Donald Altman is an international mindfulness trainer and speaker as well as a best-selling author. He’s also been a comic book writer, a psychotherapist, and a Buddhist monk. In this interview, Donald talks about writing, leading mindfulness workshops, and building a private practice. He offers tips on writing, publishing, and balancing a workload.
[2:10] Donald talks about his early career as a professional writer. He wrote an interactive Internet comic strip called “Zombie Detective”. Donald eventually became ordained by a Burmese Buddhist monk and spent time in a monastery. After he left the monastery (and gave up his monk’s robes), he started writing about the spiritual side of eating. He held workshops on this topic and decided to go to graduate school for a master’s degree in counseling psychology.
[5:09] Donald worked at an eating disorder clinic and a psychiatric clinic in Portland for several years after he got his counseling license. Eventually, he opened his own therapy clinic but kept writing.
[6:12] Donald talks about starting his own counseling practice. He set it up while working at the outpatient clinics. He branched out from eating disorders into more generalized disorders. He says he hit the “mindfulness wave” in psychotherapy at the right time.
[8:10] Donald talks about offering more mindfulness training workshops, along with his books.
[8:30] Donald contacted local papers to publicize his private practice early on, and they wrote stories about him. He got on local television and radio shows to promote his books. He wrote a newsletter for anyone who came into his office and led a weekly meditation group. Both of these led to referrals.
[10:30] It took Donald a year and a half to build a solid practice. Getting placed on an HMO referral list helped. Eventually, he was able to leave his on-call job at the eating disorders clinic and work full time in his counseling practice.
[13:04] Donald talks about his books. He started writing his first mindfulness book while in the monastery. He wrote his next two books while in graduate school. He says he’s been fortunate to find good publishers, like New World Library, who worked around his schedule.
[15:55] Donald had 3 books come out last year. He says he’s reached the point where he knows how to structure books and avoid common writing roadblocks.
[17:19] Donald talks about his recently published books.
[20:52] Donald doesn’t see therapy clients anymore. He was traveling to hold workshops and writing too much to serve his clients’ needs, so he gave up his practice. He trains people across the country in mindfulness. Donald led a mindfulness training in Italy last year.
[22:20] Donald has held 90 workshops in one year—he’s cut back in the interests of self-care. Now he travels once or twice a month to hold workshops, and sometimes leads up to five in a month.
[23:44] Donald puts out a monthly newsletter on his website to build his customer base and he’s on LinkedIn. Word of mouth from workshop participants also helps build his business.
[25:00] Currently, Donald holds workshops just for therapists but he’s developing some for the general public.
[26:38] Donald talks about online classes. He’s not doing any right now, but he has in the past. He likes face-to-face learning because it’s more interactive, but he is planning to do more Internet training.
[29:46] Meditation practice sustains Donald—he doesn’t let his practice slip while still working long hours.
[31:00] Donald talks about his writing style. He doesn’t write every day, but he does write most days. Some days he writes 8 to 12 hours, riding on creative energy.
[32:31] Donald talks about common roadblocks facing new writers. Much of book marketing has been transferred from publishers to authors. Publishers want to see how you can reach your audience before committing to your book.
[33:45] Developing new workshops is the most challenging part of Donald’s work. He brings in a lot of elements to keep people engaged. When he first started holding workshops he co-taught with a seasoned teacher who served as a mentor. Donald says the experience of the workshop is as important as how much material is presented.
[37:51] Donald shares his wisdom about starting out as a therapist. He says when you are looking for an area to specialize in, really tap into your values. Ask yourself, “how do I want to impact people?” Find something that’s important to your heart and follow that.
Bio – Donald Altman, Mindfulness Trainer, Speaker and Author – Oregon
Donald Altman, M.A., LPC is an international mindfulness trainer and speaker, psychotherapist, former Buddhist monk, and award-winning writer. He has written several highly acclaimed book on mindful living and mindful eating. His best-selling book THE MINDFULNESS TOOLBOX received two 2015 Ben Franklin Publishing Gold Awards (Body-Mind-Spirit & Psychology categories).
He also has two EMMY Awards and an award from the American Medical Writer’s Association. His newest book, STAY MINDFUL & COLOR is an integrative mind-body book that integrates simple one-minute mindfulness practices with a matching illustration. Known as “America’s Mindfulness Coach” Donald trains thousands of mental health therapists on using mindfulness interventions for anxiety, depression, stress, and pain. For more info: http://www.mindfulpractices.com.
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