Imagine growing up in Southern California in the 1960’s, attending high school at University High (which was affiliated with a Catholic college, University of San Diego) and attending college at Loyola University (now called Loyola Marymount University). You, like many others, were undoubtedly influenced by the hippie counterculture of the time as it most likely impacted your personal, academic, and professional life. In this podcast, Dr. Steven C. Hayes shares when and why he took an interest in psychology then takes us on a journey exploring and discussing some of the significant events, experiences, and people who have influenced his illustrious career in the field of psychology.
Dr. Hayes decided to be a psychologist while he was still in high school because it combined art and science and he loved both. He states, “I think I was interested in psychology in part because of the suffering I saw around me” and “I wanted to do something that would, you know, make a difference going forward.” He explains that he wanted to take what is deeply important about art, literature, and human complexity into “evidence-based approaches so that…we do a better job of empowering people to live the kind of lives they want to live.”
His drive and ambition are almost palpable during our discussion and has certainly contributed to his success. Dr. Hayes is a Nevada Foundation Professor of Psychology in the Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada. An author of 47 books and over 675 scientific articles, he is especially known for his work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) which is a popular evidence-based form of psychotherapy that uses mindfulness, acceptance, and values-based methods and has been shown to be helpful in a wide range of areas. His newest book, “Learning Process-Based Therapy: A Skills Training Manual for Targeting the Core Processes of Psychological Change in Clinical Practice” came out in December 2021.
An expert on the importance of acceptance, mindfulness, and values, he is ranked among the most cited psychologists in the world. In fact, as of this writing, Google Scholar data ranks Dr. Hayes among the 935 highest impact living scholars worldwide in all areas of study and Research.com lists him as the 63rd highest impact psychologist in the world. When I reminded him of these rankings and showed him where he was ranked on Research.com, Dr. Hayes shared that he and his mentor, Dr. David H. Barlow, had a good laugh as Dr. Barlow told him “you’ve been chasing me for 30 years and you finally caught up” (Dr. Barlow is ranked 65).
Dr. Hayes is very proactive in sharing his research, information, and findings with the public. His TEDx talks and YouTube presentations have exceeded over 1 million views. He also shares relevant information and findings through his blog, Psychology Today, Medium, Thrive Global websites, and through the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) which is one of the three scientific societies that he formed or helped form (the other two are Association for Psychological Science [APS] and the Association for Applied and Preventative Psychology [which hit about 2000 member but eventually folded]).
Throughout our discussion, Dr. Hayes offers realistic and impactful advice to those interested in entering the field of psychology. For example, for students wondering if they should apply to a master’s program or a PhD program, he states “my thought is always have a fall back with the master’s programs and a range of them if you’re applying at the PhD level.” For those who are not sure of which branch or field of psychology to follow, he suggests “follow your heart because what’s going to keep you going at 2:00 in the morning when you know when the chips are down is what brings passion into your life, so your ideas are really, really important.” He later adds, “when push comes to shove, what’s going to be important is what brings passion to your life and so take the time to really explore of when does your heart rate pick up?”
Near the end of the podcast, Dr. Hayes provides a glimpse into what excites him now in the field of psychology and his plans for the future. He mentioned new concepts, new statistical methods, and his new approach to psychology. He also shares what he learned from one of his mentors, Ed Koupal, when it comes to change and making an impact. This is done through groups. Groups matter and the group and community have to care in order to make change. He states “So, I’ve really been interested in creating community around this effort of processes that we can use and deploy and put into people’s lives around the world. And that’s what gets me up in the morning, and it allows me to say a happy ‘yes’ when you say, ‘would you spend an hour talking to people who are considering being a psychologist?’ I say ‘yes,’ not just ‘yes,’ but ‘hell yes, of course, I’ll spend that hour.’”
Dr. Hayes is very passionate about the field of psychology and furthering research within the field almost as much as he is about increasing interest the field and applying research to the real world. At the end of our podcast discussion, he states, “If I can share that the ACBS has a motto and here’s our motto, it’s not a declaration of achievement, it’s ‘creating a behavioral science, more worthy of the challenge of the human condition.’ And so, I would just leave it as my parting thought that you’re off into an area where there’s so much to learn that your heart, your head, your hands can make a powerful difference that could be felt around the world even. And there’s not many fields where you can say that. And so come on, the water is fine. Jump on in.”
Interests and Specializations
Dr. Steven C. Hayes is the developer of Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and has guided its extension to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). He is interested in fostering the development of contextual behavioral science. Some of his specific interests include the integration of behavioral and biological science, development of new measures and assessments of experiential avoidance, values, and cognitive fusion as well as the creation of a new model of evidence-based intervention called Process-Based Therapy.
Bachelor of Arts (BA), Cum Laude, Psychology (1970); Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA.
Master of Arts (MA), Clinical Psychology (1974); West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Clinical Psychology (1977); West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV.
Other Sources and Links of Interest
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. Steven C. Hayes to the show. Dr. Hayes is a Nevada Foundation Professor of Psychology in the Behavior Analysis program at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is an author of 47 books including “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life” which was the best-selling self-help book in the US for a time and his new book, “Learning Process-Based Therapy.” Dr. Hayes is especially known for his work on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT. Google Scholar data ranks him among the top 935 highest impact living scholars worldwide in all areas of study and Research.com lists him as the 63rd highest impact psychologist in the world. Today, we will learn more about his academic and professional journey, more about ACT, and what he did as a freshman in college to make the entire cafeteria crowd at Loyola University stand up and clap. Dr. Hayes, welcome to our podcast.
I’m really happy to be here. Looking forward to our conversation Brad.
Well, I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. I read somewhere that you decided to become a psychologist in high school because it combined art and science and you love both. Can you tell me a little bit more about this and was there anything in particular that sparked your interest in psychology?
Well, I think I was interested in psychology in part because of the suffering I saw around me. I think many people get involved with psychology either because they sense it within themselves or in their family or others, they see that you know that there’s a need for this knowledge, but the reason why that sort of art science side is that I was really interested in in literature and, and stories and things of that kind of I edited a literary magazine in college actually, even after becoming a psych major. But I also thought, you know, is you know Shakespeare less of a playwright than a modern playwright? Well, no, yeah, I couldn’t really see much progressivity, I could see the importance of it. But I couldn’t really see the progressivity of art and literature, and I wanted to do something that would, you know, make a difference going forward. And to me, science looked like it was the most progressive thing that we know how to do as a human invention. Uh, and that so being able to sort of put those two together, I’ve sort of made little promise that I was going to be the one, a person who could figure out to take what’s deeply important about art and literature, and human complexity seen that way and bring it into evidence-based approaches so that, you know, we do a better job of empowering people to live the kind of lives that they want to live.
Well, one of the things that I enjoyed doing the research about you is that you are not afraid, you’re actually very proactive in sharing your research and your findings and the information with the public, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that later. What I usually do on the podcast is kind of chronologically go through your undergrad, grad, why you chose certain universities. So, tell me a little bit more about your undergraduate studies at Loyola. Back then it was Loyola University. Now it’s Loyola Marymount University, tell me a little bit more about that.
Yeah, it became LMU while I was there actually.
Yeah, ’cause it was an all-males school. And Mounts Saint Mary’s came, they came, they came over on my junior year. Well, I’m a, you know, my brother had gone there so I was kind of oriented towards it and I thought a small school would be a little better for me than a big state school. And to be honest also my mother was pretty religious at the time, and she really wanted me to go to a Catholic school. It’s a Jesuit school and a good quality one, and so I said, OK, I’ll do that, and I was able to get the scholarship, but we wouldn’t have been able to afford it as a family without that. But I was able to, to get that and uhm, it’s, it turned out to be a part of my life journey that was really helpful because I met some really good teachers early on who, you know, still lived with me in terms of things they taught me.
Well, one interesting fact that and I want to confirm this, I shouldn’t call it a fact, but based on some of the information that I read about you. Is it true that you used to have 12-inch-long hair as a freshman and then you cut it off in order to enter the Air Force ROTC?
Yeah, it was so to the my, halfway down my back. I mean, I was an early hippie guy, and this is happening just when that was all happening, but early enough that I was the only one on campus who looked like that as a freshman. Not by, by the time I’m leaving, you know, the whole campus looks like a whole bunch of hippies invaded. But it was a little disorienting to some of, I mean, let’s be honest, Loyola Marymount had a kind of conservative quality there. And especially some of the professors. I mean the professor, head in my department, had been in Eastern Europe and escaped when the Russians took over his country, and so forth, and he really thought, you know the world was collapsing. To see all these long hairs suddenly show up in the USA and so, uh, yeah, I, uh, I was the odd one for sure early on.
Well, as I mentioned in my intro, you were the only person and you already mentioned in an all-male campus with long hair at the time. So, when you cut it off, you actually did so and the entire cafeteria crowd stood up and clapped, and so that’s what I was kind of alluding to in the intro, it’s kind of…
Yeah, I laughed when you were telling that story.
…a fun little story.
I’m gonna have it seared in my brain when I, ’cause we, we ate in a in a large cafeteria and the if you lived in the dorms, as I did. And who knew they were tracking, you know, this freshman there. The reason I was doing it is I was trying to avoid being sent to the Vietnam as, you know, in the army or something I could get into the Air Force ROTC and the point I was, uh, you know, I didn’t really want to do it and I was an anti-war guy of course and, you know, as many of my generation were. But you know, they’ll, I didn’t want to move to Canada, you know, so I’m trying to figure out a way and the lottery had me, you know, really frightened, you know, because you just rolled the dice and that would just say or you headed into Nam or not. And I had friends who were already had died and so, uh, I tried to make it happen and to do that I had to cut my hair and get those polished black shoes and that lasted a week. I mean me marching up and down, you know, I, I said I can’t do it, I just can’t do it. So, but yeah, when I cut my hair and walked into the cafeteria, the entire cafeteria stood up and clapped. I didn’t even know they knew I was there, but they did know and they…
…were a little upset about it. As I say that, that culture changed really, really fast and I wasn’t the only long hair just within months or years of that time, but kind of an odd moment.
It’s a fun story to share and, and you already mentioned you lasted one week, and you decided no, this isn’t for me. You had the nice black Polish shoes and then the other thing that I, I think you mentioned in in one of your documents is by the time you graduated, and I think you alluded to it already, you were senior. There were hundreds of long-haired hippies, so you had regrown your hair back.
Honest, honest they were sitting on the lawn smoking weed. I mean come on. It was so different, but. So, it you know that it’s. It did have a cost, uh, you know, I, I because of that reputation, it took me a long time to get into Graduate School and, uh, that, really, uh, story came out later on, but at first, I, I just couldn’t understand it ’cause I had excellent grades, excellent test scores I, I couldn’t become a graduate student. Nobody would take me.
And I, we’re going to talk about that in one second, but I have one question before we, we transition to that. At what point did you know that you wanted to get your graduate degree in psychology then?
Well, I went into a college knowing I wanted to be a psychologist. I made the decision in high school because of this art and literature, and I said what is the way one, what does it feel that you can do both? Psychology occurred to me, and, at the time, I was reading people like Abraham Maslow peak experiences things of that kind. I was fascinated with that. And boy was that a wise decision. I mean you can combine almost anything inside psychology. Anything. You know, you’re interested in music? There’s a psychology music. You’re interested in religion? There’s a psychology religion. I mean, ’cause all psychology is, is looking at human behavior and emotion, thought and the rest and so you’re interested in physics, yeah? Well, this is the psychology of science and there’s a psychology of being a good physicist. You can study physicists to understand who are the ones, you’re doing it right now. How did people become, you know, known psychologists and so forth. You’re exploring that in part because we could book psychologists to do that. So, there isn’t any area of human endeavor that you can name, so it was a wise decision and, uhm, and I knew I had to get a graduate degree in order to really do that to the nines. So, I was a junior in high school, I said I was going to get a PhD in psychology.
And I never wavered, never wavered, not even a moment.
Well, that’s I, I. There might be a handful of other people out there, or a certain percentage, but back in high school I had an idea. I narrowed it down to maybe 2-3 different things, but I didn’t know, yeah, this is the route I’m going, so you already mentioned a couple minutes ago that it, it kind of, there was a positive aspect and a negative aspect of your, your hair and, and the generation that you were involved in. I read that it took you almost three years for you to get into Graduate School. You had nearly 40 rejections, and you eventually found out that the chair of psychology at Loyola had included in your letter, his letter about you, that he thought you were a drug addict. How did you find this out and how did you react?
Well, boy, that was a, a fluke that I did find out and it’s good that I did. It has given me heart for people who struggled to get into Graduate School, and I can almost always top their stories no matter how many times they’ve tried because not many people are rejected by 40 schools over three years. No, but the good Father Ciklic saw this long-haired hippie person and thought that the end had arrived. You know Western civilization was collapsing and surely, I must be a drug addict. You know, in fact yes. Did I explore some things that are now illegal? Yes, I did. But come on, it was it was unfair to me, but I understand it. I’ve heart for why did that? I wish he had told me I went to. Can you write a letter? Yes, I didn’t remember to ask the next question. Can you write me a good letter? Do ask that of your letter writers. Make sure. But because it was such an anomaly with my test scores and everybody rejecting me. Finally, a friend of my brothers knew a faculty member at the university at, at Stony Brook University in New York at, at Stony Brook, now called, I think, Stony Brook University. Very, very prestigious, nice campus. And the guy’s name was Les Fehmi. I never met him, but he turned out later to be a mindfulness researcher and he was working in my area and I wrote him a letter of thank you that he had basically saved my life ’cause he went in and looked at my record and he should not have done this, it was a break of the system, the system to do it but he gave me of this the little thing you’ve got a bad letter which was passed back to my friend and my brother to me. And he said, you know, the chair of your department has said that you are a drug addict. So, I removed that letter and then suddenly I was accepted in all these different places. I had spent one year in a master’s program at San Diego State that, at the time, admitted everybody with a GRE above a particular level and a GPA above 3.0, and they would, I remember the first day I went to San Diego State it was about 300 people sitting in a huge room and the person would get up and say as of next semester 90% of you will be gone. They just gave you horrifically hard classes and they flunked out 90% of the people and then that would be their master’s class.
They’re not still doing it that way anymore in San Diego State so, it’s a pretty good place, actually. But yeah, I eventually then got in a number of schools. I have looked at how many schools later on offered me jobs that I turned down those who had turned me down as a student and it’s more than a handful. So, uh, you know, life unfolded in an interesting way. But, you know, of course they were not going to admit somebody that the chair says, you know, the person is a drug addict. I’m not going to do that. So, I understand it, but I was able to repair it. And uhm, I got admitted to West Virginia University and that turned out to be another kind of very positive step forward.
It’s interesting that later in your career, you actually did turn down, as you mentioned, faculty job offers from some of the very same schools that refused to admit you as a student, then yeah, so you’ve already mentioned you’re, you’re actually leading into my next question here. For some reason, you decided to travel all the way from LA to Morgantown, WV to attend WVU. So, there are a few schools and I’m going to share my screen here for one second here, let’s go here. And I’ll share my screen and so for those of you watching and following, West Virginia has some psychology programs. Uh, master’s level and doctorate and, back in the day when you went, it was probably about the same. Probably a handful of institutions or universities. So, tell me you know why did you decide on WVU and then secondly, why did you decide or how did you decide on clinical psychology? I know that you wanted to become a psychologist and that’s probably your, your answer as well. To become a psychologist practicing psychologists, you need that clinical psychology.
Uh, the last part not quite but let me tell that story. I mean I came into psychology ’cause Abraham Maslow, but I really wanted this tight science to be progressive et cetera and one of the early, early behavior therapists again, Irv Kessler was one of my professors, the first journal ever published in Behavior Therapy is published in 1966, Behavior Research and Therapy. Well, I’m going to Loyola Marymount right about that same time, and Irv actually had me sit in and watch his therapy. I mean, it was the kind of school Loyola was, and so as a freshman, I’m literally sitting in there watching a session of desensitization early, early behavior therapy. And so, Irv had me reading some behavioral kinds of things and then somewhere in there he suggested that I read Walden Two, which was BF Skinner, the, the person who’s kind of the father of behavior analysis and the wing of behavioral psychology, his utopian novel. Well, as a commune loving hippy dippy person who’s thinking about Maslow and peak experiences but wanting to? I said, man, this is cool. You can go from rats and pigeons to how you could organize the world maybe, you know, and I didn’t take it to be, Skinner said this is the answer. It’s just like this is the challenge we have to meet and that was my challenge. You know to go all the way up to things that people are writing novels about, but from that tight way, so I gravitated towards behavior therapy and behavior analysis, behavior modification as it was called then, and so forth. And West Virginia was one of the early adopters that had a whole clinical program that was moving in that direction. Plus, they had a basic behavior analysis program, their experimental psychology program was in that direction. I had not yet decided that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but the behavioral stuff interested me, so I actually constructed, with my own hands, an animal lab at, at Loyola Marymount, ran animal studies, you know, went in there every day, fed the rats was bitten multiple times. I mean, it’s just created the equipment. Some, one of those, two of those public, uh, article those studies actually published later on and, and so when I went to West Virginia University although I was not full in, I remember writing a letter of is, is it exclusively behavioral ’cause that had scared me a little bit. I didn’t want to be narrowed, but I did want some of these cutting-edge new ideas and behavioral psychology of that now. Look, people think of though, that’s the past, but at the time was the progressive cutting edge and so it turned out to be a brilliant, uh, move for me because I found in fact not just behavioral psychologists, both basic and applied. And I did run more animal studies. I worked with people who were very, very good basic psychologists, and I’ve continued that work in my own life. But professional life, but also people who are really interested in kind of a radical functional, contextualistic form of behavioral thinking, which is little known. But there’s Skinnerian scholars who treat Skinner way more like Maslow than they would like. Hauler Spence, you know, push, pull, click, click mechanistic psychology. Instead, this more kind of almost phenomenological approach to behavioral psychology. So that’s the way I was socialized and it’s still who I am today all these years later. Uhm, I’m actually in a behavior analysis program right now. I left clinical for reasons that we might get into, but I, I decided clinical was the best approach for me because I could do both. In, in clinical, when you sort of have that credential, you have that it’s a thing where yeah, you can run animal studies if you want, you can run basic studies if you want, you can do that, but you can also have a license, have a practice. And so, when I looked at the other alternatives there, you know counseling, industrial organizational, they all seemed like it was, they were a little more constrained and I wanted as maximum amount of freedom. And so that was why it wasn’t because I wanted to channel myself to just help people or just be a psychotherapist or anything like that. I just wanted to be a psychologist who could be anything. I’ve followed that same theme, from the very beginning in high school.
Well, I, I know that you had mentioned in one of your documents that from the very beginning you wanted to stay broad and I think you kind of alluded to that and your answer there you, you didn’t want to be pigeonholed and narrowed down. And before I move on to that, though, I, I should, I don’t want to forget to ask the question. Were you considering other schools other than WVU, and if so, you know, why did you eventually go to WVU?
I did, you know I, I looked at Stony Brook ’cause I had some behavior analysts there. I looked at some more traditional behavioral places, like Iowa, places like that. You know, Hull, Hull-Spence kind of influenced, but when it really got and I’ve got accepted in many, many, many I don’t know, maybe at least 12 doctoral programs because I was applying in large numbers ’cause I knew, you know, you can get 0 acceptances? And I wasn’t really confident that just changing that letter would really do it. Turned out it did. And so, there was something, the reason, to be honest, why West Virginia is that the people were singing “almost heaven, West Virginia” it was a popular song and it sounded really cool and my wife at the time thought it would be really cool to be a country girl in, in West Virginia and so. Uh, with my baby and the wife, we loaded up a trailer and drove across the country and went where West Virginia, but, uh. So, it was a little bit of a combination of John Denver song and, uh, and maybe that’s the hippie part of me still thinking that you know there’d be some sort of sweet kind of rural place. I mean, the hippies were I was back to the Lander even. I mean, I lived on a commune in the middle of nowhere, for a little while, so that appealed to that side of me too.
I think when you were living on a commune there, you were helping build a house for one of your friends. Is that right?
Yeah, yeah it later burned down, but I, I took those skills and I’ve been remodeling my house ever since. You know my alternative. We actually when I went to the third time when I applied, I said, OK, either I’m gonna be a carpenter, I’m going to be a politician, why? Because I was a full-time, uh, community activist working in an environmental organization with a labor organizer who really changed my, my life and might get into that story, but, who will show up later on. Or if I got admitted finally, I’m going to be a psychologist. Well, I’ve ended up being all three of those things. I’ve been a politician ’cause within psychology organizing, you know big organizations and so forth. And I remodel my home constantly and I’ve literally had. My house down to studs in every single room and crazy things like that and I, some people think I’m a pretty good psychologist, so those three options continue to be my options.
Well, it seems like you’ve succeeded in all three of them, and, and living the nice life there. I, I should ask this question. You went to WVU and I think you applied directly to their PhD program.
A lot of our audience members asked well, how do I know whether or not I should just apply to a master’s program and if I like it continue or should I just go ahead and apply to a PhD program at the very beginning? Any thoughts on or advice on, on telling some of those students?
My thought is always have a fall back with the master’s programs and a range of them if you’re applying at the PhD level. I didn’t do that, that’s why I had no option. Finally, then I did that. That’s why I went to San Diego State for a year. It was the only one who accepted me because they had this automatic acceptance, and I knew I’d be accepted and then they would try to flunk me out. And then finally the third year, the doctoral programs, uh, kind of showed up. So have a fall back. I actually ended up in that fall back. Uh, if you’re gonna do that, though, it actually, if you have the option of, you think you really want a doctoral level training, have some good doctoral level programs that you apply to. Why? Because you’ll spend less time if you go through that way directly to PhD. While master’s training is helpful, and I’ve had it one year of a master’s program myself, not all of those courses will transfer. And so, you will spend more total time in your training, probably unnecessarily and so, uhm, I, I thought it might as well give it a shot to go to the PhD level. And I was able to do that. West Virginia, actually, very soon after, had a, uh, a professional masters, as one of the 1st and earliest, and now that’s grown. But at the time, that was very unusual, and it’s because of their forward, forward-looking, I think, kind of behaviorally driven idea that there’s not enough PhDs in the world to meet the level of care so you have to have PhDs developing knowledge, master’s level and sometimes even less than master’s level, depending on what you’re doing, being able to apply that knowledge in various ways and now with apps and websites and so forth, there’s lots of ways of applying that isn’t necessarily even the behavior of a masters level person. Maybe somebody’s designing and disseminating, but, uh, so yeah, I ended up in the PhD program was happily so.
The other thing that I’d add, and I’d ask for your thoughts on this as well, throughout all of my experience and then meeting with all of these guests on the podcast, I get the sense that there tends to be more money available if you apply to the PhD program versus a master’s program as well.
For sure that’s true, and there’s also you know in if you if you’re getting over into the PsyD world and the professional schools and so forth, you’re going to carry a lot of student debt. You know that can, you know, make your life hard for a pretty long time. And so, it depends on what your interests are though, I mean you should get to a program that really lifts you up and carries you forward, that’s most important. But if you are going to be able to get a fellowship and a scholarship and the support and so forth that’s most likely in the doctoral programs and most likely in those that are in, uh, more major universities and so on. A little harder to get in.
Yep, what were some of the fondest memories looking back when you were, attended graduate schools, any fond memories that you can remember.
Oh golly, it was so many and what I especially appreciated was the sense of community and you know, we in that program because it was cutting edge and, and knew we had a feeling we were doing something that would really change the world and the, the, the faculty there had a very unusual perspective. You know. Like I learned how to do systems analysis, PERT charting, things that now you can do with the help of your software pretty easily. At the time it was way cutting edge thinking of how to organize entire big projects with the you know, hundred different things you have to track and how did you do that? They allowed me to do research as a clinical psychology person on environmental problems. My dissertation was on how to get people to reduce electricity use, uh, in, by getting feedback monthly, what shows up in your bill now when you get a bill it says how you’re doing now compared to last year or last month, the first person ever to study that. That was my dissertation. And I had a role of getting the public utility commissions, there was another dissertation 2 came out at that same time and it spread across the US of A, nobody tracks it to me. They don’t say that’s why you get it in your bill, but I had a role in getting that in your bill. But my point, just being that if you can find a program you know that really allows you to be part of something and that frees you up to be who you are, that’s a wonderful place to be, and we would, you know, have meetings regularly to consider really geeky philosophical issues inside behavioral thinking. We would you know, the environmental stuff that I was onto, there was a number of people who were interested in it and, and would be, helped me out on that and so look for a place where you can, based on my experience, that you could ally with others and be part of a larger community that has some shared vision.
One thing that most of our audience usually ask is, you know what kind of advice would you have for those seeking a graduate degree in psychology? And they don’t necessarily know which field they’re going to enter, but any general advice for those who are just considering entering the field of psychology.
Well, follow your heart because what’s going to keep you going at 2:00 in the morning when you know when the chips are down is what brings passion into your life, so your ideas are really, really important. Yeah, you’re going to be shaped. Your ideas are probably wrong in form like you don’t know how to do good research as a beginner, you just don’t. You don’t know how to do the, you know methodological, statistical, theoretical things that you’ll learn, the technical things you’ll learn. You may be a good listener, and people say you should be a psychologist. That doesn’t mean, you know, how to be a clinical psychologist. You wouldn’t want that if that’s where you already have that knowledge, and then all you’re getting is a union card, and nobody really wants to go through a sham process. But when push comes to shove, what’s going to be important is what brings passion to your life and so take the time to really explore of when does your heart rate pick up? When does that sense of interest or vitality that’s intrinsic show up? And use it to be a guide. The other thing is, is that it’s a social enterprise to be trained and a social enterprise to do work that matters and so make sure the human beings that you’re going to be with are the kind of human beings that you want to spend several years with. Don’t just pick it on the basis of reputation. Try to go there if you can, and interview if you’re allowed to, talk to the students and secretaries, don’t just talk to the muckety muck professors. Turn the rocks over, and if you get a sense that there’s something wrong, something hidden, there’s a sense of secrecy or, or is there something, then don’t go there. Don’t go there. I mean, even if it’s, you know, the prestigious place. If, if the, if the vibes are wrong, it’s the wrong choice for you.
Very good advice. I’m sharing my screen again and I wanted to highlight a couple things for people out there who wanted to find out more about Dr. Hayes here. Tons of information out there as you can tell. I did a lot of research on you in preparation for this, but I loved your website here. Your about page and then your career page. I loved how you actually chronologically set it up, because that’s how I run my podcast interviews as well. So, I got a lot of information going through all of this, some good stories, some good you, you traced basically your influences your major influences throughout your career as well. So, here’s another website. We’ll include this on, on the podcast as well, and then you had a nice research lineage or academic lineage page here as well. So, now you’re currently at the University of Nevada, Reno. I like this page here as well. Gives a good summary. Before I talk about the University of Nevada, Reno, do you recall what your first job was after graduating with your doctorate?
Yeah, I was a professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, and they were starting a clinical program just starting it and they wanted to have kind of a cutting edge, behavioral emphasis and Rosemary Nelson was the director of clinical training. Uh, still you know, a well-known, uh, cognitive behavior therapist. And so, I went there for 10 years. I left because they started fighting. I, I tell that story and how I develop a panic disorder and walked out of panic into act. You know, sitting in a full in, in a department meeting watching them fight as they say, in a way that only wild animals and full professors are capable of. And so, I and I came to the University of Nevada, Reno. So, I’ve been at 2 doctoral programs. And, and I, I came, uh in part, or left in part because that same sense of what I was saying. Find a social group where you can be uplifted and supported.
One thing that I should highlight for everybody is instead of, you know from this point on after you graduated. I, I read your Vita, I looked at all the jobs that you’ve held. Instead of highlighting all the jobs you’ve had since you received your PhD until now, I’d like to highlight just a few things. First, you are the, the developer of the Relational Frame Theory and have guided its extension to what you already mentioned, and I mentioned in the intro, to Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or ACT, which is one of the most widely used in research methods of psychological intervention over the last 20 years. Tell us a little bit more about ACT while I share my screen. And for those of you who are just listening, I’m sharing a screen of the different types of therapy and one of them is of course ACT therapy. So, while I’m bringing that up just high, high-level view of what ACT is?
Sure, this sort of nutshell version is ACT teaches people how to be more emotionally and cognitively open and flexible to stop running from your emotions or clinging to emotions, stop getting entangled in your thoughts when it’s not helpful, be able to think in a Broadway. Come into this present moment that you’re living in inside and out consciously from this more almost spiritual sense of self. The part of you that connects you in consciousness to others, and when you’ve done those things, that sort of allows you to have a, a more mindful space to do what’s really important, which is to focus on what are your deepest values? What are the things that you most care about, really, and how can you organize your life moments around them and build habits that are values directed and create a meaningful life. And so those you can think of those things I just said as six things: emotional openness, cognitive flexibility, attention to the now from this sense of self that isn’t just the part you can categorize and judge, but the part that’s noticing the person behind your eyes metaphorically, values and committed action. If you were to simplify that model, you could say learning how to be more open, aware, and actively engaged in life. Or if you just simplify it further, you would see how to how to be more psychologically flexible in life. And it turns out that’s what we call it, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or when it’s used in business industry, things like that the school’s acceptance and commitment training act in either case. And I’m proud to say we’re just about to exceed that when they when we do the next posting, we will be at around 1030 randomized controlled trials on ACT. Uh, even 20 years ago when I first declared the arrival of ACT after 20 years of development, that’s how long it took because I wanted things like, uh, basic analysis of cognition. I wanted things like what I saw in the animal lab back in the day now with human beings and I really worked hard to do that. But when I first really stepped forward and said that you know I had my first text on act, we had one randomized trial. We’re about to pass, now 20 years later, 1000 so. It’s, and not just in mental health areas. There’s about 40% of it in behavioral health dealing with cancer diagnosis, weight loss, things of that kind, and social justice, social wellness, prejudice, stigma, environmental interests, you know, looping all the way back to some of my earliest interests as a graduate student. So, I’ve been on a journey to try to get the smallest set of processes that do the most things in the most areas and I’ve, we’ve done a pretty good job over these now 40 years from the first Act workshop to today.
I’d say you’ve done a very, very good job. You’re an author of 47 books as I mentioned in over 675 scientific articles. Your newest book that I have on the screen right now, “Learning Process-Based Therapy: A Skills Training Manual for Targeting the Core Processes of Psychological Change in Clinical Practice” I believe came out in December 2021. Tell us a little bit more about this book.
Well, essentially PBT or Process-Based Approach. It’s really not a new form of therapy. It’s a new way of thinking about what evidence-based therapy is, says instead of focusing so much on syndromes and the way that we’ve done this with our traditional diagnostic system, we should focus on biopsychosocial processes of change. What is it that lifts up and moves people forward and then fit what we do to the particular individual needs of the person, the culture, or the family, the organization that we’re working with, and the, the process-based approach allows you to do that. And we’ve looked to see, you know, what are the functionally important pathways of change in all of these randomized trials, we just published a meta-analysis, and I can tell you that something like 55% of all the studies that have ever shown a successful pathway of change have done it through psychological flexibility and mindfulness. So, the, the little corner of the world that I was part of and now can claim more than half of everything we know if you get a little more flexible, it can easily go up into 60%-70% of everything we know about how change happens. And so, uh, a process-based approach says, let’s not worry about the name brand. You know ACT, DBT, CBT you know psychoanalytic, emotion-focused therapy, Gestalt therapy, let’s not worry about that. Let’s worry about who’s in front of us. What are they doing that’s inhibiting their progress? What could they do that would foster their progress? Progress towards what? Towards what they deeply want? And how can we deliver that? What’s the most effective and efficient way that we can deliver it. That, that’s the PBT approach, it’s kind of a meta that’s been in my whole life, now scaled and given a name, and I’m excited that the people who’ve come to it. I mean that book you mentioned is written by the person who was my arch enemy and strongest critic in the early days of ACT. Stefan Hofmann. A dedicated cognitive therapist. He still hasn’t done an ACT workshop. He’s not an ACT guy, but he’s my closest friend and closest colleague because it turns out in all of our arguments, we learned that what we really cared about, where processes have changed and how to put him in people’s lives. And once we got there, there was nothing to fight about. So, we’ve been working together and there’s a quite a large community of people who are coming together in CBT but not just that you know we’re getting interest of people you know like, uh, Peter Fonagy out of modern forms of psychoanalysis. Or, you know, like, uh, Les Greenberg or Sue Johnson after model out of modern forms of humanistic therapy. And that, I think, is our, would be an exciting thing that goes all the way back to my first inkling of what I wanted to do in my life as a high school student. Could we figure out a way of taking like a Maslow and bring them into a tight science approach? Could we find a way that would actually combine art and literature and the best of science? And if I could just share with you, this is a tight little thing. But if you want to see something really cool, just Google “here comes a thought” and you’ll get a song on Steven Universe that is an ACT song that 40 million people have looked at. So, you know why? Because it’s in a, it’s a wonderful song put in one of the most popular cartoons that are out there. That, there it is right there, and you read the lyrics, so you’ll realize it’s an ACT song. The wiki page for Steven Universe, the cartoon, they did it, uh, explained that it was based on “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life” my first popular book and they even have the cartoon hero in there where a bald wig. A little shout out to yours truly. So, this is happening all around me. I’m about to have a conversation tomorrow with a, you know, with a singer-songwriter who, whose, you know, won awards for singing and some who wants to write some ACT songs for children so, you know, I’m back to where I started. I’m back to where I started trying to put psychology knowledge over in art and literature and if I mention one more, get uh, Guy Ritchie’s movie Revolver and then watch the credits at the very end. And this old bald guy will show up. It’s a cute explanation because Guy and I are friends and he’s been trying to put some ACT ideas into his movies, so I found a way to sort of loop all the way back to where I started.
Well, it’s interesting. You say that I’m sharing the screen again YouTube videos you, your TEDx talks, and your YouTube presentations have exceeded over 1,000,000 views. What I like is that you, as I mentioned, are actively bringing and sharing your research and relevant information to the public through these talks, YouTube presentations, your blog, and Psychology Today, Medium, I’ll, I’ll point up here in a second or I’ll put up on the screen in a second and then Thrive Global websites. But one thing that I wanted to highlight is here’s one of your Ted talk, TEDx talks and then you have some others here that you can find out on the Internet as well. A good variety of Ted talks here, but now that you mentioned that, you brought up one thing that I didn’t uncover during my research about the lyrics and, and that cartoon that I brought up for you as well. So that’s got to be exciting. I mean, you, you, I could hear it in your voice saying it’s interesting now I’m coming back to what originally got me going here. So, it’s got to be exciting for you to see all these things happening.
No, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s been a wonderful journey and a wonderful ride, you know. And the reason I spend most time reaching out to the public as I believe that science really makes a difference when it lands in individuals and in people’s lives, and that we have a cultural responsibility, especially those of us who are privileged enough to have tenure track state university positions. Our salaries are paid by people who drive a cab, you know, and I’ve got to be able to figure out how to reach them and so, you know, I do blog and I do the apps and websites and, and YouTube and all of that. Yeah, it’ll sound prideful, but let me just say I wrote a blog for Psychology Today and Medium and Thrive on this meta-analysis I was just mentioning to you of processes of change. Two months later, a quarter million people have read that blog, you know? So, and these are normal folks we’re not just talking to, you know, a small part of the world and why would that matter? Well, because when people know that, for example, learning to be more psychologically flexible is something you can do, and it’ll change your life. And by the way, those resources that are out there for free, I mean, the World Health Organization’s distributes a cartoon book, for free, that is an ACT book. Why? Because they found that in several randomized trials that helped victims of war, it’s being deployed right now in the Ukraine, You know, that’s just kind of cool. That you can do something and then if you take the time to use that amplifying voice that can happen now with things like this podcast or like, you know, the blogs and so forth. Yeah, to me that’s part of my social responsibility.
I’m sharing the screen again. I mentioned Medium and so here’s the Medium website and you have all these different ones on here and I was scrolling up and down while you were talking to find that one that you were referencing the meta-analysis.
Yeah, that, just skipped over it.
Oh, did I?
Yeah, it’s the one that says, uh, keep going. Keep going back. You’ve gone back it’s, uh, keep going up there. “The Most Important Skill Set in Mental Health.”
There you go.
That one, in Psychology Today and here at Medium and so forth. More than a quarter million people have read that, and you can see it was only put out in August. So, it was just recently, and you know, I’m, that’s sort of going like, oh, I got a lot of likes on my Instagram post then for my life is worthwhile. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about dissemination of knowledge, I don’t even like the word dissemination. It’s using our science to empower others. And if we do it well, yes, people will access it and, and yes, of course you know people become known and all of that. But the real issue is not fame, it’s not money, it’s not that, it’s making a difference in the lives of those we serve.
And here’s the Thrive website and they have a bunch of different authors, but I brought yours up and, yeah, you have all these different posts on here and information. I, I actually what drew my attention was there was one here that was obviously relevant at the time. What we can learn from Simone Biles also stood out to me and I looked at that. That was very interesting as well.
Yeah, absolutely, we uh. We, we, we I, I actually have staff who helped me with this, and I take some of the you know these things or royalties for books, etc. and I pay for the staff to sort of just do this. And so, if I write a blog and then we, we find some good images blah blah blah. I have folks who actually get out and put it into these multiple channels and they work on my website and all that kind of thing and it’s kind of odd that I’ve ended up there, but it’s, it’s just a way of amplifying the work that I’m doing.
Google Scholar. I mentioned this in the intro Google Scholar data ranks you among the top 935 highest impact living scholars worldwide in all areas of study. And so, I’m going to go there and here is the website and here you are still sitting at 935, but this shows the list of all the scholars that are here as well. And then the other recent one, or more recent one, is research.com lists you as the 63rd highest impact psychologists in the world. So again, I mentioned I mean.
Yeah, we shall move from there. I have two steps, there’s David Barlow who’s my mentor on internship and when this came out, he sent me little things saying you’ve been chasing me for 30 years and you finally caught up. So, we had a good laugh, David’s a wonderful, wonderful, internationally known psychologist. Uh, and uh, I, I had a good chuckle with him. We were playing as if it matters. You know, it’s not the ranking that matters, it’s the contributions to others that matter.
Yeah, definitely. Uhm, another thing that I found interesting when researching you is that you formed or helped to form 3 scientific societies. The APS or other people would know it as Association for Psychological Science. The second one was the Association for Applied and Preventative Psychology, which hit around 2000 members but eventually folded. And then the latest, most recent, was the association or is the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science ACBS, which has now grown to more than 8700 members and 28 chapters worldwide. Forming, or helping to form, these scientific societies isn’t done every day by everyone, for example. Yeah, tell us how you know. For example, tell us about how you came up with the idea for ACBS and the back story on it while I bring it up on the screen for everybody.
Yeah, ACBS is the latest of these three efforts. APS was the first chapter. I mean the first office was my lab and it grew into being the biggest psychological science-oriented organization in the US of A. AAAPP, which was my attempt to sort of make sure that clinical was part of that journey for reasons I can explain. For a while, APS wasn’t very clinically oriented, even though I initiated it with some of my clinical colleagues. That’s a, uh, another story to tell. Then ACBS, what happened was is that I have been trying to sort of get enough focus on these third wave CBT methods ACT the, the, the kinds of things that relational frame theory and I wasn’t able to get enough of the existing attention from the existing associations in a way that would build the work. And it was starting to happen that we created a listserv. Next thing I know, there was 800 people on it. Well, now there’s several thousand, but, uh, I held a conference. If I get this story happened, take a little, I’ll tell. But I think it’s important I was supposed to give a conference in Sweden in 2001 in September and I got a call before I left to get on the plane, literally suitcase in hand, and they said you turn on the television. You’re not going anywhere, and it was 911.
And so, in fact, the planes were all grounded. The conference didn’t happen. The workshop didn’t happen. And about a year later, I called the organizers and we said we had to do something, and in fact we had to do something to meet evil with good you know, gotta and I had since organized my lab more to be looking at prejudice, stigma, things of that kind. I feared what later would happen with Abu Ghraib and the rest even in the US of A but one reason why my ACT works so much moved towards prejudice, stigma, things of that kind. But finally, in 2003 we did it and 800 people showed up and it was called the, a conference on ACT, RFT, and the new behavioral psychology. And it was such a wonderful thing. I said, oh, we have to do this again and we did it in the next year. People showed up and then we have to do it again and it’s we and by then are saying my God, you know, we have an association. So, I took my wonderful secretary who is helping running my publishing company. Another way that amplifying the voice. I actually created a publishing company which then I later sold still exists called Context Press. Uhm, no longer mine but I help with them, but uhm. Uh, we are, had her become the executive director and we’ve been doing it ever since, and it’s one of the fastest growing societies out there. I think you had 28 chapters. I think it’s actually up to something like 40 now and 18 different languages in almost every area of the world. Right before this talk, I was talking to a group in Turkey. There’s a very large chapter there, and so I spent a lot of my time. But now the important thing about ACBS, Contextual Behavioral Science is that it wasn’t the association for ACT. It’s not the association for RFT. I wanted an association that focused on getting processes that we can put in people’s lives and so there’s a really vigorous group on climate change. There’s a really vigorous group on diversity, equity, inclusion issues and immigration and dealing with trauma from war. And so, yeah, it’s an association that is sort of already transact but not in a narrow way, but in this way that fits the spirit of our conversation.
It definitely does, and I’m sharing the screen again. For those of you who can’t see it, I’m sharing the video page on ACBS and the reason I’m bringing this up is you mentioned that it’s not only ACT, it’s all these other things that are out there and from my understanding of it is you become a member and you can share all these different resources, information, videos. You can search by presenters search by topic and on this page, I just brought it up and you know it brings some of the most recent videos and information available out there that you can browse as well. What’s interesting about this organization, correct me if I’m wrong, is that it’s not just one fee or membership, it’s actually based on needs as well, and so if you’re lower income and you still want to become a member, work with the association and I’m sure that they can get you to become a member. You can only post videos and share knowledge and information after you become a member, so that’s one thing to keep in mind.
Yeah, that’s right.
It’s kind of like a wiki site, and because of that it has an amazing amount of free materials there. And we are the only big association I know of that has what we call values-based dues. We say pay what you think the work is worth to you. If you don’t know yet, don’t pay much and pay with adjusting for your ability to pay. We ask our minimum is $12.00 a year because that’s what most of that goes to Elsevier. For the Free journal, which is a very high impact factor 5.1 and a very high-quality journal that you get for free. But if even that is too much, write us and let us know and we’ll try to adjust to it. And so, for example, in some parts of the world where they can’t pay, like Iranian colleagues can’t do it because of the sanctions, we have a, we have a scholarship program, and they can join for free. And so that’s true around the world and, uh, and you don’t need to have a professional credential once or another. Most people are psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and so on, but some people are teachers or coaches or businesspeople or whatever. Why? Because the kind of knowledge we’re talking about are knowledge that you can use in almost any setting.
Well, thank you for that summary. Looking toward the future, you’re already a success. I mean by any stretch of the mean, any measurement that you want to look at, but looking toward the future, what are some other goals or challenges that you have for yourself?
I have two or three really big ones and I’m 74. I’m about to retire from the university, but I’ve become, and you’ve mentioned it, a president of a charitable organization that has a 45-year history. We’re developing an app that will allow you to do case conceptualization using the ideas inside process-based therapies, psychological flexibility. The things that we’ve been talking about. Uhm, I’m also a very you know. Uh, actively involved in trying to create new statistical methods that allow us to look at individuals one at a time, ’cause it turns out when you are focused on processes of change and fitting all the evidence-based things that are out there to the needs of the individual. If you homogenize people into a group, uh, you, you miss it and I think young people know there’s something wrong with the homogenization that’s, that’s happened. I think you see it in what’s happening with gender or what’s happening with, you know, political affiliation in religion, the rise of none of the above doesn’t mean you’re not religious, but you no longer necessarily want to be cap cubbyhole. Because I think people have been raised and I can have it my way. I can have my music stream not a radio station. You know I can have a news stream, not necessarily one of the big three, you know, television networks and so on. And implicit in that is wisdom, which is. Psychology and its knowledge ought to be fitted to the individuals, so I am working really hard to figure out how to put new tools into people’s hands that get out of normative categories. So, I have this disorder or that into these are the processes I need to learn about these are the ones that I’m deploying that are unhelpful. Here’s how I can best, you know, develop my own life and create a positive trajectory ’cause when people have positive trajectories, they don’t come in for therapy. That’s called living. We all have that help. It’s not one out of five. It’s five out of five after two years of COVID, we all know that. So, stop categorizing people and shove them into cubby holes. Instead, let’s figure out how to empower our own lives. And by the way, that’s the vision that I had when I was a high school student, and kind of implicitly and this idea that we could come up with psychological knowledge that would be all the way up to these deepest issues that our artists and dancers and novelists and so forth are talking about or painting pictures about or dancing about, or writing music about so. Uhm, I’m, I’m trying to develop the tools to help us as a profession get out of simply bell curves and standard deviations, treating people as error terms and more treating people as individuals.
Well, I like your approach and I wish you luck doing that. It’s going to be difficult because. One critic could say, well, what’s the use of that, because then you can’t generalize to other people and apply to other people, and your argument might be exactly, that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
Well, no, not. What I’d say is no, but what can be generalized with the processes I mean, if.
You come with a behavioral tradition, let’s say a principle like reinforcement. It’s one animal at a time. When Beaver time shows that it applies to an incredibly broad number of things, it can be over applied. It’s not everything, but it’s a lot, and so could we figure out a way and so we don’t even have words for that. Do you know the word normal wasn’t in the English language and, and used with any regularity at all until the Civil war? It wasn’t, and what was driving a lot of this was not just bell curves and standard deviations, but eugenics. I don’t have time to unpack this, but I you know the early statisticians were mostly eugenicists and so the psychology of individual differences was more about who to sort people into those who should be having more children than those who haven’t, and it’s been contaminating our science for a long time. The, the word we made-up instead of normative or normal is idionomic. It has to start with the individual, but we then have to look at the commonalities, but only if that helps us see the individual even more clearly. And those are the new concepts and new statistical methods. It’s that so much at a cutting edge it would take another hour conversation to explain what it is, but I’m just saying if you asked me what am I into, what am I excited about? Uh, well, in the last six weeks, we developed two brand new statistical methods that didn’t exist on the planet before that are working wonderfully and showing us really cool things. So, I’m excited about the idea of continuing the journey that I’ve been on for my entire life and with my colleagues ’cause groups matter. You can’t do this alone. That’s why I focused on those associations. You know, I, I was a political organizer before I was a graduate student. And my mentor, a guy named Ed Koupal, taught me the only thing that really matters as a way of change is groups. The group has to care. We have to care. You don’t do it one at a time. You do it in community. That’s the kind of species we are. So, I’ve really been interested in creating community around this effort of processes that we can use and deploy and put into people’s lives around the world. And that’s what gets me up in the morning, and it allows me to say a happy “yes” when you say, “would you spend an hour talking to people who are considering being a psychologist?” I say “yes,” not just “yes,” but “hell yes, of course, I’ll spend that hour.”
Well, of course I appreciate that, and I sense and, and feel your passion. I remember when I was going through my graduate work, and I developed a new measurement test for those you mentioned desensitization. I trained in desensitization for speakers for a long time while I was in grad school and then even after that. But then I came up with a measurement for receiving apprehension as well. And how to measure that. So, I was excited because nobody had come up with that and. I, I that just brought me back to you know my feelings when I was developing that measurement when you were describing everything. So, thank you for sharing that. Near the end of oh, go ahead.
Well now I’m saying and no matter how you enter into the world of psychology, you’re going to have an opportunity to be that broad, that’s the kind of field that we are, and so you can be interested in basic issues, applied issues. When you’re doing your clinical work, you’ll see things that the basic folks won’t see, et cetera so. When we find a way to come into community and talk to each other, the whole field is moved forward. And with that I, the hope is, is that we’re moving humanity forward. That’s the game.
I like it. I like it. Overall goal. Keep that in mind. A lot of people lose focus and say oh, I gotta turn this in. You become so focused on this instead of looking at the overall macro level of what you’re doing and how it’s moving research forward. At the end of most of our podcasts, we usually ask a few fun questions so even though I’ve already identified some unique things about yourself, I’m going to open up the opportunity for you to tell me something unique about yourself.
Oh golly. Uh, well, how about this? I have four children. The oldest is turning 52. The youngest is just turned 17 and they’re spaced in such a way I will have had children in the home when little Stevie goes off to college. For a dependent on me in the developmental period for 55 straight years, which sets a world record I’ve it does take multiple wives to do this. I don’t recommend it, but it’s been a wonderful journey. I love being a dad. I love the kind of things kids like doing. I’ve got three boats. I’ve got a motorhome. You know, I like to play and so a, a thing that people may not know about, maybe just hearing those numbers and thinking oh golly Steve, get a life, you know, do you do anything else? Yeah, I do some other things. I, I like to play with my kids. And be proud of their achievements and they’ve all grown, grown up. And this latest one looks like he’s gonna to be really adults that I’m proud of so.
That’s interesting I, I’m, I’m, well I love motorcycles and I have to ask you this. How come you haven’t exercised your right to get that motorcycle back? I read someplace you had to give it up because Jackie, your wife, said hey, you gotta give it up. And then when Stevie is 14th birthday then, then you can get it back.
Now 17, so as of 14, I can buy the Harley, but now I’ve become so much focused on energy use and so forth. I, I think I might need an electric motorcycle I, I don’t want to do an electric bike. I like my bike just efforting up those hills, but I, I, I may do the electric motorcycle and I’ve got my Tesla to drive around int, so I haven’t exercised the option to get my bike back. But for years it was the only transportation. My eldest, who is now 52, when I would take her even in ice storms, snowstorms, etc. to preschool, she’d be on the back of my bike clinging for her life as I drove around Greensboro, NC in those early days. So yeah, I love my, I call it cycle therapy if you ever. If you have a motorcycle and you drive (a) you know they’re dangerous, everybody’s had a near death experience, (b) you know what cycle therapy is, if you’re upset about something, go out, get on your bike, and within minutes you’re in the environment and the smells and the sights and the feeling in a way that just grounds you and reminds you of life itself. And you know that you’re alive and it’s wonderful to be here.
Yes, yes, another question that I usually ask is what is your favorite term, principle, or theory and why?
Uh, I think the single most important term, theory, whatever is evolution, and I’m saddened, and I’m gratified. I’m saddened by the fact that it was turned into a name for genetic changes only, you know, the selfish gene, et cetera, that gene dominant era. But it’s not that it’s how complex systems evolve that includes you within your lifetime as well as species as well as cultures as well and so forth so. I’m evolutionist through and through and learning how healthy variation, selection and retention in context can apply to your life, but also to the life of your culture, your group, your nation, the world is the, I think, the most important concept, the most interesting and flexible one. I’m a Darwinian.
OK, sounds like it. If you had the time and money to complete one project or go on one trip, what would you do?
The one project I would love is how to, uh, apply what we’ve learned about the statistical problems inside normative categories with a theory called ergodicity, proven science and physics for 100 years. Only 15 years that’s even been known in behavioral science, but it’s central and I believe that, uh, the early decision by Wundt and others to turn towards individual differences and bell curves and standard deviations was a fundamental error and that we need to go back to more where the humanists were those the Maslow types etc. But now with the best tools of science and, uh, so I, if I had the money I would put it into the develop, developments that we need in emotion, cognition, sense of self, motivation, overt behavior, perspective-taking, attention, all these psychological processes and figuring out how to measure the strength of them within the lifetime of individuals and to empower, empower them and develop the statistical tools and analytic methods we’re going to need to do that. I basically have reached the conclusion that a large percentage of what psychology is doing in research is wrong. It’s statistically wrong, and it’s irretrievably wrong. And that’s a little late in my life to come to that realization. So, it was two years ago when I first learned about the Ergotic theorem and realized holy beans. It’s, it’s wrong at the level of assumptions, statistically. So if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Well, you can get my newsletter or follow what I’m doing then you’ll see what I’m doing. It’s in process-based therapy and I wish I had the money and the time. I don’t have the money and I probably won’t have the time. I’m 74, so I’ve got a time that the deities give me and, and do my best.
Well, speaking of time, we want to wrap this up. I have two final questions. Number one is do you have any other advice for those interested in the field of psychology?
Follow your heart, it’s what’s gonna move you forward, but what’s going to really make a difference inside your discipline is what you’ll have as skills in your head and hands. So, you’re going to have to learn and that means you have to admit ignorance and that means you have to be open to, to new things and be curious. So don’t let that source of passion out of slip away and be beaten out of it. Somebody tells you; you have to be interested in this or have to do that. If it’s not interesting. Just don’t do it. And you’re looking at somebody who was stubborn enough. And I got evaluations early on saying you will be a dilettante and you will never amount to anything. I literally still have the evaluations where I got no raises year after year and the, the powers that be told me I was doing it wrong and I said I don’t care, it’s of interest to me, and eventually all came together and then eventually people thought it was really cool, but that was 20-30 years later so. If you’re a rebel, if you’re an individualist, if you have in a sense that you want to go into psychology to do something really deeply important to you, you found the right field. Do it that way, but do it in that way that also allows you to be humble enough to learn and to change, but don’t let go of your heart, dude.
Very good advice. Steve, is there anything else that you want to discuss or bring up on the podcast?
No, I think maybe I could just say this one thing. The wonderful thing about being a psychologist, all these things that we’ve explored, but there is one other thing which is we’re still a baby. Psychology is a baby. It’s a baby as a science, it’s a baby as a profession. Maybe not by years, but by maturation. Why? Because this is one of the hardest areas of science. Issues like consciousness and what does that really mean or why it’s so hard to be human and why it’s so easy to run into mental health problems. These are, these are way beyond physics, chemistry, some of in terms of complexity way beyond. So, if you’ve got the heart for it, you know you’re in an area where you can really make a lasting difference. I’m back to the first thing, you know, the science part and the practice part by focusing on human complexity. If I can share that the ACBS has a motto and here’s our motto, it’s not a declaration of achievement, it’s “creating a behavioral science, more worthy of the challenge of the human condition.” And so, I would just leave it as my parting thought that you’re off into an area where there’s so much to learn that your heart, your head, your hands can make a powerful difference that could be felt around the world even. And there’s not many fields where you can say that. And so come on, the water is fine. Jump on in.
I’ll leave with those words. Steve, thanks again for sharing your story and your journey as well as your advice and funny stories with us.
Well thanks so much Brad for the opportunity.