My career in psychology has spanned four decades. My interest in the field began after reading the book Primal Scream by Arthur Janov in 1971. Until then it never occurred to me that an unconscious existed, that we were driven by forces from our past that are hidden from us. I immediately felt a passion to learn as much as I could about what motivates people and understand why they behaved the way they did. I had graduated high school in 1966 and the social and political upheaval of the late 60’s made it difficult for me to concentrate on academics or a career. I returned to college with a clear intent and completed my BA with Great Distinction (3.96 gpa) with a major in psychology from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1974. My double minors were in anthropology and behavioral science. I enrolled in every psychology course offered by the university.
After receiving my Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology from UCSB, I began my career as an intern in Long Beach, CA in 1976, earning $6 per hour. I was accepted into a formal APA approved internship at the Orange County Mental Health where I did rotations through their inpatient and outpatient units. In 1980 I completed my post-doctoral training in a psychiatric private practice. From 1978-1982, I taught undergraduate psychology courses at California State University, Dominguez Hills. I completed my PhD in psychology from the United States International University in San Diego (now called Alliant University) in 1981. My doctoral thesis was on biofeedback, and after passing my oral and written exams, was licensed as a psychologist in CA in January 1982.
My post-doctoral internship led to a full time clinical practice in the offices of the chief psychiatrist at the Alhambra Psychiatric Hospital. Half of my caseload was treating severely mentally ill at the hospital and the other half was outpatient practice. Starting my career this way was invaluable as it gave me the foundation to work with virtually any type of disorder.
In 1983 a former supervisor told me he knew of a woman who could treat ADHD and head injury using a technology called neurofeedback. I was skeptical at first, but had some serious cases that I needed help with. My first referral to her was a 23 year old who had suffered a head injury 6 years prior. During those 6 years, he had been hospitalized 6 times and was making no progress. Ironically, despite his having been diagnosed with several psychiatric conditions, no physician had regarded the head injury as noteworthy. At the time, little was known about how head injury often mimics psychiatric disorders. It was the opinion of his family and I that he would eventually die from reckless behavior or kill someone else by accident, yet the judge refused to place a conservatorship on him. We had run out of options. Psychiatry and medications had been clearly ineffective. Out of desperation, I referred him to Margaret Ayers for neurofeedback. What happened as a result made me realize that there are viable options for treatment other than medications and talk therapy. Margaret Ayers met with him 3 times a week for only a few months. The 23 year old was never re-hospitalized. He was able to return to work in the family business. He got off all medications. He got a girlfriend. He basically returned to almost normal. I know this because I did a follow-up every year for 6 years. The family thanked me over and over again for saving their son’s life.
That first case led to many referrals to Margaret over the next 17 years. She would call me to discuss her EEG findings on each case and teach me how brain injuries affect mood and behavior. I conducted an informal survey of my clients and discovered half of them remembered receiving an injury to the head. That led me to speculate that head injury was the least understood and most underdiagnosed condition in mental health. I began to suspect that a major reason for failure in psychotherapy was a disorder in the electrical wiring in the brain. This was certainly the opinion of Margaret.
From 1982-1986 I continued to work for the psychiatrist, but left his practice and set up my own in Long Beach. From 1986-2000 my solo psychology practice (Bayshore Psychology Center) varied in focus. At its core was helping clients resolve their emotional and behavioral conflicts. I took over 200 hours of advanced training in a variety of methods to refine my craft as a psychotherapist. In addition, I read over 100 books on psychotherapy and brain science. Cognitive Behavior Therapy was always part of my strategy and I would add other components to sessions, being careful to customize my approach to each individual. There have been several theorists/clinicians who have influenced how I practice.
By far the strongest influence has been the work of Robert Firestone’s voice therapy and separation theory. After being in practice for 13 years, I was beginning to wonder why clients, despite catharsis and insight, continued to act in self-destructive ways. I picked up the book, “The Fantasy Bond”, by Dr. Firestone, and found it answered those questions. Normally, I am a fast reader with excellent comprehension. Yet, this book was different. I noticed I would have to re- read certain paragraphs over and over. I would forget to read the book for days at a time. Finally, I realized what was happening. The book was challenging my own personal defenses. To really understand what the book was saying, I would be forced to look directly at myself. This had never happened before and I felt Dr. Firestone had discovered a basic truth about human behavior. I knew that he knew what he was talking about. He was able to find the true origins of self-destructive behavior and had the ability to articulate it.
I completed an 18 month post graduate seminar based on Dr. Firestone’s work, “Separation Theory & Voice Therapy Study/Training Group” in 1993 in Los Angeles (136 hours total). I eventually become personal friends with Dr. Firestone. I integrated Voice Therapy in my practice and found it extremely beneficial, especially for suicidal ideations. Clients began to wonder if I had ESP as it allowed me to quickly identify their underlying thoughts and feelings.
Then I was introduced to EMDR. I took Francine Shapiro’s level one course in 1994 and her level two in 1996. These courses taught me how to treat adult onset PTSD, with most cases being resolved in six sessions. Over the years, I tailored it to my style and no longer require 90 minutes per visit. I can integrate it into any 45 minute session with no later adverse effects. Over half of my talk sessions eventually require EMDR to help them move past an emotional blockage.
Then I discovered the work of psychiatrist, Fred Schiffer, MD. A professor at Harvard, he published a book “Of Two Minds”, which explained how each hemisphere of the brain has a separate personality. This explains why and how we talk to ourselves almost all the time. One hemisphere tends to be the more mature side and the other the less mature side. I saw a photo of the safety goggles with duct tape in his book that he used in therapy and made a set of my own. Following Dr. Schiffer’s method, my clients were able to identify the two sides of their issues. Internal conflicts became easier to resolve this way. Dr. Schiffer supervised me on several cases. Some clients made dramatic changes after only a few sessions using this method.
In April 2000 I took my first sabbatical. I closed my Long Beach practice, sailed across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean, then the Caribbean, and ended up in Santa Barbara, where I began a new psychology practice in February 2001. I called it Santa Barbara Brain Fitness.
Margaret Ayers by that time had designed and patented a new type of neurofeedback, and she really wanted me to become a practitioner in Santa Barbara. I bought one, and after being trained by her on the Neuropathways, I began treating head injury cases. The results were startling. Often, all it took was 8-10 sessions of 30 minutes each to see a complete reversal of stroke and TBI. Even those on the autistic spectrum were improving. I used her system exclusively for 2 years, but observed her feedback was monotonous. The computer produced a repetitive ding each time the brain decreased a certain frequency below a threshold. All day long my clients and I would hear a ding ding ding. Clients would get bored and sleepy. Too many were dropping out of treatment prematurely. I asked Margaret if she could make the feedback more interesting, but her reply was that neurofeedback was work, not entertainment, and ignored my request.
In 2003 I attended my first ISNR conference. This was the main conference for the industry of neurofeedback and I discovered there were several other companies competing with Margaret. I added two other devices to my practice: the Roshi II+ with Bioexplorer and the NeuroCarePro (NCP). Both offered more interesting displays and could offer music, video games, or DVD movies for feedback. It didn’t take long to figure out that my clients were happier using those systems. My drop-out rate went to almost none while my outcome results were equal. I was getting fewer referrals for TBI but more for depression and anxiety, and these units were quite effective for both. Neuropathways remained superior for resolution of TBI, but my Roshi and NCP generated more referrals. Unfortunately, Margaret died suddenly in 2008 and the only person who did IT also died, leaving the company adrift. Neuropathways is now regrettably an obsolete system.
Over the next several years, I continued to attend the ISNR conferences and added more equipment and software, including the Q20 QEEG, LORETA Z score, NeuroGuide, NeuroField, Peak Achievement Trainer, Thought Technology Biograph, NeuroGen, Cygnet, Pendant, nirHEG, pirHEG, NeurOptimal, and the LENS. My many mentors have included Sue Othmer, Paul Swingle, Elmer Green, Joel Lubar, Cory Hammond, Nancy White, Bob Thatcher, and Nick Dogris. I became Board Certified in Neurofeedback (BCIA), and went on to train interns, all of whom are now successful neurofeedback practitioners.
By the time I started my second sabbatical (April 2019), I had clocked over 8000 hours of direct experience in neurofeedback over an 18 year period. I had owned and learned to operate more than 8 neurofeedback systems. The two that I used the most the last few years have been the LENS (for TBI) and NeurOptimal (for brain enhancement). I closed the Santa Barbara Brain Fitness and left California, a state I had lived in for the past 50 years.
Now in Eugene, my current focus is Telemedicine. My office is my computer and cam. I have over 35 years’ experience in psychotherapy and can treat most emotional and behavioral problems. Part of my business includes leasing neurofeedback systems, specifically the NeurOptimal. I also have Alpha-Stims to lease for anxiety, depression, and sleep concerns. Given the current stress in our country, there is a great need to return to feelings of safety. This is what I teach in my practice.