Michael Pipich has always been interested in the field of psychology. As long as he can remember, he has found people fascinating and always wondered about their personalities, quirks, and the how and why behind their behaviors and interactions with others. He recalls one weekend when his older brother came home from college with a psych 101 book, and he spent the whole weekend looking through his book and admitted that was his first “act of academic nerdiness.” Like his older brother, he applied for admission to Loyola Marymount University and when he got accepted, he declared psychology as his major right away.
Michael has been in the field of psychology for over 30 years and has treated patients with a wide range of mental disorders and relationship problems. Michael currently works as a marriage and family therapist at the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence which has two locations in Colorado (one in Denver and the other in DTC/Greenwood Village). He has been featured on television, radio, and in print media on a variety of topics and has become a national speaker and writer on bipolar disorder. He book, “Owning Bipolar: How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder” (Citadel Press, 2018) has become an important book and reference in the field of bipolar treatment. In this podcast interview, Michael opens up about why he wrote the book and recalls his academic and professional journey in hopes that others will benefit from his advice and suggestions regarding selecting psychology graduate schools and programs.
Michael also discusses the licensure requirements in the state of California regarding getting your Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) license (which used to be called the Marriage Family Child Care [MFCC] license). He explains that it really starts with the graduate school you select and attend. In his case, the program at California State, Fullerton provided the classes necessary for the MFCC (now LMFT license). Beyond that, he had to accrue over 3,000 plus supervised hours for which any licensed clinician (PhD, LCSW, MD, etc.) could sign off on. Then, he had to pass a written examination and then pass an oral examination. To learn more about his experience getting his LMFT in California, tune in to our discussion around 22 minutes into the podcast interview.
Michael enjoys music, playing guitar, and has even dabbled in music composition. He also enjoys the outdoors (hiking, skiing, water sports) and believes staying active is important for a healthy life, especially if you are in a profession where you are helping people. He has been married for 32 years and has two adult children who he really loves and admires.
Interests and Specializations
Michael Pipich treats a wide range of mental disorders and has been working with families, adults, and adolescents for over 30 years in office and via online teletherapy. His therapy style is highly interactive, and his background involves using psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, and existential theories to better understand and discuss presenting concerns with his patients. He has become known for his work with bipolar disorder and has written a well-known book on the topic.
Bachelor of Science (BS), Psychology (1983); Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA.
Master of Science (MS), Clinical/Community Psychology (1986); California State University, Fullerton, Fullerton, CA.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Michael Pipich, LMFT at the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence
Michael Pipich, LMFT at Psychology Today
Owning Bipolar: Psychology Today Blog
Breakthrough with Michael Pipich (Podcast)
Owning Bipolar Disorder with Michael Pipich, LMFT (Podcast)
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 Michael Pipich to the show. Michael received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Loyola Marymount University and his master’s degree in clinical/community psychology from California State University, Fullerton. Michael has been in the field of psychology for more than 30 years. Currently he is a licensed marriage and family therapist at the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey and discuss his book and here his advice for those interested in the field of psychology. Michael, welcome to our podcast.
Thank you, Brad, for inviting me today.
I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us. We’re looking forward to hearing a little bit more about your history and some of your experience and you you’ve had some interesting experiences as well, but to start us off, can you remember when you first became interested in psychology?
Actually, yeah, I. I think in in looking back it’s probably something that I was always interested. In in in a sense. Even before I, I knew that, right? Because even as a as, as, as a child, I just always found people fascinating and adults interesting. In particular, when my parents would have their friends over or whatever you know, it’s just kind of interested in their personalities and their quirks and the and how they spoke and interacted and whatever. So, you know, reflecting back, I think it was something that was always kind of maybe the part of my I don’t know DNA if you will but in terms of a field of study, I do recall my older brother six years older than me coming home from, from college, and he went to Loyola Marymount as well, which is part of the reason why? How I wound up there. But he brought to his psych 101 book home over weekend.
And uhm, I, I guess you know, it was my first. Uh, act of academic nerdiness. I spent the weekend looking through his psych 101 book. I don’t know if he did, but I did that weekend and I just found it all a bit fascinating. I remember like the section on perception and the uh, the, the images, that kind of go back and forth and. And already looking at all this stuff and I’m. Like boy, you can really study this and, uhm. Now the next question, how do you make money doing, doing something with that’s a more involved kind of endeavor to figure out, but uh, I really kind of sort of fell in love with it and, and really wanted to pursue it and prior to that I was kind of interested in the law and a bit and through high school I thought maybe I would study history and, and, and then apply for law school. But when I applied for admission to Loyola Marymount, I. I you know. And got accept that I declared psychology right away, so that’s how that happened.
Well, you kind of led me to my next question and you almost answered it a little bit with your brother going to Loyola. Is that the main reason why you went, or did you look at other schools too before deciding to go to Loyola? Tell us a little bit about that process and how you made that decision.
Sure, well I was I was more familiar with it because of, of, of his attending Loyola and I kind of had took an opportunity while I was in high school to take a day from high school and go there. And kind of follow him around and, uhm, absorb the college experience and that was a little shocking. But I went to a Catholic High School. I went to public school K through 8 and then a Catholic High School. So, I wanted to kind of continue sort of the Catholic education kind of tradition as well, and I grew up in Orange County, California, so I also didn’t want to be too far from home. Too close or too far, uhm, so it all of those kind of factors kind of came together.
And so is all those reasons. And after Loyola, I see that you attended California State University, Fullerton for your master’s in science. I, I believe, was clinical and community psychology. Were you considering other schools and if so, why did you choose CSU Fullerton?
Right, so at that time, yes, I did consider other schools and in fact other programs too for a period of time I was considering pursuing a graduate degree in neuropsychology and had some applications for some universities that had that that had that particular discipline. But after just kind of a period of, of discernment and some work that I did in community mental Health Center in Tacoma, WA, I was a member of the what, what is called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps which is a lay organization and to do volunteer work and live in community at that time, again, I was working in a community mental Health Center so I became more familiar with what it was to do therapy. To diagnose and treat people from that from that perspective, and so I began to sort of turn towards that, that specific area of, of psychology and, uhm, when I investigated Cal State Fullerton’s program, it really had the kind of elements that I was interested in. Uhm, sort of weighted towards psychodiagnostics, psychometrics and then various approaches. Theoretically to psychotherapy from the from the behavioral side to the analytical side and and some points in between. So, I just felt like it was really a good program, and it was a it’s a small program, it was at that time, which was also an attractive element to it. So yes, I did look at other programs, but it all kind of came down to what I was needing at that time, and I certainly don’t have any regrets.
Well, it sounds like it, it sounds like it was a good fit for you, and you were selective in that it had to satisfy your needs and what you were looking at as well. You mentioned that you started doing some therapy and psychoanalytics and a lot of time when I speak to a lot of guests, they recommend, hey, if you’re if you’re not sure if you want to go the academic route or the practical side and own your own business or go into therapy, counseling, uh, that route you need to try it and then experience that and then quickly find out if you enjoy it afterwards. Any other thoughts on, uhm, you know for people that are considering hey, should I become a practitioner basically or should I go with the academic route? Any thoughts or advice on how to better figure out which route to go.
Well, yeah, I, I, I think there’s a couple of things to consider, certainly. There could be overlap as well. I mean I I spent four years as as a part time instructor at the graduate level too while I was practicing, so there’s definitely can be overlap, but I understand you’re looking maybe perhaps for a primary focus, of course. One of the things that this is another reason, by the way, that I, I chose Cal State Fullerton and some similar programs in California offered, uhm, similar curriculum geared towards licensure, so I, I do think that you could conceivably find a program that would help you to become that practitioner to fulfill some of the requirements for licensure in your respective state. Uhm, but at the same time kind of keep an eye towards research and academics as well. Until perhaps that you know you kind of sort that out. Ideally, sure you would want to do that going into a graduate program. But it, but if you’re still sort of on the fence, but you know that you want to benefit from whatever a particular program’s curriculum may offer you. Along with maybe some flexibility in terms of where that can lead you on a career path, that’s probably something that you might want to keep in mind as you kind of discern which, which school, which program could, could help you, uhm, to have maybe a couple of doors open compared to others that may be more narrowly focused.
Good advice and good suggestions. The other thing that a lot of people may consider is if you are seeking a program that has any labs available and you can become involved in lab work and kind of behind the scenes of what you do in psychology, that’s another thing that a lot of our guests recommend as well. When you, you mentioned that you did consider other, other programs and you selected the program, that was a right fit for you. In hindsight however, would you do anything different in terms of that process related to searching for graduate schools and programs, and if so, kind of explain that for us?
Well, you know it, it, it. I have to say it kind of turned out well for me. And I, I often look back at my years in Graduate School and the training, in particular, but also the experience of it. Aside from content, you know, in therapy we talk about content versus process. Right now, content is what a patient may be telling you. Process is the deeper kind of meaning of that and what that experience is like and so forth. I think similar things can kind of apply to uhm Graduate School in terms of what you learned, but how you learn it, who you learned with what the environment is about and what how you benefit more fully. But so, I think it worked out pretty well for me. I, I, I was fortunate to, to I think be able to make that decision of between, for example, neuropsychology and uh, and the more, uh, psychotherapeutic approach if you will. And, and I, I, I do think though, that you know as I look back and is was there anything that else, I could do a little bit further? You know, I one thing that that I, I kind of put aside and, and certainly did after my master’s program, is any consideration of, of a PhD program in clinical psychology. The neuropsychology programs were PhD programs that would not masters programs that I was familiar with at that time in neuropsychology. It’s really doctoral. Uhm, but you know, I kind of I wanted to kind of start small and frankly I just wanted to get to work. I don’t wanna spend too many more years in school. I felt like I had already done a lot. Looking back, I mean, it just feels like a very small narrow period of time, but at that time, it certainly felt a lot bigger in my, my life. And so probably would have looked more into doctoral programs rather than just kind of going right to the, to the master’s program. That’s probably something I would have wanted to do more of an active comparison. But again, it. For everything else in my life, it turned out just fine.
Sure, sure. No, good advice. I’m, I’m curious, how did you decide on focusing on clinical and community psychology for your masters? A lot of people, especially when they’re in undergrad looking for masters or, or going the doctoral route and going into a doctoral program straight into a doctoral program, have no idea. But where do I go? What do I do? You know, does it just fall in your lap or you kind of find yourself you where you’re most interested? Tell us how you decided to focus on those two areas.
Yeah, I, I think there is a little bit of fall into your lap, I think. Kind of be open to uh, from the things that you know, surprises that we couldn’t possibly plan on plan on the unexpected is, is probably a good way to, to, to think a little bit about some of how things kind of present themselves to you that you may not otherwise expect. But I think specifically to your question about why clinical as opposed to like counseling psychology degree for example. And I have nothing against anybody else’s program or for that matter of social work or wherever you get your masters in that kind of leads you to the similar, uhm, uh career path but, but for me I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on the importance of diagnostics, and in this particular program, though it was masters level, we learned quite a bit about psychometrics testing and, and differential diagnosis and other, I think very important ideas, concepts and techniques in order to better conceptualize individuals as they would enter that the psychotherapy treatment experience. And, and so becoming more familiar with the DSM, I forget, I think it was three at the time. Maybe 2, 2 1/2 I don’t know.
It was back in them days. But, uh, but again, I always thought it was really important to really understand how best to conceptualize that individual clinically. As you kind of develop a more dynamic or personal or individual understanding of that person’s life story. And again, I, I, I really thought that the classes, particularly in the first year of that two-year program, really helped me to do that.
And I was getting back to that, I had one final question about CS Cal State Fullerton. What were some of your fondest memories now that you look back at the time you were probably so focused? And then, in hindsight, you can probably. Oh boy, I really enjoyed A, B or C. You know? What were some of your fondest memories?
Uhm, really the people. You know the, the first I, I can tell you thinking, thinking a little bit back on that first day of graduate school it was. Here I, I thought I had to be all professionally, I kind of dressed up a little bit. Eventually torn jeans were, you know, more appropriate. But you know, I. Want to make a good first impression Graduate School and I showed up to Cal State Fullerton not realizing I needed more time because the first day of school everybody shows up. So, I had to park several blocks away and I think it was 110 degrees that day in Fullerton. September is the hottest month; I think in Southern California. So, I walked to class. I got there pretty not making a very good impression. Uhm and then being late and so forth and then sitting down and getting to know my 12 other classmates and Professor and the next interesting part of that first day was the syllabus got passed out and, and there was a kind of like groaning and laughter all at the same time among the 13 of us that got the syllabus and, and one of my classmates next to me just said how the hell are we supposed to do this, you know? It’s impossible, It’s one class, we had others to come. You know how is that a fond memory? Well, it’s, it’s a fond memory because we did do it. Uh, we did accomplish, and I think it’s one of the great experiences of Graduate School for anybody who goes through any kind of graduate program, right? That it, it. It feels so impossible. And it feels so big and it is big when you’re in the middle of it when you start it for sure, like. How am I going to do this? This is impossible or it feels so big and undoable. But with the support of, of really good faculty and certain ones, I kind of has to, you know, mentor a little bit and I think they mentored all of us one way or another. Their availability, the availability of my classmates that we could support, and work together really made such a huge difference. And when you come to that graduation, it’s just so meaningful and so powerful. And you take that with you, because here I’m I’m. I graduated. I was 25. And so, it was not just, you know, training very intensive training, but an experience of growth. Uhm, that you know helped shape my life.
You mentioned the faculty. Did you want to call out anybody as very influential or who played a major role in your development as, when you went through the master’s program?
Well, I, I think all the faculty I, I think it anybody experience you know there’s certain professors and teachers that you kind of connect with better than others. I mean, that’s just that’s how it goes. And, and that’s all well and good. Uhm, you know it, it’s been so long and, and I have not reconnected with. With members of the faculty, or for that matter, my classmates. I’ve every I think way back when I kind of did a Facebook search for some of these folks to see where they were at and so forth. Uh, but Dr. Pamela Scabbia was uh, I think, uh, one individual that was very influential, I think, for all of us really and she was a PhD and MD. So, talk about like me more like just wanted to go through two years of graduate study and get out and start working. And she was a brilliant individual who went through that program that master’s program as we did years before. So I think that also had, uhm, kind of a, a unique quality that we all sort of gravitated towards, that she knew exactly what we had gone through and at the same time had achieved a level that that, you know, we could to, one way or another, aspire towards if not all the degrees that she had hanging on her wall that she made it through and…
And through that experience you know was able to build upon it. And I think that in itself was pretty inspiring.
It sounds like it I, I know that I have a, a few people that were influential in my undergrad and, and graduate experience as well. Do you recall what you did immediately after graduating with your master’s degree?
Yeah, the first job that I applied for, uhm, was to work with a local Community College district program. They had a, uh, a neuro psychology rehab program through the Community College district. And uhm, so my first job was a neuropsychiatrist where I under the, the supervision of, of one of their neuropsychologists administered those neuro psych tests to brain injured individuals who were, among other things, looking for particular educational opportunities and how to tailor. Uh, their, their needs to the those particular programs and, and so I did that for a while and that was that was a great experience, but it was. It was limited to testing. And I wanted to do more therapy application and from there I started working in different adolescent treatment programs that were psychiatric and chemical dependency oriented. I think it’s an old term now, dual diagnosis, hopefully. A term I really never liked it, but it was a great experience working with kids and their families and, and it helped me among other things, to work towards that license which is now LMFT but at the time MFCC in California. Marriage Family Child Care counselor and I was able to, to work full time and to obtain my clinical supervised hours towards that license.
Well, I’m glad you brought that up, because for those of you in the audience member is joining for the first time. There are so many acronyms in psychology, and LMFT is one of them. Licensed marriage and family therapist. And as you mentioned that it went by a different acronym before then. And when did you decide that you wanted to go for that licensure and then kind of bring us through those steps? You don’t have to give us you know specifics, but I believe, correct me if I’m wrong, I’m showing my ignorance here, but I believe certain states have different requirements depending on the licensure and so when you received your LMFT was it while you were still in California, or was it when you went to Colorado?
It, it was when I was in California.
OK, all right.
Uhm, so it, it, it really did start in Graduate School, the, the program at Cal State Fullerton, uh, did provide the classes necessary for the MFCC now LMFT license, so, so that that made that decision pretty easy again, as opposed to perhaps furthering the graduate education towards a doctorate because it was just kind of teed up that way. So, so I didn’t have to really do much beyond those supervised hours. Uh, I, I pretty much have. I thought I had maybe all my classes. Maybe I needed to, to take a course or two in the Community, much like we do, you know, continuing education, but everything was pretty much set up for me to do that. And so, from there it was about getting supervised hours and just about any facility that I worked in, and I worked in a couple different ones along the way. Would have if we, we didn’t need a LMFT or MFCC necessarily to sign our license. Any licensed clinician, PhD, LCSW, MD, for example, could sign those hours. So, so you collect those hours to the total of 3000. And it’s always good. I learned to submit more because for some reason some of them get excluded. I don’t know what always why, but. If that’s if that’s really a thing or just kind of a hoop to jump through or whatever, the case may be. But so, I had 3000 plus hours that I submitted. And then in California, where I got the license, it was a written exam and, and then you pass that, it’s an oral exam and at the time I think it was roughly 75% passing on a rate on the written exam and it was under 50% so. I think it may have been 40-45%, something like that passing for the first that you’re on your first time on the oral exam. So, I was able to pass both of those and then received my coveted license in 1990.
Right, so kind of a summary high level summary for everybody in California and it may change from, it may be different from state to state, but back in when you were going for a licensure, you had to have the education the classes meet those requirements and then you had to get enough supervised hours where people would sign off on so many hours and you mentioned about 3000 hours. And then you had to go through a written test and an oral test, and then after that then they can confer that license to you. And that license is only good in that state. Or tell us a little bit more about that. I’m playing devil’s advocate here. I know the answer, but I want I want you to kind of go with me for a second for those who are, are interested in getting licensure.
Yeah, so that’s true. The, the when you obtain a license in any state that that license applies to that state and different states have different rules and. And certainly, since COVID and early 2020, I mean that’s a whole topic, and unto itself in terms of telehealth, teletherapy, which I’ve been doing for years before that. But then it you know certain states come through the pandemic sort of because of emergency declarations and so forth, they have changed their Interstate policies or, or just relaxed them for a while so that you could do you provide services across state lines and some of those orders have been rescinded. So now we’re kind of scrambling back to see what state you can practice in, uhm, using telehealth or not, but, but generally speaking, that’s, that’s certainly true about California. It’s true here in Colorado. When I moved here in 2006, or actually, actually prior to the actual move, but anticipating the move. Uhm, I was able to obtain licensure in Colorado as an LMFT using my California license and, uhm, but I had to take what they call in Colorado, the jurisprudence exam for LMFT licensure, which basically means you understand the laws in Colorado. So, I was able to obtain materials online to study for that, and at that time, I don’t know, they may have changed it or modified it some somewhat, but certainly at that time in 2006, uh, my, my license in California and I think it’s true for a lot of states. They kind of look at that license in California as there’s a pretty, pretty good thing to because of everything that you have to do to obtain that licensure. It kind of ticks all the boxes if you will, from needed classes to supervise hours. And then the, the two not one, but two exams that you have to pass so, so it carries a lot of weight too, doesn’t it? And so, with that license and the exam here in Colorado, which I passed. Uhm, then I was conferred a license here in Colorado.
And that’s a nice segue to my next question. And you mentioned 2006, so I assume my next question was when and how did you get involved with the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence? I would guess around 2006, otherwise you wouldn’t have gotten for your licensure and so tell us how you found how you found that opportunity. And while you’re doing that, I’m going to go ahead and share my screen and show the Colorado Center website.
Oh OK, excellent actually. I’ve been with the Colorado Center now for three years, so when I came here originally I was briefly in a group practice and then I went out on my own for a solo practice for several years, and that was the time, primarily when I was working with adults and adolescents with various clinical disorders, but I started my emphasis on bipolar disorder and started writing that book. But I came here about three years ago, in part because I’m a little tired of just that solo practice working by myself and I really wanted to join a group again and, and have the experience of having some excellent colleagues to, to work with, to share our resources and ideas together and consultation, but also have fun together and form friendships that that are that are really important in rejuvenating as, as you do the sometimes real difficult work of psychotherapy.
And, and so, as you can see on the screen, you have two locations, so the Colorado Center has one location in Denver and another one in Greenwood Village. And which one do you practice? Or do you practice at both?
Greenwood Village primarily.
So, tell us a little bit more about. OK you, you, you actually started at the Colorado Center for Clinical Excellence. And then you started writing a book around the same time, so that’s a good transition to talk a little bit more about your book, which I believe is right here. Yep, down at the bottom of your, uh, I think this is your, you know, About Page for, for you on the Colorado Center website and then you have your book down in the bottom right. So, tell us how did you come up with the idea to write the book? And tell us a little bit more about the book.
Yeah, I’d be happy to. Uhm, actually again, I’ve been here at Colorado Center for about 3 years. I started the, the project of, of the book towards actually writing it and getting it published right around 2011-2012.
And so. And, and even a little bit before that, in the sense that I in my practice, uhm, started to receive referrals from some of the local inpatient psychiatric facilities of young patients, adolescents and young adults with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. And uhm, not something I was seeking out to do per SE, but they found me. So that’s fine and such is the way of life sometimes where it you know, serendipity kind of catches up with you. And uhm, and so in working with these individuals, I always felt like I had some familiarity with bipolar disorder or manic depression. It’s been called that for a very long time prior to, uhm, but as I kind of got into working with and especially with adolescents and interacting with parents and so forth, you know I began to kind of see that maybe there is so much more about bipolar disorder than I knew. Uhm, and, and maybe that sort of lack of understanding awareness or whatever is, is somewhat shared through the, the therapeutic community. And I mentioned in my book owning bipolar in in the in the sort of introduction or preface, one of those two sections that, I think was preface. Uhm, had a particular moment with a with a young person and his mother and, and just and I, I talk about that in in that section of the book, but just really quickly. Uhm, I could see that she was really nervous that in spite of the fact that her son had done so well in the program and was taking the necessary medications and so forth and following treatment plan as he as he needed to do, she just felt like she was really behind in the process. So, she really didn’t understand what this condition is all about and what’s required, not just in the short term, but potentially for the rest of this person’s life and what to do as a parent is a loving, caring parent who wasn’t in, uhm, necessarily all of the treatment while he was in the hospital. Maybe certainly their parent groups and support groups and things like that, but still not intimately involved with that treatment. And, and, and, and feeling a little bit left behind and kind of looking to me for some guidance on that. And, and so that experience along with others. Uhm, along at that time, really sort of was a, a wakeup call to me to, to really familiarize myself with the available data. And understand what this disorder is all about really, what the what the unique features of it. And as I was doing that, I recalled Brad early in my training. Uh, that. And I heard this kind of more or less from different individuals, including people that I, I, I really admired to, to this day would, would say I. Still admire their, their clinical acumen and, and their grace in in professional practice, but I think was a kind of a conventional wisdom which I don’t think was very wise that all you needed to do for people with bipolar disorders get him on medicine. And that that psychoanalysis, or for that matter any of the various talk therapies psychotherapies are not effective. Uhm, now the truth in that I think comes from the fact that from a medical standpoint, dealing with bipolar disorder up until like the 70s and 80s where lithium became, really, the prominent treatment of choice and still is considered kind of the gold standard treatment for bipolar disorder, uhm, was, I guess, so revolutionary, if you will, that it just sort of supplanted any kind of therapy, including talk therapies, psychotherapies, and so forth. But it always kind of bugged me. Because one of the things that I always noticed that if, if medicine was so effective how come people go off of it? With bipolar disorders, if it’s so good and it helps them to stabilize, which it generally does, you know why would they not want that? So fast forward to that time, at about 2011 2012, I really was interested in that dynamic among others, and so I began to kind of gather data and then also I started a website and a Facebook page at that time. And invite people to come to share their stories, which people often do are free to do it because they know it can help other people. And then you meant right around 2013, I also had a podcast during that period of time which you can still find on my website. I those shows are still there and, and, and I also kind of invited people onto the show to talk about their bipolar experiences. And collecting all of that together, I formulated oh, there it is. Who’s that young guy? You had a show that didn’t. No thank you for doing it. So, pulling all of that in, aggregating all of those experiences and data and so forth, I started to write the book and alongside of that developed a clinical presentation which I still do for groups for therapists to train. For better diagnostics and treatment for bipolar disorder and include a 3-phase approach to bipolar therapy, which I think is adaptable to anybody’s therapy orientation but really highlights the specific features that people go through in three phases when they go through there bipolar treatment journey. And uhm, I called the book owning bipolar because it’s nobody’s fault that they have bipolar disorder. But I think that ultimately, it’s one’s responsibility to try to understand that the best you can and, and collaborate where you can appropriately with your treatment providers and, and hopefully family members too to understand and to work together to take that responsibility and have, uh, a productive happy life.
I’m sharing my screen once again and I’m sharing a YouTube video. You have multiple YouTube videos out there and this one in particular is about Owning Bipolar Disorder with Michael Pipich, LMFT. The name of the book I, I didn’t even say it yet is “Owning Bipolar: How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder” it’s by Citadel Press, 2018. So, if you’re more interested in in the book, go ahead and search that. You can also see more of your YouTube videos and this one, like I said, is mostly focused on this. You also have an intro video, just kind of introducing yourself. I think this is kind of put together I assume for some of your clients or potential clients coming to get to know you a little bit more, you also have another one here in 2018 about the same time that you went and got the book published, How Patients and Families Can Take Control of Bipolar Disorder and then it shows that website Owning Bipolar dot com. And so, like you said, I had to bring this up because it, it it’s kind of nice to see some of the podcasts and fellow podcasters and a lot of this was geared toward helping those who are struggling with that bipolar. And as you said, you had a lot of guests come on and, and talk and share their stories with you on that podcast as well. So, I wanted to share that with, with everybody in the audience so. Any, any other future plans for other books or any other things that you’re working on? I’m going to. I’m going to kind of go next after this into your collaboration with the American Psychiatric Association to perform some clinical trials. And you mentioned the DSM 3 back then, and I my mother, for those of you who’ve been following the podcast, my mom is a licensed psychologist and I remember seeing that big thick book and I think it was a DSM-1 or DSM-2 at the time. So, it’s come a long way. But any other projects that you’re working on right now?
Well over the years too, I worked with injured workers. Uhm, who have uh workers compensation claims, so uhm I’m, I’m, I’m also kind of focusing on that particular aspect. Uh, another uh, I think community that’s uh, underserved, frankly. But perhaps you can say that generally about mental health. But, but I, I certainly like to focus on their sort of unique aspects of one day working and being productive and then getting hurt and having their life change in a moment. So that’s that that’s another feature of work that we do here at the Colorado Center. As far as bipolar disorder, that’s an ongoing thing I’ve, I’ve written several, I think close to or over 30 articles that have been published in different places on specific aspects of bipolar disorder and, and treatment. And so, I’m, I’m certainly going to continue that project. And there’s, there’s some of them there on the website.
Yep, so for those of you who are listening as opposed to viewing, I’m, I’m sharing his media page and he has some recent articles, recent interviews and then other archived shows and articles on this website as well. He also has his about page with the Colorado Center as well. And so you can search for that and we have some similar web articles and professional articles and interviews there and then the final page is of course your website MichaelPipich.com and here’s your bio and it talks about the treatment areas that you’ve focused on in the in the past and continue to focus on now, your associations and then some of your own statements about how you conduct therapy, what’s important to you, and so I wanted to share that with the audience because it does give a lot of overview of, of what you are doing, your media, and then of course, focusing on bipolar network and in the book a little bit more and a way to contact you as well. So wanted to share that with everybody, the one that I mentioned earlier is the DSM-5. So, I, I read somewhere that you were selected as a collaborator to investigate some, I think you were performing clinical trials for the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, otherwise known as DSM, and it’s in its 5th edition. So that’s why it’s DSM-5. So, tell me a little bit more about this.
Right, so, UM, few years before the publication of the 5th edition, the APA was reaching out to a quite a number of individuals. Somehow, we found each other and asked if I wanted to participate. Uhm, and, uh, I certainly had to supply them with, you know, my CD and, and so forth to kind of get final approval. And fortunately, I did in in in in a volunteer capacity. And it was, it was a really great experience. What they were looking for was clinical practitioners like myself who would interact with patients who obviously consented, and they had all the consents necessary to do what we were doing. And agreed to be a part of basically these field trials, and in this case, this was specific to mood disorders and so I had some patients who had diagnosed mood disorders agree to participate. And between what I did some of the work online, they did some of the work online to kind of compare an initial diagnosis like major depressive disorder, single episode, something like that, and, and then what kind of treatment were you applying? And then at some points along the way, did the diagnosis, the treatment kind of match in terms of, you know, targeting symptoms? And, and how were you progressing, you know, was there symptom reduction or did other symptoms kind of pop up, that sort of thing, and between what I kind of collected as data and some of the things that the patients themselves would enter so you can get their sort of subjective experience so it wasn’t all just coming from me, right? In terms of my observations, but also did that align with their own subjective experiences provided certain data points that the, the, the APA integrated and if you actually go to the DSM in the back, you’ll see my name, but obviously many, many other people you know who were also involved, I was one of many, but, but you know, very honored to have been a part of that process.
So, I almost forgot to ask you because you’re a practitioner. If you were in therapy, could you describe your ideal therapist?
Uhm, I think it starts with, uhm, the ability to listen and strive for understanding. Which I think is, is key to just any successful relationship. But it’s really important in therapy. I certainly appreciate, as I certainly hope my patients do, the, the inquiry, the sort of initial evaluation piece to really understand what, what may be going on from a clinical standpoint, but also again from their real personal standpoint. You know what, what, what is it about, uhm, an individual that makes them unique and their story unique to them and what’s important to them. And certainly, that’s what I’ve experienced as a therapy patient. Uhm, is my sense of ideal therapist is somebody who is really interested in what I’m interested in, that seeks to understand what’s important to me. Not, not to necessarily judge that right there later on down the line here may be some discussions about healthy versus unhealthy, or you know or, or more, maybe even a deeper moral kind of examination of conscience. But, but to really understand what is valuable to that person, uhm, I think it’s really important as a therapist and certainly my experience is a therapy patient is that that’s communicated to me, so it’s not just somebody who’s listening. Obviously, people can listen, but, but they’re active in really understanding and even maybe teasing out a bit what I value, you know, even, even if even if. I think that it’s. For some reason other people. Don’t agree with that or, or I think it’s super important and other people don’t, or it’s important to me and maybe ’cause for that it’s silly. Yeah, I think such things are important, whatever the case may be that all those judgments are set aside and really those values are appreciated and examined, and then as we go forward, processed more towards a better understanding and growth.
OK, so I asked you what the ideal therapist looks like. What’s the most challenging aspect of being an LMFT? And it might be the same that you just said, but if it is, can you think of anything else that is challenging as an LMFT?
Uhm, you know, I would say that for me for my experience, I’ll talk about therapy first. Working with families, and I’m not talking about exclusively couples. Couples work is family work for sure, but larger families. And certainly when I work with young people, adolescents and, uhm, and young adults who are the, who, where it’s appropriate to work with their parents and other family members, uhm is, I think, presents unique challenges partly because the more people you bring into a family process, the more you have different opinions, different ideas. And all of those have to be as I mentioned before, taken into account and respected and so forth, but how you kind of come to some sort of understanding, if not agreement, because you can’t get everybody to agree all the time, right? That wouldn’t be a family. If you could have really that be kind of weird, but you know and how do you get to really under a mutual sense of understanding and, and a commitment towards working together, I think is, is very often a complicated and has its different challenges along the way. Aside from that, I, I really think. Uhm, and I and I would say this is probably true with just every, anybody in health care, particularly private practice, is that the business aspect of doing therapy is challenging. Managing a practice, uhm, and, and doing everything it takes to, to make it viable financially. It’s not something you learn in Graduate School, you hear about it, but you know it, it’s something that that that many people like myself have to kind of learn along the way, and there’s some Hard Knocks along the way as far as that goes, yeah.
Yeah, you’re not alone. Other guests have said you either are forced to learn how to do it, how to manage that practice, or you just find somebody who can do that. And, and, and that is part of the aspect that you don’t really think about. Oh, I’m so gung ho. I want to be practitioner. I want to be in there. I want to be a counselor, an LMFT, whatever, but then you forget about the aspect, aspect of the business side of that endeavor. So, tell us something unique about yourself.
Uhm, well I don’t know how unique, but I do enjoy, uh. And have enjoyed in my life other activities that I think kind of in some way contribute to my professional life as well. I I enjoy music I enjoy being part of music, I sang in choirs for years and play guitar and dabbled in music composition. I enjoy outdoors and, and, uh, and a great state for that sort of thing. And, uh, I love hiking and skiing and water sports when I can. Yeah, so I. I think it’s, it’s certainly important for healthy life. But it’s really necessary, particularly when you’re in a profession where you’re helping people or trying to. And, and, and you need that have achieved that balance. And pursue you know your, your own well-being and I’ve been very blessed to be married, to the same woman, for 32 years and have two adult children who I really love and admire and, and, and that really helps to round my life. So, I don’t know if that’s unique, but, but those are the things that that that really keep me going.
All of those combined make it unique to you, so yeah, thank you. I had a couple other fun questions at the end here that I’ll ask, but I wanted to ask one other one. Is there anything else that you wish you had known about psychology ahead of time before choosing this career path?
Anything that you have known about psychology, that I didn’t?
Yeah, uhm, I kind of had the sense that psychology, uhm, is a is a is a pretty varied kind of field when you start or a or an area of study that can be really applied to other areas. Uhm, I wasn’t aware of, of how useful it could be in your own personal life. And so maybe that’s one piece of the two that the, the journey in understanding human behavior that seems to be something that’s taking in place around you. But what really is going on is what’s inside of you. And I think how, uhm, in in studying and working with people, it really kind of brings to light one’s own personal journey, one’s own conflicts. Uhm, and the kinds of things that I think ultimately, we have to address within ourselves. Yeah, you know the, the, the, the idea of transference and countertransference, for example and it’s kind of an obvious example of how that can be pervasive in therapy and requires constant examination. But like you mentioned, like for me, what, what’s an ideal therapist? I can tell you, I’ve been a therapy patient ’cause I think every therapist should be, at one time or another, or maybe different points throughout his or her lifespan. So that was something that I kind of came to understand on their side and, and I would just say, you know, for, for your audience, you know, expect your own sort of journey along the way, and I don’t know how much you can be really prepared for it other than be prepared to be surprised what you learn.
Very good advice. I ask all of my guests this question. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
Uhm, I, you know, I’ve always gravitated towards the, the psychodynamic psychoanalytic sort of area. Uhm, and it, and it, and it cost a fortune. Like I said, we had professors with different, uhm, presentations and points of view, which I and I think that kind of diverse, unless you’re going for like a PhD in Psychoanal analysis, right? Or something very specific like that. Most of the programs, certainly on master’s level, I think do best when they provide a diverse kind of set of theories. And then you just sort of wind-up gravitating to whatever I think feels right for you. Uh, that’s what that’s what’s felt right for me and at Cal State Fullerton in particular, at that time, there was a lot of emphasis on object relations theory, which, which I kind of picked up, picked up and ran with it, but then kind of looked at some of the other sort of Neo Freudian and, uhm, Jungian and other kinds of points of view with regard to that whole psychoanalytic, but kind of now I kind of talk about it as psychodynamic and existential. And. And that’s, that’s the point of view that I typically work within, and I think it’s important to understand other theories and techniques that kind of come out that and to be a little bit open and flexible to the kinds of things that you think in the moment may be really useful. As it presents itself in, in, in, in in therapy, when you’re working at it, but I’d like to conceptualize people in terms of their, for example, their family of origin, their early experiences. And, and, and think kind of in terms of how, uhm, in there in there, whether it’s because I work with adolescents as I mentioned, but also through adult life, how people come to certain conflicts within themselves or interpersonally in their in their relationships at work, wherever they encounter people and situations which could actually part of the term trigger, you know, those unresolved conflicts from the past and how they may be reminiscent of things that are unresolved. And, and, and, and that certainly I think happens in trauma too, in a big way. But to, to sort of be aware of that, to be able to help person to deal with crisis, but then also to look deeper into that in terms of how perhaps earlier conflicts and issues and unresolved issues in their life. Now are kind of presented or represented in some way. How we can kind of work with that and, and heal that part of that person’s trauma or, or unresolved issues in some way that that gives them you know, more peace, more joy and, and more of what they’re looking for in their life goals.
OK, do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
I, depending on where you’re at. I think if you’re entering into college, certainly if you go to a four-year university or if you go two years for junior college Community College and then, but you still want to pursue that degree, uhm be open to different things and you might wanna be a therapist or you might want to be a teacher or researcher or maybe go even somewhere outside of psychology if you will and just feel like it’s a good basis for any other field of study. I would just say be open. That’s a time for discovery. It’s, it’s a discovery of the field, but it’s also self-discovery. And then if you’re considering Graduate School, do take some time to do some work in the field. And have some of those experiences. Certainly, graduate schools are typically looking for something, right? Some, not like a great experience, ’cause it’s pretty limited coming from a bachelor’s point of view. But something that that, ahh, creates a sense of passion something that says, you know, I don’t know everything about this but, but my experiences and what I’ve learned so far. Is driving me. I’m gonna really love what you do. Uh, because you’re gonna be doing a lot of it, and some of it’s really tedious and really hard. Find what you love about psychology and then use that as your guide towards perhaps a more specific field of study or, or career path.
Thank you for sharing. One other fun question that I kind of round out, at the end of the interview or discussion, here is if you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
Well, uhm. I am, uh, my wonderful wife and I, and possibly one or both kids are planning to go to Croatia and, and maybe a couple other European stops along the way next year, hopefully. Uh, we’ll see. We’re planning it, and one of the reasons why that’s important to me is that’s where my grandparents were from so.
It’s the land of my ancestors. So, uhm, that’s, that’s something that I hope to do as well.
Well, I hope you guys can fit it in and make it work. I I know that I traveled around Europe and, and it’s always fun to get outside of the United States and I always tell people and I, I was a teacher, as you know, for some time. And I would tell a lot of my students and friends try to travel, if at all possible, because it opens up your eyes so much more so than just staying in your hometown or staying in the United States. So, I hope you guys can make that work, yeah?
Doesn’t it, though? I mean just yeah; it’s and you know it. It’s great to obviously to go to places, and being you know, we Americans, I maybe don’t understand how old things can be right? And until you go someplace where is a building that’s a thousand years old, where you know there there’s much to be appreciated there.
But just to meet people and to interact with people. Yeah, it it’s it. It is, I think, a real profound lesson in broadening our perspective at humanity. So, I’m, I’m sure we will go, I’m. Sure, we will do that.
Good, good. Is there anything else that you would like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
I really appreciate your invitation Brad and opportunity to talk about my, my own journey and I hope that you know it helps your audience members of your audience also, in some way, benefit from that. Uhm, you know, it’s, it’s been a while, so it was really interesting to kind of take that walk back in memory lane, you know I mean and, and kind of revisit those experiences and what they meant to me then and, and you know and how they kind of brought me to where I am today. So, I appreciate that very much.
Well, thank you. You’re very much welcome. I appreciate your time and willingness to share your thoughts and your experiences and your story and advice with us as well. So, Michael, thanks again for your time.
Thanks so much, Brad.