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About our Un-Dissertation site: Creating new brain habits to get the dissertation done

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10 years. A decade. A third of my life up until then.

That’s how long it took me to finish my dissertation.

So I have a sense of just what you might be facing.

I am Dr. Karen Shue and as I described on the main page of this site, my own dissertation process was, well, not the highlight of my life. I started the process a bit anxious about what was to come and left the process with a Ph.D. and an aversion to writing much of anything. I made lots of future plans about what I wanted to achieve balanced in equal proportions with lots of avoidance and thoroughly got in my own way.

I gradually discovered how to get past that period of what I now call “dissertation recovery” and I’m interested in coaching others to make the whole dissertation project a different kind of experience – one that contributes to your future success rather than preventing you from undertaking future large or complex projects with energy and interest.

What do I bring to working with you on this?:

Short and sweet Credentials version:

  • A Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from McGill University (one of Canada’s “Ivy League” equivalents for you U.S. types ;-)
  • Background as a Clinical Neuropsychologist and Neuro-Rehabilitation Psychologist
  • 20 years of experience as a brain expert in various settings
  • Training and practice in neurofeedback and related methods of creating changes in brain patterns of activity
  • Coach training from MentorCoach — an organization that trains professionals to enhance and transfer their existing skills to coaching practices

More About Me as a Real Person

But I believe you can learn about more about someone from sharing their Story,  so I would like to share some of my experiences  and how I think they contribute to how I support ABD’s, if you want to learn more about me….

  •  My own challenges in a Ph.D. program – I understand the kinds of difficulties and “stuckness” you may be experiencing

As I shared, I took many many years to finally get my dissertation done. There were a number of things that contributed to this – I moved away from the university, my mother become ill and died, I got a full-time clinical job, my advisor was, well, challenging – but I have to say that I was my own worst enemy. Many of the things I did to myself and let others do to me are the things I had to un-learn during my recovery period – things I want you to not have to recover from.

One of the biggest of these was going from someone who like to write – had fun writing! – to someone who dreaded having to string words together for much of anything.

  •  As a neuropsychologist, I have expertise in how our brains function and what promotes optimal function (or interferes with that)

In spite of this expertise, many of my professional years were spent knowing this stuff, but avoiding having to share what I knew in writing with anyone. The worst were (and still are, but I’m better now ;-) medico-legal reports. If you aren’t familiar with these, they are really kind of mini-dissertations: they need to be precise, they will indeed be reviewed with a fine-toothed comb by audiences not necessarily friendly to your message, they need to sound professional and authoritative, yet still be understandable and convincing to people outside of your area, every one comes with the threat of a defense (think: court evidence). And they’re long. Even the structure is like a thesis: review of relevant background, issues to be investigated, methods, results, interpretation/next steps. So the “doing” of a dissertation is live and well in my day to day experience.

But beyond that, I have over the years accumulated more and more knowledge of how the functioning of our brains really does impact our “real life” functioning. While working with people with significant brain injury, I saw the daily impact of brain functioning (or not). In working in my neurofeedback practice, I saw how these “circuits” could be changed. And then I saw how we create our brain’s functioning by our thinking and feeling and doing – and became clearer on how we impact that even without my fancy equipment.

  •  As a communicator, I work at “translating” what I know into real English – I translate what I know into language you can easily understand and apply

One of my strengths that others pointed out to me over and over was my ability to express what I knew about the brain in ways that were approachable and understandable to non-specialists.

I think part of this is because I have so many interests and am a naturally curious person (my goal when I was about 7 years old was to grow up to be a “Renaissance Woman” – knowing everything there was to know…I’m not quite there, but I’m working on it….). In order to understand things for myself, I have to translate other specialities’ jargon into “english”, so I just naturally try to do the same for others. What I think this brings to my coaching work is an interest not only in helping you finish, but in the actual content of what you are working on – I enjoy reading and giving feedback on what I understand and offering connected information when I have it. So I really do know what you are trying to accomplish.

  •  As a psychologist, I emphasize positive psychology approaches and strategies grounded in empirical research

I think this is part of the “neuropsych” training that actually stuck – I like to know that what I’m offering has been shown to be effective. And I prefer approaches that focus on the positive, the upbeat, the optimistic. The idea is to strengthen those connections in our brain that serve us and let those that don’t weaken and fade away…

  •  As a “neuro-coach”, I blend my knowledge of the brain with coaching skills to help you identify practical strategies that work for you I whatever area you are feeling “stuck”

Coaching has been part of my own “recovery”. I first got a coach to help me work getting past the dread of writing. I developed methods and strategies and brain habits to help me get it done, even when I didn’t feel like it (which was most of the time). I still use my own coach to work on re-creating that free flow of words I remember from pre-academic years.

It was while I was being coached that I saw coaching as a natural complement to my working with the brain directly. So I completed training in an accredited coaching program with an eye to integrating what I know about the brain with ways to encourage personal change through coaching techniques. It’s been an eye-opening and exciting time! I especially enjoyed my training in group coaching and my initial experiences with coaching All But Dissertation students – which brings us here…

You can read more about my own professional journey on my neurofeedback practice website – Brain and Health. You can get a wider perspective on what I share about the brain and its impact on us by visiting my Neurofeedback on the Brain blog.

For a peek into the kinds of topics and discussions we have in our private UnDissertation groups, visit The Undissertation Blog on this website. To get an idea of how you can participate, visit the Services page (in development — just give me a call to talk about where you are and what you need until the page is available.)

If you know you want coaching to get this project done, give me a call to talk about what service structure might work best for you and to see if we feel like a good match.