Interview with Dr. Rich Mangen
Dr. Rich Mangen began working for Forest Heights Lodge in 2010 when J.G. Benedict, Ph.D. retired after 43 years. As the psychologist at Forest Heights Lodge, Dr. Mangen's responsibilities include: consulting with clinical, educational and milieu staff, participating in treatment planning of the children, providing psychotherapy to children and families and participating in Treatment Plan Review meetings. He also administers psychological testing when necessary, coordinated through parents and funding agencies.
Dr. Mangen has been licensed as a clinical psychologist in Colorado since 1987. Prior to earning his doctoral degree, he was a Special Education teacher in Connecticut and Colorado; he taught classes for children and adolescents with learning disabilities and with emotional/behavioral disorders from 1974 through 1979, and had been in private practice in the Denver metro area since 1987- where he specialized in child and adolescent psychotherapy and developmental neuropsychology.
He was on the core faculty of the University of Denver from 1992 through 2001, where he taught classes and supervised predoctoral level students in psychological and cognitive assessment, neuropsychology, and play therapy. He currently conducts a supervision seminar in psychological assessment there. He has served as president (2004), and as Secretary-Treasurer (2005) of the Colorado Neuropsychological Society, and has also served as President (2011) and Secretary-Treasurer of the Colorado Assessment Society (2012).
What made you decide to pursue a career in psychology?
My interest in psychology first began to emerge back in the early-to mid-1970s. My first exposure to clients with psychological problems was when I was working on a Masters degree in Teaching in Chapel Hill, North Carolina; I did my student teaching placement, along with five other student teachers, at a ‘maximum-security reform school’, and worked with students who had significant problems and challenges.
While my work there was as a student-teacher, it was eye-opening for me to see the extent of the emotional and social difficulties that these students were faced with. The combination of significant behavioral/emotional disorders that they struggled with, coupled with the lack of financial resources to get help in other ways, resulted in their placement in the juvenile detention system.
Shortly after that experience, in the mid-1970s, while working on a Masters degree in Special Education, I worked as a teacher in a high school that was part of a private psychiatric hospital in Connecticut; the hospital was a longterm hospital for adolescents and adults. As a teacher there, in addition to teaching classes to the students enrolled in the high school, I had the opportunity to sit in on treatment planning meetings, case conferences, and community meetings with the clients there, and was exposed to a variety of professionals–psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, social workers, teachers, family therapists, recreational therapists, drama therapists, art therapists - who shared their perspectives and work with the clients.
Psychology was certainly an underpinning for all of these different approaches, and I was intrigued to listen to the ways that these people talked about their work with the clients, and the theories that they had for what was going on with them. Over time, my interest in working with students evolved from a focus on helping with their educational challenges to helping with their emotional and behavioral struggles, and clinical psychology was a natural evolution in that regard.
What parts of psychology appeal to you most?
Part of what drew me to psychology was the broad range of options there are within the field; it seemed that there was no end of things to learn about or become involved in. One of the things that I like about my practice is that I do get to do a number of different things – therapy with a wide age range of people – from little kids through adults, assessments of various types, supervising graduate students, working at the Lodge.
I really enjoy the interactions with the clients that I work with in therapy, and I like the challenge of making sense of the information that is gathered in conducting an assessment – whether it be a psychological eval or a learning disability eval or a neuropsychological eval – and trying to create a meaningful picture of the person who I’ve worked with.
It’s gratifying to feel that I can make a positive difference in another person’s life through the work I do. I also find the different developmental theories and the history of psychology intellectually stimulating, and find the research that’s been accumulating over the last twenty years and more about developmental neuropsychology to be incredibly interesting. Finally, I like the opportunity to have contact with colleagues, and to work with students as a supervisor or teacher.
Why did you decide to work for the Lodge?
I had the good fortune to be asked to do an evaluation for one of the boys at the Lodge several years ago, and got a chance to meet Linda and Kevin at that time. Some time later, the Lodge’s psychologist (who had been with the Lodge for about 45 years) began to make plans to retire, and as that time got closer, Linda asked if I might be interested in applying for the position. By that time, she had shared with me the Lodge’s history and philosophy, and I had listened to the CD that she and the Lodge had put together, which put a voice to the Lodge’s efforts.
I also had a chance to sit in on a series of staffings in which I was so impressed with the level of dedication and commitment on the part of the staff, with the caring, thoughtful, honest and optimistic tone with which the boys were discussed, and with the creative manner in which the Lodge’s philosophy was put into action in both big and little ways. The opportunity to work in such a long-term residential facility - with its deeply integrated treatment philosophy based in relationships, the development of trust, learning how to develop their skills and interests and emotional lives, and engaging with integrity in the world - is uncommon in our age of quick fixes.
I feel very fortunate to be part of this terrific program and surrounded by fantastic people, and I jumped at the opportunity when it was presented to me. What are the duties/functions/responsibilities of the job? I attend the staffing meetings that are held to review the treatment plans of the boys at the Lodge, and share my thoughts and/or offer suggestions about working with the child being discussed. Prior to a child’s admission to the Lodge, I review and summarize in a written report any psychological evaluations that have been done prior to admission, and share these results with the staff at initial treatment planning meetings.
I participate in Administrative Meetings where administrative and clinical matters relating to the overall functioning of the Lodge are discussed. I see several of the boys in individual psychotherapy, on a weekly basis. As needed, I am available to present in-service topics to the staff, which I have done on several occasions.I am available to conduct psychological and/or neuropsychological evaluations with the boys, usually as part of current treatment planning or the process of planning for the next step in their treatment as they are moving towards discharge from the Lodge; I do this as a separate arrangement with the parents of the individual child. I also provide feedback to parents and educational consultants, as well as to the boys that I have tested, about the results of the evaluations that I’ve conducted.
What do you like most about working at the Lodge?
I look forward to each time I come up to the Lodge, as each day is usually a little different, and there is nothing that I do at the Lodge that I don’t enjoy. I particularly like working with the boys in individual therapy – they are always interesting and thinking about how to be helpful is always a challenge. I also enjoy the staffings, as it is an opportunity to have some contact with the staff at the Lodge, and to hear about what is going on at the House and at school. Finally, I thoroughly enjoy the times that I am able to be at the House to just hang out with the boys and the staff; one of the challenges I am trying to sort out for myself is how to be able to do more of this, as I think it will help in my ability to be a good resource for the Lodge.
What do you do for fun when you are not working?
I play tennis, go for bike rides, read, spend time with my family, take photographs, walk our dog, and watch movies and plays. (But not all at once.)
Do you like to travel? Do you have pets?
Yes! I love to travel. My wife, Nancy, and I particularly love taking road trips, and seeing different parts of the country. We recently helped our youngest daughter move to Florida (where she is working as a chef on an island off the coast of Florida), and took the opportunity to drive back to Colorado via the Florida panhandle along the Gulf Coast, New Orleans, San Antonio and Santa Fe. The southern drive was one that we had not taken before, and we had our dog with us, so he got a chance to see some of the U.S. as well. Speaking of our dog,he is a 13 year old Australian shepherd named Dave, and the votes have been counted and he has unofficially been declared best dog in the whole wide world. (Sorry, Ziggy; sorry, Blue.)