Learning Resources by

Rick Hanson, PhD


I am a psychologist and have written and taught about the essential inner skills of personal well-being, psychological growth, and contemplative practice – as well as about relationships, family life, and raising children.

I grew up in a loving and stable family, mainly in the suburbs of Los Angeles; my mother was a homemaker and my father was a zoologist. A shy and bookish kid who loved the outdoors, I entered UCLA at 16 and graduated summa cum laude in 1974 (and was honored to be one of four “outstanding seniors” chosen by the UCLA Alumni Association). Over the next several years, I founded a successful seminar company, worked for a mathematician doing probabilistic risk analyses for things like the odds of a nuclear power plant melting down, and did management consulting. After fulfilling the course requirements for a Masters in developmental psychology at San Francisco State University, I received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the Wright Institute in 1991, with a dissertation titled, “Gratifying control: Mothers offering alternatives to toddlers.”

My clinical practice includes adults, couples, families, and children, as well as psychological assessments of children and adults related to temperament, school performance, and educational and vocational planning. I have worked as a school psychologist for several independent schools, and have given many talks to meetings of parents or child development specialists. For many years, I served on the Board of FamilyWorks, a family resource agency in Marin County, California, and chaired it for two years. I am a former Trustee of Saybrook University.

Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships

When my wife, Jan, and I had the first of our two children, we were delighted by what has continued to be the most fulfilling experience of our lives. But we were also startled – to put it mildly (stunned is more like it) – by the stress and depletion of parenthood, especially when the so-called “village it takes to raise a child” is more like a ghost town these days. In particular, I was struck by the effects on mothers – especially the more vulnerable ones – who (unless they adopt) ride the physiological roller-coaster of pregnancy and childbirth, and often breastfeeding and weaning, and who also typically handle most of the stressful aspects of making a family. While there are many books about childrearing – certainly a vital subject – there is almost nothing about how to actually address the impacts of making a family on mothers, fathers, and couples. So, with Jan – who is an acupuncturist specializing in clinical nutrition – and Ricki Pollycove, M.D., an OB-GYN, I wrote Mother Nurture: A Mother’s Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships (Penguin, 2002), which shows how to support the long-term health, well-being, and intimate partnership of mothers. Written for the general public, that book is solidly referenced, and was endorsed by Christiane Northrup, M.D., among others. Many related articles and other resources can be found at www.NurtureMom.com.

As our children grew older – they’re now college-age – I became increasingly interested in the historically unprecedented meeting of modern brain science and ancient contemplative practices. With Rick Mendius, M.D., I founded the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom. The Institute publishes the monthly Wise Brain Bulletin, hosts the www.WiseBrain.org website and sponsors the Skillful Means website (a growing encyclopedia of psychological and spiritual methods).

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