Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed therapist and behaviour analyst Laurie Singer about her career, her writing process, and what inspired her to write her new hit book, You’re Not Crazy.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
Career wise, I’m a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and board certified in Applied Behavior Analysis. I started my company, Laurie Singer Behavioral Services Inc. in Camarillo, California with an initial focus on providing behavior services to those with developmental disabilities. Over time, and with an exceptional team, I’ve expanded the company to help those in need throughout Ventura County across a wide variety of emotional issues.
My journey in to therapy was motivated by the death of my young son from cancer. I was forced, like so many in that situation, to take a look inside and part of that was learning of the struggles of others.
As the child of a mother who battled drug and alcohol addiction, and left the family when I was ten years old, it really opened my eyes to my own situation as well as others facing hurdles. I went back to college and earned an undergrad degree at the University of California Santa Barbara, a Masters from Cal State Northridge in Counseling and a post-graduate certification in Applied Behavioral Analysis from Kaplan University. I’ve been a practicing Behavioral Specialist since 1995 and in private practice since 2004.
I’m also an endurance athlete with over 100 marathons, many ultra-marathons, and Ironman triathlons under my running shoes. I was actually fortunate enough to be named to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame a few years which was a thrill. But one of the things I’m most proud of is an initiative I launched known as the Child Life Program at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles which provides for the developmental, social and emotional needs of hospitalized youth. It’s in memory of my son Jacob and seeing the tremendous benefit it’s been to both children and their parents navigating very tumultuous waters has been extremely fulfilling.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
The idea of writing a book first came about roughly 10 years ago. It was a difficult time. My practice was extremely busy and I was helping to care for my mother who was battling cancer. I think my instinct is that when things get particularly trying for me personally, I want to give more of myself to others and I felt I had something to share. It wasn’t the right time, given how much it takes to actually write a book, but it did light a fire that didn’t extinguish.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I’m a very goal-oriented person. That’s probably why endurance sports are such a big part of my life. You set the goal and then take the steps to reach the goal. In the case of my book. I circled what some might see as an auspicious date on my calendar. My 60th birthday. That date came and I sat down and wrote a book. Not finishing it wasn’t an option.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
As anyone who has written a book knows, it’s definitely a process. And as this was my first book, there were the natural questions of what should stay, what needs to be cut and trying to create the overall flow of the book through the eyes of a potential reader. The entire process for me was roughly a year and half from the first words to publishing.
What made you want to write this You’re Not Crazy?
There are several reasons why I wanted to write this book. First, the two modalities of therapy I use in my practice, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Behavioral Therapy have helped so many individuals over my 20 plus years in practice. Typically, therapists work in one modality or the others but by combining these two I’ve seen life-changing results and wanted to share the information.
Another key reason came through my peers. I was encouraged by other professionals, and provided with exceptional feedback, from doctors and psychologists who recognized the benefits of what we’re doing and believed it was something worth sharing. Given that my goal was to serve others via my knowledge, getting the encouragement from those in the field was nothing but fuel for me.
What were your biggest challenges with writing You’re Not Crazy?
Without a doubt my biggest challenge was just getting started. Most everyone has some type of information or story that could be of interest to others. But actually taking the steps to bring that to fruition can be tricky. Self-doubt can easily creep in. You’re pouring a lot of your personal identity in to words on a page without knowing how it will be received. It’s definitely a leap of faith. I knew how I wanted to structure the book and that helped me stay focused on each step along the way to best realize that structure.
What was your research process for You’re Not Crazy?
My research was based directly on cases I had over the years, the clinical skills I gained and from talking with different authors. I wanted to pull cases from my practice that were diverse. I chose the cases from different diagnoses; Anxiety, Agoraphobia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Excoriation (skin picking) Fetishism and Conversion Disorder. After my manuscript was completed, I contacted a few authors to ask them some general questions about the “book” process.
Everyone I spoke with was very encouraging. They took the time to share their experiences, what to look out for and what to expect. I’ve learned that there’s a kinship between authors. Almost like a club. We can commiserate with the tough times and share in the success without some of the baggage that comes along in some other fields.
How did you plan the structure of You’re Not Crazy?
It would be impossible to offer up case studies that spoke specifically to everyone. So, I looked towards stories that most could relate to on some level. While a reader may not have OCD, they could still recognize the frustration that comes from wanting to rid yourself of certain feelings and behaviors. A big part of this project is the inclusion of a workbook within the book. It’s intended to allow people to utilize many of the same strategies I use with clients. So as part of that, I tried to take readers inside the room to see the realities of therapy along with some of the issues many are facing. On the surface, the book is intended for the individual who suffers from the affliction itself or even the family and friends who are impacted by proximity. But overall, it’s meant for those who feel stuck and believe change will never come – irrespective of the emotional issue.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did You’re Not Crazy need?
I was so fortunate to have an amazing editor and to those new authors out there I can’t tell you how important that is to the process. As a first-time author I sort of felt that once I wrote the book then the book was done. I didn’t realize there was a whole other level to get through before publishing could even be considered. What I really appreciated about the editing process was not just getting rock-solid notes from an editor who really understood her work, and had the distance from it that allowed for unvarnished opinions that were in my best interest, but being told throughout that this was my book and I had the final say. There really is something to be said for the line from the Ricky Nelson song, “You can’t please everyone so you’ve got to please yourself.” With the editor’s direction I was able to get to that place of pleasing myself which made me confident that I’d be connecting with others.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
We all get “little voices” in our heads to do certain things. And if that little voice gets loud and tells us to do something that on the surface may feel a little risky, like writing a book, my advice is to write that book. And there’s only one way to do that and that’s to do it. Just get started. Bounce your ideas around to a few friends but only if you’re going to be open-minded and accept feedback. I also think it’s crucial to consider the source of that feedback. While a close friend saying, “You’re so talented” might feel good at the moment, is it really going to serve the work? And if someone tries to discourage you, are you sure they’re not pushing their own insecurities off on you? At the end of the day this is not a field for the easily dissuaded or those seeking “hugs” from friends and family. This is about creating a product that will enlighten, entertain or serve whatever goal you may have. That’s why it’s always the author’s final call. The book is yours.
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I’m in the early stages of putting together a separate workbook with some new strategies and tools that may help those who just wanted to get started right away without some of the specifics that go in to defining the therapies I utilize. I want to break down complex topics and offer accessible tools so more can serve as their own therapists. I’m also contemplating a deep dive in to adults with ADHD. This effort will undoubtedly be more personal as I myself was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. So, my own journey on how to use my ADHD in a positive way is something I think could be valuable to others.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I actually am very proud of my book. In the first chapter I chose to share some details about my life, my own anxieties, the loss of my son, my alcoholic mother and more. It was difficult to write but I felt it was important for the reader to know I have experienced trauma; I know what anxiety feels like. As mentioned, I was undiagnosed growing up. I had very little self-esteem, did poorly in school and barely graduated high school. How I dealt with it was to channel those negatives in to my athletic training which fueled my confidence. Not just as an athlete but as a person. When I returned to school, and applied those technique to my academics, a whole other world opened up. Change really can happen.
As authors know though, just seeing your words on paper is only the start. Then it’s a matter of getting the book in to the hands of readers. That’s why we write books. So, learning the ins and outs of that process has been a new experience all together. But during this time of “new normal,” and knowing the stress and anxieties so many are facing right now, I’m committed to this book. Not for any personal notoriety that may come but because I’m confident it will help those in need of a tangible, executable path forward towards a healthier, happier, more balanced life.
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