A Song Writer at Heart

“Hey, Greg Allman, I am over here!” 
“Yo, Bro, good to see you.”

Piedmont Park in Atlanta was filled with rock bands when this conversation occurred between Clark Clipson and Greg Allman many years ago. The future psychologist spent his Sundays playing in the band lineup with many groups, some of which became famous.

Clark Clipson doesn’t have long hair anymore, and he doesn’t tour the Southeast with his band as he did on weekends as a teenager playing at bars and fraternity houses. One might characterize Dr. Clipson as a man who has embraced change and transformation throughout his life.

Born in Georgia, Clark attended military boarding school from grades 5-8. His school had relinquished its military orientation by the time Clark reached high school, and by then, he was committed to playing music with his friends. He loved the lifestyle and became Battalion Commander in his final year. 

After high school, Clark attended Duke University. He traveled to India and Nepal during his junior year. In India, he studied with a Buddhist monk who became a spiritual mentor and guide. His teacher was schooled in the works of Carl Jung, and Clark’s passion for psychology was ignited.

After college, he worked for a year in a psychiatric facility before enrolling CSPP-San Diego. There he met his wife, Chris Osterloh. The couple has been married for 37 years and has two adult children, Dan, who works in the business department at UCSD, and Ashley, the Director of Strategic Planning for the UCSD Health System. 

Until recently, Clark played the keyboard in a band. Arthritis in his hands has limited his playing time, but his passion for listening to music has remained strong. Over the years, he has seen musicians like James Taylor and Phish numerous times. Music companions are frequently his son or colleagues, David Wexler, Steve Tess, and Peter Wayson.

When I asked him where his love of music came from, he said he often fell asleep to music as a child. Music has always been a way to temporarily “vacation” from the present time and has been a vital force in his life. 

Not surprisingly, Clark has had an interesting professional life. The question of “How did someone get there” had always fascinated him, and eventually, he became a full-time forensic psychologist. At one point, he evaluated sex offenders around the state, but now his work is limited to private criminal and civil cases and work for the court. The work can be emotionally taxing, but helping untangle psychologically complex issues keeps him going.

I asked Clark how he felt about testifying when adversarial attorneys tried to trip him up. He said that he didn’t take things personally once he understood everyone’s role and enjoyed the courtroom chess games. 

In a few years, Clark will retire or cut his workload back. He and Chris have recently traveled to Italy and Scotland, and they hope to continue experiencing new places. He plans to continue writing music and lyrics as he has always done. Spending time with his grandchildren, aged 4 and 5, will be a priority. He also would like to write articles about the development of personal ethics and responsibility.

Clark Clipson has been a creative force all his life. A gifted psychologist, Clark has traveled far and wide through inner and outer landscapes, searching for his life’s rhythms. Those fortunate enough to hear his music are lucky indeed!

P.S. Since I wrote this profile a few years ago, Clark has been writing songs that are being recorded. He recently attended a songwriter’s workshop in Joshua Tree. Like the Torrey Pine in my backyard, you can’t keep this man from growing.