A Conversation with Dr. David Lowenstein
For more than 35 years, Dr. David Lowenstein has been a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. In this role, he provides therapeutic services to individuals and families. He also offers training and consultation to schools, associations and agencies; is a frequent radio and TV guest in Central Ohio; and a resource and contributing writer for newspapers and magazines nationwide.
Here, we share the inside story about his decision to become a psychologist, why he chose Columbus, the challenges he faces in his profession, and what he plans to do in the future. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this two-part blog series about Dr. David Lowenstein.
Why did you choose this profession, and how did you get started?
I have been a psychologist for more than 35 years. There are two reasons I chose this profession. First, I came from a really screwy, dysfunctional family. My parents got married after World War II and had three children—my two older sisters and me. They didn’t have a relationship, and I took the credit, the blame and the responsibility for trying to fix their relationship until I realized I couldn’t do that. Although I acted out and had difficulty, nobody thought about seeking help for my parents, my sisters or me.
When I went away to college, the second reason evolved. To help pay for college, I was a resident assistant, which is like being a counselor to freshmen living in the dorm. I soon realized that I really enjoyed helping people, mainly because it helped me indirectly. When I was growing up, I was told that I wasn’t good enough. As an RA, I was finally feeling good enough.
Why did you choose Columbus and German Village?
A little over 40 years ago, after I completed my masters program, my wife, Luanne, and I were engaged to be married. She was in upstate New York finishing her undergraduate degree, and I was living in Washington, DC. We decided that I would travel to Los Angeles and look for a job. On my way, I stopped to visit my sister who was living in Columbus. As a social worker, she had some contacts and suggested I look for a job in Columbus. As it turned out, I accepted a job at a residential treatment facility called Rosemont School for Girls. The next day I called Luanne to let her know that I found a job, and, thinking that it would be somewhere near Los Angeles or San Francisco, she said, “Already? Where?” When I told her that it was in Columbus, she said, “How far is that from LA?” Forty years later, we’re still living and working in Columbus.
German Village reminded me of New York City and the areas where I am originally from. So it’s no surprise that our first apartment after we were married was in German Village. When I completed my doctorate in counseling psychology at Ohio University, Luanne and I were working for two, different places. We had just purchased a house here in German Village and thought maybe we should open an office here as well. That’s when we found this lovely building on the corner of Sycamore and S. Fifth. We fell in love with the building and have been here ever since.
What can you tell us about Lowenstein & Associates?
As time went on, Luanne and I added people to Lowenstein & Associates, and unfortunately, we lost some people who moved on to other places. We also lost two people because of illnesses that ended in their demise. Today, John Mason is a psychologist who has been with us for about a year, and Scott Dagenfield, who sees mostly adolescents, has been here for about 25 years. Luanne continues to counsel women and couples going through transitions and marriage difficulties.
What is your philosophy as a psychologist?
I try to give power back to the people who need to have the power. I meet so many people who are afraid that their children or spouse are made of fine china. They think they can’t get angry at the person or they can’t set limits or make them responsible for their actions. I look at what’s going on in the family or the relationship and really allow them to have the power in their relationship or marriage, or as a family. The kids become kids, and the parents become parents. And parents should rule by divine authority because they are in charge of the family.
I think a lot of parents today are so concerned they’re going to harm their children by saying “no” to them or denying them something or making them work toward something. I try to teach parents to become good parents by taking control. And I teach couples how to manage their relationship so they are in charge of their relationship more than the kids are.
What do you like best about your career?
I like it when I run into somebody years after I saw them professionally as a child, adolescent or as a couple, and while I may not remember them specifically, they have a vivid memory of me. The majority of these people are really happy about what I’ve done, and they thank me. It’s good to see them flourishing and doing well. It’s pretty amazing to see parents who were kids when I saw them, and it’s nice to know they had a good experience with me.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a psychologist?
There are two. First, we decided many years ago as a practice that we would take managed care insurance company reimbursement because we felt like that was a population that needed to be served. Unfortunately, it’s really difficult to go through a lot of the hoops that managed care puts us through. However, we’ve stayed with them and everyone in the practice is on all or at least a majority of the managed care provider lists.
The second challenge is related to the high-conflict divorce cases that I handle. Due to the high level of conflict, these are cases that everyone is confused about, from the attorneys to the judge or magistrate. In these situations, we are concerned about how the children are living through the experience. These are typically extremely explosive cases where the couple has been fighting for years and has finally decided to terminate the relationship. Unfortunately, it sometimes reaches a point where it seems like they won’t be happy or content unless they inflict as much damage on the other person as possible, despite how that might affect the children.
In these situations, the blame often gets transferred to the psychologist. No matter what assistance I provide to the court, at least one person in the relationship is not happy and wants revenge. This might happen when I write a report that finds fault with both parents, or when I can’t gather enough information about the other parent to prevent him or her from gaining custody. When this occurs, it’s important to understand that I am not a paid psychologist; I am a forensic psychologist. That means I do what’s best for the family—and I don’t take sides. If I do take a side, it’s the side of the child and what’s best for him or her.
Today, there aren’t many psychologists in Central Ohio who continue to handle these custody or forensic evaluations because of the threat of lawsuit, malpractice or board action. It’s too bad because courts are looking for counselors and psychologists to help them make decisions about what’s best for the child or children.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series, including Dr. Lowenstein’s counseling work in New York City after 9/11 and more.