About Michael Wizer
I love my work as a psychologist. I also love to do many other things such as painting, making furniture, dancing, and being in nature.
I started my college education as an architecture, art, and religion student but then went back to school at the age of 30 to study psychology. I got my masters in psychology with a specialization in family therapy from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. My first job after graduating was working as a family therapist for Catholic Charities in south central Pennsylvania. I received further family therapy training while working at Catholic Charities from Philadelphia Child Guidance, home of Structural Family Therapy, the model of family therapy developed by Salvador Minuchin.
Actually, my interest in psychology started earlier, in my late teens, when I took an interest in Buddhist meditation. I started meditating, learning from two books: Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shuryu Suzuki, and The Three Pillars of Zen by Phillip Kapleau. I received formal Zen meditation training from first Phillip Kapleau at the Rochester Zen Center, and later from Soen Sa Nim a Korean Zen master in Providence Rhode Island.
A few years later I began to regularly attend retreats at the Insight Meditation Center in Barre Massachusetts, home of Vipassana meditation, a style of Buddhist meditation from Southeast Asia. There I studied with Jack Cornfield, Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Achen Cha, and other teachers from that tradition. I also attended a retreat with Goenka, a renown teacher from Burma. Bottom line: meditation and Buddhist psychology were really my first orientation to the theory and practice of psychology.
I went on to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) for a doctorate in psychology. My emphasis was family therapy and health psychology.
My doctoral dissertation enabled me to combine my two main interests at the time, mindfulness meditation and health psychology, by studying the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and the Stress Management and Relaxation Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. This is where mindfulness meditation makes its very important entrance into western health care. This was also where my clinical orientation took shape as I witnessed and learned from the way this group of clinicians applied the theory and practice of mindfulness meditation to medical and psychological problems in a group setting.
My internship year was at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where I received training in child psychology.
Later in my career I became the director of a Dean Ornish program for reversing heart disease. Here my work was to help a group of folks with heart disease or heart disease risk factors reduce their chances of further disease through both education and by modifying their lifestyle.
Like most clinical psychologist I have worked in many different clinical settings: community mental health, hospitals, hospice, and college counseling. But my clinical practice matured through my research and writing beginning 20 years ago. Writing began along with systematic reading about neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and moral philosophy. Three main questions drove my research and writing:
What is human nature?
What is human understanding?
How should a person best live?
It took many years for me to sort out my understanding and beliefs. One outcome is that I decided to call what I do as a clinician Practical Psychology. The label has its roots in Greek philosophy, the American pragmatists, evolutionary biology and psychology, Buddhist psychology, and contemporary (cognitive) behavioral psychology. It's a heady mix of ideas that underlies my thinking.
What you will find on this website are short pieces of writing about the many topics related to practical psychology and mindfulness. I seek to be clear and concise. If you want to know more about me and my ideas, and how they might apply to your life, please feel free to contact me.