Alan R. Wachtel, PhD

Alan Wachtel

Title: Clinical Psychologist
Location: Montrose, New York, United States

Alan R. Wachtel, PhD, Clinical Psychologist, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Health Care Professionals for dedication, achievements, and leadership in psychology.

Dr. Wachtel is a clinical psychologist with more than 50 years of service in his field. He became interested in the field while in college and followed in his older brother’s footsteps in the pursuit of a career in clinical psychology. He attended Adelphi University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in psychology in 1966 before proceeding to earn a Master of Science in clinical psychology from Long Island University in 1968. Dr. Wachtel continued his academic pursuits at the University of Montana and received a Doctor of Philosophy in clinical psychology in 1973. While at the University of Montana, Dr. Wachtel was a teaching assistant from 1969 to 1972. His doctoral dissertation was on the effects of incidental stimulation on focal tasks, which demonstrated an objective way of studying the validity of psychodynamic concepts. He chose the program at the University of Montana at that time because of its focus on multiple theoretical positions instead of a single theoretical focus found at other universities. This led him to a prescriptive approach to psychotherapy. Dr. Wachtel’s clinical psychology internship was at New York University Medical Center from 1972 to 1973. He credits Dr. John G. Watkins at the University of Montana, who provided him with training in hypnotherapy and was the director of his doctoral training program, as well as Dr. Bert R. Sappenfield, his dissertation supervisor, and Dr. John M. Atthowe, Jr. as early mentors in his career.

Following his graduation, Dr. Wachtel started working as a behavioral specialist at Occupations, Inc., in Middletown, New York, in 1973.  In 1974, Dr. Wachtel joined the Franklin Delano Roosevelt VA Hudson Valley Health Care System in Montrose, New York. During the four decades of his career there, he was a psychology intern supervisor for more than 30 years; a clinical team leader for more than 15 years; a senior member of a psychiatric and behavioral emergency code team for more than 30 years; a consultant to an early co-occurring disorders unit; a psychologist in three different substance use disorders units including an early Alcohol Dependence Unit, an early MICA program that provided him with experience in detoxification, residential treatment and outpatient treatment for patients with co-occurring disorders; a psychologist on a psychiatric intensive care unit; and a consultant to other units due to his experience with many types of evidence based techniques, and an ability to integrate them for prescriptive treatment.

While on the emergency code team, he worked with police, firemen, nurses and psychiatrists in helping veterans in crisis who were potentially suicidal, assaultive or homicidal, and none of the patients in those codes were ever seriously injured or succeeded in injuring others once the code team arrived. This is very relevant today due to current problems with police and community relations, police-related shootings, and harm to unarmed people. Not only did that kind of harm not occur for the patients addressed during the codes, but the types of experiences and training that Dr. Wachtel had are not provided to most mental health practitioners though he feels that they should be for anyone in the mental health field considering work responding to 911 emergencies under new policing policies. Without specific training on addressing potentially violent emergency situations, mental health professionals could not only possibly suffer severe injuries to themselves but would endanger the whole team as well as the person that was the object of the 911 call. This would also involve having mental health professionals working with police instead of replacing them.

Related to this, he, at one time, received a phone call from state police in Buffalo, New York, saying that one of his former patients was on a roof with a rifle threatening to shoot people below. The patient reported that he would only talk with Dr. Wachtel, and Dr. Wachtel was successful in talking him into surrendering his weapon and turning himself in for help. He also helped prevent a tragedy in Peekskill, New York, when a patient threatened to harm his son, and Dr. Wachtel worked with the local police and kept the patient engaged in conversation until the patient was secured for help. He also worked with other local police to prevent two patients from committing suicide by jumping from bridges.

During his career, Dr. Wachtel worked with a variety of evidence-based treatments and has been able to integrate them into new prescriptive techniques. He is currently focusing on writing a book about those techniques and is considering a return to a private psychology consultation and supervision practice.

Dr. Wachtel received an honorable mention GEICO Public Service Award in 1984 for his work in alcoholism treatment. He retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2017. He is a licensed psychologist in the state of New York, and is proud to have been able to evaluate and refer for help some of the 911 first responders. Dr. Wachtel is a member of both the New York State Psychological Association and the American Psychological Association.

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