entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, aba, aba therapy

Planning for Success: A Lesson in Life and Entrepreneurship

By Dr. Rob Douk

What do psychologists do, anyway? Before I started my career, I didn’t really know – and my greatest strength was that I didn’t try to pretend that I did. I resolved to embark on a plan of action to learn whether I should become one.

I aspired to specialize in helping children, and so my first step was to take a part-time job at minimum wage at a daycare center. How might I feel after spending a full day dealing closely with kids? I needed to know.

I didn’t want to make another mistake about what I really wanted for my career. I had recently quit a lucrative job at an insurance company because I couldn’t stand it anymore. Perhaps I had now discovered the right path, but I still wanted to test the waters. I didn’t want to take a leap of faith and then drown, so I proceeded methodically.

I also wanted to find out how psychologists themselves felt about how they filled their days. Why had they chosen that profession, and was it what they expected? I opened a thick telephone directory – some of us may remember those – and flipped through the yellow section to “P” for psychologists. I began leaving voicemails asking people I didn’t know whether I might follow them around for a day.

I only got a few responses, but one was from a school psychologist in Long Beach named Brandon Gamble. He invited me to visit him at the elementary school where he was based. I arrived before the school day had started and waited outside his office. Watching the children arrive for classes, it occurred to me that I would be meeting a gentleman who got to work with kids all day long, guiding them to the services they needed so that they had a chance to be their very best.

Dr. Gamble arrived and greeted me warmly. During that day, I observed as he met with a parade of students, as well as teachers and administrative staff as they brainstormed on ways to better support kids at risk or in need. “I want you to meet someone else,” he said. “Her name is Mary Ann Seng, and she’s another psychologist working here in the district. In fact, she’s Cambodian, too.”

After spending that day with Dr. Gamble, and after finding that I enjoyed my job at the children’s center, I felt confident in proceeding into graduate school at California State University, Los Angeles. I would go on to work two years directly with Ms. Seng, assisting her as a practicum student as part of my graduate work. I accompanied her into some of the most troubled neighborhoods.

I had met these two good souls by picking a name from a phone book, but it turned out that we shared a passion, a purpose, and a faith. They were my introduction to the field of psychology when I was at my most impressionable, and I could not have asked for better mentors. Driven by a passion, they had found a meaningful vocation that turned their passion into a life purpose, and they knew how to formulate an efficient plan of action to make it all work.

In my third year at the university, I secured an internship in the Los Angeles school district. By then I was specializing in ABA therapy for autism. I went on to get my master’s degree and school psychology credentials, and later I would do my doctoral work in clinical psychology. After completing my master’s degree, and while working on my doctorate, I began practicing as a school psychologist in the Los Angeles system, soon transferring to the Garden Grove district.

I had a heavy caseload in those districts, but, in retrospect, this gave me the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of interventions. In that sea of school psychologists, I was virtually the only one specializing in ABA therapy. It was clear to me that my skill set was in huge demand. After seven years of working in schools, I felt a growing desire to try something different. I wanted to be able to do even more for families – and that led me eventually to launch Behavioral Health Works, focusing on the growing need to treat autism through ABA therapy.

I finally had identified my passion to help people and then pursued my purpose, putting in place a plan to become a school psychologist. To become an entrepreneur was also my passion, however, so I developed this new plan to launch BHW. I had to discover the steps necessary to make the move from clinician to businessman. Those require different skill sets.

That is a consideration that may not be readily apparent to the new entrepreneur, who has only recently entered the business world. Passion and purpose are critical but they will not take you all the way. Training and coaching can make all the difference. With a plan of action in place, success is almost inevitable.

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