Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Forward Progress: Writing and Strathclyde Counselling and Psychotherapy Research Centre

Entry for 7 November 2006:

The rain finally returned today, after a week of absence. I had begun to miss it. Diane left for Spain this morning, off to see her Chilean exchange student sister Gloria for a few days, in Valladolid. This is a role reversal for us, since it’s usually she who stays home while I go off adventuring in Europe. I spent the day writing and taking care of admin. Mick has been pushing Lorna and I to carve out adequate time for our writing, so yesterday he put it on the Management Group agenda, as a result of which I have agreed to work at home on Tuesdays and two other mornings each week. The immediate payoff of this new regimen was finishing a second draft of my long-delayed paper for Al Mahrer’s special issue for American J of Psychotherapy. It’s not a moment too soon to finally be moving on my writing again, because I’ve got yet another editor (Jean Decety of U of Chicago) breathing down my neck for yet another book chapter (this one on empathy, with Mathias Dekeyser at KU Leuven in Belgium). But it feels very good to get my mojo back. Such colleagues!

More significant was finally getting my New Professor’s Fund proposal off to the Principal of the University, Andrew Hamnett, whom I met during my interview last December. In this case, “Principal” actually means President of the University, but with the difference that at least at this university, the Principal seems much more hands-on than the university presidents I’ve encountered in the US, who seem to spend most of their time talking to other administrators and politicians. (Here, there's another guy who does the ceremonial stuff, so the Principal can get things done.)

At any rate, I have been obsessing over this proposal for 2 months, trying to get it right, thinking and rethinking it, and tinkering with the budget. As I prepared to submit it, an inspiration struck me, and I wrote a brief cover note for the email putting the whole thing in context, as follows:

I have used my first two months here to take a thorough sounding of the possibilities and opportunities for research. In the process, I have put in a successful bid with Lorna Carrick for Faculty Strategic Development funds to set up a practice-based counselling research clinic, and also have put forward a bid for the Leverhulme Research Leadership Award. I am excited by the many possibilities available here for rigorous, ground-breaking and socially relevant research.

In this bid, in addition to paying for basic things such as computer and office furniture, I am proposing to a new line of research developing a new person-centred/experiential treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder, a widespread psychiatric disorder with links to key social problems such as substance abuse and employment difficulties. We hope to develop this as a distinctly Scottish alternative to Lord Leyard's well-publicized (and to my mind rather bizaare) recent proposal for training large numbers of counsellors to provide cognitive-behavioral treatments to the chronically unemployed.

Based my previous experience with American university administrators, I then settled back for weeks of benign neglect while he let my request fester in a pile of documents. Instead, he immediately copied me an email to his secretary asking her to bring it up next week at a scheduled meeting. This was surprising enough, but then a couple of hours later, I was stunned when the secretary informed me that my bid had been approved, for the amount requested, roughly four times the amount of the NIMH Small Grant I received in 1980 (my only successful federal grant)! I think my cover note must have succeeded in intriguing him. Either that, or he’s scarily efficient…

The upshot is the Social Anxiety Treatment Development Study is now in business, piggy-backed on top of the Practice-based Research Protocol component already funded through a Faculty of Education Strategic bid. Two of the three components of the Strathclyde Counselling and Therapy Research Center are funded; the third, Staff Clinic, component, is self-funding. (This was all laid out in my blog entry for September 10, 2006.) We now have to set the whole thing up: order equipment (a process begun yesterday), get ethics approval, develop the specifics of the two research protocols, apply for external funding, etc., etc. Exciting times!

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