About Me and my Background and Approach

I've been thinking about relationships as exchanges involving mutual influence since I started graduate school in 1974. Here's how it began.

I was one of the first researchers in my field to think of two-person interactions as being fundamentally bidirectional -- that is, as systems in which each partner both influences and is influenced by the other, where influence flows in both directions. While in graduate school, I developed a method of describing and studying a very simple example of bidirectional influence involving an infant and its mother interacting in a carefully controlled research setting. I first applied this new method to a group of mothers and nine-month old babies, and followed their progress up until the children were forty-two months old. In 1981, a monograph describing my work was published by the Society for Research in Child Development. In this monograph, I identified several characteristics of these early mother-infant interactions that could be used to predict children's social development over the first three and a half years of life. Later in my academic career, my Stanford colleagues and I, most notably my teacher and mentor, Prof. Eleanor Maccoby, refined this method of studying mother-infant interaction and today, the idea of "mutual influence" has become a common way of thinking about two-person relationships. Countless academic psychologists now make use of this concept to guide their own thinking and research.

After over a decade of university teaching and research, I decided to take what I had learned out of the laboratory and find ways to bring it into the psychotherapy office. I went back to school for additional clinical training in the mid-1980s, and then left academic psychology and switched my professional focus entirely and began full-time clinical work. I have worked both with individual people and with couples as a California licensed clinical psychologist ever since then. I have learned over these years how to integrate into my work as a psychologist the insights I obtained as a researcher about the nature of mutual influence.

Since starting my psychology practice, I have also acted as a case consultant, supervisor and mentor both with students as well as with experienced professional peers. My approach both to consultation and to clinical work has also been very relationship-centered: I focus almost exclusively on characteristics of the bidirectional therapist-client relationship. I've developed an informal specialty, working with therapists who are struggling with "difficult therapies" (including characterological work), helping focus attention on the analysis of counter-transference phenomena, that is, the way in which the therapist manages the client-therapist relationship.

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