Interview with The Psychology of Wellbeing and Author Jeremy McCarthy
About Jeremy: Jeremy McCarthy, MAPP ’09, is the Group Director of Spa for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group leading their internationally acclaimed luxury spa division featuring 44 world-class spa projects open or under development worldwide. Jeremy's blog is The Psychology of Wellbeing, and he teaches courses (and offers a free webinar) on Positive Leadership. He has also authored the book, The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing: A Guide to the Science of Holistic Healing.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] When and why did you originally start a blog about the science of holistic wellness?
[Jeremy McCarthy] In 2008 and 2009 I went back to school and graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree. I enjoyed the curriculum so much that I didn’t want it to end. I decided I wanted to continue reading up on the science of psychology and to continue writing to help me to synthesize everything that I was learning.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] What do you hope to achieve by maintaining The Psychology of Wellbeing?
[Jeremy McCarthy] The blog really serves more than anything as my classroom in an ongoing study of human wellbeing. It has been a great way for me to store ideas on the topic and expose them to others in the field who can provide feedback.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] You refer to your blog as a “playground” in which you cultivate meaningful discussions on how applying psychology can improve wellness. Have there been any interesting comments or responses from your readers that have sparked new posts, or significant areas of application that you hadn’t considered before? If so, can you tell us more about one or two of these experiences?
[Jeremy McCarthy] A lot of my favorite articles have to do with somewhat controversial topics. I don’t like to write the “same old stuff” that has been presented a million times already so I like the articles that challenge popular opinions. An example of this is an article on “Mindfulness: It Ain’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be.” The article sparked a debate in the comments that also challenged some of my ideas in the article. I love it when people are interested in exploring the topic, even if they don’t agree with what I post.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] We’ve highlighted your post, “The Difference Between Positive Thinking and Positive Psychology,” because it carefully details the differences between two major schools of thought that are often (and erroneously) used interchangeably. Have you noticed any changes in the popularity or definition of positive thinking movement since writing this post back in 2012?
[Jeremy McCarthy] I think there has been a lot of discussion on the topic and a lot has been written in recent years that refutes some of the benefits of positivity. Some of the voices in this arena have included Barbara Ehrenreich (who wrote a critique of positive psychology), Paul Wong (who studies meaning therapy and wrote about “Positive Psychology 2.0” that needs to evolve beyond positive emotions), Todd Kashdan (who has written much about Psychological Flexibility), Russ Harris (who has been promoting Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and Nick Brown (who has debunked some of the positivity ratio research). I still think positive psychology (and even positive thinking) has some real value so I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, but I think these challenges are beneficial to the field and helps us to keep the science in check. I’m much more interested in the science of positive psychology which should be about ideas which can be tested and challenged and not a new age version of positive thinking that we believe in because it feels good.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] On your blog’s About page, you mention that you apply your learning in psychology “not only to spas, but to the hospitality industry in general, using research based methods to improve employee engagement and the guest experience.” What are some of those methods, and in what ways have you seen employee and guest experiences improve as a result?
[Jeremy McCarthy] When you see how most spas tend to market themselves, it usually revolves around the facilities, the treatments and the products, i.e. the physical aspects of the experience. I believe at the end of the day the spa experience is about what goes on inside people’s heads and how we make them feel. I have always tried to apply this thinking to my career. Right now, for example, with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group we are doing a lot of programs geared towards helping people take a break from technology. We are all struggling with finding the right boundaries in our relationship with technology and our spas can be a place where people can turn to have some time for silence, mindfulness or personal reflection—all scarcities in the modern world.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] You mention that your graduate thesis was on “The Psychology of Spas and Wellbeing.” How did you first become interested in exploring the relationship between the two?
[Jeremy McCarthy] I originally had studied psychology as an undergrad over 20 years while I was working my first hotel job at a Four Seasons in California. I realized that I did not want to pursue a career in psychology, but I felt like I was applying psychology every day working in hospitality. A spa experience can be a very sensory physical experience, but throughout my career, I’ve observed that the very best (and the very worst) spa experiences are the ones that make an emotional impact. The psychology is key.
[OnlineCounselingPrograms.com] Do you have any advice for students pursuing a career in mental health?
[Jeremy McCarthy] I often have people ask me for advice about pursuing a career in positive psychology. I think it is far more interesting to bring positive psychology to another career. Almost every industry can benefit from having someone who understands the way the mind works and can apply it to their business. And positive psychology in particular, with its emphasis on human happiness and wellbeing, is incredibly useful in any business where human interactions are paramount.
Thank you, Jeremy! Learn more about The Psychology of Wellbeing on our Top Psychology Blogs list.
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