The Stress Doc Letter
Cybernotes from the Online Psychohumorist
OCT 2002, Sec. l
Fight when you can
Take flight when you must
like a dream
In the Phoenix we trust!
Table of Contents
Training Kit & Book; AOL Chat
Heads Up: Harvard Bus.
Rev., Florida Today; Speaking Programs/Workshops
Shrink Rap: A Diversity
Dilemma; Autonomy-Intimacy Commitment Conflict
Main Essay: A Guide for
Generating a Powerful Web Presence
Fishing for Trouble (See Sec. ll)
1. Training/Marketing Kit: Want to strengthen your ability to lead or
market a stress workshop or any kind of speaking/training program? Consider the Stress Doc
Training/Marketing Kit, which includes both "how to" manual and articles and the
opportunity for phone coaching. For more info: Training/Marketing
Kit or email.
2. Stress Doc Book:
Stress Brakes and Shrink Rap to Safe Stress and Cool Moon Cats:
The Wit and Wisdom of
the Stress Doc, Stress Doc Enterprises, 1995
A 90 page compilation of my former
syndicated radio essays, pioneering songs in the field of psychologically humorous rap music - "Shrink
Rap" Productions - a creative visualization poem and other humorous lyrics/poems. "Stress
Brake" radio essays are short (300 words), fast-paced and witty, covering such topics as
stress, burnout, anger and conflict resolution, time management, creativity, men's and women's
issues, romantic relationships, codependency, etc. (They make excellent fillers for newsletters.)
$20 (which covers priority postage and handling)
Make check payable to: Mark
Send check to:
Stress Doc Enterprises
1616 18th Street,
Washington, DC 20009-2542
3. Chat Group:
Stop by my AOL/Digital City Shrink Rap (TM) and
Group Chat DC Support Chat, Tuesdays, 9:30-11pm EST DC Support Chat. It's a
dynamic, lively, at times witty and always warm, thoughtful and supportive problem-solving group. We
raise questions and share our ideas, hopes and experiences with each other.
B. Heads Up.
a) Harvard Business Review on
Stress Techniques for Managers
b) Florida Today, Holiday Stress Tips
2. Recent Live Programs
Practice Safe Stress Luncheon Program for Professional Conference Management Assn-Philadelphia and
Delaware Valley Society of Assn Executives
b) Managing Stress and Work-Life Balance for AOL
employees at No. Virginia HQs
c) Stress & Anger Management Programs for Arkansas Social
Workers at Arkansas Tech Univ.
d) Stress Programs for legal staff of firms Smith Reed and for
Cleary, Gilbert in Wash, DC
are two Q & As, the first poses an organizational dilemma, the other a personal/professional
one. Both involve fundamental issues around identity, freedom of choice, issues/fears of
closeness and comfort with self and other.
A Diversity Dilemma: To Choose or Not to Choose
(Eds. Note: This Q
& A was originally written for WorkforceOnline.com.)
Q. I work for a company
that makes many AIDS drugs. At the annual rep conference, hundreds of sales reps fly to a
destination for four days. To manage costs they are forced to share rooms and are paired randomly.
Many of the reps are gay and some others are homophobic. Some people are uncomfortable sharing rooms
with gay colleagues and we wondered how to handle the problem without abusing individuals' rights or
drawing attention to them. Any ideas?
A. If money, time, geographical
constraints and psychological defenses could be surmounted, I would provide Cultural/Gender
Diversity training for all before the Annual Meeting. However, being limited to the real
world, consider this option. Give all attendees a designated time period for choosing a
roommate. After the cutoff date, those without roommates will be randomly assigned. This
procedure does not put the spotlight on sexual orientation or sexual fears.
All parties, at
least theoretically, have some freedom to choose. Some may decide it's too much effort to make
a choice but because there was a discretionary time period, individuals may be less disgruntled
about the random assignment.
However, at your Annual, I might have some Diversity/HIV
Mythology training within the context of knowing your product, the medical condition, the customer
and client, the broad marketplace, etc. A speaker outlining how more objective knowledge and
less emotional bias enhances sales success would likely have significant motivational value
regarding behavior, if not underlying attitudes.
Please let us know what course you
ultimately followed. And the results.
depth....crisis as opportunity, and working with healing.....privately and in groups......I am fed
up with being a treadmill doctor, be it homoeopathically or otherwise.....I am tired of lack of any
financial stability......I am wanting to stop feeling fearful, and numb within......I want to wake
up excited.........I am quite well known, but I do not use it to my financial advantage........I do
not have any 'really salable' packages except for my stress cd. This week my partner is away
and I will be busier than usual.......but however beautiful my practice is, there is a feeling that
there must be something better, broader, freer for me.
Autonomy and Intimacy: An
Approach-Avoidance Commitment Conflict
Recently I received a request for my Training/Marketing Kit from a Medical
Director who initially expressed an interest in marketing stress programs/workshops from an
Alternative/Homeopathic medicine perspective. Trained in London, living in southern Africa,
what eventually emerged from subsequent emails was the portrait of a bright, thoughtful individual
emotionally caught up in a work-love existential "mid-life" crisis. (The following
intro comes from his letter with an attached "diary-like" document.)
N. is tired of
"Locums" work, though it provides decent money from shift work at different clinical
facilities. He's a "treadmill doctor," not building a truly embraceable practice
foundation. N. is torn between lack of financial stability and wanting to believe there is a
career path that can release his passion and his "higher" self.
N. is also in a
joint practice with another doctor that he acknowledges, "for better or worse my heart has not
been fully in."
He is planning to marry at the end of October (his second marriage) yet
wonders if, "my total commitment" to (his intended) gives me no time to reflect on my
own." Yet, our confused protagonist also muses on the possibilities of, "marrying
S., leaving the practice (no longer having to please his medical partner) working from home, greater
freedom to work abroad, to generate a real business." But he also notes that unless his
fiancée really works in the UK they may be in financial straits.
Finally, N. mentions the
possibility of a consult for him and his fiancée with a mentor, psychiatrist if time allows.
this backdrop, here are my responses and our brief back and forth.
Stress Doc Reply
(N's most recent letter is copied within)
N: Am looking forward to receiving your pack.
Pack went out 1 1/2 days after receiving your check. Should take 7-10 days, I believe.
Let me just share with you a summary of where I am. It was written for my reflection,
may not make sense to you, but it gives you a sense of where any 'coaching' work you might do with
me would be.......I good on a platform....I talk well.....I am good
Doc: Your reflection touched some deep chords with me as well. It's hard to
make educated statements not having a chance to, at least, speak on the phone, field questions back
and forth, etc. But I will give it a shot.
I certainly can relate to not wanting to be a
treadmill psychotherapist. In addition to it being hard work, if I had sat in an office all
day, helping others self-actualize, to become more creative, I would have resented not preserving
enough time and energy to develop my dreams and talents, overt and latent.
On the intimacy
front, I have had my fear of relationship commitment a long time. A good part is/was due to my
not being settled in my career -- my achievements, stable finances, feeling I lived up to my
talents. (Of course, for many years I was unsure of the same, of my real intelligence, my
being creative, etc.) And it's possible that some narcissism also made me believe nothing or
no one (including my self) was ever good enough. But I think I've finally gotten out of this
black hole. And certainly, after much delay and denial, (eight years ago) using meds to treat
a lifetime of low-moderate chronic depression (with some profound episodes) has enabled me to
withstand my career sturm und drang, to channel my passion and to persist. (Have you
read the series on my depression and meds trial?) The other thing that enabled me to persist
is I love/need to be performing on stage.
Finally, I have so evolved as a speaker that
organizations are wanting to market me. I still want to do my own thing, but now I'm glad to
partner with marketing companies or speaker bureaus that seek contracts for speaking and training
programs. I don't know where you are really as a speaker/trainer; I trust you when you say you
are good. Still, it can take awhile to not just be good but to stand out, if not be
So, I don't know if this applies, but, I would have a hard time making a
decision to marry knowing there was so much turmoil within. I would have to have a clearer
career path, one that at least feels like me, one that's not based on loyalty or being beholden; one
where some fire burns within. The goal may not be fully clear, but there's an arena in which I
want to express my essence and communivcate my experience, my expertise, my essence with others.
when things have been difficult I sometimes have wanted to over rely (overdepend) on a woman.
Well, if I can't get my career in gear at least i'm in a meaningful relationship. As I've seen
more than once, that hasn't worked for me. I'm fortunate, I've been with some women who were
able to initiate the breakup when I wasn't strong or clear enough. Sure it hurts like hell and
is lonely, but it ultimately gave me the time and space to continue evolving my path and a sense of
Now I can partner in a career. There was a time when that
wasn't really feasible other than for time limited assignments. (I'm familiar with locum's
work, btw. My friend is a locums ER Doc.) I was caught up in creating my own package of
theoretical and applied concepts. Again I'm not hearing a real sense of genuine connection
Another diversion. Writing
for me has also been a very important affirmation of my experience, knowledge and talents.
Again, it wasn't something I was a natural at. A very evolutionary process. Years back
writing for radio -- 2-minute Stress Brake essays -- freed me to explore a non-academic style.
If you read the piece I sent on a powerful web presence, I elaborate on writing as a vehicle for
credibility and visibility.
I realize in responding, I've jumped around quite a bit. I hope this has
been useful in some way. I'll attach an article to another email that also may be helpful.
After you get the packet, will be happy to address nuts and bolts questions. I also feel
comfortable continuing this existentiual dialogue. I suspect if we were face to face, there
would be real mutually understanding. Try to meet alone with your psychiatrist, Dr. C,
perhaps, before you meet with you and S.. Maybe even email her some of what you've shared, if
you haven't already.
I certainly don't want to be muddying any therapy waters. If you
marriage plans are really best for you (since you are my client) with who you are at this point in
your life then please take the above as just my ramblings.
Anyway, I look forward to the next
round. Bon voyage,
Just to tell you my tears rolled gently in response to
the warmth of your reply. I will reflect further.
Readers, any suggestions for this conflicted health professional?
(Eds. Note: While
originally targeting allied health professionals, this article will have resonance for any
entrepreneur/small business person trying to fly in cyberspace.)
technophobia to cybermania path, the Stress Doc highlights ten key steps and strategies for enabling
allied health professionals to gain visibility and a powerful marketing presence in cyberspace and
Stress Doc's Guide for Generating a Powerful Web Presence
increasing number of mental health and allied health professionals are exploring the world of
self-employment, whether full-time or part-time. Contributing factors include: a) the mid-life
Baby Boomer's desire for more career autonomy and creativity, b) career ennui and "compassion
burnout" or c) just being tired of jumping through all the HMO, managed scarcity or insurance
reimbursement hoops. And as many of these professionals are learning, despite great skills and
experience, if you are not marketing your business -- programs, products and services --
effectively, the world, all too frequently, is not beating a path to your couch.
In a highly
competitive, if not seemingly saturated, mental health/allied health marketplace, self-promotion and
self-positioning, that is, "branding," is vital for business survival. To be a
successful entrepreneur, to stand out from the health field herd, you must have today's critical
visibility- and credibility-generating technology tool: a professional and powerful looking
(and, even sounding) website.
As founder of the five-year old site, www.stressdoc.com,
winner of several prestigious awards -- USA Today Online "HotSite," Mental Help Net
Excellence, Golden Web Award, etc. -- and showcased by a variety of electronic media let me quickly
dispel an illusion: I am absolutely not a cyber geek. Just the opposite. In the
mid-90s, scarcely a year after confronting my longstanding computer phobia, I reluctantly began
exploring "The Wild, Wild Web." (FYI, I finally lost my computer virginity after a
prolonged, techno-phobic affair with a fifteen year-old: my faithful Smith-Corona electric.)
I've had the time and trial and error experience to glean basic steps and strategies for developing
and promoting a website that enables you to share your expertise, look good and helps generate
business. Consider "The Stress Doc's Top Ten Tips for Generating a Powerful Cyber-Web
1. Don't Be the Lone Webber. Leading "On Becoming
an Internet Entrepreneur" workshops, I've discovered that many health professionals forego
having a website because of a misconception. These folks believe that a web design course is
necessary to get started. Au contraire. There are plenty of reasonably priced
"experts" (including high schoolers) who can get you up and running. Or consider
this example. My strategy for overcoming computer phobia was hiring a temporarily out of work
computer consultant for $20/hour. She helped purchase my system, installed it and provided
handholding lessons right in my office. (Just the money saved in therapy sessions made this a
The evolution of my web partnership is also instructive. Several years ago
I was hanging out with self-employed business types, far more cyber savvy than I, in a networking
group called, "Home Alone." They were all web bound. A sense of prehistoric
shame pushed me to approach a colleague who, at the time, was the IT consultant for Howard
University, School of Continuing Education. "John," I stated, "you have all
this arcane computer knowledge. I have all this psychobabble
Let's build a website."
timing was right. John was starting his own web design business. Initially he took me on
as an experiment, and I was a fairly passive partner, mostly deferring to his expertise. But
once I realized people were actually visiting the site in surprisingly tangible numbers, just being
the content provider was not sufficient. Active involvement in the design and decision-making
process was critical.
After a lengthy gestation period, with a couple of design makeovers, we
established a basic working format. And for the last few years, John is on retainer
($100/month server and maintenance fee) providing general tech support, posting new articles and PR
coverage, making upgrades and additions such as audiostreams, web links, site awards, etc.
(Too be explained further.)
The latest collaboration, with The Bright Side, began after their
publicist/business development maven discovered my site. After an exhaustive search, Deborah
Harper realized "The Stress Doc" website was an uncommon cyber phenomenon: a
site by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker that was informative both in terms of topical breadth and
depth, had a professional appearance while still being visually appealing and was fun. And
there's no reason why you too can't break into the field with a signature site.
Your Expertise and Value. We in the various health fields possess information needed and
wanted by many cyber citizens. This is especially so in the area of mental health where
confusion, if not outright stigma, still cloud the picture and practice arena. People are
definitely searching and surfing for clear, accessible and usable words of experience and knowledge,
of reason and wisdom. For example, I've had numerous emailers thank me for balanced writing on
my personal experience with depression and taking Prozac. The online screeds against Prozac
made it more difficult for readers to contemplate a meds trial. Confusion or ambivalence
lingered despite having consulted with a psychiatrist and knowing that there were indications for
So you are a potential expert or "content provider." How to
transform potential into reality? Consider these steps:
a) Carve out a specialty
niche. After burning out on a doctoral dissertation quest, big surprise, a major career
path niche has been the area of stress and burnout. Another, as mentioned above, has been the
field of depression, which I know intimately -- personally and professionally.
b) Write on!
Write a couple of niche articles. Five hundred words is a very publishable length. (Some
verbose authors struggle to stay under 1500 words
but still manage to get published. ;-)
Minimize the jargon; write for a lay audience. I call it thoughtful pop psychology.
Also, if you can, leaven your message with a little levity. As I've previously penned:
"People are more open to a serious message when it is gift wrapped with humor" (Paradigm
Magazine, Fall 1997). Trust me, there are a myriad of e-zines and online and offline
newsletters constantly on the prowl for good content.
c) Respond to events and opportunities.
Right on the heels of the 9/11 tragedy, I wrote an article on "Trauma and Crisis
Intervention." (I had taught Crisis Intervention and Brief Treatment for twelve years at
Tulane University School of Social Work.) My Webmaster found a burning Twin Towers picture,
and my homepage dramatically announced a "new" niche.
d) Don't Be Listless.
As in this article, hopefully, use lists to present ideas in manageable chunks for easy digestion
and comprehension, for retention and implementation. (In fact, the founder of The Bright Side
recently mentioned that my "Top Twelve Tips for Beating Moderate Clinical Depression" was
the article with the most site clicks.)
3. Be Visually and Verbally Appealing and
Appropriate. The challenge for a website is to engage with words and images, not to
distract the surfer/reader. Too many flashing and animated java script gizmos not only slow
download time but can detract from your professional purpose. I recall a New Haven, CT
reporter upon discovering my website wanting to do a telephone interview on stress. I asked,
"Why me?," thinking there were plenty of other experts with an online presence in his Ivy
laden area. His reply, "Yours was the only website that didn't look like it was designed
by a wacko!"
Now this doesn't mean your site has to have a starched white-collar design.
I've already mentioned the visually compelling Twin Towers icon. And I have a fun homepage
picture of me in Shrink Rap costumery -- Blues Brothers hat and black sunglasses pushed down my
nose. Also, you can liven up a homepage with a catchy phrase, which in this case illustrates
my role of "Psychohumorist" . The clever line almost netted me a training gig
with George Lucas Film Productions
May the Farce Be with You!
Finally, create a web
and marketing logos that captures and brands your company's essence. Check out my "No
Stress/Humor" icon in the middle of the home page.
4. Position, Position,
Position. You can have the coolest, sexiest, most informative site in cyberspace.
But if hardly anybody lands on it
So hooking up with someone who can help you get noticed and
placed onto search engines like Google or AltaVista is vital. Metatags and key words are the
web nuts and bolts that an expert (who may or may not be your web designer) needs to utilize.
sometimes it's a chicken and egg dilemma: do you build up the site then market or market to
build the site? I hired a web-marketing specialist who did a press release for my site when it
was still in its infancy in terms of hit (or visitor) numbers. Amazingly, USA Today Online
took the bait and bestowed a "HotSite" award. In twenty-four hours over 2,000 hits.
Suddenly, I became involved with site design big time.
But these kinds of spikes are usually
episodic. You are looking for a steady stream of traffic. And this is in your hands and
5. Start a Newsletter, Develop an Archive. One of the best ways to
get published online is to self-publish. Sending out a newsletter to a subscriber list, or a
link to an article or newsletter on your website, is just a click away. Anyone who writes me
for advice or information, e.g., writings on a topic, I'll add to my free mailing list and send them
a mix of classic essays and the latest newsletter samples.
Also, catalogue your writings with
a brief abstract or article summary. Having an archive encourages surfers to browse and
revisit your site. I also suggest a link whereby visitors can send an email requesting a
At one time I mass emailed articles three times/week. Next
came a bimonthly format. Finally, I've settled on a monthly mailing (to reduce my stress)
that's supplemented by special mailings or self-promotion as needed, e.g., a 9/11 article or
announcing that the newsletter was showcased by List-A-Day.com, an online newsletter and e-zine
review service. (See icon on homepage.)
6. Generate Self-Syndication, Join
ProfNet. Having a website of substance and sending out a newsletter, you are on the road
to cyber-syndication. Newsletter editors will begin to republish your writings (most of the
time emailing for permission). Some of my online publishers: HR.com, Financial Services
Journal Online and The Bright Side. Offline publications: Paradigm Magazine and
National Association of Social Workers-Metro, DC and Florida Chapters.
But you don't have to
just sit and wait. Consider joining ProfNet.com, a service that links newspaper reporters and
freelance journalists with content experts. ProfNet has a range of PR services. The
least expensive allows you to have a 250-word bio in their database for $125. There's a slow
but steady stream of inquiries and telephone interviews. Not only am I quoted in both online
and print publications, but appearing in various online publications increases my visibility in
those cyber-search engines. And being quoted in the Dallas Morning News, The
Bloomberg Report or Fox News Online adds business marketing credibility and cachet.
Finally, this ProfNet connection adds valuable resource individuals to my mailing list.
Share Web Links. An inexpensive way to spread your words and image is by sharing web links
with other site founders. My "Links Page" has at least fifty sites with which I've
exchanged logos. This represents the free and open side of the web.
be a bit discriminating. Check out the website before you agree to share. You may not
want to be associated with one of those "wacko" sites.
Marketable Products and Services. Another benefit of a working website is the potential
for marketing and selling a variety of goods and education/consulting, coaching and therapy
services. At this juncture, primary web marketing targets are my live speaking and workshop
programs and recruiting newsletter subscribers. Product offerings include: a) a self-published
book ($20) and b) a training/marketing kit for delivering a "Practice Safe Stress" program
and/or for helping a professional expand the successful marketing and delivery of their own programs
($175 for a variety of "How To" materials; $250 for the materials plus two hours phone
coaching. For details, see the Training Kit link on homepage left index.)
about to introduce an audiocassette. On one side will be two of my clever "Shrink
Rap" songs, on the other a ten minute relaxation/visualization script (to help you recover
from the Raps ;-).
While I definitely won't be retiring on web sales, a book or training kit
order brightens my day. My monthly newsletter has a section reminding folks of my products and
services. Also, I have a "What's Hot" link and soon a "shopping cart"
icon/link for visitors who want to purchase a piece of the Stress Doc.
9. Push the
Hi Tech-Hi Touch Envelope. One of the most compelling cyber developments has been leading
an AOL/Digital City chat group -- "Shrink Rap and Group Chat" -- for the past five years.
It's a stress support group that grapples with very real work, family, health and
relationship/romance issues. We have a core group of about ten or twelve, and new folks drift
in and out. The level of intimacy and sharing is not unlike a "real" therapy group.
Also, as new members come in, we periodically need to reestablish a balance between "free
flow" discussion and a structure that focuses group comments on the person having the floor (or
screen, if you will).
I studiously avoid being "the theater style expert" whereby I
answer posed questions in front of a passive audience. My goal is to be more a facilitator
than "the authority." Many have commented that our chat is unique for it's civility,
empathy and solid problem-solving ideas while also being open, energetic and fun. No doubt the
quality of the participants is a factor. Email for my article on running a dynamic chat group.
more recent envelope-pushing endeavors include adding audiostream and videostream to the site.
Dr. Michael Hurd allowed the uploading of our audio interview on "Stress, Anger and
Humor." Then, the Clear Communications Speakers Bureau captured a performance segment of
a Practice Safe Stress video and created a two-minute videostream that can also be downloaded from
the site. Program streams make your website an even more personal and powerful marketing tool.
Not surprisingly, the icon links are prominently displayed on the home page.
Reap Awards and Rewards. And now for all your hard-earned efforts and quality
your just deserts. I still get a kick when notified by a web-based organization like
Mental Help Net or 4Therapy.com that my site has garnered an award.
And you don't have to
just sit back and wait. Recently, Ms. Harper, the aforementioned publicist for The Bright
Side, submitted my site for consideration and, voila
A prestigious Golden Web
Award/2002-2003 icon proudly sits near the top of my home page. (Even my low-key Webmaster was
impressed by this one.)
Well, it's been quite a journey
recalling and cataloguing key steps and strategies in the birthing, nurturing, evolving and maturing
of "The Stress Doc" website. And the only thing I can confidently say is, "Who
knows what will come down the cyber-pike in the future." Two quick illustrations:
Years ago I received an email request for my newsletter from Sweden. When I wrote back asking
the obvious, the woman responded that one of the major Swedish newspapers had a series on stress and
my website was listed as a resource. In the Spring 2002, an emailer from Dallas informed me
that National Public Radio (NPR) had cited the site as a resource on a program about "Bad
Bosses." (I'm always the last to know.) You can understand my motto: "I
no longer count on nor discount any possibility."
So get started; review the ten steps:
Don't Be the Lone Webber
2. (Pro)Claim Your Expertise and Value
3. Be Visually and Verbally
Appealing and Appropriate
4. Position, Position, Position
5. Start a Newsletter, Develop an
6. Generate Self-Syndication, Join ProfNet
7. Share Web Links
8. Develop Marketable
Products and Services
9. Push the Hi Tech-Hi Touch Envelope
10. Reap Awards and Rewards.
the technophobia to cybermania transformational challenge: Go Web Young Cyberite!
Gorkin, LICSW, "The Stress Doc" , is an internationally recognized speaker and
syndicated writer on stress, anger management, reorganizational change, team building and HUMOR!
His monthly newsletter was just featured by List-A-Day.com and his writings appear in such
publications as The Bright Side, HR.com, WorkforceOnline, Event Solutions, Professional Conference
Management Association Newsletters, Mental Help Net and Financial Services Journal Online. The Doc
has been profiled in Biography Magazine and has appeared in a Workplace Violence segment on
CBS-TV News. He is America Online's "Online Psychohumorist" (Keyword:
Stress Doc) leading a weekly chat group for AOL/Digital City -- http://www.digitalcity.com/washington/stressdr DC Stress Chat. Check out his USA Today Online "HotSite"
- www.stressdoc.com Stress Doc homepage (recently cited as workplace
resource in a National Public Radio feature on "Bad Bosses"). For more info, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 202-232-8662 (in Wash, DC).
(c) Mark Gorkin 2002