Therapist Interview: Greg Handel, PhD
Psychologist in Franklin MA
September 7, 2022
Greg Handel, PhD, is an experienced psychologist and the president of Handel Behavioral Health. For more than 35 years, Greg has been providing positive support for individuals, families, and couples. A client centered therapist and ordained minister, Greg honors the unique experiences and belief systems of each individual he works with. In sessions, he strives to have a complete understanding of the individual’s point of view. Greg believes that everyone has distinctive life goals to work towards, and with support, we can learn to identify our goals and improve our life experience to a direction of wholeness, self-actualization, and authenticity.
Greg specializes in the treatment of depression, anxiety, developmental disabilities, personality disorders, trauma recovery and post-traumatic stress, autism spectrum disorder and Asperger’s counseling, obsessive compulsive disorder, adjustment disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD/ADD), among many other disorders. His central clinical modalities include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Christian counseling.
In this interview with Greg Handel PhD, you will learn more about Greg’s background, and his unique approach to therapy. To schedule an appointment with Greg, or one of our many trained therapists at Handel Behavioral Health, please call us at (413) 343-4357. We look forward to working with you in our offices in Franklin, Wilbraham, West Springfield, and Amherst, or online over telehealth.
Q. What inspired you to start working in the field of psychology?
A. My first undergraduate psychology course, taught by a radical behaviorist, inspired me to adopt a radical behaviorist approach in my study of experimental psychology in graduate school. The concept that all behaviors are learned through interaction with the environment influenced my focus in the experimental psychology program in graduate school.
Q. What is radical behaviorism, and what does it have to do with your counseling style?
A. The radical behaviorist is concerned with observable stimulus-response behaviors, as they can be studied and observed. The behaviorist examines what stimuli, or external circumstances, the individual responds to and how the consequences of that response shapes their future behavior patterns. This method works particularly well with individuals who are non-verbal or with significant learning disorders, and with many individuals with developmental disabilities.
Q. When did you start working in the field, and what inspired you to start Handel Behavioral Health?
A. After receiving my PhD, I accepted a post-doctoral fellowship with the Development Disabilities Training Program at UMASS. From there I worked in the field of behavioral health serving in a number of residential, vocational, inpatient, and outpatient settings. For many years, I worked as the clinical supervisor and program manager for agencies supporting people with developmental disabilities. During this time, I had a small counseling private practice.
As time went by, I started taking on more administrative roles until I took on the role of a director of an agency with both residential and vocational programs. I did limited clinical work at this time and wanted to get back to it. Eventually, I accepted the job of Clinical Manager for the Westborough office of Thriveworks which involved both direct therapeutic and administrative duties. This led to my wife, Maryann, and I eventually opening a Thriveworks franchise in Franklin Massachusetts.
During those years of caring and supporting people in Franklin, we developed a strong working environment that enabled our clients and employees to grow. We transitioned from Thriveworks to start our own practice, Handel Behavioral Health, in Franklin, and have since opened offices in Amherst, Springfield, and Franklin.
Q. What do you like most about your job?
A. It’s so fulfilling to see my clients transform into a healthier version of themselves. We all experience periods of emotional suffering and brokenness. Therapy provides the necessary support to help an individual in the direction of wholeness, self-actualization, and authenticity. Through behavioral and cognitive change, individual’s can undergo incredible transformations.
Q. What unique skill do you bring to your practice?
A. I’ve always been a relational person. Even though I didn’t intentionally bring this quality into my practice, it naturally fell into place. I see the client as an individual who I can relate to, connect with, and direct toward positive thinking habits and behaviors. This means that I’m not afraid to be flexible in my approach. I’ll prepare for each session, but I also encourage the client to bring up what they feel is important for us to discuss.
My conversational approach helps build the sense of connection and safety that’s necessary for effective counseling. At the end of the day, the safety that the client feels during sessions, and their sense of feeling heard by me will play a huge role in how our work moves forward.
Sidenote: Relational therapy is a specific type of psychotherapy that emphasizes the role of relationships, and their impact on the individual’s emotional and mental wellness. Healthy relationships provide an essential aspect of human well-being, and lack of this connection can create mental and emotional turmoil.
Q. How would you describe your therapeutic style?
A. I focus on building a strong therapeutic alliance with my clients. In the first session, I’ll gather information about the client, to get a better sense of who they are and what will be beneficial to work on.
Through conversations about the client’s interests, background, and family history, I get a sense of their patterns of behavior. I’ll start to understand how the client responds to their environment, and if their responses show up as positive or negative consequences in their life. We all develop inherited tendencies, but our early life experiences also shape our personalities. I believe that having a complete understanding of the individual’s point of view is necessary for counseling.
I also like to have an overall goal to work towards, and then start developing measurable objectives to implement that goal. If the client wants to work on improving their anxiety, we’ll practice healthy behaviors and coping mechanisms for the client to reduce their anxiety, like deep breathing or speaking more slowly.
I like to come up with behavioral coping skills with my client during sessions, such as deep breathing exercises, that my client can then take into the real world and bring back to the next session. I’ll suggest that my client keep a journal to recognize their behaviors and practice their responses.
I know that one session of therapy won’t change years of conditioning, but I believe that over time, through recognition and practice, we can create positive cognitive and behavioral change.
To learn more about working with Greg, or one of our many trained therapists at Handel Behavioral Health, please contact us today at (413) 343-4357.