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Paul Munford

Featured Therapist Interview

Paul R. Munford received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology with the major field of study being Dynamics of Behavior from the University of Southern California in 1971. He is a clinical psychologist and internationally recognized expert in the treatment of OCD and the anxiety disorders. He has successfully treated hundreds of clients, and trained scores of psychology interns, psychiatry residents, and social work and nursing trainees. He has published 30 journal articles, two self-help books for OCD sufferers, and made numerous presentations on the treatment of panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Dr. Munford also developed and directed the behavior therapy program for the OCD Partial Hospitalization Program at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute where he was Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences.

Retiring from that position after 22 years, he relocated in Sacramento, continued his clinical practice, and joined the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, Davis School of Medicine as Clinical Professor. There he continued training psychiatry residents, psychology interns, and other mental health trainees in cognitive behavior therapy. Subsequently, he co-founded the Anxiety Treatment Center of Northern California and directed its intensive outpatient treatment program for OCD. That center is now closed because of his move to the San Francisco Bay area where he and Dr. Arna Munford have established the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center for OCD & Anxiety.

He sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation and is a member of the American Psychological Association, Anxiety Disorders Association of America, Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and Marin County Psychological Association.

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 began independent practice in June 1974. I was also Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine. I retired 22 years later as Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry, relocated to Sacramento, continued my clinical practice, and joined the Department of Psychiatry, University Of California, Davis School of Medicine as Clinical Professor. In the fall of 2005 I moved to the San Francisco Bay area with my wife, Arna Munford, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and I established the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Center for OCD & Anxiety in San Rafael, California, in February 2006.

Do you have a specialty?

Yes. I specialize in providing intensive treatment for the anxiety disorders, chiefly OCD.

What are your personal strengths as a practitioner?

I have the capacity to listen; that enables me to understand how people feel and to respond appropriately with care and sensitivity.

What one method do you use to promote your practice?

I successfully treat clients so I’m seen as an expert by clients and mental health professionals as a good referral source.

How important are board certifications and/or credentialing programs to your practice?

They are not important to my practice. Word-of-mouth positive appraisals by mental health colleagues are.

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

Accept only cases that you have experience treating, even though you might be tempted to accept clients with problems that require treatment skills that you do not possess.

Also make arrangements to have consultation readily available from a seasoned therapist to help you with the difficult questions and decisions you will face.

What sorts of literature do you make available in your waiting room that describes evidence-based therapy?

Pamphlets from the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation:

  • How Do I Know if My Therapist Can Treat OCD?
  • Questions & Answers about Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • OCD Newsletter

What self-help books do you suggest to your clients?

  • Overcoming Compulsive Checking: Free Your Mind from OCD, by Paul R. Munford, Ph.D.
  • Overcoming Compulsive Washing: Free Your Mind from OCD, by Paul R. Munford, Ph.D.
  • Imp of the Mind, by Lee Baer, Ph.D.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, by Fred Penzel, Ph.D.
  • Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic, by David Barlow, Ph.D., and Michelle Craske, Ph.D.
  • Stop Obsessing: How to Overcome Your Obsessions and Compulsions, by Edna Foa, Ph.D., and Reid Wilson, Ph.D.

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

The only other type of professional activity I’m involved in is co-authoring with Dr. Arna Munford a book for mental health professionals.

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 stay current by attending workshops and presentations organized by our local psychological association, the Marin County Psychological Association, and continuing education workshops put on by other organizations. Also I find very useful information in ABCT’s journals, Behavior Therapy and Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, and APA’s Monitor and American Psychologist.

Where do you earn your continuing education credits?

I earn continuing education credits from workshops and distance learning programs.

We would like to know a little about you personally.

Who was your mentor?

I’ve had several. The first was Harvey Mindess, Ph.D., whose influence was from the non-directive, humanistic school. Then came exposure to behavioral approaches from Robert Paul Liberman, M.D., and Ronald A. Mann, Ph.D., both colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry, UCLA School of Medicine.

What is the last book you read?

I have read and am rereading Dancing with Life by Phillip Moffitt, which concerns Buddha’s core teachings, the Four Noble Truths. Moffitt refers to Buddha as a “great psychologist” because of his specific, practical life instructions for finding meaning and joy in the face of suffering.

How do you avoid burnout?

I limit client contacts to the four hours per day, Mondays through Fridays, that clients are being treated in our intensive outpatient program.

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

Spending time with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, exercising, and walking the dogs

Do you have any other “talents”?

Writing, I believe. You can find out for yourself by reading one of my books.

We are also interested in some of your views on CBT.

What do you think is the single most important thing CBT can do for your clients?

CBT can free them from debilitating emotional states by teaching them how to apply the principles of learning to the management of emotions, primarily fear and anxiety.

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

CBT is gaining in recognition as the most effective psychological treatment for aberrant emotions, therefore the demand for it will increase, which will stimulate increased training in its techniques, resulting in more therapists for those who now go underserved.

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

How long have you been a member of ABCT?

I’ve been a member since at least 1974 when the name of the organization was the Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy. That year, I presented a paper entitled “Contingency Management of Chronic Coughing and Aphonia” at the annual convention in New Orleans.

How has ABCT helped you professionally?

Because cognitive behavior therapists are few and far between, there is little opportunity for collegial interactions. The Association, via the listserv and publications, provides communication exchanges and contacts with fellow practitioners and researchers.

What services are missing from ABCT in your role as a practitioner?

A listing of intensive treatment programs would be helpful for therapists and clients who are increasingly utilizing this form of treatment delivery.

How do you see the future of ABCT?

I see its future as bright. Membership should increase due to the increasing awareness by mental health professionals and the public that our treatments work. There will be more therapists providing it and clients benefiting from it.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.

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