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Featured Therapist Interview
Gerald Tarlow received his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Montana in 1974. Since 1978 he has been on the faculty of UCLA in the Department of Psychiatry where he is a Clinical Professor and teaches CBT to psychiatry residents and psychology interns. He was the Director of Psychological Services at the UCLA OCD Program from 1994 to 2006. In 1986 he established the Center for Anxiety Management, an outpatient private practice specializing in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Dr. Tarlow was awarded a Diplomate in Behavioral Psychology by the ABPP in 2001. He is the author of the Clinical Handbook of Behavior Therapy for Adult Psychological Disorders and the Clinical Handbook of Behavior Therapy for Adult Medical Disorders. He has presented numerous papers and workshops on the treatment of anxiety disorders. Dr. Tarlow is the chair of the ABCT Clinical Directory and Referral Issues Committee and is a member of the ABCT Listserve Committee. He was the Moderator of the listserve in 2006.
Congratulations on being the ABCT Featured Therapist.
First, we would like to know a little about your practice.
When did you begin your practice?
I started a part-time practice in 1980 and then a full-time practice in 1986.
Do you have a specialty?
I specialize in treating anxiety disorders, especially, obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD.
What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?
I try to only treat problems that I have a great deal of experience treating. I try to only use treatment techniques that are based on good clinical research. I also am able to make most of my patients laugh. I believe most of my patients really look forward to their appointments until the time in the session when they have to pay.
What is one method you use to promote your practice?
I have developed several web sites that target specific problem areas. For example, www.fearofflyingcure.com is directed at people with flying fears and www.curepanic.com targets individuals with panic disorder.
How important are board certifications and/or credentialing programs to your practice?
I am board certified by ABPP in behavioral psychology. However, I do not believe that consumers realize this is important. I don’t think a patient or a referring therapist ever asked me if I was board certified. I believe there needs to be a larger effort to educate consumers on the importance of board certification. The consumer also needs to be able to identify what boards are legitimate.
What tips can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?
I believe it is important to develop a specialty. I also think it is helpful to work part time in a clinic or hospital in order to build up your referral base. Many new professionals have no idea of the business aspects of running a private practice. The business skills are generally not taught in graduate school. It is helpful to work with someone who has an established practice.
What self-help books do you suggest to your clients?
There are several excellent self-help books I recommend. For OCD I like Getting Control, for depression I like Mind Over Mood, and for panic disorder I like Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic.
What one book do you recommend as a “must read” to improve your practice?
I would have to say it is Maybe I’m Not Listening: Confessions of a Shrink. It is by some guy named Tarlow.
Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?
I am on the faculty in the Department of Psychiatry at UCLA. I do some teaching and supervision at UCLA. I have been active in working with ABCT on the Clinical Directory and Referral Committee and the Listserve Committee. Additionally, I just completed writing a book about my therapy practice.
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 attend the ABCT convention each year and also try to attend the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation convention and the Anxiety Disorders Association of America annual convention.
Where do you earn your continuing education credits?
Generally at the above conventions and also online.
We would also like to know a little about you personally.
Who was your mentor?
I had two mentors. As an undergraduate at UCLA I took a course on learning theory from Morris Holland. It was there that I read Walden Two and was introduced to B.F. Skinner. Holland definitely sparked my interest in psychology. In graduate school I had Jack Atthowe as a professor. He was one of the individuals involved in the original token economy work at the Palo Alto VA. I took my first behavior therapy course from Atthowe and was convinced that behavior therapy could save the world.
What is the last book you read?
Downhill Lie by Carl Hiaasen. It is the story of Hiaasen taking up golf after not playing for 30 years. Unfortunately, I could relate to many of his stories. When I am golfing and tell people I am a psychologist they think I should be able to master all of the mental aspects of the game. I think I should start telling these people that I am in construction.
How do you avoid burn out?
I only see patients three days a week and I take a lot of vacations. I would also suggest that you surround yourself with friends and family who don’t require a lot of therapy.
When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?
I love to watch and play sports. I ski, play tennis, golf, and play softball. I also enjoy traveling. Maybe I should take golf out of the fun category.
Do you have any other “talents?”
I am a pretty good athlete, but I don’t think I will be entering the NBA draft this year. I’m a great organizer, but apparently from looking at my teenage son’s room you would have to believe it is not genetic. I have the ability to make light of almost anything, except of course the Boston Red Sox.
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?
Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?
I think we will continue to refine the techniques that we know work and strive to develop new techniques to help even more patients.
Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.
How long have you been a member of ABCT?
I have been a member since 1974.
How has ABCT helped you professionally?
In 1975 I had a job interview at the AABT convention and received an offer for my first clinical job. I have learned so much from attending the conventions and reading journal articles in Behavior Therapy and Cognitive and Behavioral Practice.
What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT?
I use the Find A Therapist service all the time to help locate cognitive behavioral therapist in other parts of the country. The journals, the convention, and the listserve are all very valuable resources.
How do you see the future of ABCT?
I believe ABCT will continue to grow as more and more therapists discover the value of CBT. I do hope that ABCT never forgets its behavioral roots.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.