What made you become a therapist?
I was a mass communications major in college with an emphasis on both print
and television journalism. For my final project in my journalism class I
had to choose a topic to write about; I chose to write about acquaintance
rape. I knew of one student who had raped four female students. He was sent
to prison but students on campus did not know what had a happened and I was
concerned because he was getting out of prison and would have access to the
campus. All four of the women spoke to me while two of them granted me interviews
under the condition that they remain anonymous. Once I interviewed them,
I became obsessed with the story and began doing additional research. Word
got around that I was doing a story about rape and women came out of the
woodwork to tell me their own traumatic stories- teachers, students, employers,
and many others.
When I realized what a huge problem rape is on college campuses as well as across the country, I felt I had to do something. I come from an activist background and spent most of my late teens marching for causes that I believed in. When my story ran in the school paper it got picked up by local and national newspapers and ultimately my piece changed campus policy about rape.
But I felt that wasn't enough. My last semester at school I volunteered as a counselor for The Los Angeles Commission on Assaults Against Women as a rape and battering hotline, which is now known as Peace Over Violence, As soon as I started doing counseling, I knew I had found my calling and applied to graduate school shortly after that.
How did you get started doing psychology on television and radio?
When I was in graduate school, I was very outspoken in class. The professor of my eating disorders class, who was scheduled to be on television, asked me to join her on camera and speak about my own recovery experience from a psychological perspective.
After shooting the segment I realized that working in the media had the potential to help thousands or even millions of people, unlike performing therapy in my office one-on-one. This really excited me but I didn’t take it seriously until years later when I met Harvey Levin and Lisa Gregorish while working on a television project together. They really encouraged me to “go for it” and to get representation, which I did.
I grew up listening to Dr. Toni Grant give advice on the radio when I was a kid. When I started working in television, I really wanted to work in radio too. I was fortunate to be asked to appear as a guest on multiple radio shows over the years but I didn't get my big break until I did the television pilot for “Breaking Bonaduce,” during which I counseled Danny and Gretchen on camera. When they decided to use a male therapist, Gretchen and Danny told me that they would keep me in mind if they heard about anything they felt would be appropriate for me. As luck would have it, , Star 98.7 started looking for a radio shrink a few weeks later to co-host a new call-in advice show called “On the Couch” with Bradley Wright. They recommended me to the program director Angela Perelli who auditioned me and I later offered me the job. Bradley and I did that show for about a year and I loved it!
Do you still see clients in private practice?
Yes, private practice is my first love. I hope to always do in-office therapy.
What did you write your doctoral dissertation on and why?
I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the use of the non-diet approach to treat
eating disordered women. I was inspired to write it because of my own experienced
having overcome an eating disorder using that method. During my youth I was
an elite level rhythmic
and struggled with an eating disorder which lasted long after my retirement
from the sport. This went on for a good decade of my life. It was a constant
obsession. I thought the best I could hope for was to be a "normal" weight
but be completely obsessed with my body and food.
Fortunately I was introduced to the non-diet approach and the work of Elyse Resch and Geneen Roth which changed my life. The idea of giving up dieting terrified me but I had hit "rock bottom" and didn't know what else to do. Through a lot of hard work and the use of this approach I became eating disorder free. I never thought that would happen. Food and weight is now a total non-issue for me. I eat what I want, no restrictions, and listen to my body. I never worry about my body or weight. I am completely free of the obsession and the constant background noise I used to experience and have been since 1991. I wrote my doctoral dissertation The Effects of an 8-Week Intuitive Eating Program on Eating Disordered Participants based on research, my clinical experience as a therapist, and my own experience in recovery. My No More Diets app is based on that dissertation.
What made you go into sports psychology?I spent many years training as an elite level rhythmic gymnast, training under the top rhythmic coach in the country. Typically our team took up at least half of the national team member slots for both the junior and senior team. I was always a very nervous competitor. My first year competing in nationals I was expected to make the national team but missed the slot by .05. I came in 13th when only the top 12 make the team. The next year, I trained harder than ever. A disappointing score on my ribbon routine left me ranked lower than I had hoped. I made the team by the skin of my teeth (12th place) that year and realized that since all of my competitors had the same top coach I had to find another way to get ahead. My father told me about sports psychology so I started reading books about it and created my own sports psychology techniques which I practiced daily for an entire year. The following year I was junior national champion winning five gold medals out of five. I beat my next closest competitor by a full point.
Yogi Berra said, "Baseball is 90 percent mental and the other half is physical." I learned firsthand how true that is in all sports. Long after I was retired from gymnastics and was getting my masters degree, I started coaching to earn money while in grad school. The coach I worked under was very enlightened and encouraged me to use the sports psychology techniques I had learned on my own with the gymnasts I was training. The results were so impressive that the parents hired me to travel with the athletes when they competed nationally.
Shortly after that I got a call from USA Gymnastics, the national organization for artistic and rhythmic gymnastics, who asked me to lecture on sports psychology at national training camps, be part of the Task Force for the Female Triad (osteoporosis, amenoria and eating disorders) and participate in the Athlete Wellness Task Force. This experience led me to establish Psychological Edge, which is a sports psychology consulting practice. In this arena, I have had the opportunity to work with athletes at all levels and in dozens of different sports. I am still amazed by the incredible difference sports psychology makes in the performance of the athletes I have helped.
What do you love about your career?
I love that I get to help people in so many different ways. In my private therapy practice I get to help people one-on-one in a very intimate setting which allows me the luxury of a long term relationship. As a writer I get to pour my passion and knowledge on the written page for people to digest at their convenience and at a lower cost. On the radio I get to have personal contact with people who might never be able to work with me otherwise due to geography, time or finances and at the same time I get to help listeners who have not called in but are able to synthesize and integrate my advice into their own lives. On television I get to send out a message to many people who might not otherwise be open to therapy. I feel a responsibility to both entertain and educate my viewing audience at the same time so that they will stick around for the "take home" that might make a difference in their lives. In general, the thing that excites me the most is making a positive difference in people’s lives.
What made you start a clothing company?
In the early 1990's I started seeing tee shirts with messages on them.
I kept looking for ones with positive messages that were cool and fashionable
but wasn't able to find anything I really felt had the meaningful psychological
messages that I was hoping for. I wrote up a business plan that included
a list of shirt ideas but didn't have the courage to pull the trigger. In
2009 I was working on a television program with a wonderful stylist by the
name of Stefanie Lain. She showed me a tee shirt and sweater she wanted me
to wear on the show but said that we couldn't use the tee because of licensing
issues and asked me if I had any ideas for a shirt. I pulled out my list.
When that shirt was created, I asked her if she was interested in working with me to develop a full line of shirts. She agreed. I opened Retail Therapy and with Stefanie as my Creative Director and within two years we had six infant onesies, six kid tees, five adult tees, three eco bags and plantable stationary. We have been in multiple stores and worn by celebrities and celebrity kids. Our products have appeared in magazines, television and film.
Our company motto is "Take care of yourself, Take care of the world" and all of the products have positive "feel good messages." The line is eco-friendly and we are known for our plantable hang tags which look like mini prescription pads and are made from 100% post consumer waste and are embedded with seeds so, when planted, they grow wildflowers. I love having the opportunity to spread positive words in a different way. I also really enjoy the creative process. I tell my clients to follow their dreams and not to let fear hold them back and I always do my best to practice what I preach.