The Voice of a Therapist: An Interview with Dr. Gerald Stein

When you get old enough, survival becomes a kind of distinction. I was therefore not surprised when my interview by Masters in Counseling was called, Career Longevity in Psychotherapy with Dr. Gerald Stein. For those who would like to know how I sound, here is a chance to find out what this 70-plus-personage knows about that and several other topics; from — pardon me — the horse’s mouth.

If you listen, you will hear my kind interviewer Megan Hawksworth, herself a therapist, tell you why she claims I’m worth attention. My response to her request for “words of wisdom” was, “I have lots of words, but I’m not sure how many of them are wise.” Later however — my brain stirring — I asked myself, “How have I come to know whatever it is I know (or think I know) beyond what I learned in school?”

Well, maybe the most important way was being open to new ideas. A conversation shouldn’t always be about defending yourself or trying to win, but listening and evaluating what the other says. Not to apologize, not to defer, but to enter regions beyond one’s imagination and experience; to be enlarged by such gifted souls as still walk the earth. I can say I prefer the company of people who possess ideas I’ve not considered to those who think as I do or live as I do.

Getting “banged-up” also contributed to my enlightenment. Not just physical dings, and dents, and divots; surgeries and sedation and stitches.

I’ve strived and failed. I’ve tried and triumphed. Once I won a battle and lost some friends who opposed me. I’ve been cheated of lots of money. I gave away plenty, too. I helped a philanthropy I started with friends raise funds. My heart has been broken by a few lovely women and I’ve broken a few hearts.

What might be worse? Breaking your love’s heart and your own simultaneously. It happens.

Are those words of wisdom? If you think so, here are 10 more:

  • Over time I learned to give sentiments a prominent place beside clarity of thought: laughter and tears, both, but love above all.
  • Disappointment and loss are the forge of character, but only if you pass beneath and beyond the blacksmith’s hammer without losing your faith in the promise of life.
  • There are things I cannot possibly convey to you unless you’ve lived some version of the same event. Only music might come close to communicating them.
  • Much as I am a hard guy sometimes, kindness is essential and in shorter supply than macho competition; and therefore, more precious.
  • I know I will never know everything, though I try.
  • Life moves too fast to keep up with all that is important. How do we know what is important? Pay attention, at least, to the words of William Bruce Cameron:

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

  • While the probable is most likely to occur, many improbable things will happen in any life. Be grateful for the ones that give you joy. And perhaps, if you realize your luck could have been otherwise, disperse your good fortune to others by paying it forward.
  • Whatever wisdom I own today applies more to the present version of myself than the 30 or 50-year-old models. I did not know then all I am relating to you now.
  • Smile at the checkout clerks and call them by name.
  • No one can “have it all.” If anyone ever accomplished this miracle, we never met. Life is rich without “everything.”

Enough. If you listen to the interview you will hear the voice my patients heard; hear me tell a joke, a story, and have a good time. I am indebted to Megan and Scott Hawksworth for giving me the chance. I think you’ll be able to tell that, too.

Do remember, you won’t be listening to an immortal personage. I subscribe to Woody Allen’s words on the subject: “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality by not dying.”

Here again is the link: Career Longevity in Psychotherapy with Dr. Gerald Stein.

The photo just above is the author during his days as a cowboy. Unfortunately, it does not include the horse’s mouth mentioned in the first paragraph.

11 thoughts on “The Voice of a Therapist: An Interview with Dr. Gerald Stein

  1. I loved your interview and I also loved hearing your voice, Dr. Stein. I had imagined your voice and manner to be similar to my own therapist, but imaginings never presents themselves in such way. It is nice to meet you! 😊

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  2. drgeraldstein

    You are very kind, Nancy. Yes, voices and appearances and words sometimes are misleading. When they all match up in the best way, however, it is quite an extraordinary thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats on the interview, Dr. Stein! It was a pleasure hearing your voice: strong and steady. If in our youth, we knew then what we know now in our more mature years, how much better our lives would’ve been. Onward, upward, may we ever go.

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    • Thank you, Rosaliene. For myself, I find my own wisdom appropriate only to my temperament and my age. I would have been quite an odd fellow to have had my entire current sagacity poured into my 30-year-old brain, for example. Maybe some bits would have been helpful, though.

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  4. Will have a listen once I have a spare moment. 🙂

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  5. Wow, what an amazing life you’ve had and an amazing life you are continuing to have, Dr. Stein! I listened to the podcast and read your posting here, but I must say that there are myriad value-driven messages within this post and the attached podcast that I am compelled to re-read and re-listen to them. Given my current state of affairs, what brought me to tears (in a very good and meaningful way) was your gentle approach to assessment – and being willing to reevaluate yourself and your client when a previous assessment may have been missed or misjudged. That, to me, is the heart I’m seeking when I attempt to find new therapists. If only I had you as a therapist years ago, I probably wouldn’t be in this mess (but then again, I probably wouldn’t be able to respond to your blog posts or fully enjoy our brief interactions). The second value-driven lesson that stuck out for me was your being humble and yet wise enough to know that we are not the same people as we were x-amount of years ago, and we shouldn’t be. Another inspiring message you relayed to your audience was how you decided to retire, and what you continue to do in your retirement. Your ability to enjoy life, budget for retirement, remain engaged with psychology in some meaningful way (such as here, with your blog), write about your own memories and introspection on your blog, connect with your colleagues and friends, and become this “average” person after having so many accomplishments and accolades. However, there is nothing average about you, your life’s work, your wisdom, your generosity via social connections, and your insight. In many ways, you have allowed life to teach you new lessons beyond what you had learned in academia or in clinical training; you were humble enough to embrace what life had to offer you in practice and out, and you were humble enough to see beyond textbook knowledge and into the lives and stories of the people you encountered in practice and out. Your voice is comforting to hear, and a unique but papa-bear-like quality that compels others to listen to your gentle words, even when they come with stern direction – either by voice or by text. Finally, the reason why I originally listened to this podcast was to see what it was like for you to be an expert witness. I must say, the way you described it sounds very challenging – more challenging than defending a dissertation, defending your position/title, or argumentation in the field. To have to juggle three positions at once while on the stand, and even during preparation, must have taken a lot of stamina and concentration. In the near future I plan to read the case you had worked on. I love reading law reviews and cases, when they spark my interests. My past interest (which I had to abandon and instead give generously to someone else) was on the use of “parentification” in the courtroom, and I had utilized LexisNexis to search for law reviews to read and cases to document. Garber is an author that I admire very much for his works, but now I can add you to that list in the realms of clinical psychology and now, psychology and law. I have always wondered what it was like for expert testifiers, and what challenges they faced. It was a pleasure hearing about your experiences, and I cannot wait to actually read what the case was about and what your position in that case as an expert witness was. May you continue to have life-satisfying and good life-changing experiences, even if at incremental levels. May you continue to explore all that life has for you in your retirement.

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    • Thank you for your good wishes, multinomial. And, should I ever be in the market for a publicist, I will look to you. Reading what you wrote I kind of felt like, “Wow, I want to meet this guy!” Of course, I meet him every day, and he is not quite as wonderful as you make him sound, but that just makes me more grateful for your praise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LOL about the publicist bit. I swear that I’m not “idealizing”; after all I’ve went through, what you said in the interview completely makes sense and shows your humility as a human being and as a professional.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. By the way, love the cowboy photo! It sort of reminded me about my apartment’s decorative theme: equestrian (horse paintings and sculptures stationed here and there) – which came after my first (and currently only) experience with equine therapy last year. Horses are healing in many ways, though it looks like you enjoyed playing the role of cowboy for other reasons at that stage in life.

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    • Indeed, I did have other reasons. And curiously enough, I also have a photo of myself close to the same age as a Native American. Not that they should be opposed, but the unfortunate characterizations of my childhood (and our history) suggests they were.

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