Get to Know Dr. Fred Penzel!
Dr. Penzel has specialized in the treatment of Trichotillomania and OCD since 1982, and is the Executive Director of Western Suffolk Psychological Services in Huntington, NY. He has written numerous articles for TLC’s member newsletter, InTouch, but most of you probably know him best as the author of the self-help books, “The Hair Pulling Problem,” and “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders: A Complete Guide To Getting Well And Staying Well,” which covers trich and other O-C spectrum disorders. He has also presented multiple TLC Webinars, and is a much-loved and relied-upon adviser to TLC staff!
Dr. Penzel has presented at TLC Conferences since the beginning of TLC Conferences! This year, his presentations include Pulling and Picking 101, (an introductory workshop for first-time attendees), Recovery Maintenance, a case studies discussion with Dr. Mansueto, and the parents’ closing session on Sunday morning. View the conference schedule here >>
Dr. Penzel took a few moments to share his thoughts on the TLC Conference and BFRB treatment and recovery.
You’ve been treating BFRBs for well over 20 years. What lesson(s) have you learned from your BFRB patients?
I have learned that the most important ingredient in achieving a recovery is sheer persistence. Those who utterly refuse to allow things to become obstacles, who are prepared to do whatever is necessary, and who never quit, are the ones who are the most successful. These folks seem to be the ones who have the best philosophies about life and themselves. They accept that getting the things they want in life doesn’t have to be easy, and they accept themselves unconditionally as ordinary less-than-perfect human beings. They would not confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.
What do you hope your session attendees will learn from your workshops?
Since I am doing a diverse bunch of workshops, there is no simple answer. I would say that overall, I want them to learn what it takes to get recovered, that recovery is possible with hard work, time, and a good outlook. I also want them to learn that you don’t just get well – that there are a number of important ingredients that go into staying well, and that once recovered, you have to work to stay that way. Relapse tends to happen to those who thought they were cured. Finally, I want them to know that more important than being “pull-free,” is learning to unconditionally accept yourself and to be okay with you, no matter how much or how little hair you have. This really is possible. Like the comedian Gary Shandling once said, “It’s not the hair on your head that matters. It’s the kind of hair you have inside.”
Are there any topics or presentations you are particularly planning to attend this year?
I am hoping to attend the ones presenting the latest research findings in therapy, biology, and genetics. I have always tried to stay current with all new findings. You have to do this if you are going to stay on top of your field.
What one thing do you want all BFRB-ers to know?
I want them to really understand that everyone has within them the possibility of recovery, but that it takes a good philosophy of things to bring this out and make it happen. That, and a lot of hard work.