James Sparrell, PhD

On Leave of Absence

Dr. Jim Sparrell is a practicing clinical psychologist, school psychologist, fabric artist, avid birder, organic gardener, amateur conservation ecologist, and aspiring nature photographer currently living in Portsmouth, NH. He has given presentations on the birds of Vietnam for local Audubon and school groups. He writes personal essays, reviews, and interviews and recently published the essay “A Snake in the Grass: The Challenges of Dominant Stories” in the book, Transformative Language Arts in Action. He has been nominated for the school psychologist of the year in New Hampshire and has served as field supervisor for students from Tufts, Antioch New England, Brooklyn College, Lesley University, Salem State College and Plymouth State University. He is currently working on a book combining nature photography and micro-essays.


PhD in Clinical/Community Psychology, University at Buffalo (SUNY)
MA in Social/Personality Psychology, Connecticut College
BA in Psychology, Nyack College

Areas of Expertise

  • Clinical and Community Psychology
  • Transformative Language Arts
  • Narrative Psychology
  • School Psychology
  • Statistics
  • Research Methods
  • Bird Life
  • Nature Photography and Birding
  • Nature and Place Studies.
  • Personal Statement

All my life I have been drawn to books and stories. I see my work in clinical psychology as helping people to tell their stories, and to tell them in new ways, with new metaphors, new words, and sometimes with new characters. In college I studied religion, philosophy, and literature, changing my major to psychology in my senior year. I obtained a Master’s degree in social/personality psychology and wrote my thesis on gender and conversational dominance. During my pursuit of a degree in clinical psychology, I studied depression and cognitive biases and worked on finding commonality between cognitive and psychodynamic theories. 

I completed an internship at McLean Hospital/Harvard Medical School where I remained part-time for about ten years as a Fellow and Assistant Attending Psychologist. I was taken by the relational work being done there, and at the Stone Center, which valued personal connection, empathy, and individual narratives. I also worked in an inner city community mental health center in East Boston. I was moved by the courage and strength of people struggling with homelessness, drug addiction, trauma, poverty, racism, and serious illnesses, such as schizophrenia. During that time I also worked with children of the city and was struck by their will to thrive and vitality in difficult circumstances. I have been in private practice in Portsmouth, NH since 1991 where I work with adults, children, families, and consult to community agencies and schools. 

Although I have studied cognitive, psychodynamic, and interpersonal approaches to psychotherapy, my work has been as influenced by listening, and learning from my clients. They can be good critics and teachers, too. In education, as in therapy, I seek to help people look at the assumptions underlying their beliefs and become critics of their own narratives. I believe community, connection, and developing a spiritual understanding are important to the process of growth and that both student and teacher can be changed in the process of education. I also believe that the process of scientific discovery can help us to see the world and ourselves in new and different ways (remember Galileo). 

In addition to my work in psychology I have a diverse range of interests. For several years I served as a contributing editor of Mars Hill Review, where I was responsible for the music section, and published occasional essays, interviews, and book reviews. My current passion is understanding the inter-relatedness of the natural world through birds and cultivating landscapes that support diversity. I am particularly excited about leading after school birding groups for children and helping them to experience the beauty and complexity that is at hand, but sometimes hard to see with a busy mind.