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A Psychologist's Thoughts on Clinical Practice, Behavior, and Life

Admission Into Selective High Schools (And My Thanks To Madonna)

A March 11, 2023 article in The Wall Street Journal ("Parents Challenge Lottery Systems Used to Diversify Elite High Schools") aroused reader comment, virtually all opposing the ending of admission testing and underlying premise that all are equally talented. As one reader humorously wrote, "Ya know that NBA team is over represented by talented and tall men. We need to achieve equity so hence forth we open the NBA to tryouts by lottery."
The reality is that student achievement derives both from innate ability and having experienced a "good-enough" early life parenting during which psychodynamics develop and the basic ego capacities form including control of thinking and behavior, modulation of mood, and others. Poor parenting is the ever-present "Elephant in the Room" that politicians fear to confront, preferring to raise the false hot-button argument of "discrimination.".

Having attended a test-selective high school I don't believe that I learned more than I could at most high schools except that here there were no fights or other disturbances, no bullying, and few parties (to which I was never invited). Nor do I remember there being any school athletic teams. It's almost embarrassing to see how many leaders of industry and founders of startups will be celebrated at the school's upcoming anniversary celebration to which I received an invitation. And no, I'm not one of them.

To elaborate on my high school failings, I share the following. There was a boy in my grade that I envied since he seemed to have it all: preppy dress, many friends, even a girl-friend. As he once approached me, I fantasized he wanted to be my friend and that, through him, I would become popular too and maybe even get a girl-friend. This was not to be. He asked to borrow money which I lent him. He didn't pay me back and never spoke to me again. I felt humiliated, developed the deep hatred that an insulted teenager can, and his name (Eric) is the only student's name that I remembered. Decades later I read in the school newsletter that he died and compared my life to his. He too gained a doctorate though in a different field and I wrote more books that him. I also achieved something that he likely never did. Once, while driven in a limousine to a TV interview, the driver stopped at a red light, turned to me and said, "The last person who sat where you're sitting was Madonna." Eric, you bastard, I beat you, I childishly thought. Thank you, Madonna!


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Why Some Youth Can Benefit From Psychotherapy and Others Can't

Critical psychological development is gained early in life. Later, this may not happen even if the patient is provided the most talented of psychotherapist.

Change is difficult and some cannot tolerate the inherent dependency of this type of treatment. A teenager or young adult may need a firmer path in life before they can accept this childhood-like experience that they struggled to escape though there are great differences between the two. Unlike during childhood, a therapist does not make demands, even that of being liked. Their goal is merely that their patient's goals be achieved, so long as they are healthy and some  of which they may be unaware.
Yet for some youth the completion of education through college or graduate school or technical training comes first. They must try to ignore their anxiety and depression until the better day when they feel confident that they can--independently--survive financially in the adult world.

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Employer Practice, Worker Motivation, and My Encounter with a Genius

In addition to private clinical practice and writing, I’ve worked at hospitals, clinics, and a Community Mental Health Center, where I had both service and administrative responsibilities. While the clinical work was mostly enjoyable, the working atmosphere varied. At some settings, the co-workers were a boon; at others, the atmosphere could be accurately labeled as being “ Read More 
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