Those of you who are in the field of psychology, take a moment to remember what originally sparked your interest in psychology. For Dr. Greg Neimeyer, it was having an outstanding high school teacher who taught honors in psychology and was an adjunct professor at a local community college. He fondly recalls “for us, as high school students, we [had] a real-life professor in high school, and we were in awe. He taught it like a very intellectually challenging course, not unlike a college course, [and] really lit the fire under us in terms of intellectual interest, so the spark for me was really an outstanding high school teacher.” Dr. Neimeyer decided to attend college at the University of Florida, where he received a speech debate scholarship, and first selected speech as his major then the psychology seed that was planted in him in high school began to bear fruit and he changed his major to psychology during his second year and, as he states, “the rest, as they say, is history.”
After attending the University of Notre Dame for his master’s and doctorate in psychology, he wanted to stay in the academic field and applied to multiple universities for his first faculty position. In this podcast, Dr. Neimeyer eloquently reflects on his career of over 42 years in the field of psychology highlighting the important experiences, people, and lessons he has learned while sharing important tangible and meaningful advice including how to select the right graduate program and university for you, tips on setting yourself apart from others when applying to graduate schools, and the importance of continuing education and paying it forward.
Interestingly, Dr. Neimeyer returns to his undergraduate alma mater for his first faculty position. He shares that he always knew that he wanted to become an academic but wanted to maintain the clinical practice side as he “always regarded that as a key ingredient to be able to, you know, bring the clinic into the classroom and the classroom into the clinic.” Dr. Neimeyer is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Florida, where he served as Director of Training and Graduate Coordinator of the APA-approved doctoral training program in counseling psychology and has taught courses on the DSM, the ICD, and psychopathology. He currently serves as the Director of the Offices of Continuing Education in Psychology, the Center for Learning And Career Development, and the Center for Interprofessional Training and Education at the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C..
Throughout our discussion, Dr. Neimeyer shares his thoughts, suggestions, and experiences in the hopes that it will help those who are interested in the field of psychology. He provides his thoughts on how to select the right graduate program for you and how to decide on which branch or field of psychology is a good fit given your interests. He says, “psychology is present in just about everything. So that’s the good news and the bad news. I mean, the bad news is you’re faced with having to make some difficult decisions among a blizzard of different opportunities. The good news is that whatever your interests are, you can attach them to, and draft in behind, the graduate program that’s likely to support that.” If you are having a hard time selecting a branch of psychology to focus on, he suggests a few things such as looking at your undergraduate psychology book. There are probably 30-35 chapters in the book so look through the book and identify the ones that resonate with you or in which you are interested and pass over the ones that you find yourself yawning at or not the least bit interested. He shares “probably about 80% of students wind up going into the professional side which is clinical, counseling, or school [psychology]. Those are the only areas that are licensed eligible.” He continues “my experience is that about 80% of students wind up wanting to have at least part, if not all, of their career focused on helping other people and that really is the professional side. So there, you’re really looking at a master’s or doctoral level in clinical or counseling psychology.” He summarizes this section of our discussion by stating “that’s worth amplifying Brad, because in a way you can think about the graduate degree, whether it’s a master’s or a doctoral, as a kind of golden ticket, right? So, once you gain entry into the field with that graduate degree, whether it’s licensed eligible or not, you have the degree of freedom to pursue your specialty interest.”
He discusses what he calls “the three-touch rule” when it comes to winnowing down your top 15-20 graduate programs and schools. You can look at the programs and universities then you look at the faculty and their research and find the faculty “whose interests match your own.” He then walks us through the three-touch rule which will help you stand out when it comes time for the review committee to make their offers. He says by following these steps, “they look at you in an entirely different way as an interested human who has done what a graduate student must do…they distinguish themselves by their initiative and you have taken the initiative to marry your interest to theirs.”
Dr. Neimeyer was invited by the American Psychiatric Association to serve as one of only two psychologists originally trained on the DSM-5, and subsequently has provided hundreds of professional trainings on the DSM and ICD both nationally and internationally. He is also conducting trainings on the DSM-5-TR (Text Revision) and describes his experiences training in Zimbabwe which led to discussions about traveling, accents, culture, and culture biases.
We discussed his roles at the APA and the importance of continuing education. When asked about the importance of continuing education in psychology and how it benefits professionals in the field, Dr. Neimeyer responded “Think about it. It becomes really clear really quickly if you think about [it], your master’s program takes two years, your doctoral program may take an additional four years. You’re going to be in the practice an additional 35 years. The half-life of knowledge in psychology is between 5 and 7 years. If you’re practicing on the basis of something you learned 7-8-9-10 years ago, you are a troglodyte. If you’re doing psychopharmacology based on psychopharmacology for 1990 or 2000, that’s yesterday’s news. That’s ancient history. So continuing education is absolutely vital.” He continues “So, getting out of graduate school is just an opportunity to redouble your learning in areas of that are of central interest to you. It’s one of the things that fuels the field of specialization.”
The information available in each of the fields is so vast that one has to be a critical consumer of this knowledge and spend your time wisely being aware of the existence of garbage or “junk sources” because they are out there. So, identifying trusted and credible sources is important. We discuss how to stay current with the latest research and advancements in the field of psychology and highlight a handful of trusted sources but, again, because there is so much information available, Dr. Neimeyer points out it’s “like trying to get a sip of water out of a fire hydrant field, but that’s part of what makes it so incredibly exciting.”
In addition to all of the unique experiences he has had over his entire career, when asked to share something unique about himself, Dr. Neimeyer shared that he was a tableside flambé chef before he was a psychologist. He would prepare “tableside flambés, flaming coffees, the Steak Dianes, the Baked Alaska, Cherries Jubilee, [and] Bananas Foster, all those things that I’ve learned to love.” Dr. Neimeyer admitted that his wife Edwina was expecting him to make dinner for her and she holds him to a “higher standard” knowing his experience preparing food.
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Greg Neimeyer has published over 200 scholarly articles and more than 12 books, largely in the areas of personality and professional and career development. As a Fellow of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Neimeyer also received its Award for Outstanding Contributions to Career and Personality Research.
Bachelor of Science (BS), Psychology (1977); University of Florida, Gainesville, FL.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Psychology (1982); University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
Dr. Greg Neimeyer: Wikipedia
Dr. Greg Neimeyer: Global Health Policy Institute
Dr. Greg Neimeyer: University of Central Florida
Dr. Greg Neimeyer: Understanding the DSM-5 (Youtube)
Dr. Greg Neimeyer: The DSM Rap (Youtube)
Welcome to the Master’s in Psychology Podcast, where psychology students can learn from psychologists, educators, and practitioners to better understand what they do, how they got there, and hear the advice they have for those interested in getting a graduate degree in psychology. I’m your host, Brad Schumacher, and today we welcome Dr. Greg Neimeyer to the show. Dr. Neimeyer is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Florida, where he served as Director of Training and Graduate Coordinator of the APA approved doctoral training program in counseling psychology, and has taught courses in the DSM, the ICD, and psychopathology. A fellow of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Neimeyer is also a recipient of its award for Outstanding Contributions to Career and Personality Research. Dr. Neimeyer currently serves as the Director of the Offices of Continuing Education in Psychology, the Center for Learning and Career Development, and the Center for Interprofessional Training and Education at the American Psychological Association in Washington, DC. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey, more about his various roles in the APA, and hear his advice to those interested in the field of psychology. Dr. Neimeyer, welcome to our podcast.
Glad to be here.
Well, I’m glad that you took the time out of your schedule to be on our show. I appreciate any advice that you may give. You’ve had a variety of experiences in your career thus far and first off, as you probably have seen, we typically go through your academic journey first. And so, I noticed that your bachelor’s degree, you received your bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Florida, can you tell us a little bit more about that journey and how you became interested in the field of psychology?
Well, in a way, Brad, I’m. I’m the, I’m a great triumph for the system of education and educators because like so many other people, I was the beneficiary of an outstanding high school teacher who taught honors in psychology. And in the evening, he was also an adjunct professor in a Community College, and so for us, as high school students, we were having a real-life professor in high school, and we were in awe. He taught it like a very intellectually challenging course, not unlike a college course, really lit the fire under us in terms of intellectual interest, so the spark for me was really an outstanding high school teacher and I decided then to go on into college at University first as a speech major. I was there actually on a speech debate scholarship. But the love of psychology, the seed had been planted and it was only a matter of time until it began to bear fruit and I changed my major in my second year and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, speaking of history, we’ll continue on, and you actually attended the University of Notre Dame for your doctorate in psychology, PhD in psychology. There are many schools in Indiana that offer graduate degrees in psychology. So why did you select the University of Notre Dame?
Well, I would like to say that it was an informed choice, but, but you know, this is back when the Earth first cooled, you know, I was looking for a doctoral program in, you know, preferably in counseling psychology. And I was trying to make the discrimination being a naive undergraduate between clinical and counseling, and it seemed to me as if counseling with its sort of developmental focus, its adjustment orientation, its lifespan orientation fit me better, fit me better as a model that I could see myself practicing in and living with in my professional career. And they had a doctoral program in counseling psychology. And so. And I knew I wanted to go to the doctoral route at that point, I knew I wanted to do the master’s en route, and they just had the program that sort of fit like a hand in glove for me. But you’re right, there are a variety of outstanding universities and programs both at the master’s program, uh, level and at the doctoral program, both in clinical and counseling psychology within the state of Indiana.
Yeah. And the biggest thing that a lot of our guests ask is well, you know, a lot of students are interested in the field of psychology, but they don’t know which field or branch of psychology they should actually study. Do you have any thoughts on any advice that you might have or thoughts that you might have for students who are wondering, hey, the field of psychology has grown so much throughout the years and there’s so many different branches or fields within that field of psychology. How do I decide what I’m going to focus on?
Well, it’s a good point. It’s a good question and it is, it is an embarrassment of riches, and it is a blizzard and it’s hard to sort all of that out. I mean, one way to think about it is psychology is present in just about everything. So that’s the good news and the bad news. I mean, the bad news is you’re faced with having to make some difficult decisions among a blizzard of different opportunities. The good news is that whatever your interests are, you can attach them to and draft in behind the graduate program that’s likely to support that. So, one way I tend to think of it as this look, go to your undergraduate psych book. You know, there’s probably 30 or 30-35 chapters in there and some of them you will find yourself yawning. You will find yourself distracted. You will find yourself frustrated and others you will resonate to and feel drawn to and attracted to and that really can be extremely informative. Do you like personality? Do you find social attractive? Do you like to help people on the clinical and counseling side? Probably about 80% of students wind up going into the professional side, which is clinical, counseling, or school. Those are the only areas that are licensed eligible, so you can do psychology with lots of other in lots of other ways, you can go into AI. You can do robotics, you can do cognitive. You can do development or you can do social. You can do experimental, but only clinical and counseling in school allow you to get a license and practice and be insurance reimbursable and work within the healthcare field. So, my experience is that about 80% of students wind up wanting to have at least part, if not all, of their career focused on helping other people. And that really is the professional side. So, there you’re really looking at a master’s or a doctoral level in clinical or counseling psychology. And so, you know, I’d let I’d let your interests inform the directions that that you want to take.
Well, that’s a very good piece of advice is let your interest guide you instead of hey, figuring out the niche and then trying to make yourself fit into that niche. Previous guests on the podcast have utilized their degrees, their graduate degrees in psychology, and in any number of ways. And I’m glad that you kind of highlighted the fact that a lot of students do look at the clinical or counseling psychology because that is something that you can fall back on and actually make a career of, or you can extend that to different areas that you’re really interested in as well, so.
Well, and that, and that’s worth amplifying Brad, because in a way you can think about the graduate degree, whether it’s a master’s or a doctoral as the kind of golden ticket, right? So, once you gain entry into the field with that graduate degree, whether it’s licensed eligible or not, you have the degree of freedom to pursue your specialty interest. So maybe you want to work in the area of eating disorders. Maybe you want to work in the area of artificial intelligence. Maybe you want to work with at risk kids or families. Whatever your interests are, you can develop specializations after the fact, so it’s not a one and done your learning doesn’t stop when your degree is granted and you have lots of degrees of freedom to pursue car route, specialty interest after graduation as well.
Well, thank you for highlighting that. I know that some of our, for example, you know in the in the old days, sport psychology was always thought of you had to deal with that athlete. Now I I’ve seen many, many people and even a few guests on the show extend it to the professional and business arena as well and being able to use the same type of learnings and education that they have applied in sport psychology to businesses and professionals and CEO’s and so. That’s just one off the top of my head. One example that you can extend whatever area or niche and you can actually create your own niche.
Absolutely true. And you know, you could nominate dozens of instances of exactly that. I’ll. I’ll give you a case in point. You can develop a an interest in or pursue a specialty or a doctoral degree in personality psychology. And you may take that and move over into IO into industrial organizational and use your background in the assessment of personality in like personnel screening and the placement of Fortune 500 company executives. So, you’ve got a basic degree in personality psychology but then you modify it, and you scoped it to fit a an organizational, in this case, interest. So. So yeah, there are a lot of degrees of freedom post-graduation, graduation.
Very good example. Let me extend that a little bit further for our audience. For those students who are interested in a career in psychology, I know that you said kind of the golden ticket. Look at those that are, you know, licensable and. And the other thing is you can create your own niche. But while they’re in school, you know whether we’re talking about undergrad or even for you, the seed was planted back in high school because you had that luxury and that opportunity to have a professor come to your high school. Any other advice that you would have regarding what the most valuable skills or experiences are that students should develop during their education?
Yes, and this is a really pivotal point, to be honest with you because there’s the liminal space between undergraduate and Graduate School, and there the two experiences are qualitatively different, and I think it’s very helpful to be thinking as an undergraduate about what it’s like to be a graduate student so that you can build the bridge from where you are to where you want to be. As an undergraduate, 90% of your attention is on your GPA. You’re looking at what are your general Ed requirements? What are your requirements for your minor, and for your major? You’re looking at your GPA, and you’re probably obsessing over the 3rd decimal point. You know. Do I have a 3.45238? So. But you’re the point is, you’re concentrating in your classroom experience because you want to perform well, and that’s that is a ticket. And that is an important indicator of your likelihood for getting into Graduate School. For graduate studies it’s actually just the opposite. What happens outside the classroom is at least as important, if not more important, than what happens inside the classroom. So, if you take that lesson where if you know where you are headed to as Graduate School and you apply it to undergraduate, you qualify yourself and you distinguish yourself much more readily through your extracurricular activities. You know, I don’t mean I don’t mean beer pong here. I’m really referring to things like. You know, taking part in Psi Chi, taking leadership positions in your sorority or fraternity to your other organization within the university. Getting involved in research groups with graduate students or faculty. Those are the kinds of things, volunteering within the community. Those are the kind of things that really enable a graduate program to look at you and begin to squint like an Impressionist painting. Step back, get an image of you and see the image emerge of you as a graduate student. So, when they come to the point of making offers. It’s much easier to make an offer to somebody who looks and feels like a graduate student because they haven’t spent all and only their time in the classroom. They spent time outside the classroom. So I would strongly encourage the folks who are considering advanced work in psychology to consider at the earliest opportunity becoming involved at an in extracurricular activities. They don’t even have to be directly related to psychology, because those skills, as you alluded to within the field, are generalizable leadership skills or leadership skills. People skills are people skills, helping skills are helping skills. So, beginning to develop those activities and experiences and expertise outside the classroom is a huge asset for you as you move forward in relation to application to graduate study.
The other thing I’d add is you know labs, if you have the opportunity in high school or undergraduate, go ahead and get involved in labs because that does a couple things for you. Number one, it exposes you to that opportunity and you may find out that you love it. You may find out this isn’t for me, but that’s part of the journey is finding out what you like and dislike. Participating or actually attending some of the local, regional, or national conventions in psychology would expose you to all of these different areas of study. The people that are in the field and don’t be afraid to approach them and say, hey Dr. Niemier, my name is Brad Schumacher. I’m at the University of Florida. I’m really interested in what you’ve been researching recently. Can I talk to you for a few minutes? And then pick their brain and go that route? And so that’s one other thing that I’d suggest is don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
Yeah. No, I mean absolutely. And so, I’ll say two things that that you’re sort of neuronal firing that was triggered by your thoughts. You know, one is if you’re anticipating or contemplating possibly going to graduate study, there’s no reason why beginning in the second week of any in every class you take in psychology, you shouldn’t walk up to your professor, you know, let the add drop period pass. Walk up to your professor, introduce yourself and say, look, I’m thinking about graduate study in psychology. I’d like to have the opportunity to drop by your office hours sometime, talk to you about how you got where you’re at and the kind of things you’re doing. From that moment forward, that Professor is going to think of you in different terms. He or she is going to think of you as an aspiring graduate student. That’s to your advantage and to theirs. And you’re absolutely right, Brad. If you line up 10 different extracurricular activities and you find out that five of them you thought would be exciting and they actually are extremely dull and uninteresting to you, you’ve learned a tremendous amount and you’ve saved yourself a possible investment in a direction it might have cost you a year or two of your time. So learning what you don’t like is at least as important, if not more important, than learning what you do like. And you really can. It is the case that it’s kind of experience is the best teacher. You know you get in there, you know, again on the other hand, 1 swallow doesn’t make this make a summer. So, I would encourage you if you can do 2 labs. With three labs rather than one lab, then that will give you a sense of it. You know? Am I interested in research? Is this interesting to me or is it not interesting to me? You don’t want to find that out during your graduate program. You want to know that in advance so that it can inform your decision making about your graduate program. So yeah, absolutely. Feel free to expose yourself to things you think you’ll love, and you wind up not loving the things you think you won’t love, and you wind up loving green eggs and ham. I do not like green eggs and ham, it turns out you may well like green eggs and ham once you try them, so that’s part of the process of exploration that will help you winnow down your interests to those things that are going to sustain you in your graduate career and you’re ultimately your professional career.
I like that advice because green eggs and ham, different people prepare it slightly different and so go to more than one lab because that one lab could be focused on one research area that you’re not really interested in, or they’re doing research that doesn’t really interest you. But if you go to another lab. Oh my gosh, I am so turned on by this. The research is research and you still follow the same kind of research regime no matter what topic you’re looking at. It’s kind of an overgeneralization there. I just heard myself because it really depends on what you’re studying and what the goal is and how you devise your research. But I like that idea of give yourself the opportunity to go with it to more than one research lab and participate because that also to be honest and transparent. Doctoral degrees and getting into a doctoral program are very competitive. Depending on where you’re going and if somebody looks at your Vita, your experience and you have more than one research lab experience, they may ask. First of all, they’ll be impressed with that. Secondly, they may ask, but why did you have three or four of these and you could explain? I did it because of whatever reasons you have. That will show them that you’re more committed and you’ve actually experienced this, and it probably is a better bet higher percentage chance that you’re going to stay within that graduate research program. And that’s where they get the funding as well and so. You know, the other thing I’ve brought up, Dr. Niemeyer, is if you know you want to go for your doctorate, whether and we’ll talk about PhD versus PsyD in a in a few minutes here. But whether or not you want to go PhD route or PsyD route if you know you want to get into a doctoral program, many of my guests suggest go ahead and apply directly out of undergrad instead of going into the masters. Because the chances of getting funding at the doctoral level are much higher than getting funding at the master’s level. Any thoughts on that?
Well, it’s absolutely true. I mean, there’s a fair amount of variability, but at one generalization certainly is that because doctoral programs are located in research institutions that generate grant dollars, they hire people on research assistants and they hire teaching assistants. So oftentimes they have much, much greater funding opportunity than master’s programs do. The flip side of that that’s also worth consideration is that a doctoral program is going to take you as little as four, but not unlikely five or six years. A master’s program almost assuredly is going to take you two years. So you also want to be savvy in relation to the amount of time it takes to get you into the workplace, and if it’s a four year difference and your starting salary is, let’s say I don’t know, $70,000 a year, 7-14-21-28, you’re nearly $300,000 in the hole by going into the doctoral program over the master’s program and you of course will never recover that difference in real dollar terms across the course of your life. So you have you have to sort of think about, you know, what are your goals for your objectives and money is a piece of it, but it’s not the only piece the bigger reason to pursue a master’s versus a doctoral probably is not a financial one, but you do want to think through the financial the financial basis and even within doctoral programs, there’s a huge variability with PsyD programs of course, not typically providing the same level of funding support that a doctoral program would, simply because they’re more professionally oriented and oftentimes they’re located in free standing professional schools that don’t have grant support in the way that a major you know, research one kind of university might. So, you in every case you want to check out what are my options for financial aid for a waiver of my tuition and or research or the teaching assistantships.
The other thing that spurred when you were talking spurred my memory is don’t be afraid to talk to people who only have their master’s degree and are out in the field as well. Talk to them as well as those who are in the academic world and those that are outside of the academic world with their PhD, PsyD, or just masters because then you’ll get a better understanding of their journey, and yours may be different, but it just gives you more information so you have an you can make an informed decision basically.
Well, and that’s. That’s right. And that that is, that is the key. I mean it reminds me of the sort of the Cheshire cat in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, when Alice falls through the looking glass and she’s all discombobulated, psychological Vertigo, and anxious, and she sees the Cheshire cat there in the bow of the tree. And she says, which way should I go from here, please? And he looked at her and he said, well, that depends a great deal on where you want to get to. And it’s exactly the same thing in relation to master’s and doctoral programs. So, there’s really no sense in pursuing something that winds up being a destination that’s not interesting to you. So for some people, it’s absolutely a terminal master’s degree that gives them everything they wanted and nothing they don’t want. And for some people they would be unhappy stopping at the master’s level because what they want to do, research, university position, research position absolutely requires that. Expert testimony in a courtroom context or forensics context. So, it absolutely requires that doctoral program. So, you want to be sure that that you are pursuing the degree that best fits your goals and objectives, and those vary by person.
And depending on the graduate program that you’re interested in, some of them actually look favorably toward people who take a break between their master’s and their PhD to get out and get more real-life experience, because then you’re returning and you’re showing them hey, I’ve experienced this research. I’ve done more research, and this is what I really want to do. It shows them that you’re more committed and you’ve actually done, you know, kind of the real-life experience portion of it instead of jumping right from your master’s to your PhD or your PsyD. So, you could go any number of ways and we’re probably confusing our audience even more than we want, but we want to emphasize the fact that do your research, get yourself informed, educate yourself, and don’t be afraid to talk to people who are in the fields that you’re interested in. That’s kind of the high-level summary I’d say.
I’d say that’s right. I’d say that’s spot on.
OK, so let’s return for a second cause a lot of people think about, well, how do I even begin the process related to searching for graduate schools and programs? So in hindsight for you, I know things have changed tremendously between when you were searching for graduate schools versus now all of the technology that’s available for people, but yeah, I guess the way that I’d pose this question is when students or other people come up to you and say, hey, what are the best ways for me to kind of search for graduate schools and programs and what would your answer be? Any suggestions or advice for students who are looking for graduate schools and programs? What would you say?
Yeah, sure. Absolutely. So, I you know I tend to be relatively systematic when it comes to looking, so I think there’s an advantage to asking yourself some fundamental questions. So, if you know what you want to be doing. That the goal is to try to winnow down the blizzard of different the alphabetical soup of degrees. You know you’ve got every imagine we got PsyD, PhD, you’ve got, you know, people get licenses and LCSW’s or LPC’s and then you’ve got MSW’s and social work and family therapy. And PsyD, PhD, it goes on and on and on. So, a couple fundamental lines that sort of cleave the field. Do I want to be doing research? Do I want primarily research, or do I want primarily professional degree that would enable me to practice? You want to go the professional degree, whichever one you choose to go, you’ve automatically reduced the number the field of graduate choices by 50%. So, if you know you either want exclusively to do professional practice, or you want to retain the option of doing professional practice, then you’re over in, you’re over in a master’s in clinical counseling or mental health counseling or a doctoral program, PhD, or PsyD. From there, I think the, you know, making the discrimination between do I want to do a you know a something that would lead to a doctoral degree or something that’s a master’s degree. If I know I want to do exclusively or primarily practice. I don’t want to do research. I don’t wanna work in a university. I don’t wanna work in a university counseling center. I don’t want to do expert testimony. I’m. I really want to be a frontline mental health worker to be honest with you, the advantages of pursuing anything more than a masters are really diminished, tremendously diminished and weighing against that is the additional, you know, 3-4-5 years it would take to get the doctoral degree so you’re located comfortably then in a master’s, a terminal master’s degree. If on the other hand, you know that you may want to be not just the frontline service provider but potentially the clinical director or the director of the hospital unit, or you want to go into a university position. Or you, you know, want to become a training director or a professor, then you know you’re in the doctoral route. There are a couple of resources that I think are tremendously helpful. If you know you want to go to the doctoral route in psychology, there’s a fantastic book, John Norcross, Michael Sayette some other people put it out. It’s a Guilford title called Insider’s Guide to Graduate Programs in Clinical and Counseling Psychology and it contains absolutely every clinical and counseling Psych PhD and PsyD program in the country. And I love two things about that book. One is in the back, it has an index, and it gives you information on specialty areas of training in every program. So if you knew you wanted to do something in forensics, you knew you were interested in work with kids, you knew you were interested in eating disorders. You can actually go to the back of that book and look up all the programs that offer training in those areas. That’s a huge advantage. Saves you a ton of time. The other thing I like about it is it gives a continuum for every single program that it covers. On a program, the extent to which a program is professionally oriented or scientifically, scientifically oriented research oriented, you may want a basic science practice program that’s a balanced and it rates it on a 7-point scale. You may want something that’s more practice oriented, more professionally oriented, so then you’d want to program that sort of like a one or a two, maybe a three. Maybe you want something that’s more of a science and research side. Then you want to program this more of a five or six or seven so you can get two really, really, really useful pieces of information that can winnow your field down to a dozen or two dozen programs boom in an hour period time. That’s hugely advantageous. Now the other thing, once you decide on the kind of degree you want, I strongly encourage you to go to the Internet and go ahead and Google best LMHC programs, best PhD programs in counseling psych, best programs in clinical psychology. Whatever the program is that you want to pursue and look at those ratings and evaluate them with a grain of salt, because the best programming clinical psychology. Yes, it may be, it may be the Stanford program, it may be the Notre Dame program. It may be the University of Maryland program. But the best program in truth, PhD program say in counseling psychology, is the best program for you. It’s not necessarily the overall best program, it’s the best program that fits your interests best. I had a student come to me last year who was interested in BI bilingual training in psychotherapy Spanish, and wanted to be thorough going training, not only linguistically, but also culturally in Spanish and English and come out and be able to do therapy in both areas. Well, it turns out that the particular program that does that, which is Our Lady of the Lake in San Antonio, TX, is an extremely small is the only doctoral program in the entire university. It would rank, I’m just being frank, it would rank relatively low on the 70 some APA approved counseling psychology programs. It’s a very strong program. It’s a good program. Fantastic faculty, but it wouldn’t rise to the top ten. It wouldn’t rise to the top quartile, but for a person who had that interest, that’s definitely the number one program. So you want to look at those rankings, but you want to look at those rankings in relation to your interests so they can give you broad information about ones you want to look more closely at, and then you start to make the determination about which ones best fit your interest and what I do. I sit down and make a grid and I put all the universities I’m possibly considering ten of them. Twenty of them. Thirty of them across the top and down the side. I put all the dimensions that are relevant to me. I need funding. I want some marriage and family experience. I want to be able to work with eating disorders. I want to be able to research something on population, health or whatever it is. All the things that I’m interested in doing, and then I. As I explore those study those programs online, I just make tick Marks and I see which programs offer each of the experiences or elements that are important to me and at the end of the day it becomes really clear you’ve got a blank set of columns on one university. You’ve got a fully flush set of columns on another. It’s beginning to clarify itself and you’re winnowing yourself down to sort of your top ten. The ones that best fit your needs. And the ones that best fit your needs are probably also, not coincidentally, the ones that you are best prepared to do well in relation to gaining admission to, because you’ve probably developed experience and expertise in ways that are consistent with what that program’s interests are. And that’s really what programs are looking for. They’re looking for a goodness of fit. They’re not just looking for the highest GPA or the higher GRE. They’re looking for the goodness of fit between what you want to do, what you bring to the program, and what they have to offer. You could be an outstanding student and what you, but yet what you want, they don’t offer, and so you’re not a great student for them, even though you’re a great student overall. So, thank goodness it cuts both ways. The fit between you and the program and the program and you.
Very good advice. The other line item that I know that some of our previous guests have highlighted is go ahead and add another line item about the professors, investigators that are at each of the institutions. Are they known in their field and not only are they known, are they willing and accepting new graduate students? And then secondly, are they going to have enough time to spend with you? You can go to the top tier. It’s a great fit, a goodness of fit, as you said for you and for them. But if the one or two professors that are known in their field, I already have enough graduate students and they don’t have enough time. To work with you, maybe that isn’t the best fit for you, because if you want to truly learn from them and their research area, you need to be able to clear and make sure that they are going to be able to work with you and accepting graduate students as well. Any thoughts on that?
That is such a good idea. That is such a good idea. Look, here’s what. I tell students. When you’re reading through your undergraduate textbook, right, all the references like the textbook is a secondary resource, right? So what they do is they take all the primary research they integrated in, and they tell a story, and that’s what you’re reading, but everything you’re reading is based on research, published work, and all of that work is in at the back of each chapter, and it contains the references that the author is using. You, you should do if you’re thinking about doctoral program, particularly in psychology but any graduate program, really what you need to be doing is spending some time in those references at the back of each of those chapters. Whether it’s a social psych text or a clinical or abnormal or intro, because what you’ll find is the field of psychology is actually quite small. You will see the names recur again and again and again. And because those are the top feeders in any field, and guess what, the vast majority of those people are still living and they are working somewhere and they are oftentimes taking students so you want to develop an apperceptive awareness of who are the names that continue to recur in your field, your interest in eating disorders well, I guarantee you there are 10 people whose names are gonna have to crop up all the time, and probably eight of them are out there taking students in a given time. So, then it then I suggest, and this is after you get winnow down to your sort of top 15 or 20 programs. Then you do. Then you do the careful work of what I call the three-touch rule. #1 is you. You. You look at those as you’re going through your top ten universities. You look at the faculty and you identify one or two pieces of research from each of them, those that make you yawn, those that make you sneeze, those that make you nauseous, those that make you distracted and bored, you just move. On but you. Find those faculty whose interests match your own. Oh, wow, that is pretty interesting. And for those faculty at each of the universities you’ve identified as your top group, drop them an e-mail and say hey, this is Greg Niemeyer, I saw your article on, you know, Eagle identity development and eating disorders. I read it with great interest and I just wondering if you have any additional work in that area that hasn’t yet come out well, it’s a great question, but you already know the answer to it because the latency to publication for research articles two to three years. So, by the from the time somebody comes up with an idea to the time it reaches a print is going to be a two- or three-year period of time so you know, they’ve done something else in the interim. It’s their area of interest. So, they write back, and they say oh, thank you very much. That’s very. I appreciate that. Here’s a draft. Please don’t quote it, but it’s a recent piece we’ve done. OK, so you’ve had touch one and now they know the name Greg Niemeyer. Touch two is thanks so much. I look forward to reading this with great interest. Touch three is you’re right back. I’ve read that draft that you sent to me. I really appreciate it. I in the in the. Discussion section I notice you suggested three ideas for future research. I’m wondering about this. I’m wondering about whether. You’ve done any of those. These things, they’re right back. Well, we’re doing that now or now. We’re about interested in doing that. And then you write back and you say, you know, I’m considering graduate studying psychology and I can’t help but wonder whether or not you might be interested in taking a student moving forward when they go to review with the pile of 50 or 100 or 200 applicants, they’re not reviewing you then as applicant 24618, they’re reviewing you as Greg Niemeyer. They go. Oh, this is Greg Niemeyer, the guy I’ve been talking with. So, they look at you in an entirely different way as an interested human who has done what a graduate student must to do. A graduate student, they distinguish themselves by their initiative and you have taken the initiative to marry your interests to theirs. So, when they are then trying to decide among the five people they want to bring in to apprentice to them, you enjoy pride of place because you already have a relationship with them. And you’ve demonstrated the goodness of this between their interests and yours. So, you know that’s really a good way to winnow the field down and get a sense so that you’re not when you go to your graduate program, you’ve got somebody to work with and you’re not blind, you’re not randomly matched with somebody. So, it’s not only to enhance your chances of gaining admission, but to enhance your success. Because ultimately, graduate training is an apprenticeship training and the relational match is a key piece to the success of the overall enterprise.
Very good reminder and piece of advice. I’d also add one other thing that third crucial touch point just don’t say I read it. You have to show that you read it by referencing something or trying to extend it, or my thoughts on this are this. Have you considered doing this because it shows them that you’ve read it? I remember having students come up to me and say, hey Brad, I read your material on this, and I said great, what do you think? I mean, that’s the natural response is great. OK. And so be sure that you follow up with that, but I love that three-touch point idea and you’re exactly right. You stand out as a person instead of a number when they start looking at all those applicants, so. The other thing that I wanted to continue to kind of transition from going from your academic journey to your professional journey, what did you do immediately after receiving your doctorate in psychology?
Well, I did. I I knew I wanted to become an academic. That was clear to me. So I, you know, I applied to graduate programs and to faculty positions at universities. And I took a in my first academic job was at University of Florida. And uncommonly, I stayed there my entire career. You know, I had. I had opportunities to go elsewhere throughout, but. You know, I was warned early on that you know. All pastures are not greener, just as there are on the other side of the fence. So. So I did wind up staying there my whole career and it was actually at my undergraduate alma mater. So. So for me, I developed kind of focus and pretty it was pretty clear to me that I wanted to become an academic from the get go, but I always maintained those clinical practice on the side. And I always regarded that as a key ingredient to be able to, you know, bring the clinic into the classroom and the classroom into the clinic.
So, if you recall, think back when you did apply to universities after you received your doctorate, did you apply to other universities, and if so, why did you choose University of Florida?
Oh yeah. No, no, I applied, you know, it was, you know, desperation is the mother of invention. I applied to every position that was out there when I graduated in counseling psychology, I remember I applied it. And I I think I got offers at every place I applied Texas Tech, Carbondale, SIU, Florida two positions in Florida. But you know. It again, it’s kind of like a recreation of the goodness of fit thing. I mean, I looked at the faculty who were at the various places I looked at the resources that were available. I looked at the role that I could place, and I wanted to be at a place where I would be able to make a meaningful contribution where I could see that I would fit, and I would be valued. There be a place for me and that I could imagine people working with because as an as a you know, as a junior faculty, as an untenured assistant professor, you know it’s important that you have strong relationships with senior faculty and the capacity. I could see one or two people at least that I could imagine publishing and co-authoring with. That was an important ingredient. And then and then I won’t lie, I didn’t want to be in cold weather. That, and that’s the other thing is I you know, I also could see it as a place. I didn’t see it as a steppingstone that it would be for two. Or three years I imagined it would be for some period of time. If not, you know, ultimately my entire career. So I wanted to be a place that I knew I would enjoy living and for me, you know, Florida and warm weather was a was a key factor in that so. Again, you look around, and boy, I’ll tell you, just like in Graduate School, graduate study applications, you know, all that glitters is not gold. The closer you look, the clearer things get. And there’s a huge advantage. Just like applying to and interviewing for multiple graduate programs. You learn through that process of application. Things that do fit and don’t fit and same thing with internship and same thing with you know applications for faculty position. Places that would look good on paper. You’d go there and you’d talk to people and you know that you, you know, in a couple day visit you can sort out, you know, some challenges, people who they didn’t have resources, they were overtaxed. They were tremendously stressed. They couldn’t get good students, you know, you name it. There are a wide variety of challenges. The expectations for research, publication and grant getting were, you know, severe the tenure rate was pretty low. You know you name it, so you know you want to look closely and a lot of that you can only determine by talking to people in you know directly it’s not. It’s not the kind of thing that’s out there on, on paper on websites. So, so you know, there’s a real value in the comparison and contrasting.
And not only talk to the people that they introduce you to because they probably talked to them ahead of time saying hey, Brad Schumacher’s coming to make a visit. And would you talk to him a little bit, talk to other people as well and don’t be afraid to ask some of those hard questions because to your point, it may look good on paper, but when you talk to them behind the scenes, is it going to be a good environment, a good culture for you and an opportunity for you to receive tenure, that sort of stuff? Those are other line items that you create on that second spreadsheet for faculty positions. And so those are the type of things. So, I don’t want you to downplay. Your career a little bit, so I’m going to highlight a couple of things for our audience. You’ve had a long and illustrious career at the University of Florida. You have been there for almost 43, almost 44 years. You are, as I said in the introduction, Professor emeritus in the Department of Psychology at the University of Florida, where you served as Director of training and graduate coordinator of the doctoral program, doctoral training programs, and you’ve taught you’ve taught courses on the DSM and many of our audience members probably recognize that if you’re in the field of psychology, DSM is Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. But the other one that many probably fewer of the audience have heard of is the ICD, International Classification of Diseases. And so, talk to me a little bit about how is that different from the DSM and why should you be interested in the ICD?
Well, the ICD is what physicians use and it’s a, it’s a diagnostic, you know, manual that covers everything that you can get and everything you die from that is morbidity and mortality. The DSM is just about psychiatric disorders, not what you die from and not other health conditions. The DSM, the diagnostics and statistics manual is derivative of the ICD. It borrows the codes from the ICD and has from its inception in 1952. So, it’s the Adams rib of the ICD in the real way. So, the ICD is what the physicians use, and it also contains psychiatric conditions. It’s by far the more global document and it operates under the auspices of the World Health Organization, which itself is responsive to the United Nations. So, there are different nomenclatures. They’re different systems. But the DSM basically is a derives from, and is dependent on, the ICD that gets revised basically about every 10 years. So, because those two manuals are under a mandate to harmonize, what’s called harmonized to integrate with one another, they are not identical nomenclatures, but they do have a great deal in common. The ICD tends to be more epidemiological and more statistical. The DSM is more diagnostic for actual you know it operationalizes the criteria for diagnosing the 400 and some different disorders, but the two work hand in hand, and in most graduate programs you’re going to get exposure to both now, because we work in an integrated Care World in which you know the health professions across the spectrum need to understand one another, and most of the healthcare industry uses the ICD. Psychology and psychiatry in the United States at least are probably more primarily dedicated to the DSM.
Umm, I’m going to share my screen again. If you wanted to learn a little bit more about Greg Niemeyer, Dr. Greg Niemeyer, here is your biography at the university and then LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn because it talks about your experience and one thing that I want to highlight, I’m not going to talk about all of your experiences, but one thing that I wanted to highlight because I found very it was very interesting is you had 13 years that as a clinical professor at UF Health. And I read the description that you had the responsibility for training medical residents and family medicine and maintaining the clinical practice. So, when I think of a psychologist, I usually don’t think of training medical residents. So, tell me a little bit more about your experience there and how you found the opportunity.
Oh yeah. No, no. Psychology plays a critical role in all in all aspects of the healthcare delivery, including training, the healthcare deliverers themselves. And so yeah, I had an appointment for over a decade in the Department of Community Health and Family Medicine. They’re training family physicians. They’ve got their three-year residencies, they’re out of graduate, they’re out of their Med school, and they’re now doing their residency training and, you know, and of course they don’t receive a great deal of, you know, psychological training. So, you know, their training is primarily medical. So. My goal and role was to bring them into me do conjoint therapy the physician me and the patients. And to try to expand their skill set to include the relational elements and the psychological elements in very challenging circumstances. Because don’t forget the average physician at GP, a general family practitioner only has 9 minutes to work with a client, right? So, and in that 9 minutes they gotta they gotta create some kind of rapport they’ve got to. Determine what the presenting problem is. They have to do a diagnosis. They have to come up with some kind of a treatment plan. They have to script, and they have to inform the person about the scripts and the side effects. Well, that’s a tough that’s a tough challenge. On the other hand, what I found is when I bring the docs in to work with me, they were stunned by having access to a full human for 55 minutes like they did not. They never had the luxury for the deep dive relationally and emotionally that you have in psychotherapy, so they actually were completely unprepared for, you know, they were accustomed to just like listening to what’s happening more at a technician level but not at the level of, you know, emotional and oftentimes traumatic experience. So, it was a real eye opener. It was eye opener for me to realize how incredibly broad their knowledge must be. But how thin the veneer of knowledge actually is because they have to cover so much territory, they have to be able to set bones and diagnose, you know, ADHD. So, it’s really a challenge. So it showed me the value of working conjointly psychology and physicians medicine hand in hand because each could catch what the other didn’t, so very rewarding experience and the context in which I worked at family practice, practice, medical Training Center was really I called it the psychological mass unit because it was almost exclusively underserved, primarily African American and Hispanic, Latino, Latina populations that had no prior psychotherapy experience that were coming straight in off the street with every manner, every kind of panoply of pathology you could possibly envision. So, it was a fantastic training ground for the family physicians and a deeply rewarding experience from my perspective. But also, you know, really underscored the challenges of the healthcare system in which we work. Psychology has a critical role to play. In relation to medical medicine and the broader healthcare professions. Key role so very rewarding, very satisfying. And those opportunities are only going to be amplified across time.
I would anticipate that the. That would even extend further not only you know, psychology, you know, psychologists and general practitioners, but include psychotherapist as well. And so, being able to work together, wouldn’t it be ideal to have Brad Schumacher have all of these medical professionals? You know, work together to help me become a better person instead of just having one person do everything. And I have a kind of a question to put you on the spot here and hopefully you can answer it. I already know and everybody knows you only have a short period of time with your GP and so when you go in there is that 9 or 10 minutes dictated by the hospital or university system that you’re working under, or your boss or how is that described? Tell me a little bit more about that.
It’s dictated by two things. It’s dictated by the fact that the demand always exceeds the available resources. So, my docs would be running 6 rooms simultaneously, so they’d be walking. They’d be running between 6 rooms, seeing 6 patients and rounding with them, and somebody may take you 20 minutes and then somebody else 3 minutes. So. But the average is only about 9. That’s so part of it is a time that the demand just exceeds the capacity. The other is it’s financially driven. The truth of the matter is we’re we are one of the very few countries postindustrial first world countries that have a capitalistic system for healthcare. Most have a socialized medical system and that means people make money and time is money. So, there’s a tremendous press, you’ll see it in medicine in particular, where they’re increasingly relying on what they call extenders, which is the nurse practitioners and PA’s and other people. The idea is to preserve the physicians time for those unique things that only he or she can do and anything else that you can download, you download them to a social worker or a psychologist or a dietician or a nurse practitioner or PA, so the goal is the highest use of the land. Trying to keep people you know to do those things that they are uniquely and distinctively qualified to do and can be reimbursed for. So, you know, we have to be candid that the healthcare system is a financially driven system and your healthcare system. Your Healthcare is not independent of the of finances and you certainly know that if you’ve ever been in a context where you didn’t have where you were uninsured. And again, that kind of distinguishes us. There’s really only one other postindustrial nation, first world nation, that has a quasi-capitalistic healthcare system and we share that distinction with South Africa most other first world countries are socialized medicine of some one form or another. And of course, there are pluses and minuses. You know you look at the healthcare system and UK or Canada or whatever, it’s not as if they don’t have challenges. So, but you know, but we have to be aware that, you know, there is a huge value of working as you’re pointing out, Brad, in an integrated care context where you’re where you enjoy not just contact with your 9 minute per visit physician. That you have a healthcare team working for you and they’re each bringing their unique perspective and experience to bear, and so you may have whatever mitral valve prolapse and you’ve got a physician. You’ve got a pharmacologist. You’ve got a psychologist, you’ve got a social worker, you’ve got a dietitian, dietician, gastroenterologist. Wow. I mean, that panel is going to obviously serve you far more effectively than any one single provider, and that is the healthcare world to which we are in which we’re moving. So, I think that’s really encouraging and psychology has a key role in relation to that.
You’ve even seen that in some hospitals where they pair up and have multiple doctors look at a patient’s charts, you know, whatever, the diagnosis, and then they all work together to come back and then you have that one person that goes back and says, hey, I talked to Dr. so and so, so and so. And we talked about this. We’re all in agreement. That we should do this and so that makes the patient feel better too, because not only one pair of eyes, you have multiple pair of eyes on it.
Wow. No, that’s exactly right. In a single visit, you’re getting multiple, you know, second and third opinions. And when you work, when you get in, like in family practice, where I was working medical training facility, you know, all those cases get brought into the preceptor, they get brought into a back room and there’s a discussion about them with the physicians and the psychologists and the social workers and the pharmacologists and you come to a collective treatment plan. So, you really benefit from that integrated care. You don’t necessarily have access to seeing it, it’s beneath the water line. But there is that consultation that’s occurring on a regular basis, which I think dramatically enhances self-care.
Yes, definitely. One other aspect of your career that I wanted to bring up was for 20 years you were a consultant at the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, which is a comprehensive medium security forensics treatment facility for general psychiatric and mentally disordered sex offender populations. And the reason I’m bringing this up, for those who are interested in or presented with the opportunity to work in a similar facility, what were some of the biggest challenges you experienced and had to overcome while working at the center?
Well, that, that. That was tough and it had two primary populations, as you pointed out, Brad, one is not guilty by reason of insanity. That was one set of group of people. And then the other was mentally disordered sex offenders. And let me tell you, you could. It was we called it sort of the college campus of mental disorders in some ways because it was a medium secure facility. But it looked a little bit like a college campus. You could walk down the corridors and you could point out even without tremendous, you know, training and psychiatric acumen. You could distinguish the not guilty by reason of insanity from the mentally disordered sex offender like with 90% certainty you got, you know, sexual predator, sexual predator, sexual predator. Not guilty by reason of insanity, psychotic, sexual predator. And that and the big distinction is the psychotic people were evidently, well, first of all, they were more heavily medicated, and they were evidently and floridly psychotic. The mentally disordered sex offender people were exactly like you and me. Exactly like you and me. So, it was chilling to see that the, the, the face of complete normality that confronts you but beneath that some, you know, considerable perversity because, you know, you’re looking at people who are incarcerated at that level. There’s it’s, it’s the small percentage of the major offenders. Often repeat offenders. So, I mean the challenges are challenges of institutionalization, and particularly recidivism. The not guilty by reason of insanity, particularly challenging because the treatment is almost exclusively pharmacological. And they’re doing their time and then they’re going out and the critical thing, which is extremely challenging from anybody’s standpoint who works in hospitalization, inpatient facilities. These are by definition, obviously incarcerated inpatient is the aftercare. And you let these people out and there is no treatment plan that follows them and no services that follow them. So you know as badly as you would feel for them in the context of incarceration, you recognized how vulnerable they and other people would be when they would be released as the chance of them coming back in was extremely high, so that it is frustrating to be in a context where you see it’s going to be a revolving door. And the, you know the, this sexual predator piece was even more frustrating in some ways, except there you could make with a substantial percentage of people they actually didn’t want to reoffend. They wanted, and they felt ashamed, and they felt guilty, and they felt bad. So you did have the opportunity to sort of find purchase into their psychology and work with them to minimize the likelihood of re-offense, so that piece was, you know, was rewarding and satisfying. But inpatient facilities in general, you know, they, they, they have the challenges of recidivism and lack of adequate aftercare programming and an over reliance on psychopharmacology. So those are frustrating features of working in that context but the, but the populations are so severe. The problems are so severe that even if you make incremental gains, those are doubly reinforcing because otherwise you know you’re dealing with severe pathology that can have severe consequences not only for the individual but for the broader populace in which they live.
Thank you for that summary. As I mentioned in the introduction, you are a fellow of the American Psychological Association, and you received its award for outstanding contributions to career and personality research. The other thing that I dug up that was very interesting for me was you were also invited by the American Psychiatric Association to serve as one of only two psychologists originally trained on the DSM 5 and you have subsequently provided hundreds of professional trainings on the DSM and ICD both nationally and internationally. So, tell us about this opportunity and that privilege.
Well, I and it was a privilege, and you know, of course, you know, he came to me because I direct the office of Continuing Education and Psychology at APA. And so, I call it the Noah’s Ark training model. You know, they brought two of every species into at San Francisco in 2013. Two, two marriage and family, two social worker, two LPC’s, 2 LMHC’s, you know, two of everything and then a sea of psychiatrists, of course. And you know the task force chair and vice chair up for Regier and all the whole cast of characters from the DSM, were there doing the training. So it really was an opportunity to sort of see behind the curtain and be able to interact with the people behind the development of the DSM 5 and now of course, what’s become the DSM 5 TR or text revision. So it’s a huge, huge opportunity and huge privilege, but it also, you know, opens your eye to just how, you know it, it is a document that is constructed by people and some people regard it as voted on mental illnesses and you can see there are social and political processes that inform the development and reification of psychiatric diagnosis. So. So it’s one of those things that cut in two directions. I feel very privileged to be part of that and it is true that it spawned my unwittingly being thrust into the juggernaut of national international trainings, and DSM and DSM 5. DSM 5 and DSM 5 TR have been doing tremendous number of those throughout the United States, and also throughout much of Europe, and you know it, it it’s great to see, it’s great to do. It is chilling to realize that the period of time that it takes in any aspect of medicine, psychiatry is not exempt for that, to do what’s called market penetration, which is to take a new idea, newly approved drug, procedure, psychic diagnostic manual and get it to penetrate the whole market for everybody to be using it and have access to it, you know, is between 7 and 11 years. So, when I came out of that DSM training, I kind of thought, you know, I would do training for six months and get the psychology workforce trained up well. Five years later, I was still getting, you know, dozens of requests. So, it takes a long time. And that’s what’s happening now. At the DSM 5 TR, having just launched last year, people are still it’s still the early adopters are undergoing the training to learn the revisions between the previous manual and this one. But it is interesting to see the evolution of the document across time and its relationship to the ICD. And of course, it’s like law. It’s a living document. It will continue to evolve and hopefully improve with each iteration.
And I’m glad that you brought that up. I did dig this up off the Internet. This is in fact about a year ago you presented a live webinar via zoom on the difference between DSM 5 and DSM 5 TR as well. I’ll put this up once we go live as well. I assume like you said. You thought it was going to be 6-9 months training. It’s just going on and on because this is now the new book that people are going to be referring to and it’s probably exciting to train not only in the United States, but also, as you said in Europe and other places as well, because they view health care slightly different than we do. As we mentioned earlier in the podcast, some, you know, socialize socialized healthcare versus the United States and some other probably a couple other countries as well, so, any thoughts on how do you do you change your training depending on who the audience is? Tell me a little bit about that.
Well, you do, and you know, one of the things that happens is you realize that the, you know, any diagnostic manual is basically culturally encapsulated, right? It comes from a culture. It comes from a place in a time and a group of people. And psychiatry, which are the proprietors of the DSM, is its own fairly closed circle. I mean, it’s a relatively homogeneous, largely white, middle-aged, you know, North America and the United States Group of people. So, when you’re in Zimbabwe, it turns out that, you know, you never think you have an accent. You never think you have an accent Brad until you go to another country, I think I don’t have an accent until I go to the UK, and they say that I speak like I have mashed potatoes in my mouth. Well, the same is true here. You think your diagnostic manual doesn’t have any cultural contingencies until you go elsewhere and then the cultural differences are basically a mirror that reflects your cultural biases back on to you. So, it is really it really is interesting to see that that, that there are, you know, cultural entailments of the diagnostic manual. It’s not accidental, for example, then in the culture bound syndromes in the DSM. You know those quaint and Aboriginal idioms of distress in the Section 3, the non-officially improved part of the manual. It is interesting that there are no Western disorders. They’re all Eastern disorders. They’re all Malaysian or Latino, Latina. As if we don’t have an accent. Right. So that’s the clearest instance in which there’s a kind of cultural encapsulation or, you know, cultural bias. So. Yeah. No, it actually. But it actually, when you are trained internationally, it. It opens up corridors of communication around, you know, what are what? You know, what are you know, what are cultural differences and what, how do the cultural idioms of distress map on to the diagnostic categories within the DSM. And so, it actually is a. It provides an opportunity for a broader and deeper understanding of the way in which psychiatric distress or psychological disorder manifests according to the widely variable cultures in which you operate. I mean, in many Asian contexts, for example, a lot of stress and trauma gets represented somatically. Not psychologically, not emotionally, but somatically through back aches and somatic pain, and so for that reason, many of their treatments, like acupuncture and acupressure, wind up being somatic treatments. So, the whole thing about psychological, you know, aspects is almost foreign. When you’re really dealing with Chi and the physical manipulation of what’s regarded as sort of metaphysical energy within the body, so it is a, it is a kind of a cultural clash and presents its own challenges, but its own opportunities for integration. So, it’s actually tremendous fun to do international training in the DSM.
I’ve always said on my podcast with talking to people. Get out there and explore the world. If you just stay within the United States, you have blinders on and you, you have to take advantage anytime that you can travel outside the United States because it’s eye opening and it lets you know some of the benefits that we have here in the United States and some of the downsides as well. But it just opens up your mind to human nature and all the different cultures that are out there. So that’s my small little plug about travel abroad.
Well, and you know that’s true, because if you, I’ve never talked to a student, I’ve never had a student in my life and I’ve had thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of students. I’ve never had a student who didn’t tell me the single best course they ever took in college was their overseas study course. Because it helped them not only, I mean help them realize they had blinders before, they didn’t even know they had blinders. So, it helped them realize they had blinders and to expand their vision. So, it’s absolutely true you do yourself a tremendous favor by immersing yourself interculturally.
You serve as the associate executive director and director of the Office of Continuing Education and Psychology at the APA. You also had another one that was added. Let me see when I was doing my research and then it popped up last night when I looked at it again. You were also. Pro where is it? I’m buying some time here. Oh, here it is. Uh, you also with the Center for interprofessional training and education at the American Psychological Association. So, the reason I’m bringing that up is, can you talk to us a little bit more about the importance of and taking the opportunity to continue your education or CE’s, we talked about CEs. So, could you explain the importance of continuing education in psychology and how it benefits professionals in the field?
Sure. Absolutely. Think about it. It becomes really clear really quickly if you think about your master’s program takes 2 years, your doctoral program may take an additional four years. You’re going to be in practice an additional 35 years. The half-life of knowledge in psychology is between 5 and 7 years. If you’re practicing on the basis of something you learned 7-8-9-10 years ago, you are a troglodyte. If you’re doing psychopharmacology based on psychopharmacology for 1990 or 2000, that’s yesterday’s news. That’s ancient history. So continuing education is absolutely vital. It’s absolutely important just to keep apace because of just the planned that then you’ve got competing things. You’ve got the increasing exponential increase in the generation of new knowledge, and you’ve got the obsolescence of old knowledge. So, getting out of Graduate School is just an opportunity to redouble your learning in areas of that are of central interest to you. It’s one of the things that fuels the field of specialization where people, they, they begin to channelize, you know, they become interested in neuroscience or forensics or, you know, child or whatever it may be, eating disorders, because they know that the generation of knowledge increases so exponentially that you can’t circumnavigate new developments in any and all areas. So, you wind up ratcheting down on those areas of your specialty interest or practice and just try to keep it like trying to get a sip of water out of a fire hydrant drouth so the field of continued education is extremely exciting because you can never you can never catch up. I mean, you just it’s a fevered pace to keep a pace of the new knowledge that’s being generated and that’s within any field but don’t forget you also have the knowledge between fields and then the interaction among fields. So for example in my role at the American Psychological Association, now in directing the Office of Continuing Education in Psychology, we’re also an associate member of what’s called joint accreditation where it’s all the CE providers or creditors from medicine, nursing, pharmacy, social work, dieticians, optometry, psychology and all of them get together and do joint programming that’s really designed to provide an integrated care approach to continued education. So, it’s the tagline. Is, is service provision you know by the team for the team, so it’s not about any one profession, it’s about the collective. And it’s a gestalt. The idea is the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You get 3 professions together, you’ve got more than three times the expertise because you’ve got the interaction between and among those professions as well. So that opens up another whole corridor of continuing professional development.
Given the fact that we advanced so fast in the field, how do you stay up or how does one stay up to date with the latest research and advancements in the field of psychology?
Well, it it, it’s it’s no different than more than life, more broadly. The critical thing is you can’t amass all the knowledge. I mean it’s there’s just more than you can deal with. The demand exceeds capacity. So, and the and you see this particularly you know in the Internet world in which we live the critical thing becomes a curation of knowledge, not the digestion of everything. Anything but the careful and judicious selection of the most reputable and authoritative sources. So that you’re, you know that so that your 10 hours of CE per week or per month or whatever it is, is spent to maximum benefit and it’s not distributed amongst a bunch of, you know, junk sources because they are out there. I mean, the democratization of knowledge is a great thing on the one hand, like the democratization of journalism, but it has its risks, and that is you can be wind up consuming a lot of garbage. So, identifying trusted sources of information and spending the majority of your time digesting information from NIH, for example, getting NIH feeds, I think getting information from American psychosocial that’s extremely well vetted, you know, identifying the trusted sources within your specialty field and ratcheting down on those. And that’s in truth what? Most people do. They look at the. They look at the. They go to the you mentioned earlier. They go to the conferences that are most closely allied with their specialty interests. They joined the divisions of their professional associations that are most closely associated with their interests. They read the journals and their expertise. And so that’s you, you winnow down the that the ambient, you know, noise of data out there to those channels that retain the greatest fidelity to information and then you struggle to keep pace.
You can set up your Google alerts as well. You can look at the Monitor on Psychology and look at those magazines and updates as well. So, we could go on and on and spend hours talking about all the different things that you could do to stay up to date on it. But. Let me ask another question. In your roles at the APA, what are some of the most pressing issues or challenges that you see are in the field of psychology and how is the APA and other organizations addressing them?
Well, I think there are key there are. You know, key developments. Of course, this is a case where you’ve got, you know, psychology doesn’t need, doesn’t operate independently of the broader social political context in which it exists, right? So, the evolution of social consciousness itself requires changes and places demands on the field to keep a pace. So, a couple of things that I think are really are happening now. Obviously, the move toward DEI or EDI and equity diversity and inclusiveness, recognizing that one model doesn’t fit all people in all places at all times. And we’ve known that for in limited ways for a long time, it’s becoming increasingly clear over time to open up, widen the circle and be more inclusive in relation to our understandings, both of sources of information, as well as the application of the widely variable application of that information, treatment procedures or whatever across populations. So, EDI is a giant movement. I think the population health movement so that we’re not just treating one person at a time in kind of a tertiary way, but we’re trying to do population health, which is much more preventative, educational and preventative so that we’re making a broader impact in preventing the development of psychological disorder and distress rather than treating it again after it’s comes to you full blown and you know in a treatment context, those are two examples. But every single field has developments that are almost unfathomable. I mean that area of Neuro Psych, for example, is positively astonishing. What? You know what? What you can do today that you couldn’t have done even 5 or 10 years ago, and we haven’t even begun to talk about AI. I mean, it’s radically reconfiguring everything and, you know, even as we speak, we’re in the process of exploring the application of AI to to continuing education. How can we integrate it into our into our programs so that you know so that we have real time curation, digestion and dissemination of information in a way that we couldn’t do manually. But you can do almost instantly with artificial intelligence. So, the developments within the field of psychology are you know are, are, are. You know, just, I mean, they’re remarkable and the field is, I mean, even over the course, if you think about just the last five to ten years, the demands and the opportunities that have arisen in relation to psychology, just in relation to key watershed moments in the evolution of social consciousness, think about the Me Too movement didn’t exist a decade or 15 years ago. Think about COVID and the world having gone to online everything you know, you know, those are just, I think about the social and political challenges that we’ve had within the last 6-8 years. You know, those are all represent gigantic changes in our field and the field of psychology and psychiatry has to keep a pace not only with the generation of new knowledge within each profession, but also the articulation of that knowledge in relation to the evolution of social consciousness. So, it’s a rapidly developing again, like trying to get a sip of water out of a fire hydrant field, but that’s part of what makes it so incredibly exciting.
Well, you know, one thing that comes to mind while you were talking is since you’re so involved with the APA, are there any other upcoming events, conferences, or initiatives within the APA that in the field of psychology that students and professionals should keep an eye on?
Well, there are. There are always developments in the field of psychology and APA to keep an eye on. You know if you go to the APA website which is apa.org and you just type in continuing education, you know it’ll take you to our office where we’ve got, you know, scores of different offerings by within the next three weeks, we’ve got a Professional Development Training Institute on Social Justice and Advocacy, and another one on developing a cultural inclusiveness within private practice. We have webinar series about where we’ll do over 100 webinars per year in a wide variety of areas. Delighted to have people go on board take a look at what we are offering. Most of the programs are between one hour and 3 hours long. Very accessible, very engaging, highly interactive design to integrate the most the the most recent information from people who are both contributing to the scholarship in the field, as well as sort of premier practitioners in the area. So, we really try to showcase the latest and greatest of what’s happening in the field in order to keep people current and apace in relation to knowledge developments in the area of psychology. So that’s a great place to go, I think. APA, of course, does an annual conference each year in July or August. This last one just happened in Washington, DC, the next one will be, you know, not coming up until next summer, but that’s another great source of information. And that’s not just for the American Psych Association, that’s true for the American Psychiatric Association, National Association of Social Workers and other major fields. Every field, every specialty, every profession is struggling to keep apace with knowledge gains in its area, so there’s a lot of information out there. It’s designed to be extremely accessible and of course both online as well as onsite training is, you know, customary at this at this point, almost all training are in hybrid in some manner.
For sure, while you were talking, of course you can go to apa.org. I kind of highlighted while you were talking the Center for Learning and Career Development and then of course, the Office of Continuing Education in Psychology as well. And so, they’re they have some brochures and programs that are available in continuing education because we were talking about that earlier in the program. So, I’ll share all of these websites when we go live near the end of most well before I get to that. When you reflect on your career, so far, Dr. Niemeyer, what are some experiences that stand out the most for you?
Well, there are a lot of them and it, you know, ultimately what happens and people oftentimes you know say this sort of toward the end of their career, what do you remember most, and you know it ultimately comes down to people, right? So sometimes it’s specific cases. It’s specific individuals who’ve been extremely rewarding to work with and you can see them having turned their lives around. That’s extremely rewarding. Sometimes it’s people you mentor and I have a colleague I was a colleague now, but I actually had her as an undergraduate senior honors thesis student back when the Earth first cooled. She went on to get her doctoral degree with me. She moved from there on to academia. She’s been at two different universities, and then just earlier this year she joined me at the APA as the Director of the Continuing Education Sponsor Approval Office. So there is just a lovely example of where apprenticeship and mentoring pays rich rewards because the people you work with are going to pay forward the lessons that they’ve learned from you in relation to other people, which is precisely why I love doing this podcast for you with you, for example, because it’s a way of taking the experience and expertise that I’ve developed across time and paying it forward in relation to a field where hopefully it’ll pay dividends in relation to others and do for them what others have done for me earlier in my career. So. So I think you know, when I think about what’s been most rewarding, it really it really ultimately kind of boils down to the people that I’ve had the tremendous privilege to serve and to work with and that’s probably, it’s pretty common across the professions.
Yes, yes, it is. So, near the end of most of our podcast, we talked about some fun questions. And so, the first one I usually ask of my guest is tell us something unique about yourself.
Well, you know, every person is unique, so I suppose they we all have unique features. One thing that people probably don’t wouldn’t try to think of off the bat if they didn’t know it is that earlier in my life, I was, before it was a psychologist, I was a tableside flambé chef. And so that would certainly be a unique feature and I was in Winter Park, FL and we would do all the preparations for, you know, the tableside flambés, the flaming coffees, the Steak Dianes, the Baked Alaska, the Cherries Jubilee, Bananas Foster, all those things that I’ve learned to love. And it was really good because it was generative. It was a fantastic job but in addition to that, they took us, they took seriously providing us training in food and wine, so I was really able to learn the craft of food preparation and sort of a quasi-chef and definitely a gourmand, if not a gourmet. I learned to really appreciate food, so that may be a unique or distinctive feature of my experience people might not otherwise know about.
Well, it certainly is, and I guess the follow-up question is, are you continuing to do some of those things with your wife Edwina?
Well, absolutely. And in fact, she’s expecting that I’m going to make dinner for her tonight. And we were just discussing exactly what I’m going to do. And because she knows my background, she holds me to a higher standard. You know, I like. I can’t just put a I can’t. Just put a. Hamburger on the grill, you know. So, so absolutely.
Here this one might be a tough question for you because it’s hard to narrow this down. What is your favorite term, principle, or theory, and why?
Uh, well, I I’ll tell you, let me give you 2. One is 1 is pop, you know somewhat humorous, and one is not. You know what I always like the term polymorphous perverse, polymorphous perverse. You know, I just. It’s got a lovely alliterative sound to it. It it’s it. It’s dark. You know it’s quasi satanic. You know, it’s obviously a derivative of Freud’s sexual development field. So, polymorphism perversity is, is a term the other one that that is not so that that’s more serious is the is, you know, the fundamental attribution error. I’ve always remembered that that we attribute differentially situational and state like characteristics. If somebody performs poorly, you know on a test it’s because they’re stupid. If I perform poorly, it’s because you know the professor asked me bad questions. A terrible professor. So, you know. So that’s one of those timeless gems that the field of psychology is served up the fundamental attribution error.
I love it. I love it. Do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
I think the field of psychology is so vast. It’s so extensive. It’s so rapidly developing. You know, you step into the field and wherever you step into it, it’s going to carry you. It’s going to carry you in directions that you could hardly have imagined. You look back on where you thought you were going five years from now. It’s going to be entirely different from what you would envisioned and imagined. But if it’s an area that you have passion for, if it’s an area that you have an interest in, you’re going to find tremendous reward and tremendous satisfaction in relation to traveling in directions and distances that you could scarcely have imagined from the horizon of your current possibilities.
And if you integrate two dissimilar or somewhat similar, you can actually create your own niche in the field as well. And many, many people have done that.
Absolutely true. Yeah. No, I mean, in fact, the field is. This is a case study of precisely that fields that would have been separate fields and you see them all the time. You can even see it and go back 30 years. We used to have, you know, cognitive psychology and behavioral psychology. Then you have cognitive behavioral psychology, right? So, there are even some things that now seem really traditional, but they were actually separate fields that got merged. And there’s no magic to that. You can do that in relation to anything you can develop a specialty interest as you alluded to before and take your sports psych and take it over into IO industrial organizational context. So please don’t feel like you have to be victims of your own categories within the field. The field of psychology has suffered hardening of the categories. It does have identified specializations, but a lot of the most exciting work and truth. Is what’s happening betwixt and between those fields, which is why when it comes to getting good grant money anymore, they’re looking at translational science. They’re putting together research teams from different areas. They’re putting the AI together with the with the, with the neuro psych people. You know, they’re not looking for what anyone in the field can do. They’re looking for the synergistic effects of what multiple fields can do when they converge together in relation to their work. So, by all means, feel free to mix and match. That’s how you’re most likely to make a distinctive contribution.
And it used to be the case back in the day that academicians would work on their research, and it would stay within the academic field. Nowadays and even more so nowadays I would imagine that you need to show that you can apply it in real life, not only just in the in the small little academic world. You have to be able to apply it in real life and show that it benefits other people outside of the academic world as well.
Yeah, I think that’s true. And I think that’s particularly true in the health professions, whether they’re looking, looking for the translational piece. How does this how you know, they’re not looking to just outcome, they’re looking at impact. What impact does it make? How does it translate into what somebody does differently and the impact that that makes on the outcomes that you’re targeting. So, I think that is absolutely true the day of course, there is still substantial basic research that isn’t designed, it’s designed to advance knowledge in a very fundamental way. But the translational science has far greater emphasis on it today than it would have even 10 or 20 years ago.
Another final fun question. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
Well, that’s a really good one. I think what I would do is I would I would retire and I would, I would take up, I would invest all of my time and money into developing my pickleball skills. That’s what I would do. I I, I I would target a 5-0 ranking in pickleball and that would be that would be my objective. That that would be my objective.
That’s a fun objective, definitely. Dr. Niemeyer, is there anything else that you would like to discuss or bring up on this podcast?
I think we’ve covered a vast amount of territory and terrain. I anybody who’s in this field, anybody who’s interested in the field, I strongly encourage you, you know, taking seriously your interest and your passions and exploring them. The field offers a tremendous wealth of opportunities and I think an investment in the field is an investment in yourself and I think is going to offer a tremendous range of native rewards. So best wishes to everybody who has an interest in and indulges that interest in the field of psychology.
Greg, thanks again for sharing your journey and your advice with us.