Ever since she was a child, Rebecca Bruck has been making meals for her family. She loves to cook—especially fish—and has fond memories growing up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, sailing with her dad, fishing on her parents’ boat, and eating fresh seafood at neighborhood restaurants.
Today, Rebecca puts that passion to play in her mental health counseling practice. “During therapy sessions, I encourage clients to consider how culinary arts may help them overcome symptoms,” she says. “Cooking can be a great pathway for letting go of stressors. It allows you to immerse yourself in something creative and cultivate a beautiful relationship with yourself—especially when honoring yourself by using wholesome ingredients.”
After providing therapy to countless people over the last decade plus, Rebecca, a licensed clinical social worker, developed a firm belief that “there is no greater investment in ourselves than in our mental health.” She works with many mental health issues but specializes in treating anxiety and panic disorder, post-traumatic stress, depression and emotional eating. She offers adolescent and couples’ therapy. “When someone feels like their body has been hijacked and they have no control, I help them connect the dots and figure out why,” she says. “Getting them to a sense of relief makes me feel really good.”
Holistic Therapy with a Side of Creative
To do so, she takes a holistic approach that considers lifestyle, especially eating habits. “Eating to fill an emotional void can create inflammation in the body, which then affects the mind.”
With a master’s degree in social work, Rebecca had been working as a mental health therapist for several years when she longed to get in touch with her creative side. So she took a hiatus and enrolled in a two-year program at the Culinary Institute of America, prompting her 2014 move to the Hudson Valley with her husband and son. “I realized I could provide therapy in a very creative way,” she smiles. After graduating in 2016, Rebecca launched the Creative Culinary Therapist.
Ingredients for Healing
So what are the essential ingredients to improving the mind, body and soul? “Awareness, mindfulness—being able to step back and observe yourself allows you to identify the disconnect between the mind, body and spirit,” she explains. “Whether your stressors have gradually formed or came on suddenly, therapy should bring those three pieces back together.”
When working with a therapist, you should feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable, advises Rebecca, who recommends starting with a 15-minute phone consultation. “The more layers you shed, the more healing can be done.”
Looking ahead, Rebecca envisions expanding from the couch to the kitchen, with couples therapy through cooking. Her ultimate objective, though, is “to inspire people to have hope. Those suffering mentally sometimes can’t imagine their situation turning around. But their agony can end, once they form the right relationship with themselves. When they see themselves as worthy, that's when the healing will start.”
Rebecca offers this healthy recipe containing high-protein halibut, antioxidant-rich turmeric, vitamin-packed beets, and nutritional dark honey.
Halibut With Turmeric Sea Salt And Honey Ginger Sauce
3-4 ounce Halibut fillets
1.5 tsp of turmeric sea salt (or 1/2 tsp of turmeric and 1 tsp of sea salt)
6-8 slices of golden beets (or red beets)
Salt and black pepper
1/2 a cup of high-quality olive oil
Honey Ginger Sauce:
1/4 cup of dark honey (such as Amber or Buckwheat Honey)
1 tsp of ground ginger
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 a cup of walnut oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Place the fillets on a lined baking sheet and sprinkle with the Turmeric Sea Salt. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Blend on high the honey, basil, ginger and lemon juice. Slowly add the walnut oil. Salt and pepper to taste. While you heat up a grill pan, peel and cut a beet into ¼-inch slices, coat with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 3 minutes on each side until soft and have nice grill marks. Place the fish on the beets, drizzle with the sauce, and garnish with basil leaves.
For more nutritious and delicious recipes, visit Rebecca’s blog at culinarytherapist.org.
Jeanne Cotroneo Darrow is a freelancer writer based in East Fishkill, where she enjoys writing about other local entrepreneurs.