Local psychologist combines passion, vocation into a book
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Dr. William H. Porter, a licensed psychologist who has practiced the past 12 years in Mt. Pleasant, began his vocational career as an art teacher.
Now he has combined his two vocations and his passion into his first book: “Portrait Therapy: A Sketchbook of Contemporary American Emotion.”
He said part of the inspiration for the book came from his wife, Nancy B. Porter, a social worker with an LISW degree.
Beginning his employment as an art teacher in a private high school in Minneapolis, the Creston native realized that although he could be taken away from art, the art could not be removed from him.
“Gradually there was the realization that I really wanted to be a school counselor,” Porter said. “I went back to graduate school, but as a part of the counseling process, I could never stop portraits. Eventually, I was drawing a portrait of virtually every young person who came to my office.”
His wife saw the portraits one day and told him, “You have a book there.” The seed was planted.
Porter, who does clinical counseling, industrial applications and sports performance in his work, said he sketched his clients for a number of reasons. “I saw it as a teaching tool…I sketch them to catch their emotion and what is going on (in their lives). I will hold it up and ask them what they see.”
Although a few clients have refused to be sketched, he said about 80 percent have consented. He obtained released forms from all of the people whose sketches are in the book. “The sketches also sequence the change being seen over time. They seem to enjoy it and appreciate it (being sketched). They realize they not only are being heard but seen.”
He said his book will help clinicians to “see,” and then be guided through a series of steps to perhaps assist them to include personal sketches as a part of their own therapeutic practice.
His 230-page book includes around 150 portraits, caricatures or sketches of individuals with narrative vignettes from the life story of almost 50 people. “Obviously their names have been changed,” Porter said, “but the life stories are real and comprise a wonderful self-help book for the person seeking answers to present-day problems.
A full book review is available online at www.ExplorePortraitTherapy.info. Sloan’s Printing Service of Mt. Pleasant is handling the printing of the book with 100 copies included in the first printing.
Porter said the book is a virtual total or product of southeast Iowa — and specifically, Mt. Pleasant.
He likes to point out that Mt. Pleasant is much larger than many people realize, using an analogy to make his point.
One of his clients was a young boy and Porter and the boy were walking in the downtown business district near Hy-Vee Drug. The boy asked Porter to accompany him to the nearby water tower adjacent to City Hall.
As the boy looked up, he asked Porter what he saw. Porter shrugged his shoulders and replied, “a water tower.”
The boy looked at Porter with a “gotcha-type” smile and said, “No, this is an ant’s view of a mushroom.”
“Over the years, I have come to realize he identified a kind of an archetype for Mt. Pleasant. We experience this small community, but many others do not recognize how huge is it from the earliest underground railway locations to a continuing multi-cultural history from Belle Babb to James Van Allen.
“Another way of considering Mt. Pleasant as much larger than others might realize from an ‘outside the mushroom” viewpoint, my hope would be to have the book reviewed in some televised format,” he continued. “This would be to achieve a broader visibility for Mt. Pleasant — and “Portrait Therapy” — which, in my personal opinion, they both deserve.”
Thomas would like to have the book reviewed by Oprah Winfrey, terming her the ultimate choice.
“Having worked on this project for almost 10 years and with the new completed book, ‘Portrait Therapy,’ as the product, I am holding the dream that as a community we might make enough ‘noise’ around the bottom of the water tower so that Oprah might hear us in Mt. Pleasant,” he noted. “Her endorsement would be the kind of high profile, professional review that Mt. Pleasant and ‘Portrait Therapy’ both deserve.”
The psychologist is also hoping for some help from the community in enticing Winfrey to review the book. He is asking residents, who after having read this article and reviewing the book, believe she should review the book to email their request to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He also will be hosting an “Alive After Five” tomorrow (Wed.) at his business, located at 707 N. Broadway St. in Mt. Pleasant.