1. How did you first become involved in the mental health field?
My involvement in the mental health field goes a long way back, into my childhood. My mother was a clinical psychologist who taught college for a number of years. When I was in junior high school, she took a job as a staff psychologist at the local state psychiatric hospital This was in the late 1960s, when there was a great deal of excitement in the behavioral sciences field about applying new learning approaches to people with severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. She became interested in learning and using these approaches, and started the first token economy ward in a psychiatric hospital in the state of New Jersey. Soon after that she began to learn and use assertiveness (or social skills) training to teach the long-stay inpatients social skills for improving their social interactions. I visited her at the hospital and was fascinated by the severe symptoms the patients had, and yet how well they responded to social rehabilitation. I was hooked, and I wanted to help. By the time I got to high school I knew I wanted to be a clinical psychologist.
2. Why should people come and listen to your talk at TheMHS Conference?
People should come and hear my talk if they are interested in how the concepts of resiliency, wellness, and recovery were integrated into a client-centered, goal-driven comprehensive treatment program for first episode psychosis (FEP): the NAVIGATE program. A large controlled trial conducted at 34 sites throughout the U.S. and including 404 participants with FEP showed that the NAVIGATE program was more effective at improving a range of outcomes (symptoms, social functioning, work/school involvement, quality of life, cognition) than customary services. The findings suggest that it is possible to integrate a focus on goals and resiliency into comprehensive services for people recovering from an FEP, which has broad implications for the treatment of this population.
3. What’s one thing not many people know about you?
One thing that not too many people know about me is that I’m an avid (downhill) skier—I was put on skies when I was 4 years old, and still enjoy getting out on the slopes!
4. Why are you looking forward to coming to Brisbane?
I am very much looking forward to coming to Brisbane. I’ve been to Australia 6 times before (and was married in Australia!), including a couple of trips to Brisbane. I always like to see something new when I come to Australia, so my wife (Susan McGurk, who will also be attending the conference) and I are contemplating taking a few days off in the rainforest in Queensland.
5. Where can people find out more about your work?
There is no single place (such as a website) where people can learn about my work. Although all my publications are on my curriculum vitae. I have done in several different areas of psychiatric rehabilitation (or psychosocial treatment) for persons with severe mental illness, including: the NAVIGATE program for people with first episode psychosis, the Illness Management and Recovery (IMR) program, cognitive behavioral therapy (or cognitive restructuring) for PTSD in people with severe mental illness, the Thinking Skills for Work (TSW) program (a cognitive remediation program aimed at helping people get back to work), integrated treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders, family psychoeducation, and interpersonal skills training. For many of these areas I have lists of related publications and resources that I’m happy to share.