The challenge of interviewing someone I’ve known for a long time – is to not assume I know their whole story. Over a long-overdue lunch recently, we caught up and I learned a lot more …
First born and farm-raised in Bowling Green, Ohio. Mom was a teacher until she married. Dad, a sixth generation farmer [he died this summer at 96 – farmed till he was 94]. Her younger brother continues farming …
After high school Colleen attended University of Colorado for seven years without earning a degree; “hey, it was the 70’s …”. She then studied journalism at Bowling Green State University where she earned a B.Sc. ... and married one of her profs. [she’s been divorced a long time, has two grown children, grown grandchildren]. Moves to Cincinnati, and then to Calgary followed her husband’s career. Calgary and Colleen didn’t mix well, so she returned to Cincinnati where she earned her Masters Degree and Ph.D. in Behavioural Medicine, did work in diabetest studies in pregnancy and something she observed in her own family – impacts on kids and families when there was a double-trauma (her daughter had an illness and kidney problems) … and, well the discussion got too medical/technical and my eyes glazed over …
Her career in Cincinnati - raising kids, doing family therapy - and her work in the faculty of medicine intersected with her desire to travel. She began pitching presentations for conferences in interesting places (she still does) and cruise ships – so her passport got busy. On one such trip to Tasmania in 1984 she stopped for some beach time in Tahiti where she got chatting with a fellow on the beach. That led to exploring an opportunity in Munich - which then led to her getting a great offer. The work, to do ‘consulting work solving problems’ – often going to countries where hiring a woman would have been out of the question – but ‘Dr. C. Braun’ often got those assignments.
She made Munich her home from 1984-98, then returned to Calgary – her daughter was ill and needed help. She came, helped, stayed, raised two grandsons and grew to love Calgary. After “doing the things you have to do” she got credentialed here and has been working in clinical psychology continuously. Her travel/health business has been operating since 2014 and it seems her lust for travel has not diminished. “I’ve been to 120 countries – but I hadn’t been to Namibia and fell in love with the place. I keep it fresh by seeing it through other people’s eyes. People are emotional and absolutely transformed by the stark raw beauty of Namibia. And you realize how small you are. As I evolve in my work, I’m looking for new ways to do what I do – to be more present in my own life, and working more with groups than just individual therapy, and taking people to Namibia … fantastic.” It seems retirement is not a word Colleen plans on using ...
Why are you successful? “Congruency – I’ve tried to live according to my values and do things that give me energy. I know myself and what is important to me. I have reverence for a higher power, family – and for the nature of my work, to help myself by helping others to heal themselves.”
What has held you back? “No, nothing has. Of everything that felt like a catastrophe when it happened, in time I’ve thought – thank goodness that happened.”
How do you see your business – clinical psychologist – going forward over the next quarter?
… that depends on your specialty. For me, it couldn’t be better. I can’t accommodate much more. There’s no shortage of problems – stress, exhaustion, pain and other problems. Most clients are ‘on plans’ – and our work is to get them back on track, back to work.
And over the next five years?
… more trending to a ‘team approach’ to support people. More people accessing a wider range of services, on-line therapy – virtual group work and webinars – will help the therapy budget go a lot further. More managed cared. If the client believes you can help.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… I’m a great believer in getting others to do things I don’t do well. For example, I’ve been dealing with a financial advisor since the 1970s. I use the service of, and am loyal to, people for whom I’m not just ‘another person’. I like having my affairs in order, but I don’t like ‘fiddling with things’. So, I have a good team – and I’m loyal to people for what they’ve proven to me.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Colleen Braun, and why do they do business with you, why have they hired you, over your competitors?
… because I’m absolutely honest – in the sense that I don’t adjust what I’ll say based on who I’m talking to. I give honest assessments. I may not be what everyone wants. I’m not a hand-holding therapist.
How would you describe your leadership/management style?
… in my career I have worked in a management role – I’m not good at it. My training is in helping people deal with trauma in their lives, so I’ve done different work, teaching people how to be happy.
… I don’t believe in it. I believe in integration – part of my work is fun and part of my fun is work, and there is never enough time. I’m doing a lot of ‘cyber’ work, counselling with clients in different time zones – it’s a video platform, like Skype but far more secure. I’m astounded at how well it works. When I have fun, it’s not work.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… nothing. I sleep like a brick. I’ve been giving a lot of thought to my ‘soon to be empty nest’, an aging dog, new things besides work, exploring new facets of life I don’t know yet.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my father – tremendous integrity, positive attitude, instilled a spirt of adventure. He flew his own plane, so family vacations were ‘in our own plane’ which fueled my interest in travel. Returning to Calgary – it was different, I WANTED to be here. I could go anywhere, but I choose to stay here. I became a Canadian citizen 10 years ago – and love the opportunity I’ve had to be successful in a new country.
… photography, travel, movies … international films, foreign language films – having guests for dinner and ‘movie talk’. I’m working on a book about Namibia.
What do you read?
… professional journals of course. How-to-books on photography. Travel books.
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