Retirement Experiences of Psychologists

Edited by Rodney R. Baker and
Patrick H. DeLeon
2021 Cambridge Scholars Publishing

Drs. Rodney Baker and Patrick DeLeon have put together a fascinating combination of stories  from the generation of psychologists who are currently retiring from active practice, service,  and teaching. The effort stems from a brain child of their symposia presented at the American  Psychological Association (APA) running from 2014 through 2019. Retirement Experiences of  Psychologists captures a patchwork of different perspectives from high-powered psychology  professionals. Contributors those of the various ethnic identities, persons of color, and gender,  each who are in a different phase of retirement, with a different career path and unique story.

Editors are Rodney Baker, PhD, retired as mental health director and chief of psychology at the  Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and Patrick H.  DeLeon, Ph.D., MPH, JD, a well-known friend of many in the Louisiana psychology community.  Dr. DeLeon is a former president of the American Psychological Association (APA), member of  the National Academy of Medicine, and honorary fellow of several national nursing  associations.

The editors explain that clinical practice was primarily a post-World War II activity and so many  of the experiences of today’s retirees is a first experience event. Not only do retiring psychologists have very few, if any, role models for retirement, but the complexity and  variability of psychology practice creates a rich tapestry of experiences and choices that gives  the book its depth.

The writing and personal essays do not disappoint. The psychologists explain their career  journeys in candid, intimate and revealing ways. They share elements of their experience that  are enjoyable and insightful, providing the reader personal details and often profound  conclusions about the journey.

The book design includes sections on “Retirement Stories from Institutional Professional Activity (Non-Academic),” on “Retirement Stories from Academic Professional Activity,’ another on “Retirement Stories from Independent Private Practice,” and a fourth on “Retirement Stories from Psychology Organizations.”

Retirement Experiences of Psychologists brings together an interesting combination of  psychologists, including Merry Bullock, PhD, retired as international affairs director at the APA,  Ellen Cole, PhD, author of Older Women Who Work, and Thomas Grisso, PhD, emeritus  professor of at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, MA, where his research contributed to developmental and mental health policy and law in the juvenile and  criminal justice systems.

Contributors also include James M. Jones, PhD, who directed the Minority Fellowship Program  and served as executive director for Public Interest at the APA, Ronald F. Levant, EdD, MBA,  ABPP, another former president of the APA, and a key person responsible for creating the new  field of the psychology of men and masculinities, and Ruth Ullmann Paige, PhD, retired from independent practice and a past APA Recording Secretary and member of APA Board of Directors.

Gilbert O. Sanders, EdD, who served 37 years in the U.S. Air Force, Army, and Public Health  Service, Michael J Sullivan, PhD, APA’s “citizen psychologist,” and Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD, ABPP,  another former APA president are also among the contributors.

The essays are full of tidbits of wisdom and humor and insights. Dr. Baker writes, “… I didn’t  want to die at my VA desk still worrying about performance standards, workload, budgets, and  the myriad of other things that always faced me in addition to the things I liked doing. There  must be something else to consider in my future.”

“My chief losses in retirement include loss of sleep deprivation—I really enjoy my afternoon nap …”

Dr. DeLeon writes, “From one perspective, there never is a good time to leave a position that allows one to advance a deeply held vision for bettering society—especially one that allows  regularly visiting the White House, Supreme Court, and Hawaii.”

“And yet, an appropriate analogy might be playing in the National Football League. The games  are exciting. If you survive, you know that you must be good. And yet, at some point, your knees simply can no longer take the daily pounding.”

Dr. Willis writes, “I realize that a part of my difficulty adjusting to retirement is that I have been  working since I was a child, and it is hard not to be busy all the time.” In, “I retired from my job  but not my profession,” Dr. Levant writes, “The move out of my second deanship was one of the
best choices that I have made in my life. It felt like unloading an 80-pound backpack, …”

In, “Retirement has an Existential Identity,” Dr. Jones tells us, “One thing keeps coming back to me…get things in order. I resist that to some degree because it feels too much like the end  game.” […] “The past is long and getting longer, the future is short getting shorter, and the  present is not an instant but the prolonged consciousness that fuses the two.”

A wistful theme from Dr. Baker emerges, “If I had a complaint about retirement it would be  what I vaguely remember as someone calling the lament of the elderly: ‘Now that I know all the  answers, no one asks me the questions.’”

And reflected from Dr. DeLeon, “And yet, somewhat embarrassingly, from time to time, as one  becomes more senior and reflects on the past, there is a subtle feeling that wouldn’t it be nice if only more people were aware of what one has accomplished …”

While a little hard to get hold of through Amazon, Retirement Experiences is available from the  publisher and well worth the price.

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