Dr. James Huntington - Physiologist & Founder of Huntington Resiliency

1) How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

How I got started in my business of teaching people how to live more resilient lives starts with my interest in philosophy. Philosophy begins in wonder. I have always been curious with lots of questions about lots of things. Where do thoughts come from and why do things even exist in the first place? But, mostly, I have been curious about human beings, what makes them tick? Why do we think, feel and act the way that we do? Marching through graduate school, I realized, in fairly quick order, that my favorite philosophers were also self-identified psychologists, such as William James and Friedrich Nietzsche. This led me quite naturally to the formal study of psychology itself and, eventually, to becoming a clinical psychologist.

Once a psychologist, what motivated me to study human resiliency, and the desire to build a therapy practice and business around teaching others how to become more resilient themselves, was pain: Getting knocked down in life and having to learn how to pick myself up. This is why I started Huntington Resiliency. As the old saying goes, pain is a great educator. In my case, it forced me to learn my own resiliency profile pretty fast. Ask yourself: what works to keep you going, day in and day out, to meet the inevitable challenges that life throws at you?

Here are two things I have learned that I think you need to make your business succeed. First, you need to be doing something that you truly believe in. You need to be passionate about your business. Second, you need someone —  a partner, a friend, a family member or whomever — who really believes in you and will hold you accountable to your business idea and push you along.

2) When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Yes, I had doubted whether I would succeed in the business of my private practice. I am not into glitz & glam and self-promotion. Advertising myself or my services does not come naturally to me. I handled this by reflecting upon and tapping into, the opposite of having doubt. And, that is having conviction; the belief in yourself and what you are doing is important. This reminds me of a patient, an opera singer, who got over his stage fright, he said, by checking his ego at the door and just letting his beautiful voice do the performing because, he knew, this is what the audience came to hear. So, too, I know that I can help people live happier, more meaningful, and resilient lives. I am an experienced therapist who has researched thoroughly the subject of resilience. I have never doubted the message, the service, that I am delivering.

3) How did you get your first customer?

I built my practice the old fashioned way by word of mouth. Someone would come see me and, then, recommend me to others. I still think this is the foundation of any good business. Whatever goods or service you are selling, you have to have a good product that people will like and want to recommend to others. I am a latecomer to the marketplace of advertising and, although I think it can be a wonderfully helpful tool to promote your business it will not maintain and sustain your enterprise if you are not delivering a quality product in the first place.

4) What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you are using that works really well to generate new business?

Public speaking. As a therapist, giving a talk on a subject of expertise at a school, college, or wherever is a good way to garner attention to your services and generate new business.

5) What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

I love the profession of being a therapist. I love talking with people about matters of ultimate importance to them and helping them to sort through their thoughts, feelings, and situation to choose the best course of action to take. It is meaningful work. At the same time, I have to make a living from my business. A recent, hard, decision involved suspending work with a patient until I was paid.

6) What do you think it is that makes you successful?

What makes me successful is that I lead with my humanity and my professionalism. I am a knowledgeable and experienced expert in my field. My interpersonal skills are such that patients, young and old, feel comfortable talking with me. At the same time, I am a fellow human being. I live in awe of the wide range of human experience and I respect other people for what they are thinking, feeling, and going through in their lives. Perhaps, most importantly, at the end of the day, I am just a damn curious individual who genuinely is interested in learning about others and what makes them tick. I believe this open and friendly approach disarms people and makes them feel comfortable with me and want to share of themselves. And, in this created space between us, I can be helpful.

7) What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

This may sound corny, but the most satisfying moments in my business are when I connect with patients to help them cope with emotional and physiological regulation, think about their problems in more effective ways, or find a little more meaning, purpose, and joy in their lives. Getting a call from a potential new patient based on a positive recommendation from a former patient is a pretty good feeling, too. It gives me further confidence and a sense of validation that what I am doing is alright.

8) What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

There are two endeavors I am engaged in, at the moment, and very excited about related to my business. One involves my patients and the other my colleagues in resiliency training. With regard to the former, I look forward to growing my practice to sustain small study and sharing groups on resiliency building. Increasing your resilience takes practice using specifically guided interventions, some of which will work for you while others will not. It requires a level of experimentation on your part to see what will actually work for you. For example, a paradoxical cognitive technique to reduce stress that I taught two very different patients, coincidentally in the same week, produced two startling, very different results. The first patient came back to report how it worked brilliantly, made him laugh, and eliminate his stress. The second came back to chide me how this technique almost induced a panic attack in her! The reason for this varying response is because each person’s resiliency profile is idiosyncratic. It is determined, to a large degree, by individual personality traits, beliefs, interests, and so on. In short, different resiliency strategies work more or less effectively for different people depending on a host of factors.

What better way, then, to explore all of this rich data of human experience than in a group setting? The great guru of group therapy himself, Irvin Yalom, identified the number one reported curative, or transformative, factor in group therapy by participants is the support and feedback they receive from their fellow participants. This is a powerful way, I think, to receive direct confirmation, and encouragement, from others who are using these same resiliency strategies! Similarly, I want to meet with my fellow resiliency practitioners so we can all share from our clinical experiences which techniques we think seem to be the most effective.

9) How can mindfulness help us cope in our ever-increasing fast-paced society?

Many psychologists are very interested in this question and for obvious good reasons. Our distractions are ever increasing and distracting us from our usual distractions, resulting in an ever-increasing psychological state of unease and malcontent. In contrast, mindfulness teaches us how to be aware of ourselves, in this moment, with compassion, curiosity, and non-judgment. This is the antidote, I believe. More than any time in human history, we need to be strengthening this mental muscle now in all of us; we need cognitive tools such as mindfulness to preserve our individual and collective sanity against the onslaught of external impingements on our conscious awareness.

It has become almost a commonplace recognized fact of modern living how many of us, if not most, simply feel too overwhelmed for too much of the day. I bring this well known psychological/sociological observation into my work with my patients and I make it an object of mutual investigation. For example, I note in myself how, until recently, I used to be a prodigious reader. But now, I end and start my days with my cell phone in my hands, instead of a book. In short, new habits are forming in me. Why are they? Where do they come from? Not sure exactly. I do not like them, I can tell you! At the very least, I know it helps to be able to identify such changes in me and to articulate them. I also know that in sharing such mindful self-observation, as this one, we can all work together, as a team, to build our individual and collective resiliency abilities.

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