Thom Field, PhD

Assistant Professor

Office:
72 East Concord Street
Robinson Building – Suite B-212
Boston, MA 02118
Email: tfield@bu.edu
Phone: 617-358-5469
Fax: 617-414-2323

Education

I received my BA in English from the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, my MEd in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Lynchburg in Virginia  and PhD in Counseling and Supervision from James Madison University in Virginia.

Biography

I am a core faculty member of the MHCBM Program and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine. Prior to joining the faculty at BU, I worked as an Associate Professor and Associate Program Director in the Master of Arts in Counseling program at City University of Seattle.  I remain an active practitioner in addition to my academic roles. Since 2006, I have provided counseling to over 1,000 clients in a variety of settings, including inpatient psychiatric units, community mental health centers, outpatient private practice, schools, and telephone crisis centers. I have also led over 1,000 groups during my counseling career. I am a National Certified Counselor (NCC), Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC), and Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS), and a licensed counselor (both LMHC and LPC).

My main research areas are the development and implementation of evidence-based and neuroscience-informed counseling practices, clinical mental health counseling and supervision, and social justice and advocacy issues in counseling. My research has received recognition by the American Mental Health Counselors Association (2013 Dissertation Research Award), Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (2016-17 Faculty Research Award), and Western Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (2015 Professional Publication Award). I have published in peer-reviewed journals including the International Journal of Play Therapy, Journal of Mental Health Counseling, Journal of Humanistic Counseling, and The Professional Counselor. I currently serve as the Associate Editor for the Journal of Mental Health Counseling, and was first editor of the first book that the American Counseling Association has published on the topic of neuroscience (“Neurocounseling: Brain-Based Clinical Approaches”).

Questions and Answers

Q: Please describe your theoretical orientation and teaching philosophy?

A: Regarding my teaching philosophy, I believe that learning is primarily a verb, not a noun. Effective teaching facilitates critical thinking and fosters learning through self-discovery. As an educator I am responsible for facilitating active learning in my students. My supervision style is largely based on developmental models. I believe that over time, accumulative experiences sculpt right-hemisphere intuition. Counselors therefore become more attuned to the client’s inner world and better conceptualize client cases with clinical experience. As with many new experiences, the ambiguity of the counseling process generates a significant amount of trainee anxiety for novice counselors, whereas this anxiety is mitigated by prior experience for seasoned counselors. For this reason, supervision being provided to novice counselors requires more structure and direct instruction than when provided to experienced counselors.

In regards to my counseling philosophy, I believe that professional counseling is the mutual exploration of the client’s phenomenological world.  The client, as primary agent of change, guides this journey.  The counselor listens, empathizes, and validates the client’s experience.  Clients learn via accommodating or assimilating their new experiences into their existing schema.  Any education or instruction by the counselor must proceed only once the client has been allowed to discuss their areas of current knowledge and competence.  Learning occurs through direct experience, and thus traditional talk therapy is not typically sufficient for clients to fully prepare themselves for change.  Useful tools to facilitate client learning include experiential activities such as roleplaying, modeling and communication exercises, in addition to applied tasks such as homework and self-monitoring.  In addition, clients can benefit from understanding how their brain functions.  For example, how implicit, unconscious, right-hemisphere responses to events can impact thoughts, feelings, decisions, and behaviors.  

My theoretical approach to counseling is grounded in the transcultural model of healing practices.  Counseling is considered to be a form of healing procedure that is mainly practiced in Western countries.  According to Frank and Frank (1991), there are four elements of any healing procedure.  These four elements can be found in healing procedures across different cultures.  First, the client must have a direct and emotionally charged relationship with the healer.  Second, the healer must provide a believable and acceptable explanation (“myth”) for the client’s problems.  Third, the healer must provide a ritual that is posited to heal the client’s problems.  Fourth, both the healer (allegiance) and the client (expectancy) must believe fully in the effectiveness of the healing procedure.  When these four elements are present, successful healing can occur.  Counseling, as a form of healing originating in Western culture, requires all of these elements for successful healing to take place.  Any intervention must fit with the client’s characteristics, culture, value, and preferences .  Other forms of healing procedures besides counseling should therefore be considered if they are more compatible with the client’s socio-cultural background and preference. 

Q: Why did you choose to be a faculty member in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program?

A: In my roles as a core faculty member at other academic institutions, I came to know several of the core faculty through my professional involvements with the American Counseling Association and American Mental Health Counseling Association.  They spoke highly of the program.  As someone who worked for many years in a medical setting, I was also attracted to the program’s placement in a medical school.  The Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine program is the only CACREP program in a medical school.  Because my area of research is related to neuroscience and neurocounseling, working in a medical facility gives me access to the technologies needed to pursue my research agenda.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching in the Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine Program?

A: The students.  To me, working as an academic is a privilege, because I get to work with intelligent and thoughtful people who are committed to improving the lives of others.  The students bring such passionate interests and curiosity, which often ignites and fuels my own work.