Meet Salonpas Wellness Warrior, Jonathan Alpert, a licensed psychotherapist, performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Alpert helps a range of clients achieve great success on wellness and performance issues by changing the way they think, their behaviors, and strategies. Salonpas sat down with Alpert to learn about his book and his practice:
What was your motivation for writing Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days?
To understand my motivation to write BE FEARLESS, it’s important to understand my practice and how and why I got into it. I don’t have any tragic stories to tell about being down on my luck and being helped by a therapist who then inspired me to become a therapist. None of that. I simply got into my profession because A., I wanted to run a business B., Knew other things I’d find boring e.g. law, engineering, accounting C., I’m good with people.
My motivation to write BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days came from my dissatisfaction with my profession. Week after week I’d hear from new clients about how little they gained from their previous therapy. I’d hear about how their therapist just sat, nodded his or her head, and said “And how does that make you feel?” I heard stories like this for years. And year after year I grew more and more frustrated with my profession. My approach was different. I gave advice and actually helped people to get better. If someone was in an unhealthy relationship, then I’d tell them so. If someone was dealing with a work conflict, then I’d strategize with them to help them get out of it. If someone wanted to find love, then I’d help him or her achieve their goal. The same is true with developing new businesses. I realized over time that the general public simply didn’t know that better approaches towards getting better and reaching goals existed. People accepted the status quo. Writing BE FEARLESS was my way of educating the public and also helping people get past the fear that got between them and success.
Tell me about people who changed their life for the better after reading your book?
I’ve received emails from people around the world telling me how BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has helped them to finally make changes that they haven’t been able to make for years, decades even. Some have talked about leaving a toxic relationship they stayed in just because it was what they knew and were afraid to be alone. Others have talked about reaching a fitness goal and finally getting in shape. One told me about how she finally took the next step in setting up her business. They all had one thing in common: They were held back by fear. Another reader, and also a former client, has a particularly touching story. He fearlessly biked across the country to raise money and awareness for cancer. This by itself is quite an impressive feat. But what makes this awe-inspiring is this young man had beaten cancer a few years prior when his doctors thought he might never leave the hospital. He definitely has a thing or two to teach people about being fearless.
What is the focus of your psychotherapy practice?
My practice focuses on anyone who is ready and willing to make changes to improve their life. I see adults, including couples. I treat depression and anxiety, sexual and dating issues, career/workplace concerns, help people with stress and time management, and more. Over the years my practice has evolved to include performance coaching. These are professionals who want to get their edge back, perform better at work, and need a push to pursue endeavors that they haven’t been able to tackle because of fear and anxiety. Also, following my appearance in the 2010 Oscar-winning film Inside Job, I gained a reputation as the “Wall Street Therapist.” This led to a large following of clients who work on Wall Street and in the finance sector. Additionally, I work with actors, entertainers, and athletes helping them with performance issues and improving their game.
How are some people their own worst enemy?
Simply put, their thinking holds them back. Just as you can think yourself sick (worry, anxiety, failure), you can think your way to success and to feel good. I’m not suggesting that you can just change your thoughts and you’ll achieve success. I am though saying that a really good start towards a path of success is to think about things in a healthy, positive way. For example, the person who wants to advance in his or her career but thinks, “I’ll never get anywhere and I’m doomed to fail” – well, this might keep the person stuck and serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whereas the person who thinks, “I know it is challenging but I’m aware of my strengths and will come up with a smart plan to succeed” will likely do better than the negative thinking person.
In your controversial NY Times column, you spoke about forever therapy? How long is too long to be in therapy? How does someone know it is time to end.
I can’t really say that a certain amount of time is too long because people and their issues are unique; however, if someone doesn’t feel they’re making progress then it’s probably worth evaluating therapy and other options. In my Op-Ed, I laid out my general opinion on how I think therapy should be and what I feel benefits the patient best. Here are 10 reasons why someone might want to consider ending therapy and/or looking at other options:
- Your therapist is a clock-watcher, calls you by the wrong name, or dozes off during your session.
- Your needs are not in line with the therapist’s expertise.
- You don’t feel comfortable with him or her or feel supported.
- You don’t walk away from your sessions feeling inspired, hopeful, and well understood.
- You are getting lots of vague utterances of assurance like “I see” or the classic clichéd line, “And how does that make you feel?”
- Your weekly therapy sessions are essentially just weekly venting sessions.
- Your therapist’s treatment plan is not well-defined with a focus on providing insight, an outcome, and achieving goals.
- You don’t feel a sense of control that enables change within a few weeks of treatment. Note: Change doesn’t need to be drastic to bring about this feeling; it can come in small and measurable doses.
- He or she makes veiled threats like, “If you stop seeing me, then you’ll plunge into depression.”Note: This is nothing more than fear-mongering by a therapist who cares more about ego and money than the well-being of the patient.
- If you find yourself listening to your therapist’s problems, then that is a sure sign things have gone awry and another good reason to quit.
What is the best way for someone to find the optimal therapist for them?
The best way to find a therapist is to take control and know that as a consumer, you have options. You might start by talking to your primary care physician and asking for referrals. Or doing some research online to find someone who specializes in whatever you need help with. Another possibility is to ask around (though I recognize there is still a stigma with seeking mental health services). Then, be a good consumer – call a few and ask to speak with them for a few minutes to get a sense of their style, expertise, and generally how you feel about them.
Do you have any other books on the horizon?