A Personal Look at My Professional Life

I often get asked how I became a psychologist and author.  I like to quip that becoming a psychologist started when I was 4 years old when, like other kids, I tried to take care of my mother’s feelings.  Sometimes it even worked.  I had a natural empathy for people and as a teen I helped my friends solve their family and relationship problems with some success.  It seemed logical that I would find my way to working with the human mind. But, in undergraduate school I was drawn to English as well as psychology and ended up with a double major.  I loved stories and saw the depth of human understanding in the stories of great authors.  Little did I know that I would one day become a best-selling author.

When my children were young I loved to tell them stories and made up most of them or redid the fairy tales to have happier endings.  They were captivated and asked me to repeat the stories. I guess I was aware then of the power of metaphor without realizing it. 

You can read my professional biography as a psychologist to get a glimpse of my credentials and the long list of what I have done and who I studied with.  More important, I love working with hurting people motivated to change. What you might not know is how I wrote my first book. It actually started as a transcript of a lecture I gave on “Love and Other Addictions” to a packed audience on a blizzardly Minnesota night.  That so many people drove in a storm to the event, I sensed a hunger for the information presented. At the end of the lecture people asked me where they could find the information and since there was no one place to find it, at the encouragement of a friend, I decided to write the book.

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For those who have written a book, they know it is a long often arduous process.  I am glad I was naïve to the steps involved:  finding the unique theme that someone wants to hear, writing, writing and rewriting, editing, finding an agent, an agent finding a publisher, marketing, and successful marketing.  Well it all fell into place and “Is It Love or Is It Addiction?” sold 10,000 copies in its first month and now is published in eleven languages.  At the request of my publisher, Hazelden, I wrote additional non-fiction books filled with psychology, love relationship advice, and personal stories of clients that readers easily identified with.  Writing led to speaking invitations from across the globe. I was fortunate to visit diverse cultures and notice that our human problems are universal.

Why did I choose to write a fiction book, Grip of the Hawk? I was reminded of the power of metaphor from reading great works of literature and from studying indirect hypnosis with Milton Erickson, M.D. He believed that anything of importance we want to communicate can be embedded in story-telling. Everything I deemed important in my non-fiction books and personal life lessons is in “Grip of the Hawk.”  I also realized that some people rebel against self-help books but will read a good story. What the novelistic device enables is to allow a dramatic narrative to carry the reader forward to an understanding of self, enduring a hard time, and discovering potential without being lectured to.

The novel tells the story of a professional woman, Dr. Rachel Julian, who is challenged to live what she preaches, teaches and writes about.  It is about love, betrayal, terror and redemption.  It is both a psychological thriller and a spiritual odyssey. It could be called ‘faction’. Though it is not a memoir, the story is influenced by a time in my life when, like Rachel, I felt betrayed by loved ones, was stalked and terrorized, and at the same time was magically introduced to a number of wise spiritual teachers who picked me up every time I wanted to give up. 

I am near retirement of my psychology practice now, but I will hopefully continue to teach through writing, speaking and passing on the wisdom I have accumulated through working with others and my hard core life experience.