, we can express compassion and a strong desire not only understand but also to help. No matter what the situation, we must be honest. We can treat delicate matters gently, but we must tell the truth. When we embody these characteristics, we are “being” a helpful coach. These are the “being” qualities of a coach.


“Being” coach like is important and “doing” the work of a coach is equally important.  The doing follows a five collaboration cycle which can be used in any situation requiring teamwork. Here are the 5 steps


  1. Express empathy
  2. Align motivation
  3. Build confidence
  4. Set SMART goals
  5. Set accountability


The first thing we need to do when working to empower someone to change is to express empathy. Listen carefully to not only the words they are saying but also their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. This helps you to fully understand the person in front of you. After you have expressed your empathy by reflecting what the person said to you and saying “It sounds like you had a really hard time when your father died,” or something that accurately recaps what they shared with you. The next step is to ask the person, “What makes you want to make this change now?” Let them speak. People like to be heard.  After they have determined their motivators for change, then it’s time to build their confidence so that they are empowered to make the change. This can be accomplished by asking them to list their strengths and if they can’t so that then invite them to tell you about a time when they were successful reaching a goal. Again, listen carefully and help the person identify their strengths from their story. The fourth step is to help the person create their own meaningful goal that is specific, measurable, action oriented, realistic and time sensitive such as “I will eat healthier this week by cutting out sweets and replacing cakes, cookies, and candies after dinner with a piece of fruit.” And, the final step is to set accountability. Make sure to set a time for another check in either in person, by email or text when the person will report to you how they did. When they do report back, the cycle starts again and the first thing you do is express empathy.


This COACH Approach can be used with colleagues, friends, and family members who long to make a change in their lifestyle. It can also be used for meeting goals outside of lifestyle too. The approach is a collaborative way to help people take steps towards the best version of themselves at work or at home.


Beth Frates, MD, is trained as a physiatrist and a health and wellness coach. Her expertise is in lifestyle medicine, and she works to empower patients to reach their optimal level of wellness by adopting healthy habits. Elected to the Board of Directors of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) in 2016, Dr. Frates is helping to shape the scope of this new specialty. She is an award-winning teacher at Harvard Medical School and developed and taught a college lifestyle medicine curriculum at the Harvard Extension School, which is one of the most popular courses offered at the school. As the Director of Wellness Programming at the Stroke Institute for Research and Recovery at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Dr. Frates has created and implemented a twelve-month wellness program for stroke survivors and their caregivers.  She is co-author of the book, Life After Stroke: TheGuide to Recovering Your Health and Preventing Another Strokeand co-author of three chapters on behavior change in different medical textbooks, and multiple journal articles on lifestyle medicine topics including exercise prescription, connection prescription, lifestyle medicine case series, and walking meeting for sustained weight loss. She shared a lifestyle medicine syllabus, which can be downloaded through the ACLM website, in hopes that her work can serve as a template for other instructors and professors hoping to teach a course in lifestyle medicine.  Dr. Frates is the co-author of the Lifestyle Medicine Handbook: An Introduction to the Power of Healthy Habits.For the past 9 years, Dr. Frates has been the faculty advisor for the Lifestyle Medicine Interest Group at Harvard Medical School, and she works with the Professionals In Training (PiT) group at ACLM to help create more LMIGs in medical schools and other health care professional training schools.  Dr. Frates is passionate about developing programs focused on lifestyle medicine and wellness.