Mom Did Not Teach Me How to Brag

My editor wanted to know why I haven't been posting as frequently as I usually do.

"The practice has been really busy. It's a good thing!"

"Fine. Then write about it."

Editors. Can't live with them, can't throw them under a bus.

The truth is:

1) I was trained from infancy not to brag.

2) Any positive talk about myself was bragging.

You see the problem? Even five years of therapy has not made tooting my own horn comfortable. It took a crow bar to get me to stand still for a compliment! Now I'm told I need to get over the next hurdle to be honest with people about my life. ARG! I feel like the bungee jumper looking down at the water far below.

Here goes!

To explain how my private practice has evolved I have to go into how my husband and I made some major life decisions, what we decided to do and how we did it.

About three years ago my husband, a brilliant neuroscientist, had a twinkle in his eye. He wanted to create an innovative biotech company built on intellectual property he invented. His plan made sense but it would require sacrifices. He dove full-time into the development of the company and I took on the major responsibility for keeping the household accounts from freezing.

To do this I had a choice. Stay on insurance panels, say goodbye to my kids and work more hours to make ends meet OR get off the panels, go totally fee-for-service and add a few more hours, but not nearly as many. My husband and I decided that getting off the panels made the most sense for our family. Basically, I liked the idea of working smarter instead of harder.

It was a huge gamble. This was before the recession, so it didn't feel as huge a gamble as it turned out to be later. Ignorance truly is bliss.

Practically overnight we became a family of entrepreneurs, complete with tightened belts. The core feature of my business plan was the private practice of my dreams. I would provide complete privacy for my patients in a warm, comfortable atmosphere. I could be available to them when they needed me, no waiting list. There would be a menu of services including life coaching and business consultation (which, by the way, I do very well). The cream in the coffee, I didn't have to be confined to the brick and mortar office. I could counsel and consult via telephone and Skype.

I named it Explore What's Next to capture the hope and sense of adventure I wanted to impart to my patients and clients.

Marketing was imperative. Lucky for me I love marketing. That's when I met, Steve, editor extraordinaire who, from the beginning, also took on the roles of mentor, business coach, website contractor, brand developer and friend. He told me I needed to start blogging. He created a monster.

Through Steve's not too gentle nudges, I found my voice and became a blogger. John Grohol, CEO of PsychCentral invited me to be a contributing writer. That's like being asked to the prom by the cutest, most popular guy at school! I made friends with published writers who told me I could write (They liked me! They really liked me!). Subscriptions and stats went up. Comments from readers were interesting, challenging and thoughtful. Finally I could call myself a writer and not wince.

It's taken time to build Explore What's Next so it's with a sense of wonder that I realize  my dream has come true. I can provide for my family with work that I love. I give talks in the community about stress, depression and anxiety management. In addition to my traditional practice, I've had the joy of helping people in California, Mississippi, Manhattan and Brooklyn, Connecticut, South Dakota and Texas. Through Skype, I can provide services to people in Britain, South America and Canada. I've been called and interviewed by BBC London. Charlie Gibson's producer asked for an interview for the ABC Evening News. The Wall Street Journal wanted me to contribute on their blog.

There's just nothing like the thrill of building something of your own and seeing it thrive. I'm as busy as I want to be, more so apparently, because this week it got in the way of writing. I'm compensated on my terms, not the insurance companies', and I still have time to have a life outside of work.

My revised business plan includes new goals. I'm writing a book. Video blogging looks like fun. Speaking on a variety of topics is something I can't get enough of.  Explore What's Next will be global, expanding on the Skype service.

The time is ripe to take on associates, qualified mental health professionals who have a dream of their own and could use some help getting there. More about this in future posts.

At the heart of everything is the deep satisfaction of making a difference in people's lives. For this I am so grateful.

Well, that's it for now. I bragged and I'm not cringing anymore. I just feel proud.

If you are a psychotherapist interested in becoming an associate of Explore What's Next, contact me. I invite everyone to take the leap. It's downright liberating.


  • Natalie

    Congratulations on having all your dreams come true! I’m glad everything has gone so well for you with your business(es). Good luck in all future endeavors. I know I’m glad you started your own practice and I’m sure many others are as well.

  • SD

    Dr Aletta,
    YEAH!!!! I am so glad your move to be on your own is working out so well. They are right when they say you are a good writer. I am sure it will be a great book as well whenever it happens.

  • Congrats Dr Aletta! It’s ok to brag sometimes, but speaking about what you’re good at isn’t really bragging at all. Nowhere in that post did you say that you’re THE best therapist in the world or that your husband is the smartest scientist in the world….
    I think it’s great. Let us know how it’s going once in a while….and If you’ll be on with Charlie Gibson!

  • Thanks, Natalie. You make me proud as well.

  • SD, That’s what I keep trying to tell myself. It’s all good and the book WILL HAPPEN. Even if it gets pushed back sometimes it’s because I make the choice to care for my patients AND myself first. Your support is appreciated more than you know.

  • Dear Rob, You are the best. Your perspective on bragging is brilliant and I will use it when I’m talking with others who also need encouragement to toot their own horn. Bless you, dr a

  • TPG

    Dr. Aletta –
    You need to listen to my mother, who has been a psychotherapist for fifty years and is still in a full-time practice at the age of 77, with no insurance panels and a waiting list of people trying to get to see her.
    Here’s what she’d say to you. Two things, actually.
    1. “Elvira? If it’s true, it’s not bragging.”
    2. “Elvira, as the legendary Golda Meir said to Moshe Dayan, the brilliant eye-patched wartime Israeli general: ‘No need to be humble, Moshe. You’re not that great.’” :) Happy New Year.

  • Dear TPG,
    Ah yes, the ‘get over yourself’ intervention! I’ve needed to hear this tidbit before and will again, no doubt. I love the image of Meir and Dayan having this exchange. If he could take it, I can.
    Thank you so much for sharing your mother’s wisdom. She reminds me of my father, a psychoanalyst who practiced into his 80′s. He used to say his patients would retire him. Well, they never did.
    Happy New Year to you, your family and your mother especially!


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