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March 7, 2022

Episode 37: Understanding the Introverted Child with Dr. Michael Alcee

With balanced energy and the right replenishment, introverts can thrive just like anybody else! Are you an extroverted parent raising an introverted child? Tune into this episode to hear our special guest, Dr. Michael Alcee, explain that introversion does not always equal antisocial or socially anxious and is actually more about overstimulation by too much external stimuli. Listen in as he explains how to recognize what stimulates and gives your child energy, what over stimulates them pushing them past their threshold and knowing when it is time for your child to regroup and recharge. 

Michael Alcée, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Tarrytown, NY and Mental Health Educator at Manhattan School of Music. He specializes in the psychology of artists and everyday creativity and the professional development of therapists. His contributions have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The New York Post, NPR,, and on the TEDx stage. His forthcoming book from Norton entitled Therapeutic Improvisation: How to Stop Winging It and Own It as a Therapist will be out in May 2022.

• [4:52] “ Yeah, I think first off, it's really helpful to remember that introversion isn't necessarily shyness, although shyness can be there.”
• [12:51] Dr. Alcee talks about how to recognize where/what energizes your child and what overstimulates and drains them.
• [19:41] “Our greatest technology is being able to go inward and to reflect and to be compassionate with ourselves…”
• [21:49] Michael speaks of the importance of being witnessed, seen, validated and being connected to what is real and in the moment. 

Are you raising an introverted child? Do you recognize when it is time for them to regroup and recharge? How do you help them do that? Tell us about it and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy!

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DJ Stutz:

Dr. Michael Alcee -


DJ Stutz  0:14  
You're listening to Episode 37 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. I'm your host, DJ Stutz. And in today's episode, I'm talking with therapist Michael Alcee, Ph.D. He is a clinical psychologist in a private practice in Tarrytown, New York. He is also a mental health educator at the Manhattan School of Music, which I think is pretty cool. He specializes in the psychology of artists, and everyday creativity, and the professional development of other therapists. You may have seen his writing in the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times The New York Post, NPR, And he's even done a presentation on TED X stage. He has a new book that's coming out and titled, Therapeutic Improvisation, How to Stop Winging It and Own It As A Therapist. And that book is going to be out in May of 22. So there's so much to learn, let's get started.

Be sure to listen to the end of the podcast and be one of my Linger Longers. I do have a very special offer for some of you. So check it out. If you don't have an introverted child in your family, I'm pretty sure you know someone who does. And if you were to meet my family, you quickly see that everyone is fairly extroverted, except my husband, he may hang out for a little while, but sooner or later, and it's usually sooner, he has to go off for some quiet time. And while my children may be observably loud and crazy extroverts, each of them have times when they also will need to go for some peace and quiet. myself. I rarely need quiet, and I often will search for noise. And while I love music, it is the spoken word that I will turn to when I need to concentrate on getting things done. It's so funny, I'll be editing an episode, so I have talking in my ear, but then I'll have a TV on nearby and have the talking outside. And that does help me concentrate. I know weirdo. Anyway, the conversation with Michael was so informative, and with his connection to mental health and music. He is especially in tune with noticing those little signs that someone may need a little space, and you are going to learn a ton. So let's listen in. I am joined here with Michael Alcee, one of my Imperfect Heroes. And he actually has a lot to say about raising an introverted child, especially if you're an extroverted parent. But sometimes those roles are reversed. Sometimes it's the parent. That's the introvert. That's the extrovert. And so Michael, why don't you just introduce yourself? Tell us what you do. And we'll get going. Yeah,

Dr. Michael Alcee  3:47  
so good to be here. I'm a clinical psychologist. And I work both in private practice. And I also work in Manhattan School Music, where I've done a lot of work with different college age students. And it's helped me to kind of see the whole gamut of different stuff going on. Hmm.

DJ Stutz  4:02  
And so I've got a nice, I have 70 nieces and nephews, because I come from a ginormous family. But I have one niece, who is the most introverted person I think I've ever met. And even in family, we would ask her a question or talk to her and she just wouldn't even answer. Yeah. So and but now she's doing great. She's in high school. She's got a boyfriend. They went to the school dance. And she started talking. And when it happened, it just kind of snapped. Yeah. And I think her parents probably looking at the results did the right thing for her. But maybe you could clue us in on some of the things that we can do when we have that super introverted child.

Dr. Michael Alcee  4:51  
Yeah, I think first off, it's really helpful to remember that introversion isn't necessarily shyness, although shyness can be there. You can have a shy Extra as well. But introvert really refers more to how much is your sweet spot of stimulation and introverts are get overstimulated by too much external stimuli, whether being in groups of too many people or being around external situations and not having enough time to regroup and recharge, either by being by themselves, or being with a good book, or being with a one on one conversation. And so it's more about energy and stimulation than it is about our more common understanding, which is when we think somebody is an introvert or introvert, we think they're antisocial, right, or socially anxious or shy. And like I said, you could certainly be any one of those things and introverted or extroverted, right, there's certainly a number of people in the world who love being around people, but they still get anxious about being evaluated, or are shy about figuring out how to connect with them. So we also want to come back to be really more precise about what introversion and extraversion really are. And like you said, when a person has their energy balanced, and they're getting the right replenishment, and they're not getting overly drained, introverts can really thrive just like anybody else. And so it's almost like getting to understand what is our fundamental nature or temperament. And we tend to forget that we focus so much as parents and educators and therapists on nurture, like, what's the right environment? And how do we support? And how do we help to foster these wonderful things in children and young adults, we also forget that children and all of us come in with a nature. And that nature has a certain kind of sweet spot, which we can work really optimally. And there's a certain range within, which can change or shift. But you can't turn a cello into a trumpet. Right? You know, they're different instruments, and they have their own beauty. And you have to know how to work with each instrument. And I think each temperament each natural style has its strengths and its limitations. So

DJ Stutz  7:17  
I wonder then you've got a child, maybe that seems to have a lot of friends, they get along well, and then all of a sudden, there's a meltdown. And you think, Where did this come from? Right? And it might be that that child has just hit their limit? Correct? Would you move forward with that? Yeah, it's

Dr. Michael Alcee  7:39  
really helpful to understand I'm an introverted extrovert. So there are introverts and they're extroverts. And there are those of us who have like a combination of both qualities. And so for many years in my life, people mistook me for garden variety extrovert because I can be outgoing and gregarious and social. But after a few hours, I sort of hit my limit. And I can remember even when I was dating my now wife and I went to big Thanksgiving dinner. And people were talking after like, cocktail hour and the meal. It was like this big, like Italian Thanksgiving. I was just totally drained. And I went to the other room to read on my phone. So I could regroup. And I could hear them talking to me like us it was it something we said, Is he okay? And so I think it's really important to just know where it is that your energy goes. And what's the threshold at which you need to kind of find the way to get back. There's an old joke. I think Susan Cain, the author of the book, quiet the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. She once said something to the effect of if like, after a half an hour or at a party, you're tired and you want to go home, you're likely an introvert. After like maybe an hour or two or three, you're an ambivert or an introverted extrovert and after like 567 hours, you're an extrovert. So it's really helpful to know where you lie, and it's also very individual, right? But people who have more introverted tendencies, whether they're introvert introverts, or introverted extroverts are going to hit a wall. And at that point, they really need their own downtime. And the only thing that's really helpful is, you know, it's funny, I was watching my son is four, and we watch a lot of Daniel Tiger. And I was really intrigued that they have a special episode where it celebrates this notion, sometimes you want to be alone. They say you can find a place of your very own. And I think that's extraordinary in American culture, we'd never used to really talk about the value of taking time for yourself. We've often especially since like the mid to late 20th century, we really overvalued the sense of the group and being connected and social and so much of what we teach you is getting kids to be more acclimated, that's wonderful. We should have kids learning how to really connect, but it's also important to recognize that Sometimes even the most extroverted extrovert can do well with having some time to just be. And I think it's important for the extroverts, as well as the introverts to make sure that there's enough of that in there kind of psychological diet. So it's really important to know where you fall on that spectrum. And some of it can be in noticing situations of your children. And what are the tells, I can see the tail on my son when I see his eyes start to go a certain way. And I see him repeating himself. And that's the tell that he's overstimulated. And how we as parents, and teachers, try to notice and not pathologize it, because sometimes we can say, well, don't you want to play with them? Or don't you want to stay? We want to also get kids to just tell us what they're feeling from the inside out.

DJ Stutz  10:49  
I think that great knowing your kid well enough to know those signs so that when they just start showing those signs, you can move in and help them get what they need before blows into a full meltdown. It was funny, I was visiting my daughter for Thanksgiving. And we went out bowling Nash. She has a little boy, he just turned four. And he's Mr. Energy. He's the ball of fire. And so we went and we were kind of wondering because he really enjoys the bowling alley and stuff. And they were thinking about because his he was three at the time, his fourth birthday was in December. And they were thinking about maybe doing a little bowling party. So we watched him and he did really great, really great, really engaged and bowling the ball and everything. For the first hour. He was great. And then it became very clear. One hour is his limit. Yep. And so it was kind of fun, because then I asked my daughter, so what have you learned about your son today? And she said he can bowl for an hour. That's what I learned. And I said, that is fantastic knowledge. So if you want to do a bowling party for his birthday, then you know how long you're going to plan for it. It's going to be an hour. Yeah. And so I think as you're getting to know your child, and you're figuring things out, really take notice.

Dr. Michael Alcee  12:21  
Yeah, and his teeth and his teachers too. And I think teachers are in a really, really, really special position because they see so much of that social atmosphere. Because this is where kids really get first exposed to what it's like to have to be around all these different energies and how to negotiate them. But also to remember that these things are sort of tiring for all of us. Even adults, they're tiring, right. And it's really helpful for teachers to be able to notice and personalize. Where's this person do with getting their energy? And where does it get overstimulated and drained? And how can I help them gracefully and graciously get what they need, which also be fair, the more extroverted children are the more extroverted adults, they're energized by being around more, and so they need more to feel energized and too much alone time can make them feel that adrift. So it's really important to find again, the right sweet spot, right, which is again, and I liked, I think I mentioned this to you before I like to analogize it to cars, it's about knowing what are energy sources, and I think of the introverts as the electric cars of the world. The extroverts is the gas powered cars, right gas is, is most cars in America are gas powered, and there's a gas station around every block. Just like most things in the culture are geared towards extroverts. If you want to charge your car up, usually, if you're lucky, they'll have a charging station. But sometimes you have to go home. And then the people who are both like introverted extroverts are hybrids. And they often need to make sure that their gases filled up and their electric is charged up. And so learning how to work with that is really important and not trying to force someone who's a gas powered car to be an electric car, or vice versa. Right? Because each has to have their strengths.

DJ Stutz  14:13  
Oh, absolutely. And I think part of the challenges in school, so if you're a parent of a child that is super extroverted or super introverted, that a lot of the classrooms are really set up for that middle in between. And if you have a child that just won't stop talking, or is interjecting themselves into everything, and the teacher is like I can't get three words out. Let's calm down. And so you're trying to work with them with that. I've got a little kid. I've got a few actually, that they either just won't talk. Or they'll talk in a whisper. Yeah, they'll just give you a one word answer. Maybe if they feel like it. As a parent, you need to be able to advocate for your child and just say, This is what he needs at home. Or sometimes they're more extroverted at home, and then they come to school. And they're just clammed up.

Dr. Michael Alcee  15:15  
Yeah, and you bring up another good point, too, it's really important that the reason this gets so complex and challenging to figure out is because it's really a combination of nature and nurture, right, because it also depends on what the child is exposed to in terms of what kind of attachments they have with each parent, what's the general atmosphere of the house, what kind of like openness to really kind of mirroring back how this child works, and celebrating their strengths and helping them with the places where they need to grow. And so those add a whole nother factors, that it's not just about whether you're an introvert or extrovert, right? I have this one, this wonderful situation, our child is four, and we have his first parent teacher conference kind of thing. And I was really impressed at how thoughtful the teachers were at knowing very well our son operates. And they said something that I thought was really interesting, because he is sort of a little bit like a combination of my wife and me, and introverted extrovert and through the first week, even though they would encourage him for free play, hey, do whatever you want, have fun. He wanted to survey the landscape. And he was watching everybody because he takes everything in. And that introverted, I need to figure out all that's going on outside and process it inside. And he could feel them, asking him to play. And so eventually, he found this really clever strategy, he started to take this baby carriage and he started to do it around the room. And they thought, Oh, wonderful he's playing. In fact, he was playing them, he found a way to say, I know that you want me to do something, I'm going to do it. But I'm going to be able to walk my baby around while I still survey the class. But what was nice is that the teachers recognized, we're trying to figure out how he works and trying to respect how he works. We're trying to encourage him, but we're trying to allow him some room to figure out what's the right spot. And then they realized, he's trying to say, I want to be social. I want to hear you. But I also want to find my bearings. Yeah. And again, I think that's what's the wonderful art of being a good teacher is being able to be really curious about that, and being able to find out more from what you observe, but also from the parents. Does this fit with what he's like at home? And like, totally?

DJ Stutz  17:39  
Yeah, man, it's interesting. So in my classroom, and in most classrooms with early childhood education, we have a calming corner. And I never send anyone there to count your day to go calm down. No, I never do that. But if they you can see they're starting to hit their limit, we can say, Do you want to go and that we've got a beanbag chair, we've got a blanket, they can hide under, we've got digits, we've got books in a place where three sides are enclosed. And so it's easy for them to kind of go and click on Yeah. And it's funny how kids know when they need that corner. Yeah. And then their kids will never use that.

Dr. Michael Alcee  18:29  
Yeah, but it also is really wonderful to help them to remember their own instincts, which they are close to, but they also it helps them to have adults validate that and put some words and a form for it, right. Like, I love how there's that space, because it says, we recognize that this is part of the human experience that we need this. And I think, you know, I sometimes joke with clients that were basically sophisticated emotion regulation machines, like very, very highly sophisticated emotion regulation machines. And we never stopped being it and we never actually stopped being having that childlike self, that gets angry, gets sad, gets stressed. And all that stuff. We just learned more and more hopefully nuanced ways of dealing with it. And sometimes we all revert back to the primal ways of dealing with it, because it's not easy being human. But I think the more tools we give kids to recognize that there are these different ways in which we can contain and also re center ourselves. Right? That I think also is almost like helping them understand our greatest technology. And our greatest technology is being able to go inward and to reflect and to be compassionate with ourselves to be able to come back to your place because the more we do that for ourselves, the more that we have the capacity to do it for others. And so interestingly enough, I find that the beauty is the more that we am Besides with our children, as teachers and parents, the more we teach them not only to empathize with other kids, but to empathize with themselves. And I think sometimes in our culture, we forget that those things really do best when they go hand in hand. Right? Yeah.

DJ Stutz  20:15  
Yeah, it's funny house, some of my other kids that are more in the middle. And sometimes they'll come to me, and I think so and so needs to go in the cozy corner. And I'll go and look at them and they've picked up on they're holding tight onto a toy, or they're, they're just starting to show those signs. And it's fun when the other kids will start picking up on Oh, he's, he or she might need that. And so when I go and I say, How are you feeling? You know, do you need some quiet time? Do you want me to go with you to the cozy corner? Do you want to go by yourself, because sometimes they want you there with them. Just to sit quietly next to them, I don't need to say anything. Totally. They're just wanting your presence. And I've seen kids even go and get items, some of the fidgets and stuff or a book from the cozy corner and bring it to me and either wants to show me how they're working it or asked me to read the story. And so I think that we really need to be aware with our kids. Some of them even though they may need to extract themselves from the chaos, so to speak. They don't necessarily need to do it completely alone. Sometimes, they would like to have you there to help them through the process.

Dr. Michael Alcee  21:35  
I think that's beautiful. And I think one of the beautiful things that I love about not only psychotherapy, but about literature and art and everything that we hold dear is the most important thing I think for human beings is to be witnessed, and to be seen and to be validated, and we are constantly needing others to be the mirror for ourselves, so that we can feel real. And and when we can feel that. For real with a capital R like it reminds me of my favorite book, The Velveteen Rabbit, you know, the Velveteen Rabbit, it learns to become real. We don't have to be perfect. We don't have to be shiny, we don't have to be well behaved. It's about connecting what is real and in the moment and alive for us. And that takes love that takes a willingness also to be available. And there's a wonderful child psychoanalyst named Donald Winnicott who gave us the notion of the transitional object like the teddy bear that are the blanking, right. And he also talks about transitional space and the beautiful thing that he says. And what I love about what you're saying about the cozy corner is he says that children are learning how to bring together the world of their imagination, or their fantasy with the world of reality. And what we're trying to do is be respectful that their imagination has so much brilliance in magic and enchantment. And we also know that reality can be wonderful too. So they can really like that teddy bear is a real object. It's not just a figment of their imagination. And it has qualities that make it unique, but it also has a mythology. And what we're trying to do is to help always keep them in that transitional space or that potential space where they can commingle. And when reality gets too overwhelming, he said, we all need to kind of retreat to the imagination world, and then find a way back. And I think what good teachers and good enough teachers and good enough parents do is notice when the balance is off and try to calibrate it, try to bring it back in so that there can be reconnection. And even kids see that, like you're saying kids see when reality gets too much, that they recognize that other kids need help with finding their way back to that soft, you know, magical land of the imagination, which is a very personal and private place. And I think by doing that we bring the best and by the way, you know what Wayne had said also about transitional space. He said that this is the place where adult creativity is born. This is where we bring together what we can do in the real world with our imaginations and create new innovations, whether it's in science or an art or in or in language or anything else. And so you know, sometimes when people talk about education, of course, there's the intellectual with education. But this emotional piece of it, this development piece is so important. And I think that's what I love about how attentive, you know, teachers with in a classroom like yours, can be to making sure that that sort of sacred space.

DJ Stutz  24:55  
Yeah. One of the things I like about the cozy corner this is not But in another room, it's still kind of there. And so I think if you're at home and you've got your child and your child kinda needs that, they have these chairs that kind of have a lid over them, you know, they can pull it down there kind of by themselves, and yet they can still hear what's going on in the room. They're not totally disconnected. But they still have this cozy place where they don't really have to intermingle with anyone else. Yeah, but they're still not completely disconnected.

Dr. Michael Alcee  25:36  
Yeah, it's almost like the difference between loneliness and solitude. Right, so. So loneliness is to feel exiled and alienated from others and apart. But solitude feels like I am with myself in a way that's filling me up again. And even though I'm not right now with people, I still sense their presence fairly close by.

DJ Stutz  25:58  
Right? Right. It might notice too, I have this amazing son in law. He's the most patient man I've ever met in my entire life. I've never heard him remotely come close to raising his voice. And yet he stands firm. This is the way it goes. But he doesn't need it to raise his voice to do that. And he's got two pretty active kids, they've got my side of the family, they're going on. For a little more wild, I think, than some others. But I was watching I was up visiting one time they live in Reno. And I was over visiting one time and their oldest Sylvan, and he was probably three at the time, Jess, hit it, you know, and completely shut down and couldn't even say what he wanted or what he needed. You know, he was in that space. And I remember watching Peter, and he sat down was Sylvan. And he can say, I can see you need to calm down before you can tell me what you need. So do you want me to go with you? Where you can calm down? Or do you think you want to go alone? And it's something like a cozy corner, I forget what they called it. But it's something like that, that they had in the dining room. And Sylvan said, I want to go by myself. He said, Okay. You come and come and tell me when you're done, and when you're ready to talk to me. Okay, he went off, and he cried for, I don't know, maybe a minute. Yeah, I think when kids are given permission to cry, they calm down so much faster.

Dr. Michael Alcee  27:45  
I think so too, that is so beautiful. I mean, oh, what a sensitive, emotionally intelligent way of handling it for a variety of reasons. One, because he recognizes where his son is, and recognizes without any judgment, without any shaming, and also giving this kid a sense of empowerment of I believe in you that you can have the choice. It's just a really new wonderful way of parenting that I think is so lovely to see. And I think the other thing is that it creates a bond between father and son there to have, I see you, I see you in and I don't see this as all of you. I see this as your overstimulated right now you need to kind of find a way to come down. But I also know that that's okay. And I'm gonna be here or I can go with you. So there's so much kind of love conveyed in that. I mean, I, I'm just blown away I have how, like, loving and emotionally connected. And, you know, I think the other thing is it creates a bond of trust, because it also takes great vulnerability for someone to do that as a parent as well, because we're sort of almost trusting even more in them. But it's also because we're lending them our trust. And I think you know, it's a really great investment when we lend them our trust and say you have good reasons for feeling like you do. And I think I understand why. And you lend them not only the benefit of the doubt, but you even say No, I don't even give you the benefit of doubt. I totally give you free rein to feel this fool.

DJ Stutz  29:33  
Right. Here's the coolest part for me. Well, not the coolest, but a very cool part was, oh, less than five minutes, maybe around five minutes. Sylvan comes back, he's calmed down. He went to his dad. He said, Okay, I'm ready to talk. And Peter's reaction was, Wow, you got that turned around. So we can have a conversation. I I'm so proud of you that you did that all by yourself. So he even helped Sylvan identify. You just went through a process here.

Dr. Michael Alcee  30:10  
Yeah. Man, what's, what's his name, your son, Peter Smith, Pierce, Pierce Smith man that just like hit it out of the park with that, because that's so beautiful as well. Because that's another way of just highlighting the kind of sense of mastery and pride. But recognizing, like you said, the process more than just the fact that whether he did it or not, it didn't even matter. Because let's say he didn't get it fully together, Peter would probably still say, I'm really amazed at what you did. And he'd find something to focus on that was worth praising. I have this friend, a colleague of mine, he wrote this wonderful book called prize worthy. And he talks about the difference between praising and pricing. And pricing is always letting the child know that there's something prized about them. And what I love about what Peter does, throughout the whole process, he's pricing. And pricing is much more difficult because it takes more nuance, more patience, more, trying to verbalize what's not fully verbal. It's also regulating ourselves. So we don't overreact or say something that we'll regret five minutes or five years down the road. And I think that's a really nuanced art. But I love also, the other thing is that it gives this kid a sense of how wonderful and it almost allows them to be connected to their emotions deeply, and then also to be an emotional warrior, to see that they can also work with their emotions. Yeah, very sophisticated move, Mr. Peter.

DJ Stutz  31:59  
He is I just love spending time in their home. And when I'm there, I just sit back and watch this amazing show unfold before me this great example. I wish I could just bottle it. And his daughter, so he's got a younger daughter who's just, Sylvan, the older one is more logical, very kind of straightforward. Yeah. Yeah. He's just a big personality. But it's fun to see the tenderness now, that Sylvan has toward Ingrid, we call Mickey, but how tenderly he treats her, even when she's being a crazy little sister, and Demanding and wanting things. And saying that he's always that way, every kid is limit course. And, but it's not as often as I see in other families. And what I see more is that tenderness and trying to help her. And they're two little over two years apart two and a half years. And just seeing him show that. And I'll tell you something else, those kids worship their mom and dad. Yeah, you can see that connection. Painter walks in the door, after he's an assistant, da. And he'll walk in, and you can imagine the kind of day that he would have, there's just some really rough days. And it doesn't matter what his day was, like, he walks in the door, those kids go running up to him that day, you know, they're so excited to see him. And he always no matter how rough his day has been, he always has that hug and love. How are my kids and tell me what you learn today. Just

Dr. Michael Alcee  33:57  
Kids can feel that. And I think the wonderful thing to about here is that, and they say this about good leaders as well. The best leaders don't have to say it, they really show it. And the best leaders embody and model. And I think, you know, the other thing that that Peter models is certain kind of depth of humanity. And, and, and a depth of availability, and recognizing this wonderful gift that he has in these children, right, these wonderful gifts, but also the gift is sharing it together. And I think you know, children also recognize when they know that their gift is gifts are seen. And they also see the gifts and the adults with them. Right. And I think that is like one of the most beautiful things when you can witness that. And so how lovely is that? And I think the other thing too, is like then we start praising each other. And when we prize each other what an enriched life we have. And you know and the other thing is Sometimes, we have to, we can sometimes go through terrible behavior where someone really, and that's what therapy is about to we can go through really hard times are hard things. But when you pry someone you able to hold on to the unconditional love, and say there's a bigger story here, there's a lot of hurt, there's pain. And if I can only get to understand and make room for this in a way that we can kind of really get through it together, we can still hold on to that price.

DJ Stutz  35:29  
Yeah. Yeah. And I think to back to the Peter show, because he treats my daughter the same way too. And so the kids see this grown up relationship that is super healthy, and loving. And he they have these two parents that are that way, I really expect great things.

Dr. Michael Alcee  35:53  
Yeah, it's really, really cool. And you know, it really nicely, kind of echoes what we were talking about, of both honoring the nature and the nurture together, right, because one of the things you even said about Egee and Sylvan, right, is that also understanding what are their natures and what are their styles, and really understanding that, but also then providing an environment to foster that and also to make adjustments. You know, that's the other thing, like I wrote this book for therapists about learning how to improvise. And the reason I did was to say that, in order to really be kind of fully connected with ourselves in the world, we're constantly having to make adjustments. And making adjustments can be more like creative adjustments and learning how to improvise effectively. And, and just to recognize that life is so dynamic, whether inside ourselves or outside, as we know, look at all the changes that have happened over the past few years alone, right. But the human spirit is really, really wonderfully capable of not only being resilient, but improvising. And the more that we have experience with adults who help us learn how to improvise, with both the good things in the bad and in between, the bigger the repertoire we have for making artful moments out of what can be a prosaic life,

DJ Stutz  37:22  
I agree completely. And it's fun. I'm lucky that I have this great example in my life. But I think as people, we can look around us and really find great examples. If we feel like we're not quite connecting with our introverted kid or extroverted kid, that there are places we can go, there are people we can watch, that can give us that inspiration.

Dr. Michael Alcee  37:49  
Yeah. And I think also, the other thing is, one thing that's helpful for people is, you know, not all of us are grace, to be born into a family where we have a keytar, who is so lovely, and hopefully we are at but even if we're not, it doesn't always have to happen in the conventional way. It could be a teacher, it could be a character in a book, it could be an actor, or a movie superhero. Or it could be a best friend, or an uncle or somebody else who sees the promise or sees the hurt or see something. I mean, Oprah Winfrey is a great example of a woman who experienced a lot of adversity very, very young, young parents, you know, an experience of being molested. And yet she also had certain people in her lives who function as these encouragers and witnesses that helped her hold on to her strengths and witness her difficulties from a different frame. And I think that's really important that we don't have to feel like we're not able or entitled, unless we have this idyllic family life. It certainly certainly can help us. But the I think the most important thing is to figure out what are the wonderful things about what our environment is? What are the things that we're challenging? And how can we find the things to fully honor who we are in our nature and what's possible with our environment.

DJ Stutz  39:16  
And you bring up such a good point, because I really do think that in order for us to really be able to relate and look at our kids at their level, we need to understand who we are and what we've learned from our life experience. The things we want to include the things that we want to get rid of, and then find ways to make those adjustments. I do believe that there's a lot of value in taking the time to say, Oh, wow, I'm obviously super extroverted. But yeah, my husband is very introverted. And the big joke has always been if, if Ross likes you, he'll hang out for 10 minutes when you're visiting And before he goes up, you know, to the quiet of his room. And if he doesn't like you, he heads up right away.

Dr. Michael Alcee  40:09  
limits you. Yeah, that's true. And the other thing about the Super extroverts, like yourself, DJs, also like, we couldn't get by without them because they take so much more risks. And they put themselves out there quite a bit. And they sometimes can be much more facile with making connections and bringing people together. And you know, what would the world be without the extroverts and so, you know, I think it's really important to just see the beauty of extroverts and to see the beauty of introverts and muting of introverted extroverts. And also just to get to know more of the nuances, but you're right. I mean, it's, it's wonderful and, and also, like what you said to, it's really helpful to notice where we've come from and who we are. And also, I think one of the great things about being a teacher is that you're always a student, and you're always learning as much from your students as you are then incorporating that into something that you teach. And I think that's the best teacher, you know.

DJ Stutz  41:06  
Yeah, I love teaching. But I also love knowing that there are kids in every year, there are kids in my class that I know come from a rough

Dr. Michael Alcee  41:16  
place, rough place, and rough background, and

DJ Stutz  41:20  
a rough background. And they're dealing with a lot that's going on. I have some kids usually that are in foster care, whatever. But my goal is to be that one person in their life for the year that I have them that they know, no matter where they are, or what's going on, that I'm in their court. Yep. Yeah. So that,

Dr. Michael Alcee  41:45  
you know how far that you never know how far that goes. I have a client, any. He's, he's a music teacher. And he said, he was years later. He spoke to a student of his and she said, you know, you don't know how much you meant to me and how much you helped me. And he's like, What do you mean, what did I do? And he said, well, there was one day in class, when you just said to me, are you okay? Are you okay? And you just really saw that I wasn't. And there was something about that, that really made the difference.

DJ Stutz  42:19  
Yeah. I've been trying to find a high school teacher that I had that did that for me. And it was Janice Tomita, who taught at Kennedy High School in Granada Hills in the 70s. Please, get her to me. But she was she did exactly that for me. And I've been trying to find it to tell her that what she meant to me. Yeah, yeah. So Michael, if people want to get a hold of you, or learn more about you and what you've got going on, where do they go?

Dr. Michael Alcee  42:52  
Yeah, sure. So the best place to find me is on my website, which is Michael And you'll you'll find out a lot about me and how I work as a therapist and some of the different interests like you've seen. And then I also have a wonderful TEDx talk that you can find if you just Google my name on introverts and college students. And then I'm coming out with this book from Norton in May, that's really geared towards helping therapists, especially new and early career therapists, learn how to bring this artful stuff together. And it brings together music and literature and film, and neurobiology of all things. Because all that we're talking about really is learning about the neuroscience of how we are built. And the the the more that we understand child development, we're learning really how to be better at understanding how neuroscience gets us to to feel and how feelings work and how empathy works. So it's really, really important. We are all walking around as scientists, but we're all walking around as artists.

DJ Stutz  44:00  
That's amazing. Yeah, we're, we'll be sure and get all of that in our show notes. so my listeners can just scroll down, and they'll be able to get you so look for that. And then, Michael, I always end with the same question of my guests. How would you define a successful parent?

Dr. Michael Alcee  44:22  
Yeah, I was, you know, when you first asked me that question, it came to me immediately, which is connection. It's really all about connection and connection means trying to be open and available to what you're really picking up on, in in your child or, you know, as teachers with the children or as a parent with, with their children, but it's trying to connect to what are the different things going on with them? And then how can I connect to it to because this doesn't happen where we have to be connected and sometimes when we're connecting, it's also bringing stuff that are beautiful things of our life or also painful things, and how can we connect more fully to ourselves and connecting to them. And when we do that, I think we do something really, really beautiful.

DJ Stutz  45:13  
I love that so much. And you're so right, that connection. And I think when I look at families that I think have been super successful, they all have that. They all have that connection, you know, and that what you call prising,

Dr. Michael Alcee  45:29  
that prising, I love that. And by the way, another place, you could find me that I forgot for those, especially teachers and people just wanting to learn more, I write us Psychology Today blog, under something called Live life creatively. And so I have lots of different topics on introverts and highly sensitive people and you know, anxiety and depression and all sorts of things. So that's another great place to get more about what I'm interested in.

DJ Stutz  45:55  
That's great. In fact, now, I'm thinking chief, I'll need to have you back to

Dr. Michael Alcee  46:00  
Yeah, talk about well, you know, we always have so much more to say DJ, it's like, just, we just could go on. But this is great. I really appreciate you having me. This was fun. I always learn a lot by talking with you. Oh, well,

DJ Stutz  46:14  
thanks. And I'm so glad we were able to connect and find each other because you're just a wealth of information. So I'm sure that we'll have you back before long on something different. I've already got some ideas in my head. And so we look forward to hearing from you again. Thanks for coming.

Dr. Michael Alcee  46:32  
My pleasure.

DJ Stutz  46:36  
Are you up to date on all things, Imperfect Heroes, go ahead and register for my free newsletter at and never miss a beat. Parent teacher conferences will be here before you know it. And do you know how to have a conference that lets you in on how your child is truly doing? What questions do ask, what information does your teacher need to know, you can get all of this information in a one hour webinar called important teacher conversations. And you can find this webinar on my website at And for right now I am making that available free of charge to any of my podcast listeners. So go ahead and check it out before you get to your parent teacher conference this spring. Next week, I am talking to author Paul Henderson. And he has a book out called A Slave No More. And I've read the book from front to back. And it's an easy read. But it is a read that really makes you stop and think about your life and how your past affects your present and your future. I loved it. And I highly recommend that book which you can get on Amazon. And we're going to be talking about how you can become a slave to your own past. And what that does to your own relationships. Not only with spouse, but with children with co workers. But especially kids. So learn what I mean by tuning into the next episode. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Hey Linger Longers, I only have one gift card from Amy Buckley for the tutoring that's left. So first come first serve. If you want it, just get in touch with me, you can DM me, you can message me on Facebook, you can leave a message on the podcast website, you can go to my little hearts Academy website. And I'll get it to you. All you have to do is ask but there's only one left. So hurry up if you want to use that. And I am just so excited for this workshop that we just did on getting the most from those important Parent Teacher conversations. And so I hope that you'll go on and register right now. I'm offering it for free. And you're not only going to get the webinar, but you'll also have access to the PowerPoint and other notes that we're providing for you. So I hope to see you soon. And I'm going to go now

Transcribed by

Michael AlceeProfile Photo

Michael Alcee

Author/Clinical Psychologist/Dad

Michael Alcée, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Tarrytown, NY and Mental Health Educator at Manhattan School of Music. He specializes in the psychology of artists and everyday creativity and the professional development of therapists. His contributions have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The New York Post, NPR,, and on the TEDx stage. His forthcoming book from Norton entitled Therapeutic Improvisation: How to Stop Winging It and Own It as a Therapist will be out in May 2022.