Craig Drohn, Hero of Gaea now has a Tumblr Blog (and yes, I’m still alive)

First of all, for anyone who might wonder or care, I am still alive.  I apologize for my lack of posts, but I am a graduate student working toward my Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology and that is my number one priority.  My spring semester ended yesterday and it was unusually intense because I began my practicum.  I am transitioning from academics to application and the process is awkward and filled with growing pains.  It’s a lot of work, but I am enjoying every challenge.  I am interning at a court-ordered substance abuse treatment facility for teens and adults.  Learning how to work with this population and putting into reality what I’ve learned in books has taken all of my time and energy.  I will continue to work during my break, but my summer semester does not begin until June.  For now, I do not have to worry about studying for exams and writing papers on top of my work duties.

Tabletop role-playing games are a large part of my self-care.  It encourages my creativity and gives me something fun to focus on.  I’ve posted about this before and I’ve also mentioned my main character Craig.  I’ve created a Tumblr blog dedicated to Craig.  It’s an ongoing work in progress, but it’s turning out to be a lot of fun.  There you can find all things Craig including bits and pieces of his story.  Here’s the link, check it out:


Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013, Days 6, 7, and 8: Meeting Dr. Judith Beck, Dr. Irvin Yalom, seeing Dr. Aaron Beck present, Disneyland, and going home.

I had the honor of attending and volunteering at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California with 2 classmates.   This is the story of Days 6 , 7, and 8 the final entry.  You can find Day 5 here:

Friday had been busy.  The whole damn week had been busy.  Late nights and early mornings the whole way.  Saturday was no different.  Chris and I had to be at a conference room in the Hilton at 8am to work the door for Conversation Hour with Dr. Otto Kernberg.

Once that was done, we went downstairs and bought our Disneyland tickets.  We planned to go Sunday evening.  We were leaving to fly out Monday and Disneyland seemed like the perfect way to end this epic week.

Next, I attended a brilliant presentation by Dr. Donald Meichenbaum called The Treatment of a Suicidal Patient with a History of Victimization: A Constructive Narrative Perspective.  Dr. Meichenbaum showed us a video of an actual session with a real client.  It was incredible.  This poor woman had been through the worst things you could imagine and had attempted suicide 7 times.  Yet, Dr. Meichenbaum was able to find the positives in her story and highlight her resilience.  It was powerful.

The next presentation I went to was by Dr. Claudia Black who is well known in the field of addictions.  I am very interested in addictions and I’ve come across her research in the past.  I was thrilled to get to see her in person.  She gave a fascinating presentation on the intertwining influences of family and addictions.

I had other presentations I wanted to see, but I was exhausted.  And there was a late night ahead, because this was the night we would see a huge hero in the field present.  Dr. Irvin Yalom was speaking with a book signing to follow.  I decided to rest and rebuild some energy.

Prior to the big Yalom presentation, Chris and I had to volunteer at one called Trauma, Spirituality, and Recovery.  It was by Dr. Donald Meichenbaum and Dr. Erving Polster.  A Jewish man and an atheist.  This was powerful.  After the spiritual experience by the ocean the night before, I had many thoughts on this subject still swimming around in my mind.  They played a clip from the documentary “Where was God on 9/11?”  A man in that documentary talked about his raw anger at God.  This hit home.  In April of 2013, I lost my lifelong best friend.  I was fighting tears throughout this presentation.  It was beautiful, powerful, and eye-opening in ways I did not expect.

An hour and fifteen minutes prior to the big presentation of the evening, we plopped our butts down in 5 rows from the stage.  It was the closest we could get.  We were going to see Yalom up close and personal.  The arena got packed really fast.  We sat anxious and cramped, waiting to catch the first glimpse of a living legend.

Teaching Psychotherapy Through Narrative.  That was the title of the presentation.  Dr. Yalom is a well-known writer.  He has written not only books related to therapy, but novels.  He actually read us excerpts from a book he has not yet published.  We sat there, jam-packed in uncomfortable seats, completely absorbed in every word.  I remember the exhaustion of the week really hitting me.  To listen to the soothing sound of his reading was hypnotic.  I felt like I was fighting sleep.  I felt like I was lost in a dream.

After the presentation, was Yalom’s book signing.  We came prepared with various copies of his works.  My book was The Gift of Therapy.  I already owned Love’s Executioner, but in Kindle format.  But instead of rushing to get in line, we had already resigned ourselves to inevitable hours standing and waiting.  We took a chance.  While everyone else was rushing out of the arena, we rushed up toward the front of the room.  And there, we approached Dr. Judith Beck.  I mentioned her in a previous post.  She and Yalom were probably my two top heroes who were present and presenting.

She greeted us with a smile and once again I was certain I was dreaming.  We introduced ourselves as graduate students and she seemed genuinely thrilled to meet us.  I wish I could remember more of the words.  I know she invited us to apply to attend one of her workshops for graduate students this summer.  I know she was polite, sweet, and more than happy to allow us to take pictures with her.  But I can’t remember dialogue.  I can’t remember specifics.  It was too mind-blowing.

As if that wasn’t enough excitement, the line for Yalom’s signing was long but moved faster than we expected.  There was a system in place.  Get your book signed, then move to the side for a picture while the line continued.  We all three made sure we got pictures of each other.  I’ll never forget walking up to the table, again convinced this had to be a dream.  I was going to wake up any second.  He asked me my name.  I gave it.  I showed him where to sign.  He signed.  He touched my hand, looked me in the eye, and said “Good luck.  I hope you enjoy the book.”

We got our pictures.

Then we walked outside into the chilly night, exhausted and light-headed.  We talked about how surreal it all seemed.  How we felt like weeping from the magnitude of it all.  How this trip had been worth every damn penny.  We had just  met and interacted with two of our greatest heroes.  The colorful lights in the fountains and on the Convention Center walkway and the palm tree leaves swaying in the breeze seemed appropriately magical.

We were starved and delirious.  We walked to our room, put our stuff away, and walked to the Denny’s next to the hotel.  We sat around the table laughing and anything and everything.  The food was the most delicious ever.  Probably because we were so damned hungry.  We were all lost in a dream together.  And it was beautiful.

The next day held the promise of seeing the 91  year old legendary Dr. Aaron Beck present through Skype, interviewed by his daughter Dr. Judith Beck.  Dr. Aaron Beck is probably my biggest living hero in the field.  I was exhausted.  And damned determined not to have to be somewhere by 8am.  So I slept in.

We got to the arena early.  Dr. Beck was to be on at 11:30.  We caught part of the prior presentation by Dr.’s John and Julia Gottman.  It was called Group Treatment of Situational Domestic Violence for Lower-Income Couples.  Brilliance.  Pure awesome brilliance.  The video clips were amazing.  It was great to see the Gottmans in action.

This time, we sat in the higher levels of the arena, but had a good view.  The seating was more comfortable.  We had already seen and met Dr. Judith Beck.  Dr. Aaron Beck was on Skype, so we saw no need to make special effort to be near the stage.  Dr. Aaron Beck came online and brilliance filled the room.  I cannot emphasize how much of an impact this man has had on the field as we know it.  This would have been the equivalent of seeing Freud speak back in his heyday.  This man is one of my biggest personal heroes ever and so is his daughter.  To see them both present, to hear the brilliant responses Dr. Aaron Beck gave to her and the questions from the audience members…it was incredible.  Mind-blowing.

And in the middle of this bucket-list topping moment of overwhelming brilliance…my allergies gave me a sudden sneezing fit.  The absurdity of the moment, of having a sneezing fit at this of all times, promptly sent me into giggles.  Chris and Lauren had to help get me under control.  A nice, understanding lady in front of us gave me a tissue.  And all was well.

At the end of the presentation, we stood in the crowd, our individual claps part of a standing ovation. This 91 year old god of psychology, this creator of cognitive behavior therapy, watched as the camera revealed to him the praising crowd. Visibly taken aback, tears glistening in his eyes, he gave a quiet hoarse whisper, “Thank you.” And the call ended.

It was an honor to be a part of the applause.

That was the end of our Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference experience.  And it was a beautiful one.

Next, we grabbed some fast food and then went to Disneyland.  I wish I had more to say about that experience, but the truth is I was so exhausted at this point I was not able to fully enjoy it.  I did go on Space Mountain and then the Star Tours ride.  Star Tours is the Star Wars ride.  You’re in a 3D flight simulator.  C3PO and R2D2 are piloting it.  As you start flying, an imperial droid finds you and says there is a rebel spy aboard.  It scans the craft and picks a random picture of the people inside.  It picked me.  I was the rebel spy.

After that, we walked around a bit and I simply could not take it anymore.  My entire body was exhausted.  My brain was exhausted.  I am an introvert and I had been around large crowds almost continuously all week long.  I simply could not handle anymore and the crowd was getting so thick at Disneyland that I could not turn around without bumping into anyone.  I felt like I couldn’t breathe.  And the exhaustion was all the way into my bones.

So I left early.  Chris and Lauren managed to stay until the park closed and I have no idea how they did it.  I went back to the hotel only to discover that I had bought too much stuff to fit in  my carry on.  I was forced to make a late night run to Target and drop 70 bucks on a new bag.  I texted Chris and Lauren saying “Buy more shit.  I bought a bag.”  We had been concerned about how we would get everything home.  Once back at the room, I got all packed for the morning flight.  It was nice to have some time alone to relax.  A few hours later, Chris and Lauren made it in to tell me about all the awesome cool stuff I had missed.  I hate that I missed out, but I had been way too tired and grumpy to enjoy it.  I did get the Disneyworld experience as a kid, so I’m not completely deprived.

It was time to pass out.  Once again, we would not get enough sleep before having to get up.  It had been an amazing week, but I was ready to be home.  And I was not looking forward to an entire day of flying.

The trip home was exhausting in and of itself, but it went smoothly.  Taking off from the Orange County airport was a nerve-wracking experience (see the first entry where I mention the steep take-offs and landings due to a noise ordinance in Newport Beach).  We had a few hours of layover in Houston.  Our flight got delayed.  The good news was, Lauren, who had been on a later flight out of Orange County, was able to catch up and switch to our flight back to Shreveport.  The three of us were able to wait and ride home together.

Finally, it was time to board the puddle jumper back to Shreveport.  I was not thrilled about being on a small plane again, but I was ready to be home and I knew it’d only be a 45 or so minute flight.  Flying at night was a new experience.  I enjoyed seeing the lights out the window.  I reflected on how incredible the entire week had been.  How I had never expected the level of personal, professional, and spiritual development I had gotten.  I still had no idea how to make sense of it and process it.

Before long, we were landing in Shreveport.  I had a smile on my face.  It was so good to be home.  I will never forget the view from the air of the moon over Cross Lake and the lights surrounding it. A beautiful sight that somehow felt like an appropriate conclusion. It meant home. Through a dazzling new perspective.


Dr. Erving Polster (left) and Dr. Donald Meichenbaum (right, and telling a joke lol)


Dr. Irvin Yalom


Dr. Aaron Beck on Skype. Dr. Judith Beck on stage.

2013: A Paradox of Tragedies and Miracles

I have not finished my posts about my experience at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.  I’ve been busy the past few days.  There’s still more I have to say about it, but New Year’s plopped itself in the middle of that project so I feel the need to stop and address that.  I usually write a reflection at the end of the year.

This year, I really don’t know what to say.  I started it off sick as shit with a bad cold that got into my lungs.  I remember saying I hoped it wasn’t a omen.  I wish I could look back and say it wasn’t.

The prior year had been intense with the start of graduate school as well as the unexpected loss of an uncle and all its continuing aftermath.  I was already tired of being in the wake of death.  But the thing about death is, it doesn’t care if you’re tired of it.  It strikes hard and true when you least expect it.  And it is without mercy.

On April 6th, I received a call that I hoped I would never get.  The night before, my lifelong best friend since childhood, the first friend I ever made, Aimee, had passed away in her sleep.  I have written several posts about the details and aftermath of this traumatic event and I don’t care to relive it right now.  I can only say that it’s never really over.  Grief is unpredictable and does not adhere to social calendars and expectations.

With counseling and unbelievable support, I made it through the rest of an intense graduate school semester with my 4.0 intact.  I’ve kept it all year.

And in this year, I have attended 4 funerals.  Aside from Aimee, I lost another uncle (the father of the previously passed uncle), a good friend’s father, and a cousin.  The cousin passed away on Christmas Eve after developing pneumonia from flu.  Completely unexpected.  He was in his 50s.

I know better than to beg death not to come into our lives.  There’s nothing you can do to stop it.  It’s an unpleasant fact.  A tragic inconvenience.  You have to focus on what’s important.  Cut all the bullshit.  All you have is right now.

That would be enough to classify this as the shittiest year ever.  But there were some pretty powerful redeeming moments.  A friend who was severely injured in a car accident (only weeks after Aimee passed away) made a recovery nothing short of miraculous.  My high school best friend and her husband (I am blessed to have a handful of “best friends”) gave birth to their first child.  I consider her my niece and she is a true blessing in all of our lives.

And last but not least, was the daily bucket list checking packed week of the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.  I learned from the masters of my field.  I met personal heroes.  It was busy, it was intense, and awakening on personal, professional, and spiritual levels.  You can read about that in my other posts.

2013, you’ve been intense with extreme emotions on both ends of the spectrum and everywhere in between.  I have cried deeper and laughed harder than any other time in my life.  I have only begun to understand that you never truly realize what you have until it’s gone.

So I just try to realize.  Before then.  As best I can.

The landscape of life is ever changing.  Constants can disappear in the blink of an eye.  You can be thrown into a new world at a moment’s notice.  Nothing will stay the same.  If you take nothing else away, remember:

All you have is now.


Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013, Day 5: A Legend at Breakfast, Dr. Linehan in Action, Opening Cans of Worms with Dr. Sue, Revelations in Writing, and the Spiritual Power of the Sea

I had the honor to volunteer at and attend the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, CA with two classmates, Chris and Lauren.  This is the story of Day 5.  Find Day 4 here:
I walked out of the hotel around 5:45 am and it was still dark.  I was slightly nervous as I made my way down the now routine route to the convention center alone.  The air was cold and crisp.  The streets were mostly quiet.  There were not many people around at all.  Thankfully, the walk was uneventful.  I am not a morning person, but I had been scheduled as a volunteer for the faculty breakfast and had to be there at 6 am.  I was not sure what to expect, but was excited at the opportunity to see my heroes up close and personal.

However, since so many had early presentations, very few showed up.  Myself and one other volunteer were there and it was very early.  The Hilton staff were still setting up the room.  We chatted with a nice member of the staff for a while.  Finally, a few people drifted in.  There wasn’t much need for us volunteers and eventually we were told that we could go if we wanted to, but we were invited to eat breakfast.

Dr. Munichin and the Rossi’s came in.  Along with a few others.  It was an honor just to be in the same room.  Dr. Munichin was leaving that day.  I was glad I got to see him up close one last time.

Afterward, I went back to the room for a rest.  I am not a morning person.  Our entire week was filled with late nights and early mornings.  Not to mention, we still weren’t adjusting to the two hour time difference from central to pacific.

Next was an opportunity to see another legend in the field.  Dr. Marsha Linehan.  She did a brilliant presentation called Chain Analysis of Dysfunctional Behavior.  We got to see her in action as she demonstrated a live session with an audience volunteer.  It was amazing.  She was witty, warm, and brilliant.  I wish I had gotten a chance to meet her face to face, but I did not.  Still, it was great to learn from her.

To add to the bucket list experiences of the day, the next presentation I attended was that of Dr. Derald Wing Sue, another personal hero of mine in the field.  Dr. Sue is the author of the textbook we used for my multicultural class.  I had been an admirer of his work ever since I opened it and began to read.

The presentation was about microaggressions, something we had discussed at length in our multicultural class.  It was fascinating to hear it from the master himself.  There was something he said on the subject of prejudice/discrimination that really hit home.  I wrote it in my notes and I hope I got it accurate.

“I don’t want to meet a klan member by myself.  I would be scared.  But what’s scarier are the teachers, employers, counselors, etc who are good, moral people teaching children, hiring employees, etc and holding on to microaggressions.  Because it affects my standard of living.”

Another gem in response to the common resistance when discussing issues of racism, prejudice, etc was when he said:

“If we don’t open the can, does it mean the worms aren’t there?”

Think about that.  We should be more open to awareness and that begins with discussion.  As counselors, awareness of our own biases is crucial.

I got to talk to him and get my picture with him after the presentation.  I told him that his book was the first textbook I had opened up to read and got sucked into.  He thanked me for the compliment.  He was very nice, warm, and easy going.

For the next presentation, I had purchased two books.  I was the key volunteer, directly responsible to the presenters, and of all wonderful things it was a workshop on writing.  The presenters were Bill O’Hanlon and Mary Pipher, both brilliant people.  I got to meet them both and get my books signed.  It was yet another exciting honor.

The workshop was something I needed.  I wrote several pages of notes.  As someone who is a writer and studying to be a counselor, I struggle with the two different aspects of my identity and it’s nice when they can merge.  However, I still have reservations with the risk of having clients gain access to some of the more personal things I write.  This is why I have chosen to publish this blog under a pen name.  I also do not want to risk writing anything inappropriate about experiences with future clients.  Confidentiality is crucial for counselors.

There was lots of valuable advice about therapy, the writing process, and life in general.  One particularly beautiful thing that Mary Pipher said was “The purpose of life is to increase your moral imagination to the point where by the time you die every living human is in your circle.”  She followed that up by stating that the goals of both therapy and writing were to “help people have more kindness” and to “broaden understanding.”

One thing that Bill O’Hanlon said that stood out to me was “I wrote books because I was pissed off and wanted to change the world.”

There are still things to process about the experience of that presentation.  As a writer and a student counselor, it was invaluable.  I am blessed to have been a part of it.

So far, I’ve described a pretty exciting full bucket list day.  But it wasn’t over yet.  We had yet another bucket list activity to accomplish.  Going to the beach at sunset.

We barely made it in time.  But we got there and took plenty of pictures.  The air was chilly by the water.  We were at Huntington Beach by the pier.  It was magical.

I walked along the water’s edge in the wet sand.  I stood looking out at the setting sun over the water.  The horizon was pink, orange, and purple.  The water in constant motion, waves coming in and out.  Unexpected foam developing at the peaks, rolling with the ebb and flow.

As it got darker, I kept watching the water.  It was unpredictable.  The waves would go from big to small to big again.  Constant movement.  The sea was alive.  It was moody.  Calm one moment, cruel the next.  I thought about the peaceful waters of that night and the day we had gone whale watching.  Then I thought about what it must be like during storms.  I thought about the destruction in the wake of floods, hurricanes, and tsunamis.  The ocean is a paradox of creation and destruction.

It was the perfect metaphor for life.  As well as a physical representation of my year.  2013 has been in many ways the best and worst year of my life.  A rolling paradox of emotions at every extreme, often at the same time.  Much like the sea.  From the depths of the deepest despair I have ever known after losing my lifelong best friend to the heights of ecstatic joy at meeting my greatest heroes at this amazing professional opportunity.  And everything in between.

The deepest tragedies and greatest triumphs of our lives and of civilization are but specks of foam on the tips of rolling waves.  Does that make it insignificant?  No.  If all those drops were to dry up, there would be no sea.  But you cannot take a single drop of saltwater and understand the nature, depth, beauty, and meaning of the sea.  Why should life be the same?  Everything is connected to something bigger than itself.

I felt connected to everything and everyone as I stared at the dark waves.  This was a spiritual understanding I had been struggling to find.  I still don’t understand it completely and maybe I never will.  Maybe it’s impossible.  Sometimes logic just doesn’t have the answers.  Sometimes the only option is faith.

My friends broke me from my spell and I knew it was time to step away from the ocean.  Something had been ignited deep within and I had to shift my attention now, come back to life, so I could make sense of it all later.  We went to the shops on the pier.  I bought a seashell necklace with a tiny charm of the Virgin Mary inside.  It felt appropriate for this non-active Catholic who had just experienced some sort of spiritual revelation by the sea.  It was the only one there and it was meant to be mine.

After that, we went to a Mexican restaurant called Fred’s Mexican Cafe.  It was delicious and I drank a margarita as big as my head.  We laughed our assess off about nothing on the way back to the car.  Everything was hilarious.  Hilarity was in everything.  We were tired and worn out.  And life was beautiful.

On the drive back to the hotel, we got lost.  But the route we ended up taking gave us a close view of the Disneyland fireworks.  A fitting end to the day.

Dr. Derald Wing Sue

Dr. Derald Wing Sue

Bill O'Hanlon

Bill O’Hanlon

Mary Pipher

Mary Pipher

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Pier
Huntington Pier


Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, Day 4: In the Presence of Greatness, Hypnotic Revelations, and the Strength of Love

I had the honor of volunteering at and attending the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, CA with two classmates, Chris and Lauren.  This is the story of Day 4.  For Day 3 go here:

Thursday morning was a huge bucket list moment.  I was in the presence of greatness.  One of my biggest heroes in the field, Dr. Judith Beck, was speaking.  She was every bit as amazing as I had imagined.  I took tons of notes.  She spoke about using cognitive behavior therapy for challenging problems and personality disorders.

At the end of the presentation, I walked up to get a few pictures of her.  I got in on a group photo with her and some of the other attendees.  She was so sweet and personable.  It was great to just be near her.  It’s always exciting when you meet a hero and they don’t disappoint you.

I had no idea I would actually get to talk to her one on one Saturday night.  But that story is for later.

The second presentation I attended was titled The Next Step in the Evolution of Psychotherapy: Facilitating the Psychosocial Genomics of Creating Consciousness.  Dr. Ernest Rossi and his wife Dr. Kathryn Rossi presented along with their Italian colleagues Dr. Mauro Cozzolino and Dr. Giovanna Celia.  This was a second part from  an earlier presentation that my classmates had attended, but I had skipped in favor of seeing the entire presentation of Dr. Judith Beck.

This was interesting.  There was a lot of talk about genetics that I did not understand a lot of, but there was also a demonstration of some hypnosis-like techniques.  This is not my area, but it was interesting and beneficial to see it.  There was one particular exercise that stuck out.  It was where a man was asked to relax and meditate then have a conversation between two opposing viewpoints he held.  The dialogue was powerful and intense.  He was a gentleman in his 70’s trying to decide whether or not to leave his life as it was or dare to chase a dream of starting a new non-profit to help homeless people in his area.  In the end, he decided to look into chasing that dream.

It was an amazing thing to see.  If a man in his 70’s can still find reason to pursue his passions, then life is beautiful.  I hope he does it.

The next presentation was another by the great Dr. Salvador Munichin titled How to Produce Change.  He showed a video of himself performing structural family therapy and described some of his techniques.  He insisted that in that hour and a half presentation he had taught us everything he knew.  A really powerful moment was at the end when he said “I’d tell you more, but this is all the time we have.”

He received a standing ovation.  And again, we realized the significance of being there to learn from this 92 year old legend personally.

The last presentation for the day, one I had to volunteer for, was called Love in a Time of Illness by Dr. Diane Ackerman.  She told a touching story of the heart-breaking but inspiring challenge of her husband’s stroke and recovery.  She wrote a book about the experience called One Hundred Names for Love.  You can find the book here on Amazon:

It was an amazing presentation that evoked much emotion.  Laughter, tears, and admiration for the strength of love through hard times.  We gave her a standing ovation for sharing such a personal and valuable story.

Dr. Judith Beck

Dr. Judith Beck


Dr. Ernest Rossi

Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013, Day 3: Dr. Salvador Munichin and Alanis Morissette

I had the honor of volunteering at and attending the Evolution of Psychotherapy in Anaheim, CA. with two of my classmates, Chris and Lauren.  This is the story of Day 3.  Find Day 2 here:

We got up early to make a presentation by Dr. Gerald Edelman titled From Brain Dynamics to Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination.  However, the convention center arena was full and there was a problem with the audio system.  We gave up and went to check out the bookstore.  The Milton Erikson Foundation, who put on the convention, later sent us all a link to a free audio recording of the presentation.

After drooling over the bookstore and lamenting on my lack of funds to buy ALL THE BOOKS, I went to a presentation that was an eye-opener.  You can find the handout for it here:

Dr. Scott Miller was a brilliant and entertaining speaker.  The presentation was about how there is a need for improvement in psychotherapy and how that begins with individual therapists.  It really did light a fire under my ass.  I’m not sure what to do with that yet.  I’m a student, still learning.  I have not yet gotten set in any particular ways of counseling.  I hope that this will help me grow and keep an open mind.

The next presentation was one I had to work the door for.  It was not overly impressive.  However, that night, was the real excitement.

That night we saw the keynote presentations by Dr. Salvador Munichin, a legend in family therapy.  After that was a keynote presentation by singer Alanis Morissette titled Art, Integration, Wholeness…and the Feminine.  Both were interviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Zeig of the Milton Erikson Foundation.

It was an honor to see Dr. Salvador Munichin.  He is a 92 year old legend in the field.  When Dr. Zeig introduced him, he shared a personal email exchange between the two in which Dr. Munichin had referenced the Hebrew word for the last rain of the season, “malkosh,” and said that he considered this conference his last rain.  Dr. Zeig, a longtime friend of Dr. Munichin, became very emotional.  That moment brought a powerful realization of what a true honor it was to be there.  To hear the legendary Dr. Munichin share of some of his wisdom.  We are likely some of the last people to ever see him speak live and in person.  We gave him a standing ovation before he even spoke.

Dr. Munichin was a wonderful speaker.  Witty, charming, and full of wisdom.  His Argentine accent only added to the charm.  I was scrambling to write down the profound words that would just come pouring out of him.  Among them were these gems that I hope I captured correctly:

“Certainty is the enemy of change.”

“You are resilient or you die.” – on his challenges growing up as a Jew in Argentina.

“Working with the social systems of the United States is an exercise of failure…at some point this is the norm.  Then you can either get out or try again.  And I hope to try again.”

“I am happy when they give me back a memory…I have lots of empty space.” – on when people come up to him and say they’ve met before.

“Empathy is the courage to challenge certainties.”

“Repetitive infusion of certainty is needed to make a change in a larger system.”

“The road to Jerusalem is very diverse.  Be wise in that way.”

We gave him another standing ovation at the end of his presentation.

Next was Alanis Morissette.  It was a refreshing interview largely about her creative processes as well as personal challenges.  She was sweet, charming, and witty.  It was great to hear her perspective on a multitude of topics.


Alanis Morissette

Dr. Salvador Munichin
Dr. Salvador Munichin

Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013, Day 2: California Love, Sassy Sea Lions, Stampeding Dolphins, Director James Foley, and the magic of Twinkies

I had the honor of volunteering at and attending the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California with two of my classmates Chris and Lauren.  Here is the story of Day 2.  Read about Day 1 here:

On the way to Newport Beach, “California Love” came on the radio.  We turned it up loud in our rental minivan and laughed and sang.

We stood on the boat, all with the Lonely Island song “I’m on a Boat” in our heads.  Immediately, we saw sea lions lounging on a buoy.  I had no idea sea lions were so abundant along the California coast.  You could hear them barking and splashing all over the place.  They would hoist themselves up on boats in the marina or buoys, barking at one another and fighting for a spot in the sun.  Sassy critters, sea lions.

Then came the dolphins.  Hundreds of dolphins.  Surrounding the boat in a stampede.  They were all jumping out of the water at the same time.  They would get right beside the boat and roll around in the water, revealing their white bellies.  It was one of the most awe-inspiring and beautiful things I have ever seen.

Screw counseling.  We decided then and there we just wanted to get a boat and chase dolphins every day.  What a beautiful life that would be.

If only.

There were no whales out that day.  But the dolphins, sea lions, and time out on the breath-taking blue water had been well worth it.  We got off the boat feeling a bit lighter.  It was the most relaxed I had felt all year.  It had been a rough year.

We ate at a nice restaurant on the harbor.  One of the few non-fast food meals that we would get for the week.  Between being limited on funds and having to rush for conference activities and the few outside things we managed to throw in, fast food or quick snacks were often the only option.

We went to a few shops on the harbor.  Bought some obligatory t-shirts and other souvenirs.  On the way out, we saw two sea lions on a boat in the harbor barking loudly at one another.  A third tried to join them, but one bitched slapped it back into the water.  Those silly sea lions and their shenanigans.

Next, we went to Balboa pier.  We took our shoes off, rolled up our pants, and stepped into the sand.  We made our way down to the ocean’s edge.  I found a seashell and kept it for a friend.  We wanted to get pictures of ourselves standing in the water.  The water was teasing the shore with tiny laps and it kept going down and we had to chase it.

I stood in the last place it had been, expecting it to return with another small wispy lap, but instead a wave came in behind me and suddenly cold water was up to my mid calf.  I shrieked and my friend caught the moment on camera.  My first tactile experience with the Pacific Ocean.

It was time to go back to Anaheim for our first conference experience.  We really had no idea where it would lead.

The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference had a strong theme of integration this year.  There were several presentations by people outside of the field for the sake of gaining their perspective and seeing how it could benefit counseling.  The first was Tuesday night.  A pre-conference presentation.  An interview with Hollywood Director James Foley (House of Cards, Perfect Stranger, etc.).

I was a reserve volunteer, I worked the doors checking badges even though I really wasn’t needed.  Chris was the key volunteer for this presentation, which meant he was directly responsible to the presenter.  He got to meet Mr. Foley and said the man was very nice and personable.

It was an incredible conversation about the creative process and how it can apply to psychology and counseling.  They showed clips of various movies and explained the creative intentions and psychological meaning behind them.  This was especially interesting to me as someone who enjoys writing creatively and table-top role-playing games.  Creativity is not always easily explained, but it almost always has meaning.

The thing that stuck out most was the last thing he said.  I’m likely paraphrasing here, because I didn’t have a notebook at the time, but it was something along the lines of “If I could write something as satisfying as that feeling when you find the right word to describe something, then I would be happy.”

After leaving there, we went to a Target down the street.  We decided to buy some drinks and snacks to keep in our room.  Anaheim is an interesting place.  It is a tourist town because of Disneyland and its close proximity to several beaches.  You can meet people from all over the world there.

And so I was approached by an Australian man in the cookie aisle.  The conversation when like this:

Australian man:  “Excuse me, do you know where I can find Twinkies? Isn’t that an American thing?”

Me: “Yes, it is. And they should be here. They stopped making them for a while, but they are back now.”

Random Australian: “Okay, so what are they?”

Me: “A cream filled snack cake.”

We were unsuccessful in locating them in the candy/cookie aisle…but later, I found some at the checkout counter at the exact moment I spotted him again.

Me, with Twinkies: “Excuse me, Sir, I found you some Twinkies.”

Australian guy: “Oh, wow! Thank you so much!”

Words cannot adequately describe the look of complete awe and wonder over this man’s face.  To get so much joy out of trying something new, even as simple as a foreign snack cake is a beautiful thing.  If we all just sat down and shared our snack cakes, maybe we could find world peace.

Sea Lions on a buoy in the harbor at Newport Beach.

Sea Lions on a buoy in the harbor at Newport Beach.

Stampeding Dolphins.

Stampeding Dolphins

Balboa Pier
Balboa Pier

Standing in the Pacific Ocean

Standing in the Pacific Ocean

Director James Foley
Director James Foley