Member Spotlight: Michael V. Kirch, PhD


Name:  Michael V. Kirch, PhD

License #: 3128

Bio: 
I was born and raised in Binghamton, New York. In high school, I ran track and was on the swim team. I started on the saxophone in fourth grade and played in the jazz/stage, marching, and concert band. Along the way I took up the bassoon for orchestra and qualified to play in the symphony, orchestra, and then the sousaphone for the marching band as they needed one in our senior year.  

I spent a lot of time in the woods as my father was a naturalist by hobby and we had a place to camp after building two lean twos overlooking a 1 acre pond. With my younger brother and sister and mom and many times with family friends we did fishing, bird watching, hiking, and trail making.  

My first job at age 15 was working in a cemetery mowing, trimming, and after funerals filling in graves with some light, landscaping and repair work of vandalism done in the cemetery. I then worked in a restaurant, making pizza, subs, and food prep in 1976. Since that time I’ve worked as a security guard, a machinist in my father‘s machine shop for 10 years from 1976 to 1986 and after that, owning operating a cleaning and landscaping service from 1986-1990. 

I got my bachelors degree at Binghamton University in 1986 and worked in the same lab that I would eventually be in during my graduate school under Don Levis, PhD, learning about implosive therapy, fear, theory, and calling our lab the little shop of horrors, or the fear lab, where I learned the basics of fear theory and related research, trauma treatment, and recovery. I somehow managed to get into graduate school at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York in 1990. 

During my time in graduate school, I had the privilege of living on 18 acres in the country where I operated a blacksmith forge crafting ornamental iron, and we had dogs, cats, horses, and chickens, and continued to do part time landscaping work to supplement my income. To further supplement my income, I started a group called Life Rhythm using homemade instruments much like Stomp if you’ve ever heard of them, and we performed all around the region in northern Pennsylvania and southern New York State, using homemade instruments made from recycled materials, many of my fellow graduate students joining in if musically inclined and that sure was a lot of fun!  

I did my internship and post doctoral fellowship at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville Pennsylvania from 1997-1999, rotating through emergency room, rehab, primary care, and the psych department, inpatient and outpatient clinics, where I was immersed in training for treatment of trauma and chronic pain conditions. 

My first job after that was as a senior psychologist in Auburn New York, as they had not had one there in three years, and I found out quickly why since it was a community mental health center within  a rural county having a high incidence of mental health issues of fairly intense measure, doing that for about two years full-time, and then part-time is a contract worker when I moved up the street to work at Cayuga Counseling Services as their sole psychologist, working among LPAs, social workers as well as probation related staff since a large focus was on children, adolescents, and their families, working in Auburn from 1999 to 2005. In June 2005 my then young family and I moved down to High Point North Carolina in part for being closer to our family at the time. Since 2005, I’ve worked at Cornerstone Behavioral Medicine that changed over to Wake Forest Baptist Health behavioral medicine, and then to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Behavioral Medicine Eastchester in High Point. I also operate a part-time private practice in the evening, Monday and Tuesday only that’s also In High Point, and about five years ago, I began seeing veterans doing compensation and pension evaluations on Friday and Saturday, having an office in Wilmington, North Carolina, alternating weekends with Winston-Salem North Carolina. My wife and I enjoy spending time together, walking greenway trails, kayaking, and weightlifting together, and we also love to visit the beach and staying at our second home in Hampstead close to where we have a grandson.

I also enjoy hobbies of woodworking, and songwriting when time permits. 

1)      What attracted you to the field of psychology? “I worked as a machinist for 10 years in my dad’s shop, but I was always interested in psychology. At that time, I had a friend who was a psychology major who was talking to me about her interest in autism. I ended up attending a workshop about it and it motivated me to learn more; I didn’t even have my bachelor’s degree at the time. I was thinking I could do more to help people than being a machinist or even taking over the business of the machine shop as such was offered to me at the time by my father as he was approaching retirement age.  

2)      What do you enjoy most about your work? “It gives me meaning and purpose in my life. I have come to find both privilege and joy in offering to others the chance to talk with someone who cares that so many tell me is so hard to find these days and that it’s getting worse. Being a clinical psychologist resonates with my core principles and values. There can be great satisfaction in helping to improve people’s peace of mind, quality of life, and well-being. I strongly believe that the best gift is in giving. I am a Christian and can bring that into my work if the other person is interested and have found that many of my clients, whether of Christian faith or not, will accept a prayer on their behalf after a session if offered.

3)      What advice would you give someone who is considering getting a degree in psychology? I would first offer them encouragement for showing interest in the first place. I never would’ve imagined becoming a clinical psychologist myself. Especially coming from a background of various blue collar jobs. To this day, it’s hard to believe that what I am doing has been possible! I would inform them that it’s a lot of hard work but that it could be very much worth every moment of the challenging journey to get there. I have told many expressing interest in the field to talk to other psychologists and that there are many other branches of psychology instead of just the clinical areas. I would let them know that there’s a very high need for Clinical psychologists and that recently, an article posted by US News on careers ranked Clinical psychologists as being #3 in Best Science Jobs, #20 in best STEM jobs, and as #49 in 100 Best jobs. (money.usnewscom). Also, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment for clinical psychologists is expected to grow by 10% by 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities in this field also tend to come with higher-than-average annual wages (March 8, 2023 – https://www.thechicageschool.edu

Clinical Psychology: 2023 Outlook – Insight Digital Magazine.

4)      When you are not working, what do you enjoy doing? “Spending quality time with my wife; going for walks, traveling together, working out together, and enjoying her awesome cooking and baking! I like doing yard work & landscaping projects. I’m currently working on a stone retaining wall in the back yard for a terrace to support a future gazebo. I’m building it with stones that were excavated from the land where my wife Sherry and I had our home built. I play guitar, sing, and write music – mostly in the folk genre. Anything to do with my hands, wood carving, painting, woodworking. Reading too.”

5)      What is something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know? “My first job was working in a cemetery during summer vacation and weekends during school from  age 15 – 18 in New York state. I mostly did site work, trimming, mowing, etc. I was a competitive body builder for about 12 years during the late 70’s through the 1980s, and studied martial arts as well.”

6)      If were not a psychologist, what would you do? “A mechanical engineer. I’ve always been mechanically inclined.”

7)      What is the next place on your travel bucket list? “We just got back from the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. But next would be Niagara Falls.”

8)      What are you currently reading or listening to? “The Bible, and I just finished 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. Before that I read, Horse by Geraldine Brooks, and The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb.” On deck is, The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Vander Kolk.”

9)      What is your favorite word and why? “ ‘Love, serve & care; not shove, swerve, and scare.’ ”

10)    What is your least favorite word and why? “ ‘Indifference, because it’s the opposite of love.”