Hello. My name is Joseph Lee, and I’ve been in private practice in the South Bay for over a dozen years. When I first started my practice, I was eager to apply all the cutting edge evidence based treatments that I had learned during my residency at UCLA, both with medication management as well as psychotherapy. Though I was able to help many people resolve their symptoms and reach their previous baselines, I found that the final result was not as gratifying as I had expected, for my patients or for myself. People were clearly getting better, but didn’t seem to be quite “well.” There was more meaningful work to be done, but most of my training had prepared me to get people from “sick” to “not sick.” I couldn’t quite figure out just yet what was missing.
A parallel process was happening in my personal life, which was initiated by becoming a parent. This experience made me more intentional about every aspect of my own life – trying to figure out the best way to raise my kids, trying to maintain my own health and wellbeing, trying to adapt to the changes in my needs and the needs of those around me. It also created a greater relevance to my learning, as there were daily implications of whether or not my attempts to change and grow were leading to something positive or negative. It was during this time that I first became exposed to areas of knowledge that in turn started to shape both my personal life and my clinical practice. Dan Siegel and his multidisciplinary and evidence based Interpersonal Neurobiology. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) via Marshall Rosenberg and others. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences and Daniel Goleman’s synthesis of current knowledge about Emotional and Social Intelligence. Also, previous understanding in developmental psychology, attachment theory, psychodynamic psychotherapy became more meaningful. My medical school background also challenged me to not only find ideas and strategies that made sense or were interesting, but also had to be actually true. My personal convictions reinforced this need for authenticity as well. I was subconsciously testing the validity of these theories and practices in my parenting, as a psychotherapist, and in my personal life. The final piece that completed the picture was when I discovered the emerging field of Positive Psychology – the scientific study of the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. This area of study has demonstrated that certain everyday behaviors, beliefs and experiences conclusively lead to a greater sense of wellbeing, happiness and healthiness. It legitimized the intuitive truth that both my patients and I were recognizing when we arrived at that unsatisfying place of being no longer sick, but yet far from the place of healthiness.
I found that adding these new principles into my therapy practice and seeing people integrate them into their behaviors and beliefs started creating the meaningful and gratifying changes that previously had been missing. Fine tuning over the past few years, I’ve been able to summarize this truthful, personal, and relevant philosophy into a seminar series that I thought would be helpful and inspiring for anyone seeking to improve their mental healthiness.
In the Summer of 2014, I was able to start this seminar in a small group format out of my office, and have been repeating it each subsequent quarter. I’ve also started some workshops focusing on more practical application of the core components of this Mental Healthiness philosophy. Outside of the office, I’ve had the privilege of presenting to the teaching staff at my son’s school as well as a group of my colleagues in the mental health field, and have found opportunities to collaborate with other local schools and parenting experts. I’ve been encouraged by the feedback I’ve gotten so far. It has affirmed my experience that a mental healthiness focus is better than a mental illness one, and that a process that starts with true understanding rather than unsupported strategies can create a self motivated and sustainable process of personal growth and meaningful change.
What feels like a natural extension of these seminars was to put some of these principles into writing. Here’s where that process starts.