Author, Consultant, Speaker and Psychotherapist
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist,
California Lic # MFC32346
M.A., Counseling Psychology, Transpersonal Specialization, John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, CA
B.A., Management, University of Phoenix, Tucson, AZ
Merle is full time writer, speaker and consultant. Retired from private practice psychotherapy after 25 years, he now lectures and consults to help people make sense out of their lives and often the pain they are in, so they can move forward. With over 35 years of personal and professional work, Merle has taken the summary of his experience and training and uses it to help others.
All of his books are about helping people live better lives. Merle is committed to continuing his teaching and efforts to educate people about themselves.
Merle's own healing journey informed deep compassion for the emotional pain people experience, as well as his profound belief in the possibility of healing and claiming one’s life.
I was born in the backwoods of the Ozarks, in southern Missouri. I was the middle child of an older brother and a twin sister. Growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere had some advantages; I have no illusions about where meat and vegetables come from and what it takes to make that happen. I also know that at heart I am a city boy. I like visiting the country, but too much quiet has its downsides.
At the age of 12, our parents moved us to Tucson, AZ where I would spend the next 17 years. A world apart from the Ozarks, it was an intense education in the world. I graduated from Cholla High School in 1977. I spent most of my high school career in the choir room, being tutored by our amazing music teacher, Mr. Belt. He was in most ways, my substitute father.
My parents decided to join the Masonic Lodge and I joined, DeMolay, the boy scouts of the lodge. It was a wonderful experience and I learned a great deal about leadership and how to build an organization. That experience has served me well throughout my life. Around the age of 22, I joined the Masonic Lodge as well, the same one my father was a member of.
Post high school, I attended the University of AZ as a music major. That lasted just over two years and I began a multi-year search for, what was I going to do with my life. Ten years after finishing HS, I graduated from the University of Phoenix with a Bachelor in Management. I had been working for many years for Southland Corporation in Tucson and had risen from the graveyard shift to the local corporate offices where I was a supervisor to company stores and consultant to the franchises. It was an amazing experience and as I finished my BA, I realized this was not what I wanted to do with my life and the next search was on.
I took a year off and explored and came to the conclusion that I wished to be a psychotherapist. I had been in therapy for about 5 years at this point and it had profoundly impacted me. I was in a five-year relationship and we moved to CA so that he could get a job post his Ph.D. at the University of AZ. We eventually ended up in Oakland, CA, which had two graduate schools I was interested in attending. I chose John F. Kennedy University, then in Orinda and in 1988 began a three-year masters program in Counseling Psychology.
In my time as a business consultant, I realized that most of the people I worked with knew what they needed to do to be successful. They knew they needed to raise this price or fire that employee, etc. But something inside of them was keeping them from doing what they knew they needed to. When I would just talk to them about their life, they would start making changes. That was the part I enjoyed and that was what led me to go back to school to learn what I was doing and hopefully do it a lot better.
My close friend, Bruce Hyland, and I enjoyed collaborating and we both had a management background. After I finished graduate school, we decided to write a book that would tell new managers the basics of how to manage people. We wrote a book proposal and sent it to 40 publishers. We received 39 rejections and one yes, from McGraw-Hill. The first book, Reflections for Managers, was very successful and started a whole series of books from McGraw Hill. We wrote the next two, More Reflections for Managers, and Reflections for the Workplace, a few years later.
After completing 3000+ hours of counseling experience and passing written and oral exams, I was licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 1995. Professionally, I was a successful full-time psychotherapist for many years. It is a passion and something into which I bring all of myself. In 2007 I had the privilege of spending a month in Germany working with veterans and families of soldiers returning from Afghanistan. I have also worked with veterans in my private practice. It has been an honor to assist these men in their healing.
My fourth book was an anthology I edited. When Love Lasts Forever is about 14 long-term male couples who had been together for 10-45 years. Each couple wrote their own story. Given my own experience in a long-term male couple, I wanted to bring light to this invisible part of the gay community. Pilgrim Press, which is the publishing arm of the United Church of Christ, published the book in 1999.
My fifth book, Demystifying Gynecomastia, was self-published in 2006. When I created a website for my psychotherapy practice around 1995, I included a section on gynecomastia. I had my first breast reduction surgery in 1993. There was very little information available on the web, and I wanted to let others know that they were not alone.
The gynecomastia section of my website was a huge hit and got so much traffic that I created a separate website just for that topic. After my relationship ended, I decided the gynecomastia website should pay for itself, so I monetized the site. It was very profitable, as well as rising to #1 on Google. I sold it October 2010.
I have been in many newspaper and magazine articles and radio interviews on gynecomastia. I have been in two major documentaries, one by Channel 4 in London, and the other by the BBC in Great Britain. In 2006 I was approached by an Australian TV show that was looking to do a show on someone with gynecomastia. I happened to have contracted to do my second breast reduction to correct the problems with the first surgery and the partial return of the gynecomastia.
So, I was featured on a segment of an Australian TV show when I had my second breast reduction. They interviewed me and followed me around for a few days, then came back for the surgery and then again about two months post surgery. The largest newspaper chain in the Bay Area also covered it. When I went for surgery, I had a film crew, a newspaper reporter, and a photographer all in the operating room with me. YouTube has a video of my segment on the TV show. Much of the gynecomastia press and the video are posted in the Past Press section of this site. The most amusing press was when I made the cover of a British tabloid called In Touch.
Probably the most important thing I should note was my entering psychotherapy as a client. My first therapist in Tucson began the work of digging into the layers of my psyche and beginning the process of healing. It would be a long road of 17 years and three therapists. Each therapist played a key role in pushing through my denial and helping me to see that the craziness of my childhood was not my fault and I could recover.
I brought to my clients, the knowing that it is possible to recover from really horrible things happening in childhood. It is possible to leave the pain and the fear behind and embrace and enjoy life.
I specialize working with men in general. Specifically, I am known locally for working with men that were sexually abused as children and with bi and gay heterosexually married men. Internationally, I am better known for my expertise on gynecomastia. I have given a workshop called: ‘Shedding Light on the Sexual Abuse of Boys and the Men they Become’ to therapists and the public. Assisting in the healing of these men and supporting them in reclaiming their lives is humbling and awe inspiring. I have learned we are truly capable of healing from almost anything.
While in Graduate school, I attended and graduated from Gestalt Institute of San Francisco. I was also an early adopter of a new revolutionary technique in psychotherapy called EMDR: Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing therapy. I became a Certified EMDR Therapist and then an Approved Consultant in EMDR.
I since leaving private practice to write in May of 2015, I have been traveling, much of that time in Mexico. They are wonderful and hospitable people, and I loved the weather. I am single and loving the adventure of my life.