|MEET ABCT'S FEATURED THERAPIST|
Steven T. Fishman
Featured Therapist InterviewCongratulations on being the ABCT Featured Therapist. The Clinical Directory and Referral issues committee has developed a series of interview questions that we would like you to respond to. We also need a recent picture and a brief biographical sketch that will be included in the interview. Feel free to answer any or all of the questions. Any additional comments are also welcome.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
When did you begin your practice? I started August 11, 1971… 37 years ago this month…older than I am!
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner? I am able to establish a productive and collaborative working alliance with my patients. I conceptualize problems, that is, I establish a “firing order” for a patient’s problems, well, and am able to get patients to stay on task until changes in their problems can be effected.
How important are board certifications and/or credentialing programs to your practice? Personally, I found that attaining my two Board Certifications -- Clincal and Behavioral Psychology – most gratifying, especially knowing that I have achieved “the highest distinction that my profession offers” and that my practice was evaluated by a panel of my own peers. Since I practice in a highly competitive environment, I feel Board Certification affords me a distinction from other practitioners. Further, since I have this distinction as a Board Certified psychologist, I aspire to maintain a higher level of performance by staying current in the field by attending conferences and workshops and by reading professional books and journals.
What tips can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice? Get a part-time job when starting a practice, because the start-up can be painful. If you can, affiliate with a medical center or hospital where you are likely to get referrals or even a center like my own that will supply referrals on the short-term until you can become established. I think it is important to distinguish yourself in some way by specializing in a “problem area” and give talks and interviews about your specialty to whomever will listen. It is important that you maintain an ongoing professional relationship with the psychiatrists to whom you are referring for medication consults…they often will begin referring their patients for therapy.
What sorts of literature that describe evidence- based therapy do you make available in your waiting room? I have pop periodicals and magazines, etc., some of which recommend CBT, plus I have ABCT literature and handouts, which patients find very useful.
What self-help books do you suggest to your clients? Oldies but goodies: David Burns’ Feeling Good and Feeling Good Handbook; Ellis’ Guide To Rational Living; Fensterheim & Baer’s Don’t Say Yes When You Want To Say No; and many of the New Harbinger workbooks, which are readily understandable and cover most problem areas.
What one book do you recommend as a “must read” to improve your practice? Guide To Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Clinical Behavior Therapy by Marv Goldfried and Jerry Davison …and that’s all you need!
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice? For over 30 years, I have been involved in all aspects of ABCT. I was very involved for about 16 years in the development of the certification of Behavioral Psychologists through AABP and have served in various capacities under the auspices of that organization. And, over the years finally have been involved in various ways with APA.
Next, we are interested in your continuing education activities.
How do you stay current with new research or advances in the field as applied to your practice? I read books, journals, newsletters, attend conferences, and learn from my Fellows at IBT.
Where do you earn your continuing education credits? Through attendance at various conferences and workshops, primarily ABCT, and online conferences. Currently, I am taking an online conference on “the treatment of the adult with ADHD.”
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor? In graduate school it was M. Mike Nawas for leading me to a dedicated path to the field of Clinical Psychology and Jerry Davison for teaching me Behavior Therapy and inspiring me in so many ways.
What is the last book you read? Currently reading books on DBT, Adult ADHD, ACT, and the rest of the alphabet, including OCD.
How do you avoid burn out? I really don’t…maybe working four days per week (albeit long days) helps…but I fantasize a lot about travel.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun? Avid sports watcher, sometimes player…love reading mystery novels…enjoy good movies, theatre, and fine dining.
Do you have any other “talents?” Besides being good looking? We are also interested in some of your views of CBT.
What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients? CBT provides the means, tools if you will, other than talk, for patients in coping more effectively with their problems…it gives them “a say” in their own change process. These tools are for long-term coping with problems as they arise in their everyday functioning. These tools impart control to patients in both assessing and remediating their own problems.
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years? I see further research in and exposure to evidence-based procedures (EBPs) for the spectrum of emotional and behavioral disorders. I was intrigued by a recent article in the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter positing that future therapies will be based on more positive approaches in psychology and that programs will be developed in the areas of emotionally based wellness programs. I guess ACT is a form of a more positive psychotherapy…where the emphasis is on acceptance of problems and the focus is on a value-driven approach…. we have a lot to offer in this nascent area of therapy. The next decade will hopefully evince greater parity in both remuneration and acceptance between CBT and psychiatry. Over the years of my own practice, I would have liked more of a say in the management of my own patients’ medications because I always felt that I know my patients better than a consulting psychiatrist and am in a better position to be aware of nuances of positive and negative changes in my patients.
How do you use the local media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT? I make myself available for interviews and talks in my local media and community on problems treated by CBT. For years I was on the Mental Health Commission of Rockland County and was a strong advocate for the use of CBT in Rockland’s mental health facilities.
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT? Over 30 years … but have yet to receive a lapel pin indicating such.
How has ABCT helped you professionally? As a result of my involvement with ABCT, I have been fortunate enough to meet some very special people along the way. I have learned much of what I know, plus upgrades, from ABCT’s Annual Conference and its two Journals. More importantly, from a personal standpoint, it has helped give me a professional identity and subsequent recognition for my involvement over the years.
What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT? Its journals and annual convention.
What service(s) are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner? Nothing…except maybe for more equity in the representation of full-time practitioners in the governance of ABCT. But, it is heartening to see how the Clinical Directory Committee has become a mainstay of the organization…it bodes well for the future involvement of practitioners in the organization.
How do you see the future of ABCT? I’d like to see it serving in a more meaningful way as the advocate for CBT to the media, insurance companies, government agencies, and the public-at-large. The annual convention has offered so many helpful formats for learning ABCT, but I would like to see more regional conferences of specific workshops throughout the year.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
You’re welcome, and thanks for asking.