DEA Meeting : Dr. Paul Chafetz

Chris Clausen, CNC Home Care, had the distinct pleasure of introducing Dr. Paul Chafetz.  They have known each other for 30 years and has been fortunate to sit in on his classes, programs, and lectures.  He has been a great resource for him and his clients and is the easiest referral to give out!

Dr. Paul Chafetz thanked Chris for his introduction and revealed that Chris would only introduce him on one condition, that the September Book Signing food (which was co-hosted by Dr. Paul) would be particularly delicious…and thankfully with Braden Howell, New York Life, and Steve Wilson’s, A-Star Plumbing, help; they delivered on that promise!  If Chris is happy, Dr. Paul is happy!

This morning, Dr. Paul wanted to tell us a story.  Although the truth is that he is not a good storyteller.  So, he decided not to tell a story, but rather talk about stories.

The story concept comes up often in sessions with psychotherapy patients and he wants to share what he has learned because, believe it or not, it holds a valuable psychological message for everyone.

Dr. Paul was born and raised in Memphis, TN, as the youngest of 4 children in a loving family. He completed his Bachelor’s Degree at Brown University, his PhD in Clinical and Health Psychology at the University of Florida, completed his Clinical Psychology internship at Duke University Medical Center, and also did a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship at T.R.I.M.S. (Texas Research Institute for Mental Sciences) in the Houston Medical Center.  He opened his private practice, when he arrived in Dallas, in 1982. Along the way, he also taught Psychology briefly at Texas Women’s University and then for many years at UTSWMC (University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center) as an Associate Professor.

Dr. Paul’s activities fall into four areas:

  • Working with adult children of difficult older relatives. His book Loving Difficult Relatives came out in 2017 and has sold over 1,000 copies.  Paul believes the book has put useful tools into he hands of hundreds of adults dealing with difficult older relatives.
  • Mental readiness for life after work, whether it be retiring or through selling a business.
  • Forensic Psychology, deeming whether a person has adequate mental facilities to sign legal documents.
  • Psychotherapy, the biggest single part of his work.

His patients are adults from 21 – 101 years of age.  He helps them solve their dilemmas and continue their progress through life.  In this work, he talks with patients and dives as deep as necessary into their feelings, their thoughts, their past, their present and their goals for the future.

Dr. Paul has presented to DEA several times over the years and each time his goal is to communicate the beauty of the work his patients do in his office and the wonder and gratitude he has for being able to participate in their journey.

Typically, Dr. Paul uses metaphors to help explain what he does.  For example, you’ve seen him describe personality as a blend of Nature (Biology), Nurture (environment), and Choices.  The choices can un-do the good or bad effects of Nature and Nurture.  That means with bad choices, a person can squander good nature and nurture and become a trouble person and lead a very messy life. Or with good choices, a person born into catastrophic conditions can decide to be a fine person and become a blessing to themselves and others.

A second metaphor Dr. Paul has used is that we all have buttons that we acquire in early life.  These are the permanent memories of painful experiences or memories that are awakened when a new experience feels like the old painful event.

A third metaphor used what that each of us is like a bus.  On the bus, we carry relationships, memories, strengths, weaknesses, joys, pains, hopes that move us forward, and baggage that holds us back as we roll through life.  The inside of our head is like the driver seat and life goes well when we keep our intellect in the driver seat.  The awake, objective, pleasant part, that is emotionally aware and agile can focus intelligently on the real world.  Otherwise, known as an adult.  But when our emotions are driving, bad things happen, and we can easily find our life lying in a ditch.

All these metaphors make my feel very clever!  But recently he read a terrific book that gave him new insight into communicating, The Storyteller’s Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch on and Others Don’t.  This book analyzes what makes a great story and it describes the power of a good story to influence people for sales, votes, healing or any purpose.

Humans have used storytelling for millennia because the human brain is literally hard-wired to respond positively to a well-constructed tale.  Dr. Paul asked the audience, “When I said I want to tell you a story…”, didn’t you get a good feeling inside?   The book explains the anatomy of an effective story.  It takes more than a metaphor to make it a story.

A story must have an arc, with a beginning, middle and an end.  It goes like this…the beginning, which is an introduction that hooks our attention, introduces heroes and reveals a villain.  It may also reveal a mentor and a love interest.  The introduction creates empathy for the hero.  The middle introduces a problem or crisis that challenges, even forces, the hero to leave his or her routine life.  This crisis draws the hero in stages into a new and difficult situation.  As the story unfolds, the plot takes various twists and turns, raising the dramatic tension higher and higher, making hero face doubt and danger and fear, which leads up to climatic showdown.  This is the epic battle that forces the hero to dig deep into his soul for the courage to never give up!  The battle leaves the hero transformed for the better, wiser, confident and more equipped to live happily ever after.  In short, a story describes a hero’s journey that is hard, but also meaningful and rewarding.

Pixar Animation Studios uses this 7-step structure in their movies:

  • Once there was a…. (boy, girl, man, woman)
  • Every day he…
  • Until one day… (some danger or big problem appeared)
  • Because of that… (the hero had to)
  • Because of that… (the hero had to)
  • Until finally… (there was an enormously difficult choice, battle, ordeal, that ended the danger)
  • Ever since then…

Dr. Paul shows how every novel or movie must build in a conflict because without conflict there is no story! Everybody’s life has conflict, challenge, hardship, struggle, pain or loss.  Therefore, every life is a story!  His job is to help each patient understand that they must be the hero of their own life story.  They must face whatever hardship, pain, fear, doubt, injustice or loss their life brings them.  They must work hard to defeat their adversary and achieve the kind of heroic transformation.  Then, they can apply their hard-won wisdom to make the world a better place.

To help patients get there, Dr. Paul leads conversations in a way that allows patients to:

  1. Identify their feelings; own and process them.
  2. Clarify their dilemma; label their obstacles, adversaries, villains, or failures.
  3. Articulate their vision for their future and their goals.
  4. Acknowledge their weaknesses.
  5. Mobilize and consolidate their strengths.
  6. Implement their plan through new behaviors.
  7. Claim pride for their progress.

Our individual story may not always be pretty, but our journey is necessary, important and meaningful.  Each person’s struggle is just as epic as anyone else’s and each person can be just as heroic as anyone else.  And Dr. Paul has a ringside seat to the journey his patients are on and it is thrilling.  Every day he watches real people transform real pain into real strength and skills that will last them a lifetime!

Other topics that interest Dr. Paul are:

  1. Finding activities for men with MCI
  2. Living with chronic disease
  3. Being married to a dementia patient
  4. Having an adult child who is difficult
  5. Dealing with chronic loneliness

The leads that Dr. Paul welcomes are:

  1. Direct client referral; yourself, your employee, colleague, friend, or relative.
  2. Connection to Referral Sources; your doctor, clergyman, or attorney. Or a speaking opportunity with his target audience (30 to 60-year old’s) such as churches, women’s clubs, high school parent groups.
  3. Local Morning Talk Show! He would love to be able to speak on a local or national morning talk show!

Read more about Dr. Paul Chafetz here.

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