I spent my early childhood in eastern Washington State, where my parents had worked on the Manhattan Project. My fascination with nature and people began with the transformation of the sagebrush desert by the Columbia River dams and the Hanford plutonium facility. Later, in California's Santa Clara Valley, I witnessed blossom-filled valleys morphing into housing tracts and shopping malls.
I came east to M.I.T. and studied molecular biology and neuroscience. Realizing I wanted to work with people, I went to medical school at Yale. In psychiatric training at Harvard I avoided the quarrels between psychoanalysts and psychopharmacologists and focused on effective treatments, which included psychodynamic therapy, medication, group and family therapy and, later, cognitive-behavioral therapy.
I worked to bring modern psychiatric services to an antiquated state hospital and a Veterans Administration facility and then at a private psychiatric hospital, where we had many more resources to address our patients' problems. My last twenty-five years were in outpatient practice. I enjoyed seeing patients with a variety of problems—major mental illnesses, addictions, anxiety, depression, abusive relationships, questions about sexual orientation, and handing the losses that are the fabric of our lives. I served on the clinical faculties of Harvard and Boston University.
I’ve always had an intellectual project under way. I did clinical research on anxiety about heart surgery, inherited biochemical disease, and the relationship between depression and alcoholism. Later I delved into controversial areas—psychiatrists’ disregard of substance abuse, the need to collaborate with nonmedical therapists, why patients don’t take their medication, and the huge problem of prescription drug abuse. I’ve always been fascinated by how brain science plays out in psychiatric practice and am thrilled that it is now beginning to make useful contributions.
After fifty years in psychiatry, I retired from clinical practice and teaching in 2021. I'm now leading and taking courses in Harvard's lifelong learning program and explore this next phase of life.