Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Peter Economou of The Counseling and Wellness Center Is Helping…

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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Peter Economou of The Counseling and Wellness Center Is Helping To Change Our World

Life is a game. Do not take it so seriously and remember to enjoy the small moments.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter J. Economou.

Peter J. Economou, Ph.D., ABPP earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology and is Board Certified in Cognitive and Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and he is a certified mental performance consultant (CMPC) from the Association of Applied Sport Psychology (AASP). He has been a leader in program development, relationships, wellbeing, and more. Dr. Pete completed many international relief projects, which included working with children and adults with developmental disabilities in the Caribbean, and individuals with HIV and AIDS throughout Africa. He is also the co-host of the podcast When East Meets West.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was working in hospitality and entertainment (modeling and TV) when I considered moving abroad. At the time I loved traveling and would pick up and go to Europe for a weekend. I wanted to see the world and thought what better way than to live and study in France while earning a graduate degree. An influential friend encouraged me to stay in the U.S. and earn a graduate degree that was certainly transferable (i.e., it was unclear whether a graduate degree would transfer back to the U.S.). That is when I decided to pursue graduate education in psychology. I earned a master’s degree in counseling and then a PhD in counseling psychology.

In terms of sport psychology, I had grown up in a world of sport where we participated in all sports. My two brothers played baseball at high levels and, during high school, I began to swim competitively. This led to a college scholarship and several accolades including Big East champion, Olympic Trial competitor and I was inducted into the Seton Hall Hall of Fame in 2023. The combination of my past sport experience and training in counseling psychology has yielded a career of assisting others in their journey of life to optimize their potential and live their best version of self.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Forming a private practice that is committed to evidence-based practices for high performers started in 2010 when I opened the first office in Springfield, NJ. I offered services for free to many clients just to get the name out there and begin establishing the practice. As with any business, it can take many years for the company to become profitable. Some research states 7 years on average.

I did this all without a business plan, rather I just leaped in and learned along the way. One interesting thing that happened was being introduced to my now clinical director, Dr. Kate Fackina. She was looking to pivot from her position in a hospital setting and we immediately hit it off. Together we were able to build a brand that focused on training others on the work we do, integrating the interventions for our clients, and begin the work of improving others’ well-being (perhaps before it was a thing).

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes I made was arriving at the airport a day before my actual scheduled flight to Paris. The year was 2001, I had just finished a successful and challenging year, and was scheduled to fly on a Friday but arrived at the airport on Thursdays. The days were different and the lovely gate agent got me on a flight. So I landed in Paris one day early.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

With a commitment to improving wellness and multicultural competence, the CWC has been committed to social justice since its inception in 2010. This has included joining insurance panels to treat the underserved, offering sliding scales for clients from marginalized backgrounds, and community partnerships to increase access to behavioral healthcare.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One of my mentors, Dr. Palmer, taught me so much. Some of what she taught me was how not to work being she overworked and gave 100% to all she did. While I commit heavily to my work, it cannot be at my own cost or at the cost of my family. She taught me to let go of the challenges that we face when working with large systems, how to care for animals, and even influenced m y decision to become vegetarian after I graduated in 2011. I have not knowingly eaten a piece of meat since then.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Fund behavioral health initiatives.

Continue having the difficult conversations.

Integrate wellness into the organizations that we run, whether a company, political party, or other.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is being able to create connections between people, facilitate relationships for working together and empowering a team, and bring out the best in people. This means that leadership recognizes the potential in others, as they do not even see it. Leaders bring the best out in those around them and create a cohesive system that fosters optimization of performance. The most effective leaders keep people that are smarter and stronger around them.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Life is a game. Do not take it so seriously and remember to enjoy the small moments.

Be in the present moment; letting go of the past and worry about the future.

Geography is key- whether a home or office; the location will set someone up for success.

Cultivate your spirit- and meditation is likely one of the most effective ways to do so.

Be Kind. Nice people do not have to finish last.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. Just be nice. Nike coined the phrase “Just Do It.” What if we could have a similar movement of “Just Be Kind.” Everyone is going through something; No one is exempt from pain in life. So let us practice compassion and kindness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The misattributed/simplified quote from Ghandi, “Be the change that you wish to see in this world.” Although most scholars claim this was the Internet simplifying this quote:

“We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

This reminds us that we are all doing the best we can and make the change that you want to see.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

This exercise is often a meal with anyone, alive or passed. If that were the case, I would say Kobe Bryant. I might also add Whitney Houston; For different reasons. If we are trying to tag someone, I would like to have a meal with Taylor Swift. Now there is someone who has overcome haters, and has shown the world that you cannot kick her when she is down!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @officialdrpete, you can visit my website, listen to my podcast When East Meets West as well as buy my book Mindfulness Workbook for Beginners.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

Thank you for the opportunity!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Dr Peter Economou of The Counseling and Wellness Center Is Helping… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.