Dr. Jeffrey Froh is a writer, professor, and fast becoming a leader in the field of positive psychology. He attended St. Joseph’s University as an undergrad majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology, that is, until his dad asked him “Jeff, what are you gonna do with a degree in sociology?” After reflecting on this, Dr. Froh recalls answering, “I don’t know” to which his dad replied “Well, why don’t you major in Psych and minor in Sociology just so you can ‘hang a shingle.’” It was then that Dr. Froh changed his major and began focusing more on psychology.
In this podcast, Dr. Froh recalls his academic and professional journey and shares the significant events, experiences, and people who have impacted his life and career. He discusses the reasons why he attended St. John’s University in Queens, NY and why he received his graduate degrees in School Psychology. Dr. Froh also shares why he chose the PsyD route versus earning a PhD and explains how it eventually helped him when getting an academic position at Hofstra University. He explains “they were looking for someone with a PsyD” to show students that you can go the academic route instead of the practitioner route. Many people automatically associate PhD with academic and PsyD with practitioner so Dr. Froh was happy to help Hofstra University show that this doesn’t have to be the case.
During our discussion, he shares how he developed an interest in, and passion for, the rapidly expanding field of positive psychology. Dr. Froh has been teaching at Hofstra University since 2006 and, during this time, he created a Positive Psychology course that is one of the most popular courses in Hofstra’s history. He is a Distinguished Teacher of the Year recipient, and he is a New York State certified school psychologist and a licensed psychologist. Dr. Froh is a past Associate Editor for The Journal of Positive Psychology, and he is the Founder and past Clinical Director of the Positive Psychology Institute for Emerging Adults.
Dr. Froh provides guidance and advice to those interested in the field of psychology. Among other things, he believes research and clinical experience is crucial for those interested in attending graduate school in psychology. While discussing his career, Dr. Froh admits “every job that I’ve had, any school psych thing or academic adjunct, whatever, I was able to put the foot in the door was because of a relationship.” He then shares the backstory behind how he got the academic appointment at Hofstra University. He also shares what a typical day looks like as a Professor of Psychology at Hofstra University and reveals that one of the benefits of the job is “you can recreate yourself as a professor, you know, which is one of the beauties of the job.”
Dr. Froh explains how he met his wife and how they became co-owners of Positive Psychological Counseling Services, LLC and why, after working so hard to get the practice up and running, he decided to walk away because he thought he was supposed to be doing something else. Dr. Froh explains that the practice, Family Psychology of Long Island in Oakdale (NY), is still up and running and that Dr. Mark Furshpan is running the business and is a phenomenal clinician. Dr. Froh walked away so that he could focus on writing. This led to a discussion of his new book “Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life-Possible” and why he wrote it as well as how he used many different sources in the book including Scripture, science, philosophy, Greek mythology, and stories from his clients, students, and personal stories.
One unique thing about Dr. Froh that many people may not know is that he loves listening to Christian rap music. In fact, his favorite artist, NF, is actually highlighted in Chapter 5 of his new book.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Jeffrey Froh is primarily interested in Positive Psychology. He studies gratitude in children and adolescents and has almost 60 publications on positive psychology, happiness, and well-being.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Psychology (1999); St. Joseph’s University, Patchogue, NY.
Master of Science (MS), School Psychology (2002); St. John’s University, Queens, NY.
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), School Psychology (2004); St. John’s University, Queens, NY.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in Psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Jeff Froh to the show. Dr. Froh is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Hofstra University in New York. He is a New York certified school psychologist and a licensed psychologist. Dr Froh earned his PhD in School Psychology from St. John’s University. He is one of the leaders in the rapidly expanding field of positive psychology. In fact, he served as an associate director, I’m sorry, Associate Editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology and has served on the board of many professional journals. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey and discuss his new book, “Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life-Possible.” Dr. Froh, welcome to our podcast.
Thanks for having me, Bradley.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to walk through some of your journey. And I talk about academic and professional journey because you have a unique journey and I wanted to make sure our audience shared that with us, or you shared it with us as well. First of all, can you remember the first time you became interested in psychology?
So, I mean, for my whole life I’ve been very drawn to people who excel at whatever it is they do, you know what I mean? So, whoever is optimal, I’m looking at you. I’m trying to study it. I’m trying to figure it out. Like, what can I learn from you, you know, how can I try to go to the next level based on what you’re doing, you know? So then when I went to St. Joseph’s though, for undergrad, I actually ended up majoring, starting out as, majoring in sociology and minoring in psychology. Again, so there’s that. You know, I’m studying people and I’m trying to figure that part out. But I also love the big picture stuff, you know? And for me, sociology kind of gave me that and I just really connected at the time with my sociology professors. They were just absolutely phenomenal, you know? But then where psych, kind of where I started, majoring in psych, minoring in social that flip happened actually because of my dad. So, my dad is a very blue-collar guy. He worked for the phone company. He worked, you know, on the wires, you know, outside kind of thing, very practical. And he was just like. Jeff, what are you gonna do with a degree in sociology. And I didn’t even realize that I’m being taught by sociologists. So, I was just like, I don’t know, he’s like, well, why don’t you major in Psych, minor in Sociology and so just so you can “hang a shingle.”
And I was like, alright, makes sense. So, then that’s where the psychology focus, you know, kind of developed from that point.
Yeah, and, and you already mentioned you went to St. Joseph’s University. How did you decide on that undergraduate, you know, institution for your bachelor’s degree? I, I think you received your bachelor’s degree and then you eventually went to St. John’s University in Queens for your Graduate School but did you, can you think back of why you selected St. Joseph’s College for your undergrad?
Yeah, a couple things. One, again, just from a practical perspective, I’m more of a homebody, you know, so I just honestly wasn’t ready to kind of go out and venture off, you know, so that that became part of it. But really the big thing was I was looking for a small teaching college. And that’s exactly what St Joes is, you know, they’re just so phenomenal at nurturing students, you know, taking an interest in them. And that’s what I needed as a young person. I think everybody does, you know, regardless of your age, anyway. And that’s what they provided; you know what I mean? And it’s one of those like if I didn’t go there and I, this sounds so dramatic, but like if I did not go there, you and I wouldn’t be talking right now. You know, there’s no way. I mean, you know, Dr.s, you know, Paul Ginnetty, George Giuliani and, and one guy particular Professor William Thieben changed my life. Again, it sounds so insane, but I’m so sincere with you on that one, particularly Mr. Thieben. So that’s who I went there for, that’s who was there, and I’m just so grateful for that decision.
Well, thank you. A lot of guests do usually mention some people that made some important impact on their lives and help them in the right direction. As I mentioned, you went to St. John’s University in Queens in New York for Graduate School. I’ll ask the same question. How did you decide that? Because a lot of our guests, when they’re in undergrad, when they decide, hey, I want to go to Graduate School, where do I begin? How do I decide, especially if I’m interested in psychology. So, bring us back to kind of your thought process of did you apply to other schools? If so, what were kind of the procedures and, and what did you go through to finally decide on St. John’s University?
Yeah, so I did apply to a bunch. I also applied to Alfred University, to Queens College as well. Where else there was another one, oh yeah, Pace University, et cetera, et cetera and St. Johns was on there as well. Uhm, what I mean what I was looking for, I wanted world class leaders who were going to be, you know, in the classroom with us, who would be helping us with research, you know, and the people at St. Johns have that in spades, you know what I mean? So, I wanted someone who they knew, you know, the new stuff, but they were creating the new stuff and that, and that’s what they’re doing over there. You know what I mean? So that was a big thing for me. I wanted, you know, a close working relationship with the professors that mattered to me as well. And you know, I felt very connected with them during the interview process that, you know, that of course was a big one. But the other thing honestly, is that they believed in me, right? So, what I mean by that is this so. So, I originally only applied to their master’s program, right? So, when I applied, that was the first year of the PsyD program in School Psych at St. Johns, right? So, I’m part of the first class ever, right? So, I applied to their master’s program and then I got a call saying, hey, we really want you to apply to the PsyD program. I didn’t know if I, I thought I could do it at some point, but I just didn’t know if I had the grades and the GREs and the experience to go from undergrad to PsyD. For some reason they thought I did, right? And I was like, wow, well, how cool is that? You know what I mean? And then when I got the phone call, I remember it vividly. Right now, I’m sitting my, my room, I had this duck phone. This thing that quacked. This ridiculous phone and I just remembered this thing quacking, you know, and answered the phone and it was a Dr. Raymond DiGiuseppe, who was the director of the program at the time. And he just says, you know, he’s like Jeffrey, Dr. D, St. Johns, you got into the PsyD program, you’re working with me. And I was like, like that was crazy. And I mean such an honor. So grateful. And I had no idea the significance of that phone call. Until I started there, started working with him, you know, Dr. Mark Terjesen and these guys, I mean, just phenomenal people, next level.
Well, it sounds like you had a very good experience. I’m going to share my screen for the audience who are tuning in. And if you’re just listening, I’m sharing a screen that shows all of the New York Master’s and Doctorate programs in psychology. And as you mentioned, you know, St. John’s actually has a master’s level, couple of, you know, different degrees and emphasis, but then they also have their doctorate programs and you mentioned PsyD. And so how, you know, a lot of our guests usually talk about, well, I went this route because of this reason. You mentioned a couple reasons, but a lot of our audience members asked, well, how do I decide if I should go the PsyD route or the PhD route? So, speak from your personal experience and your thoughts on how does somebody decide whether they want to go with a PhD or the doctorate route with a PhD versus the doctorate route with the PsyD?
So, my thinking back then is what most people are gonna say, you know, which is PsyD is more application, the clinical kind of stuff. You know the I want to see people, you know, thought and then PhD would be more the research, more the I’m going to become an academic, I’m going to be a professor, I’m going to generate the new knowledge, advance the field, you know, that, that sort of thing. So that was my thinking. You know, back then I thought I would be more of a clinical applied person, uhm, and then, but the thing is though, you know at St. Johns you know the research bug bit and because of, you know, DiGiuseppe because of Mark Terjesen and, you know, they were just so into it, so passionate and you feed off that. You know you’re around people who are pumped up, you get pumped up. And I was like, wow, I love this, you know, you have a question, you test it. Am I right? Am I wrong? You know, so I remember back then going oof, like maybe I should have went PhD. Like, like what am I doing, you know? But I was getting a PhD experience with them. Do you know what I mean? So, like I was, you know, publishing papers as a student, presenting at national conferences, state conferences. They had me doing posters. They had me, uhm, they encouraged me to create my own symposium. It was a first time ever done anything like that and it was at ABCT Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies and it was a symposium on bringing positive psych into clinical psych and fusing the two. So, my head was kind of already there, so I was getting that PhD kind of experience as my as I started changing so I was like you know what, I’m I love these guys anyway. So let me just kind of hang here, do my thing, make it what I think works for me and kind of go that route.
And I throughout the, the history of the PsyD first being introduced in the United States and then finally catching on, if I could use that phrase because a lot of people at the very beginning, correct me if I’m wrong, if your experience was different. But a lot of people PsyD, what’s that? And they, they didn’t really know what it was. Oh my gosh, you shouldn’t have gone that route, PhD is a well-known, established route and now both of them are seen as equal.
It’s just. You have to decide which one you want to go for, and it’s really based on what you want to do after you graduate. You know, do you want to stay in academic field, do you want to apply, do you want to further the research as you said, or do you want to do something else with the PsyD? And I, I love having guests on with PsyD because of a wide variety of experiences that are associated with that versus the PhD kind of a little smaller area that you can, you can do with that. I’m not talking down about either one or suggesting that one is better than the other. It’s just one is used better in different applications and what you want to do with your career.
Yes, and I remember having those same concerns, right. So again, vividly remember this. So, starting in my so I was a formal research assistant to as we referred to him, Dr. D, Dr DiGiuseppe, first and second year. Uhm, still continued working with him on the side, you know, but then 3rd, 4th year I worked in the provost office, and I was actually particularly assigned to the IRB, the Institutional Review Board. So, I was getting that experience and I got very close to the Associate Provost who I was working with and I was like, hey, I gotta tell you like, I’m digging this research thing. I started teaching at that time and I was like, I think I’ll probably be doing this. I don’t know. And I was like how worried do I have to be that PsyD is after my name and not PhD? And his? He just said look, honestly, no one cares. He’s like, as long as you’re doing what you need to do for the academic route, you’re getting your papers out, you’re doing your presentations, he’s like and you’re doing these things. So, he’s like, I wouldn’t stress, you know, so for me anyway. Having the PsyD actually really worked out in my favor for and getting an academic position because where I work now at Hofstra, it’s a school community PsyD program, right? They were looking for someone with a PsyD, particularly for this reason was to show students that you can do that too, ’cause people don’t think PsyD, you know, academic, they go PsyD practitioner, you know what I mean? So, it actually worked out in my favor. And the reality is, like I was saying, I created the experiences I needed to create at St. Johns official PsyD. But I, you know, I’m sitting there collecting data, doing what I have to do, you know, so yeah.
So, here’s kind of a uh, an interesting question that popped into my mind. Put yourself in your shoes back when you were going to Graduate School and applying to graduate schools. What was important to you then? And now that you’ve gone through Graduate School and you’ve been out in the field in your career, what advice would you give to students now about, hey, what should you be thinking is important when you’re selecting a graduate psychology program?
Yeah, so, for me, like I said, it was, you know, the top leaders, the, the close relationships, the mentoring was essential. So, you kind of had had that element there. And for me, like I said, St. John’s nailed it, you know what I mean? So, I was like, alright, like, I’m going to go there. But the advice that I again, it worked out for me, OK, but it just worked out for me kind of thing, alright, it would not work out for people today. And what I’m referring to is if you’re looking to get in today, you absolutely better be doing research. I mean, there’s no question you’re not getting around it, you know, even if you’re not, maybe you’ll get into a master’s program, right? You do your thing there you better obviously have; you know, you have your phenomenal GPA, but you better be doing research, right? So, I had no idea. I mean the only research I did as an undergrad was my undergrad thesis, which is a very simple correlational study on the relation between exercise and self-esteem. That was it. Real basic. And then I walk into that place and these, I mean, they’re just pumping out this crazy, crazy stuff, you know? So, my advice to everyone is you gotta get involved particularly, particularly let’s say PhD clinical. And I say that, I say particularly for that because it is so competitive. So, like I would never get into a doctoral program today for Jeff as the student he was, you know, 25 years ago. Absolutely not would I get in. So, you better be doing your thing. So, research and clinical experience, I’m sorry, I meant to mention that part too.
Very good, very good. In hindsight, would you do anything different in terms of the process related to searching for graduate schools or programs? Does that make sense?
Yeah, it definitely does. I think that was pretty thorough, you know, in that I, I do, however, right. So, something maybe if I could kind of go back, right? So, like I said, I’m always drawn to excellence. Uhm, unaware of positive psych at the time, for good reason, because I started grad school at ‘99. And positive psych didn’t start to be did, wasn’t like made popular made known really until Martin Seligman when he was president in ‘98. And then the special issue in American Psych comes out in 2000 on happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning. So, I remember getting that I’m a second-year student and I get this journal and I was like no way. Like, this is a thing, what? So, had I maybe slowed down a bit and been like, hey, you really love optimal functioning. Even though there’s no field out there, there have to be people doing this. And of course, there were right. So, it’s like maybe a little more thought on that you know like you know pursuing someone you know working with someone like Ed Diener who does his work on subjective well-being. Bob Emmons who does stuff on religiosity and spirituality at that time he’s doing well he’s that’s gratitude stuff now. Tim Kasser on materialism like I probably would have been cool doing that, you know, but nonetheless so grateful where, where I went, where I’ve been, where I am now. So, like, no regrets.
Good, good. Based on my research on you, you taught at various colleges and practiced as a school psychologist for a few school districts in Long Island. Tell us a little bit more about your early career. You know, when did you become a school psychologist? Why did you go that route at the very beginning? Tell us a little bit more about your early career.
So, the, I mean the short, you know, version on early was I just did way too much. You know what I mean? Which is typical. Psychologists do that because, you know, you had said early, like there’s so many things you can do. So, it’s kind of kid in the candy store, you know what I mean? Uhm, yeah. So, the school psych scene I started in first job was in ‘03 to ‘04, and that was technically my five day a week internship. But I was fortunate enough to land the job for that placement, right? So, I was able to go from being incredibly poor to getting a salary right so. Like, you know. How cool is that, you know? So, I did that for, for a couple of years. I did that for three years. School psych. But while I was doing that, I was still doing the research, still writing the articles, still presenting, teaching two courses per semester at St. Joes where I went and then did a three-month stint at the practice. So, we’re talking just like lunatic, you know what I mean? Going, going. But again, that voice of, just like you might really want to consider something else, particularly the academic environment, you know, and it just got louder and louder and louder. And I was still doing all those things just because I loved them. But I also knew you might want to switch, so you better be prepared. Uhm, and that’s kind of, you know, how that went, and I just said look forget the Jack of All Trades. I’d like to try and be phenomenal at something. So yeah, so I left school psych, made the jump and I’ve been at Hofstra for 16 years.
I’m going to share my screen again. And yes, eventually you joined the faculty at Hofstra. How did you find the opportunity? I know back, you know, early days you’d have to look at different journals, you’d have to go to a certain website and now it’s just with social media and the electronic age, you could find a lot, but think back when you were searching for making that change, how did you find the opportunity at Hofstra and then bring us through that kind of steps or that that thought process what you were going through back then?
So first, I, I love this story, right? Because I always tell my students. And this is true. Every job that I’ve had, any school psych thing or academic adjunct, whatever, I was able to put the foot in the door was because of a relationship, right?
And obviously you have to have your credentials and your back and all that sort of stuff, you know what I mean? You gotta meet that. But someone says, hey, give this guy a shot, and then of course you gotta now you’re on your own.
So, what happened here was I was a school psychologist at Half Hollow Hills School District, and I really connected with, at the time, chief psychologist Dr. Bill Sefick, who’s still a phenomenal friend of mine today. And I connected to his intern this, this, this lady Nicole she was a student at, at the Hofstra PsyD program, she and everyone there saw my love for research, right? So just one day she asks to me, hey, we have this opening, it’s not even out there yet. Like we’re going to be posting this thing soon. But you love this so much. I don’t know if you’re thinking about it, but we have this opening, so I hear. And I was like, wow, that’s crazy, right? So again, my, my friend Bill, who was her, uh, you know, supervisor. He went to the School Psych program, back in the day, and he went with the then Director of the School PsyD Program, Dr. Bob Motta. So, he calls Bob and goes, yo, we got this guy Jeff over here. I think he’s going to apply. You might want to give this guy shot. He’s a good guy, right? Like one of those things. So also, around that same time, a professor from Hofstra, Dr. Howie Kassinove, is giving a talk to all the psychs at Half Hollow Hills. And I know who he is and where he works, and I know where my head’s at so I, I’m like I had to ask the right questions at the right time and I was trying to telepathically tell him, I want to be where you are, but I couldn’t say it in front of everyone else, ’cause they, they, you know, they needed me to think that or they needed to think that I want to be there.
So, I’m just trying to, you know, have that conversation. So, at the end we talk, and I said, hey, great job, you know, this and that. And he’s like, so you have to think about doing this. I was like, wow, funny you bring that up. I actually am right. So that night he sends an e-mail to the then chair of the department. Copies me on it and was just like, hey, met this guy Jeff Froh today. Great guy. What do you, hey give him a shot, right? So, they had two “give it a shot” from outside people. They gave me the shot, did the whole interview scene. Life is great, you know what I mean?
Right, congratulations. That’s awesome. I love the hindsight, you know, stories moving up to this as well, ’cause a lot of people, you know, kind of don’t think about, hey, all it takes is, you know, this. They think about this huge mountain they gotta climb and all this competition. And a lot of times it comes back to who you know, and then of course you have to produce, and you have to, you know, show. But a lot of people just think that it’s a huge mountain to climb. Uh, some of our audience members ask us occasionally, you know, what is it like to be a professor at, you know, whatever institution. And so, I’m going to ask you, currently you’re the Professor of Psychology at Hofstra. What’s a typical day look like in your role as professor of psychology?
I mean days vary and that’s one of the I guess the, the beauties of it, I mean it’s, it’s so fluid. The amount of our autonomy is incredible. I didn’t go into it for that, you know, or even realizing how significant that was. But that’s a, that’s a strong value of mine, you know, being able to kind of do what I gotta do when I gotta do it, right. So, but let’s just go. I mean, it depends. So, like, it’s a typical teaching day. Honestly, I try to keep my head there. You know, so that’s not gonna be like a writing day for me. I’m going to be reading about class material, reading about other psych stuff, meeting with students, which I absolutely love, you know, going to class, getting ready, you know, that, that kind of thing. And if I have time to think about next project or whatever, that’s great, but I don’t force it, you know, and then the other days, honestly, I try to spend as much time as I can creating, you know, big windows for silence and solitude so I can read, think right, and just go deep on to thinking you know what I mean? So, I, I try to keep it lean these days. I used to do so much. But I’m realizing like again, if again like I said I, I value excellence. For me I have to do very little to try to do wonderful at something, particularly ’cause I’m so perfectionistic. And when you’re like that, you know, blessing and a curse, a guy like me can’t do too much because I’m not gonna hit the bar that I want to hit, you know?
A lot of people, audience members, including myself, can relate to you. You start doing too much, but the perfectionist in you starts beating yourself down saying, oh my gosh, you didn’t reach this level. Maybe you can sit and consider doing less and, and that would allow you a little bit more time to allocate to each of these different endeavors. You were also the Founder and Past Clinical Director of the Positive Psychology Institute for Emerging Adults. Tell us more about this institute.
Yeah, so how that happened was, so I created the positive psychology course at Hofstra. You know, again, I was lucky enough for them to give me a shot with doing that. So, I’ve been teaching that for 12 years now and, and after around like the 10-year mark, uhm, you gotta understand. I mean, over that time I read about 4500 happiness assignments that students have, you know, have written and, and done these positive psychology interventions, you know, for their, for their classwork. And you read so many phenomenal stories about people, you know, and I’m just so honestly, I’m grateful that they share them with me. And you read a lot of the joy and the success, you know, but obviously you’re going to read a lot of the pain. A lot of the suffering, you know, people are pretty vulnerable, which is again, I, I really appreciate that. And so, over the years doing I was like, wow, I’m like these people like really, really suffering. Like I gotta figure this out, you know, like what can I do? So, I said, you know what? Why don’t we apply all the stuff that we’re talking about in class and kind of go next level and build this institute? So, it’s a campus-based institute. It, you know, largely serves the students on campus, though it’s open to everybody, you know what I mean? It’s, it’s out for the community and we do, we definitely get people from the community. You know you have your individual, you know, counseling. We’ll do our workshops, uhm give trainings to other professionals and positive clinical psychology, present at conferences, dissertations and theses are born, you know, out of that. Uhm, so I did, I did that for, for two years, and that was while I was writing Thrive. And you know, as part of the journey, which is, you know, what you’re, you know, interested in, for the first time in my life, really fell in love with writing. Like, obsessed with it, you know what I mean? Like could spend hours with a thesaurus just going nuts on. I want the right synonym. How many syllables is that word? Nope, it’s one syllable too much. I don’t like it. And it was just exhilarating for me. So, I was like, you know what again, if I want to do what I’m going to deem phenomenal work, I gotta trim because I want to just of just fully immerse in writing this thing. So, my friend Dr. Norm Miller, he took over the clinic and he’s now been director for a couple of years and he’s just, honestly, he’s literally the greatest clinician I’ve ever met. I so sincerely mean that, the guy is a rock star, so he’s elevated the clinic to like a level I, I could never take it to. I just couldn’t. You know what I mean? So yeah, so he’s doing that and that’s, that’s kind of how the clinic started. But I did have to step away after two years to focus on something else that I thought I really needed to do.
So, here’s another question I, I believe you are also the co-owner of Positive Psychological Counseling Services. Tell us more about that practice and, you know, when did that start, how is it different maybe from other practices, where is it located? So, here’s your, your opportunity to kind of highlight the practice.
OK. Yeah. So that started in 2016, the positive seconds that you started in 2017. So that’s when I really was getting very applied like, alright, a lot of research over the 10 or 12 years. Again, you can recreate yourself as a professor, you know, which is one of the beauties of the job, you know. So, I was changing, so I just went with it right? So, I actually created that with my wife, Dr. Cara Riebe, who I met in grad school, so that’s obviously one of the best things that’s happened to me. Uhm, so we did that, and then we had joined forces on that one. She’s been doing, she’s had a practice for 20 years now, and she does the school psych scene as well. And so, I did that with her for two years. And again, that was during Thrive. And I was like same thing I’m like I have to trim in order to excel, like I, I really need to, to kill it on the book. Like I’m not playing with that, you know. So, so much work to start to get a practice up and running. So much work like I can’t even describe that to get a clinic running done simultaneously. And then to walk away because you think you’re supposed to be doing something else like that was a moment, you know, but the way the practice did, well, first off, it’s at Family Psychology of Long Island in Oakdale (NY). Dr. Mark Furshpan is the one who runs that business, has been doing so for decades. Phenomenal clinician, phenomenal practice. Like, can’t say enough great things about them. So, I just rented space from Mark on a Tuesday night. My wife rent space on a Thursday night, you know, so I would see about 7 people. She sees about 7 people, you know, but the big difference I would say is. That we try to make people’s lives better and not just less bad. Right. So, I, I could speak more about that if you’d like, you know? I don’t want to kind of just get nutty on that one, but uhm. That’s I would say, how, how we really differ is we, we try to make life better.
OK. If I rephrased it, it was it. It’s more than just helping people cope, it’s helping people cope and go beyond and become better themselves. If that’s ok, if I summarize for you, that’s what I heard you saying.
And look at the bottom line is this look and it’s like the whole positive clinical psychology scene. Is that we know that a high degree of, let’s say, negative symptoms is going to predict distress. It’s like obviously. But so does a very low amount of positive functioning. Right? So, if you, let’s say, you know, your sense of meaning and purpose is a little bit on the low slide side, so you’re meandering a bit, you know your daily experience with positive emotions is a little bit on the low side. You know, your relationships, they’re good, they’re good. They’re just not phenomenal. You know, you have difficulty getting engaged in certain tasks and you’re not spending time in that in that zone kind of thing when you’re doing things. So that, that is as much of a predictor of distress as is high negative. Right. So, it’s like you got to be spending time with people as well about elevating their lives, you know what I mean? To help them go next level, to help them thrive. Not just worrying about getting rid of the other stuff, which is obviously important. It just can’t stop. Ticks now they’re leaving your practice. They’re flat. That’s it. It’s like you don’t go there for that. Do you know what I mean? Like I would think you want to go here so.
Sure, sure. And we mentioned earlier that you have recently published another book. I’m sharing the screen for everybody and it’s just the Amazon website showing some of your books. Thrive is on the top. We’ll get back to that in a second. You have a couple others, “Activities for Teaching Positive Psychology: A Guide for Instructors” and I really like this one, I read a little bit about this one online, “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character.” And you’re using, I don’t know how many strategies that you’re using in there and then. I it’s always fun. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but you have this last one in Spanish as well, and so that’s out there for people reading Spanish. But let’s get back to Thrive for a second and tell me what, what kind of made you write another book called “Thrive: 10 Commandments for 20-Somethings to Live the Best-Life-Possible”…Tell us a little bit more about the book and why you wrote it.
So, the why was so when we, like I said, you know, really wanting to help people live the best life they possibly can, I just feel like there’s something inside me. I don’t know why but I want people to at least pursue their potential, you know. Will any of us reach it? I don’t think so because there’s so much in us, you know. So, it’s really just like an obsession of mine to help people with this and so while we had the, the clinic running, I saw again like I said so much pain so much pain. I mean it’s, it’s, I don’t know if you want to call it an epidemic necessarily, but like across, across this country, college campuses, they can’t keep up. People are struggling so much, right? So, like we have this clinic and we’re seeing people, but I’m like, I gotta do something, I gotta reach more. How do I reach more people? So, my thinking was. If I can put package everything up in a book, maybe that would be the way to potentially reach even more than the people we do, so that, that was my why behind it was helping people out and as many as possible, right? So the way the book unfolded was. So, I created these 10 Commandments to Thrive, and I mapped them onto God’s 10 Commandments, right? So, like just for example, you know. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Obviously, don’t lie to people, don’t deceive people. That’s what that one was about. Well, for me the, the commandment to Thrive for that one, that is, thou shall be real. Right. Don’t lie to other people about who you really are. Don’t lie to yourself about who you really are, right? And I emphasize the importance of being authentic and, and things of that sort, you know how we can increase your happiness, facilitate better relationships, so on, you know. One more example, you know thou shall not steal, obviously theft like, let’s not do this. Let’s not take each other’s goods. But I also think what we try to do is we try to take other people’s missions. Right? So, for that, the commandment is thou shalt master your mission, you know, so we look at other people, we find them inspiring, and we’re like, hey, I want to do that, I’m going to pursue that. And if you want to go general direction, I think that’s fine. But the reality is I think there is this, you know, eggcorn kind of planted within everybody that wants to grow into this mighty oak. And you just gotta just nurture that thing, you know what I mean? Be mindful of it and figure it out and like let that thing just, just kind of get tremendous, you know, so that’s kind of the deal, you know? There are three domains of thriving personal, social, spiritual. Each commandment it’s very sequential in systematics that you have to be successful with early ones to be successful with later ones, you know. So just real brief it’s like. Commandment 4 thou shalt accept myself, right? So, this is talking about unconditional self-acceptance, which particularly I’m referring to is not needing other people’s approval.There are benefits if you like me, and that’s really cool. Do you have to? No, you don’t have to. I don’t need you to like me. But it’s nice. But you don’t have to. Right? So, if I could be OK with wanting, not needing people approval, I have a better shot of being real. Right. I’m not gonna walk around like, Oh no, no. If I say the wrong thing or something, they’re gonna leave. It’s like, no, I’m gonna say what I need to say, obviously being respectful and everything. And if you walk, you walk, that’s cool, but if you don’t, OK. But I’m more likely to be who I am. And then, if I’m real right, as real as I can get, only then will you then be able to get to Commandment 6. Thou shalt love deeply, which is have these relationships that we all crave, that we all want. But when you look at the data, the 20 somethings they don’t have. Their, their, I refer to them in the book as “the loneliest generation.” And that’s not just me saying that you look at the data. I mean it’s like 22% feel like they don’t have any friends. They have no, they don’t feel like they have acquaintances. It’s very, very sad. So that’s kind of where it is, and it just all builds up to mastering your mission, which is doing what you’re supposed to do.
Well, thank you for that description. One thing I would add is based on all of the reading I did about the book. I haven’t read the book yet. I, I read the intro and an excerpt from the book, but it seems to me like you already mentioned you’re, you’re including different sources such as the Scripture, some science in there, and some philosophy. I read someplace that you use some Greek mythology as well. And reference that, as well as some stories from clients, students and other personal stories. So, uh, I’m actually interested to take a look at it, because it’s, it’s interesting how you can. Uh, focus on the 20 something. Because a lot of people, I remember reading some articles saying, hey, this Internet is great, texting is great, and, and all the Facebook stuff is great. However, it’s almost pushing people away from having the in-person interactions and you probably aren’t. I see you nodding your head. That’s part of the reason why people. Feel like they don’t have true friends or even acquaintances because they’re doing everything online and they’re doing everything electronically and not in person as much. So, any other final thoughts on that?
Again, you just kind of look at the science on this one, you know, I mean, we all know this intuitively, right? But the reality is when you look at Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s work, she’s one of the leaders in, you know, positive psychology. And what she finds is that unless you exercise this ability, let’s say, or just give yourself the time to literally look into someone’s eyes. Literally like, do that. What happens is your ability to connect with people withers. It starts to die. It atrophies. Think about how crazy it is, right? So, we know if we don’t exercise right on, muscles atrophy. They get smaller, weaker and like, makes life more difficult, sure. If you don’t exercise your ability to connect with someone on a real, intimate human level. You’re going to start to have a really hard time doing that and the data kind of bearing out. People are having a really hard time connecting when they even have an opportunity to. They don’t even know what how to do this. And like I said, that’s I, you know, I’m very sad by that and I want to help people out.
Well, it sounds like it. I feel your passion. What advice would you give someone trying to break in the field of psychology? Just general advice. Hey, I’m, I’m not sure what this psychology is, but I took a psychology course undergrad. I found it really interesting. Any other advice that you might have for people who want to break into the field?
I’m going to go kind of broad on this one in terms of like what would apply, I’m sure to any discipline. And again, these are things that I didn’t do right. As basic as they are, I didn’t do this was actually talked to people who were doing it, you know, reading a blog or like I read, you know, career paths in psychology, you know, and have like every possible area, you know, this and that. But actually, talk to people, see what’s up, what’s your day-to-day like, you know, I think that’s critical. And the other big thing, and again broad but like so important is think about your like the fit, the personality fits with what you want to do, right? Because the reality is there are certain parts of psychology. It’s not for everybody, like again, like any job, but I’ll just give like just two quick examples. It’s like if you’re, let’s say, low in conscientiousness. All right. And maybe detail is not really your thing, you know, maybe a little scattered, kind of be a little sloppy. That’s fine. I probably maybe wouldn’t do that much research then. Or if you do, you better team up with someone who’s, you know, ultra-conscientious who can maybe kind of catch that maybe you’re more creative. That’s fine. Let’s say you’re again, let’s highly neurotic. Right. So, you get anxious easily, easily. You kind of stay anxious for a while. You can’t kind of calm down. Maybe you shouldn’t see people with, you know, let’s say who do self-harm. Probably going to be a bad fit for you. You know you’re hanging out your family on Sunday and you get a call from someone who’s suicidal. Probably not going to be good for you, not going to be good for them. So, I would say honestly, just understanding who you are. Be honest again. Don’t lie. Thou shalt not lie. Like don’t lie to yourself. What’s your personality like? Talent, treasure, strengths. The whole thing and really consider fit when you’re thinking about career.
Very good advice. At the end of most of our podcasts, we love asking some fun questions, and I’ll start off by asking tell us something unique about yourself.
Uhm, I absolutely love listening to Christian rap.
I find it to be phenomenal. My favorite artist is NF. He’s actually highlighted in Chapter 5 in in the book for thou shalt be real. I’ve seen him four times in concert and he’s just so unbelievably inspiring, really. I mean, the guy walks it, you know? So yeah.
Well, that’s interesting. What’s your favorite term, principle or theory, and why?
I could go, I mean I could go self-determination theory on this one, but I think I’m going to go Putting Big Rocks First. Stephen Covey, you know 7 habits of highly effective people, another book I’m obsessed with, and I work real hard to apply his habits, but just that idea of like the things that matter and literally blocking it. Into your schedule 1st and letting life work around that has its what, a significant impact on my life. So, I would say, yeah, big rocks first is a game changer.
OK, this one might take you a couple seconds to think about it. I’m going to put you on the spot. What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?
Oof, I’ve learned in my life so far. Uhm, let me see here. I guess I’m going to go with listen to that inner voice. You know, call it what you want. I don’t know what you want to call it kind of thing, you know, we’re all going to call it something different, but uhm. Man, I don’t know a time when I’ve listened and regretted that. As scary as it is, ’cause there are times where it’s saying do this and I’m like, are you kidding me? I’m not doing that, you know? But it’s been right. You know, so just hang on, hang on tight, ’cause it’s an adventure.
Very good advice. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
No, I mean, maybe just say honestly, keep it an open mind, you know, as you’re exploring, don’t go in thinking you got it. I’m going to say you probably don’t. And that’s not a diss. It’s just like I didn’t, you know, it’s like I went to St. John’s, I thankfully had an open mind. Like I said, I never did really any research before, you know, linked up with Dr. D and Dr. Terjesen and they were doing it and I was open to it. And I was just like, wow, this is awesome, you know? So be open. Just be open.
OK, kind of a last fun question is if you had the time and the money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
Without question, send my family and I to Alaska for like a month. Without question, let’s do it. Let’s have lunch on a glacier.
Right, right. Have you been?
No, no, we. We were going to this summer and then some other things happened, but uhm, it is 100% on that list that will happen, I promise.
That sounds like a fun time. Is there anything else that you’d like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
No, I, I think we, I think we covered it.
Well, Jeff, I really appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and your journey with us. I, I look forward to reading more about the book. Again, thank you for your time.
Thank you so much, Bradley.