Between the Mind and the Word: Edward Dreyfus Plots an Unexpected Career Path
By SARAH SHMERLING | Managing Editor
Edward Dreyfus is an avid woodworker, a black belt martial artist, a cyclist, plant-based chef and author.
Oh, and at 80 years old, he’s (mostly) retired from a decades-long career as a psychologist.
“I want to encourage people who are older, seniors, that life is not over when you retire,” Dreyfus told the Palisadian-Post on a sunny afternoon in The Village, the bike he used to cycle over from his Marquez Knolls home resting against his seat.
“You retire to a new life—whatever it is that you put on the back burner, you can accomplish now. You may not be able to do it the same way you did when you were young, but you can still do it, you just do it differently.”
Dreyfus landed in Pacific Palisades in 1989 from Westwood after his three kids had moved out.
“My agent said—after I remodeled the home for the third time—he said you know you may want to find something new, something different,” Dreyfus said of the move. “So, he took us on a drive through the Palisades, and I said, ‘Where has this place been all my life?’”
He said it’s been love ever since.
Before coming to the West Coast, Dreyfus was born and raised in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. After finishing up his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at City College of New York, he moved to the Midwest where he earned a doctorate at the University of Kansas.
“Originally, I had all intentions of being in advertising, because my undergraduate was in business,” he explained. “And then I took a class in psychology and it was almost like a calling, it changed everything.”
Dreyfus, who specializes primarily in sexual dysfunction, relationship counseling and addictions, still sees a few clients through his private practice, but his focus has shifted to writing.
“I never thought I would be a novelist,” he shared. “Now I’m getting comfortable. For the first time someone said, ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘I’m an author or I’m a writer,’ instead of a psychologist—even though I still see a few patients.”
Dreyfus published his first fiction novel, “Mickey and the Plow Horse,” in 2014.
Now he has six, with a seventh he hopes to publish this year. Any money he makes from book sales will be donated to charity.
When asked if he has a favorite book, Dreyfus said, “I have three kids and five grandchildren, do I have a favorite child? Favorite book? Favorite grandchild? They’re all the same because they came out of me.
“There’s something special about the first one. And then there’s ‘The Midnight Shrink’—because they’re partially autobiographical, you have a kinship to that, it’s like having a kid who looks like you.”
The stories are partially autobiographical because they come from interactions Dreyfus has had with and observed through his patients.
“I so loved my practice and so loved the privilege of being involved in people’s lives—that they let me wander in their inner psyche,” Dreyfus told the Post.
“Most people are fascinating, and they’re not all that they seem to be.”
His third novel, “The Midnight Shrink,” stems from Dreyfus’ personal experiences working with homeless people.
“I got intrigued with trying to make the invisible people visible,” he said. “I kept making notes—when you live in Hollywood and Los Angeles, everyone is a screenwriter. I said someday, I’m going to write a story. Someday I’m going to write fiction, someday I’m going to write a screenplay.”
Dreyfus observed that every person has a dark and a light side, that nobody he worked with was all pure.
“From my practice, from that privileged place of people allowing me to see, not just their persona, what they put out to the public, but what lies behind them,” Dreyfus explained. “What’s the dark side? I get, as any therapist does, the privilege of seeing that.”
As he cut back on the practice and had more time, Dreyfus said that he got to know his computer. He went through the notes he had made while working and began to formulate them into stories.
“I get up in the morning, my mind is already buzzing away,” he shared. “But I have to eat, I have to have my fiber drink. I have to exercise. And then after all of that, I spend about two hours in the morning writing, and then I write again two hours in the afternoon.”
He stops every day between 3:30 and 4 p.m. because he is a self-described “chef wannabe.” He is enrolled in a plant-based cooking class: “I do all of the cooking at home for my wife and myself.”
Dreyfus lives with his wife, Barbara, and two dogs, Charlie and Benji. It’s there where he also constructs his woodworking projects, which range from a doll house, complete with hand-crafted furniture, to his most recent undertaking: pepper mills.
“It’s very consuming, it’s almost meditative,” Dreyfus said of his woodworking projects. “You just can’t be distracted … you have to stay focused.”
There has also been talk about turning one of the novels into a TV series, but Dreyfus dismisses this as just talk until something happens.
In between all of this, Dreyfus is penning his next book—he is about two-thirds of the way through the first draft.
“I talk about the dark and the light, how about twins?” he shared. “Identical twins and you find the dark and the light …
“Writing is always a journey, I have an end in mind, but how I’m going to get there? I often have no idea. I’m a cyclist, I know where I’m going but I don’t know what the road is going to be, what direction it’s going to take me.”
It may be from shrink to writer, or from dark to light, but it’s always about the journey.
Dreyfus’ books are available on Amazon in paperback, Kindle or audio.