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What I Do (& my advice for those seeking a similar career)

Careers (What I do & my best advice to you):

I’m participating in a panel discussion today at my alma mater, M.S.U., to discuss working as a therapist. I’ve been able to make a good living doing meaningful work and have managed to put together a life that has included things I’m passionate about.

One of the questions on the prep sheet for the speakers is “What is a typical day like for you?” I realized, it really depends on the day. From Monday – Thursday I see clients. From 4-7 clients a day, sometimes in the a.m. but most often in the afternoons and evenings. My caseload includes teens and couples but mainly adults. Some issues we address are depression, trauma, anxiety, relationships, substance abuse, creative blocks and personal development. I usually end up seeing between 17-25 people a week. Why that number? If I see more than that, I end up burned out. If I see fewer than that, I can’t make a living. So, that number has evolved from my personal experience as optimal.

On Fridays I write. I’m writing my second novel, a mystery. I’m calling it a post 9-11 mystery set in Greenwich Village. I don’t want to say too much about it, but there is a political and cultural sub-text and a story line that is very compelling. And frightening. I really intend it to scare the hell out of you.

On Sunday nights I host my radio show: The Vinyl Side of Midnight. I’ve done this since 1997, believe it or not. Three of my favorite hours of the week, as I spin records and CDs, 95% jazz and 5% whatever. I also interview both national and local jazz personalities every few weeks.

So, how can YOU develop your own practice? Here’s my top 5 pieces of advice:

1 – Develop a specialty. I started in family therapy. Hardly anyone was doing family therapy in Lansing in the 1980s. Now tons of people include it as part of their practice. Since then I’ve developed a number of other specialties, including EMDR and MET/CBT, stuff that is uniquely specialized that you can’t get from most providers. Specialize.

2 – To get what you haven’t got, you’ll have to do something you’ve never done. Get good training. Get supervised. Find the national and local experts and allow yourself to be mentored. Make this a life long habit. Some day, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly it occurs, you’ll be the local expert.

3 – Network. Give away the stuff you know to organizations. Free seminars. Meet other professionals for lunch. Give away your business cards. Make a web site. Join organizations that might have an overlap in your area of expertise. Blow your own horn. Find kindred spirits and create your own support groups of friends.

4 – Volunteer. You’ll meet people from all walks of life and it will broaden your experience and they’ll also learn about you. And you’ll make new friends.

5 – Keep your passions alive. I love to write. I love music. I love to travel. I’ve found ways to do all three in this career. This can be tough work. Keeping your passions alive will keep you fresh and vital. In the same spirit, take impeccable care of yourself. Feed your interests. Feed your spirit and your soul. Take care of your body. Start a practice of regular exercise.

Hopefully this has been helpful. You’ll find your own way, and maybe some day you’ll be able to share with someone else what’s worked for you. Best of luck!

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