Learning to Move Past the Starting Line with Dr. Melody Bacon

Melody Bacon, PhD has taught in the MFT program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology for over 10 years and in graduate programs for over 20 years.  She has an expertise in Bowen Family Systems therapy as well as Jungian Analytic Psychology.

Dr. Bacon has had a long interested in the confluence of art and the human psyche, and how, this in turn reflects the larger culture. She has led a study abroad program to Zurich, Switzerland on Spirituality and Addiction which explores the ideas of C.G. Jung and how this is applied to the nature of substance use disorders.

In addition to teaching, she also has a private practice specializing in relationship issues and is the author of two books, The Grace-Filled Divorce (2012) and Family Therapy and the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders (2019). Dr. Bacon is co-founder of The Family Matters program, an online program for families struggling with substance use disorders. She has presented at numerous conferences and workshops including AAMFT, International Family Therapy Association (IFTA), California Consortium of Addiction Program and Professionals (CCAPP) and the Raise Foundation Conference.



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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • It is okay to be selfish sometimes
  • When good is enough is exactly good enough
  • How perfectionism can sabotage you and your work
  • The only way to get ahead is to get started
  • The different kinds of support we need to get by
  • How earning your doctoral degree opens doors you did not seek out
  • Your book is your best business card

In this episode…

Do you find yourself navigating obstacles, battling excuses, and wondering, “Will I ever get there?”

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Melody Bacon inspires us by sharing her experience in getting started with her doctoral degree and getting to the finish line. She briefly discusses her book Grace Filled Divorce and how she found inspiration to write it. Dr. Bacon reveals how to ensure the guilt-trip card never hold you back, how to maintain commitment to your passion, and how hoarding a mountain of courage is critical to actually following through on achieving your goals.

The “getting there” part is always the hardest. Real obstacles and made-up excuses will conspire against you, but Dr. Melody Bacon will give you the nudge you need to not only get started but also get done.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Dissertation Done, America’s #1 authority in dissertation completion for working professionals.

Founded by Dr. Russell Strickland, Dissertation Done serves people in two ways:

  1. If you’re struggling with your dissertation, getting ready to start your dissertation, or just plain wanting to get your dissertation done as soon as possible, go to www.dissertationdone.com/done and Let’s Get Your Dissertation Done
  2. If you’re busy living your Unconventional Life and have a message that you want to share, maybe you should join our Expand Your Authority Program to become a published author. Go to www.dissertationdone.com/book and let me know that you’d like to talk about Expanding Your Authority.

Visit www.dissertationdone.com to learn more about our other services and leave a message or call them at 888-80-DR-NOW (888-803-7669) to schedule your free 30 to 45-minute phone consultation.

Episode Transcript

Disclaimer: This transcript is here for your reading convenience. It was created by machines and may (a-hem) contain some errors. If you email us about these errors, the machines will undoubtedly find out. I hope they won’t get angry.


Intro  [00:00:03]

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percenters out there, who earned their doctoral degrees, and then went on to use them in crazy, cool, unique and unconventional ways. Here’s your host astrophysicist turned teacher, author, dissertation coach, and more. Dr. Russell Strickland.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:00:28]

Hello, and welcome. My name is Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of dissertation done and here with me today is Dr. Melanie Bac, Melody Bacon. She has taught in the MFT program at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology for over 10 years, and in graduate programs generally, for over 20 years. She has an expertise in Bowen family systems therapy, as well as Jungian analytical psychology and has long been interested in the influence of art and the human psyche, which sounds very, very interesting to me. She’s also had an opportunity to lead a study abroad program in Zurich, Switzerland on spirituality and addiction, which centered on again, the Jungian perspective. In addition to teaching, she’s had a private practice specializing in relationship issues, and is the author of two books, the Grace Filled Divorce, and Family Therapy and The Treatment of Substance, Substance Use Disorders. She’s the co-founder of the family matters program, which is an online program for families struggling with substance use disorders. And she has presented at numerous conferences and workshops, including a MFT International Family Therapy Association, California Consortium of Addiction Program and Professionals and the the Rays Foundation Conference. All sounds very impressive. Dr. Mel, Dr. Bacon, welcome.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:01:51]

Thank you.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:01:53]

Before we jump in, I’d like to let everyone know that today’s episode is being brought to you by dissertation done and here at dissertation done, we help adult doctoral students through the dissertation process. So if you feel like you’re a little slowed, stalled, or just playing stuck, and you need a little bit of guidance, accountability and support, reach out to us at DissertationDone.com/done. And we’ll see if you might be a good fit for our Fast-Track Your Dissertation Coaching Program. If on the other hand, you’ve graduated, and you’d like to put put your own expertise out there into the world, the best way to do that is by not only having the first name doctor, but by becoming a published author. We’ll be talking about that someone Dr. Bacon today. But if you’d like to find out about becoming a public author, and staking out your claim in that expert space, reach out to us at DissertationDone.com/book. And we’ll have a conversation about that. So again, Dr. Bacon, welcome.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:02:47

Thank you.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:02:48]

So I was going through the introduction. And I stumbled a couple of times over the phrase Substance Use, because we always hear substance abuse. And I’m just wondering, is there is there something specific you have there that you’re using that terminology instead?


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:03:03]

Yeah, well, the field has moved to using substance use disorder maybe 10 years ago, discovered that substance abuse can be a little bit pejorative, people perceived it as kind of, you know, I don’t know, somewhat problematic. And there’s different designations to kind of complicated, there’s use and abuse and addiction. And so we just the the field, put it into in one diagnostic category, substance use disorders, alcohol, drugs, the whole shebang. And not worrying about whether it’s use or abuse or experimentation or all that it’s kind of in one category. So that’s the, the, you know, and that book, in particular, was oriented toward use in training programs. And so I use the even though substance use disorder, even though I prefer to say substance abuse, because that’s what people know, right? But it is a good. A good example of how writing academically and writing normally sometimes not coincide


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:04:18]

We work with folks on that all the time after they learn how to write for APA for their dissertation,


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:04:23]



Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:04:24]

teach them how to write for people who will actually read


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:04:27]

Right and who will understand what they’re saying better.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:04:32]

It was just an interesting thing, because to me, I think abuse really differentiates between Okay, we will allow you to use we will say that using is okay. But then there’s a point at which it becomes not okay. And that’s not based on the use it’s based on the things happening in your life


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:04:51]



Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:04:51]

inside with that user that


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:04:53]

right yeah, the you know, the consequences and when it really becomes the focus of your life. Yeah. And and it’s often, especially with alcohol, the average alcoholic gets in treatment about 20 years of use. Cocaine is about five. So there’s different, you know, time frames, but alcohol, because it’s so much part of our culture of human culture, since the dawn of humanity


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:05:24]

is ran out let it spoil, right.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:05:27]

Yeah. And you know, it’s it’s it’s part of conviviality of religious practice, you know, all kinds of stuff. So it’s very hard to know, when it’s edging into full what we would say alcoholism, most people would refer to. And that line can be a little bit blurry, you know, but usually, there’s a point at which the people around the person who is struggling with alcoholism, that know a lot quicker. And that’s partly what happens in the brain judgment and insight are affected by uses of drugs and alcohol so that you can’t even see accurately what’s going on, because that part of the brain is being directly affected by the use of the substance. So it’s kind of a,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:06:14]

and then there’s the self reflective problem. My You know, my business coach says, seems very apropos in this situation, you can’t read the label from inside the bottle.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:06:25]

That’s correct.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:06:28]

it’s very difficult to see what’s going on in your own life


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:06:31]

It is, absolutely


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:06:33]

our support. Which is why I’m such a big fan of, you know, coaching and counseling and all those, they very


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:06:40]

Exactly. You can’t see your own backside, somebody used to say, you know, what, but you need someone to tell you, you know, I gotta you got a kick me sign on the back. I do. Well, no wonder all that stuff was happening.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:06:55]

Yeah, then that’s why those kick me signs are so useful. That’s how they work. Well, tell us a little bit about, I know, we were talking a little before the we started the episode today about your doctoral journey, I wanted to talk a little bit about that. And then what you’ve seen from other folks, doctoral journeys over time, because as you know, a lot of our audience is in this stage right now, where they feel very kind of lost, confused, alone. process it. tell us a little bit about how that process worked for you. And then what you’ve seen in students in recent years.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:07:30]

Yeah, you know, I’m a good case study, because I was in the middle of life. When I moved forward into doctoral studies, I’ve been married, and unfortunately, it was widowed with a young son and I decided to get my master’s degree. And from there, kind of switched gears I was getting going to go into business, it’s kind of long story, but ended up in a doctoral program really was my passion at studying Jungian analytic and Deaf psychology. And, but you know, having a child and by then another, I think I was just getting married again at that point. And so you’re in the middle of your life. And here you are doing a graduate program, which requires quite a bit of time as anybody who’s involved. In that knows. And then of course, you’re done in our program, the coursework was completed prior to the dissertation process. So there goes all the structure that you had when you were going to class and you know, the deadlines and all that. And also, I was also having to get hours for my license. So working 20 plus hours a week and doing the dissertation. So I happen to be a personnel that blessed with being well organized. I was an administrator for several years before, I always say getting paroled and getting to be a full time professor. So I just don’t have that skill. And so I decided early on, I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in dissertation because I’m too cheap to keep spending money on tuition that wasn’t going anywhere. And I also knew if I didn’t get the doctorate, all the work I was going to do for my hours was going to be pointless because I wasn’t going to get my license. So I set aside one day a week on Fridays. I always joke that it’s my clients all have ESP because I never told them I wasn’t going to see anybody on Friday. But of course as soon as I decided to not see people on Friday, that’s the one day they wanted to come in. And you know, you’re trying to make money and you have all these pressures, but I was pretty strict. Not gonna break that rule. So I put I scheduled In just like I would a client I scheduled in that day, and found a rhythm for myself, which was 10 to 12, 12 to, well 10 to 1. Probably actual writing, like, you know, like, putting it out there, take a break, eat lunch, come back and edit. Because afternoon, my brain doesn’t work well for creative writing. And that’s what I did. I neither. And I really disciplined myself, I don’t remember somewhere between my master’s and doctoral program, I learned to read a book or an article and write a one page phrases. And so then by the time I would write my lit review, I had these phrases. And then then back in the dinosaur era, we literally were copying and pasting. There wasn’t the lovely word, cut and paste. Yeah, it was just about started there. But so I remember at one point thinking, Oh, I won’t do that whole phrases thing, because I just want to get this done. So then I’d read the journal article, I’d make some notes, set it aside, come back. And of course, now I had to reread it again. So writing the phrases really done even though there’s this kind of sense that oh, this is slowing me down. It actually wasn’t because I was still having to, you know, you fool yourself thinking when you underline that you’re actually inculcating any of this, right? Because you go back and now you have to reread it. So I did that I finally said, Okay, stop fooling yourself. Really do that phrases. And actually, the two books I I wrote, subsequently, I did the same thing. And I still went through that same shenanigans. I was thinking I didn’t have to do that. So I would do that. And so that way, I had and I think I kept all this stuff because it was such hard work, and kept moving forward. Now in my program, we were all coming. It was at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California, which is near Santa Barbara, people were coming from all over the country. And so my chair was not even in the same country, she actually was in Canada. And so it was, again, prior to the internet on the phone and mailing. But needless to say, working through and then the other thing I did was get a copy first of all of her dissertation because her topic and mine were similar. And I want and I just wanted to see also when I couldn’t remember how something’s supposed to look, I would pull it up and go, Okay, how does she do it? why reinvent the wheel, right? So subheadings and all that stuff. There it was. And so I would say I spent about a year total on that. And, you know, got it done. I lost track of the rewrites. I always tell my students that my members sing, I think it was Hemingway or somebody’s original writing and all the cross outs. I’m thinking, Okay, if he needs to rewrite, of course, everyone else needs to because we’re not at that caliber. So I rewrote and kept massaging it until it was acceptable to all of us, my committee and me. And so I got through it in I think, a good reasonable time, where you’re starting. And now the other thing I did was during my coursework, I knew I when I started, I wanted to do something on this on on grief. I didn’t know what so that’s huge category, right? But like, every time I had a research paper, I would do something related to grief. And so over the two years, I’ve got first of all, a lot of research done on for my lit review. I also figured that I started narrowing down from grief to grief and divorce to grief of females in divorce. And all of that came out of the literature. So by the time I was writing it, I’d already done that upfront work, rather than starting with, okay, I want this. I want to do something on grief. But I don’t know what, if I had started that way I wouldn’t have gotten it done in a year because,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:14:39]



Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:14:40]

That’s the process there.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:14:41]

There were several good points you made in here. I want to see if I can go back because I I should have been taking notes. Going back you you mentioned that. That you know you wanted to get it done in a relatively short period of time because all of the work and all the effort you’ve invested depend on the doctorate degree, not the other stuff. And I think that’s a very important point. So many of us who go into doctoral degrees, have this perfectionist gene that we’re trying, we may or may not be trying to suppress, I have learned to try to suppress it. I can’t stand success, right. Yeah. But, but it’s something that you have to understand that the, you know, the perfectionist basically doesn’t accomplish anything. But it’s someone that’s pragmatic, that does something that’s good enough. It’s prolific. And, and that’s what’s really rewarded in this world is not perfection. But But. Prolific. Yeah. So. So that was whatever it takes for you to convince yourself that you need to move forward, and you need to get this thing done is really important. Yeah. Then I remember you you mentioning, that was the thing that you were just talking about. Recently, here, we do that with, with my students, when I get a chance to I tell them to do the same thing, that if you’re, if we encounter you, while you’re still taking classes, think about what you want your dissertation topic to be, let’s go ahead and start mapping things out early. And then take little bit, you know, little perspectives through that dissertation topic from each of your classes, because most people have to write a paper in each of their classes. And, you know, on rare instances, you’re gonna take a class that’s completely unrelated to the dissertation topic. But that’s going to be rare, because the fact of the matter is, these classes were put together in such a way that it holistically looks at a field of study. And if you’re studying something within that field of study, it makes some sense to look at it from all those angles. So it’s, it’s a really good way of getting that work done ahead of time. Then backtracking to what you said about actually writing up what was going on in the articles, I tell my students do the same thing. It’s an annotated bibliography as far as I’m concerned, but it’s for you not for anybody else. Figure out what you think you want to say about this paper in your dissertation and write that down. because ideally, you can lose the papers, the the reference material, and you’ve got the the APA formatted citation, you’ve got your notes on what you want it to say. And that could be good enough, most of the time, you’re going to have to go back and check from time to time on some of those articles. So you don’t burn a bridge before you cross it. But But you could have a, you know, essentially, an unstructured literature review, pulled together. And there’s some other things that we do some technical things we do, where we ask people to assign keywords to them. So we can kind of form an outline in an organic way as well. Which is, which is a really kind of a neat magic trick. When folks look at it and say, Wait, I can I don’t have to write my 40 page literature review, I can write a page paper and have it fit into that literature review. So that’s a cool trick. But all these things you mentioned, I hope people were really listening and paying attention. Because there’s a lot of, you know, things that you might just think, Oh, this is the way I did it. But there’s gold in there. People have trouble with these things, you have to think through them the mindset issues of you know, the one thing I would argue with you about is you said you wanted to make sure the paper was acceptable to everyone, my committee and me, I would say what acceptable to me would be is my committee accepts it I try to tell students keep that pride of ownership out of this project. Yeah, your next work because that work, you’re not gonna have a committee telling you that you can or can’t do something a certain thing that’s yours. This one you’re doing for them


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:18:28]

I get it done. Yeah, I would say charging


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:18:33]

other valuable information in there.


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:18:34]

Yeah, yeah, check chunking. So you sit down and you know, you’re at your computer screen and your mind goes blank, because you didn’t remember you can’t read more of these. So, a couple things that I learned First of all, I would tell myself, okay, I just have to write one page. If I write one page in 365 days, I will have 365 pages, which is a huge okay. So of course, once you start writing, it’s priming the pump, you know, and I would I even do this now I just start writing. I don’t I turn the critical voice off that reevaluates every word, right? I just I always say it’s like a potter with a clay. I just need to get the clay out there. Because I can’t mold it if it’s not out there. And what I think a lot of people do is they’ll write a sentence, you know, Dr. So and so on his work on Oh, no, I don’t want to say work. Maybe I’ll say journal article now.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:19:40]

And then you walk across the room and pick up the thesaurus,


Dr. Melody Bacon  [00:19:43]

right journal article. And then you know, a half hour later you’ve written one sentence. That’s horrible. Just write everything you know. It does sound terrible. It’s embarrassing. I never want anyone to read my first draft. I’m really glad nobody’s seeing these. But now I can schmooze them and edit and mold. So that’s my first, no matter, I’m starting another book for on couples for couples, and so that’s how I’m starting. I’ve got different sections. And yeah, you pick up where you left off. And that’s the other thing, I usually try to stop writing kind of mid section. So that when I go back, I’m alright. Oh, yeah, I was starting to write about that, rather than finishing and then having to go, okay, what’s the next section? That’s not a


Dr. Russell Strickland  [00:20:37]

Do, some do notes for yourself. Just, we’re a clinical psychologist at the end of it. Our quote and quote, you’re right, is where we were done. This is what we should be thinking about next time, whatever. So now, you’ve got at least some instruction. And I think the idea of like, literally trying to cut yourself off in the idea. So you can read the last paragraph and say, Oh, I wanted to say this, this and this kind of Head Start and then

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.