Psychologist Teri Brooks
How did you get into this field?
I started out as a school psychologist. I very much enjoyed helping educational teams understand the needs of students and develop appropriate and effective educational and behavioral plans to support student success. It was very gratifying to have parents and teachers express such appreciation for finally having a comprehensive evaluation report that both described their child and provided concrete, feasible, and effective recommendations.
However, I was frustrated that similarly concrete, feasible, and effective behavioral advice and interventions were not available for challenges occurring in the home. Typical therapists tend to offer play therapy or otherwise individual therapy to children as a means of addressing social, emotional, and behavioral concerns. Time and time again I had seen this to be not only ineffective, but sometimes bad therapy advice had actually made things much worse.
Rather than working individually with children, I felt that working with parents and teaching them how to solve their child’s specific problem behavior would be a far more effective way of helping children “get better”, because parents are generally more motivated and more capable of change than children are. So, I went back to school to get my certification as a behavior analyst, and then I opened my private practice in order to provide just that service.
What do you love about the work?
I love that the principles of behavior analysis can be applied to any behavioral challenge or concern, even those that seem purely “emotional” (anxiety and depression, for example), and that everything I do is both evidence-based and incredibly efficient compared to other models of therapy.
I love that no parent ever walks out of my office wondering what we accomplished because we always have an action plan. There is always clear direction about what we are going to try next, and it usually works!
I feel it it my life’s work to help children and families feel happier and more successful. When I can support a parent to be the best parent they can be, and they tell me that their child is now a “perfect angel” (relative to how they were before they came to me), I feel like I am saving the world – one child, and family, at a time.
Why do people hire you?
Every parent loves their child and wants to be the best parent they can be. Parents hire me because they know I am highly effective at solving any kind of problem that might arise in childhood. Although that almost always means they will have work to do, this makes sense to parents who realize that an hour a week with an individual therapist is not going to be nearly as effective as the kinds of interventions they themselves can put into place for their children. I can tell them what those interventions are, and together we can make sure that parents and their children have the skills for everyone to feel successful and happy.
How do you feel about study skills?
Having worked as a school psychologist for so many years, it was always very discouraging to me that Study Skills weren’t routinely taught in an explicit curriculum. We know how people learn (much of that is based on behavior theory, by the way), and yet we have not applied that knowledge to our general education curricula in any consistent way.
It makes tremendous sense to teach students how they learn, and how they can maximize the time they spend learning new material. Frankly, many teachers would benefit from that fundamental knowledge as well, because many of them do not seem to know how to guide their students to be effective learners.
What’s your favorite piece of advice to give students?
Decide what you want in the short-term and in the long-term and then carefully consider what will be the most effective way to get those outcomes. Impulsive behavior that is in reaction to the emotions of the moment will rarely help you achieve your long-term goals, so learn to stop and think before deciding how you want to act.
This applies to the moment-by-moment daily decisions to pay attention in class or do your work, as well as how to respond to a teacher who makes you mad or the unreasonable demands made by your parents. Take intentional control of your life and be the maker of your own destiny.