Dr. Royce Malphrus, '72: Hooked on Helping Others
Dr. Royce Malphrus, '72, attended the University of South Carolina during one of the more turbulent times in our country’s history. Becoming an adult during the late 1960s and early 1970s helped him focus on his professional future as a psychotherapist, working with members of the United States military.
“I think my experiences in the '60s and '70s endeared the military to me and I felt, and continue to feel, a huge debt to the military for what they do,” Dr. Malphrus says. “I was a semester away from being drafted during the Vietnam War and feel that I am doing my service now and am much more valuable as a psychotherapist assisting with families, active-duty sailors, soldiers, marines and Wounded Warriors with reintegration into society.”
Growing up in Ridgeland, South Carolina, Dr. Malphrus had choice of attending several in-state schools to pursue his education. After initially considering attending Clemson, he heard about the engineering school at Carolina and came to the Columbia campus.
“This ranks in the top-five great decisions in 62 years of life,” Dr. Malphrus says. “After a semester in engineering, I decided that this was not my profession, so I changed my major to psychology, earning a bachelor of science degree in 1972.”
Education in and out of the classroom
There was much unrest in the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the Carolina campus was caught up in it. This led to some unforgettable experiences and vivid memories from his days as an undergraduate.
“I remember Jane Fonda expressing her very strong anti-Vietnam feelings on campus, one of my acquaintances ‘invading the administration building,’ experiencing tear gas for the first time and the U.S. National Guard dispersing a crowd by spraying pepper gas on the Horseshoe,” Royce says. “I felt that it was ironic that the Horseshoe, a beautiful place of refuge for students and a prior hospital for Civil War soldiers, could become such a tumultuous scene.”
Despite the turbulent times, Dr. Malphrus says it was still enjoyable to be on campus.
“I thought the USC authorities managed a very tough period of time well and my opinion was very positive about navigating between law enforcement, military and students.” Not all of his college memories are of conflict and struggle, however.
“There were many pleasant memories also, such as astronomy classes with Dr. John Safko, psychology classes with Dr. (Carroll) Colgan in what was lovingly referred to as ‘the dungeon,’ the Gamecock basketball team and the dedication to the football team that the student body showed,” Dr. Malphrus says. “By the way, after fifty-plus years of being a Gamecock football fan, I am ecstatic that ‘next year’ finally came this past year. I heard ‘wait until next year’ way too many times.”
Healing the wounds you cannot see
Following graduation, Dr. Malphrus worked for a few years at the South Carolina State Hospital and the Columbia Mental Health Center as a counselor before attending the State University of West Georgia, where he earned a master’s degree in psychology in 1977. After a few more years at the Columbia Area Mental Health Center, he moved to the coast to follow his professional and personal passions.
“I spent five or six years as a psychologist and director of children's services for the Coastal Empire Community Mental Health Center, and five years with Charter Hospital of Savannah’s outpatient office in Beaufort where I served as the director,” Dr. Malphrus says. “During this chapter in my career, I earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology from Southwest University, a nontraditional program in New Orleans.”
Dr. Malphrus is now in private practice in Beaufort after a two-year experience with the psychiatry department at the Medical University of South Carolina. During the past 20 years, he has been active in helping those with substance-abuse issues, serving as president of the South Carolina Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, and on the certification and ethics committees for a number of years. He was also awarded Counselor of the Year by the South Carolina Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors Association and runner-up for the National Counselor of the Year by the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors and Clinical Supervisor of the Year for the United States Marine Corps.
“I had a contract with the USMC to supervise their substance-abuse counselors, which lasted 13 years,” Dr. Malphrus says. “These two awards are very meaningful and are continuing reminders of what can happen when a person extends him or herself beyond normal expectations. To be recognized by peers in the substance-abuse field as the Counselor of the Year and by the U.S. Marine Corps as the Preceptor, or Clinical Supervisor, of the Year added to my career that was already rewarding in and of itself.”
Dr. Malphrus has been using biofeedback and EEG Biofeedback procedures for the last 17 years, which he says have created very significant changes in his patients.
“Biofeedback consists of using instruments to monitor and give feedback about physiology,” Dr. Malphrus says. “Under stress, our physiology enters a ‘fight or flight’ mode which prepares us for danger by increasing our heart rate, breathing at a faster rate, muscle bracing, and constricting of vessels in hands and feet to allow increased blood flow to our heart and lungs. Biofeedback teaches use to manage stress by becoming more adept at recognizing and learning to modulate these biological functions quicker and more effectively."
Dr. Malphrus continues, "A system that is locked in a fight-or-flight mode quickly becomes overstressed and distressed and the person may experience anxiety, coronary issues, impaired immune system or insomnia. Biofeedback presents these signals in the form of a game, assisting a person to bring them back to a ‘resting’ baseline. EEG biofeedback allows patients to improve attention, focus, concentration, to reduce anxiety, improve mood, and reduce stress by changing brain-wave frequencies. It is also being utilized very effectively for trauma.”
He adds that the best part of his profession is being honored to assist people in addressing their struggles and challenges in life and transcending them.
“Biofeedback and neurofeedback allow them to learn how to regulate their physiology and to take responsibility for their emotions and behaviors," Dr. Malphrus adds. "It empowers them to maintain the changes they have achieved. The most negative parts of my practice are the documentation and experiencing people who do not accept that they are always developing and growing and that human potential is huge.”
As difficult as his job can be, Dr. Malphrus says it is very fulfilling and has its rewards.
“In my practice, I have had the honor of working with marines, sailors and their families, helping them deal with deployments, trauma from combat, stress and many other challenges which military life presents," he explains. "Recently, I had the honor of participating in a three-year Department of Defense grant with the V.A. hospital in Columbia, using a biofeedback technique called Heart Rate Variability, treating veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a very exciting opportunity, and I am already seeing these veterans becoming more empowered in dealing with their anxiety and trauma.”
One of Dr. Malphrus' passions outside of work is sport fishing. A lifetime dream was realized when he earned his U.S. Coast Guard skipper’s license, which enabled him to take passengers and fishermen offshore to engage in sport fishing.
“I have been assisting a friend for 12 years with his offshore sport-fishing business, primarily on weekends,” Dr. Malphrus says. “The enjoyment of experiencing people catching fish and many times releasing them is great, especially when children are on the charter. It is incredibly rewarding getting to engage with the fishermen, to tell fish tales and to hear taller fish tales from them."
“My love of sport fishing began with fishing in a pond with my dad, which taught me patience, focus and concentration. I became hooked, pun intended, the first time I was able to fish offshore. Around 1975, I was offshore with several friends catching mahi mahi and listening to Jimmy Buffet, an existential experience. I have had a passion for both fishing and Jimmy Buffet songs since then.”
Dr. Malphrus gets back to campus at least once per year either for a football game or to simply drive around campus and reminisce.