Off The Couch #6 Teaching Psychology

How did Dr. Brown learn his methods for teaching psychology? What makes a great psychology teacher? Learn where Dan got his education in teaching and who mentored him along the way.

Read the Full Transcript:

Caroline Baltzer: So, Dan, one of the reasons that they probably chose me to interview you is because I’m your biggest fan, or one of your biggest – you have many big fans, but I’ve taken many of your Harvard continuing education courses. Some of them – more than once.

Dan Brown: And the private ones also.

Caroline Baltzer: And also, the private ones. I studied with you, I think, since 2008 and worked on the attachment theory and our treatment model with you. But I’m just extremely aware of what an incredible teacher you are, not only supervising at the one-on-one level, or in our small groups, but as one of the most popular teachers at the Harvard conferences. You are an amazingly effective teacher. And I think it’s because you are very clear, but you draw on such a breadth of other topics to illustrate something that you’re trying to teach. I would love to hear you talk about how you’ve developed your teaching style, and to also hear about the very unique types of topics that you cover that I don’t know anybody else who covers them, like conversion disorder as one of them.

Dan Brown: Well, I’ll begin with a story about where that came from. I went to graduate school on the Danforth Fellowship, which was for young promising teachers. They paid full tuition and living expenses at the University of Chicago, which I couldn’t afford. So, that was my ticket. They gave 12 of them a year, as far as I remember. They don’t give them anymore. It’s unfortunate. And one of the things we had to agree to is that, in summers, for four summers, they would take us for two weeks, or a month, to a hotel – the 12 fellows for each year for four years of fellows – so there’s about 50 students there, Danforth fellows. And for the next couple of weeks, they would teach us to teach. So, what they did was they brought in some of the best college professors in the country–

Caroline Baltzer: I didn’t know that.

Dan Brown: –who did live teaching, and they would film it. And then, they would break down the film, just like a professional athlete watches a football film. They would analyze the film with coaches, and they would show us how to teach.

Caroline Baltzer: I had no idea.

Dan Brown: So, I was taught to teach.

Caroline Baltzer: I think that’s extremely rare in our profession. People are not taught to supervise and teach.

Dan Brown: That was the legacy of Danforth fellows: that they were taught to teach because there were young promising teachers.

Caroline Baltzer: In all fields, not just psychology?

Dan Brown: In any field, whatever the field was, they were taught to teach. So, that’s where that came from. We got to see the best-talented teachers in the country and sat down with some fine-grained analysis in terms of what made them effective teachers. So, I’m just being a Danforth fellow as I was trained, and I’ve always appreciated that.

And then, when I left Cambridge Hospital in 1990, I was running two departments for 10 years at the medical school: the psychology department and the behavioral medicine department at The Cambridge Hospital. And when I left, it gave me much more freedom to spend time with my young kids as trying to be a good attachment figure. I decided to work in continuing education, which meant developing courses for licensed professionals, licensed psychologists, licensed psychiatrists, licensed psychiatric nurses, and licensed social workers. To make a living over the years, I would develop a series of courses. And that meant having to read all of the literature for that diagnostic category.

So, I developed courses for treatment of depression by reading all the outcome studies on depression; for the treatment of bipolar conditions, for the treatment of conversion disorders, for trauma bonding, and for the treatment of just about every diagnosis, with the exception of schizophrenia. We tried to read the best of the outcomes literature and translate into a two- or three-day course, or sometimes a one-day course, for that diagnosis. It meant knowing the whole history of ideas developed for that diagnosis and extracting out of that what the best recommendations for treatment were. So, one of the courses that I spent a lot of time working on was bipolar conditions. I was influenced by Fred Goodwin, who was the principal investigator for the bipolar project at the National Institute of Mental Health for 30 years. That’s where all the most difficult bipolar patients in the country were – in Fred’s program. I met Fred at the conference, and I liked him a lot. Over the years, whenever I had a difficult bipolar patient, I would consult with him on the phone, so he was like a mentor to me. So, I learned from the master, and that’s pretty much what I did in every field. If somebody was particularly good at the treatment that I thought was interesting to learn, I would invite them to my private continuing education program or my Harvard continuing education program and learn from them directly.

Caroline Baltzer: From the horse’s mouth.

Dan Brown: So, that was wonderful.

Watch the full clinical interview series:
1. Meet Dr. Daniel P. Brown
2. Overview of Trauma Treatment
3. Attachment Disturbances 
4. CCRT (Core Conflictual Relationship Themes)
5. Three Pillars Approach (Treatment for Attachment)
6. Teaching Psychology
7. Conversion Disorders
8. Factitious & Dissociative Disorder
9. Psychological Assessments
10. Bipolar Disorder Treatment
11. Trauma Bonding Maps
12. Conclusion

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