Mel Restum, PhD – Co-Founder of Uncommon Practices, died in October 2020.
Here is the history of my relationship with Mel,
and his crucial role in Uncommon Practices:
Mel and I first met in 1976 in graduate school. We immediately became friends and study partners. He was very gracious in introducing me to his wonderful family, with whom I have many cherished memories. He was also instrumental in guiding my career path as a Psychologist, and helped me get my first job in the field after my PhD, as the Director of a large clinic. He was also my Clinical Supervisor for my post-doc hours to get my full Psychologist license.
He was always intellectually curious, and when I spent five years in San Francisco, pre-Internet, we communicated regularly not by phone – but by creating and mailing 3 or 4 ninety-minute cassette tapes where we would ask questions of each other, and share ideas and experiences about therapy, sports, and life. During this time, I shared ideas with him about Gestalt therapy, existential psychotherapy, meditation, somatic healing, psychedelics, transpersonal psychology and other forms of cross-cultural healing. Mel was always open to learning more, even though he had never been exposed to many of those ideas before.
We shared many adventures together over the years. We played on several softball teams together, and attended many sporting events together, including our one and only World Series game in 2006. We gave what would be the first of 12 consecutive presentations at the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium together in 2008. We presented together at the American Psychological Association conference in San Diego in 2010. We made many trips together to DC, and met with the American Psychological Association and American Counseling Association to promote our programs. On all of these trips and meetings, Mel was the consummate professional, classy and eloquent. But how did all of this begin?
Mel Restum, PhD
In 2003 I approached Mel with the idea of helping therapists grow their practices. I had had success with direct response advertising, directly to clients, using the business training I had received from Jay Abraham and others. Mel had success with community networking with doctors. I suggested we meet twice a month and see if we could put these two approaches together and create a new business that would help people in our field prosper. Mel was curious and interested to see if we could come up with something useful. Countless hours, discussions and cups of coffee later, Uncommon Practices was launched in 2005.
There are a few business lessons in how this venture began, and almost failed. We each put in $2500 to start Uncommon Practices. No one knew us other than our colleagues in southeastern Michigan. Our first attempts at promoting Uncommon Practices – direct mail and some display ads – failed miserably, and soon we were down to our last $800 and no clients. We tried ads to promote free conference calls, but on our first call, we had only 1 person! We talked to her for an hour. To make her feel more comfortable, Mel kept asking “Does anyone else have any questions?” Awkward!
In the 11th hour, a picture of a smirking Mona Lisa in several professional publications saved the day, and we launched our signature program, The Business of Psychotherapy: Creating Your Ideal Practice in 2005 with 11 participants. The program was a great success, and a subsequent article in Psychotherapy Networker catapulted us into the national spotlight. Seemingly overnight, we had over 100 psychotherapists in the program. Mel hired and trained business coaches from the many successful practitioners we met, and they helped our clients apply these business principles to their practices. Mel commented to me in 2007: “I think these two unknown boys from Michigan have done pretty well, now helping hundreds of psychotherapists in five different countries.”
Here’s a funny story involving Mel. On one of our trips to DC for the Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, we were walking outside the Omni Shoreham Hotel when a therapist rushed up to us with a frown on her face. She asked “Why are you teaching therapists kinky sexual practices? We don’t want that type of help!” She was clearly upset. We looked at each other, puzzled. Then Mel smiled as he realized what she meant. In his kind and fatherly manner, he patiently explained to her that the name Uncommon Practices had nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with business practices leading to uncommon success. She seemed relieved.
In his coaching, Mel had the rare gift of imparting knowledge in a caring yet direct way. People always felt his compassion and understanding, and his confidence in them boosted their success. Many therapists treasured their coaching relationship with Mel for these reasons. In addition to his coaching, he also taught a program on Community Networking for many years. Mel also provided important feedback to me as I developed other programs for Uncommon Practices.
For me, Mel was that rarest of life’s precious gifts, a lifelong friend that I knew for 44 years. I will miss him greatly.
Mel’s family has requested that anyone who would like to pay their respects, to consider a donation to Zaman International.