Michael Karson

  • Biographical Description

    • I received my Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Michigan in 1978 and practiced psychology for 25 years before entering academia. While I was in full-time practice, I tried to do as many different things as possible. I conducted psychotherapies privately and also in a community clinic, doing short-term cognitive and systems work with individuals and couples, and open-ended psychoanalytic therapy with adults. Since I am at bottom a behaviorist, I have tried to integrate different theoretical approaches into a cohesive, if idiosyncratic, blend. I also have an industrial practice, largely through a computer program I wrote that interprets the 16PF to help organizations decide whom to hire or promote. (I have also co-authored a program that interprets the 16PF for clinicians.) My efforts at theory integration are represented by various chapters in my books. My work with the 16PF led to my writing, with 2 co-authors, 16PF Interpretation in Clinical Practice, which has also been published in Spanish, German, and Croatian.

      I worked in the child welfare system for two decades, consulting on 10,000 cases and individually evaluating 800 children and 1000 parents. This work led to my writing Patterns of Child Abuse: How Dysfunctional Transactions are Replicated in Individuals, Families, and the Child Welfare System. Currently, I consult with child welfare workers through the Kempe Center. While in practice, I would testify in termination and custody trials fairly regularly. I thought the courtroom was so interesting that I went to law school in midlife. I was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts, but I have never practiced law except to consult with attorneys about examining and cross-examining mental health witnesses.

      Teaching graduate students my approach to early memories led to my writing Using Early Memories in Psychotherapy: Roadmaps to Presenting Problems and Treatment Impasses. I describe a step by step method for interpreting memories, which I see as indicating a pattern or schema for understanding the world, a pattern that is often outmoded in some manner that can produce idiosyncratic expectations and psychological symptoms. I advocate using the patient's vocabulary and imagery in therapy, rather than those of some theorist.

      I am interested in the way privilege, power and gender dynamics, and categorical approaches to people constrain the vitality of the therapeutic relationship and hinder the discovery of the client and the client's world. I think that for a long time theater professionals have struggled with the same problems therapists encounter in the effort to create a lively space, to facilitate meaningful human narratives, and to engage and change people, so I wondered what we can learn from them. This question led to my book, Deadly Therapy: Lessons in Liveliness from Theater and Performance Theory.

      My integrative approach to theory has found a happy home at DU. My colleagues are genuinely interested in psychology and I find that our approach to multiculturalism and individual differences is itself multicultural, so that we don't all have to agree. I think it's exciting for students to hear so many different points of view, and I have tried to present mine in the form of sketch comedy, joined good-naturedly by my colleagues, Lavita Nadkarni and Fernand Lubuguin, and many students.

      Lavita and I published Principles of Forensic Report Writing in 2013 for APA books. Lately, I’ve been writing mainly for my blog.

  • Blog

This portfolio last updated: Jun 2, 2014 11:25:59 AM