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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

A Wolf In Psychologist’s Clothing

This past Thursday, the UMB Psychology Department hosted a talk at the University Club, Healey Library, 11th Floor, by psychologist Tony Wolf, specializes in working with children and teenagers and runs a private practice in the Springfield area.

Wolf, who is also the author of several books on adolescent psychology, including Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me & Cheryl to the Mall?: A Parent’s Guide to the New Teenager and Mom, Jason’s Breathing On Me!: The Solution To Sibling Bickering spent close to an hour at the podium, addressing an assembly of psychology students and faculty members on the best ways to help adolescents deal with common issues and some not-so-common ones, as well.

Wolf began his talk with a disclaimer that, “If you don’t have a certain kind of personality, you cannot work with kids, you cannot work with teenagers.” He explained that most psychiatrists, while dealing with adolescents, don’t really do a thorough therapy component, and focus on diagnosis. Wolf differentiates himself from others in his field by emphasizing communication with the patient’s parents.

“If I see a kid over a period of time,” Wolf explained of his predominately male patients, “I will keep regular contact with the parents. Teenage guys are not the best reporters of what’s going on in their lives.” And while they don’t necessarily like the idea that their parents will in all likelihood report stuff that paints a less-than-glowing image of them to the therapist, they accept that this is the way it must be.

Wolf’s own confidentiality agreement, he notes, states that everything said by the child in therapy is kept between the two of them, unless something is mentioned that poses a danger to the child, e.g. drug abuse. Conversely, anything said about the child by third parties is made known to him, without exception.

Teenagers, Wolf emphasized, are prone to self-aggrandizement and can use a therapist to try to bolster their position with their parents. This is something he cautions could undermine the whole relationship between therapist and patient.

Wolf went on to describe some of the more interesting cases he has encountered in his private practice. These ranged from the son of Seventh-Day Adventists who refused to attend school and repeatedly toyed with the idea of suicide to a tormented goth who expressed in writing his desire to see his classmates dead (this predated Columbine).

The common thread with the vast majority of the cases he sees is that Wolf finds the kids involved to be genuinely likeable but up against social problems endemic to their age group. He stressed these problems need to be taken care of in adolescence because if they are allowed to develop into adult problems they will be much harder to solve.

Wolf closed his monologue by explaining why he’s still in his line of work. “One of the things that’s nice to be able to say is that I’ve been doing this for a lot of years and I’m still enjoying it.”