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Michelle Drapkin

Featured Therapist Interview

Michelle Drapkin received her Ph.D. from Rutgers, and completed both her Clinical Psychology internship and postdoctoral fellowship in treatment outcomes research at the University of California, San Diego/VA San Diego. She has professional experience in a variety of settings. She was on faculty at the University of Pennsylvania, worked nationally at the Department of Veterans Affairs, was a Director of Training at Rutgers, and spent the last couple of years in the private sector working as a Behavior Scientist at Johnson and Johnson and at a Silicon Valley startup, BetterUp. She is a longtime member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers and is sought out for consultation and training globally.

A few years ago, she opened her practice, the CBT Center of Central NJ LLC in Metuchen, New Jersey, where she lives to create a space for high-quality, evidence-based practice. She started with a limited number of patients on Saturday mornings and has expanded to meet the demands. She sees individuals (aged 16 or older) and couples and works with a variety of struggles, including anxiety/stress, depression, and substance use.

For more information on Dr. Drapkin and her practice, visit and

First, we would like to know a little about your practice.

What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?

I am hyper-collaborative (comes from years of being a Motivational Interviewing trainer) with my patients. My practice’s tagline is “We work together on what matters to you” and that’s truly how I approach treatment. I use evidence-based practices to design a treatment plan/strategy that’s engaging and meaningful to the individual. Having a variety of treatments under my belt helps me pivot as needed and I do so using ongoing assessment (both formal and informal).

What “tips” can you offer to colleagues just opening a practice?

Find what you are passionate about and do that. I wanted to provide high quality treatment in my community but was worried because my town is small (3 sq mile). Turns out the way I practice and what I do are valued by my community, and my practice was immediately successful. It is way simpler than we make it. There is a huge need for good treatment.

How do you remind your patients of their strengths during the therapy process?

I often complete a values assessment (Values Card Sort, used in Motivational Interviewing) with my patients early in treatment helping to ground them in what is important to them. I also am always helping them notice gains, even tiny ones, to keep reinforcing movement towards their values and their goals.

Are you involved in other types of professional activities in addition to your private practice?

In addition to seeing patients, I work in the tech industry as a Behavior Scientist researching and designing interventions (mostly apps) to help improve lives.

I also am connected with other clinicians in the community. I am currently corralling the NJ/NYC Motivational Interviewing trainers into a local group to have a 1-day meeting in 2020 and to deliver pro bono community training. I also am part of ACBS and the NYC group. I deliver many trainings every year (continuing education workshops most often). I have supervised students at Rutgers as well.

We would also like to know a little about you personally.

Who was your mentor?

Dr. Barbara McCrady

When not practicing CBT, what do you do for fun?

I have three (yes three!) mini schnauzers and an 8-year old human. I help out with my daughter’s softball team and girl scout troop. We also have a Little Free Library at our house and I am the official steward so I manage the library.

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?

Reduce their suffering, help them connect with their strengths and learn new skills that they can use going forward. What I love about CBT is that it can generalize across challenges, and patients don’t need to be in treatment for forever.

Where do you see the field of the behavioral therapies going over the next 3-5 years?

I believe we will see way more incorporation of technology in a variety of ways. I truly don’t believe it will ever make clinicians obsolete and I strongly feel it will strengthen our practice.

How do you use the local or social media to educate your community on the benefits of CBT?

I post regularly on my practice Facebook page and LinkedIn about CBT, findings, insights related to CBT, etc.

Finally, we would like to know your opinions about ABCT.

How long have you been a member of ABCT?

Off/on since grad school (over 15 years)

How has ABCT helped you professionally?

Connect with others in the field

What services do you consider the most valuable from ABCT?

The list serve and the conventions when I can get there

What service(s) are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner?

More emphasis towards implementation of evidence-based practices in the field (e.g., private practice).

Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions!

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