If you ask Rich Hedlund for the secret of living a full life, no doubt he'll tell you it's all about having a positive perspective. Hedlund, an Astoria-based therapist, looked out at last week's rainswept scenery as he described his own outlook on life's challenges.

"If you're cloudy on the outside, you'll feel cloudy on the inside. With a positive outlook, it really doesn't matter," Hedlund said.

Hedlund, 63, and his wife Pam McGill are the driving forces behind Cycles of Transition, counseling and advising people how to more fully live their second half of life. The couple have made their home in Astoria on and off for the last eight years.

Hedlund has a master's degree in family therapy, and spent many years counseling families and youth. But as he aged, he found his focus shifting to helping others in a position similar to his own.

"I got older. Life changes once you enter the second half of life. I have a passion for working with people our age now," he said. Once kids have left the house and retirement age nears, a whole new set of challenges present themselves.

"When you're younger, you're so focused on raising a family and making a living, you don't have the time or interest in looking at your own mortality," Hedlund said. "Once you're 50, you start to ask what the second half of life is going to bring."

The key to making that transition a graceful one, Hedlund said, is by keeping your mindset off the negative.

"We take a positive approach to aging. We don't spend a lot of time on the past," he said. Goal-setting is important, as is finding a person's passion and direction in life. Hedlund said he can practically feel a person's energy level rise as they begin to feel better about themselves as part of that process.

Hedlund's trademark, he said, is to steer clear of traditional therapy, something many people are leery of. His approach is to act as a resource, offering insight to his clients about making every day more rewarding.

"I'm more of a coach than a therapist," he said.

He usually meets with clients once a week for eight weeks, and check-ins after that are optional. Usually that's all a person needs, he said.

Hedlund's rates can be up to $110 per session, or considerably less, depending on need and a person's individual situation.

Historically, therapists help their clients sort out unresolved issues in the past, keeping them from moving forward. Much of the focus is healing. A coach takes the opposite tack, embracing the past and acknowledging its role in contributing to who an individual is.

More people are finding themselves working past the age they imagined themselves retiring, Hedlund said, as a by-product of the stock market's downturns. He's working with more clients who have to come to terms with losing a dream they've worked their whole lives to achieve.

"People are really struggling," he said. "They've worked a lifetime to retire to a carefree life, but now they need to face reality and go back to work."

Sorting through the doom and gloom can be challenging, he said, and that's where he can help people focus on the positive parts of their lives. He's concerned about the economy and men particularly, because suicide rates go up significantly in later life.

But Hedlund finds all of his work extremely rewarding.

"This is a second retirement for me. I love what I do and the money is secondary," he said.

? Rich Hedlund and Pam McGill's monthly column appears in Active Lives, a monthly publication of The Daily Astorian.

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