About Alec

Hi.

I’m a writer, adventurer, psychologist, and everyday dude. I’ve worked as a counselor and a coach for 10 years with folks like you. My favorite food is tacos and my favorite place to be is the river. I like dogs, road trips, and old guitars. I’m currently building a cabin in the woods behind my house and doing a ton of writing. Good to meet you.

That’s probably enough to get started, but if you want more…read on.

Alec North Cascades

On Becoming a Psychologist

Whether I’m at a backyard party, cooking over a campfire in the woods, rolling around on the jujitsu mat, or motor-biking around SE Asia, when people find out what I do for a living they have three questions. The first is tongue-in-cheek, something along the lines of, “Are you analyzing me?” This is met with a no and a smile, or if I’m feeling snarky, “Mind if I bill for this conversation?” And we move on. The second is a two-parter, usually asked back-to-back: “Why did you become a psychologist? It’s to help people, isn’t it?”  Sometimes my answers surprise them.

The truth is, helping people is a byproduct of what I do, not the spark for it. Yes, I like helping people. It’s rewarding to be a part of someone’s change. But well before the reward that comes with helping somebody step into a better life, before the reward of the coaching relationship or the journey-in-progress that is the bulk of counseling, I’m drawn to the work I do because it’s interesting. I’m curious about people. What they think. What they feel. What they do. And I’m curious about myself. I became a psychologist because I like talking ideas and I’m inspired by the practice of transforming those ideas into action. Counseling psychology is applied philosophy, in other words philosophy-in-action, and that makes it, so far as I’m concerned, the most interesting job in the world.

The last question takes a few different forms: “Isn’t your work draining?/Is it hard to talk about feelings all day?/Do you take your work home with you?” No. My work is not draining, I don’t find it hard to talk about feelings (and many other things) four to five hours a day, and I almost never feel burdened by my work at home. This is because I make active choices about my practice (whom I work with, and how I work) as well as active choices about my life (what I do, and importantly, what I don’t do).

As grad students we asked each other, “Who do you want to work with?” Some of my colleagues wanted to work with kids. Some wanted to work with people with severe and persistent mental illness. Others wanted to do neuropsychology or forensic work. I said I wanted to work with everyday people preparing for change. My interest was with people like you and me, people who get stuck sometimes, people who are occasionally depressed or anxious, people who go through breakups, divorce, job stress, and periods of self-doubt, people trying to balance relationships and self, work and creativity, family and adventure, planning for the future and living in the now. It wasn’t always the answer that scored the most points in class. But it was true then, and it’s true today.

Many of my classmates and professors had an intuitive understanding that the only way to live sustainably is to pursue the life and the work that you’re actually interested in. But every so often I’d get the question: “Working with everyday people sounds great and all, but isn’t that sort of selfish?” I understand this response because it’s the objection we’ve all been trained to have by the Linear Social Script. When made explicit, it sounds like this: “Who are you to do as you want and live as you please?” If you want a head start on the concept that might be at the heart of this concern I ask you to consider this question: Is love a form of self-sacrifice?

One of my goals will be to convince you not only that my stance is not selfish but that it is the only way to live sustainably and give authentically to others. If you’re always focused on other peoples’ needs, you’re going to wear yourself out. You won’t be a great friend, parent, partner, or coach, and you won’t have the energy it takes to create change for yourself. The concepts, strategies, and tools I share on this site will help you forge a deeper connection with yourself, with those you love, and with the world. When put into practice these approaches add up to a philosophy of living that results more self-awareness, connection, excitement, money, and meaning.

Here I teach skills to improve your communication, assertiveness, and self-confidence. In addition you will learn tools to help you thrive during an assortment of challenging life experiences: Breakups, career transitions, and more. But this blog is not just about coping with challenges. It’s about upside, about learning to really live. Self-actualization is a practice that will test you and, at times, make you feel afraid. It will also bring you joy, meaning, and a sense of vitality, the all-important feeling of being alive. You will become more aware of your internal drives and more validating toward your creativity. Whether your goal is to create more meaning and adventure in your life, communicate and connect better with people, make more money, or to cultivate more self-awareness, sustainability, and freedom, there’s something of value for you here.

A final word on the perils of self-help authorship: I detest guruism in all its forms. Let’s be real, there is no One Way to live a rewarding life. However, no one ever loved a book or a blog post for its centrism so here I present you with a set of specific ideas in sharp form. Experiment with them. Use what works for you and discard the rest. If anything, by the time you’re done reading you will be less likely to abandon the sovereignty of your own experience to any so-called expert. And when you’re out there in the world shopping for a coach or a counselor, remember: The goal of a true helper is to work themselves out of a job.

–Alec