Los Angeles Chapter — California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists
Voices — September 2019
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I’m going to start this newsletter with some incredible data I’ve collected about the most recent LA-CAMFT picnic, which was held at Cheviot Hills Park last weekend. Historically, this annual event has been the best opportunity for people in the mental health field to make new friends and learn more about the resources that our organization provides.
This year was no different with over seventy attendees, including seven children, which is the largest number of kids we’ve ever had. The LA-CAMFT board requested that attendees bring meals that represent their culture and upbringing, and everything was delicious!
We also had more activities than ever before, ranging from drum circles to expressive arts, sing-a-longs, play workshops, and even Tai Chi. I’ve never seen so many people bring different types of instruments, including a standing bass and tambourines. My multi-genre playlist kept the energy high as everyone socialized.
Our favorite caterers, Tacos Family Perez, returned, serving over 250 tacos and quesadillas. Clearview Treatment Center returned as our devoted sponsor with Michelle Lee, Outreach Coordinator, representing them. I really appreciated Michelle Lee’s touching announcement about Clearview’s work with women dealing with borderline personality disorder and addiction. LA-CAMFT also treated attendees to massages under the trees with Yvonne Larson, master massage therapist.
Over two dozen volunteers came together to make this event possible, working well beyond the 1 pm–5 pm picnic hours. It was so much fun handing out nine pairs of Hollywood Bowl tickets to our lucky raffle winners.
As some of you may remember, my platform for running for president has focused on “celebrating” everyone at LA-CAMFT. The last few weeks have been difficult for our country, and being on the front lines means that we work extra hard to help people heal through trauma. We need to keep our wells full of spirit and self-care, and this picnic was a perfect opportunity to do so.
Moving into September, there are several events and workshops that I’d like to encourage all of you to attend:
Friday, September 20, from 9 am–11:30 am:Our Monthly Networking Event, featuring Dr. Barbara Nosal, LMFT, LADC (Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor) speaking about “Healing Trauma: The Pathway to Authenticity and Authentic Connections.” We will have our delicious breakfast and various networking opportunities.
Sunday, September 22, from 2:30 pm–5:30 pm: “Exploring the Influence of LGBTQ Intersectionality in Therapy,” featuring: Dr. Harpreet Malla, Registered Psychologist; Tara (“Stara”) Shakti, MA, AMFT; Sage Mendez-McLeish, Med; and Joe Garza, MS, AMFT. This is the first workshop brought to you by LA-CAMFT’s Diversity Committee and it’s our first event on the East side of Los Angeles.
Best Regards,Christina Castorena, LMFT
Christina Castorena, MS, LMFT, worked in community mental health before starting her private practice, Castorena Therapeutic Services, in 2016. She passionately serves adults, couples, and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are dealing with life transitions, parenting, relational conflicts, and anxiety. She employs family systems and mindfulness-based CBT. As president of LA-CAMFT, Christina strongly advocates for her professional community and celebrates the hard-working clinicians that facilitate healing. Her website is castorenatherapeutic.com. Christina may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
Networking, Marketing & Referrals:Tips, Information & Encouragement
for Filling Up Your Practice
Summer’s over, time to focus again, and get back to work. I bet you could use some tips, inspiration, and encouragement to get your networking and marketing going so that you can fill your practice. So, let’s get right to it!
Tip: Directly mention that you welcome referrals by using a brief, and thoughtfully scripted, phrase or statement. This can produce significant results for your practice. You can say things like:
Okay, reading time is up. Now it’s time to get out there and increase your visibility in the community so that your new clients can find you when they need you! Happy practice-filling.
Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative people across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping them develop their careers and practices. To learn more about services, training or the monthly LA Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.
LA-CAMFT's Networking Event & Presentation
Friday, September 20, 2019
LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee
Exploring the Influence of
LGBTQ Intersectionality in Therapy
Sunday, September 22, 2019
2- 5:30 pm
Harpreet Malla, PhD
Stara Shakti, MA, AMFT
Sage A. Mendez-McLeish, MEd
Joe Garza, MA, AMFT
The intersection of sexual orientation and/or gender identity with other social statuses—such as age, race, ethnicity, culture, and religion present unique challenges that impact LGBTQIA+ clients' experiences in therapy. This presentation will help us identify and understand these challenges, and how therapists can apply this critically important information to provide more effective assessment and psychotherapy with LGBTQIA+ clients. It will also bring into focus the importance of developing new strategies and skills as well as the demand for required continued learning and personal development.
Chief Financial Officer
This month I would like to feature another member of our LA-CAMFT chapter. Each month I will continue to write about our members and their connection to our chapter. As CFO, I can write all day about being involved in our chapter. I feel hearing from other members is more authentic and genuine for all of you.
For each month’s Member Spotlight, I’ll be reaching out to our members to write about their experiences in our chapter. If you would like me to write about you and why you’re a member of our chapter, please email me at CFO@lacamft.org.
This month I’d like to introduce, Calvin Moore II, LMFT. Enjoy reading more about Cal in his own words.
In February 2012 I became a member of LA-CAMFT as a pre-licensed therapist. Now that I’m licensed, I’m celebrating my 7th year going strong as a member. Here’s how I came to be the LA-CAMFT member I am today.
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, by a hard-working mother who raised me by herself after my father died when I was almost two-years-old. I also grew up with a mild form of epilepsy and watched her care for me as she worked without taking days off so that she could be there if I needed her. Furthermore, when I was in high school, I watched her work all day, care for me, and then fall asleep studying for her master’s degree. This was the example set for me in the house where I was raised and it has stuck with me until this day: study hard, work hard, care for those you love and help them when they need you, and keep God first in your life.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from UCLA and loved learning about how society impacts the actions, thoughts and feelings of people—especially when it comes to the issue of race! One of my most memorable classes was the last ‘Stratification, Race and Ethnicity’ class of the quarter wherein the professor, who was a young white man, explained to us how apartheid in South Africa was strictly an economic enterprise having nothing to do with race. I sat there seething in anger but not responding to his comments and drawing attention to myself, and then noticed that most of the students—who were majority white—were arguing him down to such a degree that he ended the class early. In that moment, I saw how a member of the ‘system’, the professor, could justify its evils and that there were some people of different colors willing to speak up against it. It inspired me!
Growing up with a love of the Lord and going to church, I went to seminary (graduate school for clergy) at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. There I learned about cold, stuffed pizza and the study of Pastoral Care and Counseling. I took to the subject of Pastoral Care and Counseling right away; so much so, that in my second semester in seminary my professor, Rev. Dr. Homer Ashby Jr., encouraged me to do peer counseling at the Englewood Community Health Organization in the area of the South Side of Chicago known as Englewood.
The community of Englewood was almost all Black, which I was comfortable with, 75% functionally illiterate, and had a poverty rate of 90%, which I was not at all familiar with. I had one client the whole semester, a 16-year-old who was quickly becoming an active gang member. He had been arrested repeatedly and was functionally illiterate. He and I had nothing in common except for the fact that we were young and Black. Every night I took the bus home angry with myself about what an awful job I had done that day! But, when I got home every night, I noticed that I felt a rush and couldn’t wait to go back and suck some more!
After graduating from seminary, I came home to L.A. and suffered through a year of being unemployed because jobs were so scarce. In 1994, I began a two-year Chaplain Residency at UCLA Medical Center where we worked five days a week and were on-call every third night. These two years were extremely taxing emotionally and physically, but it was here that I learned two important lessons that stick with me today: 1) Sometimes, you have to admit when you can’t do something, and 2) Regardless of what we believed as individuals, we were there to meet the patients’ needs, not our own, so they set the agenda of the visit and we cared for them by respecting it.
An example of the first lesson was that I got a call that a motorcyclist was being brought into the hospital after a bad accident. When he got to the emergency room, they cut off his clothes (which was customary) and when his shirt came off he had a swastika tattooed on his arm and the words “White Power” tattooed boldly on his stomach. One of the things we were trained to do when we faced something we didn’t think we could handle in the emergency was to tell the doctor in charge that you were going to leave and why. When I saw his tattoos, I told the doctor I was leaving and before I could tell him why, he said he understood.
While in this chaplain residency, I began working with people suffering with Sickle Cell Disease—a blood disease that affects mostly Black people in the United States. I led a sickle cell support group there for four years even though I became the Presbyterian staff chaplain at LAC+USC Medical Center in 1997. There I was introduced to the Sickle Cell Clinic that was on the hospital site and became the sickle cell chaplain until I left in 2005.
While serving at the LAC+USC Medical Center, and having a real passion for working with people with sickle cell disease, I came to realize that many of them needed not only the pastoral care I was providing, but also clinical care that they were not getting at all. That’s what inspired me to go to Pepperdine and get my master’s in clinical psychology with an MFT Emphasis. I did my training at South Bay Counseling Center, LA Center for Positive Change, and in private practice with Dr. Michael Pariser in West LA. I became a licensed therapist in March 2019.
Now that I’m licensed, I’m in private practice. I work out of two offices, one in Culver City, and the other at the Los Angeles church where I pastor. I work with individuals, couples, and families as well as with those who have mental health struggles related to chronic disease, race, spirituality, and the difference between what men are taught it means to ‘be a man’ and what it really means.
Valerie "Billie" Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at email@example.com.
LMFT, NMP, CGP
The Ethics of Self-Care
My Law and Ethics professor emphasized the importance of self-care for therapists, he considered it an ethical issue; how could we be effective at caring for our clients if we neglected ourselves? He asked us to write a self-care plan describing how we would care for ourselves once we started seeing clients. He shared some of his own self-care habits like getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, participating in individual therapy, and enjoying hobbies outside of work; he even brought in slides of photos from his rock-climbing trips to prove his point.
As an intern, I knew I couldn’t afford to do all the things he was telling us about, and I felt resentful. He anticipated this reaction and he reminded the class that we lived in an area where we could explore the outdoors for free.
I took Law and Ethics during my second quarter of graduate school, before I had any clients. As my caseload increased, I started to understand what my professor was trying to explain to us. Our work requires deep mental concentration and somatic attunement, and it can take a toll on our brains and bodies. The hours I spend working as a psychotherapist are more intense than in my prior technology job, where I could move around and take breaks whenever I felt like it.
I’ve noticed that many therapists shy away from talking about money; we must get comfortable talking about this topic for our own financial well-being and so we can help our clients work through their money issues. I left graduate school with over $50,000 in student loans. I soon realized that if I wanted to pay off my loans, invest in quality trainings and take good care of myself, these costs would need to be reflected in my fee.
Here are my self-care expenses for last month:
Acupuncture $180 (including herbs)
Pilates (once a week) $350
Consultation group (monthly) $75
Individual Consultation $180
Grand Total: $1,655
Some of my self-care expenses may seem extravagant to you, like taking individual Pilates once a week. I’m fifty-five years old and although I have a great chair, my back and neck feel tight after sitting all day. I’d like to keep working, hiking and running, well into my old age, and Pilates has strengthened my spine and improved my posture.
Being in my own personal therapy is non-negotiable and I’m a member of a monthly consultation group, where I can present cases and learn from my colleagues. This kind of support helps me be more effective in my work and reduces feelings of isolation.
Perhaps your back is healthy, and you don’t need Pilates or a chiropractor. Maybe your Chi is balanced, so acupuncture is unnecessary. You might prefer to get a massage or practice some other form of self-care. Your self-care might be finishing early on Wednesdays so you can attend a dance class; self-care is a personal decision based on your preferences and responsibilities.
These numbers may seem overwhelming to you if you are just starting your practice, please keep in mind that it took some time for me to be able to afford some of the services on my list. There are lots of free ways to take care of yourself. One of my favorite ways to relax is to spend time playing with my neighbor’s dog Mabel, a Newfoundland who greets me with 120 pounds of pure, drooling, love when I get home. I know now that my professor was right; self-care is an ethical issue for me and when I take good care of myself, I have more to offer my clients. If I neglect myself, I’m not at my best.
Maria Gray, LMFT, NMP, CGP, is a psychotherapist in private practice in Century City, where she specializes in trauma and addictions. Maria is committed to supporting therapists who want to overcome underearning, and she offers individual business consultation and live, online, courses. To learn more, go to www.mariagray.net.
Do Dating Apps Make Dating Worse
For Your Clients?
I’ve been furnishing a new office this month, and I’ve been almost paralyzed by the number of choices available. I can have any sofa I want: tight-back, pillow-back; tufted, not tufted; wood legs, metal legs; pillows that are reversible or not; grey, blue, beige, leather. And how much do I want to pay/work for it? How far am I willing to drive to see it? How do I know the quality will stand up over time? How do I know my tastes won’t change?
Are you beginning to see the parallels?
We believe that we can custom order our mate.
When our clients go on Tinder, or Bumble, or Hinge, they look for their perfect match. This guy is too short, that woman isn’t fit enough, and what do they mean by “spiritual, but not religious?” Swipe left.
When we used to meet people IRL we had to get to know them before dating them. We knew they were imperfect. We would try to assess whether or not it could be a fit in spite of all the things we might not have chosen to have in a mate.
Some of the things that were absolutely necessary were:
Yup, that’s almost all there was to it.
Physical attraction is also necessary for most people, but, as we know, it sometimes comes long after you first meet someone. You remember that co-worker who suddenly seems more attractive than you’d previously realized? Or that childhood friend who—whoa, they really grew up!
How Has Dating Been Changed by Technology?
If you have Millennial clients they won’t even remember a time when most people met IRL before dating each other. Xennials (between Millennials and Baby Boomers) remember meeting people IRL in high school and college, but if they are datingnow they are sucked into the dating app vortex as well. Even Boomers will be seduced by the “illusion of choice” that is so easy to experience online.
So how have things changed? Now, in the age of dating apps, the list of necessary characteristics goes more like this:
Sometimes it stops right there. Your clients may not think that those are the qualities they are looking for, but often that is all that is necessary for them to agree to a first date. Ask them: “How many times have you chosen to go out with someone who sucks at texting?” The answer is probably “zero”. It’s all too easy to assume that someone who doesn’t text with the frequency and attitude that makes you comfortable must not be a good fit.
All the good-looking jerks who know how to write clever and attentive text messages have a huge advantage over regular-looking nice guys who might be terrific long-term partners. Caveat—this is if you are a woman looking for a man.
If you are a guy looking for a woman, she pretty much just has to be hot. Many guys will admit this. Physical attraction is the first draw, and if it’s strong enough, it’s all that’s necessary at first.
So…all the people who don’t photograph well, or who aren’t good at texting (and we know that this isn’t actually important in a relationship!), or who don’t understand the importance of marketing themselves (isn’t it vain to get professional headshots for Hinge? Um…no.) get eliminated right away. If your clients are among those who routinely get eliminated, they will undoubtedly be discouraged and experiencing low self-esteem.
What Do Our Clients Look For Online?When they take the time to make a list of things they are looking for in a partner (and it’s often listed in their profile) they tend to look for things that aren’t actually indicative of a future happy relationship. Here are some more of the criteria people tend to look for online, that don’t really matter so much IRL.
All of these things build attraction, but, I would posit, are not the important factors in determining who will be a good mate.
You can help your clients make better choices up front, so that they have a much better chance from the get-go of building a healthy relationship!
What Are the Important Things to Look For Online?
Here are some factors that ARE truly important when choosing a partner:
What If My Clients Are Discouraged By The Lists?
I have male clients who see the list of requirements (explicit or implicit) on women’s profiles: must be successful, athletic, tall, smart, have a full head of hair and a great sense of humor, and live close by. Men get very discouraged when they read enough of these profiles. Women seem to believe that they will meetthat guy (common culture exhorts, “don’t settle for less, women!”) and real men know they won’t be able to measure up.
I often suggest that these clients take a break from online dating. Rather, they can put their energy into pursuing activities they love (which have often been taking a back seat to online dating!) and meeting interesting people. Maybe they will meet someone the old-fashioned way, but either way they will be “living” and not “waiting.” Online dating doesn’t guarantee happiness, but following your dreams and being open to meeting interesting people (romantic and non-romantic alike) is a way to build a life you love.
10 Reasons Why Therapy with a Trained
Professional is a Great Thing for Anyone
Seeking Answers and New Pathways
While talking with a few psychotherapist colleagues the other day I said, “If people would come in for therapy and totally commit to exploring their lives in great depth, their lives would get so much better in every area”. I know that from my many years of experience in my own personal therapy as well as my 30 years of private practice psychotherapy. Why in my 30 years of practicing psychotherapy did some clients stay, putting tremendous effort into addressing their issues through self-awareness, courage and hard work while others left after only a few sessions? Why indeed? They were all in pain and confused in their personal and /or professional lives. They were suffering from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, grief, loneliness, drug and alcohol addiction, unhappy marriages, unfulfilling sex lives.
Perhaps the ones that left did not really know and understand how and why therapy could change their lives for the better. I certainly know how and why therapy is a fantastic journey into personal growth and positive change, but if the positive aspects of therapy are not pointed out and defined to clients and the world at large, people will be hesitant to enter and commit to really knowing themselves.
So, here goes. These are the 10 reasons I believe therapy with a licensed professional is a great thing for anyone seeking answers and new pathways.
1. Finding and committing to working with a therapist can be the one place where it is all about our own self.
This is totally your time to be used exactly as you choose. You are actually able to talk about your life, feelings and thoughts while an objective professional therapist listens to you and validates you. The therapist is in the room committed to hearing your story, interpreting the meanings behind the words and helping you to understand your Life Script.
2. Therapy is a safe place because the sessions are confidential.
The therapist cannot reveal the contents of the session unless the client’s life is in danger due to a suicide plan and/or attempt, threats to commit a homicide, child abuse and elder abuse. The therapist explains the limits of confidentiality in the first session and usually in writing.
3. If we are working with the right therapist for us, a bond is formed which is like no other.
I once worked with a client who came to me in a severe depression. She actually thought she was going crazy because she questioned every thought she had and had lost most of her confidence in herself. She had always had a great sense of humor but hadn’t laughed or cracked a smile in 6 months. When I interpreted one of her comments in an unconventional manner, she actually laughed and said “OMG, I am not crazy. I can still laugh”.
We had made a great connection, because laughter is often the best medicine and my sense of humor has been one of my best friends. This client never took any medication but committed to exploring her Family of Origin System to uncover the causes of her depression and later anxiety. She went on to become a licensed therapist who is quite successful!
4. Therapy will teach you that life is a gift to be lived fully and happily.
If you are depressed, anxious, addicted to alcohol or drugs, have an eating disorder, are in an unhappy relationship or marriage or isolated and alone, you are not embracing the gift of life and allowing yourself to work, play and connect with others from your True Self. Life is a schoolroom which offers so many wonderful experiences and lessons to encourage and propel you forward in all your activities. You are here to learn, share your wisdom, joy, laughter and even your tears with fellow travelers on this wondrous Life path.
5. Therapy will help you see that the answers are within you.
You live with yourself 24 hours a day and if you believe we are immortal, we go on forever. Don’t you think you deserve to really know yourself? A good therapist builds a relationship based on trust and safety. There is no judgment, just the space and time to connect to that inner wisdom which truly knows who and what we are.
We cannot hear and use that inner, intuitive wisdom if we are numbed out by addictions, depression, disassociation, fear or an abusive Family of Origin. Therapy gives us wonderful tools to help us climb out of the abyss of unhappiness into the sunshine of peace of mind, serenity, self-esteem and a solid love and respect for ourselves.
6. Therapy helps you to discover your gifts, talents and creativity.
How do you want to express yourself in this thing called Life? Have you been blessed with gifts as an artist, actor, attorney, salesperson, pilot, soldier, filmmaker, teacher, writer, circus performer, plumber, nurse, parent or therapist? Don’t you need to know so you may develop those talents and share them with the world? Suppose Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Jonas Salk, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison, just to name a few, had never known their gifts and shared them with the world? We would be back in the Dark Ages.
A good therapeutic relationship encourages you to investigate that inner self and become aware of how you want and need to express in this world. The discovery of who you truly are lifts the veil of sadness and confusion so your wonderful light may shine.
7. Change is the only constant in life and therapy will help you through the changes.
It is that human part of us which craves safety, familiarity, routine in our relationships, our professional lives and our homes. But suppose the familiar and safe are stopping us from growing into what we really need. I love these lyrics in a Rolling Stones song: “You don’t always get what you want, but if you try real hard, you might just find you’ll get what you need”. I was just a teenager when I first heard these lyrics, didn’t quite get the full impact, but as my life has progressed through the years, I understand completely. The status quo is comfortable, but can also be deadening to our process of growth and self-empowerment which are the reasons we are here on this plane. Life is filled with countless opportunities for us to stretch our mental, emotional and creative muscles, but we have to be willing to take risks and invite in change. And change is hard and scary. Every client with whom I have worked for over 30 years has entered therapy because the status quo had become so painful that change was necessary for them to find the tools needed to understand themselves and ultimately move forward.
8. Therapy helps you understand the Family of Origin System…the good, the bad, and the ugly.
A gifted and experienced psychotherapist introduces the client to the Family of Origin System. Each of us has accepted the Life Script we learned from birth. Some messages from our childhood are wonderful and life affirming, while others have stymied our ability to succeed in a few or many areas. There is a cause for every effect. If we were raised in a family which encouraged, loved, validated, guided and inspired each child, that child would evolve into a successful and well adjusted adult. If the opposite was true, the adult is in pain, confused, lost on the personal and/or professional level. It is time for an intervention…. a journey through our childhood Family System to understand and change any negative causes.
9. Therapy shows you how to be a shining light for the world.
Each individual who commits to and works hard at developing the self-awareness necessary to become that confident, centered, high functioning person who shines a light of positive, open energy stops the Multi-Generational Transmission Cycle. In other words, our thoughts, actions and behavior are no longer involuntary. We are no longer marionettes on a string manipulated by someone else. We have learned to truly BE the selves we were born to express. And, we take that positive energy, that light, into every transaction, every experience, every relationship and let our light and wisdom inspire all with whom we come in contact.
10. Therapy teaches honest communication and boundary setting.
Knowing who we are and how we feel defines us as individuals. It is imperative that each person communicates his/her feelings and thoughts in an open honest manner. If not, we present a false self to the world and deny ourselves the pleasure of connecting to others in a genuine manner. Honest communication sets boundaries for who and what we are while allowing all with whom we come into contact to experience a genuine human being.
I realized while writing this article the importance of really knowing and understanding the process and content of psychotherapy. When I started my psychotherapy practice over 30 years ago, there was no Internet, no Google, no Facebook and no therapy websites. Referrals came from former clients who told their friends and colleagues how much better they felt from psychotherapy with me.
Today, there is so much information available on the Internet that it can be confusing to anyone searching for help and guidance. Therefore, in order to make the right choice of whom to see, it is really imperative that the positive aspects of therapy be clearly explained. As I said in my 10 reasons, it can be one of the most inspiring and profound adventures into self-awareness a person will ever take. Writing this reminded me, and I hope for all who read this, the phenomenal path to freedom, self-awareness, and personal/professional growth which therapy provides for all not content with the status quo.
Leila Aboohamad, LMFT, is a psychotherapist practicing in Brentwood, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles, California. She specializes in helping individuals and couples create successful, committed loving relationships. She has studied and practiced spirituality and mindfulness for over 35 years. Leila also works with gifted, talented and creative adults helping them to identify and share their special gifts and passions with the world. Website: www.leilalmft.com.
Stay Motivated—Commit to Your Writing Career
Anyone will tell you breaking into the business is the hardest part. Generally, rookie writers struggle to write on weekends or early mornings before their day job starts. If they don't take classes, or get feedback from reliable sources their learning curve can be steep.
Writing an original spec screenplay during this period can drag on for months. The first draft is one thing. The rewrites can go on, too. And there's no pay for those early efforts. And then there's the constant rejection. What motivates these writers?
Even when screenwriters do sell scripts, they often face ridiculous deadlines and write endless drafts to satisfy producers, directors, and actors. If they don’t satisfy these people, other writers are generally brought in to rework their original vision.
Most working writers at this level make around $50,000-$70,000 for a script. And if they're very lucky, they might sell a script once every three years. How do they keep going?
The best way to motivate yourself is to decide to stay fully committed to a life-long career as a writer.
Don’t treat writing as a hobby, or you will definitely lose interest. You should look deep into your heart and ask yourself if you’re willing to work the long hours months and years it takes to succeed.
If “life-long” sounds too difficult, decide to commit to writing for 10 years. Doesn’t sound quite as painful, does it? If 5 years sounds better, then set that goal.
If you want to be a professional writer—who sells scripts, or gets plays made, or gets novels published, this better be your top priority. If it’s down on your list, behind creating an internet startup, or becoming a lawyer, or a professional wrestler, it’s probably not going to happen.
You need to make writing the first priority to help you carve out time to write. A lot of great things happen when you make that decision. You don’t have to wonder anymore if you really should spend time writing. It’s obvious. You need to write. Not just once in a while. As often as you can.
Whether or not you realize it, this decision is tied into your need to matter as a person. We all want to leave our mark on the world. We all want to express ourselves in a way that will be remembered. Somewhere in our dreams—we all want to leave some kind of legacy.
Some writers—very lucky writers, realize early that they have something to say.
I say lucky because they already have a vision or an idea that they want to express. Some people get into writing but don’t know what they want to say, they just want to be entertaining. And that’s okay.
Not all films have a message—nor do they need to. On the other hand, I think writers tend to be observers of human behavior. They generally have something to say about it, too. In my case I was clearly interested in the human condition—I loved psychology and graduated with a degree from Stanford.
I also knew I wanted to be funny. As a kid I had memorized comedy routines written and performed by my one-time hero Bill Cosby. When I was a kid, at camp in Boy Scouts, I’d entertain my friends with those hilarious routines. Such a shame what happened.
I was obsessed with comics and funny movies. I started writing short stories, then scripts, and then made short films that were funny. One of those scripts got me into the USC Cinema’s Professional Writing Program. I got some real experience writing screenplays with feedback from veteran screenwriters and Hollywood producers.
At some point (probably around my time at USC) I made a commitment to writing. What else could I do, I was in a writing program. I was writing nonfiction books and screenplays. At some level, I knew that I'd be writing for the rest of my life.
I worked pretty hard trying to write the best, the funniest screenplays I could. Whenever I had free time, I knew I should be writing. When I wasn’t writing, I was reading—The National Lampoon, and studying films like MASH, Lenny, and Play It Again, Sam.
Once I committed to writing, I sought out these people. I wrote with them. We sold screenplays.
I found writing partners. I wrote with lots of funny people. I wrote with my wife, Los Angeles Times Editor, screenwriter, tv writer and animation writer, Rogena Silverman. We sold feature and TV scripts. I wrote with a colleague at USC, Stephen Sustarsic. We were on TV staffs together for about 25 years. I wrote with friends I met on TV staffs, extremely talented writers, Steve Pepoon and Howard Bendetson. Created TV shows with both Steve and Howard.
Once you commit yourself to immersing yourself in your craft, thinking about writing every day and envisioning yourself writing films or working on a TV staff, you’ll be on the right track. Say to yourself, I’ll be writing (in some form or other—novels, films, poetry, whatever) for the rest of my life. Commit to it. Visualize it. Stick to it.
David Silverman, LMFT, treats creative and highly sensitive individuals in private practice in LA. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, and career reversals over a long career as a writer in Film and TV, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, addiction or depression. For more information, visit www.DavidSilvermanMFT.com.
Image credit: The woman in the window (Greystones), 2016 by markheybo, is licensed under CC By 2.
This article was originally published on PsychCentral and is used with the permission of the author.
What Are Your Needs and How To Get Them Met
Sometimes people get very confused because needs are not clear. You really have to know yourself and you have to understand yourself to define what you actually need.
Let's talk more about needs. When I looked up the definition of what a need is, it was really interesting. It talked about goods or services that are required. I thought, “hmm, required.” I think I like that. It's also defined as something you need to survive and be well. When we talk about something you need to survive and be well, we mean food, water, clothing, and shelter, as well as what you need emotionally.
When we think about a need we have to think about it as something we require; it’s not optional. What might be optional is how much we get or in what way we get it. But we do have needs that are requirements for our feeling good about ourselves and about our relationships or feeling good as a person in general.
For example, if you need water to live and you don't get it you will literally die. Let's say you need clothes, shoes, a roof over your head; does that mean it has to be a ten-million-dollar home in Manhattan Beach or the Palisades? Or does that mean as long as you have a roof over your head, that you're wearing clothes, that you have comfortable shoes that are actually satisfying your need?
Get To Know Your Needs
We also have a need to feel safe. This is a really big one. I don't think many people consider being safe as a need however the need to feel safe is actually a pretty high priority. Since safety is a really big need, then that must mean that when you don't feel safe it doesn't feel good. When we don't feel emotionally safe that is usually signaled by anger, sadness, worry and resentment. That's just to list a few of the things that we experience when we don't feel safe.
As an example, let's just say you must have had one point been either in a closet or in a room that was just pitch black. You really could not see your hand in front of your face. When you stay in that room for even just a few minutes your natural instinct is to feel unsafe. And what happens when we feel unsafe? We start to worry like crazy. If I move will there be a step in front of me? Might I fall into some kind of a hole? Where are the walls? Will I bump into something? Where's the exit? How do I get out of here?
There are all these fears that start coming into our mind when there's nothing there. Our brain is really good at keeping us safe and when there are gaps in what we know, our brain tries really hard to fill those gaps with possibilities so that we can be prepared. If we're thinking “oh there could be something in front of me and I might trip” then we're going to walk carefully to make sure that we don't trip.
As a safety measure, it's great being fearful; it keeps us safe. However, feeling safe means that you need to know about your surroundings. If you go into that dark room and you know that there's a chair and a table right in front of you, that makes you feel a lot better. You know you can put your hands out. You can feel the table. You can maybe move it out of the way or you can feel your way around it. It significantly reduces the anxiety.
When we are feeling safe and we understand the things that are around us then we know we feel good. Needs are all “known” things in that darkened room. Knowing the table is in front of you. Knowing where the exit might be. Knowing there is someone else in the room with you. Knowing the size of the room. These are all going to be needs to help you emotionally feel safe, so that you can make your way out of that room.
When we are feeling unsafe in our life or in our relationship it's often because we don't quite understand what's in our room. We don’t know what's in our way or what's making us afraid. Knowing yourself is really going to help you determine what your needs are. I can't tell you how many times I sit with clients and we start talking about needs and they mention things that are kind of nice but they're not actually needs.
A need is something that's going to make you feel safe and comfortable. A need might be to be able to communicate with my partner without yelling. That need might be having someone validate me in a specific way. Our needs are not “I need to get a massage every week” or “I need to live in a better neighborhood because then I'll feel safe” or “I need a new car because my current car isn't the latest model.” These wants are not necessarily going to make your life happier, make you feel safer.
So, know yourself. Figure out what is safe and what is unsafe. What do you like? What do you dislike? What makes you happy and what makes you sad? What upsets you and what calms you down? What makes you uncomfortable and what makes you feel comfortable? These are the things that you need, because if you go through your life without having the thing that needs taking care of, then you're going to feel angry, sad, worried and resentful. But you have to understand what the need is that makes you feel happy. “I feel happy when I'm able to sit down and relax and be with my family without drama” really means your need is for less conflict.
Do you see how identifying the actual need requires some work and introspection? Sometimes we think “okay my need is to be able to sit down and just have a reasonable evening with my family.” But the real need is to have less conflict. It can be challenging to figure out these needs.
Be Flexible, Communicate and Negotiate
Once you have an idea of what your needs are, then we have to feel safe enough to ask for those needs to be met. One thing for sure is that you’ve got to try to be flexible because if we are not flexible we're never going to get our needs met. Consider going up to someone or someone coming up to you and saying, “I need you to not fight with me anymore.” That person is going to look at you and ask, “what does that exactly mean?”
It is actually kind of unrealistic to say, “I'm never going to fight with you ever again.” Every relationship has conflict. So, what is the real need here? It's being able to communicate assertively and not aggressively. This sounds really different than “I don't want to fight with you anymore” or “my need is for you not to fight with me.” When you try asking to have a need met it's got to be flexible and cannot be a demand. This is always going to be a conversation so avoiding judgment is really important. If you can make other people responsible for your well-being that would be awesome but that's not the way that it works.
You Are In Charge Of Your Happiness
Other people are not in charge of meeting your needs or making you feel good. An example would be “I'll be happy if you just helped out around the house.” This request sounds simple enough. But then that means you won't ever be happy unless your partner or your child or your teenagers are helping out around the house. I'm not sure that's exactly what your need is. It kind of seems like I'd be happier if we both practice listening to each other and doing what one or the other is asking for. It's really not about the house. It's not about helping out with the work. It's about communication and validation.
Try hard to avoid making the other person in charge of your need and consider what the real need is. It's also important to accept that not everyone is going to see your need as a “reasonable need.” If that is the case, then communication, flexibility and negotiation are really important.
If the need to be validated is very important to you and your partner just doesn't know how to do it then you're never going to get it. Then you have to figure out well what does it mean to validate? How can your partner validate you in a reasonable way? There are many layers to figuring out what your needs are. It's not always easy.
Practicing being open is also going to really help you get your needs met. If you're working on getting your needs met, you have to be open. You're asking other people to be open to you and so you also need to be open to them. Again this kind of goes back to flexibility. If I am inflexible, then why should the other person that I'm dealing with—my partner, my child, my teenager, my boss, my coworker—need to be flexible or even want to be flexible? Practice being open. Nothing is black and white.
Getting your needs met doesn't mean they get met 100% of the time. So be open. The toughest part is really understanding just what these needs are. You cannot express your needs to someone else if you don't understand what you need. Take some time to understand yourself. Understand what you need, what you desire, what makes you happy, what kind of things you need to have a fulfilled life. That doesn't necessarily mean material things.
The emotional needs are the harder ones to get satisfied. But it's not impossible as long as you really understand what those needs are. Getting needs met is not an easy task. Get to know your needs and really understand what the needs are. Be flexible, negotiate, and communicate with others around you to get those needs met. Don't give up just because it doesn't work one time; try again and eventually you will get your needs met. They'll never get met if you don't know what they are and you don't try to get them met.
Tracy Kovacs Bevington, LMFT, is owner and founder of Pacific Marriage & Family Therapy Network, a group psychotherapy practice with 15 clinicians and offices in Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, and Manhattan Beach. Tracy enjoys working with Adolescents, Families, Couples, and people of all ages struggling with anxiety. As a supervisor, Tracy works with Associate MFTs, and enjoys mentoring these clinicians and others by helping develop their careers. Learn more about Tracy and Pacific MFT Network at www.pacificmft.com.
This article was originally published on the Pacific MFT Network Blog is used with the permission of the author.
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