Paul L. Wachtel is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at CCNY. He did his undergraduate studies at Columbia and received his doctorate in clinical psychology at Yale. He is a graduate of the New York University postdoctoral program in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy and is an adjunct faculty member there. He was a cofounder of the Society for the Exploration of Psychotherapy Integration (SEPI) and is a past president of that organization. He has lectured and given workshops throughout North America, South America, Europe, and Asia both on clinical matters and on the applications of psychological theory and research to the pressing social problems of our times. He is a Fellow of Divisions 12, 29, and 39 of the American Psychological Association and was the winner of the 2010 Hans H. Strupp Award for Psychoanalytic Writing, Teaching, and Research, the 2012 Distinguished Psychologist Award by Division 29 (Psychotherapy) of APA and the 2013 Scholarship and Research Award by Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of APA.
Syllabus: Theory I: Integrative Approaches to Psychotherapy
Syllabus: Advanced Topics in Psychotherapy II
Dr. Wachtel's research focus lies largely in the realm of theoretical inquiry, exploring the ways in which proponents of different theoretical positions often maintain their positions by attending to only a portion of the potentially relevant data or utilizing only a limited spectrum of the potentially relevant research methodologies. Concurring with the viewpoint of Kurt Lewin that "there is nothing so practical as a good theory," he has aimed to bring together data that are often confined to particular theoretical silos in order to identify limitations and unacknowledged assumptions of current theoretical positions and construct theoretical models that are more comprehensive and consistent with a broader set of data. He has particularly applied this approach to developing a broader foundation for the practice of psychotherapy, but has also been interested in illuminating the ways in which findings highlighting the powerful influence of early experiences and findings highlighting the often exquisite responsiveness to current contexts and contingencies can be reconciled and can point to a more robust understanding of personality dynamics and development, of attachment phenomena, and of the relation between individual attitudes and larger social forces. In exploring these issues, attention is paid both to the dynamics of vicious circles and self-fulfilling prophecies that account for much of the continuities in personality over time and over contexts and to the ways in which change and differentiation is built into the organism in the capacity to discriminate between the implications and consequences of different stimuli, situations, or social and relational contexts. Reconciling and developing a more differentiated understanding of the dialectical relationship between continuity and change, consistency and differentiation, is an ongoing challenge in which the most interesting research questions are not about whether there is continuity or change but when and how one or the other predominates.
Research and Scholarship Mentorship
Dr Wachtel's participation in students' research has primarily been focused on one-to-one mentorship rather than in a group project. He works particularly with students interested in theoretical inquiry and exploration of the therapeutic process, but also with students with an interest in a range of empirical projects that match his expertise. In addition to theoretical and psychotherapy-related dissertations, many students whose work he has mentored have focused on research addressing the psychological dimension of some of the key challenges facing our society. These have included issues of race and culture; topics related to materialism, climate change and the environment; the meaning of money and possessions in people's lives and their unwitting choices and priorities in balancing the material and relational dimensions of their lives; the psychological impact of social media and the new technology; and the ways that unconscious processes, framing, and priming influence political attitudes.