Psychologist’s New Book Probes His Own Troubled Teenage Years for Insights Into Thriving During Difficult Times

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Author David Wolgroch went from Jewish honor student in the Bronx to a member of a Puerto Rican gang. Decades later, he has a successful private practice as a clinical psychologist, and a powerful new memoir sharing how he joined—and quit—the gang, and discovered his vocation in the process.

"Shrink" by David Wolgroch

'Shrink' informs and inspires others to believe in their ability to cope and pursue personal goals rather than succumb to failure and negative influences. My actual experience illustrates how one can turn potential crises into a positive experience.

How does a Jewish honor student growing up in the Bronx in 1969 end up a member of an extorting Puerto Rican gang? Further, once an avowed member, how does he manage to leave the gang unscathed, and go on to a successful career as a respected clinical psychologist?

David Wolgroch’s new memoir, Shrink, now available as an e-book from, uses his own adolescence as a case study. Starting from the comfort of his present day private practice in a plush tree-lined London suburb, Wolgroch regresses to the gritty reality of growing up in an urban neighbourhood in ethnic transition, including the irony of assimilating himself into a Puerto Rican gang as a means of survival in the midst of turbulence, only to then extract himself from it, in a controversial act of self-preservation, that was as cleverly brilliant as it was selfish and manipulative.

With a fresh and engaging storytelling, Wolgroch explores the landscape of both his neighbourhood and his teenage mind. Wolgroch writes of these experiences in a straightforward manner, which is neither self-congratulatory nor excessively penitential in tone, and clearly aware of both the virtues and vices of his own machinations.

“As a clinical psychologist, I wanted to illustrate resilience, positive coping, and urban survival using my actual experiences growing up in an impoverished neighbourhood during a time in which rules, role models and directions were unclear, if not abandoned—much like today,” says Wolgroch. “Hopefully, Shrink will inform and inspire others to believe in their ability to cope and pursue personal goals rather than succumb to failure and negative influences. My actual experience illustrates how one can turn potential crises into a positive experience. In other words, how to thrive rather than simply survive in difficult times.”

Besides the usual exposure to various types of “persons in crisis” common to his profession, Wolgroch himself is the son of Holocaust survivors, and has clinical experience helping Holocaust survivors cope with haunting memories. He is also the author of Creation Out of Nothingness, a personal journey exploring the pervasive effects of the Holocaust on four generations of his family. Naturally, his personal and clinical insights into survival and resilience transcend far beyond the pages of a textbook or scholarly paper.

By the end of the book, the author returns again to the green leather armchair of his office through an extended epilogue, which extracts key psychological concepts from his own memoirs, covering personality, motivation, resilience, and ethics. These supplementary reflections provide a deeper analyses of the characters and themes of the story, avoiding the dual temptations of a preachy tone and pretension.

“Having discovered my ability to influence the ideas and actions of others, I eventually found my vocation as a psychologist,” says the author. “The distinction between caring for someone and exploiting them is precariously fragile. When I discovered my aptitude in this area, I was clearly engaged in more exploitation than caring. As a clinical psychologist, I can still influence others, but with the goal of assisting them with getting some aspect of their life back on track,” says Wolgroch.

Rarely do we find a “shrink” brave enough to turn the light inward, and allow his own young life to serve as both an example and a warning. Wolgroch opens the door, and for the reader’s benefit, releases what surely would have been more safely kept in the confines of the clinician’s office.

Teen readers, who face their own share of peer pressure, struggles with self-esteem, and search for an identity, will surely be drawn to Shrink, though Wolgroch offers plenty of grist for adult minds as well.

Shrink is now available as an e-book from,, and several other online retailers. Author David Wolgroch is available for insightful and entertaining interviews.


Dr. David Wolgroch
Tel: 00 44 208 449 2658


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