Friday, January 15, 2010
Former Indian community organizer finds new way to help people in Dallas area
Dr. Om Prakash reflects on Gandhi’s influence on the 62nd anniversary of the spiritual and political leader’s death.
Dr. Om Prakash, an 85-year-old psychologist-turned-life coach, says the transition to a new career is not an unusual one: Both roles are based on helping people.
In fact, the Metroplex-based octogenarian’s entire adult life has been devoted to helping others. The inspiration for this way of life started when Prakash worked for four years as a community organizer in Gandhi’s movement in India.
Prakash reflected on Gandhi’s influence on him as the Jan. 30, 1948, anniversary of the assassination of India’s “Father of the Nation” approached. Gandhi, one of the world's most famous pacifists, was shot to death by a young Hindu extremist.
Prakash said his brief connection with Gandhi had a lifelong influence.
“Gandhi transformed me from being a self-centered person into a giving and helping person,” said Dr. Prakash, adding, “The inspiration I had for him goes on today."
As a young man, Prakash considered a career as an engineer. His aspirations were changed as he found a new passion in the fight for his country’s independence from the British Empire.
He joined the Quit India Movement, a civil disobedience movement launched in India in August 1942 in response to Mohandas Gandhi’s call for immediate independence. When Gandhi would come through town between 1944 and 1948, Dr. Prakash would join other members of his group and meet with Gandhi for strategic meetings.
“Gandhi had an aura,” Prakash said. “He was a very peaceful man. He inspired me to help people.”
“It was a scary but exciting time.”
“We were all excited by the freedom possibility,” Prakash said.
Although they never spoke one-on-one, Prakash said the national leader’s words “inspire me to this day.”
The government crackdown eventually extended to Prakash’s world. In 1947, Prakash, whose life as a community organizer has forced him into the life of a renegade “who never stayed in the same place twice,” was speaking through a large tin horn to a crowd of several hundred and was arrested and imprisoned.
“The next six months I spent in prison were a blessing in disguise,” Prakash said. “It gave me time to think and reflect.”
The prison time afforded him the opportunity to meditate and learn to take better care of himself.
His country’s independence was granted in August 1947, but the Mahatma was assassinated six months later by a Hindu extremist, Prakash said.
“Gandhi had motivated me to carry on his work, and his death doubled my determination to helping people,” Prakash said.
It was then that he realized his calling was to be a psychologist.
Toward that end, he acquired a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Delhi University, served an eight-year stint as a high school mathematics and physics teacher and counselor, and earned a master’s in psychology in 1958 at the University of Aligarh. He then enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Delhi.
On the advice of a professor/mentor, he moved far from home.
“He said if you want to really learn psychology, you have to go to the United States,” said Prakash, who now makes his home in the Dallas area.
He earned a second master’s degree in child development and educational psychology from the University of Minnesota. A year later he met his wife, Georgia, an American schoolteacher, in a library. Within a year they were married and moved to Montana, where Prakash earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Montana.
His aspirations eventually took him to Wichita Falls, where he served from 1972 to 1982 as a behavior therapy director at the now-named North Texas State Hospital. He also established a private practice in clinical psychology.
During that time, Prakash contacted a psychologist friend with a practice in Dallas and he worked out an arrangement to see patients in Dallas on the weekends while still working in Wichita Falls on weekdays.
In 1983, after one year, he decided to move his psychology practice to the Metroplex fulltime. He came to open his own company, Psychological Services Center.
“Ten years ago, I started to add coaching to my practice,” the psychologist said. “At one end of the spectrum I see people who are emotionally challenged. On the other end is coaching, which is for people who are perfectly normal, who know where they want to be in life, but don’t know how to get there. Coaching helps them to stay focused and find their dreams.”
Prakash was trained and certified through a company called MentorCoach in 2004, which tied into his new focus on specialized coaching and mentoring services.
“As a coach and therapist for over 35 years, I have worked with individuals, executives and small business owners to successfully identify, achieve and balance professional goals with personal needs, which in turn, leads to long-term happiness,” Prakash said. “I bring a unique perspective that unifies formal psychological precepts and proven coaching techniques with age-old eastern philosophies of healing and balance. It is the basis for the oneness coaching philosophy that is centered on you – the single most important factor for success in your work, business, relationships and life at large.”
His coaching philosophy is based on a deep-seated belief that each person holds the key for his or her success, whether in work, business or relationships. Along with formal psychology models and proven coaching techniques, he uses reflection, journeying, relaxation, yoga and meditation for healing and balance.
A longtime clinical psychologist who at 85 is eager to share his talents though the world of coaching, Prakash said, “If your path to success and happiness is being constantly challenged by professional obstacles and emotional handicaps, you can’t afford not to explore coaching, as it can be the key to moving ahead in life. The return for small businesses is more than 10 times the coaching investment. There is no doubt that the decision to invest in coaching will make a huge difference in your life.”
His coaching sessions are tailored to fit into most people’s busy, demanding and fast-paced lives. Conducted by phone, the one-on-one discussions can be held in the privacy of an office, after-hours from home, or on the go, if needed. He also coaches groups.
Prakash continues to see therapy patients at least two days a week.
But he has a special penchant for his work as a seasoned coach, trained psychologist and oneness therapist who has guided scores of professionals, executives and small business owners to achieve unlimited success.
At the core of it all is helping people. In his lifetime, he said he has seen more than 10,000 patients.
“The inspiration I had from Gandhi goes on today,” Prakash said. “He motivated me to help people and to carry on his work.”
Pegasus News Content partner - Lightning Bear Productions