About Howard Rankin
After I got my Bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Nottingham and my Master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of London, I started my career at the Institute of Psychiatry’s Addiction Research Unit as part of a team, who ultimately contributed to the scientific definition of dependence.
One day, I was dictating (yes, before the digital age—you talked into a machine and a live person called a ‘secretary’ actually listened to the tape and typed it out, on a typewriter no less, with carbon paper for copies). I was dictating a long and somewhat boring paper that would eventually be part of my PhD. To make it more interesting, I began to dictate the paper using different accents from around the world – France, Italy, South Africa, Australia, Russia and India. It was much more interesting! There was just one problem. My cockney secretary at the time, Joyce, couldn’t understand any of what I had dictated. “’Oward,” she yelled, calling me into her office, “I can’t understand a bloody word! How do you expect me to type this when I can’t understand it?” she asked. And before I had a chance to reply, she posed a really difficult question.
“Are you a psychologist or a stand-up comedian?”
This was the beginning of my career and I had to think long and hard about her poser. In the end I chose psychology because I believed that there were more opportunities for humor, pranks and creativity in psychology than in stand-up. And so it proved. I even had a scientific case study published that I had written in limerick format. (It’s the ‘OCD case study’ page, if you really must.) My career has taken me from the distinguished halls of academia of the Institute of Psychiatry, to St. Andrews Hospital, Northampton (where I met Princess Diana) to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, where I was the clinical director of the Hilton Head Health Institute. Then, inevitably, it came time for me to go out on my own.
I was only slightly exaggerating about psychology and humor in the previous paragraph. My career has given me an opportunity for creativity. You may think that therapy, teaching, training, even scientific research and editing, are boring endeavors but they aren’t. Like every other activity, a creative approach makes those activities more interesting and you more proficient at doing them. It’s the right brain, left-brain integration thing. (Oh, I’m fascinated and somewhat informed about brain function and neuro-technology, too.)
I am all about ideas and the communication of those ideas. So, I’ve written or co-written 8 books, 3 videos, 2 workbooks, an audio series, 35 scientific papers, and even been a creative consultant and on-screen expert in the award-winning movie The Million Calorie March. I’ve been on CNN, ‘The View,’ and ABC’s ‘20/20.’ My work has been featured in such newspapers as the Wall Street Journal, The L.A. Times and the Dallas Morning News, and in such magazines as Prevention, Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle.
I’ve been a consultant to the World Health Organization, the British Broadcasting Company, the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcohol Abuse, The Independence, Missouri, School District, the UK’s National Council on Gambling, to name but a few. I love involvement in community projects and helped create and ran Inspiring Wellness, a local health promotion program that attracted hundreds of participants and ran for 3 years. I was also involved in Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina’s Million Step March.
The challenge of persuasive communication, the art of story-telling in its many varied forms and venues, and the science of influence are all endlessly fascinating to me and I hope I can transmit that passion, as well as some helpful tips, through this blog.