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Sep 30, 2019

Introducing Brandon Vance, MD 

& Heather Clague, MD

This podcast features the music of two beloved colleagues, Brandon Vance, MD and Heather Clague MD. Brandon and Heather are both certified TEAM-CBT psychiatrists practicing in Oakland, California. Brandon is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist and singer / song writer / performer who has transformed his vision of TEAM-CBT into music! Heather is brilliant and fun improv acting teacher and performer who is quick in her mind and on her feet! Brandon and Heather have performed at David’s annual South San Francisco psychotherapy intensive for the past several years, and we are delighted to bring them to you up close and personal today!

In today’s podcast, they’ll bring you their songs and amazing personal stories. And what is super cool is that you can follow the words for the music right here in the show notes.

Song #1

 Heather and Brandon begin with music about a familiar but painful theme for nearly all of us—the feeling of failure, and the belief that we are somehow defective or just “not good enough.” Brandon and Heather are extremely talented and successful individuals, but they are not immune from suffering. During the podcast, they describe their own painful personal experiences with depression, anxiety, shame, and defectiveness.

Most therapists, including David, were trained in the psychoanalytic tradition and told that we should NEVER disclose or reveal our own personal feelings or experiences to patients. But we believe that some personal disclosure can be very healing for patients if done with skill and compassion. Most patients want to hear this type of message from a therapist:

“I’ve been there myself, and know how much pain you’re in. And I can show you the way out of the woods, so you can experience feelings of joy and self-esteem again. And what a joy that’s going to be!”

So, with no further ado, Brandon and Heather perform their first song:

The Feel of Failure

Lyrics by Heather Clague and Brandon Vance
to the tune of “The Sound of Silence” by Paul Simon

Hello failure my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because my ego softly creeping

Infects my thoughts while I am preaching

And that vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains; becomes the Feel of Failure


Fool, said I, you are so lame

Done something wrong to feel this shame

Perfect is the way that you should be

Self-blame coming like a tsunami

Negative thoughts one hundred - percent on my DML

I was in hell

Suffered the Feel of Failure


My self-esteem had turned to shit

I needed the magic button hit

Something told me my feelings weren’t lame

Began to do a positive reframe

Maybe my feelings say something about me that is pretty fly

I set the bar high

So I have a Feel of Failure


I saw that I was not alone

Dared go beyond my comfort zone

I took pride in my humility

Welcomed my faults as my humanity

And in a moment of enlightenment I cried and then I laughed

I’d finally grasped

The wisdom... of the Feel... of Failure

Song #2

 The next song is on social anxiety. Brandon explains:

“I wanted to introduce this song I wrote with Amy Specter who was on your podcast on August 5th #152 a month or so ago. It’s called, “Negative Thoughts Shut your Piehole Tonight.” And it’s about social anxiety and the idea that when you’re upset, it’s not the event or the other person who’s “making you” feel upset, it’s your own negative thoughts.

“Where it gets personal for me is that I was bullied in elementary school by a group of my former friends who made up a story that I was gay - as if that's a bad thing - and then yelled things, tried to get in fights with me, etc., for really the majority of the school year. And I got really down and felt ashamed, and didn’t tell my parents or anyone else about it because of that. But what they did, didn’t make me down - it was my negative thoughts. I wasn’t actually gay, but what was important was that I told myself that I was defective, and people didn’t want to be around me.

“The person who I thought was the ringleader was a blonde blue-eyed (as if those are good things) smart, handsome guy who had great social skills and apparent confidence - both seemingly more than I had. In my mind I made him into an evil person just interested in popularity. But he had many good qualities (and was a friend of mine before this). Seeing his good qualities reminds me of the concept of the disarm.

“In this song, the singer is anxious about going to a party. She feels envious of Anna, a woman who’s thin (as if that's a good thing) and gets a lot of attention - both because of our culture’s preoccupation with women being thin and also because she has great social skills. So, she feels bad about herself.

“But then realizes it’s just her negative thoughts and also sees that her negative thoughts and feelings helpful to her, and represent good things about her. Then she works successfully on changing the way she thinks and feels.”

 Negative Thoughts, Shut Your Piehole Tonight!

 by Amy Specter and Brandon Vance

Tiny Anna, you’ve been getting me down. But I know it’s not you; it’s the negative thoughts doing their doo-doo. And those negative thoughts I can leave behind. That’s right, you can walk right out of my mind. You can shut your pie-hole, though you’ve given me a lot during my days. But, I don’t need you now; you can get up and walk right out of that door - and shut your pie hole on the way!


You’ve been talking since the dawn’s early light

you’re an expert, attention getter, you’re quite the sight!

Anna please teach me

to talk at a party like the talkin' on the tv screen

Now I’m gonna say something and it may not be polite!

Cause I’ve realized that I’ve got some work to do

But this time I’m not going to shut down and stew.

My negative thoughts are bothering me

much more than Anna Lee

so negative thoughts, shut your pie holes tonight.

Negative thoughts you’ve served me well and

kept me from being in social situation hell

Rejection comfortably kept at bay

I don’t have to put myself out there

I can keep myself at home without judgments to fear

they can let me off the hook

No effort to change, to learn new things or swim in another lane

Negative thoughts you’ve kept me safe

But I’m going to try my mind on a different train

Maybe I don’t need negative thoughts and their kind

to tell me if I can have a good time

I can be myself and go at my own pace

Even with these tiny negative thoughts flapping their tiny lips in my face

Negative thoughts said there’s no room in this world for my kind

well that’s just bullshit created by my negative mind

I laugh about awkward autocorrects, Weird-Al and farting

So why not enjoy, the people, at the party?

So negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight!

Negative thoughts you’ve served me well

Negative thoughts - farewell!

Negative thoughts shut your pie hole tonight

Tiny Anna will surely get some attention

That may be true

And that doesn’t mean I won’t get affection

But even if I don’t have things to say,

I’ll learn to chit chat the Anna way.

So Negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight,

Negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight.

That’s right, negative thoughts shut your pieholes tonight! 

Cause I wanna have some FUN!!!

Song #3

 The last song by Brandon and Heather focuses on the “A” of TEAM therapy, formerly called A = Paradoxical Agenda Setting, and now given the simpler name of A = Assessment of Resistance. We address the patient’s resistance in this very crucial and paradoxical part of TEAM-CBT. When we address resistance up front by arguing for the status quo, the patient paradoxically argues for change, and therapy becomes much easier. After that point, it’s No Resistance No Cry.


 Lyrics by Amy Specter and Brandon Vance
to the tune of “No Woman No Cry.” by Bob Marley.

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

No resistance no cry

Next week, Brandon and Heather will return for a second podcast on listening to a very different kind of “music,” the meaning behind the words when people are critical of you. We will discuss and illustrate, once again, the incredibly important Disarming Technique, which is arguably the most important of the Five Secrets of Effective Communication.

More about Brandon and Heather

In addition to her brilliant work as a TEAM-CBT psychiatrist and teacher, Heather Clague is a singer and improviser who collaborated in the creation of lyrics for some of Brandon’s songs. She is a member of the performance group, The Berkeley Players, and is the director of Berkeley Improv, a Bay Area school of improv that offers improv acting classes for adults and youth. Heather says, "Improv is a lot like TEAM CBT - full of laughter and enlightenment. The best moments tend to happen when we throw shame to the wind and let magic arise from the ordinary and let our 'mistakes' become gifts."

Dr. Brandon Vance has a musical group that is connected with the Justice Arts Collective at Chabot College in Hayward California. In that group, he works with students to create musical pieces with social justice themes, often in the style of hip hop with Latin beats. Most, if not all of the students have experienced personal trauma and social inequity. Through music, they can share their truths, their hearts and their wealth of experiences with each other and the community, while at the same time working for social change. 

Brandon explains that “we form deep connections with each other, and it’s become something of a family . A couple of years ago, we made a music video for our song, ‘From Mt. Tamalpais to Fruitvale Station,’ and actually won first place in the My Hero International Film Festival and in the World Independent Film Festival, as well as awards in many other film festivals.  Check it out! We’re now working on a new video about immigration with our song, 'Bring Down the Wall.'"

Brandon has also worked with Amy Specter in the creation of a company called Gameful Mind. He explains that “we wanted playful ways to support adults and kids in developing skills to be and stay emotionally well. So, we made the game TuneIN TuneUP, as well as some other games and playful shirts and such.”

David and Rhonda