Interview with Dr. Tamara Greenberg

Today I would like to welcome author Tamara McClintock Greenberg on my blog. I am a host in the NURTURE Virtual Book Tourz to help Tamara promote her latest book: When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness.

About the Author

Tamara McClintock Greenberg, Psy.D., M.S., a licensed clinical psychologist, works with patients and family members affected by acute or chronic illness. She is an associate clinical professor and clinical supervisor at the University of California, San Francisco Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Greenberg has written three books and numerous chapters and articles on aging, illness, as well as issues pertaining to women. She writes for Psychology Today online and The Huffington Post. She also speaks to medical, psychological, and public audiences on the impact of illness, caregiving issues, and dealing with the modern medical system as a patient or loved one. She is in private practice in San Francisco.

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Hi Tamara! Thank you for accepting my invitation. Where/When did the idea of this book come to you?

I originally wanted to write a book directly for Baby Boomers on the topic of illness. I could not sell it. Every agent I spoke with said something to the effect of, “Boomers are in denial about aging and death; they won’t read it.” So I found an agent that worked with me on the development of this book. It was essentially the same content, but for an audience that might be less nervous reading about illness. Since caregivers are dealing with the reality of illness already, they do not have the luxury of being in denial. So it made sense to try to speak to them.

 How did you choose the title of the book?

My agent and I came up with a working title, but then the publisher and I tweaked it a bit. If I remember correctly, there was a lot of discussion about the subtitle. We went back and forth, until there was mutual agreement.

I find the cover really beautiful! How did you decide on it?

People have always asked that. I never pick a cover. I did not know until recently that some authors do! I did see one potential cover that my publisher showed me and I did not like it. So I tried to diplomatically suggest that they come up with something else and they came up with the current cover. It is probably important to say that I tend to give publishers a lot of latitude when it comes to covers (and even titles); they know the book buying market better than I do, so I don’t often feel moved to tell them how to do their jobs.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

The proposal was the hardest part. That took over a year. I wrote the actual book in 4-5 months. For me, a proposal is a way to organize the book. These days, agents and publishers expect a really good sample chapter. I figure, since I am writing a whole chapter, I might as well come up with a really good structure of the whole book. This makes it much easier when I get a contract, though of course, there is a lot of work in the beginning—and no guarantee. Writing requires an ability to tolerate a lot of ambiguity.

Being a psychologist, how hard is for you to detach from your patient’s problems? I know that some of their stories might be overwhelming.

I don’t really find people’s stories overwhelming. I think there is an art to doing this work in that I need to be really present and available when I am with my patients, and all therapists need to be able to manage a variety of complex emotions in our work. Outside of my work, it is also important that I look after my own mental health needs. I can’t help people if I am not taking care of myself. Of course, there are times when I might be thinking about a particular patient and what is going on for them, but I never experience this as unduly stressful. It is a part of the work to take in and consider people’s situations and consider how to be most helpful.

 I know that most of your book is inspired by your patients. Did friends or family have an influence, too?

This is an interesting question. Until recently, I would have said no. I did lose my mother after I wrote this book and I found that what I wrote matched my experience when dealing with family and medical professionals. However, I was recently talking with a friend who lost a parent when we were much younger. I remember thinking, at the time, that my friend was not really given any information about what was really going on, which was that a parent was dying. In retrospect, I think people were in denial. Since this person was a very close friend, I realize that this must have influenced me, before I had any education or professional experience with illness or death.

 If you had a special power, what would that be and why?

I would want to be invisible. I just always thought that would be so cool. For example, if there is an awkward moment in life, you can just disappear. Of course, one can never really erase difficult or shameful moments, but it is a great thing to wish for!

Thank you so much for the time! 

About the Book

Thanks to advances in science and medicine the lifespan of the average American is now longer than ever and many illnesses that once would have proven fatal have become manageable, chronic conditions. Great news, right? Sure, but there is another side to the 21st Century health picture—and it is increasingly becoming part of the lives of Americans. Many more people are living with chronic illness and that means that more than ever family members, friends, and partners are needed to provide formal or informal support.

That’s why Tamara McClintock Greenberg, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist who specializes in treating individuals with chronic illness and their families, wrote WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT (Cedar Fort Books, February 2012, ISBN: 978-1-59955-939-1, Trade Paper). In this groundbreaking book McClintock Greenberg shows readers how to provide the best care for their loved ones, without losing themselves.

So, how can caregivers meet the demands of care giving without sacrificing self-care? Throughout WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS A CHRONIC ILLNESS: HOPE AND HELP FOR THOSE PROVIDING SUPPORT McClintock Greenberg offers compassionate, authoritative, and step-by-step help for striking this critical balance. At the end of each chapter readers find a “coping checklist” that provides helpful, no-nonsense guidance on how to best address their loved ones’ needs and their own.

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>> See the NURTURE Book Tour schedule <<

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