Anita Boss

Anita Boss

Clinical Psychology, Yeshiva University, Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, 1993

Current Positions

Independent Practice in Clinical and Forensic Psychology; Alexandria, VA

How did you become interested in Personality Assessment?

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa, two of my favorite professors had clinical practices and talked about personality assessment in class. Learning about their careers motivated me to explore this further. Another professor's primary areas of concentration at the time were life narratives and qualitative research. While the theories involved in this type of research should also be a key component of clinical assessment, they are sometimes overlooked. These ideas contributed to the foundation of my future interests.

Tell us about your current job. We are interested in hearing about the different things that people do who work in the area of personality assessment.

I've been in independent practice as a clinical and forensic psychologist for 10 years; before that, I worked in correctional settings and a forensic psychiatric hospital. The majority of my work involves evaluating people who are facing criminal charges, but I also conduct other types of forensic evaluations and consult to agencies regarding employment or fitness for duty matters. The most frequent forensic referrals in my practice include risk assessments for future violence or sexual violence, potential insanity defenses, and sentencing mitigation. My favorite referrals often begin when an attorney calls and asks, "Can you help me understand why this happened?" From there, we discuss the case and define the questions. Over the past few years, I have been developing the non-forensic side of my practice by adding more collaborative and therapeutic assessment.

What are the most interesting and/or meaningful aspects of your job?

The most meaningful moments for me are when the light bulb goes on in my client. A client can be a lawyer, the court, a therapy client, or a clinical evaluee. When I've used assessment techniques to make sense of a complex problem or conundrum and then explain the findings in a way that ties all the information together, there is always that rewarding moment when the other party comes to a new understanding. This can happen anywhere, ranging from a therapeutic assessment feedback session to the courtroom.

Tell us how you initially learned about and joined SPA.

One of my supervisors during my post-doc at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, was a member. I loved going through his old issues of JPA. He emphasized the importance of belonging to organizations that will provide continuing education in the future, when I would no longer be in supervision.

How has SPA impacted or benefited you or your career?

For one thing, I would never have thoroughly learned the MMPI-2 if I had not joined SPA! It was not taught in my graduate program at the time, and one of my post-doc supervisors said that I would have to learn it on my own. I was parked in a cubicle with a manual and a few textbooks to read. At SPA's annual meeting, there were excellent workshops, but also the key figures in MMPI/MMPI-2 interpretation and research were around in various symposia, research sessions, and hallways. This made the instrument come alive for me, which was not happening in my lonely hours of reading borrowed books. The ongoing benefit is the wealth of opportunity to keep up with the wide range of new developments in personality assessment. Attending the conferences is such a pleasant way not only to reconnect with friends in the field, but also to keep up with the latest information in a setting where we can all talk about it. Even when there have been heated controversies that went badly, I've found this to be educational and applicable to future work and ways of thinking about our ever-changing field.

As we look forward to SPA's 100th anniversary in 2038, what do you think is important in order for the field of personality assessment to thrive and to benefit others?

Anyone involved in practice, research, and/or development in personality assessment should always respect the history of any method, but also respect others who may have different ideas for the future of these methods. I have long been concerned that the public antagonism, bitterness, and occasional hostility expressed between professionals with differences of opinion will erode the reputation of assessment as a whole. Assessment is what sets our field apart from other mental health services, and we have already experienced the drastic reduction in demand and compensation for assessment at the hands of insurance companies and state budget cuts. We must work together, regardless of differences of opinion, politics, and finance, to continue SPA's tradition of scholarly and scientific debates based on mutual respect. Only with collegial respect and intellectual integrity can we keep assessment strong in the future and demonstrate its utility in diverse contexts.

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