Life Lessons:
Joseph Shrand, MD


*Are you happy at the moment?

I can hear my wife, Carol, blow-drying her hair, my youngest daughter, Becca, teaching her older sister Sophie how to make macaroons, one of my sons, Galen, about to take out the dogs, I just got off the phone with my eldest son Jason who called just to catch up, and I have been asked to write about life’s lessons.

Happy? You betcha!

*If you could go back and say anything to your 16-year-old self now – what would it be?

Don’t take your fast metabolism for granted. At 16, my mind was a terrible thing to waste. At my age, my waist is a terrible thing to mind.

*What’s the most important thing you’ve learned this year?

That “show” is more effective than “tell.” (see my proudest moment answer.)

*What do you most want to achieve in the next 12 months?

To keep expand Drug Story Theater and keep it going. (see my proudest moment answer). And to lose weight, take care of myself, and exercise, the mundane things of life that I took for granted when I was 16! For my books to achieve greater visibility.

*What’s your secret to happiness?

I learned in medical school that medicine will never give me a hug but Carol will. (See my short story in “Love Like God.”)

Having a partner who believes in you reminds you of your value every day. And as in our heart of hearts we just want to feel valued by someone else, I can feel safer, more secure, trust, and take the creative risks in my life and profession.

*What one ritual or practice keeps you grounded?

I never worry alone. I play the piano just to get some feelings out in the open. I always say “I love you” when saying goodbye to my wife or any of my kids. And I always treat other people with respect.

*What’s your biggest regret?

The one time I did not go to visit my father. The one time I did not go to visit my mother. The one time I did not go to visit my sister.

They have all passed, and although I am rich with other times and memories, I also wish I had one more. Just one more.

*What’s the most important lesson you’ve taught your kid(s)?

1) Love going to work and love going home. When you can do both of those then you are successful.

2) When is the last time you got angry at someone treating you with respect? You don’t. The brain doesn’t work that way: not yours, not anyone’s. So always see people as doing the best they can, don’t judge them, try to understand why they do what they do, and always let them know that they are valuable by treating them with respect.

*What bad habit would you most like to change about yourself?

My eating habits. As a kid food was used as a message of love, comfort, and distraction. But I am loved, have comfort, and don’t want to miss a moment. Now that’s food for thought.

*Aside from motherhood/fatherhood and marriage what are you most proud of in your life?

The work I am doing helping children and families in need. In my substance abuse program, CASTLE, all we are trying to do is remind a kid of their value. This is what I mean by love going to work. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

Recently I launched Drug Story Theater, where teens in the early stages of recovery create their own shows about the seduction of, addiction to, and recovery from drugs and alcohol. That is my most recent source of pride, watching five kids and two parents perform to an audience of strangers, willing to share their stories so the treatment of one becomes the prevention of many. I have never been prouder than to see the confidence these kids had, while just a few months ago they did not know if anyone respected or valued them. As the show ended the standing room only audience erupted as one into a standing ovation and kept clapping for over a minute.

*When were you happiest?

I am blessed to be married to the woman I met when we were both 19. I have never been happier, as every day I fall in love all over, as if I were still 19.

*What ten words best describe you?

I am the same person at home as at work.


Among colleagues and staff, he is affectionately called “Doctor Joe,” as he was “Joe” in the original children’s cast of the PBS series ZOOM.

Dr. Shrand routinely gives lectures on adolescent addiction and Theory of Mind and its application to re-conceptualize the behaviors of patients. He has developed a strength based model called The I-M Approach that suggests a fundamental paradigm shift, moving away from pathology to viewing a patient at a current maximum potential. The I-M Approach is explored in two of his books: Do You Really Get me? (2015 in Press) The Fear Reflex: Five Ways to Overcome it and Trust your Imperfect Self. (2104)

Dr. Shrand is the award-winning Outsmarting Anger: Seven Strategies to Defuse our most Dangerous Emotion (2013) the winner of the 2013 Books for a Better Life Awards, 2013 Psychology self help category His first book, Manage Your Stress: Overcoming Stress in the Modern World (2102), continues to provide readers with simple ways to lead a more productive life.

Dr. Joseph Shrand is an Instructor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and the Medical Director of CASTLE (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered),a short-term residential program for at-risk teens, part of High Point Treatment Center in Brockton, MA. Dr. Shrand is triple Board certified in adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and a diplomate of the American Board of Addiction Medicine.

Dr Shrand is founder of Drug Story Theater, Inc., a non-profit organization that takes teenagers in the early stages of recovery from drugs and alcohol and teaches them improvisational theater techniques. The teenagers then create their own shows which they perform in middle and high schools, so the treatment of one becomes the prevention of many.

Dr Shrand helped to design the Independence Academy, the first sober high school on the South Shore of Massachusetts, and currently sits on the Steering Committee. Currently he also teaches psychiatry residents-in-training as a member of the Brockton VA staff, and has been an Assistant Child Psychiatrist on the medical staff of Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dr. Shrand has served as Medical Director of the Child and Adolescent outpatient program at McLean Hospital, and has run several inpatient psychiatric units and hospitals as their Medical Director. He is also the Medical Director of Road to Responsibility, a community based program that tends to adults with significant developmental disability and serves on various Boards involved in national mental health issues as well as global fair-trade concerns.