Alan Kazdin, the John M. Musser Professor of Psychology & Child Psychiatry, said he believes in a practical approach to childhood psychology. The American Psychological Association announced Monday that Kazdin would receive its 2011 Award for Distinguished Scientific Applications of Psychology, one of the organization’s highest honors, for his work in the field. Kazdin is the director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, has authored over 650 peer-reviewed papers and has written or edited more than 45 books.
Q What attracted you to child psychology?
A The plight of our children in this country is just unbelievable. For example, on a given day in this country, five children die of abuse or neglect. I guess my interest is in what can we do to help children. And that involves working with adults a lot, as well as with children.
Q How did you devise your renowned method for correcting conduct problems in children, “The Kazdin Method”?
A Well, it’s funny. In science, you don’t really name a method after you. That was something some publisher did. There’s a great deal of research on how to develop child behavior in the home that most parents don’t know about, and we’ve been working on that for many years. We’ve developed [methods] that can really help these families based on a large body of scientific evidence and research. There’s really huge science here that could really help parents tomorrow.
Q You won the award specifically for applications in psychology. How is that different from psychological research?
A The research we do is applied user-friendly research. Usually in science you say that the study has implications, and if we learn about this we will be able to help the next generation and all that is very important. The science I do is a little bit different. The science I do will help people tomorrow, right now. Right now.
Q What do you see as the future for child therapy? What areas do you think need more research?
A Research is doing really well. The problem is, we can’t get the word out to the people who are seeing families. So for example, we have a very well-established treatment for childhood anxiety and depression, but if you went to most therapists in most cities, you wouldn’t get these treatments that are known to work. The main challenge for us is getting these treatments out to the people who need them. The people who do the therapy often don’t know them or don’t have training in them, and the people who need the treatment don’t know to ask, “Is this the best treatment for my child?”
Q Do you see mental health education as important to the future of the field?
A We do, and that education is two-fold: The public needs to have more information and the people who are delivering the services need to be trained in those treatments that make a difference. And it’s really hard to do that.