Spotlight: Dr. Craig Kordick
Dr. Craig Kordick is a licensed clinical psychologist in private practice and an assistant adjunct professor at Hunter College. The interview below has been edited for concision and clarity.
WISTMAN: Hello! First things first: Where did you attend school?
KORDICK: I went to St. Bonaventure University in upstate New York and then the College of New Jersey, where I received a masters degree in special education teaching, and then I went to Fielding Graduate University for my PhD in clinical psychology.
NOAH: What field or fields of psychology do you specialize in?
KORDICK: I specialized in clinical psychology. Within that, my area of focus is psychodynamic theory and attachment theory. More generally, I have studied developmental psychology and its application to clinical work. I am specialized in gestalt psychotherapy as well as trauma-informed treatment.
NOAH: Good. And what classes do you teach at Hunter?
KORDICK: Most recently I’ve been teaching personality psychology and introduction to clinical psychology, but over the years–I’ve been at Hunter for many years–I’ve taught developmental psychology, social psychology, abnormal psychology, and human sexuality.
NOAH: So you’ve moved around to different topics over the years. Has that been your own doing?
KORDICK: It’s been mostly logistical in terms of scheduling and what classes are available. NOAH: Great. Then, how did you get started in clinical psychology?
KORDICK: I’ve always loved the study of psychology. I was an undergraduate double-major– psychology and elementary education. I always knew I wanted to do something in human service, even well before I went to college. When I came out, I thought I would stay more in the education area. My first classroom teaching job was at a special education day school program for adolescents, and being in that environment brought me front and center with clinical experiences. I felt like a counselor to the kids. I thought I would do school psychology but it just wasn’t sitting well. So I waited another year and in that year I was introduced to Fielding Graduate University, and it was the right fit; it was the exact program I was looking for. So I made the shift to clinical psychology.
NOAH: How do you go from there to establishing your own personal practice?
KORDICK: Well, in graduate school for clinical psychology, there are three core areas you’re working on simultaneously. There is the classroom learning; your research competencies; and your clinical training. The clinical training typically occurs outside of your school program. I started with clinical experience right from the beginning. You can’t really learn technique so much from a textbook. You gotta be out there in the field.
NOAH: Can you give a few examples of the kind of things you did in your field learning?
KORDICK: My first placement was a social therapy club, for young people living with schizophrenia. We ran groups and recreational programming. From the very beginning, I was also able to do some psychological assessment training. Later, in 1996, I was working in an organization in the South Bronx where we provided HIV and AIDS services. That organization had a residential drug-treatment center, and I did hardcore psychodynamic psychotherapy groups with men who were living in the drug treatment residence. I’ve done mostly community-based work in my training. I ended up staying as a staff psychologist at Jacobi Hospital for eleven more years following my internship. This was a really good training ground for my practice.
NOAH: Would you say that what you learned in the classroom or in your practice was overall more valuable to your ability to perform well as a clinical psychologist?
KORDICK: I think what I value most in the classroom, and about Fielding specifically, is learning how to be a good critical thinker–really being able to synthesize information in a way that prepared me for my clinical work. Fielding Graduate University is where I was exposed to theory, and I strongly believe that, to be a good clinician, whether you’re a psychologist, a clinical social worker, or a licensed mental health counselor, you need to be grounded in theory to do deep work. The theory helps you develop your own worldview of how human beings change and symptoms form. That informs your work. I continue, years out of school, to read and read and read. But you don’t learn how to be a good clinician from a textbook.
NOAH: I wanted to ask some questions that are oriented towards someone who’s trying to become a clinical psychologist. Personally, what’s the best part of the work, the most rewarding part, and the hardest part?
KORDICK: It’s really a privileged position to be brought into someone’s personal world, and it is rewarding to see their stories unfold. I also find rewarding my ability to be a comfort to someone who is hurting. Being with somebody in their most vulnerable moments and seeing them come out the other side is quite gratifying. The most challenging part is recognizing that, particularly as a private therapist, the work I do is a privilege that not everybody can access. And, I have tried to remain as altruistic as I can by working with insurance companies and on sliding scales, and even doing some pro-bono work, but at the same time, I have to earn a living. The realities of running a business often contradict my humanistic values.
NOAH: Do you have any advice in terms of starting a clinical practice, or getting into clinical work, that you wish you had gotten at the beginning of your career or that you would give to someone starting now?
KORDICK: If you’re working at the doctorate level, I would definitely recommend working in a hospital setting, because you really see the full continuum of psychopathology. In terms of starting a private practice, I really wish somebody had told me to take some classes in how to run a small business. I’m well educated, but I’m not a businessman!