War Veteran, Forensic Evaluator, Counselor, App Developer Dr. Tommy Black
Dr. Tommy Black is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been in private practice since 1998. Currently he serves as a member of the Georgia Composite Board for Professional Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage & Family Therapists. He also serves as the Chair of the Rules Committee and on the Advisory Panel for the National Board of Forensic Evaluators. Dr. Black has extensive experience and training in Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, REBT, and DBT. He works with a myriad of life issues but has particular expertise in ADHD, Grief/Loss, Depression, Anxiety Disorders, PTSD, Impulse Control Issues, Relationship difficulties, and Adjustment Difficulties. A veteran of the Gulf War (1990-1991) while serving in the U.S. Army, Dr. Black has years of personal and professional experience in understanding and helping others cope with the specific trials of military services for active duty individuals and their families. Today we’re talking about how he uses his ADHD, wisdom and years of experience to help others. Enjoy!
***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***
In this episode Peter & Dr. Tommy Black discuss:
1:14- Intro and welcome Dr. Black!
3:30- What’s your story. When did you begin pursuing your doctoral studies?
5:55- On the issue of treating Neurodiverse, versus urgent medical care & resources available.
6:55- On some of the improvements and areas of neurodiversity that are getting attention finally.
8:05- On Esteem Therapeutics and the work Dr. Black & Associates are doing
10:45- Rigidity. Let’s talk about how your service in the military helps individuals with ADHD or those who may be neurodiverse.
14:08- Do you feel you attained much of the structure you currently use in your daily life from the military?
16:05- What do you say to parents who have just learned of their child’s neurodiverse diagnosis?
16:55- On how he managed through his own childrens’ diagnoses’
20:00- Thank you Tommy! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via firstname.lastname@example.org or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.
STAY HEALTHY – STAY SAFE – PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!
21:07- Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits
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Hey guys, Peter, Shankman welcome to another episode of Faster Than Normal. I hope you were having a great day. It is raining here in New York and foggy. Not so much rain but fog, but all as well. Uh, today is early voting in New York city. I voted, uh, it was on line at 6:00 AM. I was out by about 7:55. So that was pretty awesome. And if you don’t vote, you’re not allowed to listen to this podcast. So those are the rules. I don’t care who you vote for, but you got to vote very, very important, democracy must survive.
Anyway, on the podcast, we’ve got someone who has helped contributed to democracies survival. We have a veteran of the Gulf war, the original bill for 1991. Back when I was a freshman in college. I remember when we went, when the, when the, uh, CNN broke the news, that, that, that it was starting. And, um, we’re talking to dr. Tommy Black, Dr. Tommy Black is a licensed professional counselor. He’s been in private practice since 98. He currently serves as a member of the Georgia composite board for principal counselors, social workers, and marriage and family therapists. He also serves as chair of the rules committee on the advisory panel for the national board of forensic evaluators. He’s extended his extensive experience and training in cognitive behavior therapy. CBT is I talk about always REBT and DBT, which is dialectical behavioral therapy. He works with a myriad of life issues, but his particular experience in ADHD, grief, loss, depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, impulse control issues, relationship difficulties, and adjustment difficulties. So essentially everyone who listens to this podcast, as I said, a veteran to go for while serving in the U S army, Dr. Black has used a personal professional experience in understanding and helping others cope with specific trials of military service for active duty individuals and their families. First of all, thank you for your service. Second of all, dr. Black welcome faster than normal.
Thanks, Peter. I appreciate you having me. Um, and thank you for that. Welcome. It does sound like any issue you have. I can help you with this.
You’re pretty much covered everyone who’s ever been on the show. Yeah, no question.
Yeah, those are all I think though, um, very typical of individuals with ADHD. We deal with all of those things, right? Well, I was going to say everything is so interconnected. Yeah. Right. And, and so, so, you know, a hair’s breadth apart from each other, and that’s really, I think one of the things that people don’t realize exactly how interconnected and close all of these things are, whether you’re looking at trauma issues or ADHD or PTSD, impulse control, executive function disorder, you know, all of these are literally a hair’s breath away from each other.
Yup. Yup. It’s very difficult at times to find differential diagnosis for those things, make a determination of what the primary issue is and what’s driving the, um, frustrations or concerns. So that’s where we have to turn to the professionals or look at data and try to figure that stuff out. So tell me your story. So you, you were in the army when you came back, is that when you, uh, pursued your, your, uh, doctoral studies.
Yeah. So, um, I was actually enlisted, I was in high school, straight out of high school. I joined the military and went into that. And when I came back, I got a scholarship and I, my goal was to enter politics. I was a poly-sci major and hope to go to law school, but then I took intro to psychology. And I fell in love and it just spoke to me. Um, it resonated with me just in my personal life, as well as professionally. I just felt like I understood it and got it. And so I changed my major to psychology at that time, still thinking that I would pursue a law degree. Psychology degrees are great degree to have if you’re going into criminal law. And then I went to grad school and decided I want to do, uh, do psychology and particularly school psychology because I, I foolishly thought that when my children were in school, I would take summers off and holidays off and be with them and hang out. And that didn’t work out. I ended up opening a private practice and getting involved with military families, primarily dealing with. ADHD trauma and the special issues associated with that depression, anxiety. Uh, relationship difficulties and have really been involved with that since about 95, working with individuals who do that, I primarily do assessments because my background was in school psychology and that’s what they primarily do. I ended up getting my, getting my PhD in psychology. Um, more generally speaking. But working in that field and working with families and trying to overcome those types of issues in a way that we don’t often see, particularly in military families and where I’m at people just kind of get moved along. We don’t have a lot of resources and in Georgia where I live now. And so it often takes several weeks before you get in for an appointment and then several weeks to get a diagnosis. And then several weeks. Weeks they get a treatment plan. So if you have an issue today, it might be six to eight weeks before you get any start working towards any resolution of that issue in the mental health field down here. And it seems to be endemic in the United States everywhere I’ve been working with national organizations. It seems like people are hurting and we just don’t have the availability to get them the help that they need.
No, it’s interesting that you bring that up because I think that one of the most often overlooked. Uh, parts of sort of neurodiversity, um, is the fact that it exists and the fact that it is just as, uh, um, you know, you wouldn’t, someone has a, has a bone sticking out of her leg, right? You wouldn’t, uh, say, okay, in six weeks we can look at this, right?
Yep. That’s right. The same issue we have, we have decisions that this is, this is important. And, and just because you can’t see, it doesn’t mean it’s not real. It doesn’t mean it isn’t drastically affecting.
That’s right. That’s right. It’s it’s, that’s very true. I didn’t think about it that way. I was just thinking you were going to go a little bit different direction. The idea, not only do we have the, just the lack of resources, but then once you get to a resource you’re just a bad parent, or maybe you should do this differently, or maybe your kid’s just a bad kid, you know, they don’t get the support.
You’re exactly right. If you walk in with a bone sticking out of your leg, they don’t say, well, maybe you should just walk it off. Come back in a couple of really hurt. That much could be in a baby. And, you know, it’s interesting because I think that, that we’ve definitely improved, um, from where we were say 10, 15, 20 years ago. But you know, the flip side of that is that 30 years ago when I was in school, it didn’t exist. I mean, it did, but in our world, it didn’t, it was sit down, you’re disrupting the classes. Right, right. You know, and yeah, there was. Good. I was just going to say it to build on that. There was a lot of different, um, avenues for that where sit down, you’re disrupting the class or, or teachers seem to have a little more discretion as the classes didn’t seem to be as crowded as they are today. I think, plus we are finding that because we’re talking about it and because we’re understanding it more, there is more of an acceptance that, okay, this is real, but I don’t think it’s, it’s made at that point yet where it’s like, okay, this is real. Let’s treat it with the same level of respect and urgency that we would something that we’ve known for a hundred years.
Right. And I think that it’s going to take time, but I think it’s what things like, you know, people you are doing that is it’s sort of helping that move forward. Yeah, I think you’re exactly right. And I think, um, kind of along those lines, if, if I could expand upon that a little bit, the idea that what we’re doing now, I’ve been in private practice working with individuals, but my co-founders and I started esteem therapeutics with the idea of putting the parent or the individual with the, um, Neurodivergent um, uh, divergence in the driver’s seat, so to speak of their treatment plan and their care by giving them the tools when they want it, when they need it at their moment of need, whether that’s 2:00 AM or two, two in the afternoon on Saturday, and then giving them the data to see that if the things they’re doing are working or aren’t aren’t working. So that’s why we started esteem therapeutics. And it allows, it’s an app that is really a super app that connects individuals with all the different, um, technologies and services and platforms that are available today to help with ADHD or depression or anxiety or parenting or stress or trauma. But it puts it all in one place and then allows you to check to make sure what you’re doing. The interventions that you’re using are actually working as opposed to, like we were talking about in the traditional sense where you come to my office and maybe, maybe you had a good day today. So all we talk about as good stuff, but then. Tomorrow you remember? Oh yeah, I’m really struggling with this, but now you’ve lost it in that moment of me. So applying technology in a way that every other field, every other professional field in the world uses it. But health and mental health doesn’t we don’t have a tele-health. Services like we should obviously COVID has changed that to a great extent as we were starting to overcome a lot of that resistance out of necessity, but we’ve taken that paradigm and shifted it to a way where the individuals in charge as opposed to the professional. Who it feels like a lot of times it’s making decisions without giving you all the information, or sometimes you just feel like you’re being pushed along, or sometimes you feel powerless or lost or confused because you get inundated with the jargon that we use. And the like me, I’m talking very fast. That’s very difficult. So you get somebody in your office, you have an hour, you got to get through all this stuff and then, all right, see you later. Well, wait a minute. We didn’t even talk about this, right? Well, we don’t have time. Sorry.
And I think that, you know, there’s a, there’s a second separate angle of that, which is that, you know, when we get excited about something that we really want to talk about, we lose track of time. Anyway, time, you know, ADHD, you have two types of time you have now and not now. And so if I have that ability to talk to you, yeah, next thing I know it’s going to be 60 minutes. You’re gonna be like, and I’m like, well, we touched on the half of one topic. Right. That’s exactly right. Yeah. Um, I don’t know, go back to your military service for a second because, you know, as I get older and I realized that, um, w what my ADHD actually requires is such a surprising amount of rigidity.
Right. And that’s something I never thought that I was supposed to have as a kid. I hate it. I write, I hated rigidity. I remember my, the only job I’ve ever had, it was America online and they let me do whatever I want. As long as I got the work done, when I, when it was due, I didn’t care what time I did at three in the morning. But then my next job after that lasted two weeks, because they had meetings 8:30 AM, this and that. And it was terrible. But the more I start to understand maybe HD and get diagnosed and really sort of see it. I realized that. My best days are when my calendar is solid and I’m scheduled, you know, from first thing in the morning until the time it’s time to go home. And I don’t have that time to sort of goof off and fall down a rabbit hole. Right. And the more it will is that the more sort of thinking that, you know, wow, the military might’ve been really beneficial for me, but I think what I was at that age 18, they did, I wouldn’t have understood that. Right. Because we didn’t know what I had or what was going.
Yeah, I think that’s very true. I think we see, there are a lot of individuals with ADHD who thrive in the military and you see a lot of people there. It is very structured. Um, it’s very interesting because it’s, it’s not like going off to college or going off to a job. It’s almost like you move in with another set of parents. You have. The staff non-commissioned officers in cos the sergeants and first sergeants and whatnot. And then you have officers, so you have multiple levels of accountability. Um, and then you have in the military, in the army, at least when I was in, we had a buddy and everywhere you went and got a buddy and you didn’t go anywhere without your buddy and you never left your buddy. And anytime you’re in any training or doing anything you were with your buddy, So you have that, um, amount of accountability. The frustrating part about the military is one of the things. If you’ve ever talked to anyone in the military, one of the true tenants of the military is a hurry up and wait, right? So you have these, you have this mission, you have this job yet, whatever you have to do, you got to hurry up. Hurry up, go, go, go, go, go. Uh, for example, when I got deployed to the middle East, we rushed, I got the call on Wednesday at like 8:00 PM, 4:00 AM. We were all on a bus going around Stein air base to catch a flight to go. And then when we pitched a tent and sat on the tarmac for four days, played a lot of space. Yeah. So that part is extremely frustrating and difficult when you have ADHD and you’re just kind of bouncing off the walls and you don’t have the freedom to just get up and leave, but you’re, you’re a hundred percent correct having structure having stability having consistency is part of the key for overcoming those kinds of difficulties. When we, as individuals, don’t mess with ADHD, don’t necessarily fit in with how society is driven or saying we have to do things. And it’s one of the things I’ve carried over, you know, everywhere. When I go home, my wallet, my keys, my watch, they all go in the same place every day. And lately with everything that’s been going on, that hasn’t been happening. So I’m freaking out every morning. Well, I took my wallet. Luckily I have a. What are these, these little things where you push a button, then it will find it for you tile. I have tile in my wallet, so, uh, so I can find my wallet and I hadn’t used it for probably two years, but then the last couple of months I’ve used it at least once a week. So having that structure and that discipline is very important.
Definitely. Do you feel that, um, you learned a lot of, sort of the, the, uh, structured tips that you apply to yourself today in the military? I mean, I know that. That I have a, a good, a good friend of mine passed away recently, but was a former Navy seal. And, um, You know, in just being friends with him. I learned so many things that I could do to guarantee my productivity and to guarantee that I wouldn’t go down those rabbit holes. And I, he told me he learned, you know, all of them in, in, in the seals and in the teams. And I just wonder, um, you know, is that almost an advantage in some way?
Yeah, I think so. I definitely think it is. I mean, overall, the net net is a positive in the sense that you’re learning, that kind of structure and that kind of self-discipline and basically self monitoring and self mentoring kind of thing so that you can manage those things better. Not necessarily because a lot of times with parents dealing and teachers and schools and the legal system, we punished individuals who have ADHD, you know, you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that. You didn’t do this. So you’re getting in trouble in the military. It’s more structured in the sense that, uh, okay, you need to do this or you need to be here. What are you doing? We got to do this. Or, you know, it’s a lot of looking out for each other and having those safeguards in place to make sure that you’re able to develop those skills and use them. And then as an individual to carry those over in that sense, a lot of times with. Parents, the parents just do it for their kids. You know, they don’t structure it. They just say, Hey, here’s your lunch? Here’s your school stuff. Here’s your, because they get frustrated with the idea of having this time date every morning before school starts, so they just take it over. But in the military, you don’t get it that way. That it’s very empowering in the sense that they’re. Teaching you the skills and then monitoring those skills, kind of an education. We call it scaffolding. You know, we, we, we build the scaffold, the safety net around you, and then we help you develop those skills as you go along.
What do you say to parents who are, you know, you’re sitting there with them for the first intake and they’re, they’re, they’re sort of coming to grips with their new. Type of child, right. They’ve just been told that, you know, it’s ADHD, whatever the case may be, you know? And, and, and they obviously have a lot of things in way to their mind and they’re not all positive.
Yeah. So the first part of that is empathy, trying to have empathy and understanding. It helps that I have ADHD. It helps that I have two, I have twin 17 year old twins. It helps that they, I have two children who have ADHD, and I went through this process as a parent twice. I mean, it’s interesting because they hit at different times, even though they’re twins. And my daughter hit in like first or second grade and my son was a little older before his symptoms started becoming an issue. But, uh, having that kind of empathy and understanding, we’ve talked about this kind of at the beginning, instead of pushing along and forcing them along, having the patience to sit and listen to their frustrations and concerns, and then normalizing it, you know, a lot of times; well, he has this, and that’s the end of it. No, not necessarily. There’s a lot of people who have ADHD or neurodivergent who are very successful. And if you can turn this into a strength and use that strength by not putting them in a box or not making them do things exactly the same way everybody else does, then. Then there’s an opportunity for growth and an opportunity to use those things in a more positive with that. The point of that, isn’t a spinning, you know, aw, this was great. You know, it’s not, but to put it in the proper context so that they understand and then allow them the opportunity to have a sounding board so that they can speak about how they feel about missing. I think.
That point is a very good one because parents, a lot of times don’t get that support. What they hear is you should have done this. If you’d just spanked your kid, he’d be fine. If you set better limits, if you did visit, you know, what they hear is you’re a bad parent.
Exactly. And that’s not the case. And we’re dealing with exceptional situations where the exceptional children with exceptional skills and abilities. So, so being able to overcome that idea that, you know, you screwed up or you’re just a horrible person and then giving them the opportunity to voice that structured, not structured. Um, um, supportive listening is important to just letting them kind of vent; so that’s kind of the key. And probably the biggest thing I like to reinforce to parents is that they’re being too harsh on themselves when we talk. One of the things I think is important as for. Individuals to treat themselves the way they would treat other people. And that’s kind of a flip of the common saying, but if somebody came to you and said, Oh my gosh, I’m so depressed, I don’t know what to do. I’m a horrible parent because my kid was just diagnosed with ADHD. You would say, you know, it doesn’t necessarily mean that maybe you can do this, or maybe you can look at that, but when it’s your kid, Oh, I suck. I screwed up. I can’t believe I did this. What’s wrong with me. I’m a horrible parent. I’m a horrible person. You know, we, we tend to beat ourselves up way worse than we would someone else. So being kind to yourself in those moments, uh, when you don’t necessarily feel as strong as you should, I think is important. And we forget that.
Awesome. How can people find you? Because I know that I know that they’re going to have questions, so what’s the, what’s the best way to get to talk to Dr Tommy Black.
Chooseesteem.com. Uh, lots of owes, lots of E’s choose of steam.com, um, is probably the best way or the next best way is if they go to the app store, the Apple app store and download the app or on Facebook, they can find us on esteemtherapeutics.com. Um, and then they can reach out to me. We’re pretty active on Facebook. So if they have a message that you get to me, Or if they go to the website, we have a contact us there as well. So, and I’m always available. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get back to emails. When I get it, the workload gets pretty heavy, but, um, But we love to hear from families and connect them with resources and work through the system because we understand and appreciate how difficult that is.
Yup. No question, man. Awesome. Very, very cool. Well guys, even listening to that timing like dr. Blake, thank you so much for taking the time. I truly appreciate it. This was a really informative interview and I’m going to have you back at some point, if you’re cool with that, I’d love to love to see the conversation a few months.
Sounds great. Thanks Peter. I really appreciate you having me and having the opportunity to talk about these important issues, especially at this time.
No question. Guys has always you’ve been listening to Faster Than Normal. If you liked what you heard, drop us a note, write us a review, let us know what you think. We’d always love to hear from you! We’re always looking for wonderful new guests like Dr. Black or anyone else who might, you might think might work. On the show, let us know. You can find us on Twitter. Normal at petershankman that’s me. Uh, our email is what’s our email. Peter@shankman.com works just as well. And we look forward to talking to you guys again next week, stay healthy, stay inside, wear a mask that you can actually just wear a mask. That’s not a new question and make sure you vote. We’ll talk to you guys soon. Take care.
Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week.