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.