When Having the Smarts Is Not Enough with Dr. Gregory Cason

Dr. Greg Cason is best known as “Dr. Greg” from the Bravo series LA Shrinks, the controversial docu-series that showed what happens in the therapist’s office and in his real life.  He appears regularly as a psychological expert on The Nancy Grace Show and has also appeared a large variety of TV programs including The Jeff Probst ShowThe Tyra Banks ShowExtraEntertainment TonightAccess Hollywood, and several news features.

Dr. Cason’s expertise was also featured in documentaries specifically about the gay community such as The Butch FactorThe Adonis Factor, and The Gift. Most recently, he provided expert psychological analysis in The Secret Tapes of the O.J. Case: The Untold Story. His writing includes an often irreverent psychology column for the gay community called “Off The Couch” in print and on-line versions of Frontiers magazine and his sometimes controversial views have been featured about in The Huffington PostThe AdvocatePeople, and several other publications.

Dr. Cason currently teaches in the psychiatric residency at UCLA and is a licensed psychologist and  Diplomate in the Academy of Cognitive therapy with a private practice in Los Angeles specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & the LGBT community.



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

  • Dreams don’t work unless you do
  • You can do what you want to do if you set your mind to it
  • Being an accomplice to your success
  • To survive your doctoral degree, know that you got to get help
  • Knowledge isn’t always enough—persistence is key
  • Romanticizing your dissertation is the quickest way to delay your PhD
  • The difference between having and presenting knowledge
  • Perfectionism is the enemy, not your grammar

In this episode…

Have you been in a situation where just getting this one thing done seems impossible? It could be getting through step one of your workout routine, reading the first ten pages of a book, or writing one sentence for your diissertation. But dreams and goals don’t work unless you do, so, why are you delaying?

In this episode of An Unconventional Life, Dr. Gregory Cason shares with Dr. Russell Strickland his dream of becoming a psychologist. Starting as a Theatre Arts major and making his way to Psychology despite the obstacles along his way, Dr. Cason says that plans never worked out the way he wanted, but all that matters is you push through it. Dr. Cason is deeply involved with the LGBT community and advocating for mental health. Although his dissertation process wasn’t as easy as he thought it’d be, setting his mind to his goal of graduating eventually did the trick. And his advice on pushing through your dissertation? Build success even for as little as fifteen minutes each day.

When you set your mind to your end goal, completing the required tasks is no longer a burden. When you know your why, even the most arduous task is a joy, because it brings you closer to your goal. Be inspired by Dr. Cason and embark on your journey to success!

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  [00:03]

Welcome to An Unconventional Life, a podcast where we share stories about the crazy one percent 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  [00:28]

Hello, and welcome to An Unconventional Life. I’m your host, Dr. Russell Strickland, the founder and CEO of Dissertation Done and I have with me today, Dr. Greg Cason, best known as Dr. Greg from the Bravo series, LA Shrinks, the controversial docu series that showed what happens in a therapist office and in real life. He appears regularly as a psychological expert on the Nancy Nancy Grace show, and has also appeared on a large variety of TV programs, including the Jeff Proach Show, The Tyra Banks show, Extra Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and several news features. His expertise was also featured in documentaries, specifically about the gay community such as the Butch Factor, The Adonis Factor, and The Gift, and most recently provided expert psychological analysis in The Secret Tapes of the O.J. Case: The Untold Story. His writing includes an often irreverent psychological column on for the gay community called Off The Couch in print and online version of Frontiers magazine and is sometimes controversial views, have been featured about in the Huffington Post, the Advocacy People and several other publications. Dr. Cason currently teaches in the psychiatric residency at UCLA and is a privately is a licensed psychologist and the diplomat in the Academy of Cognitive Therapy, with a private practice in Los Angeles specializing in cognitive behavioral therapy, and the LGBT community. Dr. Cason, wow, we can’t wait to get into all of that. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [01:59]

Hey, it’s great to be here. I realized I should have updated that because I’m like, Oh, yeah, do you know, oh, this is happening. And this has happened. But you know, that’s life.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [02:09]

I’ll just let everybody know briefly here that today’s episode is being brought to you by Dissertation Done. So. If you are in the adult doctoral student and may be struggling with or a little bit leery of the dissertation process, reach out to us at DissertationDone.com/done. And we’ll have a conversation and see if we might be a good fit to help you through that process. And if by any chance you already have earned your doctoral degree, and you want to be an expert out there in the world, like Dr. Cason here, one of the best ways to do that is to become a published author. I like to tell folks that there’s no better way to be the go to expert than have a first name doctor and to have literally written the book in your area of expertise. That’s something you’re interested in. We can have a conversation if you go to DissertationDone.com/book. So doctor case on tell me what is it that originally prompted you to pursue a doctoral degree and start the journey there?


Dr. Gregory Cason  [03:04]

Yeah, you know, that’s a it’s an odd question, because I will tell you the absolute truth, which I don’t think many people believe, is that I, there was a there were two Bob Newhart shirts. The first one featured a psychologist. And I, as a little kid worship that show, I thought it was the greatest show ever. And I would take out a piece of paper because I wanted to see what he did, because I wanted to do it. And I wrote down psychologists over several times, because realize a little kid, they only pan on the title for a second. So I’d have to write and I had my little pad of paper and finally got the word “psychologist” out and decided then really, I wanted to be a psychologist. My parents were who had never gone to college, and they were, you know, they were, you know, just working people and I, no one in our family had except maybe distant relatives. Really a little bit more, you know, hesitant about it and, and said, you know, you got to aim a little bit lower. But I went so I went to school, I went to UCLA and, and went through that process. And it was really after UCLA. I thought, Well, that wasn’t so hard. I and I was reading a book, a book that, you know, I think is extremely controversial called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. And but in the book, what I took from it was that you can do what you want to do, if you set your mind to it, you can really focus and achieve your goals. And I thought, I want to be a psychologist. I’m going to go back to graduate school. So it was a it was a longer process for me and I set myself on that path.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [04:43]

Well, I mean, so many people that I talked to, you know, the doctoral degree was always something they were interested in, but it wasn’t necessarily the specific field or this specific thing that they’re doing that that that drove them. So it’s kind of interesting to hear, like, like, oh, as a little kid, I always wanted to be a psychologist. And


Dr. Gregory Cason  [05:01]

That was it, I do want to be a medical doctor, I didn’t want to be so many other things. It was specifically a psychologist. That was, the idea being being called doctor wasn’t my thing it was doing what a psychologist did. That’s all I cared about.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [05:15]

Yeah. And I love you know, that notion of if you can do anything that you want to do, if you set your mind to it, I firmly believe I’ve talked to some people who think that there is a certain, you know, level of expertise or level of aptitude that you need in order to pursue a PhD, I firmly believe that it’s just about resilience about keeping going and, and finding out what to do to, because if you’re, if you’re, you know, chipping away on the in the wrong direction, you’re not going to get there. But if you can set your sights in the right direction, get someone to help guide you that that you’re on the right path, then it’s just chipping away.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [05:54]

I believe that 100% you really just have to stay persistent. Just having smarts doesn’t do it, you really have to do the work. And the work is so much and it goes over for such a long time, that you have to have great skill and staying focused and on your path.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [06:11]

And the thing that where I differ with some other folks is we say just having smarts doesn’t do it. I don’t think that having smarts is necessarily a requirement. There are people quite gifted. I mean, I feel like we’re fairly smart guy, there are people that are clearly smarter than I am. And, and I don’t think that’s necessary, because I’ve also talked to people, they’re clearly not as smart as I am. But they’ve achieved this same level. And that’s the thing, if that’s your dream, if that’s what you want to do, you can do it. Absolutely. But it is work. And the more aptitude you have for it, the easier the work is. So the corollary of that is, obviously, the less aptitude you have for it, the more work it is, but you can still do it if you want.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [06:54]

There you go.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [06:55]

I think I think that’s awesome. So you go in you you was your undergrad degree in psychology as well.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [07:02]

My undergrad was in Theater Arts. My parents were said you want to be an actor. That’s what he is. So I’m like, okay, that’s what I want to do. Then so I went to UCLA and UCLA. I wasn’t necessarily sure about their degree. But they at the time were it was an extremely difficult program to get into. I got into it. So I didn’t want to move out of it once I realized this maybe wasn’t for me. But nonetheless, I went through with it.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [07:30]

Well, that’s a very interesting you don’t hear that parenting story very often. Don’t don’t grow up become a doctor. You want to be an actor.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [07:37]

I think they were just trying to say this is this is who it is. Yeah, this is who you want to be not not that care, not what the character plays on TV. But I want it to be that character. That was


Dr. Russell Strickland  [07:48]

There you go. So yeah, often have the characters get to have more interesting lives in the the actors that play them anyway.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [07:57]

Yeah, he sure did. I still love that show.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [08:00]

Yeah. So what did you think, seeing as how you had this connection to the show? What did you think about how the second the second version of that show ended?


Dr. Gregory Cason  [08:09]

Oh, you mean when he was out in the in Maine or in the when he had the? The Bear Briggs?


Dr. Russell Strickland  [08:15]

The show he was like an innkeeper. And I don’t know if this career for him or something like that. But he wakes up at the very end of the second version of that show, as the first show character. And he dreamt the whole second show, apparently.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [08:30]

Yeah, that was very cute. And it’s I don’t know, that was probably before after Las but yeah, we’re Dallas and we certainly after Dallas, I think it was it was very, very, I thought that was wonderful. He’s they have comic genius on that show.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [08:45]

Yeah. And they they went overboard on the whole Dallas thing because I mean, they they threw the whole not a year but the whole show. I dream one night apparently.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [08:56]



Dr. Russell Strickland  [08:57]

Okay, so you went from theater arts, you still were pursuing this, this dream of becoming a psychologist. What was it like when you got into grad school and now you’re doing psych, you know, really studying psychology and getting into that field for the first time?


Dr. Gregory Cason  [09:09]

Well, you know, I got advice. I went to see a therapist and he’s he gave me advice. He thought it would be good if I got a master’s degree first to see if I really liked it here. I was fantasizing about something. I really hadn’t taken a lot of classes. I went to I was at UCLA undergrad. And then after I graduated, I started to work in psychological research. I started to take classes at UCLA and their extension. And I went into Cal State Northridge is what’s it called a master’s program in clinical psych. And UCLA was kind enough they actually sponsored me through the program. I got a scholarship through UCLA because I worked there to go to another school which is trippy. And then they basically suggested they, you know, when I was wanting to apply for doctoral programs, they were one professor was very strongly suggesting University of Houston, thought it would be good match. And I applied there and went. So it was there were certainly a lot of people along the way who gave me guidance and help. As much as I tried to do everything on my own. That’s just impossible in this field.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [10:18]

Yeah. a while. And I think that’s another thing that when you go to doctoral studies in general, it’s it’s really impossible to do everything on your own. Yeah. You know, one way or the other. It’s a community that you’re joining. And you need to, to interact with the people in that community to fully understand it. So I think that that’s good that you had that from it from a relatively early stage. So now, you went to you said with Houston for your doctoral degree,


Dr. Gregory Cason  [10:44]

Yeah, I got I went to University of Houston. And then I did my internship at UT Austin and I did my postdoc at UCLA, I went back to UCLA, UCLA, I have to say, I have a big heart for that school because of how they set me up. I got a full ride there, my first four, and then they they paid for my masters. And I just really have a lot of love for that school. I mean, it’s it’s an it’s a wonderful school, and they they really helped my fellowship was really one of the better experiences of my entire training as well.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [11:18]

Well, let’s, before we get there, let’s talk about the dissertation stuff, because I know we were talking before the cameras roll. And you were mentioning some interesting experience that you had going through the dissertation. Tell, tell everyone a little bit more about that.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [11:31]

Oh, my dissertation. You know, it’s it was interesting. I went to University of Houston. For me, it was interesting, because I got there. And the professors told me that I was the first openly gay person to go through the program. And I said to them, and we had a program, it was just 10 people, eight to 10 is your typical program. And I said, If I had known that I wouldn’t have come here, because I didn’t want to be the the ground breaker, I I didn’t want to be that person. And this is back in the 90s, the early 90s. It was certainly much less liberal and University of Houston, it used to be illegal to be gay, you get arrested or kicked out of school. So it was interesting to me, I did find that they did have other students. They just weren’t out from the past. So that was comforting. But I didn’t want to be that groundbreaker, anyway, I also when I looked at my dissertation, I was looking at topics. And there’s one piece of advice a professor gave all of us, which I found to be extremely helpful. It was in our very first class, I think it was a research class very first semester, and I have to take research all the way through. He just said, “start your dissertation now.” Like do it start now. You You really need to start working on it. And so I really started that process. I didn’t know what to do. Now. I’m at UC, I’m at University of Houston, I had a teaching assistantship, I had no money. So you know, you get these these jobs. The governor of texas decided to wipe out all teaching assistantships for all the state universities while I was there, so I lost my job, I had to get another I had to get a job in the community. I went to a what was then a gay, well, so LGBT Counseling Center, one of the very few in the nation that was just a community counseling center for low income people. And there, I started to do work. And I thought, I really should do research on this place because they weren’t gathering data. So I decided to start to do that. And, but then I had to go through a large really, a really had to think about what I wanted, because I knew this would not only make me more out to others, and make other people judge me, especially in Texas, in Houston, where it was not a great thing to be gay. In fact, the prejudice was really rather remarkable at times. But but that that was if I did that it defined you for the rest of your life, people will always ask, what did you do your dissertation on? And so I did it on Actually, I did it on training mental health professionals to work with lesbians and gay men. And that was a whole process unto itself, but I did it through that workplace, which ended up being a very helpful thing.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [14:30]

Yeah, that’s awesome. I, I when when we get to work with students at an early age in their doctoral journey, I always recommend the same thing of start your dissertation as soon as possible. Because if you can, even like when you’re in your classes, some of the work that you’re doing, you can examine parts of your dissertations through the lens of that particular class. So it’s a it’s a great way to be proactive if you can’t most of our folks we talked to when the house is on fire and they’re like, I really want help. My dissertation. So we don’t get to do it as often as I would like. But when we do get students that come in proactively, it’s a great way to really get a jump on the process.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [15:08]

Yeah, at least to start thinking about it and wondering what you can do, because realize there going to be many turns along the way. We had a pre-dissertation research, which is pretty typical. So you have your master’s thesis, then you have pre-dissertation research, which you have to go through a defense, the whole thing, and then you have your dissertation, the pre-dissertation research can be about a different topic area. But I was like, I am not gonna veer from this, I’m gonna stay on this topic the whole way. And at that defense, they really had me change the trajectory of my dissertation, which I was, I can’t even tell you how upset I was because I developed an instrument, I did all this stuff, again, as part of another class, a quantitative class that I developed an instrument. And what really upset me as they said, No, they this guy, I said, This guy just published this data that really was similar to mine. And they’re like, oh, he published, used his. And I was like, and it was so upsetting to me, it was the right decision. I know exactly why they did it. Because they said, basically, you’re going to have to write two dissertations, one proving your instrument works. And number two, what the outcome of your instrument so they were right to do that, but it was it was so upsetting. So the all of those processes I wouldn’t have if I waited until the very last minute. Oh, my God, I couldn’t even imagine the trouble IBM.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [16:32]

Well, that’s why so many people end up taking years and years going through the station work. And it’s not necessary that it takes that long, but for a lot of people it does. So but there was another thing that you said in there about how they changed the direction of your your work, and you understand why now. But yeah, what was your reaction at the time as that was happening? Were you understanding at the time? Or were you resisting? Or how did that that decision actually happened? Okay, so


Dr. Gregory Cason  [17:04]

I will say, I always had a somewhat practical mind about getting through my program. My program for whatever reason was very work intensive, I’m sure most PhDs are, but I run into a lot of people. And they’re, I don’t know, they their programs don’t seem all that difficult. Or maybe they’re just really great workers, a lot of people, I had to work full time too going through school, which was a crazy thing. So I was working, it was just so much. So whatever my, if my committee said to do it, I just would have to think this is what I need to do to graduate like, I need to just get out of here. So I didn’t buck them too much. In fact, I had a very bad situation happened because my the you know, in these universities, use a professor sponsors you in to you’re going to be working with the guy who did that with me was amazing, absolutely amazing. But I wanted to use the Stats Professor on my dissertation, who was also amazing. And he said he refused to work with my advisor,


Dr. Russell Strickland  [18:13]

Just not amazing together.


Dr. Gregory Cason  [18:16]

And I, I fired my advisor, and got someone else. I mean, I did it because I I knew that the stats were going to be a real challenge. Because I did a causal experimental, I hate to be involved, so technical and boring about this stuff. But basically, all these processes you went through were, were just really difficult interpersonal things you had to deal with, just because you’re trying to produce this research.


Dr. Russell Strickland  [18:42]

Well, our audience understands all of these words and are knee deep in it right now, some of which are neck deep. I would like to, but the important thing that I heard in there, well, there’s a few things. That notion of having a practical mind, I think it’s so important. We’re constantly talking to the students about not romanticizing the dissertation, because you know, your goal is to graduate, get in, get out and then get on with your life. No one looks for an expert doctoral student, they look for an expert doctor. So this program up and then you have so many opportunities available to you. So that’s a difficult thing for a lot of folks because a lot of folks who pursue doctoral degrees have this perfectionist gene that they have to deal with one way or the other. I consider myself a recovering perfectionist and that and I have you know various bouts of that from time to time. But it’s it’s something that the graduate you really have to think this doesn’t have to be my best work. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be the thing I’m going to be remembered from for for the rest of my life. In fact, if it is, in a sense, your career was a bit of a failure because that everybody remembers you for is what you did as a student. So you don’t want to think about burning out Too soon, you want to be able to continue to flourish. And and the dissertation is really you just getting in and getting out. And that’s I think it’s a very important concept for people really take home. So that was one thing he said that I thought was important. The other thing was, hey, these committee members are the gatekeepers of me getting out of here. So far, they’re telling me what I need to do to graduate, maybe I should listen.

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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.