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Motivational Monday: Child Psychologist

Our latest Motivational Monday is with Professor Abi Gewirtz, who recently spoke to parents as part of the GDST Talks series.

Abi left South Hampstead in 1983 and went to on study Psychology at UCL then Tel Aviv University, before her PhD at Columbia University, New York. She has lived in America for over 30 years and has recently published her first book ‘When the World Feels Like a Scary Place’.

She has increasingly appreciated her time at South Hampstead, particularly as she watches her own four children go through the US education system.

“South Hampstead taught me to think critically and analytically and provided me with a strong foundation in writing. I am also grateful for studying Latin, as it gave me a foundation in Romance languages, as well as some knowledge of classical history and literature. In our home, we value a liberal arts education and have encouraged our children to pursue as broad an education as possible into college.”

When she left South Hampstead, Abi had planned to use her Psychology degree to become a Therapist. However, her training for this role instead encouraged her to move into preventative research promoting positive parenting.

“I loved being a youth leader during high school and university and Psychology was a natural undergraduate degree for me. When my husband and I moved to the US, I decided to take a PhD focusing on child clinical Psychology. While I was doing my training, I realised that there was a big lack of research on evidence-based programmes with a proven positive impact on children and families. This led me to become a Prevention Researcher, developing and testing programmes to promote healthy child and family adjustment, and I have never looked back.”

Abi is now the Leadership Faculty Chair of the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development and has consulted with many organisations on parenting, including the US Congress and UNICEF.

“I am grateful for the incredible variety in what I do: I get to teach, see patients, and mostly do research to help families affected by traumatic and stressful events. And I wrote a book! I get out of bed every day thankful that I love my work.”

Abi advises South Hampstead students not to worry about finding the right career: “it will find you.” Abi’s work focuses on developing family values and positive parenting, so we were unsurprised that she also suggested to “remember to call your mother once in a while!”

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