APA Recognizes Wellness Center Director Robert Hatcher as an Outstanding Leader

Robert Hatcher

By Lida Tunesi

As a clinical psychologist, Robert Hatcher is accustomed to listening, but at an upcoming convention, he’ll be the one talking.

Hatcher, director of the Wellness Center at the Graduate Center, was invited by the American Psychological Association to give the Dr. Rosalee G. Weiss Lecture for Outstanding Leaders in Psychology at the association’s annual convention, held online this year. The Weiss lecturer is an outstanding leader in psychology, or in the arts and sciences, whose work and activities have had an effect on their field. Lecturers receive a $1,000 honorarium from the American Psychological Foundation.

“This is a huge, well-deserved award,” said Professor Michelle Fine (Psychology, Urban Education). “It is a credit to Bob and his professional career, and to the Graduate Center, where the Wellness Center worked overtime to keep a light on during the pandemic for our students, faculty, and staff.” 

Hatcher’s lecture will focus on how therapists can be aware of a client’s level of engagement in their treatment, and how to make use of it.

“As a therapist,” Hatcher said, “you have to be tuned in to whether the person you’re working with is with you, or if things are getting in the way.”

One of the things Hatcher has found that makes the most difference in engagement is whether the client feels safe with their therapist, and the therapist’s ability to create a safe space. His lecture will also cover research and clinical observations around this kind of safety.

Client engagement is a part of what is known as the therapeutic alliance — the working relationship between therapist and client — which plays a big role in whether a treatment is effective. Hatcher has spent about 30 years studying the alliance. Before coming to the Graduate Center 12 years ago, he ran several clinics at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Now, Hatcher oversees the Wellness Center, which includes both student health services and counseling services. The center serves about 300 students per year, Hatcher said, providing health education, maintaining vaccination records, and offering free counseling, ranging from individual and couples’ counseling to LGBTQ support groups and more. The center also runs a clinical fellowship program for students from the Social Welfare Ph.D. program and clinical and counseling training areas of the Psychology Ph.D. program, to give students experience working with a variety of clients.

The pandemic brought on major shifts for the Wellness Center. The biggest change, Hatcher said, was making the switch to teletherapy, which was done in the space of just one week. The center has also increased its programming, especially the number of pandemic-related workshops and on-demand videos. These have covered topics such as COVID-19 grief, anti-Asian discrimination, coping with loneliness, and navigating relationships during the pandemic.

Beyond his managerial duties, Hatcher also runs a dissertation completion support group and supervises several clinical fellows.

“The core of it is that I really enjoy working with the people,” Hatcher said. “The students that we see are just amazing. Even if they’re struggling with school, they’re quite remarkable, and I love working with the clinical fellows.”

In Hatcher’s eyes, the people make the center what it is.

“The thing I feel best about is that over the years I think I’ve helped make the Wellness Center a great place to work,” Hatcher said, “and at the same time, a collegial and supportive place. I’ve hired wonderful people.”

Published by the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Submitted on: AUG 26, 2021

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