Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Voices — December 2021

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  • 11/30/2021 11:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT
    President, LA-CAMFT

    For Now, Not Forever

    This year is almost over. Soon the streets and our bank accounts will empty out a bit, and our case loads will slow down, or in some cases pick up, as we all join in the dance of reflecting upon where we’ve been and where we hope to go in the coming year.

    This inventory-taking started for me in October when, in submitting our Chapter for CAMFT leadership awards, I compiled lists and wrote about the numerous programs, events, initiatives, and groups the LA-CAMFT Board of Directors and Diversity Committee developed and executed this year. It’s astounding how much we’ve undertaken and accomplished–pages and pages too long to list here—and all while other chapters folded, while the world still seems in unprecedented flux. All while it seems much is left undone.

    Throughout this year I’ve tried to highlight in these messages those LA-CAMFT Leaders who donate their volunteer time and energy to the endeavors of our chapter. I hope you’ve tracked their names and deeds, as we owe them our gratitude and praise. There will always be more cranes to fold.

    Because of Past-President Matt Evan’s and Diversity Committee Co-Chair, Marvin Whistler’s passion and focused efforts, LA-CAMFT awarded its first two Therapist of Color Grant Awards this fall. Moving forward, LA-CAMFT intends to offer this opportunity three times a year to students, trainees, or associates who identify as therapists-of-color. This was a project Matt fiercely championed, and even when the time he had for LA-CAMFT grew limited, he made it happen. We are forever grateful. More information at: LA-CAMFT TOC Grant Award

    I also want to acknowledge the hard work the Therapists of Color Mentorship Committee did this year creating the structure and foundation for a mentorship program which will be “ . . . the first of its kind amongst CAMFT chapters. LA-CAMFT is committed to ensuring quality mentorship for therapists of color by therapists of color.” If you or someone you know identifies as a therapist-of-color and might be interested in mentoring or being mentored, you can read more about The Therapists of Color Mentorship Program in the November issue of Voices and in this issue, too. Or reach out to: tocmentorshipprogram@lacamft.org. Applications are being taken now.

    I need projects to mark time and create the illusion that some things can be finished. I deeply love client work, but in my experience, in spite of treatment plans and goals reached, people are never finished. Finished for a while, maybe, but never completely done. Projects are important because they’re snapshots in time that fade into the history of one’s life when completed and become markers of “oh, that was the year I/we did that
    thing . . .
    ” A mantra of mine has always been: Just for now, not forever.

    I try not to cling, yet come January 1st I expect to wake up facing a lull in my energy and lack-of-purpose that I suffer awhile after any show closes, podcast posts, or holiday season ends. Not found in the DSM, I personally call this: “post-show depression.” I anticipate becoming nostalgic and melancholy for this stressful year, the one that could cause me gut-churning torment, keeping me up at night, and leaving clumps of hair in my shower drain. I’ll miss the adrenaline rush and pride this glorious project gave me, that challenged and confirmed my belief in my abilities to serve and to survive. I’ll mourn all I hoped and failed to do.

    I didn’t seek to be LA-CAMFT President, but was offered an opportunity to be a part of the change I wanted to see in a community I cherish—and I took it. (If you don’t act, you can’t bitch.) I’ve had difficulty finishing this last President’s Message, likely due to my resistance towards accepting my time steering this big, beautiful ship of an organization is over. It seems completely bonkers that I wouldn’t be ready for my time as President to run out, because I’ve fantasized a LOT of what I’ll do when it does. Therefore, my next big project now becomes being the best Past-President I can be for the incoming Board of Directors, and for Leanne.

    To 2022 LA-CAMFT President Leanne Nettles I hope I’ve helped more than harmed, leaving the place a little better for you and all who follow. As President-Elect you made me a better leader and I already see how you’ll be an awe-inspiring President. With the determined and steady President-Elect Tina Cacho Sakai by your side, LA-CAMFT will be in the hands of a truly gifted 21st-century power-duo.

    Darlene Basch once asked what my mission would be as LA-CAMFT President. And because I despise social echelons, I answered clearly, “Inclusion—everyone’s welcome.” I hope you all know that you are. So it is with an extra twinge of sadness that I report that the Holiday Party is cancelled this year—and due to extensive Zoom-Burnout, we won’t be hosting one online, either.

    Our plan is to hold an in-person social event early in 2022. (However, if anyone is interested in an online poker tournament, email me and let’s put one together!) Please know that I miss seeing everyone’s faces, and hearing your unmuted tales.

    In these monthly musings, I hoped to inspire your laughter, open your eyes, perk up your internal ears, and say something that made your day better. I wanted to touch your soul and leave you with brilliant words of wisdom.
    Yes—I’m that egotistical, at times. I still want to type something this moment that’ll stay with you, that you’ll forget where you heard it, but remember that it really offered a feeling of being understood. But I’m not that powerful, am I?

    Instead, I’ll thank you for the privilege of being LA-CAMFT president this year. I hope I used my privilege well.

    However you spend them, I wish you the healthiest and happiest of year’s-ends. And remember, this goodbye is just for now—not forever. Paz y Amor. Siempre. 

    JJVW — Jenni June Villegas Wilson

    Jenni J.V. Wilson, LMFT is a collaborative conversationalist, trained in narrative therapy and EMDR. She works with creative and anxious clients on improving, avoiding, and eliminating co-dependent and toxic relationships, while finding healthy ways to be unapologetically themselves. She is the primary therapist at Conclusions Treatment Center IOP in Mission Hills, and has a private practice in Sherman Oaks.

  • 11/30/2021 10:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Therapist of Color (TOC)
    Grant Award Drawing Winners

    On Saturday, October 30, 2021, LA-CAMFT facilitated the first Randomly Generated TOC Grant Award Drawing. Congratulations to the winners Davika Parmar and Akane Takijiri. 

    Grant winners receive

    • $500 to be spent at the winner’s discretion
    • Free year of LA-CAMFT membership
    • Free admission to 3 LA-CAMFT workshops or networking events of the winner’s choosing (must be used within 1 year of winning award) 

    The $500 award can be used at the recipient’s discretion based on their own individual needs (whether it be for BBS fees, testing materials, memberships, living expenses, etc.). Confirmation for what the money is used for will not be required. 

    Description of Grant Stipend

    Every 4 months (3x per year), a grant award will be offered to two applicants who meet the following criteria: (1) must be a current LA-CAMFT member, (2) identify as a Therapist of Color, and (3) must be either an Associate, Trainee, or Student still in graduate school.  

    Application and Selection Process 

    If you are a non-member of LA-CAMFT, you must first join LA-CAMFT to apply for the award.  

    Interested members can complete the application on the LA-CAMFT website.  

    The selection process entails using a Randomized Generator of the applicants who met the full criteria and complete the application online to take out human bias and decrease activation of one's trauma history. The drawing will be recorded via Zoom and posted onto social media along with an announcement naming the grant winners, who will also be contacted via email directly. 

    Registration for the next cycle of the grant award will open on December 22, 2021, and will close on February 26, 2022. The drawing will take place on February 27, 2022. 

    Best regards,

    The LA-CAMFT Grant Award Committee
  • 11/30/2021 9:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT
    Voices Editor

    Getting Paid: Private Practice Success Without Stress — Top 10 Articles to Make Your Practice Even Better

    ‘Tis the season to be giving, so again, my gift to you is 10 of the best articles I’ve come across this year — ones that give the best answers to the questions that therapists have about how make and keep their practices profitable and successful — without having to spend a lot of time or money or effort to do so.

    Each of these articles is a short and easy read — and every single one of them is chock full of the best tips and information that therapists can quickly and easily use to make their practice better any time of the year. Reading any one of them will definitely give you more private practice success — and without stress!

    So, if you have a little time during this season to reflect on your practice and how to make it better, stronger, more profitable, and more, take a look at one of these and see what you think.

    1. 5 Simple Steps to Reach Your Ideal Therapy Client (Without Neglecting Other Potential Clients)
    2. Marketing Strategies for Therapists to Grow Their Private Practice
    3. How to Build a Strong Referral Network to Grow Your Practice
    4. Should You Niche Your Private Therapy Practice?
    5. 5 Ways a Website Can Benefit Your Private Therapy Practice
    6. 3 Tips to Attract Ideal Clients Every Mental Health Professional Needs
    7. How To Use Social Media to Grow Your Therapy Practice: Considerations & Practical Tips
    8. How to Set Your Fees in Private Practice (Plus 3 Mistakes to Avoid)
    9. Client retention Part III: How to retain clients
    10. How to Run a Successful Private Practice Online

    Bonus Articles—again, I couldn’t resist!

    1. Why Therapists Don’t Return Calls To Potential Clients And What To Do About It
    2. 4 Types of Vacations Every Sensitive Therapist Needs

    There you have it, your very own Private Practice Coaching Kit. Enjoy your reading! 

    Lynne Azpeitia, LMFT, AAMFT Approved Supervisor, is in private practice in Santa Monica where she works with Couples and Gifted, Talented, and Creative Adults across the lifespan. Lynne’s been doing business and clinical coaching with mental health professionals for more than 15 years, helping professionals develop even more successful careers and practices. To learn more about her in-person and online services, workshops or monthly no-cost Online Networking & Practice Development Lunch visit www.Gifted-Adults.com or www.LAPracticeDevelopment.com.

  • 11/30/2021 8:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Andrew Susskind,

    Avoidance as a Survival Strategy (Part 2) 

    Because we are most defended against our greatest needs, intimacy is an emotionally-precarious territory. Over time, you learned to build self-protective walls due to past hurts, disappointments, and intrusions, but in recovery you can safely break down your walls and learn to rely on others gradually. If you’re determined to heal old relationship wounds, being in a relationship is the best place to work on them—whether it be romantic, friendship or family. As you step into the healing properties of emotionally-reliable relationships, avoidance will fade away making room for trust and respect to grow. Walking through your fears and vulnerabilities will promote deeper contact and healthier versions of relationships.

    Early attachment patterns begin with the baby longing for the gleam in the eye from the parent or caregiver. The gleam lets the child know that he is a precious, valuable human being. We all have a deep wish to be loved from the time we’re born, and the experience of being seen as a lovable, desirable person sets the stage for trust, respect and intimacy. If all of these necessary ingredients are present, you’re on your way to emotionally-nourishing connections.

    In his book, Addiction as an Attachment Disorder, Dr. Philip Flores explores the fundamental role of attachment as applied to substance abuse, and his theory can also be applied to sexual compulsivity. He describes addiction as “a condition of isolation which often originates with insecure attachments. Not everyone with inadequate attachment experiences will become addicted, but everyone with an addiction suffers with attachment difficulties. Addiction occurs when the attachment to a behavior or a substance becomes stronger than the attachment to people and caring, loving, nurturing relationships.” With out-of-control sexual behavior, compulsive urges increase when the attachment to self-destructive behaviors remains stronger than the attachment to real relationships in your life. Therefore, true healing takes place when the attachment to intimate relationships overpowers the attachment to compulsive sex.

    Accept your need for others because it’s part of your foundation for emotional sobriety. In our society, which highly values autonomy, accepting the fact that you need others to survive is often overlooked. As a result, self-sufficiency is highly encouraged, and asking for help is often discouraged. When you learn to lean on dependable people, the early attachment gaps fade and emotional repair begins. Because you’re biologically-wired for connection, your brain will respond to the newly-forming intimate pathways as a welcome change rather than a scary one. How do you do this? Through twelve-step involvement, psychotherapy, coaching and volunteering, you’ll have the opportunity to move toward community and belonging rather than perpetuating isolation and disconnection.

    Gradually, you’ll learn to trust and internalize your recovery team—those you have chosen to be with you in this chapter of your life. You get to pick your team, so choose wisely. By cultivating nurturing relationships, you’ll be well on your way to living your life with contentment and love. Sprinkle in some meditation, exercise and overall self-care and you’ll fill up your recovery toolbox.

    In summary, your long-term prognosis for sustainable recovery is dependent upon your capacity for more satisfying, nourishing relationships. Avoidant attachment patterns are self-protective, yet they get in the way of what you really want—love and belonging.

    Action Steps:

    1. Lean into safe, loving relationships gradually rather than avoiding them. Become the pursuer rather than the distancer. Who would you like to pursue as a friend or confidant? Consider your options and choose one relationship to pursue.
    2. Be a giver of love even if it’s scary, uncharted territory. Notice when love shows up in front of you, and take note of how it feels on the inside. Track loving moments—both giving love to others and receiving love from others.
    3. Learn from your pets. They are instinctive teachers of unconditional love, acceptance, and play. If you have a pet, pay attention to their unconditional love and acceptance. Savor it. If you don’t have a pet, consider fostering one or volunteering at your local shelter.
    4. Take inventory of the most intimate friendships in your life. Write a list of your past relationships that have been most meaningful. Identify their commonalities.
    5. Notice when you feel more trust and relaxation in relationships. Without these qualities present, intimacy doesn’t exist. Be mindful when you’re feeling more relaxed with others. Take note of what happens inside of you and how this indicates deepening trust.

    Identify your people and cultivate deeper contact through vulnerability and emotional risk-taking. Be the reliable person you would like to experience with others. Consider small emotional risks and show up wholeheartedly for relationships—one intimate relationship at a time.

    Reprint October 27, 2021, Westside Post.

    Andrew Susskind, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Somatic Experiencing and Brainspotting Practitioner and Certified Group Psychotherapist, based in West Los Angeles since 1992, specializing in trauma and addictions. His recent book, It’s Not About the Sex: Moving from Isolation to Intimacy after Sexual Addiction joins his workbook, From Now On: Seven Keys to Purposeful Recovery. For more information visit his websites westsidetherapist.com and brainspottinglosangeles.org.

  • 11/30/2021 7:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Grant
    Award Committee

    LA-CAMFT 2022 Grant Awards for Pre-Licensed Members Who Are Therapists of Color

    The LA-CAMFT Grant Committee is pleased to announce that LA-CAMFT will be offering two grant awards for LA-CAMFT Pre-Licensed Member Associates, Trainees, and Students who are Therapists of Color.

    If you are not an LA-CAMFT member, in order to apply for the award, you must first join LA-CAMFT.

    Registration for the LA-CAMFT 2022 Grant Award for Pre-Licensed Members who are Therapist of Color opens on December 22, 2021, and closes on February 26, 2022.

    Please read the information below regarding the description of the grant award, criteria for applying, application process, and selection process.

    Description of the LA-CAMFT Grant Award
    Every 4 months (3x per year), a grant award will be offered to two applicants who meet the following three criteria:

    1. Must be a current LA-CAMFT member
    2. Identify as a Therapist of Color (TOC)
    3. Must be either an Associate, Trainee, or Student still in graduate school. 
    • Grant winners will receive
    • $500 to be spent at the winner’s discretion
    • Free year of LA-CAMFT membership
    • Free admission to 3 LA-CAMFT workshops or networking events of the winner’s choosing. 

    The $500 award can be used at the recipient’s discretion based on their own individual needs (whether it be for BBS fees, testing materials, memberships, living expenses, etc.). 

    Confirmation for what the Grant Award money is used for will not be required. 

    Application and Selection Process
    Interested Pre-Licensed LA-CAMFT members who are Therapists of Color can complete the 2022 Grant Award Application on the LA-CAMFT website. 

    The selection process entails using a Randomized Generator of the applicants who met the full criteria and complete the application online in order to take out human bias and decrease activation of one's trauma history. 

    The drawing will be recorded via Zoom and posted onto social media along with an announcement naming the grant winners, who will also be contacted via email directly. 

    Registration for the 2022 LA-CAMFT Grant Awards for Pre-Licensed Members who are Therapists of Color  opens on December 22, 2021, and closes on February 26, 2022. 

    The drawing for the 2022 LA-CAMFT Grant Award for Pre-Licensed Members who are Therapists of Color will take place on February 27, 2022.
  • 11/30/2021 6:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Catherine Auman,

    Preparing for Earthquakes

    I’ve been thinking about the two earthquakes that happened a couple years ago. The one in Haiti got a lot of media coverage; the photos broke our hearts. The deadly, impoverished country was devastated and hasn’t recovered to this day.

    Many people weren’t aware that a quake of far greater magnitude shook Chile, the affluent nation running down the west coast of South America. The Chile quake was 501 times stronger than Haiti’s, according to the Huffington Post, and yet we didn’t hear much about it because there was very little damage. Chile has had a long history of handling emergencies, so homes and offices were designed to withstand disasters. The country was in all respects better prepared. By contrast, in Haiti there were no building codes, and Haitians had not been schooled in how to react. Although the earthquake was much stronger, the damage was minimal in Chile.

    Of course, there is a lesson here that it would behoove all of us to be physically prepared for emergencies. There are easily downloadable lists on the Internet of items we should have in our cars and homes for emergencies: bottled water, snacks, blankets, candles, etc., and it’s a smart thing to do. It’s prudent to be prepared, as Chile was.

    But what I’ve been thinking about is the lesson these earthquakes have to teach us about our emotional lives. People whose lives are stable are like Chile, more easily able to deal with an emotional “earthquake,” than people whose lives are not.

    For example, I often suggest to my single patients that they focus on having enough platonic friends first before they focus on finding a partner. They will be more emotionally prepared for the “earthquakes” of dating if they have enough emotional support in their lives and aren’t waiting for their partners to provide that stability.

    If you develop emotionally-supportive networks around you now, they will be there for you when life brings you an “earthquake,” as it inevitably will. Life brings emotional suffering to everyone at some time in their lives. Someone you love will die; someone might leave you; you may have financial difficulties. These events are universally devastating, but if your life is stable, you can survive the earthquake as a prepared country such as Chile did, rather than be rocked to your core and barely able to recover like an impoverished Haiti.

    © 2021 Catherine Auman

    Catherine Auman, LMFT is a licensed therapist with advanced training in both traditional and spiritual psychology with over thirty years of successful professional experience helping thousands of clients. She has headed nationally based psychiatric programs as well as worked through alternative methodologies based on ancient traditions and wisdom teachings. Visit her online at catherineauman.com.

  • 11/30/2021 5:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee

    Black Therapist Support Group

    First Saturday of Every Month

    Next Meeting:
    Saturday, December 4, 2021
    12:00 pm-1:30 pm (PT)

    Online Via Zoom

    Black Therapist Support Group

    A safe place for healing, connection, support and building community. In this group, licensed clinicians, associates and students can come together and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of African descent encounter in the field of mental health. As the late great Maya Angelou once said, “As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal someone else.” May this space, be the support needed to facilitate that journey.

    Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members

    First Saturday of Each Month
    Location: Zoom Meeting

    For more information contact Akiah Robinson Selwa, LMFT at aselwa@sunrisetherapycenter.org.

    Event Details: 

    Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students

    Event Details: 
    Saturday, December 4, 2021, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm (PT)
    Time of Check-In: 11:50 am

    Online Via Zoom
    Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.

    No Charge

    Online Registration CLOSES on the date of the event.
    (Registration is open and available until the group ends.)

    Questions about Registration? Contact  Diversity Committee, diversitycommittee@lacamft.org.

    Register Here

  • 11/30/2021 4:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    Chellie Campbell,
    Financial Stress
    Reduction Expert

    The Twelve-Step Program for Financial Stressaholics

    I was speaking at a 12-step meeting one day, and this Twelve-Step program for Financial Stressaholics suddenly came to me. With a wink and a nod to Alcoholics Anonymous and twelve-step programs everywhere, here are the twelve steps to treat your money disorders—spending bulimia and income anorexia:

    The Twelve-Step Program for Financial Stressaholics

    1. We admitted we were powerless over money—that our checkbooks had become unmanageable. 
    2. Came to believe that a Budget greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3. Made a decision to turn our will, insurance, checkbooks, and retirement accounts over to the care of a Financial Advisor that we understood.
    4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our debits and credits.
    5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our accounting errors.
    6. Were entirely ready to have our Financial Advisor remove all these defects of our accounting software.
    7. Humbly asked her to adjust our bank reconciliations.
    8. Made a list of all persons to whom we owed money and became willing to pay them all.
    9. Made direct payments to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would overdraw our bank accounts.
    10. Continued to take financial seminars and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
    11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with our Financial Advisor, praying only for knowledge of her retirement plan for us and the power to invest enough money in it.
    12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to income anorexics and spending bulimics and to practice these principles in all our finances.
    Live long and prosper during this beautiful Holiday Season!

    Chellie Campbell, Financial Stress Reduction Expert, is the author of bestselling books The Wealthy Spirit, Zero to Zillionaire, and most recently From Worry to Wealthy: A Woman’s Guide to Financial Success Without the Stress. She is widely quoted in major media including Redbook, Good Housekeeping and more than 50 popular books. She has been treating Money Disorders like Spending Bulimia and Income Anorexia in her Financial Stress Reduction® Workshops for over 25 years. Her website is www.chellie.com.

  • 11/30/2021 3:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    Sunday, December 12, 2021

    Second Sunday of Every Month

    11:00 am-1:00 pm

    Via Zoom

    Therapists of Color Support Group

    A safe place to receive peer support and process experiences of racism (systemic, social, and internalized), discrimination, implicit bias, racist injury, aggression, and micro-aggressions, along with additional experiences that therapists of color encounter in the field of mental health.

    Open to LA-CAMFT Members and Non-Members
    Second Sunday of Each Month
    Location: Zoom Meeting

    For more information, contact the LA-CAMFT Diversity Committee at DiversityCommittee@lacamft.org.

    Event Details: 

    Licensed Therapists, Associates, and Students

    Event Details: 
    Sunday, December 12, 2021, 11:00 am-1:00 pm (PT)
    Time of Check-In: 10:50 am

    Online Via Zoom
    Once you have registered for the presentation, we will email you a link to Zoom a few days before the presentation.

    No Charge

    Online Registration CLOSES on the day of the event.

    Questions about Registration? Contact Diversity Committee, diversitycommittee@lacamft.org.

    Register Here

    In diversity there is beauty
    and there is strength.

    Maya Angelou

  • 11/30/2021 2:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

    David Silverman,

    Zen And the Stages of Screenwriting Growth

    Nobody starts out writing great screenplays. It’s a learning process that starts with educating yourself about screenwriting, reading books on the subject, taking courses, studying screenplays, viewing films and writing and rewriting scripts. You have to start out knowing that you’ll have much to learn, and that your first scripts may be—to a degree—stepping stones.

    What does that mean? It means your first script probably won’t sell. And by probably, I mean—it won’t. But it might. You have to think it will or you won’t do your best work. And it might sell. Or it might not. Or it might be the perfect writing sample you need to start your career.

    Confused? Sure. However, that’s the best way to think about writing your first screenplay. It might sell, it might not—it probably won’t, but it will be a stepping stone to the career you want. You need to be able to hold all of these contradictory elements in your head, and keep writing. And you’ll need to compartmentalize those thoughts, when you center yourself to write.

    The process can feel arbitrary and confusing. You might not know where to start. At some point you just have to start writing even though you don’t know everything about the process. I remember starting out thinking, “I need to read this one more book on screenwriting before I start.” Then it’s one more and so on.  I kept putting off actually writing that first screenplay.

    Where do you start then? You have to start somewhere. I say read a few books, watch a lot of movies, read some scripts and take the plunge. Get into the process. At the same time, don’t start without a basic knowledge of what scripts look like and how stories build. There are a lot of gray areas in the process.

    The truth is you’ll never know enough about writing screenplays, and you’ll also probably know too much—in fact you’ll be overwhelmed. The knowledge itself—the theory only, won’t get you anywhere. It’s the combination of the knowing and the doing. There’s a kind of a Zen to it.

    As your career as a writer unfolds, you’ll pass through some “stages.” Novice to Master. The names of the stages aren’t important, and the process isn’t exact, far from it. But it’s a good way to think about your writing career.

    Just as your life develops in stages, you’ll start out exploring, and trying to form skills. As you learn and assimilate those skills, you’ll put them to work and hone them. You’ll develop your craft. You’ll get better. You might get better with each draft. Hopefully, you will.

    And as in life, you’ll develop an identity along the way (you’re the class clown, or the nerd, or the jock, or whatever) your writing voice will develop. You’ll decide on the genres you like to write. You’ll decide on a style. Will you write about dark subjects, or funny subjects, or both?

    As this process unfolds, you’ll be developing new skills, and reading more scripts, and seeing more films. Most importantly you’ll be getting feedback along the way. How you approach the feedback will be the major predictor of your success.

    It’s understandable that your first script will be your “baby.” You’re going to be overprotective. You won’t want to hear any criticism at all. Most likely your first script will be the most significant self- motivated creative achievement of your life.

    Unfortunately, if you take the attitude that your first script cannot be criticized, or judged, you won’t get very far in this business. People starting out often don’t realize they’re jumping into a field that’s all about judgment.

    Your script will be judged. You’ve got to get used to that or you’ll have a very short career. The process is full of judgment. Agents will judge you. Producers will judge you. Everybody you show your script to will be judging you. You might as well get used to it. Remember, every writer goes through it.

    Just like in life, if you’re not able to adjust, make changes and adapt you’ll get stalled out at one of the stages. There’s a “screenwriting Darwinism” at work. Survival of the fittest. Those who adapt and assimilate new information and skills will move on.

    In order to do your best work, you’ve got to also write every script as if it was your best. You've got to pay attention to detail. On some level you have to believe every script you write is going to sell. Now, you might point out I’ve been somewhat contradictory. First I say your first script won’t sell, but then I say you need to write it like it will. Correct.

    You will have to write every script as though it was your best work. You don’t do shoddy work on purpose. What are you talking about, you ask? It’s that gray area. Approach everything you write as though it were your masterpiece, but expect criticism.

    As I’ve said, you can’t expect to sell your first screenplay. However, it might be a good sample to show around. It’s a stepping stone. If you’re a screenwriter without a script, nobody will take you seriously. You need to have a “calling card.”

    There is the possibility that your script will be good enough to place in a contest, or get you an agent. Those steps are important. They’ll set you on the right direction in your career. No matter what happens, don’t stop with that first script, though. Keep writing.

    As you continue with your subsequent screenplays—you’ll find yourself maturing, and your scripts will get better. Unless you fight the process. Assimilate. Adapt. Keep writing. That’s your mantra.

    That’s the mindset you’ll need to get through the stages from novice to intermediate, to journeyman, to professional, to master. Work hard, pay attention to detail. Be bold. Find a big story. Be open to learning more, to accept criticism, and feedback.

    That’s how it’s worked for every writer ever on the planet. Believe me, the pros get judged and criticized like everybody else. Not everything they write will sell. If their scripts do sell, rest assured they’ll be getting studio notes, producer notes, and so on. They’ll have to assimilate and adapt. We all do it.

    David Silverman, LMFT, treats anxiety and depression, especially in highly sensitive individuals in his LA practice. Having experienced the rejection, stress, creative blocks, paralyzing perfectionism, and career reversals over a 25 year career as a Film/TV writer, he’s uniquely suited to work with gifted, creative, and sensitive clients experiencing anxiety, depression, and addiction. David received training at Stanford and Antioch, is fully EMDR certified, and works with programs treating Victims of Crime and Problem Gamblers. Visit www.DavidSilvermanLMFT.com.

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