Dr. Stanford Griffith, Ph.D. ’83 has worked in underserved communities, primarily of color, delivering services to improve their residents’ mental health and overall quality of life throughout his career.

Psychologist in Private Practice
Retired Senior Psychologist and Former Program Director, Neighborhood Help Center, Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Queens Hospital Center

Memorable faculty: “George Stricker. When I applied to Derner, my chances of enrolling seemed dismal. My wife was expecting our second child and our financial resources were limited, almost prohibitive. Through the sensitivity and resourcefulness of George Stricker, I was able to secure a fellowship at the Mental Retardation Institute that covered tuition and expenses, along with a stipend. Without that help, I could not have attended. This type of support was consistent throughout my experience at the Institute.”

Mentor: “Matt Bailey said he’d do his best to insure that all the students of color completed the program, and he did. He was influential and held me accountable with weekly dissertation meetings and encouragement.”

Dr. Stanford Griffith’s vision and mission has been working in underserved communities, primarily of color, and delivering services to improve their residents’ mental health and overall quality of life.

By the time he was in his final year at Derner, he had already secured a position as a psychotherapist at New Hope Guild in Brooklyn, New York, a community oriented mental health and child guidance center, where he worked part-time for ten years. In addition to conducting individual, group and family psychotherapy, and supervising psychologists, social workers, and other clinical staff, he ran a summer therapeutic day camp, with fellow Derner alumnus Alvin Smith, M.A. ’77, Ph.D. ’84.

At the same time, he worked at Queens Hospital Center, where he would remain for nearly 30 years. “I started as a clinical coordinator for an outpatient community based mental health clinic, located in three apartments in the housing projects in South Jamaica,” he said. “This was around the time of the community mental health movement. The thought at that time was to demystify and destigmatize mental issues and bring resources and services into the communities in a more accessible way.”

He was later promoted to director of this clinic and also served as coordinator of community services for the Department of Psychiatry at Queens Hospital. “If we had new programs coming out of the hospital, I would be the point person to explore, do a needs assessment, and market the program in the communities that needed the services.”

Dr. Griffith found his work in the community to be rewarding. “I grew up about a quarter of a mile from the community we were serving. I grew up in that village, and returned to help out in that same village years later,” he said. “I got to experience things that made me feel like I was making a difference.”

Over the years, Dr. Griffith has had many validating experiences. “Witnessing many, particularly the youth we have worked with, who at one time availed themselves of psychological services, move on to prosper and report living comfortable lives, makes one feel worthwhile,” he said. “Seeing programs that were started during my tenure continue to be of service to the community has also been rewarding.” 

Throughout his career, Dr. Griffith has also provided consultation to programs such as Community Mediation Services, The Aids Center of Queens County and Families in Need.  He holds the rank of assistant clinical professor at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and has taught at St. John’s University’s graduate program for family and couples psychotherapy, as well as supervised graduate psychology externs at Queens Hospital Center. He has served as board chair of the National Council of Negro Women, Queens, vice chair of the Human Resources Center of St. Albans, and is currently vice president of the Queens County Mental Health Society.

“Yes, I still have my hand in the community,” said Dr. Griffith, who leads a support group for young adults with sickle cell disease and remains active in both the national and local Association of Black Psychologists. He also continues to maintain the clinical practice he began in 1984.

Dr. Griffith, who considers himself semi-retired, is hopeful that the next generation of psychologists will bring mental health services to the people and communities that need them most. “My motto is each one, reach one, teach one,” he said. “As I prepare for pasture, I’d like to feel I passed the baton to prepared and deserving psychologists.”

Dr. Griffith, who has witnessed the movement away from community mental health towards institutional mental health over the course of his 40 year career, has this advice for students enrolled in Derner today. “There’s a great need for students to consider working in the community and to learn and be comfortable working with clients from the community, as they pursue careers in psychology,” he said. “There are opportunities in the public and private sector and, as I see the way the world is going, there always will be.”

Published May 2013

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