Reisner's video statement


 

Biography

I recently found my grammar school autograph book from 1966. In it is a page called "My Favorites." For hero, I put "Mickey Mantle." For college, I put "Brooklyn College." For profession, I put "psychologist." My heroes have changed since then, and I went to Princeton. But I'm glad to say I never changed my mind about my chosen profession. I am proud to be a psychologist.

Obviously, not every 12-year-old aspires to be a psychologist. But my parents were survivors of the Holocaust and my childhood was filled with stories of suffering, of ethical dilemmas and of surprising fortitude.

One story I still remember vividly. My mother described the round-up of Jews in her small town when she was 14. The Nazis pushed them into a circle and beat those on the outside with clubs. My mother observed that some of the Jews tried to protect the children and elderly, while others pushed the weaker ones to the outside. She said, "I knew from that moment that to be human would not always come naturally. I knew from that moment I would have to make an effort to be a human being."

I guess I thought that only a psychologist could make sense out of my family's history. How could people do such things to one another? What are the consequences for the victims and perpetrators? How do we help people who suffer from prejudice and violence? What does it take for a person to "be a human being" in such circumstances?

I have explored these issues in my varied roles as a psychologist. I was chief psychologist at a major urban psychiatric hospital. I have been a faculty member and supervisor at Columbia University's clinical psychology program. I've taught psychiatric residents at New York University and feminist clinicians at the Women's Therapy Center Institute. I developed an expertise in trauma, violence and disaster, training clinicians in Kosovo, Iraq and West Africa. I went to Haiti after the earthquake to train the United Nations leadership in working with traumatized staff. On Sept. 11, I helped organize the family center at St. Vincent's Hospital in downtown Manhattan. It was a unique vantage point from which to learn about and experience the stages of grief in the hours and days after that terrible morning.

But my greatest challenge came when I learned that American psychologists were involved in torture. I became an activist psychologist dedicated to fighting such abuses. For this work I received the Beacon Award from the New York State Psychological Association — "presented to a psychologist whose leadership or advocacy has established a guiding light for the profession of psychology."

In all of these roles, I have strived to exemplify the lesson my mother taught me: that sometimes — in the face of great adversity, suffering, fear, or economic or social pressure — to be human doesn't always come naturally. Sometimes we have to make a special effort to be human.

Reisner's candidate statement

I have always loved being a psychologist. I love being part of the diverse community of clinicians, teachers, researchers and thinkers who use psychological knowledge to change the world for the better.

But lately, we have come upon hard times. Psychologists today are struggling with diminished incomes, reduced training and employment options, burdensome debt from student and other loans, and heightened pressures to make choices not wholly consistent with our values. More and more, our research is influenced by for-profit corporations or government agendas; our clinical work by managed care, insurance and pharmaceutical companies; our education and training by the dubious homogenization of psychology curricula. What happened to the joy of learning and discovery, appreciation for wise teachers and clinicians, and the shared belief that a psychologist can be counted on to be knowledgeable, ethical and caring?

I am running for APA president because I am confident that together we can turn this around.

My primary aim as president will be to move psychology forward by returning to our core values. I want to restore respect and excitement for psychology as a calling, as a source of empowerment for ourselves and those we help, as an inspiration to international psychologies, and as a field we'd welcome seeing our children enter.

To accomplish this, I offer a vision for the APA of transparency, democracy and courage — a vision in which leadership strives to fulfill the needs and mandate of the membership and council shapes this organization's policies and its future accordingly.

I believe our president should be a spokesperson for psychology, effectively communicating our values, our compassion and our capabilities, not just to other psychologists, but also to the public and to the international community.

I would be honored to have your support. For more details, please visit Reisner for President.