Max Wachtel

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Max Wachtel '95 — Shrink Wrapped

Most people just watch criminal trials on TV but this enterprising expert provides order in the court with his critical forensic testimony.

By Donna Parker


Max Wachtel                                                                                                                         Max running the Adventure Race in Panama (March 2013)

From a very early age, Max Wachtel just wanted to help people, so it didn't take long on the Trinity campus to determine a career path.

"It was actually in my very first semester that I walked into the Intro to Psychology class and just loved it!" says Max, enthusiastically.

"Trinity's liberal arts program requires you to take such a broad range of classes and gain a depth of knowledge, so I changed gears a bit from clinical counseling to patient treatment, which I really liked. In fact, in grad school at the University of Denver, I added testing and assessments to my career goal and now spend much of my professional time doing that."

A sought-after forensic expert, Max owns the Cherry Creek Psychology practice in Denver, where he has conducted and supervised more than 400 forensic mental health evaluations, pre- and post-sentencing, for probation departments in the Mile-High City.

"Every now and then, somebody surprises me. It's really kind of amazing what a person's mind can do and how far people can push behavior."

And, when asked if it ‘all goes back to their childhoods,' Max says, "Upbringing has a huge role. There is usually a genetic component with a huge environmental component, but it generally boils down to moving past the baggage and figuring it out."

Part of Max's job is to help people identify their thoughts and figure out what is helpful and rational, as opposed to detrimental.

"Trinity really taught me how to think reflectively-to really think through problems and issues of the day from various angles. I use that every single day and it is only through this process that you can come to a different understanding."

Max is a strong believer in critical thinking skills that he honed on campus and believes the more education a person has, the greater their critical thinking skills will be.

"Trinity has such an advantage due to its level of academic rigor. Professors don't let you get away with anything. They won't pass you unless you put your whole effort into thinking critically and relaying that understanding through the papers that you write."

"I really had a leg up on many of my grad school companions, simply because my Trinity professors evaluated my work closely and provided much-needed feedback."

"For example, Paula Hertel's research into the areas of depression and memory was invaluable. She walked her students through a process including how to think skeptically about a problem. She really emphasized the scientific method. I didn't get the best grade," laughs Max, "But that's ok. She and Doug Brackenridge in religion did the same thing. It was just amazing and inspiring to realize their depth of knowledge. It made me want to learn more."

Trinity also has a sentimental place in his heart, as that is where he met wife Kim '96, an IT director for a web conferencing company.

"We met at Main Street Pizza in San Antonio and hung out at a little bar called Doza's that featured a lot of bands from Trinity."

"Basically, Trinity offered us a great social experience, in addition to a world-class education. It was great-my friends, my professors-it all had a huge impact on my life."

So, although critical thinking is, well, critical to his job, Max now spends his down time with his daughter Nico, 7, and son, Simon, 5-years-old, who have taught him another necessary skill-how to live in the moment.

"I have a new perspective as a dad. They do a great job of keeping me in the present and not overthinking matters."

Max loves to take his kids to the park, the pool, and the Denver zoo. They also camp a lot and have traveled all over the country. He and Nico love to run and are about to participate in their first 5K.

And, as fate would have it, that run time relates back to the job at hand.

"It is really my time to think through things and look at whatever is going on with a more critical eye. It really is an incredibly helpful skill in navigating life."

You may contact Max at
Story posted: September 2013