Sound mental health is important to individuals and communities, as witnessed by the recent slaughter of movie goers by a gunman at a midnight premiere of Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.
director and founder Spencer Gelernter has expertise in counseling patients with depression and anxiety. The multidisciplinary practice is located in a second floor office suite on Roswell Road, across from Indian Hills Parkway in East Cobb.
Gelernter grew up in the Atlanta area and now lives in Cobb. Boyhood interests in human behavior lead Gelernter to study neuroscience, which lead to his earning a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Florida State University in 1986.
"It is true that as people we have to live as a village. Humans can't live in isolation," Gelernter said.
"East Cobb hasn't coalesced as a village and few people have family who live close by. Humans rely on parents, grandparents, other family members for support.
People move here because of our quality of life and it's become very competitive. Time is at a premium.
Because we're all running fast, working hard, very often people find they don't have time to make friends.
People end up feeling judged and feel a tremendous amount of pressure to just keep up with the neighbors. It is too easy for someone to feel like they've failed or underachieved which leads to anxiety and depression.
Feeling isolated also leads to feeling depressed, as if there is no hope. When people are isolated and overwhelmed they will go to extremes.
It is important that each of us stay focused on staying balanced. I often give advice to be less self-absorbed and more community focused. If you're altru-focused you are less likely to be depressed, less isolated and you will have purpose.
You can be involved in community service. You can focus on spiritual growth or be part of a neighborhood. You have to find ways to be connected to others in our village.”
Gelernter walks the talk. He is active in area private schools and community organizations and encourages his 12 employees to give back to the community.
Q. What's the best thing about your job?
A. I most enjoy getting to see other people grow and mature. Counseling acts as a catalyst for change. So, as a psychologist, I have the wonderful experience of watching people change their life for the better.
Q. What is the best thing about East Cobb?
A. East Cobb can be a wonderful place to raise a family. The schools and community services are all top ranked. It's safe and secure. In many ways, we have created our own paradise.
Q. Why did you choose to open your business in East Cobb?
A. We opened our clinic here for many of the same reasons that so many others have moved here. It's a wonderful community.
As a psychologist, I know that all of these wonderful strengths that make East Cobb desirable also add huge stress to families. East Cobb has become quite competitive and stressful. It actually can be quite a pressure cooker for people.
The schools are competitive and have to focus on the high-achieving students. So, if a child has a learning issue or a behavioral issue they can easily get lost.
The pressures on families are also enormous. Just "keeping up with the Jones" causes couples to over-extend financially and socially. Even things that are supposed to be fun, like little league baseball, have become a stress inducer. We chose to be in East Cobb to help our community address these issues.
Q. Why did you pick this kind of business?
A. I've always enjoyed helping others. So, as a psychologist I have the opportunity to do that every day. It has also opened the door for me to help in the non-profit world. I have been asked to serve on more than a dozen non-profit boards of directors. My clinic believes in giving back to our community and when we're able to do that by helping an entire agency change it is quite rewarding.
Q. What are some of the services you offer that people may not know about?
A. As a clinic, we offer a very broad range of clinical and therapeutic services. We provide individual and family counseling to children and adults, as well as, marital therapy. We also are very well known for our psychological evaluations and school consultations. We have patients from all over Metro Atlanta drive to us for post-divorce mediation or help in choosing a residential treatment center for a depressed teen.
Q. When did you start your business?
A. I first began seeing patients in East Cobb in 1990. Since then, we have added clinicians who each have their own specialties. Currently I am very fortunate to have a team of seven other clinicians who work with me.
Q. How did your business get started?
A. I was the director of Substance Abuse and Prevention for the State of Georgia under Governor Joe Frank Harris. I was asked by some other local therapists to come to East Cobb and provide clinical supervision for them. I enjoyed working here so much, I stayed.
Q. Do you have advice for anyone who'd like to start a small business in this area?
A. 1- join the Chamber of Commerce. As past board director of the Cobb Chamber, I can vouch that membership can be incredibly helpful.
2- Find mentors who can form informal boards of directors or consultants so that you can get guidance. I've learned a great deal from mentors about running a business.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?
A. We strive to provide the best counseling services in Metro Atlanta. We are not a mega-large clinic that focuses on quantity. We're small enough that we focus on providing only the highest quality individualized treatment.
Spencer H. Gelernter, director, psychologist
3901 Roswell Rd., suite 210