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01. What do you do? I’m a private practice clinical psychologist in San Francisco. I see kids, teenagers, adults, and couples and I’ve been doing that for 30 years. I also write picture books for kids. I actually started writing for kids when my daughter was applying for college thinking I’d have more time, even though I have a full-time practice. So I started to write in my 50s and my first book came out in 2016. I’m also a dad, a husband, a brother, a son, a friend, a neighbor, and a citizen of the world. I try to do good, that’s at the center for me.
02. Why do you do what you do? I think because it is who I am, really. I wouldn’t know who else to be or what else to do. I see people in therapy because I really do like to offer help and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it. And I write because it’s fun, it’s challenging. It’s also stimulating. And for me, it’s been a link to a brand new community, which has been wonderful. And, as someone who’s been in private practice for a long time, but also seeing folks one-on-one, [writing] has opened up a space in which to reach a whole lot more people, kids, and adults. I love that part.
03. What have you done? I balance between work and play, which is important. I’ve written and sold 13 children’s books. My first one came out five years ago. So that’s a pretty good record in a short period of time. And I’ve created a nice circle of friends and family, which I think makes for a richer life. I came out as a gay man and I fell in love and now we’ve been together for 35 years, which is a crazy number. John and I adopted a baby at birth at a time when that was not done—two men in an openly gay relationship advertising adopting a kid was not done 26 years ago. She’s lovely and now she’s in grad school learning to be a teacher.
04. What did you learn at UCSD? I studied psychology. I learned how important it was to engage your professors and to not go through college passively. I did a lot of externships. It offered a lot of experiential knowledge. I did a fair amount of research as an undergrad with different professors. That was fun, but hard on top of working and classwork, but it was rewarding. I learned how to write papers. And that helped a lot with grad school, certainly with writing a master’s thesis and a dissertation. It was a good foundation.
05. What have you learned since leaving UCSD? I went to grad school right after going to UCSD and got a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I got to learn more about a subject I already loved, but it was of course super demanding. But it prepared me to be disciplined. I credit grad school and writing a dissertation with some of my success writing books because you have to be disciplined, be a good writer and learn how to start and finish a project, meet deadlines, and be persistent.
I also learned that primary relationships are really rewarding if you’re with a loving, caring partner and I’m fortunate to have that. I learned that parenting is filled with cheers and anxieties, but ultimately it’s quite the achievement, especially when the launch is successful. That patience is key in everything. And for me, creativity—the world of books—opens up new ways of expanding yourself, but also getting to know yourself more because you really tap into other dimensions of yourself if you’re writing from the heart.
To learn more about Michael Genhart’s children’s books, visit his website.