Bruce L. Smith

Bruce L. Smith

Clinical Psychology, Harvard University, 1973

Current Positions

Private Practice, Berkeley, CA. Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Univ. of California. Berkeley Visiting Professor, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China

How did you become interested in Personality Assessment?

Obviously, I studied assessment in graduate school, but my interest really started in earnest during my post-doc at the Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA. There, assessment (from the Rapaport-Schafer model) was an integral part of the work with all patients, and I got to see what a thoughtful assessment could provide in terms of treatment planning. When I moved back to California, I began teaching assessment, and my interest continued to grow.

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.

For the most part, I am in private practice. Until recently, it was roughly evenly split between psychoanalytic psychotherapy and assessment (the latter both clinical and forensic), but more recently, I have de-emphasized my therapy practice in favor of assessment because the latter allows more flexibility in terms of schedule. I have been involved heavily internationally (I am currently President of the International Society for Rorschach and Projective Methods), and travel extensively to lecture and teach. I have been teaching Rorschach and TAT especially in the countries of the former Yugoslavia and have been working on developing clinical psychology at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I am also faculty at UC Berkeley where I teach assessment and supervise.

What are the most memorable aspects of your time as SPA President?

My presidency was my first experience leading a national organization, and at first I was intimidated by the responsibility. I was fortunate to have an extraordinary Board including Sandy Russ, Barry Ritzler, Judy Armstrong, and Virginia Brabender, so the work turned out to be easy. Actually, the year following my presidency was the most trying, as we lost our office manager and had to hire a new one on an emergency basis. I also remember our Board meeting being rescheduled because of 9/11. Most importantly, through SPA I made lifelong friends who are some of my most cherished relationships, and in one instance re-connected with a dear friend with whom I had lost contact.

Tell us how you initially learned about and joined SPA.

SPA's annual meeting in 1987 was in Berkeley, and several friends that I knew through Riggs were there--notably Alan Sugarman and the Lerners. It was Paul Lerner who got me to join in 1987. I am now celebrating my 25th year!

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?

Scientifically, personality assessment continues to grow and thrive. The MMPI-RF and the R-PAS are indicative of the intellectual ferment that marks our field (regardless of one's opinion of those two particular systems). Of course, it will be imperative as we continue to move forward that adequate research is aimed at clinically (and forensically) relevant topics, so that the practice of assessment is always based on the most up-to-date information. The challenge as I see it is two-fold: in the first place, we need to ensure that the value of assessment is both documented (in terms of research) and promulgated so that it continues to be a part of our health care system. Secondly--and here our work on the Proficiency in Assessment is critical--we need to ensure that training and credentialling in assessment are such that those who do practice do so at the highest levels of professionalism.

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