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The Story of My Practice

Called to Be a Detective

I have loved being a tireless detective ever since I was very young. As a college student, I figured out that I am most passionate about solving the mystery of how people reach their true potential.  

I discovered the field of psychology was the best way to develop the necessary skills to translate my passion into a powerful and tactical skill set. My inner detective works to solve the mystery of helping each person see behind their mask, so they can find their most authentic self. I have helped over 1,000 people from all walks of life, including students, parents, military professionals, elite athletes, and business professionals. Over the last 20 years, I have become a resource not only for individuals, but for groups and organizations! 

The red thread running through everything I do day to day is a fierce focus on continually evolving my assessment approach.  One key way I have  sought to stay on the cutting edge of providing the best assessment is by not only practicing as a clinical and neuropsychologist, but also as a forensic, educational and sports psychologist.  This has allowed me to become more innovative as I broaden and deepen my toolbox of techniques.  

Many healthcare professionals narrowly focus on diagnosis, but I help people see their problems or diagnoses within the greater context of their dynamic, unique personality. Why? Because unlike the field of medicine where most people have the same basic anatomy and physiology, in psychology, each person has a unique personality anatomy and physiology. Over the years, I have developed and acquired many techniques to better capture this individuality. For example, I interview people who know my client (e.g., parent, friend, coach, tutor, mentor, etc) because often, people have more than one “personality”, because we change our personalities to adapt to each situation. It is only by taking a sufficient inventory of the different “personalities” can an individual be thoroughly understood.  

At the beginning of my psychological work, I worked with severely abused children on the south-side of Chicago at the University of Chicago’s Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School. As a teaching assistant in a classroom of severely disturbed children, I realized that I would need to obtain the highest level of psychological training to become the most masterful detective. I decided to earn a research doctorate (PhD), which requires rigorously learning about the science of psychology. I knew a PhD would be the key to become the best scientifically-based detective.   

While I was working in the trenches with these students all day long, the psychiatrists and psychologists would never ask me or the other teacher what we thought about each child they were treating. Because each of these children had complex personalities, and I often wondered how that doctor could see who the child really was during a 15-60 minute appointment. 

I vowed that I would never ignore the workers in the trenches: the teachers, coaches, spouses, parents, best friends, or tutors of the person I am evaluating. They know things I could never know, because they see the fluctuations in the person over time. Only by identifying these patterns of fluctuations and changes can we get any sort of nuanced understanding of an individual.  

Training to be Sherlock Holmes

Knowing I wanted to train with the very best minds in the field of psychology, I accepted an offer to work with Dr. Charles Spielberger at the University of South Florida. Dr. Spielberger (now deceased) was one of the most well-known personality assessment experts of the 21st century. With Dr. Spielberger, I published both peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and book chapters, and gathered data on over 1,000 children to develop a measure of anger, now adapted into 14 languages.

During my three years with Dr. Spielberger, we worked evenings and weekends, because I was hungry to absorb all I could from a verifiable “Sherlock Holmes” of psychology!  I then completed my psychology residency at the University of Florida, at Shands Hospital. I further developed my assessment skills in this medical setting by working with a full array of medical and psychological specialties, including pediatrics, education, immunology, cardiology, neurology, neuropsychology and psychiatry.

I completed my required postdoctoral hours by working for a full year with severely disturbed children at the Hillsborough County School System in Tampa, Florida. During this time, I further developed my growing expertise with children, school psychology, educational psychology and psychoeducational assessment.

Private Practice Begins

I set up my private practice around 2002 in Tucson, Arizona, USA, knowing my vision was to diligently focus on becoming a leading “psychological detective” in my field. Early on in my practice, Tucson’s Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital asked me to lead their effort to set up a pre-surgery psychological assessment program, given my medical psychology background.

While I have always focused on serving individuals, after my success with this program, other organizations, schools and businesses asked me to help them develop or refine their practices, so they can integrate the best science into their practices. I have become a psychologist who many parents, school psychologists, teachers and school district personnel call when there are in sticky situations.

Over time, I have become known as a trusted local and state-wide expert. I created a unique way to assess behavior that was circulated around the Pima County Superior Court Family Law system. Other organizations consulting me include the University of Arizona Department of Athletics, Vail Unified School District, St. Michael’s School, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), The Gregory School, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Arizona State Board of Nursing (AZBN).

My unique detective skills inspired business leaders throughout Tucson (and beyond) to ask me to help them improve the fulfillment and productivity of their employees or leaders. I have helped organizations, such as Chapman Real Estate, improve their personnel functioning. Helping companies merge successfully by integrating their best cultural aspects has also been a common request.

Given my user-friendly and thorough approach, the University of Arizona Department of Athletics asked me to serve as an external evaluator to their NCAA Division I athletes. By practicing in the area of sports psychology, my toolbox continued to grow. A highlight of my career has been the opportunity to work with Olympic athletes and elite junior athletes.

I have enjoyed helping business people, as well as high-level athletes, identify their “dark side” qualities so their bright sides are even more impactful. Highlights of my business and performance enhancement portfolio include being a keynote speaker for the Tucson chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners.

As a dogged detective who regularly puts extra “shoe leather” (to use the old-school detective term, meaning time and energy) into each person, I developed a unique style of assessment that is in direct opposition to the “drive-by” superficial and shallow assessments that pervade my field.

Focus on Mentoring Young Minds

I have always loved being a mentor. Early in my practice, I began having students from the University of Arizona join my research projects. For example, for about two years I had several research assistants review research on current problems with traditional career guidance methods, which have become obsolete.

Many of my students have gone on to prestigious positions such as at the National Institute of Mental Health, Michigan State University, as well as going on to become entrepreneurs, setting up their own businesses. My students and I have presented posters at research conferences at the University of Arizona, as well as at nationally recognized conferences on the east coast.

My focus is always been teaching each student to become a great detective by developing a methodical, diligent style, and a passion for getting underneath labels and seeing into the true nature of who they are evaluating.

National and International Reach

After creating and developing a questionnaire measure which was adapted into 14 languages worldwide, I have become a nationally recognized detective. This has led to me being consulted by people both nationwide and internationally. I have worked with research teams around the world, including Spain, Italy, and Pakistan.

Today I enjoy serving the clinical, educational, medical, legal/forensic, business, and athletics communities, using the same core toolbox of my ever-expanding detective techniques. While I had the option to make more money by traveling around as a business consultant, I decided that life as a ”road jockey” was not aligned with my values as a father and husband. I knew I had to be substantially present for my children and wife.

Career Guidance Trailblazing

Early in my practice, I repeatedly heard my clients complain about their bitter unhappiness at work. I also continually witnessed students I was mentoring being enslaved by their out-of-control tuition debt. I looked around and saw no deep and methodical career guidance process.

So, I hired a research team, because I knew that no matter how much better my clients’ mental health improved through our work, if they were not happy at work, then their mental health was destined to deteriorate. I developed a fresh approach to career guidance after feeling deeply frustrated with how shallow typical career guidance tends to be.

By smoothly weaving together the most piercing psychological, vocational, and career tools together into an engineered process, I developed a 10-step process that goes as broad and deep as you are.  By designing a system of checks and balances, my system is not only uniquely reliable, but also accounts for how Artifical Intelligence (AI) is changing what employers want.  This breakthrough process, called Precisely Engineered Career Guidance (PECG),  is trademarked and spreading like wiildfire! 

Here is the cover to my upcoming book!      

Get notified when this visionary book comes out! 

See more details about this book. 

Ultimate Legacy

I want my final legacy to be improved the quality of evaluation that is conducted in my field. The second piece of the legacy I wish to leave behind is that I “gave psychology away”, by spreading the word about how great science can help people become a master of their destiny.

The third piece of my legacy is creating a career guidance system, resulting in people being able to find work that is sustainably fun and fulfilling so that they live their best life.

As Mae West once said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough”

I have known Dr. Brunner for over 20 years and have kept in touch with him since he graduated from the University of South Florida with a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. As a clinical scientist, Dr. Brunner uses the latest evidence-based techniques (i.e., therapies and assessments that work) in his own practice and he informs the public about these important techniques through his newsletters and blogs. We need more clinical scientists like Dr. Brunner in direct practice these days.