Interview With Matt Welsh, a former lawyer turned clinical psychologist
I quit my job, left the law firm I was working at, went back to school for a total of 7 years, and changed careers to pursue what I believe is my deeper calling to be a psychologist.
I have found that when I am authentic, I do not always experience happiness, but it increases the chances of me experiencing happiness.
Last week, I got in touch with Matt Welsh. I quickly found out that we both share a passion: to look for things that make us happier.
We both use different methods of fulfilling that passion: Matt works as a clinical psychologist, I try to inspire others to focus on happiness by writing on this site.
I thought it would be a great opportunity to interview him here, as I believe everybody has an interesting story to share with the world. We all look for the same thing (happiness), but our paths are all unique.
Today, I want to share Matt's path to happiness.
Matt began his career in Hollywood working for an entertainment agency, the William Morris Agency, and then as a trial lawyer for the Department of Child Services in Indiana. He realized that he was not happy working as a lawyer. So, he quit his job as a lawyer to pursue his calling to become a psychologist and obtained his PhD in Psychology.
He now works as a full-time psychologist. Matt is also the founder of the Spiritual Media Blog. This website is his creative outlet for his passions related to psychology, spirituality, and inspirational entertainment. His hope for Spiritual Media Blog is that it provides you with content that is practical, inspirational, and entertaining.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. If you are on an elevator and somebody asks you who you are, how would you introduce yourself?
I am a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating patients who have an addiction, PTSD, or trauma.
I find my work to be very rewarding, but that wasn't always the case. I used to work as a lawyer, but I was not happy working as a lawyer. So, I quit my job, left the law firm I was working at, went back to school for a total of 7 years (2 years to get a Masters and 5 years to get a PhD in Psychology), and changed careers to pursue what I believe is my deeper calling to be a psychologist.
When and why did you start writing on the spiritual media blog?
I started writing Spiritual Media Blog about 11 years ago in 2008.
After I graduated from law school, I moved from Indianapolis to Los Angeles to work at a talent and literary agency, William Morris Agency. After living and working in Hollywood, I realized there were not a lot of spiritual, inspirational, and conscious movies and entertainment getting the recognition and publicity they deserved.
So, I initially created the Spiritual Media Blog to raise awareness for spiritual and inspirational movies, books, TV shows, music, and new media. Since then, it has expanded to include a lot of guest posts and interviews from authors, writers and filmmakers about spirituality, psychology, and inspirational entertainment.
I hope to provide information about it that lets people know about emerging inspirational and conscious entertainment as well as provide them with practical tools they can use in their daily lives for spiritual growth and psychological development.
You said you were not happy working as a lawyer. What factors about the job had the biggest negative effect on your happiness? Could you tell me a little more about what made you leave?
I tried a variety of legal jobs before I Ieft the profession.
After law school, I worked for a talent and literary agency in Los Angeles because I was - and always have been - interested in writing, movies, books, TV shows, and music. However, I didn't feel like I fit in with a lot of the mainstream Hollywood movies that were being made. I was more interested in spiritual and inspirational movies and found that difficult to pursue in Hollywood.
At the time, I also felt like I wanted to make a more direct impact on other people's lives than working in the entertainment industry. So, I started working for the Department of Child Services as a trial lawyer with the hope of helping abused and neglected children find a safe place to live. Then, I worked as a family law attorney helping people with divorces, child custody disputes, protective orders, and adoptions.
I found working as a lawyer to be really difficult because the profession by nature is adversarial and I don't really like fighting and arguing with other people. As a lawyer, I spent most of my days constantly arguing with other people, which I didn't enjoy. Additionally, one of the hardest parts about being a lawyer is that you can't really pick your clients or whether your client is innocent or guilty. So, I found it to be very difficult to represent clients who were guilty or wanted an outcome that I didn't believe was fair or in the best interest of their spouse or children.
However, at the time, I also found myself becoming more interested in psychology and counseling. Many of my legal clients were going through very tough personal and emotional challenges such as a divorce or child custody dispute. I found it very rewarding to listen to them, which got me interested in counseling and psychology.
I was also becoming more interested in psychology and counseling because at the time I started getting counseling of my own to help me deal with my work stress and own confusion I was feeling about being a lawyer and not knowing what sort of profession I should do.
Most days, I would feel anxious as I drove to work as a lawyer and depressed when I drove home because I did not know what I wanted to do professionally.
But, eventually I started getting counseling and that really helped me manage that stress, identify and start living my values, and ultimately helped me become more connected to my authentic self and find my true calling. The benefits of what I was receiving in counseling inspired me to want to be a counselor and help other people experience the same sort of benefits I received.
Additionally, at the time I started giving free motivational talks and life-coaching at night and weekends to a non-profit, Dress for Success, where I helped unemployed women find and pursue meaningful careers. That was also really rewarding for me. So, I knew that I would be happy as a counselor and left law so I could pursue a career that I really loved.
Have you ever regretted making the decision to switch career paths? If so, what made you regret your decision?
Isn't this amazing?
Matt followed his heart and made the decision to go back to school after having already entered a career in law. He took a risk that changed his life.
And it had a huge impact on his happiness. It's amazing to see that this crucial decision had such a positive influence on his happiness. Surely, it must have been a tough decision, but he followed his heart and was eventually rewarded for it.
What about your current career has the biggest positive influence on your happiness?
I feel like my career is in complete alignment with my values, personality, strengths, interests and calling in life.
It's hard to explain, but when I go to work each day, I know that I am doing something that I find rewarding, interesting, enjoyable, meaningful and in alignment with my deepest calling in life. It makes me especially happy to work as a counselor and help people work through problems in their life, identify what is meaningful to them, and reconnect with their authentic self.
Unsurprising follow-up question: Are there still downsides to your current line of work, things that negatively influence your happiness? If so, could you tell me a little more about them?
Working as a psychologist can be very challenging and demanding at times when I work with difficult patients.
For example, I work with patients who have an addiction, PTSD, or trauma. For the most part, I really enjoy that challenge of working with people who have those problems. But sometimes, it can be hard when I am working with someone who is not really invested in their treatment or could be disruptive to others during treatment.
What is currently your biggest goal in life? How are you planning to reach that goal?
My biggest goal in life is to be authentic.
I have learned that I can not always control my external circumstances, but I can control whether I am living my values, and living my values usually leads to happiness and success in the long term.
Everyday, I strive to be authentic in my thoughts, feelings, and actions. If I do that, then I usually experience happiness and success in the long term. But, if I happen not to experience happiness or success, at least I know that I have stayed true to my authentic self and that usually helps me feel a peace that passes understanding and deeper meaning in life when I am faced with circumstances I don't like or understand.
How would reaching that goal influence your happiness?
When I am authentic, then that means that I am staying true to my authentic self, living my values, speaking my truth, being honest with myself about my needs, and following my inner callings in life.
I have found that when I am authentic, I do not always experience happiness, but it increases the chances of me experiencing happiness. Further, if I don't experience happiness, then I do always feel like I am connected to the Highest good and that brings about a deeper sense of purpose and peace than when I am not being authentic.
Additionally, I have found that when I am being authentic, that inspires other people to be their most authentic self and that is so rewarding.
What is the happiest personal moment you remember from the past? Could you tell me a bit about it?
I am currently engaged and planning on getting married in 2019. I can't remember one specific moment, but there have been many moments where I felt complete love, joy, peace, and connection with my fiancé. In those moments with her, that is when I have felt the happiest.
What has the biggest negative effect on your happiness? Is there a way you can influence that thing/event in such a way that your happiness is less affected by it?
I feel the most unhappy when I am being inauthentic or around others who are being inauthentic. When I am being inauthentic, I start to ignore my needs, doubt myself or instincts, or pay attention to irrational thoughts. That really weighs heavy on me and I start to be unhappy. Additionally, if I am around others who are being inauthentic with me or treating me unfairly, then that really makes me feel angry.
I can influence this by trying to remain authentic. When I'm feeling inauthentic then it helps me to do some yoga, exercise, meditation, or talk to others about how I am feeling or for help.
If other people are being inauthentic, then I have found it is best for me to be assertive and confront them in a calm and direct manner. If that is not possible, then I try to leave the situation and find another healthy outlet for me to express my anger or frustration about them such as talking to someone else, yoga, or exercise.
Finally, when was the last time a total stranger did something nice for you, something that made you smile? Could you tell me what that was?
What a great question!
About a month ago, I was trying to buy a bike. I just needed it to ride about a mile a day to a train stop. I went into a local bike shop that had all of these expensive and nice bikes. I told the owner what type of bike I was looking for and he told me that I would be better off going to another bike shop that had less expensive bikes.
His selfless advice probably saved me two or three hundred dollars because instead of buying an expensive bike at his local bike shop, I literally went about a mile away and bought another bike that was much less expensive, but was perfectly reliable for what I needed. That owner probably could have talked me into buying a bike in his shop and made some money off of me, but instead, he was truly concerned about me and referred me to another shop to help me save money.
That bike shop owner probably believed in having good karma!
If there's one thing this interview has taught me is that you have to follow your heart.
Matt followed his heart by switching careers, and his happiness has improved drastically as a result.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, I hope this interview has inspired you to have courage as well. I believe that no one has ever truly regretted following his or her heart.
If you're afraid that your decisions might backfire, then I highly recommend you start tracking your happiness. By tracking your happiness, you'll be able to find out what things are most valuable to you in your life.
That way, you can make the most informed decision possible and therefore steer your life in the best direction!
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Who runs Tracking Happiness?
My name is Hugo, and I'm from the Netherlands. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering, a passion for data and statistical analysis and am an expert in happiness.
I've tracked my happiness every day for 5 years in a row. And I'm now using my knowledge to inspire you to prioritize your happiness. You see, I'm a strong believer in what gets measured gets managed. I want to show you what I - and many others - have learned while tracking your happiness.
My Happiness Essays have reached thousands of people around the world and have been shared in many places.
With my data, I have inspired hundreds of others to also track their happiness. And I'm hoping this number will only grow more!