Disabled Therapist’s Tale of Reborn Compassion, Earns Fervent Global Love of Lives Medal

The idea of putting the pieces of our lives together only to have them suddenly halted in an accident in the prime of our years is, for most of us, well, paralyzing. Yet that’s exactly what happened in the tale of Daniel Gottlieb, a New Jersey psychologist and family therapist whose journey through the mental health profession was remarkably turbulent. Through a series of trials which may have claimed the professional aspirations of many, this Daniel rediscovered his love for helping people reach their full potential and conquer their concerns.

After establishing a therapy practice and settling down with his wife, Daniel’s progress toward achieving the dream he’d visualized seemed to be putting him within close reach of his own concept of success. But at the age of 33, the budding counselor was involved in a serious car accident which left him paralyzed from the neck down. While coping with the ensuing trauma and adjusting to the new constraints and demands of day to day life, the therapist experienced another round of difficult times; his wife divorced him and several members of his immediate family passed away, all within the scope of a few years. Daniel recounts an especially dark night spent in the intensive care unit of a hospital, feeling oppressed by his life and the events that had recently occurred and established themselves as the core of his reality. That night, a distraught nurse approached him asking for advice or assistance in coping with the death of a loved one, and as Daniel helped guide her through her grief, he realized a profound sense of compassion and love of life within himself.

Daniel resumed his therapy practice and in recent years has taken up additional positions in radio and newspapers, aiming to help others achieve an appreciation of themselves he nearly lost. He has also written several books, much of the proceeds of which have been donated to charities. For his inspiring life story and commitment to caring for others, the therapist has recently been awarded the “Fervent Global Love of Lives” medal in Taiwan.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jason


    June 12th, 2009 at 6:01 AM

    you can tell, if you visit this guys website, that Daniel is a humble, down-to-earth, and authentic human being… so many therapists operate from a know it all place and have such big egos..Daniel is a an example of big hearted compassion and humility, an example many therapists could learn from. thanks for your spirit and determination Daniel!

  • Cynthia


    June 13th, 2009 at 9:24 AM

    Daniel is such an inspiration! Wish there were more therapist out there like him.

  • Casey


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:30 AM

    Really loved this article. It just shows me that you no matter how hard something seems to be, if you really want it, it can be achieved.

  • Catherine


    June 14th, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    This is such an amazing story. It really does help us all to put things into perspective. I know that there have been times in my own life when I have been so down on the things that I did not have, never taking the time to be thankful for what I do have. I look at this as such an inspiration and am happy to spread the word and share the menaing behind this message as I think this is something that could certainly help to give hope to many others who are experiencing trying and difficult times. Thanks for sharing this with the readers here.

  • Trina


    June 15th, 2009 at 1:57 AM

    This was a wonderful piece on how someone who had went through so much was still passionate enough to help a nurse who was in distraught when he almost had his life taken away

  • manda


    June 16th, 2009 at 2:51 PM

    I always get inspired when i hear of someone like this. Thanks for the upbeat article.

  • Kayla


    June 16th, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    makes me so thankful for my life

  • Jon


    June 18th, 2009 at 12:10 PM

    A story like this is something that we should all read from time to time, maybe even on a daily basis for some of us. How easy it would have been for Daniel to just allow life to pass him by but he realized what an opportunity that he had to continue to make a difference in the lives of other people even when his own life was crumbling around him and he chose to do the positive instead of what most of the rest of us would have done, and that is to give up. Thank goodness there are still such inspiring stories today!

  • Stella


    June 18th, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all used our inner strength as Daniel did, to fight our way out of such a depressed state and turn it around to our benefit.

  • Holly


    June 20th, 2009 at 11:52 AM

    The strength of certain people never ceases to amaze me and this is just one such story that has touched my heart in this way. What courage it must take to learn to live your life in a brand new way, and yet still be able to give so much back to so many others, even at a time when your own life must feel so horrid. I truly admire people who can face down adversity like this and still be able to find a way to do something positive and selfless with that.

  • Rebecca


    June 21st, 2009 at 8:31 AM

    When I get down or see other people having trouble with their PMI (positive mental attitude, this would be a great story to whip out and pass along. If you think you’ve got it tough, just imagine others out there who have it tougher.

  • Karla


    June 24th, 2009 at 2:06 AM

    This guy deserves all the credit he can get. He is one of a kind.

  • Kelli


    June 25th, 2009 at 3:46 AM

    This motivates me this morning to be so happy for the life I live and to be even more thankful for those out there who face such challenges and still find the will and the meaning to move on.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Elizabeth R.

    July 25th, 2009 at 7:03 PM

    I looked at his website and was struck by what he has on his business card. It simply says “Daniel Gottlieb. Human.” No airs and graces at all or enormous ego. What an inspiring, selfless man. Being able to draw on his inner strength to such an extent is admirable.

  • Betsy Goode

    Betsy Goode

    October 28th, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    I was googling ‘disabled therapist’ and came upon this story. I am glad it contained lessons for other people, but I notice the stereotypes about living with disability that some posters express, I assume they do not have much experience with disability. Daniel is strong and smart, though having had to live through an exceptional amount of loss, and I send my deepest sympathy — but he is not “one of a kind.” Many thousands of people endure similar losses and disablements, and do not think for more than a few days about “giving up,” or “letting life pass them by,” as if becoming disabled might be a free ticket to retirement or a vacation of some kind. Non-disabled people assume living with a disability is a negative thing, even a ‘fate worse than death.’ Even EMT’s believe they would suicide rather than live with paralysis — but research shows that for people who do undergo such experiences, suicide is but a fleeting worry, and 99% return to about the same level of love-of-life they enjoyed (or didn’t) before becoming disabled. Daniel returned to the work he was trained to do, and loves doing — great! So do most people after such losses! He’s a good man but (no insult meant) *not exceptional* in that way — that is the reality of disability. There is nothing “inherently” negative about disablity, except that non-disabled fantasies about it are by far more burdensome to us than our daily lives are. We seem ‘inspirational’ because you assume we are _not_ as capable of using common human ingenuity and determination as you are. Roll on, Daniel!

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