Robert E. Erard

Robert E. Erard

Clinical Psychology, Horace Rackham School of Graduate Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1983

Current Positions

Clinical and forensic psychologist. Clinical Director of Psychological Institutes of Michigan, P.C

How did you become interested in Personality Assessment?

Apart from taking an MMPI in an undergrad psychology course, my first exposure to personality assessment was when I was visiting the clinical psych grad program at the University of Michigan for an interview and got to sit in on Marty Mayman's Clinical Inference course. I found it completely absorbing to watch Mayman take his students through a handful of WAIS Information subtest responses, systematically building tentative inferences about the respondent's personality functioning until it seemed that one could write a 3-page report based on little more than 5 or 6 Information items. At the time, personality assessment was the core focus of UM's clinical psych program, on which everything else was built. I found that immensely valuable and wish current graduate students could be trained that way.

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 am Clinical Director of a 45-year-old, full-service, private group practice of 8 psychologists, most of whom regularly do personality assessment. My practice is about half psychotherapy or supervision and half assessment. Most of my assessment work is forensic, including family law, employment litigation, malpractice, criminal, and disability cases. I testify regularly in state and federal courts, but most of the cases in which I serve as a consultant or expert witness settle before trial. In my spare time, I do writing and editing for journals and offer workshops and symposia for psychologists, lawyers, and judges.

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

The first vivid memory of my presidency was my belated discovery that I had just signed on for 6 years of service, a detail that I had somehow overlooked prior to running! But it has turned out to be an immensely rewarding time, largely because of the creativity, energy, and excellent dedication of fellow board members and other SPA volunteers and the superb support of Paula Garber, our administrative director, and Monica Tune. A major focus during my presidency was establishing Personality Assessment as an APA-recognized proficiency. This involved intensive group study of how education, training, and practice actually work in our field and careful thought about what good practice looks like, followed by an enormous writing and editing project. No individual or even small group could have done it alone, but with the help of the entire board and a host of SPA members who volunteered, we ended up with something to be proud of and learned much about ourselves in the process. Also memorable to me was the experience of writing and delivering the two requisite addresses concerning where we are and where we are headed in personality assessment. It made me think less about my individual practice and much more about the evolution of the broader discipline, and it was a great learning experience. It was also a real kick when my offbeat idea of presenting portions of my talks in song was warmly received by our membership and I was not hooted off the podium. We really are a fun group!

Tell us how you initially learned about and joined SPA.

Feeling a little out-of-date as a Klopfer user, I took a 3-day workshop on the Rorschach from John Exner in Chicago. On the first day, he handed out membership applications for SPA and strongly recommended that we all join. Once I attended my first Annual Meeting, I was hooked for life.

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?

There's so much for us to do that it can hardly be reduced to a brief answer, but here are a few things that come to mind immediately: 1) Restore training in personality assessment at the graduate level to its rightful place at or near the core of clinical training. 2) Educate the general public about how personality assessment can benefit individuals and society and soften its threatening and mysterious public image. 3) Encourage the routine use of multi-method approaches to assessment that go beyond checklists and even self-report. 4) Develop research and theory to help us understand in greater depth how self-report and performance-based tests are best used to complement each other and how to integrate these findings with personality data from multiple sources. 5) Offer enhanced training and scientific validation in the area of integrating evidence from multiple sources in formulations and report-writing. 6) Develop clearer guidelines for the application of assessment data in clinical and forensic settings. 7) Promote research integrating personality tests and measures with physiological and neurophysiological measurements. 8) Develop adaptive personality tests that use item-reponse theory and 21st century computing power to individualize and streamline the assessment process. 9) Encourage health care systems to view personality assessment as a key part of treatment planning.

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