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Harry's Therapeutic Inspiration

Every day this week, The Early Show introduces you to the people who have had a positive impact on the co-anchors, and changed their lives for the better.

Tuesday, Harry Smith says his inspiration is a woman who has made changing lives her life's work.

In the Colorado mountains, the sky can be deceiving. On even the brightest days, there are often storm clouds over the horizon, just out of sight.

Twenty years ago, my life wasn't perfect. But by all appearances, it was close.

I was a single guy, my career was going great, I was working in television in Denver. Everything was working out just the way I wanted it to, the way I had dreamed it might.

Yet, for some reason, I was depressed. I was really depressed. I was at the bottom of a valley.

And one day, I stumbled under the weight of my own despair.

I remember the specific instance. It was a beautiful spring day. It was a Saturday, and I was supposed to go down and visit a friend of mine who lived in Colorado Springs. I got up Saturday morning, and I was literally immobilized. I was sitting on the side of the bed, and it was like I couldn't move. I couldn't make decisions. I was debilitated.

I had tears pouring out of my eyes, and I thought, "What is this all about? Where is this coming from? I don't have a handle on it."

That is when I knew it wasn't going to get better by itself.

"He called my office, probably spoke with my secretary, and made an appointment," recalls Dr. Susan Heitler. "He was depressed, and, clinically, he was anxious. That is, he bumped up against a life situation that had overwhelmed him. So, often these labels aren't pure and clear. There were elements of depression, and elements of just being overwhelmed with anxiety."

Once I recognized that I was suffering from depression, I thought, "I'm really screwed up. I'm as screwed up as you can be." Maybe I'd seen too many Woody Allen movies, because I thought I'd have to go into analysis five times a week for the rest of my life.

Heitler says, "I'm remembering now that his images of therapy were Woody Allen type: 'Once you sign up, you're in it for life' therapy."

The great thing is, I went to see Susan Heitler, and she said to me, "You're not so messed up, and this is something we can deal with, really, in a matter of a couple of months."

"He was clearly fixable," notes Heitler. "Well, rather than saying he was fixable, his depression, which is what he first came in with, was eminently fixable."

It was wonderful for me. It was kind of liberating because I had a weight on my shoulders, and kind of a weight on my soul, that I didn't know what to do with. I didn't know how to express it.

Heitler saw the light at the end of the tunnel immediately, and we started working toward that right from the get-go.

It was amazing. She worked hard. I worked hard. And we took care of business.

Susan Heitler's effect on my life was profound and permanent. She saw me clearly in a way I couldn't see myself. She just really helped me put my life back together.

In time, I introduced Heitler to my bride-to-be, and together, we built a foundation for a partnership that endures to this day.

People come from different worlds, different emotional backgrounds, and the time that Andrea and I spent with Susan [Heitler] was nothing short of invaluable.

"I appreciate Harry saying that I changed his life," says Heitler. "And, at the same time, I think it's the process of therapy that changes people's lives -- takes whatever bad feelings are there, cleans them up so you feel whole, and comfortable, and a sense of well-being. In addition, therapy, or at least the kind of therapy that I do, teaches people skills so that they can move into the future with what they need to negotiate difficult bumps in the road ahead."

There's nothing to be embarrassed about therapy. It can be a life-changing experience, and it really changed mine.

Heitler says, "He had high goals for himself. He wanted his life to go really well. You only get one. And he wanted to use his wisely."

For more information about Dr. Heitler's perspectives on depression and anxiety, check out:

For more information about Dr. Heitler's therapy methods, check out:
  • From Conflict to Resolution - Dr. Heitler's views of emotional
    health, distress, and how therapy helps.
  • The Angry Couple - A video for therapists and for the general public
    demonstrating Dr. Heitler's methods of couple treatment

To contact Dr. Susan Heitler, please call (303) 388-4211 or e-mail her at
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