Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reflections While Away, 1

Note: Forgive the formatting:  I don't know why this happened. 

Two weeks ago I left the country. I realize that most of you had no idea, nor cared that I was away, but that's OK.
I won't take it personally.
While I was away I did some thinking about my profession and my life.  Now that I have returned I would like to share those thoughts with those of you who share my 
profession I am going to post this on several lists that I follow, so if you are also on those lists don’t bother to read it all again.  If you would like to respond, that would be fun. I would like some reactions. The great thing about sharing things way is that if you don't care, the delete button is milliseconds away.
Three weeks ago Div 42 of the American Psychological Association, Independent Practice, held a conference to discuss ways in which a private practice can develop and flourish.  I was unable to attend the conference, but many who went seemed enthused.
Two weeks ago, on Saturday, October 13, I gave a brief talk at a Massachusetts Psychological Association Conference. I spoke about the possibility of using technology to enhance psychotherapy.  At that conference Suzanne Bennett Johnson, the President of APA, gave the keynote address.  She made it clear that the way most Psychologists will be using their skills in the next ten years will be very different than how they operated even five years ago.
I took notice, people took notice; things are changing.  Some people want to adapt, some people want to help build a new system, some people want to circle the wagons and defend old positions, some want to get completely out of the system, and many are just getting anxious.
The next day, October 15, my wife and I took off from Logan Airport in Boston and headed to Napoli, Italy and from there we drove to the Amalfi Coast It was a trip to celebrate my wife’s birthday, paid for in part because we are getting old. The good part about getting old in the USA, especially if you have been self-employed, is that your medical expenses drop considerably. It may be  "socialism" but we had each been paying $750 a month for health insurance, and now we pay about 1/4 of that. I have been getting Medicare for over two and a half years; that’s a considerable saving.
The bad part of getting old is that a week before we left for the trip my wife’s cousin died.  He was one of the few cousins I enjoyed being with, families being how they are, and he was only three years older than me. That made it seem all the more important that we take the trip, see the sights, eat the food, drink the wine and enjoy and appreciate each other, the world, and being alive, and basically healthy.
As the plane was flying over the Atlantic Ocean, I sat in the semi-darkness with my brain drifting around the way it does when there is not really enough oxygen, I’m not really sleeping, but I’m not really very alert.  I thought about the conferences, my own professional past and future, and where I fit into all of this.
I realized that when, in the early 1960s, I decided to major in Psychology as an undergraduate, and then go on to graduate school, I conceived that becoming a Psychologist would be helping to build a new and better science.  At the time it seemed that Psychology was very intellectual, philosophical, and then scientific.  It seemed to involved questions such as "What is a Good Life?  How can we help people live it, and How can we help people get along?” as much as the dealings with the brain, the nerves, the neuro-chemicals and the genes.  Much of the “science” at the time was based on phenomenology and introspection.
Graduate school was still full of Freud and the Post-Freudians, as well as the Behaviorists. But beyond that, who we read, and argued about was Aristotle, John Locke, David Hume, Emanuel Kant, Martin Buber, and J.P. Satre as well as Albert Camus.  We studies “Theoriesof Personality,” many of which now seems like “made-up stuff.”  The Psychologists we talked about also included Kurt Lewin, Fritz Perls,Ram Dass and Jay Haley ( All Men! My wife always points out). It was the '60s and '70s, so there was Humanism, and Gestalt, and T-Groups,and Radical Feminists.  Psychiatrists were still classifying homosexuality as a disease.
There was a war going on that everyone paid attention to, and there was sense that the world needed to be changed –and that it could be changed – and that we were going to be ones to do that.  Everything had a bit of a political overtone. Money was not the major focus. The government, NIMH, paid me to go to graduate school.  Community mental health centers were opening up, and they needed well-trained Psychologists to run them.
So, on this journey along the Amalfi Coast, in addition to the walks on the cliffs over the oceans, the amazing food, the cheap but excellent wine, the stress free time with my charming wife, I spent some time thinking about what has happened in the thirty-eight years since I earned my Ph.D. and what I think will, and/or should happen now.
I also, that while I was away, there has been a lot of meaningful, and personal discussions on these lists about these topics, and I found those very illuminating and fascinating. Clearly, many people are feeling the rumblings.
 Over the next few days I hope to create several more posts.  I will try to explain my thoughts about all this as I was walking, eating and drinking through some of the most spectacular places on earth.
Perhaps, as Fritz Perls said:
“The only difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man knows he is playing.”
Perhaps not.
Tx M

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Heading out again

We are leaving for the airport in an hour to head out to the Amalfi coast.  I am leaving my patients, the crazy politics of this country, not that Italy is any better, and the state of my profession.

I gave a talk at our state Psychological Association conference yesterday.  I tried to show them ways to use new technology to enhance psychotherapy.  I was given a very good reception, but more for  the delivery than the message. At least I kept them entertained.

The professional lives of Ph.D. Psychologists is under a lot of pressure that the general public doesn't see, and really doesn't care about.  The changes health care system, which is complete flux, partly from politics, and partly because it is such a mess, does not pay much attention to Psychologists. We are more expensive than social workers or "counselors" and we are not MDs like psychiatrists, who also are getting marginalized.

I am older, and if they stop paying me I will stop working and find another way to keep busy and perhaps make a few dollars.  Maybe I will take the advice of the person who last commented about this blog, and jazz it up and market it and be another voice in the wild bloggosphere.

But for right now I am of to Italy, to set and watch the sea, eat grat food, and wonder where I will fit in to the world.  I will miss the grand-girls.

Bye-bye form Pop-Pops.