Second Act: Returning
to the Path Not Taken

Written by Marissa Poulson

As a Cornell undergraduate in the 1970s, Rich Gallagher (M.A.Psy., Marriage and Family Therapy, 2011) pursued a dual major: engineering and psychology. “Friends joked that I would grow up to build bridges that would talk people out of jumping off of them,” he laughs.

Rich Gallagher (M.A.Psy., Marriage and Family Therapy, 2011)

All jokes aside, Gallagher always had an interest in psychotherapy, but he decided to pursue a more practical career in technology following his graduation.

“I had a long technical and management career that led to managing call center operations, which fueled a lifelong interest in the mechanics of how we communicate,” Gallagher explains.

He went on to write several books on communications skills, including two national bestsellers: What to Say to a Porcupine, a finalist for the 2008 Business Book of the Year, and The Customer Service Survival Kit, which in March 2013 reached #1 in the customer service category on Amazon.com.

“I made a living writing and speaking about how to handle your most difficult customer and workplace situations,” shares Gallagher. “But becoming a therapist was always ‘the path not taken’ in my career, and a longtime personal goal.”

When a colleague recommended Northcentral University, Gallagher discovered it provided the opportunity he needed to earn a clinical degree while working full-time. “Distance learning fit my busy, crazy life. I finished so many papers and assignments in hotels, on airplanes, or in the passenger seat of my car,” he relates. “Now thanks to NCU, I am a licensed L.M.F.T. and I run a part-time private psychotherapy practice.”

“Friends joked that I would grow up to build bridges that would talk people out of jumping off of them.”

In fact in 2009, while still a student, Gallagher and classmate Sigrid Kulkowitz, partnered up to launch Anxiety Camp, a six-week psycho-educational program for anxiety sufferers, their partners and family members. The camp is designed to teach attendees how to become their own anxiety therapist.

“I started this program with Dean Henline’s encouragement and it's now in its fourth year with very successful clinical outcomes. I loved that my Northcentral experience gave me the opportunity to create clinical work that was aligned with my interests," he shares.

With the support of his wife of 35 years, Colleen, Gallagher plans to officially retire from his day job in the next few years. He will, however, continue to maintain his busy private practice (currently two days a week) for years to come.

“I love being a therapist. I take great pleasure in watching clients visibly improve from the process of therapy,” Gallagher reveals. “Good therapy is really a process of happy-making, and it is gratifying on a daily basis to see people leave sessions happier than when they came in.”