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Robert Friedberg

Mentor Spotlight

Palo Alto University, Center for the Study and Treatment of Anxious Youth, CSTAY

Robert D. Friedberg, Ph.D., ABPP is Professor and Head of the Child Emphasis Area at Palo Alto University. He has held faculty positions at the Wright State School of Professional Psychology and Penn State University Milton Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine. He is a Board Certified Diplomate (ABPP) in CBT and a Founding Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. Additionally, Dr. Friedberg is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (Clinical Child Psychology) and the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy. He has received teaching awards from Wright State University and the Penn State University Milton Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine. He is the co-author of eight books, including Clinical Practice of Cognitive Therapy with Children and Adolescents with Jessica McClure Psy D.

Of his research/clinical areas of interest, he notes that over the course of my 32 year career, bringing good outcomes to clinical care of children, adolescents, and families in usual care contexts is a pervasive passion. Accordingly, I am committed to delivering competent CBT to youth with a variety of disorders in diverse service delivery contexts. More specifically, treatment of anxious youth, innovative service delivery models, integrated behavioral health care, and training/dissemination are professional interests.

Years supervising: I have been supervising for the past 28 years including work at Mesa Vista Hospital, Methodist Hospital of Indiana, Wright State University, Penn State Milton Hershey Medical Center/College of Medicine, Palo Alto University, and the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Research

Length of time as a member of ABCT: 30 years

Do you have a mentorship philosophy?

I am very much influenced Andres Martin’s article on mentorship (JAACAP Dec. 2005) and Kirch and Ast’s recent article (J Clin Psych in Med Settings, 2017). Consequently, I strive to be an” igniter” and “multiplier. ” I completely agree with Martin that, as a mentor, I work to spark the potential that is often unseen by mentees themselves. Kirch and Ast cited Wiseman and colleagues explaining that multipliers are “leaders who look beyond their own genius and focus their energy on extracting and extending the genius of others.” I try to align with supervisory practices that foster these ideals.

Whom do you perceive to be your most influential mentors?

Although it sounds somewhat clichéd, my first mentor was my mother, who taught me never to avoid negative affect and embrace graduated, experiential learning opportunities. Prior to entering kindergarten, I fondly remember my mom initially teaching me to skip hand in hand down the driveway and then coaxing me to try skipping by myself! More recently, I have been privileged to have been mentored by a diverse group of multi-disciplinary professionals. In college, Drs. Charles McKinley and Andy Konick sparked my interest in scholarly writing and learning theory. My graduate school mentors included Drs. Constance Dalenberg, Julian Meltzoff, Mark Sherman, Berthold Berg and Donald Viglione, Jr. My early clinical mentors included Drs. Christine Padesky and Raymond Fidaleo. Later in my career, work with Dr. James Dobbins, Brenda Mobley, Victor McCarley, Janeece Warfield, Billy Vaughn, Stuart Kaplan, and Judith Beck shaped my professional development.

Each of these lessons taught by these “sages” enjoy both common and unique variance. The shared variance in mentorship was there was no substitute for hard work, intellectual curiosity, attention to detail, flexibility, and a sense of humor. In terms of unique contributions of specific supervisors, the late Julian Meltzoff, who wrote one of the first texts on psychotherapy outcomes, taught me that critical reasoning in all clinical and research matters is paramount. He urged to me find the flaws in even the most cited articles in the literature in order to learn that nothing is perfect and perfection should never get in the way of the very good. Connie Dalenberg, who was my dissertation chair, modeled what I see as the exemplars in a research advisor. In particular, her guidance was both theoretically robust and exceedingly practical. She was a genuine hands-on mentor who inculcated the basics of empirical rigor, logic, and clear writing. Padesky and Fidaleo refined my raw skills into a polished CBT approach. Work with Dobbins, Mobley, McCarley, Warfield, and Vaughn profoundly transformed my clinical and research approach to culturally diverse youth. Finally, Stuart Kaplan, who directed the Division of Child Psychiatry at Penn State Hershey, modeled exemplary interdisciplinary collaboration and fostered integrated behavioral health care for pediatric patients.

What practices do you engage in that foster your mentorship style?

Clinical Supervision: Overall, I try to get my mentees to skip by themselves! As a clinical supervisor, I am guided theoretically and empirically by the extant literature. Consequently, my supervision style blends a balanced emphasis on patients’ well-being and trainees’ professional development. Moreover, I diligently apply an experiential learning focus, which makes use of plentiful behavioral rehearsal. I do a lot of modeling and demonstrations. I readily share my past and present clinical mistakes. Additionally, I am sure to help students craft effective and actionable case conceptualizations. I coach supervisees to adhere to session structure and to apply CBT according to Kendall’s and colleagues’ maxim of practicing flexibility within fidelity. The ultimate goal is for supervisees to feel competent and comfortable practicing independently.

Research Advising: My first and primary goal in research advising is to promote scholarly curiosity. I want my students to question the status quo and begin to think both inside and outside of established paradigms. I frequently use the phrase “read to write” to encourage mentees to ground their thinking in the context of existing knowledge. More specifically, I train them to make their projects and ideas accessible and free from obfuscated language and jargon. I am also fond of using Sherlock Holmes-type exercises to prime their critical thinking skills. My favorite motto is “don’t let perfection get in the way of the good.”

What are your strengths as a mentor?

I think my biggest strengths as a mentor are patience, having made a lot of mistakes, enthusiasm for clinical child psychology and CBT, flexibility, organization, and sense of humor.

What do you tend to look for in potential mentees?

Clinical Supervision: The most primary characteristic I look for is a genuine commitment to provide effective clinical care to youth and their families. Second, students who enter the clinical encounter with already mature dispositional characteristics, such as warmth, genuineness, and empathy, are preferred clinical supervisees. Certainly, abstract reasoning ability, flexibility, creativity, ability to tolerate ambiguity, and being able to tolerate negative affective arousal are key ingredients.

Research Advising: I tend to focus more on academic skills for research mentees. Strong verbal and expressive communication skills are important. Interest in the procedures and processes of various analytic methods is desirable. Ambition, initiative, creativity, intellectual discipline, and persistence are critical characteristics.

What advice would you give to other professionals in your field who are starting out as mentors?

The first bit of advice I give potential mentors is to list the ways their favorite mentors shaped their careers and link this to specific characteristics and behaviors. Then, I urge them to model these qualities and mentorship methods. Second, I recommend reading the Martin article I referred to earlier. Third, I encourage to give up the idea that their mentees should be clones of themselves.

What do you enjoy doing for fun/relaxation?

As a former college athlete and a life-long sports enthusiast, I love playing sports and watching live professional sports. In particular, I recently picked up playing Pickleball and aspire to compete in the Senior Olympics in this newfound passion! I regularly go to our local JCC to work out. My more sedentary activities revolve around watching my favorite TV, shows such as Man in the High Castle, Ray Donovan, Mozart in the Jungle, Outsiders, Snowfall, Designated Survivor, and the Walking Dead. Of course, following my beloved New York Giants and Mets also keeps me busy. I am also well-known for regularly losing in Fantasy Football. Last, I love live entertainment, so going to plays, concerts, and stand-up comedy venues are really fun activities.

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