Dr. James Strickland PhD is a licensed Psychologist and has been in practice since receiving his PhD in Clinical and School Psychology from Hofstra University in 2006. He was trained in the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but more specifically he practices Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT), a type of CBT. He is presently a Fellow of the world renowned Albert Ellis Institute.
Two major events strongly influenced my career choice.
First, my brother, Michael, was severely injured in a diving accident that left him a quadriplegic. The medical community said they had done all they could do for him. I wanted desperately to help my brother, so began searching for a miracle. Some close friends tried to help, and though well intentioned, miracles were in short supply. Also as I observed my friends, I noticed that they were being coerced and willingly giving themselves over to someone else’s authority. Red flags began popping up, but at the same time, I became curious as to how the mind works and why people are able to be manipulated and guided toward a particular behavior pattern.
The second event had to do with my training as an Inline Speed Skater. In addition to training here in New York, I would make weekend training arrangements and travel to Dover, Delaware. There, I would train with a skater named Derek Parra, his coach Virgil Dooley and Mrs. Dooley.
Training with Derek, and under the guidance of Virgil and his wife, my skating improved significantly. So much so that I was invited, along with a number of other skaters, to participate in a week long training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado where Mrs. Dooley was the lead coach. While there, I listened to a series of motivational programs produced to help improve performance. They covered:
- How to establish the proper mind set
- Intrinsic motivation vs. extrinsic motivation
Once again, I found myself wondering why these practices could make such a difference in an athlete’s performance and how this sports psychology could help my performance.
Based on my performance, I became the captain of the outdoor speed skating Team: the Long Island Road and Track Skating Association (LIRTSA). Every Friday night we would meet and train at Cedar Creek Park in Wantagh. The Team would also hold a speed skating clinic in the hope of recruiting new skaters. One fateful night, I met a girl who changed my life forever! As the story goes:
“There was one girl that attended the Friday night clinic (Friday, July 22, 1994). Her name was Leslie. As a part of the recruiting process, the members of the speed team all paired off with an attendee. I paired off with Leslie (of course!). After the clinic was over, the members of the team and the attendees would all go out to eat afterwards. I had invited Leslie to join us. With my heart racing as fast as my skates, I got to the diner ahead of everybody and arranged them at the table as they came in so that the only seat available was the one next to me. When Leslie arrived at the diner, the only place to sit was next to me! I call this “weaselcraft;” I completely manipulated the whole situation.” Could you really blame me? I had fallen in love at first sight!
As Leslie and I spoke all night, I found out the she was an attorney and had been practicing for the last four years at a firm nearby. At that time, my highest education was a high school diploma. I really believed she was the one! At that point, I knew speed skating was not going to provide an income and lifestyle that I desired, so I began thinking of possible careers.
While working at my parents’ Dry Cleaning establishment, I began thumbing through an Intro to Psychology textbook that belonged to one of the girls I worked with. As I perused the book, I discovered that everything I had been experiencing in the last few years was explained in that book:
- The coercion my friends were subjected to;
- The behavioral modification and cognitive processing in the sports motivation programs;
- Why people think the way they think, feel the way they feel, and behave the way they do.
I picked up that Intro to Psychology textbook and voluntarily read that book for the next 4 hours, and said “This is it, I AM going to be a psychologist!” “I still have that same textbook … and I also have a picture of me sitting poolside, Spring Break 1995 in Puerta Vallarta, Mexico studying that book.” A subject that could hold my interest even while on vacation was definitely a field worth pursuing.
After completing a two year Associates Degree at Suffolk Community College, I transferred to Hofstra University to finish my undergraduate work and to pursue my doctorate. I took school very seriously. Knowing that I would be working with real people dealing with real problems was going to take some serious academic rigour.
As I focused on school, speed skating began to take a back seat. My friend Derek Parra continued to train, switched to ice speed skating and at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, won the Gold medal in 1500m and the Silver medal in the 5000m Long Track speed skating events. I have always wondered what I could have done if I had continued to train, but Derek forged on and got his Medals and I forged on and got my PhD, and the girl!” Leslie and I married on December 29, 1996.
As a younger man, I picked up the guitar three times, but did not follow through. I really wanted to play, but found myself frustrated when I could not play like my guitar hero (George Lynch, aka Mr. Scary from Dokken and Lynch Mob) in a short and unrealistic time frame. I never made a conscious decision to quit, but the fact that I was not achieving my goals as fast as I would have liked, led me to think I couldn’t achieve them at all. I was very wrong. The key is frustration tolerance and perseverance.
Over the years, I have learned that to reach goals, one must tolerate frustration and persevere. For those who do, your efforts will be rewarded with success. Having attended the Olympic Training Center, skated an 86 mile race from Athens to Atlanta Georgia, achieved academic goals, obtained a Ph.D. and become a licensed psychologist, I was now ready to take up the guitar again and accomplish my musical goals.
This time, when I picked up the guitar again, I recognized that it is not the destination, but the journey – the playing and practicing – that creates the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
It is the process, and not just the end goal, that is the key. I now take time every day to practice and I find great joy in my playing.
My mission is to help my clients help themselves because as I say, “no matter where they go, there they are.” I want my clients be able to take with them the ability to solve a problem or run through the process as we would in the office. “Their ability to help themselves is really what I want them to walk away with.” Feed a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, feed him for life!
And, by the way, I got the girl!
Leslie and I married on December 29, 1996. We live in Commack with our two children: Chelsea and Joseph.