Dr. Charles Zeiders, Clinical Psychologist
Please share with us what prompted you to begin your solo consulting practice?
As a Clinical Psychologist, my job is to know human nature. Otherwise, psychotherapy would not progress for my patients. But to be open to the internal world of others, I have to know my own inner space. I have to walk my own dream world and know the territory. By the time I finished my Post doctoral Fellowship for Psychology at University of Pennsylvania Medicine, I knew that I was not only clinically creative but culturally creative. In addition to my personal soul searching, I had important professional experiences during my post doctoral year –not least of which was the conclusion that when I used purely evidence-based psychotherapy with some very bright, very disturbed patients from the business community, they did not get well. Yet, when I incorporated my patients’ spiritual and religious concerns into their treatment, inviting them to live out their deepest values and to carry out their professional and private lives with spiritual integrity, they made radical treatment progress, headed toward self-actualization, and started to make the world a better place. These experiences helped me to understand that spirituality is a force not only for psychological healing but for inner transformation, even business and social change. So I decided to chart my own course. Some psychologists go into research or join big practices, but some take the road less travelled. That’s what I did.
For most successful entrepreneurs, there is no typical day so give us a sample of your schedule from start to finish.
The day begins with study. I may use the early morning to prepare for a graduate course I am teaching. Then I bike to the office, jump into a suit, and conduct four to ten hours of psychotherapy with patients. I will also phone or Skype business people and high level professionals who seek very discreet psychological consulting. Professionals who put me on retainer will call whenever they wish, and we consult about their issues. My schedule is interesting because of the type of client my practice attracts; they want to manage their madness, maximize their productivity, and live out their most heartfelt religious or spiritual values in the workplace or entrepreneurially. It’s a privilege to work with such professionals as they hone an understanding of themselves as both psychological and spiritual entities who strive to actualize a better world through for-profit businesses that that may earn lots of money but also bless the people and heal the earth. One client put it this way, “My job is to stay sane while making money like I’m a capitalist but blessing the people like I’m a socialist.” Since building the Kingdom of God in the City of Man is not intuitive, my clients need to talk to someone who understands the strain of evolving a spiritual economic model in a Machiavellian world.”
What are your “can’t live without” software applications on your desktop and/or cell phone?
My blackberry keeps my practice connected to patients and clients – no matter what! Once when I was on Mount Washington, I took a practice call and consulted from a wind shelter until the crisis was solved. To be honest, though, technology is not integral to my practice. What I cannot live without is the understanding that in the midst of our postmodern economic and humanitarian crisis, God is not only in heaven but alive and well and working through me and my clients to bless the world into a safe, sustainable, tolerable, kind place- no matter what! What I cannot live without is the understanding that that my clients and their constituents are made in the Image of God.
What are your tricks for time management?
In a psychology practice, time management is tricky because I have to be available to several types of clients from sun-up to sundown. Simply, I resign myself to periods of prolonged intensity, and then schedule big breaks to recuperate. For projects, I always begin early, so that work products are ready ahead of schedule. When events throw off my time line, I remind myself that I cannot plan my emergencies and that dealing with events in a soldierly manner is worthy of me.
Best advice received when you started your career?
The best advice I received was from my father. He told me to maintain integrity and to achieve a genuinely fiduciary relationship with all my clients.
Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for building awareness of your work changed for the short-term and long-term?
My practice has several strategies for addressing the current economic climate. First, clients who wish to become psychotherapy patients often have defective insurance products with poor mental health coverage. If they wish to be treated on the medical model, my practice negotiates a fee, so that expert psychotherapy is affordable.
Second, as a psychologist I see too many patients personalizing the psychosocial stressors that stem from bad monetary policy and macroeconomic issues. In other words, patients blame themselves for not having enough money, even though the macroeconomic situation that victimizes them is not their fault. This insight comes as a relief to a lot of my middle age, white collar professionals who blame themselves for being stressed and downsized after providing stellar corporate service.
Third, my practice has increased discrete consulting with spiritual entrepreneurs who want to use psychology in service to their goals in a non traditional way. I love this aspect of my product line. One client of mine, for example, retained me following a religious vision she had in a casino during a trade show. A practicing Catholic, she saw the casino lit with infernal lights and metaphysically staffed with bad angels who were leading the patrons into temptation and hurting them materially and spiritually. Coevally, she experienced a righteous anger because the brilliance of the business community was employed toward such destructive and tawdry ends. When she retained me, she wanted to make sure that, one, she was not psychotic and that, two, she could use me as a sounding board to evolve her career toward making money and doing genuinely good things – as opposed to living a merely profit obsessed career. Most of my publications involve some aspects of religious experience, and I was able to establish that her vision was not driven by a psychotic process. Then we consulted about how she was called to use her business gifts, not only to make money but to make the world a better place. She now intends to start up a processing plant in the developing world that pours the profits back into the community- funding schools, medical services, infrastructure, and religious institutions. She believes that her generation of spiritual entrepreneurs will demonstrate that the narcissistic withdrawal of the Collective Business Mind into mere profit motive is a form of idolatry, gangsterism, and humanitarian betrayal. I love the fact that my client is part of the solution and that my practice gave her the freedom to develop her radically progressive position.
Fourth, in the last year, my practice has devoted itself to a lot of research and development. I am interested to understand how mass psychological problems are addressed by individual initiative. R & D also pursues the integration of spirituality into business and health care. My findings are that our current culture of hyper -capitalism and corporate propaganda has created a Culture of Narcissisms that now has metastasized into a Culture of Idolatry. I think that our culture experiences a kind of possession state in which corporations have successfully colonized a significant portion of our collective and individual minds. I delivered these findings to a One Body/One Sprit conference in Vermont last summer. And will publish my research in the Journal of Christian Healing at the editor’s request.
What’s been your proudest achievement as such an immensely accomplished Entrepreneur?
Several things come to mind. Chairing the Think Tank for Christian Holism is a source of pride. The Think Tanks’ goals are to develop a theology of psychotherapy that combines the best clinical practices and perennial Christian spirituality in the therapeutic arena. Our findings led to publications and keynotes at internationally attended conferences. To boot, it led to being invited by the Anglican Bishop ofTrinidadto speak throughout his nation to teams of medical professionals and spiritual leaders regarding partnerships between medical and spiritual communities for integrated, holistic, culture-specific patient care.
Another high point was being retained as senior Clinical Advisor to a for-profit addiction recovery facility. Not only was I allowed to design a leading-edge treatment model that was supportive of medicine, yoga, qui gong, psychotherapy, energy treatments, 12 steps and all evidence-based mind-body-spirit -treatment —but as part of the retainer agreement, I gave scholarships to destitute patients who could not otherwise afford this fantastic recovery care. My practice also consulted with the business team to design a business model that was morally superior to any other elite for-profit facilities’ business scheme. In consultation with the money men, I assigned a significant portion of profits to be poured into Recovery Scholarships and eventually into a not-for-profit facility designed to provide excellent recovery treatment to patients who could not afford the elite facility. The model I developed also cut big corporations out of the loop, because it was agreed that corporate greed tended not only to degrade reimbursement but also to degrade the patient, practitioner, and the likelihood of optimum clinical outcomes. Not a penny of insurance dollars was allowed into the model. The investors were delighted, because they saw that the business model passed the capitalist test of making money and the socialist and Christian test of being one’s brothers’ keeper. We also planned to use the moral superiority of our model for marketing and PR advantage. We even considered developing recovery-related reality shows that could be sold to support the not-for-profit part of the business—in addition to offering advertising slots to charge up revenues. My professional goal of integrating medical mental health with religious and spiritual treatment, in the context of spiritual capitalism, was fulfilled. It was a wonderful moment in my life as psychologist and consultant.
What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?
Everyday, I read something from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, pray, meditate, eat a big protein breakfast, and ride my bike to work. I maintain deep friendships. I always schedule something to which to look forward, and I hike in the mountains north of Philadelphia at least once a month.
Your top 3 book recommendations for our readers (and why?)
First, read Nassir Ghaemi’s thought provoking A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. A psycho-historian, Dr. Ghaemi shows how symptoms of mood disorders (i.e., depression and mania) can condition leaders to lead with realism, concern for others, innovation, and resilience. His book encourages entrepreneurs to understand the positive contribution that their mental health issues make to their vocation. Dealing with a sense of inner crisis trains the mind of the leader to rise to political and business challenges with unprecedented humanity, efficiency, and brilliance. As responsibility for a sustainable future increasingly burdens the business class, it is encouraging to think that meeting the crises of our inner mood extremes is preparation to meeting the outer crises exploding in our twenty-first century.
Second, read Chris Hedges’s Death of the Liberal Class. Hedges exposes the moral corruption and humanitarian degradation that has occurred in America from the de facto corporate take-over of public policy. Hedges laments the undermining of the mixed economy through which government protected citizens from corporate abuses. And, he marvels at the policy fetish government has for turning over community services of health, education, and even military to private interests. He shows up big business for betraying the consumer, and he shows up government for betraying the citizenry. Business and government, he argues, have lost their fiduciary souls. But implicit in his dystopian diagnosis of American life is the view that the new institution of reform resides in the individual, the cultural creative, the individual with the better idea—who is committed to making the world a better place, inspired not only to fix our systems but also to bypass them with corrective institutional and business innovations. What I like about Hedges is that his inspiration is spiritual. He is a former seminarian turned journalist.
Third, read Robert Graves’s war memoir Goodbye to All That. Graves served as an infantry officer during the First World War and spent years at the front lines, enduring gas attacks and artillery bombardments, while struggling against shell shock and black depression to get his job done. Not only did he acquit himself well during fearsome combat, but he personally engaged with the collapse of religious, governmental, and commercial institutions that occurred during and after the war. A poet and writer, he used his creative and artistic inspiration to speak of healing in the postwar culture and wrote the classic novel I, Claudius. His memoir offers a model of an officer who metabolizes personal pain and provides redemptive cultural leadership in a time of macro crisis. The global context of his struggles and the momentous psychological strain of his leadership tasks are not unlike those of the heroic entrepreneurs I encounter in my practice.
If you had an exceptional month and earned double of your average month, what (if anything) would you spend it on?
Unquestionably, I would book a week’s vacation in Italy – or maybe a Greek Island. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
What are some of your most rewarding charitable involvements and why?
Tithing to the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont is what I do. Also, making psychotherapy affordable to everyone is a form of charitable giving that makes me proud of my practice.
Who has been the most influential person to you as you’ve advanced in your career?
My colleagues from the Association of Christian Therapists have been superlative innovators with perennial values. As role models, they are tremendous leaders. Also, my friend and CEO of the financial group AFFINA inspires to me to combine best practices, spirituality, profits, and humanitarian values in the same package. Conversations with him keep me focused and inspired.
What’s your advice to someone interested in entrepreneurship?
Abandon all clichés, ye who enter here.