The Last Frontier

When planning a journey, I think it’s always a good idea to know where you’re starting from, where you’re going, who your traveling companions will be, and most importantly, who you are. Retirement is a journey. 


I recently retired from my clinical practice, so I’m a newbie at being retired. Still, I prepared for retirement as a personal project and worked hard to get my practice and patients ready. One critical takeaway I’m learning from people I’ve talked to about retirement is: that despite common factors, everyone’s retirement is unique and personal. As psychologists, we focus on self-awareness, regardless of our professional activities or theoretical orientation. The question, ‘who am I’ is an existential must for psychologists to answer, first about ourselves and the patient, client, group, organization, etc., we are serving.  

Peter LiBero is a retired clinical psychologist. He continues to work as an executive coach and psychological consultant to management.

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July 2022

The Gift

Time may be endless but the piece of it a life is given, like the gift of a cherished old photograph, dims and dulls as the seasons race forward in an indifferent perpetuity.  Having reached the age of 85, I have trouble remembering names, and the images of my experiences, once sharp and clear and full of color, are grey and cloudy and require hours of effort to pry them out of the disarray of detail that has now become my memory. And so, it was not surprising that I could not recognize the name, Stephan Jacobson when my caller identified himself.

It all began two weeks ago when Ellie, my young secretary, entered my study as I rested in my easy chair and handed me an envelope. “This is one,” she said in her slow, soft voice, “I think you’d best open yourself.”

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Designing a Retirement Plan that Works

Retirement presents many challenges. It is an ending but also a beginning. Many are relieved that working life is over: others are anxious about what they will do. There are some universal issues around retirement, but the process varies from person to person.


Everyone has to design their own retirement plan. For some of us, this is easy, but for others, not so much. Here are some issues to think about as retirement approaches.

1. Think hard about what you like to do. Retirement doesn’t work well if you do what you think you should do. Sometimes, it is not easy to figure out and may take trial and error.

2. Work at retirement. Create structure. Don’t waste time.

3. Try to get good at things. Whether cooking, golfing, traveling, or gardening, study and improve. Being competent makes any endeavor more fun.

4. If you value relationships, get social. Take the initiative. Time is limited, and you have an opportunity. Don’t wait for your phone to ring. Reach out!

5. Retirement brings freedom. Don’t worry about what others think. The canvas is empty. Paint away.

6. If you want to try new things, do it now. Learn and grow.

7. Take some time to assess your past life and put it in perspective. Acceptance that you did the best you could brings peace and makes it easier to move on. Think of your working life as an athletic contest. The game was played. It is over, and you are free to move on to other endeavors.

8. Try to stay as healthy as possible. Illness compromises retirement.

9. As aging makes one activity difficult or impossible, move on to another activity. Find things that are fun and do them. If you can’t play tennis, play pickleball.

10. Remember that we can all keep growing and learning. You really can teach old dogs new tricks.

Not What I Had in Mind!

I tell everyone I won the lottery ONCE. The date was June 30, 2019; it was my official retirement date from 29 years of working at a middle school in a suburban town in Massachusetts . I was 65 and had planned for this day for many years. I retired when I planned to and was mentally and physically ready. Who knew that we would be facing a pandemic a mere nine months later? I won the lottery by leaving the profession when teaching was still in a regular school environment. I regularly check in with my colleagues, and I am unsure I can do what they are still doing two years later. So yes, I won a different kind of lottery!

I had nine months of traveling bliss following my retirement date. The next month while vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard, I met a man through mutual friends who would eventually become my boyfriend. (That story may be another article! Ha!). After that were trips to Boston, Colorado, Disney World, San Diego, Arizona, and a repeat weekend in Boston; at that weekend getaway at a hotel, I learned about an outbreak of COVID-19 discovered at another nearby hotel. The convention at that hotel where I was staying was cut short, and you know the rest.  

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May 2022

Sabbaticalized

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Annie Lamott

The idea of taking a “sabbatical” had been rattling around in my brain for many years but took root as COVID began to impact the big world and my small private practice in it. There were multiple challenging adaptations and pivots, so many of us experienced during these last few years, including shifting to telehealth, pandemic anxiety, the intensity of cultural fear and anger, and managing the increasing surge of new and former patients requesting therapy. Managing an already full private practice, waiting list, and fielding calls from new and former patients was overwhelming. Finding referrals was challenging. Saying “no” to former patients I had worked with at various times during their lifecycle was painful and unexpected. The sheer amounts of calls, emails, and texts were a bit much for my pre-digital-age brain. My eyes and neck were Zoom fatigued.  

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