Random Thoughts

How and why I became a psychologist

... I think this is where I was headed

by Ed Boyd

When I became the Director of the Dearborn School in 1968, Professor Frank Garfunkel followed me there. Frank was happy with me as the person who looked after his students when I was Assistant Principal of the Manville School, housed at the Judge Baker Guidance Center. It is also true that in the sixties there were no programs for emotionally disturbed children served in public school. These programs that serviced disturbed children were all private programs. Frank was head of the program for teaching disturbed children at Boston University and needed placements for these students to teach disturbed kids. I took two of Frank’s students for placements for a full school year.

Frank came to visit these students a few times each year. On one such time, he asked me if I had ever considered getting a doctorate. He said he had just been awarded a grant that would provide stipends for tuition and money for a candidate’s family.

Also, there was no tax. I was a little overwhelmed by this prospect and said I needed to talk about this with Catherine. I could not believe my luck. Frank wanted to make it possible for me to get a doctor’s degree.

I talked it over with Catherine saying that my getting a degree would help fulfill one of my dreams. Catherine, as usual, said if that is what you want to do, go for it. So it did not take long for me to tell Frank that I would quit the Dearborn School to go to study with him at Boston University.

Now that I was on his turf, I got a different look at him. As a teacher Frank was brilliant. He never worked from notes but he was truly articulate in all that he had to say. Before Frank, I had a single mind for looking at things that he made three dimensional. I am in his debt forever.

One of the first person I met at B.U. was Dick Carpenter. He, too, was in the same program for a doctorate so we arranged to take courses together. Dick was a child care worker where I was the Assistant Principal at the Manville School. Dick’s ambition was that he planned to take all the courses necessary to sit for a psychologist license. As I thought about this, this seemed like a good idea.  So Dick and I spent a lot a time taking courses in the psychology department. We both ended up with enough course work to satisfy the needs for a license.

There was a whole bunch of clinical hours that had to be done, also, to get certified. After I graduated with a doctorate in 1973, I was able to stay on teaching at B.U. becoming Assistant Clinical Professor. There were many free hours with teaching that made it possible for me to get enough hours of clinical work at different agencies. I first went to the Cambridge Guidance Center and spent a year there to accumulate clinical hours. The next year I went to Emerson Hospital for more clinical hours.

This was evenings as the night came; I can remember trying to keep myself awake driving down route #2.  I wish I could provided the details of who did what but that was over forty years ago. I guess I must have gotten enough hours as I finally got licensed in 1978.

I had a number of influences that propelled me toward wanting to become a psychologist. Dick Carpenter was an important influence as I have all ready said. Another was Robert Coles, M.D. Dr. Coles was to discuss Terry, a boy we both knew. This was in the 1960’s at the Judge Baker Guidance Center. Terry was very tall for fourteen, all arms that kept flying about, seldom to stop. His sandy hair seemed to fly in all directions. He giggled most of the time as if life should not be taken seriously. Terry could not read or write but this did not seem to matter to him.

Dr. Coles was tall and thin with dark eyes set deeply into his head, giving him a haunting look. He sat comfortably with his long arms folded before him and began to talk. Dr. Coles had a twang in his voice, not unpleasant, catching your attention. He told of taking Terry for rides in his MG convertible and how he helped Terry move the shift back and forth. He told of taking Terry to his apartment in Cambridge and how they tried to figure out together the meanings of the letters in Dr. Coles’ mail. Dr. Coles talked in this vein. After a while, when he had finished what he had to say, he excused himself and left.

I was sitting in back and heard a resident psychiatrist mumble something like, “Where is the formulation?” This was in the days of Id, Ego and Superego, the language of the day. Dr. Coles had given me a whole different perspective for dealing with Terry. I began looking at Terry as human, not a collection of defects.

After I got my license I had a contractor make an office for me on the ground floor of my home that had been the boy’s room. A young man came to see me in my office in Weston. He said he had just started a relationship with a female and he did not want to mess that up like he had done with others. After we talked some more, I suggested that he might want to bring this woman to my private office in my home to talk about a relationship. Dan (call him that) said he would think about this and talk to his woman.

At that time, back in the early ‘70’s a lot of us shrinks were deeply following family process. These were writers like Jay Haley, Salvador Manuchin, G. Bateson and a whole bunch of these thinkers. The short of this was that theory and practice had turned away from intrapsychic to interpersonal.

In the very next session, now at my home office, Dan brought a woman with him. Sally (call her that) said she was interested in relationships but was not ready to commit to anybody. Sally was shorter than Dan, blond and easily smiled on the verge of a giggle. Dan had dark curly hair with a frown as if something bad would happen. I gave both Sally and Dan a chance to talk of there most recent experience. Sally said she had gone to Australia and spent a year there. So far from home she remembers her exciting sexual episodes away from her parents. Dan came from Manhattan and settled in Concord, MA.

They both were of their own and had not back to see family for some time. I explored this, trying to get some idea of what their parents were like. Sally said her father was a big man and a tyrant. Her mother was quiet and passive. Dan said both parents were remote, seeming uninterested in him. My overall impression was that both sets of parents where never abusive but was indifferent to both Sally and Dan.

When you have both Dan and Sally “spilt-off” from family, a family process term, a family therapist like me will work to have them re-join their family. The idea is that Dan and Sally have a better chance to develop their relationship by re-connecting to their family of origin. Sally’s family was from Connecticut, so I gave them both instructions of how to re-engage her parents.

Similarly, Dan was from New York City and I gave them both instructions of how to re-engage his family. They were instructed to go together to visit each family. (I wish I had kept some of my notes.)

We spent several months talking of these visits and I had a feeling that Dan and Sally had re-joined their families. I felt like these visits gave Dan and Sally a good idea about what would do with their relationship. I also began to feel that I was standing in the way of them making their decision and said so.

About a year later I got a small note of thanks with a beautiful picture of a six-month old baby. Nice ending, don’t you think?

August 2, 2013

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