Interview of Professor Max Malikow at Syracuse University

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There is a philosophy and psychology professor who is one of the best professors I have met so far.  On the first day of his class, I learned human behaviors can be better understood through the study of Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion. Throughout his lectures, I came to understand that everyone has their own problems, and human decisions require mindfulness and reflections about their lives. Furthermore, my experience in his classes has led me to believe that people need to be more passionate about and resistant to what they undergo in life.

Dr. Max Malikow teaches HNR240: Human Predicament and PSY400: Understanding Suicide, which are courses for honors students. He received a Master’s degree in Theology from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate degree in Counseling Psychology from Boston University.

He served as a pastor for several years before entering into his second career as a psychotherapist and professor. While he was a pastor, he recognized that counseling was the part of his work that he most enjoyed and from where he derived the most satisfaction.

His personal experience with a psychiatrist, Dr. Carmen DelCioppo, was another motivation for his interests in psychotherapy. He met the psychiatrist when his father died in 1976 when he was 26 years old. He helped Dr. Mailkow in dealing with his sorrows.

Dr. Malikow seems to have been a major influence for Dr. Malikow, a major influence still. He said, “Someday, I’d like to do the kind of work Dr. DelCioppo is doing. My goal is to help other people as I was helped by Dr. DelCioppo.”

Dr. Malikow also shared that, since he started to work as a counselor, his specialty has been suicide counseling with people who are suicidal or suicide survivors who have lost friends or family member as a result of suicide. He also writes and researches about depression and suicide.

Throughout his counseling career, Dr. Malikow has seen the courage of many people undergo great challenges in their lives. As a counselor, he is interested in what parents really want for their lives and how their current lifestyles are consistent with what they really want. Those two questions are suggested as productive psychotherapists when engaging with their patients by psychiatrist and philosopher, Irvin Yalom.

His teaching as a professor started at Massachusetts Bay Community College in Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, when was still a graduate student at Boston University in 1987. Until now, he has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Le Moyne College since 1996, and has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Psychology in the Renee Crown Honors Program at Syracuse University since 2004.

He believes that both psychology and Philosophy share a common interest in human behavior. Psychology is more about why people behave as the way people do, while Philosophy is more concerned with how people should behave. His two Philosophy and Psychology courses- Human Predicament and Understanding of Suicide- share a common theme that life is different for each individual, but it can be manageable.

For College students, managing their mindfulness if/when there is lack of self-discipline is really important in order to have successful college life. Some might suffer from any problematic mental health issues since they face problems with relationships and academic cultures.

Dr. Malikow says, “My goal for my students is to provide them with an educational experience that will enable them to “live better” – not merely “think better” and/or “acquire more knowledge.”

He suggests that people who lack of self-discipline should develop their self-discipline incrementally: “Self-discipline can be developed like a muscle – gradually, by exercising it. Shakespeare wrote, “If you have not the virtue, assume it.” We acquire more self-discipline “one day at a time” by “making believe we have it.”

Students who are struggling with their emotions or life issues, he suggests seeking a competent professional’s help. If their friend struggles with life, friends need to contact a mental health professional at Syracuse University’s Health Center.

He thinks that people desire to have a satisfying life. As Aristotle insisted, a meaningful life can be found in meaningful work and moral integrity and in work and love as Tolstoy said.  When there’s a problem in someone’s life that threatens its meaningfulness for him/her, it is always better to be addressed by a “divide and conquer” approach: we can approach the problem a little bit at a time, and people will soon find how much they can get done.

Dr. Max Malikow closed our interview by saying that he is very satisfied with this work as a professor, writer, and therapist. He does not think of his engagement in these fields as work because he is enjoying it so much and he feels in the flow whenever he is working in these three areas.

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