Tag Archives: self care

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Alan Kazdin

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

akazdin-photoThis letter is from Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University. At Yale, he has been Chairman of the Psychology Department and Director of the Child Study Center at the School of Medicine. Currently he is Director of the Yale Parenting Center. His 750+ publications include 49 books that focus on research methodology, interventions for children, parenting and child rearing, and interpersonal violence. His parenting work has been featured on NPR, PBS, BBC, CNN, Good Morning America, 20/20, Dr. Phil, and the Today Show. In 2008, he was President of the American Psychological Association.

DEAR-ME

 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF ALAN KAZDIN:

Dear Alan,

I am sorry to have taken so long to write you. Writing to you was on my to-do list, which I misplaced several months ago. I finally found the list when I decided it was time to do my laundry. In any case, I am here now and so pleased to be in contact with you.

A task set out for me is to offer advice based on the perspective of time that has elapsed from when and where you are at age 16 to when and where I am now at age 71. As you will know in some distant future, as a general rule I am reluctant to give advice to anyone but I really love to receive the input of others, whether I follow that or not. With that in mind, I am not going to give you advice now even though I care about you deeply and actually am tempted.

I know you are really caught up in the present and truly enjoying yourself. As it turns out you will look back on this period with enormous warmth, joy, and amusement but also it will have enduring impact in relation to your very modest roots. Your style in the next decades will continue to focus on each present period without a long-term plan or even seeming goals beyond the immediate horizon. As odd as that may sound, I urge you to stay with that style—it will serve you well. Moreover, you will always be pleasantly baffled as to how you ended up here and there in your personal and professional lives, given that you were not thinking very far ahead.

There are some things you might consider as guides as your life and world continue to expand. Perhaps keep in mind that one (you) can (almost) never be:

  • Too kind to others;
  • Too forgiving and merciful;
  • Too helpful for those less fortunate, whether through no fault of their own or who have seemingly played a strong role in their own plight;
  • Too caring, intense, and loving;
  • Too connected to family; and because I know you and how you think,
  • Too funny.

After a very long and wonderful life, your mother has passed away quite recently, but she was fond of prizing you throughout your life for your enthusiasm and said that was the best gift she gave you. (She, and for that matter her entire cohort, were not genetically or epigenetically informed and knew little of the many domains [e.g., microbiome, connectome, environome, interactome] that influence affect, behavior, cognition, socialization, and health. Consequently, she pretty much took credit for your having that enthusiasm, and she had that as well.) Along with that, you have a somewhat naïve and occasionally Don Quixote feature about you. (I think next year you will be assigned to read that book—the real one, not those yellow Cliff Notes of which you are especially fond.) Soon, college will start to sculpt and then polish these features of you and eventually help you integrate them. (Apologies for the life spoiler—yes, believe it or not despite your fooling around so much now, you are going to college. I know you will provide an acknowledging smile when you read this—at this time in your life; you are taking high-school extremely seriously, except the part about classes and academic work! There is a potential spoiler here too but I will hold back. If you can save this letter and read it again in 3 or 4 years from now, you will understand and be happily astonished.)

As you move forward to your job and career (I am not telling what that is), direct any training, talent, or skill you have to helping people at the level of the individual but also at the level of society more broadly. There is enormous suffering and astounding inertia, indifference, and illusory efforts (all talk) to help. On the other side, there are many people already working to help and in amazing and creative ways that can and do make a difference. Use your enthusiasm, Quixotic naiveté, and intensity to connect with like souls, and join the battle in whatever way you can. There is so much to do and so much need, it is easy to find ways to contribute.

Above all, enjoy yourself and your family and keep your natural focus on the present. The main insight of your distant you (me) is how quickly life can unfold and pass. Probably the last thing on your mind at this moment is the prospect that in a relative flash of time, you may be old and asked to write a letter to your 16-year old self. By that time, quantum states may have been mastered and you could be in the same room at the same time and be both the 16-year old and the older wrinkled version who writes you now. Quantum computing is almost here and probably there will be quantum Skype or FaceTime right after that so if you are not in the same room, perhaps you and I can still chat and see each other.  Either way, I am so pleased to be entangled with you now.  Enjoy yourself.

Un fuerte abrazo,

Alan

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series:

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Thomas Plante

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.Thomas Plante

This letter is from Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP. Dr.  Plante is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, S.J. University Professor and directs the Spirituality and Health Institute at Santa Clara University. He is also an adjunct clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He recently served as vice-chair of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is past-president of the Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (Division 36) of the American Psychological Association. He has authored or edited 21 books including, Graduating with Honor: Best Practices to Promote Ethics Development in College Students (2016, Praeger), Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: A Decade of Crisis, 2002-2012 (2011, Praeger), and Spiritual Practices in Psychotherapy: Thirteen Tools for Enhancing Psychological Health (2009, APA).  He teaches courses in abnormal, clinical, health, and general psychology as well as ethics and maintains a private clinical practice as a licensed psychologist in Menlo Park, CA.

DEAR-ME

 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF THOMAS G. PLANTE:

Dear Tommy at 16,Thomas Plante, 16-years-old

This is your 56-year-old self now sending a letter to you (the 16-year-old version).

No matter how thoughtful or wise, advice is so hard to receive since most people need to discover things on their own and often want to do things in their own way and in their own time. Yet, I hope that you will listen to your older, and perhaps wiser self, and consider the following 5 items of advice for your reflection.

  1. Treat everyone, even those you don’t agree with or even don’t like very much, with great kindness and respect. The adult world, even in areas like psychology, higher education, and health care, can be competitive, mean-spirited, and unkind at times. Don’t falter from your efforts to be respectful and compassionate to everyone (even when you are tempted to do otherwise). It will serve you well, you’ll sleep better at night, and it is the just the right thing to do as an ethical human being. In a nutshell, treat others as you wish to be treated and try to see the good and sacred in all. Always remember the words of Michelle Obama, “When they go low, we go high.”
  2. Try your best to surround yourself with people who are ethical, gracious, and are trying to make the world a better place. Our society seems to be getting more and more selfish and narcissistic with an attitude that “it’s all about me.” It isn’t! It’s about “us” and the common good. Stay close to others who are working hard to make the world a more humane, just, and compassionate place and with people who are not too full of themselves. Don’t be afraid to give corrective feedback to those who act entitled, demanding, and narcissistic. And always stand up to people who are bullying and disrespecting others.
  3. Keep up with the rapid changes in society and remember that no matter how fast the world spins, for good or for bad, it is evolving in ways that are often unpredictable and sometimes scary. Hold on for the ride, keep on top of things, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone, and don’t get too nostalgic for the “old days.” Remember that we live in the world that we live in and not necessarily in the world that we’d like to live in. Adapt!
  4. Be quick to compliment, thank, and appreciate others. Be grateful. Laugh a lot. And give hugs freely and often.
  5. And finally, in the words of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, “Go set the world on fire!” In other words, go out there and try your very best to make the world a better place! Be part of the solution and not part of the problem. The world so desperately needs humble helpers of good will and kindness focused on the common good. Be that person!

May life be kind to you and may you be blessed with good health, healthy loving relationships, hearty laughter, and a vocation that gives you great meaning, purpose, and joy.

Your older (and perhaps a bit wiser) self,

Tom

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series from Dr. Howard Gardner, Dr. Robert Sternberg, Dr. Mitchell Prinstein, and Dr. Phil Zimbardo.

Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours Truly, Dr. Phil Zimbardo

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

This letter is from Dr. Philip G.  Zimbardo. Dr. Zimbardo is the Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University, two-time past president of the Western Psychological Association and past president of the American Psychological Association. He became known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment and has since authored numerous psychology books, text books and other notable works, including The Lucifer Effect, The Time Paradox and The Time Cure. He is also the founder and president of the Heroic Imagination Project.

DEAR-ME

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF Phil Zimbardo:

Greetings to my youth-filled, 16-year old, skinny Phil!

From my ripe, old vantage point of 83 years of age, I want to share with you some psychological wisdom I have gathered over many decades of teaching, conducting a variety of research studies, writing books of all kinds, and  making educational videos.

First, I recall that you still live in the South Bronx of New York City, where you were born and bred, and now you are attending James Monroe High School, after returning there from a year’s journey with your family to North Hollywood, California. One of your most interesting classmates is Stanley Milgram, who was voted the smartest kid in the senior class, while you were voted the most popular boy. Nice award, especially recalling that you were the least popular student last year at North Hollywood High School!  In fact, you were openly shunned by everyone because they thought you had Mafia connections, because you were a Sicilian from New York, and therefore potentially dangerous.

But what changed in going from most undesirable kid to most desirable kid in a short time? In your discussions with little Stanley, he suggested that it was the “situation” and not your personality that had changed. You were the same inner person, but that was defined differently in those two different situations. So keep an eye on that kid – when Stanley grows up, he might have something significant to say about situational forces dominating individual dispositions.

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Now that you’ve submitted your internship application…

For many students training to be Health Service Providers (HSP), the internship application process tends to be one of the most stressful periods of their graduate school training. Preparing applications by looking through training brochures of multiple internship sites, writing cover letters, completing essays, logging hours… the list goes on. It is difficult to really practice self-care during this intensive process, and sometimes we find ourselves struggling to complete an application in the eleventh hour. A number of sites have early deadlines, some before November, while others go straight through to the end of November/early December. Students can choose different ways of submitting their applications, some opting to submit in batches, based on deadlines, while others may opt to submit all applications at one time.

If you’ve finished submitting your application at this point, CONGRATULATIONS! This is the perfect time to take a break!

sunny-man-person-legs

Some students may be thinking, “Now is the time to prepare for my interviews, plan travel, etc.” As someone who has been through this same process last year and also taking part in it again this year, my advice is this: DON’T DO IT.

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Dear Me, Future Psychologist. Yours truly, Dr. Mitchell Prinstein

It’s time for the next installment of Dear me, future psychologist, a gradPSYCH Blog exclusive in which a prominent psychologist writes a letter to his/her 16-year-old self. We hope you enjoy these letters and glean some invaluable wisdom and guidance as you decide whether to enter graduate school in psychology, as you navigate the challenges of graduate school, and as you make decisions about your career and life.

mitchThis letter is from Mitchell Prinstein, PhD, ABPP. Dr. Prinstein is the John Van Seters Distinguished Professor of Psychology and the Director of Clinical Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mitch’s research examines interpersonal models of internalizing symptoms and health risk behaviors among adolescents, with a specific focus on the unique role of peer relationships in the developmental psychopathology of depression and self-injury. He is the PI on several past and active grants from the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child and Human Development, and several private foundations. He serves as the Editor for the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and is an editorial board member for several developmental psychopathology journals.

DEAR-ME

 

 

 

FROM THE DESK OF MITCHELL PRINSTEIN:

Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

Hey! I’m you thirty years from now!  I know you must have a million questions, and I’ll try to tell you everything you want to know, but first things first:  yes, you will be over five feet tall.  Not by much, but you finally will start growing any day now!  Great job hanging in there for so long!

Guess what! You’re also going to be wildly ecstatic about your career choice!  It’s going to take a little time and struggle to get to that point too, however.  When you get to college, you’ll get wrapped up in all kind of questions about psychology vs. advertising vs. law, and you’ll end up sending in applications for law school and clinical psychology Ph.D. programs at the same time.  It will be tough.  Everyone will have an opinion on what is best for you – what seems most prestigious, what will earn you the most money, etc.  Don’t worry – the choice becomes pretty obvious just a few minutes into your first interview at doctoral programs.  You end up picking what you genuinely love, and that ends up more important than anything else.

For real – if you choose your path to make someone else happy, you will have a job, but if you choose what makes you truly happy, you will have a passion for life.

On internship, it will start all over again. You’ll start debating whether you want to stay in a med school environment or pursue your dream of a traditional arts and sciences job.  Even after you get tenure, you’ll fret over how much time to invest in your research versus university administration, or even service to the profession.  Your career will be filled with these kinds of decisions and questions.  But that’s the great thing about the path we’ve chosen, I think.  There are so many options, and so many ways to make a difference.  Clinical psychologists can do a ton, and there are many paths that lead to helping others.  Over the next thirty years you will hear so many of your friends in other fields complain that they feel stuck in their jobs, or bored with their careers.  But in psychology we pick what we love, and we can even change over time.  It really is the best job in the world!

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that most of your research will focus on relationships. But it turns out that this isn’t only an important area of study for you.  Professional relationships also will be where you find the energy to keep your career going for the next three decades.  It starts with the two most amazing mentors you can have – Annette La Greca and Tony Spirito.  They will teach you how to work with students, how to give back to the field, and how to meet trainees where they are while encouraging them to reach for more.  You will spend your entire career trying to be half the mentor that they were for you.  Relationships will also be the feature that makes you happiest in your department.  No one wakes up to look at their pay stub, and no one is addressed by their fancy title every day.  What gets you out of bed every morning is the excitement that comes from being part of a team that shares common goals and values each other.  It’s really quite simple, but so often forgotten in too many settings, and by too many applicants who make decisions based on factors ultimately far less important, in my opinion.

Last, you will find that the relationships you create with your own trainees will give you the greatest joy in your career. You will learn from them, you will care for them, and you will find their successes far more sweet than anything that happens to you.  This is what makes you happy at work.

Can I mention just a few more things you should keep a look out for while in graduate school and beyond?

  1. Don’t work too hard. You only get to be in your twenties once in your life, and it’s important you learn to balance your personal and professional demands. You’ll hear this a lot from people along the way, but it will seem harder to execute than you realize. Here’s the key – just commit to yourself. You won’t find it hard to commit four years of your life to graduate school just to fuel your career – let yourself commit a few hours each week for just for you too. Just block it off on your calendar and stick to it. Check out a few improv and acting classes while you are in South Florida – you will like those. Hit the gym a little too while you are at it. You could stand to gain a little weight.
  2. Learn how long it takes to accomplish a task well, and schedule only that amount of time to do it.
  3. You will learn way more about clinical work in one full-time internship year than you will in little bits and pieces throughout grad school, so don’t expect yourself to be so competent until then.
  4. As you finish grad school, the internship application process will stress the hell out of you. But it will give you a chance to reflect on your career and your unique identity as a psychologist like you never had before, and for that you will be grateful.
  5. You are a bit perfectionistic and pretty determined. That’s what helped you keep a perfect attendance record from kindergarten until high school graduation, and it will serve you well in other ways over the next thirty years too. But be warned: you will be surrounded by people who are amazingly productive, accomplished, impactful, and even “famous.” It will be intimidating at times, and inspiring at others. Let me let you off the hook now: you will never be one of them. And that’s OK. It’s not about you. And it’s not about the number of your pubs, or citations, or how many people know your name. It’s about the whole field working together, helping each other, and using science to learn the truth based on each other’s discoveries.
  6. In about 25 years, there will be something called Twitter. Resist it. It is the devil.
  7. There is no one way to be successful in this career. And even for every outcome you may hope for, there is no single way to get there. Don’t get too fixated on any dream. Drift with the tide a little and you may find options that you didn’t even know existed. Not only is this a good way to stay open-minded, but it also takes the pressure off big time.
  8. You will love clinical work, research, teaching, and service. Each takes time and dedication to do well. Pick two you want to focus on. Add a third 10 years later.
  9. Every day during your pre-tenure years, you will repeat the following mantra: Have learning goals, not performance goals. In other words, expect imperfections, and take every failure as an opportunity to learn something new. The pre-tenure years are your faculty-in-training years. You’re not supposed to know how to do it yet. So expect that you will stumble more often than not, and by the time you get to tenure, you may be starting to figure it out.
  10. Related, much of what it takes to succeed as a faculty member is based on skills that are not taught in grad school. Start reading books on management, accounting, mentoring, small business skills, and negotiation now!
  11. Last but not least, you will find that our field kind of stinks at sharing what it knows with the world. This is a shame because there is no scientific discipline that has greater potential to change the lives of humanity as many times a day as does psychology. Think about whether you can help make a difference by helping encourage folks towards public education.

I hope this is helpful advice for you, Mitch! Good luck with the next thirty years, and make sure you take mental snapshots along the way!  Meanwhile, I’m going to go check email (you’ll learn what that is in about five years) and see if there’s a letter from me when I am 76!  I sure would love to learn how the second half turns out!

Editor’s Note: Dear Me, Future Psychologist is inspired by the Dear Me book series by Joseph Galliano. Special thanks to David A. Meyerson, Ph.D. for creating this series for the gradPSYCH Blog. Please check out other letters in this series from Dr. Howard Gardner and Dr. Robert Sternberg.