Welcome To The Come-Up, the empowerment site and space exclusively for men!
I’m honored to have Michael Gatson as the first feature! As an author, entrepreneur, and owner of G& E Associates LLC, Micheal and I discussed writing his first children’s book, a typical day in his successful career, and the challenges and sacrifices faced dealing with success.
What inspired you to write your first children’s book, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep?
Michael: “I was inspired to write this book while I was employed as a Marriage & Family Therapist at the Robert J. Dole VA Hospital in Wichita, Kansas. I had several of my veterans and families on my caseload asking me to recommend books that explained PTSD from a child perspective because their children would state Daddy or Mommy has PTSD but doesn’t understand what it is or the symptoms. I recommended several books, and during the sessions, the parents indicated that they wanted something more in detail where they could sit down and have a discussion with their kids. While conducting research, and I did not see any books that explained mental health issues from a child perspective nor did I see any characters that represented me in the books. I remember growing up and being an avid reader, but I didn’t recall reading books that explained various mental health issues or different things I experienced as a child or going through puberty. I decided to create a series of books that discussed various mental health issues. I wrote Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep in 2011. The title is significant because it’s the prayer me and my mother recited every night when it was time for bed.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep challenges readers to understand the effects of war and shows compassion and tolerance towards veterans, who continue to suffer in silence after their combat experiences. The characters are relatable, and the language is natural for elementary students and teens to understand. Illustrations contribute to the story and each of the characters emotions. “
As a man of many accomplishments, what is a typical day like for you?
Michael:” A typical day for me starts with me thanking God for opening my eyes, having a morning chat with my partner, and getting dressed for work. On my morning commute, I listen to the Rickey Smiley morning show. Once I am at work, I make sure I speak to each one of my employees before going to my office and closing my door. When I get to my desk, I take 30 minutes to meditate, pray and read some scriptures along with a motivational quote before reading emails or sending good morning text. After pouring into myself, I am ready to tackle the morning with checking my emails from work, private practice, or for my consulting company. I send out a good morning text to my friend/mentor/business partner, my employees in Louisiana and ask for a morning report. After I have checked and responded to emails and text messages, I usually have about 3-4 therapy sessions a day and 2-3 meeting to attend. Throughout the day I am checking my social media accounts and posting content about my book. I also have a few group texts that I am continually responding throughout the day. After being a Director of a Mental Health Clinic, it is time to fulfill my role as a partner and decide what I what I am going to cook so I will go to the grocery store so I can prepare dinner when I get home. On my way home I will call my mother and have our daily chat. Once I am finally back, it is time to cook dinner, and while I am preparing dinner, I am checking my emails from my students, private practice employees, and getting t-shirt and book orders ready to be mailed out the next day. I sit down and have dinner with no phone or computer. After lunch, I head into the office and working on private practice things, respond to student’s discussion post, or I am working on the next book or preparing for upcoming speaking engagements. I usually work in my home office until 1 or 1:30 am because I produce my best work at night time.”
Tell us more about your consulting firm, G & E Associates and the services provided.
Michael: ” G & E Associates, LLC, is a motivational and consulting firm offering a broad range of services tailored to meet the needs of children, adolescents, adults, families, and seniors. Our mission is to assist individuals with tapping into their innate capacity to live with a purpose and lead healthy lives. Some of the services that I provide are:
• Decision Making
• Anger Management
• Domestic Violence
• Sexual Assault
• Dispute Resolution
• Conflict Resolution
• Intimate Partner Violence
• Consulting & Workshops on Military & Veteran Issues, Elderly & Mid Life Issues, Marital Family & Relationships, Family Violence, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, Suicide Prevention, Bereavement, and LGBTQI.
Has a mistake ever led you to success?
Michael: “I was looking for opportunities to invest money and stop purchasing rental properties because I wasn’t making the monthly income I desired from the rental properties. I met someone who encouraged me to start buying investment properties at a wholesale price. Long story short I ended up losing a lot of money and never received the title to the investment properties. After that lesson and missing a lot of money I realized I needed to stick to things I know which are mental health. Not long after that incident and dealing with the lousy investment my mentor, friend, and business partner contacted me and asked was I ready to start something we had been discussing and preparing for since 2007. After both of us completed the Ph.D. programs we decided to open a mental health agency in Louisiana. In 2017, I began a mental health office in West Monroe, and I was running into some issues which also made me contemplate closing the doors for various reasons. I discussed things with my friend/mentor/business partner Dr. Yolanda Burnom. The first year was very challenging finding a good team, but after the first year, things have been going well, and we now have three locations in Louisiana. Shreveport, West Monroe, and Metairie.
As an entrepreneur, you can’t expect things to be perfect every day. You will make mistakes when it comes to your business. There will be moments when you will be the best and worst version of yourself. Take accountability, and commit yourself to live at your highest level. You will have moments on your journey as an entrepreneur where you will struggle, but remember you are human. I remember paying rent, utilities, and insurance on office space for six months without bringing in any income. Life is about making the mistakes, but learning how to become a better person. Be gentle with yourself, and remain committed to growing and learning from your mistakes so you can continue to offer compassion for all the new lessons that will come your way. Life is what you make of it and if you choose to find the silver lining in situations; your struggles suddenly become your triumphs.”
What has been your biggest highlights so far in your career?
Michael: “The biggest highlight is of my career has been two things. One is meeting Michelle Obama, and the other is hearing my dissertation committee come back to tell me I had passed my Oral Defense Congrats Dr. Gatson. Meeting the former first lady was one of my major highlights because I have always admired her. To have someone who you respect to be interested in the work you do daily with the veteran population is a significant highlight in one’s life. The second highlight was because I had been working on my dissertation while maintaining a full-time federal career, serving in the military as an officer, along with traveling to teach and consult on various topics all while working on my Ph.D. There were so many obstacles, sacrifices, and long nights of writing and not to mention the lack of support from people I received. The pain was temporary and part of my journey, but a doctoral degree is forever.”
What is your biggest goal this year?
Michael: “My goals are for all readers – young and old – to discover that it is essential to take care of your mental health. I hope that the book encourages open and honest communication to help families deal with mental illness and remove the stigma of seeking help through therapy. To support any child who might feel their parents do not love them because of their mental health issues. It will impart hope, reassure a parent’s love, and educate individuals about the importance of addressing mental health.”
Do you tend to focus on one project, or do you handle many projects simultaneously?
Michael: “Yes, I am a person that always have more than one project going simultaneously. Currently, I am the Executive Director of Community Healthcare Solutions West Monroe Office, and I am approaching my first anniversary as the Annapolis Vet Center Director. I am wrapping of my military career so I can focus more on other projects and family. I am preparing for my upcoming book tour and speaking engagements. I am also wrapping up the quarter as a Contributing Professor at Walden University, along with working on my new book to be released, Not to mention a new business endeavor that I am planning to open in 2020.”
What’s the best business advice you received when you started in your business?
Michael: “I have one of the best mentors/friends/business partners Dr. Yolanda Burnom, and she is continuously dropping gems along the way. The best advice she expressed to me was the pain you feel today is the strength you will use to handle tomorrow. Which means for every challenge you will encounter, there is an opportunity for growth in every situation and all growth depends upon activity. You need to make sure you are active and working on something daily but make sure you don’t become a servant to what you’re trying to master.”
Describe a time you had to lead you and your team through a difficult challenge(s).
Michael: “There have been several times when change happens, or it needs to take place, and the morale of my team wasn’t the highest at times, and I remind them why their job is essential. According to William Bridges’ influential book Managing Transitions, one of the best ways leaders can effectively deal with the normal anxiety that’s brought on by change, as well as improve productivity and even accelerate the transition process of their employees is to explain “The Four Ps,” which are:
Remind them of their purpose and explain about the picture of what it looks like when all of us are working together to fulfill that purpose. I make sure to go over the plan I have for doing that and how we will get back on track with that plan. Finally, point out the vital part that each of them must play in acting on the program that creates the picture that fulfills the purpose. That’s why their work matters. I let each of them know how much I appreciate them and their contribution to the team and the program.”
What do you enjoy most about being an Entrepreneur and Author?
Michael ” One of the things I enjoy about being an entrepreneur and author is having the opportunity to meet people from various communities and cultures and having the chance to make an impact on someone’s life. If I can help at least one person that equates to be a successful day.”
In moments of adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
Michael: “When I am faced with adversity, I rely on my support system to help build me back up. I have a fantastic support system and mentors who are continually supporting, encouraging, and genuinely want me happy. It’s important to surround yourself with individuals who are believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.”
About Michael D. Gatson
Michael D. Gatson, is an expert in military social work and/with issues related to military mental health. He is also a licensed clinical psychotherapist at the Washington DC VA Health Care System. Michael is currently serving as the Global War on Terrorism Coordinator and is involved in the treatment of veterans with chronic combat-related post-traumatic stress disorders and marital issues. He is a VA certified in Cognitive Processing Therapy, Prolonged Exposure and Step Qualified in Marriage and Family Therapy. He previously served as the Marriage and Family Therapist at the Robert J. Dole VA Health Care System.
Michael also provides clinical supervision to counselors and social workers to help improve their clinical abilities. He also serves as a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army Medical Reserve, 393rd Medical Logistics Company, and is a certified volunteer trainer for the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) HIV Office for Psychology Education (HOPE).
Michael recently volunteered his time and talents to two milestone events. First, Michael participated in a roundtable discussion on veterans and their families with First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, as part of the Joining Forces Initiative. Second, Michael provided clinical counseling and crises intervention services for outreach support at all of the events surrounding His Holiness Pope Francis’ visit to Washington, D.C.
Before joining the VA System, Michael worked as the Trauma and Injury Prevention Program Director for Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Medicine in Shreveport, Louisiana. He has held faculty positions at University of Phoenix (Bossier City, LA) and Butler Community College (Andover, Kansas) and served as a field supervisor/instructor for Grambling State University, Louisiana State University, and Wichita State University Masters of Social Work Programs.
Michael has dedicated his career to improving the lives of Active Military Personnel and War Veterans faced with combat trauma and hardships which are evidenced in his clinical work with Veterans and family members. He has published in several professional journals on PTSD, Suicide Prevention, and LGBTQ Military Families and provides numerous training focusing on PTSD, Suicide Prevention, and HIV/AIDS at the local, state and national level and has presented more than a 100 workshops on PTSD, Suicide Prevention, and HIV/AIDS.
Michael is also the owner of G & E Associates, LLC, a motivational and consulting firm and provides clinical consultation, workshops, and training to other behavioral healthcare providers.