For Randy Kamen, Ed.D., a psychologist, educator, author and speaker who has held positions at Boston University’s School of Medicine and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, the beaten path is not always the right one.
In helping others find their path, she has turned her own career from clinical psychology and education towards running online group sessions on personal growth.
Kamen, who is also a guest faculty member at Harvard Medical School, spoke with New England Psychologist’s Catherine Robertson Souter about the choices she has made, some with regret and others with relief, and how her work with clients at retraining the brain has become her own next chapter.
You did a media interview in 2014 with advice for therapists just starting out in practice. As you yourself have transitioned away from traditional practice, is there anything you would have changed?
No, not really. It was all in the service of what I do now. Had I not done what I did for so many years, I would never be able to do what I do now. It is an interesting journey for psychologists who want to morph into something else later in their careers.
Tell us a little bit about that journey.
I started out with a clinical practice. I was at Spaulding Rehab, where I did my dissertation and I ran the stress management department and the biofeedback program there. At the same time, I was also doing clinical and group work. I have always felt that group work is a very powerful way to practice.
I left there and I was in private practice for six months and someone overhead me talking about my work and invited me to become faculty at BU.
I developed a program there and became an assistant professor and I did that for 11 years.
And then I had babies and, well, the professorship, it was so sad, but I just had to cut it loose. I loved working at BU because I worked with so many international students. It was the best job ever.
But it was a choice between, ‘Do I have awesome children or let them fly for themselves and continue this professorship?’ I was very sad about it, but I made the right choice. I do have amazing children.
And your practice now?
I speak around the country and I run live online women’s groups about personal growth and leadership. Everybody is the leader of themselves no matter what they do, not just those who are in a CEO or leadership role. We all ultimately have to take responsibility for our lives and how things play out.
Mostly what I speak to people about are skills and strategies to retrain the brain for positivity and success. I teach how to get out of your own way, away from your own limiting beliefs or from all the self-talk that can be so destructive.
I teach skills that are part mind/body medicine and part psychology but I take it further into the realm of personal development and leadership.
I work to help people clarify their vision. I started a group last night of 10 women for the year. We will go on this journey together on how to retrain the brain in a way that is going to help them create an extraordinary next chapter in their lives.
Do you also work with men in this area? Who is more open to this message?
Everyone is open to it and hungry for it and there are not that many people teaching it, at least not who are trained psychologists.
I will be starting another online session that will be mixed male and female but I had a group of women who wanted to build female friendships so I thought I would do one for just women.
Doing this instead of clinical practice – is this your own extraordinary next chapter?
This is my legacy time so I am completely committed to making as big a difference as I can. I plan to be doing this for a long time to come but I also want to make a real contribution. I want to make a living, of course, but also do it philanthropically.
Many of the people I work with will tell me that they got my book and have shared it with their children or talked to them about one particular aspect or sent my videos to people.
I also do summits every year where I interview leaders in the field of mind body medicine/positive psychology and I interview them about their areas of expertise. This adds a lot of value too. I offer a tremendous amount of free content for people who are interested in learning.
What don’t you miss about your former work situation?
I have to say, I stopped working with insurance companies a while back. Towards the end of working with insurance companies, I was just so turned off by the health care system and it breaks my heart to see what doctors are going through now. I work a lot with burned out physicians and it is not pretty.
Any advice for other psychologists about branching out into areas beyond clinical practice? Was it a leap of faith?
It took a while. First, I gave up insurance and that was scary but so liberating. Then I stopped working with really challenging patients. That was a gradual process. I realized that I didn’t want to do this anymore. I realized that I want to work with people who are ready to move forward in their lives and who want to be able to create their best personal lives rather than looking backwards and rehashing their history.
Plus, I never stopped with my own personal growth. I am always in a growth and leadership program myself.
For instance, I want to become a leader in my field and I have been working very diligently and in a committed way for that to happen. It is not left to coincidence. I am not just going to stumble into becoming a leader.
Why is this work important?
If you are living consistently with how you want to be living and planning it so that your inside is matching your outside, you will be a happier person.
Most people just let life happen day by day without having a focused intention about what they want to create. But, you won’t go anywhere without it. You say, “I want to go there with my life. I want to create this; I want to have a certain lifestyle, make a difference in other people’s lives, or whatever it is.” If it just a thought but without a plan, it doesn’t happen.
I teach other people about being focused and driven and how to strategically plan their lives by the year, the month, the day. So, it is not just a coincidence when it all works out. If you leave it up to chance, that is what you will get. If you plan for success, that is what you will get.