Q: What was the first book that changed your life?
A: I read a book by Robert Heinlein when I was about 12 called The Door Into Summer. It was a time-travel novel where a boy’s future self comes to create opportunities for his younger self to shape his life. I found it to be a very optimistic novel that led to thinking about how each of us can play an active role in shaping our future in who and what we become. This was the stimulus that led to developing a lecture called “Planning for your future: How to be ready for six different career paths.”
Q: In 1977, you cowrote a book with Bert Karon on schizophrenia arguing that, contrary to popular notions, psychotherapy was an effective approach to working with schizophrenics. The enhanced sense of agency and possibility you describe also characterizes this book.
A: All of us are shaped by the events that happen to and around us as well as our active processing and interpretation of those experiences. Even as we are the creators of ourselves, we are massively affected by what happens to us—the worse the events of our lives, the more likely our expectations of a negative world and our adoption of nonadaptive behaviors and cognitions. Once we’re aware of this, we can take greater active control of our lives.
Q: Back to your lecture on being ready for multiple career paths. You have in fact had more than six careers, many simultaneously—university professor, active researcher, clinical practitioner, lobbyist, entrepreneur, writer, editor, publishing executive.
A: Central to all is understanding human behavior and wanting to change and improve the human condition for the greatest number of people possible. Research and data are central to all endeavors. Psychology is a hugely versatile science that can contribute to all areas and activities that involve behavior and understanding.
Q: What do you look for in a good professional book?
A: I look first for good organization—evidence that the author or editor has actively thought about what information I need or don’t need, what order it would be best for me to receive it in, and how to communicate it effectively for rapid absorption and maximum retention of information. Loving “words,” being precise with words, and knowing how to create a smooth and articulate flow of words are all pluses.
Q: What are you reading?
A: I’m currently working my way through the third edition of Clinical Neuropsychology: A Pocket Handbook for Assessment. Every edition of this volume has been fantastic. This new edition is as great as the first. At core, the revision updates the empirical knowledge base behind the practice of clinical neuropsychology. This edition includes chapters on cultural aspects of neuropsychology as well as new developments in neuropsychological dimensions of a range of somatic disorders. It, of course, is also updated for the latest classification systems.
Q: What are you writing?
A: I’m writing some chapters to be published in the Handbook of Clinical Psychology that I’m coediting with John Norcross and Don Freedheim. They’re great to work with, and we bring a nice mix of perspectives to any project we work on. A few years ago, we finished the second edition of the History of Psychotherapy, 20 years after the first edition was done. The Handbook of Clinical Psychology is a five-volume set with 150 chapters covering all major topics of training, research, and practice in clinical psychology.
Q: What advice do you have for new writers?
A: Write, write, and write some more. Make writing something a daily activity. This makes it a habit, and it helps to prevent falling into the traps of self-criticism and self-censoring that stop people from writing. But, in addition to writing, get feedback from others—critical feedback. Getting feedback that says, “That was great—well done!” is not particularly helpful. Getting feedback, large or small, on organization, tone, order of presentation, word usage, and material to cite is a good and useful way to help you improve the quality, effectiveness, and elegance of your writing.