How are Derner School of Psychology doctoral students applying their training in the community? Learn about the growth of the Derner Hempstead Clinic, its impact, and the experience of student psychotherapists training at this innovative program.
Dr. Bob Mendelsohn is popular among the students for his lively personality and his rambunctious sense of humor. Having been a rock and jazz drummer prior to his career as a psychologist, he has brought his penchant for performing into the classroom. He attributes his love of performing and telling jokes, as well as his deep passion for psychology, to his Aunt Mildred Newman, who herself became a psychologist after having been psychoanalyzed by one of Sigmund Freud’s first students—Theodore Reik. When Dr. Mendelsohn was a child, his Aunt Mildred would reward him with a dollar every time he told a joke or sang a song—and a dollar was a lot of money back then. Many years later, Dr. Mendelsohn is still telling jokes, but instead of receiving money, he is now on the giving end—he is known throughout the student body as the professor who will throw money at the first years to help fund their ‘mandatory’ parties. Dr. Mendelsohn loves telling jokes so much that he will not hesitate to repeat the same joke over and over again…and again. Dr. Mendelsohn also loves his granddaughter, Stella Rose. He is prone to periodic stoppages during his lectures in order to show pictures of her to the class. Overall, Dr. Mendelsohn makes psychology fun and accessible and Derner would not be the same without him.
“…Gordon was colorful, the likeness of which hasn’t been seen since he left us so early…Gordon had a history of having Christmas parties at his home. He’d have the whole institute over to his home. He lived not far from campus. So, a group of us were sitting around the table, having a drink of “GLOG” (wine punch—very potent!) and we put down our glasses and we watched our glasses walk away from us.” —Jerry Gold, Day Residue Fall 2016
Dr. Mendelsohn re-read Jerry Gold’s piece in the Fall 2016 Day Residue and offered, “We have similar recollections…”
“I also reminisce about the Christmas Parties at Gordon Derner’s house. It is typically the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of the old days here. Gordon had all sorts of interesting exotic lizards and birds—it felt like we were in a rainforest. Actually, it felt like we were a family celebrating Christmas in a rainforest.”
Dr. Mendelsohn reminisces, “When Rich Billow and me (or is it I?) were new faculty members and Gordon would invite us into his office with the following words… ‘I want to vent my spleen’
“…We knew that we were being invited to hear some real Derner Gossip and maybe even drink some of the whiskey that Gordon had hidden in his desk. It was wonderful for me; interesting conversations took place in that room and, as with my Aunt Mildred, I felt that I was being invited to do/be part of something great.
“As Jerry Gold has told you, the Derner School was smaller and more intimate—it was a family environment and we all knew each other and were all friendly with each other.
“The field of psychology was much smaller—there were opportunities to meet the experts in the field (Kernberg, Searles, Bion) and train with them— this is one of the many ways that I was very fortunate.”
Dr. Mendelsohn’s advice to current students is to take full advantage of all of the training opportunities that are offered to us (formal and informal) not only because we are going to be the therapists of the next generation, but also, with the changes in the mental health (helping) professions, we are going to be called upon to be the mentors and teachers of those who are not being trained as doctoral level clinicians. Dr. Mendelsohn also reminded me of another piece of advice that he has given to each and every first year doctoral class that he has welcomed to Derner (at this point… 43 of them!): “Get close to your classmates, make friends, ours can be a lonely profession. Like-minded friends/colleagues are essential for self-care.”
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