By Nermina Markisic
If you’ve ever considered taking a psychology course at SFC, I would highly recommend taking General Psychology with Professor Joshua Dietz. A psychologist and hypnotist off campus, Professor Dietz is a distinguished yet witty lecturer, and you will undoubtedly learn a lot in his class.
A graduate of St. John’s University, Dietz is a certified psychologist and hypnotist with a master’s degree from Adelphi University in clinical psychology.
Although Professor Dietz would be the perfect candidate for a lawyer, with his strong debating and perspective-taking skills, he decided to go down the path of psychology.
“My parents said I should’ve been a lawyer because I like to argue a lot, but I detest lawyers,” said Dietz. “I wanted to go to school to study music, so that would’ve been my first choice. I play quite a few instruments.”
In addition to his teaching career, Dietz has his own practice in hypnosis and psychology outside of school. He became certified to practice hypnosis in October 2016 while he was pursuing his PhD. However, pursuing a career in hypnosis wasn’t always a part of his plan.
“It was just a coincidence. I had always accepted the legitimacy of hypnosis but I wasn’t particularly drawn to it. But a few things happened. I needed a topic for a thesis for my PhD application, and at the same time, a few blocks away from a school where I teach, there was an apparently highly esteemed hypnosis school, and they were running a week and a half long seminar for certification in hypnosis.”
Through what sounds like fate, Professor Dietz became certified to practice hypnosis and began his practice a year later in January 2017.
According to Dietz, hypnosis isn’t as dramatic as it is portrayed in the film industry. When asked to explain hypnosis, he gave a brief simplification of the process.
“Hypnosis incorporates a trance, which is a psychological state of reduced activity in the brain. Some people consider that a state of relaxation. Basically, it’s a way of changing someone’s mindset so that they can think about problems differently.
“That might include the tone of my voice, maybe I’ll become very monotone and soft, almost like a lullaby, and just get people to focus on the sound of my voice until they’re shutting out all external stimulation.”
In his practice, Professor Dietz mainly works with clients who have various anxiety issues.
I asked about his ability to remain emotionally and mentally uninvolved in his patients’ lives and issues.
“I do take what happens in the office home with me, and I’ll chew on it, and think about things, but I don’t take on the emotional burden of my clients, that’s a professional liability if you’re going to do therapy.
“I like Carl Rogers, he was a humanistic therapist in the 1960s, and was very much on the side of empathy. Apathy is very much a professional liability.
“It’s a tightrope act. You want to be interested and empathetic, but you don’t want to be getting into the trenches with people emotionally.”
I also asked: “How do you manage to keep your personal opinion out of your work at your practice?”
He replied: “That’s really easy, because it’s not about me.
“If someone comes into my office, and we only have an hour or 90 minutes, I can’t afford to make it about me and what I think. And if they solicit my opinion, I’m happy to give it to them, but again, it’s the Carl Rogers idea that it’s client centered, and it’s all about what the client needs and what’s important for them.
“So, I personally don’t really like the archetype of the authoritarian therapist where it’s like, ‘you will do what I say,‘ and ‘I have all the answers,‘ and ‘I am the big shot here and you have to respect me.‘ So, it’s very easy for me not to bring too much of my own opinion into it. It’s harder to do that as a teacher, even though I think there’s more of a professional responsibility to do that.”
Professor Dietz says the best part of his practice is that he’s the boss.
“I’m the boss. I set the hours, I’m responsible for everything. That’s the kind of work situation I like. Similar with teaching; it’s my classroom, for the most part. I still have to answer to the department and work with the parameters they set, but in my experience, it’s been mostly hands-off on their part.”
Given the atmosphere of today’s public affairs, I asked Professor Dietz, if it’s difficult to work in such a politically charged environment.
“At some schools it is, but I try to be disciplined about not showing my hand too much, I don’t come out too aggressively with my personal feelings on any issues.”
When asked about how St. Francis compares to the other colleges where he teaches, Professor Dietz said that his experience here is very different because St. Francis is a small school, which makes it more intimate, and it’s also explicitly Franciscan, which creates a different atmosphere and a different culture here at St. Francis.
I asked Professor Dietz about the craziest experience he had while teaching, and he had quite the story.
“Someone had a seizure in class and cracked their skull on the floor when he fell, so I had to hold his head while he was bleeding all over me.”
I also asked Professor Dietz about more personal matters, asking about his favorite music, hobbies, and other compelling questions.
The first concert he ever attended was internationally renowned classical guitar player Christopher Parkening’s solo performance.
“I was 12 or 13 years old and my dad took me to see Christopher Parkening. At the time he had me studying classical guitar. I didn’t want to go, I thought it would be boring.”
I also asked him, “What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?”
“I got to see Soundgarden before Chris Cornell died, so that was awesome. Definitely Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots, just because both of the singers died shortly thereafter. I was a big fan of them as a kid and they both put on very good performances.”
Professor Dietz then answered some perceptive questions, giving us a better insight on his more deep-seated thoughts and beliefs.
I asked him: “Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?”
He replied: “Be more involved in college, clubs, and networking because it’s not just about your grades. It’s about what you get involved in and what habits you create, and what people you know.
“That would be my advice to all the students at St. Francis too — be more active at your college.”
I also asked Professor Dietz: “What are some personal rules you never break?”
He replied: “Never say anything dishonest, and always give your best effort.”
When asked about his favorite hobbies, Professor Dietz revealed that he was well-versed musically as well as athletically.
“My hobbies would include music or exercise. I’ve done martial arts since I was 19 or 20. My perfect day would include a lot of martial arts.”
When asked the typical question “If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would you invite and why?” Professor Dietz gave a very fascinating answer, to say the least.
“That’s a dangerous question. The people I would be interested in are going to sound completely insane on a piece of paper. I have a morbid fascination with people who have done questionable things. I’d invite Richard Nixon, Joseph Stalin, and Nikola Tesla.”
I also asked Professor Dietz: “What would you do if you knew you were going to die in one hour?”
He replied: “Call everybody that I care about, tell them something I’ve never told them before. Then I would do something really crazy that I’ve never done, like charter a boat or go skydiving, something that the fear of death has always kept me from doing, something with a crazy endorphin rush.”
And his favorite book?
“I never read fiction, I mostly read science textbooks or philosophy books. It’s for my job, I have to know what I’m talking about.
“In the last few years I’ve read a lot of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. While I like them, they didn’t really scratch my aesthetic itch.
“Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton is a book I’ve read a few times that’s probably my number one favorite book. I like Philip K. Dick a lot too, so anything by those two authors is right up my alley.
“I take them on as a homework assignment but end up enjoying them.”
As he is so young, I asked him: “What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years of your life?”
“Ten years is a long time. I’m currently writing a book, so I would like to see if that’s the beginning of a writing career. I definitely want to see if that goes anywhere.”
To conclude the interview, I asked Professor Dietz: “What is the title of the current chapter of your life?” His answer was one-part practical and two-parts humorous.
“Or maybe, why bother?”