Have you been wanting to read about and reflect on the world of life in graduate school? How does reading material that you can relate to bring you wisdom and joy? Are you in need of some book-writing advice?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Dr. Gerald Drose who wrote a fictional book about graduate school.
In This Podcast
- Dr. Drose’s ideas for the book
- Book-writing advice
- Lessons you can learn from Bird Gotta Land
- Dr. Drose’s advice to private practitioners
Dr. Drose’s ideas for the book
The people I met during graduate school seemed like all interesting people to me, and I thought, “well, this would be a great story to write, how someone learns to be a psychotherapist.” (Dr. Gerald Drose)
Dr. Drose had the idea for his book when he was in graduate school.
He was fascinated by education and the space that graduate school and psychotherapy create for learning about people, as well as learning how to care for and help them in life.
15 years after Dr. Drose graduated, he began writing his novel.
When it’s fiction, it’s easier to reveal some of the things that need to be revealed … as a practicing psychologist that was one of my agitations to publishing it because it was personal … but at some point, I released it and said, “it is ready to get out there”. (Dr. Gerald Drose)
Avoid editing in the writing phase.
Rather, focus on writing as much as you can before going back to edit everything.
This will save you time and energy, as well as help you to remain creative in the writing process before switching to an analytical mind frame in the editing process at the end.
Lessons you can learn from Bird Gotta Land
When I was thinking of writing it, I was thinking of graduate students and young therapists. Psychology students and psychology graduate students … I thought of [the book] for the therapeutic community. (Dr. Gerald Drose)
Bird Gotta Land is a book for any practitioner in the therapeutic industry and community.
It connects with practicing therapists who are well-established in their careers to young students training to be therapists in graduate school.
They can get behind Dr. Drose’s characters to see what they are thinking, how they approach problems, how therapeutic relationships can change a person, and learn from someone else’s story to prepare them on their journey into the therapy world.
Dr. Drose’s advice to private practitioners
This is an important time to be doing the work that you do. Your connections to people help you to reach a wider audience and find fellow clinicians that inspire you. Value your network and build it well.
Books mentioned in this episode:
BOOK | Dr. Gerald Drose – Bird Gotta Land: The Education of a Young Psychologist
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Want to try Gusto for yourself? Head to gusto.com/joe. for 3 months, FREE.
- Visit Powers Ferry Psychological Associates
- Connect with Dr. Drose on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Check out these additional resources:
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- Apply to work with us — decision-making matrix for your next steps
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, bonus episode.
You may have noticed that over the last 12 weeks, we have been doing four episodes a week. It’s been awesome and fun to think about extra interviews that we could do, some live consulting that we did, some extra Ask Joe’s, four episodes a week. So we are putting out more and more content because you, the listener is saying you want more content. Also we’ve got sponsors like Gusto today that want to sponsor the content. So it’s really been amazing to be able to interview more people to do more of these episodes. Summer’s coming soon. It’s early April right now. Hope that your first quarter went great. Hopefully your taxes are all set to be submitted mid April. That’s right around the corner as well. Hope your practice is going well, whether you are starting growing, scaling, or exiting that practice.
Today we have a really interesting person on the show. I’m so excited. We have Atlanta psychologist, Gerald Drose, who works with individuals and couples, has published research on sex therapy and wrote a biweekly column on sex, love and marriage. His graduate school experiences inspired his first novel Bird Gotta Land, The Education of a Young Psychologist. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, Drose received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from University of South Carolina and he lives with his wife Dina in Atlanta, Georgia, where the couple leads a psychotherapy practice with four locations and 30 therapists. This guy’s done it. Gerald, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. How are you today?
[DR. GERALD DROSE]
I’m great. Thank you for having me, Joe.
Hearing that you run the practice with your wife makes me think of the Married Entrepreneurs Podcast that has just released. They also own a practice together. Any quick tips on being married, staying married and running a business together?
Quick tips on that. Well, I think actually my wife and I ran the practice together for several years. Since then I’ve taken in another psychologist, Steve Perlow who runs the practice with me. As it turns out my wife and I actually are share an office in two locations. So when she’s in one location, I’m in the other. We started that when we had children and for various reasons. So we actually worked together with some of the same clients and that sort of thing but she sort of was less interested in the business part of the practice and so she doesn’t do much of that anymore.
Well, it is good to know your strengths and interests. That’s great to divide that up. So before we get into talking about your book, which I’m really interested because a lot of therapists will write non-fiction books, but to have a fiction book, I’m really excited to hear a little bit more about that process, but we’d love to just hear more about growing a group practice. Tell us about that journey of adding multiple locations, 30 therapists. I mean that’s a mega group practice.
Yes. Okay. So, well it’s really evolved organically. From the start, there were two of us, my wife and I, and then we added Steve Perlow, I mentioned earlier. Then we added one person a year or every couple years until we had five or six. Then at that point we were sort of all sharing overhead and we were having trouble making decisions. We would have group meetings every week for an hour and we might talk about what copier we wanted to buy for a whole hour and not even make a decision. We’d come back next week and somebody would be, well, I want this high powered one and I want this. Somebody else might say, well, I’m only copying 20 pages a week, so I don’t want this. So at that point, Steve and I sort of took over making the decisions.
How did that go over with the group to go from, this is, we’re all deciding this together to like, we’re going to take over the decisions? Was there a discussion or agreement or buyout or how did that part work?
There was a discussion of that. As I said there, at that point, we were just all sharing overhead. So Steve and I actually were already sort of managing the administrative person we had. It was natural and really the other few people, including my wife, didn’t really want to get into the details of some of it. We, of course included them and asked their opinions about stuff, but we sort of made the decisions, which made it a very efficient process. Then at that point it was Steve and I owning the practice in terms of decision-making. Then when we added people, at that point we added people and they paid an arbitrary percentage as a lot of practices to, they paid 30% of their overhead.
30% of their revenue is overhead. Then we did that and we added people occasionally and we had ended up with a couple locations, 12 or 15 therapists. Then we thought, well, some of this isn’t fair. For instance, my practice wasn’t using insurance, but I was paying the same thing into the overhead of somebody who was using insurance. That person was more of an administrative and had more administrative costs. So what we did was we broke out all the costs and set up an Excel spreadsheet that each month figures out the cost and based, and so now everybody pays based on usage. We describe it as a co-op and a business sort of combined. Then Steve and I get a management fee for managing the growth and the administrative people and now, as you said, we have 32 therapists and four administrators.
Because of our large group, we’re able to hire really good administrators and pay them a good living wage and grow them as people. So now when we add people, it’s very easy to add someone and we’re considering opening another location and adding some people and it just, they come in and they go into the spreadsheet and if they want to work two days, they pay two fists of the rent on that office. If they want to work four days, they pay four fists. So we’re able to accommodate people who are working halftime, people who are working full time and it’s fair for everyone. We actually describe it, I don’t know if you heard of conscious capitalism where you consider all the stakeholders, the clients, the therapists, the administrators, the community you’re in, the environment. All of those are considered in all our decisions. We do frequently report back to the practice, the wider practice, how we’re thinking about things and what our objectives are.
That’s great. Well, I’m just interested in, so for marketing, does everyone do their own marketing or is there sort of a umbrella marketing that you do within the practices?
Well, here’s one way to think. So each practice is an individual practice, separate business, so 32 businesses in one practice. People do their own marketing to some extent, but when you have this network effect of 32 people referring and getting to know each other and knowing what each other’s specialties are, and we really don’t do any marketing at this point, we refer to each other and we refer out a lot too. But our website is a big marketing vehicle. But with COVID and some of the things that have gone on in the last few years, everyone in our practice has a waiting list at this point.
The need has been just as, I’m sure you hear this from people, the need is so great for psychotherapy now that really with the, with the network that we’re in with each other and our extended network. So I have people outside of the practice that I refer to that refer to me, and they ask me for referrals within my practice. With all of that, we really don’t need to do much marketing at this point.
Oh, that’s great. When did you start thinking about writing a fictional book and what prompted the subject matter?
Well, I originally thought about it when I was in graduate school. When I was in graduate school, I was, you’re learning this alternative way of connecting to people, this way of thinking about people that’s unique. To me, that was fascinating. I thought during that process, this is something everybody is interested in, is how do you connect deeper? And then the people I met during graduate school seemed all interesting people to me. I thought, well, this would be a great story to write, how someone learns to be a psychotherapist. Then probably 15 years later I started writing it because I didn’t have much time, extra time for that sort of thing earlier on in my career.
But I started writing it actually in the mid to late nineties and went through, wrote it through the years and rewrote it and wrote it again, and went through that process. But really the fictional part was, I thought it was a easier story to tell with fiction because I wanted to be very personal. The protagonist in the book is based loosely on my life. So it’s a fictional autobiographical story by graduate school. When it’s fiction, it’s easier to reveal some of the things that need to be revealed.
You know, as a practicing psychologist, that was one of my hesitations to publishing. It was, it is very personal and it does reveal some of the character, some of my character and my wife’s because she’s a character in the book. But at some point I released it and said I’m ready for this to get out there. But that was probably the reason for it being fictional.
Yes. Take us through your writing process in developing the characters and developing the storyline, the plot the setting, all of that.
The first thing I did or the first productive thing I did was I got a supervisor who is also a psychologist and a writer. He was a writer before he was a psychologist, he’s nonfiction writer. He and I started meeting and I would write and bring it in and read it to him. We’d talk about it. He was very helpful in me understanding the characters better or deepening the characters. But I just basically wrote, I had small kids at the time. I would write from nine o’clock at night till 10:30 or so, and did that three or four nights a week and maybe an hour or two on the weekend and would write a little bit on vacation. Really, it was just fun for me, the writing process itself. The editing process was not fun.
I agree with that. Oh man.
Yes, the writing is, especially I think with fiction, it’s just, you’re just telling the story. And I like to tell stories, and of course it was about my experience in graduate school, fictional, fictionalized version of that. So that part was fun and getting the story out was sort of an adventure in a way. But then doing the rewrite and that process was incredibly painful for me because you, if you’ve written you have to throw away stuff that you like. Some of the best stuff I wrote didn’t get in the book and got edited out. So yes, that was hard.
Now, when you were whiteboarding the plot, did you use post-it notes? Did you use a program? Did you just have it in your head? How’d you figure out the main plot points?
I had it in my head more than anything and wrote it through like a shitty first draft. You’ve heard that expression. That’s what I wrote. Once I got that out, my supervisor and I sort of did some story arc stuff and just wrote each character down and wrote where they started and where they are toward the end and what were their obstacles. Then I could go back in, really not much of this was done, but I could go back in and put a paragraph here or send it here to clarify. I sort of went through that process.
The one thing I would tell anyone, writing a book is don’t edit as you go, because that first draft, I would edit sentences for 15 minutes on one sentence and I almost couldn’t stop myself from doing it, but a lot of those sentences are gone. But the part I did like was going back and putting in clarifications and ways to think about the character a little differently and maybe change a little bit of what he’s saying or she’s saying. That part I did, like the part I didn’t like was rewriting all the sentences and all that stuff.
Yes, for us creative types, the editing process is definitely brutal.
There were times with Thursday is the New Friday, my friend Paul was one of my key editors. He’s just like so good. I would be going through his little commas and periods and this and that in my Google Drive. I just got to the point that it was just like, accept all. His whole, everything you do is good, except all I need to read it. If not the Harper Collins editors will find the problems or maybe not. But it’s like, I don’t need to know every comma that Paul added. Well, tell us, I don’t want you to give the whole book away, but what’s the general plot of the book? Introduce us to some of the characters and the things they’re going through.
Okay. Well, the main character who you meet right in the beginning is moving from Charleston to Atlanta to Stark Graduate School. At that time he’s just gotten a divorce. His child, he’s got a two year old boy that he’s leaving and so he’s lost, or a little dissociated, a little, just he’s gotten into graduate school. He knows he wants to do that, but he’s just stumbling around. Then he starts graduate school and he continues to stumble through some of the first parts of it, but he’s sort of, the plot line for him is going from sort of disconnected and a little lost to sort of much more present in his life and more connected to the people around him. You watch him connect as he’s going through the book.
It’s an important story for 20 somethings for some of us. Some people don’t do it that way, but a lot of, I think of 20 somethings that I see in therapy as almost being like adolescence. Adolescence is a time where you find your identity, but the twenties is you sort of refine your identity and professionally and relationally. He starts off in his mid twenties. It’s the story of him meeting, he meets his girlfriend who is a very important character in the book who is also a graduate student and his connection to her, his tendency in it, from his family, which you find out is sort of to when things get sort of too conflictual or too difficult to run, which is why, how he got his first divorce.
Then all there’s an important character that is a supervisor in graduate school, is a combination of a couple of supervisors that I had that are important in shaping some of how he thinks, not only about clients, but about his own life. He lives in a carriage house behind a home sort of a elegant mansion of a gay couple. They’re, he’s watching their relationship throughout the book. They become close friends and and sort of how watching their relationship influences them and you watch them grow too. So it’s really, it’s a very close look at relationships and how people being present in them changes the people that are in them.
Oh, that’s so great.
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When you think about the impact you hope the book has on readers, who do you think will be drawn to this book? What do you think they’ll get out of it?
Good question. The first, when I was thinking of writing it I was thinking of graduate students and young therapists, psychology students, psychology, graduate students, young therapists, and even other therapists, because there’s parts in there about how to understand people that adapt through this sort of narrative therapy approach. So I thought of it more like the therapeutic community would be, that’s how I was thinking about it as I was writing it.
But also anyone who’s, in fact, one of my clients who read, it said everybody in therapy should read this book because it helped him get behind me a little bit and see what I’ve been trying to do all along. Which of course I narrate some in therapy, but it helped him see how am I thinking? How is his supervisor helping me think, meaning how does the therapist conceptualize the person and how are they trying to get them from point A to point B to point C?
Yes. Sounds really interesting. So I’d love to know, you said you drew some things from people in your life. What have been the reactions of those people? Are they like, oh my gosh, you wrote a book about me or is it loose enough that your wife is like, oh, I can see parts of me in that, but that’s different. Or like, what’s the reaction from friends and family been?
It’s been really positive. The gay couple are friends of mine in real life, Dan and Randy and I actually asked him if I could keep their names because I thought their names were so perfect for the characters. They both loved the book. They felt, Randy felt like I was a little too kind to his character. He felt he was quite as nice as, he thought that Dan’s character was a little meaner than he was and his character’s a little nicer, but yes, everybody I think has appreciated it. My mother-in-law’s in it at one point and she said to me, after she read it I don’t know how you know what I’m thinking, but you really do know what I’m thinking. But everybody I think was fairly flattered by it.
I was disappointed that my supervisor, one of them who, the main person, the character or the supervisor in the book was modeled after he died before I could get him a copy. So that was sad for me, but I think everybody felt pretty good about it. My wife loved it. It’s a little bit of a love story in part. It’s not, that’s not the feature, that’s not the main part of it, but it’s our origin story.
I mean, it’s so fun to write about what you know and to really understand that world. So whenever you look at different types of authors, it’s like when you’ve experienced certain things, you’re going to write about those things.
Yes. Well, when you write you learn more about what you write about, obviously. And for me I really had, that gave me a chance to reflect on my own life in a different way. It was very therapeutic for me.
My girls and I were just reading this book about Charles Dickens and how, I had no idea, really his story. So his father was in debt and in the 1800’s in England, if you were in debt, you could, your whole family would get put in prison. So his whole family was put in prison. He has like a, I think nine year old went and worked in this shoe shine type of factory where they made shoe shine. It’s like, as a little kid, he’s basically in slave labor. So to see his story unfold and over time start writing about the underprivileged in society and these great, the Christmas Carol or other things that he just was able to write about things that no one else had that glimpse into that world. So I don’t think there’s many fictional accounts out there of the psychotherapy world and hopefully this becomes more and more of a genre., It’s great that you took the time to build that and grow that
Well, it’s interesting you say that. The Charles Dickens story is really fascinating. There really isn’t a fictional autobiography, there’s some out there, but that’s not a genre that publishers are looking for or a fictional memoir. And also, yes, that’s not, I really couldn’t find, I found, of course some nonfiction, but there’s not much fiction out there about supervision or psychotherapy or that whole process. Of course, psychologists show up either in somewhat of a heroic role. Psychotherapists show up or they’re usually the guy to kill somebody in the novel
Or they’re just a court witness, expert witness or something. No, absolutely. Well, Gerald, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
That it’s a really good time and important time to do the work that we do, that people need you more now than ever. I was with a group of 20 somethings fairly recently, and I was listening to them talk. This is a pretty high functioning group. They were talking about what they do for their mental health. Of course, 20 something people did not talk like that even 10 years ago. As a whole new group of people with this tremendous awareness of the importance of taking care of your mind and taking care of your relationships and leading a good life, meaningful life that psychotherapy is a part of that, of course, running, a cardiovascular exercise, food, all that. But they have an awareness of how important this work is and they’re looking for people to go to.
So I think it’s a great time to be a psychotherapist. I also think my thing that I tell young psychotherapists is think in terms, you need to think in terms of the network effect. We talk about that in terms of the internet and all this stuff, but your connections to people not only help you become more powerful and more useful in your work, but it’s also where you get clients from. That’s how you get clients that fit with you, is through thinking about yourself as a networker.
I’m not a consummate networker. I don’t go to things that, I don’t deliberately go to a lot of meetings that have, where I can meet people and stuff like that. I’m an introvert and stuff, but my network of people, friends and associates built my practice. And I’ve built a lot of people’s practice through helping them think about their own network. So the network and the tremendous need that is coming, that’s already there, but is just going to grow as people with awareness of the importance of psychological health.
Such great points. Even looking at my seven and 10 year old daughters we have one room that’s we call the Zen zone that is just dedicated to meditation and calming themselves down. They initiated that. They wanted to put toys in there that are more mindful toys like little puppets and things. So things that I didn’t really learn until my like mid thirties. So it’s such a great point that you make there. Gerald, if people want to get your book, where’s the best place for them to get that?
Well, Amazon, of course. I also have a website, birdgottaland, which is the title of the book, birdgottaland.com, but yes, go to Amazon. It’s there and leave me a review if you read it and like it. That’s how you do it.
Wonderful. Thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
Well, thank you, Joe. I appreciated your questions and spending time with you.
Well, thanks so much for hanging out with us today. It’s so interesting to just see all the different things that therapists do with their skills and talents. We’ve got a bunch of folks that are doing audience building and they’re wanting to launch e-courses or membership communities. There’s people like Gerald that are writing fictional books. There’s a lot of you that are writing non-fiction books. The box that often we are taught in grad school is just the beginning. Yes, we need those clinical skills. Yes, we need to get ongoing training. But there’s so much more we can do to impact the world to leave it better than we found it.
So let your creativity run wild. If you could do something outside of your practice what would you do? Maybe take that gamble, put a few hours a week into something that is really just for pushing forward the thing that you care about rather than just doing just the regular work that maybe you’ve been doing. Step into some of those creativity mindsets and work on those projects. You never know where it’s going to land you.
We also want to thank Gusto. Gusto is all-in-one HR platform, is a game changer for growing businesses. It’s what we use here at Practice of the Practice. From full service payroll and benefits to team management tools, and more Gusto makes it easy to support your employees from day one to day 1000. So you get three months totally free when you go over to gusto.com/joe. Again, that’s gusto.com/joe.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and your brain. Have an amazing day. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.