Teacher, Clinician, and Writer: An Interview with Psychology Chair Dr. Tom Wooldridge

You’re a Psychologist as well as a Professor here at GGU. Can you tell us more about your professional life?


Professionally, I wear two hats. Here at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, I am an Assistant Professor and the Department Chair in the Department of Psychology.

I also have a private practice where I see patients in Berkeley. I work with a wide variety of patients using a psychoanalytic approach, and about half of my patients come in with eating disorders or some struggle with body weight and shape. I think my professional practice is really important because it gives me real-world experience that I can then fold back into my teaching in the classroom.

We have two different programs, a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology that leads to eligibility for licensure as a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT) or Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC). The other degree program is an MA in Industrial-Organizational Psychology, which is a field that brings the principles of psychology to bear on the workplace environment. I teach courses, meet with students, attend faculty meetings, and do other sorts of administrative tasks. When I get time, I also work on research.

I think my professional practice is really important because it gives me real-world experience that I can then fold back into my teaching in the classroom.

Can you say more about your research?

The first article I ever wrote was on anorexia nervosa in male populations, published in the journal Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention. That article – which was recently chosen as the “Top 25” articles published in that journal over the past 25 years, became the basis of my first book, Understanding Anorexia Nervosa in Males: An Integrative Approach, which was published by Routledge. Since then, I’ve published a number of different articles and recently released an edited book, Psychoanalytic Treatment of Eating Disorders: When Words Fail and Bodies Speak. Now, I continue to be interested in psychoanalytic approaches to the treatment of eating disorders.

Can you give us a brief explanation of psychoanalysis?

I think it’s a great question because, of course, the term is used in many different ways. For the purposes of this book, psychoanalytic treatments are those that draw, in some way, on psychoanalytic theory — which is a diverse body of work that has been developing for more than 100 years beginning with Freud, of course, but encompassing far more than him. These forms of treatment are often referred to as psychoanalytic or psychodynamic — and can be differentiated from psychoanalysis proper, which tends to refer to a more intensive form of treatment that follows similar principles.

Probably what I enjoy most about my work here is talking with people about their professional interests and aspirations. 

Perhaps it would be useful to describe a few of the unifying themes of psychoanalytic treatments. In no particular order:

  1. Focus on affect, or emotion, over cognition.
  2. Have a developmental focus — in other words, to situate a person’s current struggles in the context of their emotional development throughout the lifespan.
  3. Emphasize the unconscious — which, for our purposes, we might think of as aspects of ourselves that we don’t know well, often because those aspects have been too anxiety-provoking or otherwise destabilizing for us to explore more fully.
  4. Recognize that we tend to avoid, or defend against, knowing certain parts of ourselves.

Any final words?

My final word would be that if you’re interested in the field of Psychology, whether that’s Counseling Psychology, Marriage and Family Therapy, or Industrial-Organizational Psychology, reach out to me to have a longer conversation. Probably what I enjoy most about my work here is talking with people about their professional interests and aspirations. I’d love to speak with anyone who’s got passion and energy to bring to these important and quickly developing fields.


MORE ABOUT TOM WOOLDRIDGE
Tom Wooldridge, PsyD, ABPP, CEDS is Chair in the Department of Psychology at Golden Gate University, where he teaches courses in therapeutic communication and psychoanalytic psychotherapy. Dr. Wooldridge has been interviewed for by numerous media publications including Newsweek, Slate, WebMD, and many others for his work. He is an Executive Director at the National Association for Males with Eating Disorders and has a private practice in Berkeley, CA. He is a candidate at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California.


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