Year of Graduation: 2006
Current Position: Clinical Psychologist-St. Cloud Hospital within the CentraCare Health System (University of South Dakota, August 2011)
Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working:
I graduated with a PhD in Clinical Psychology and specialization in Disaster Mental Health from The University of South Dakota in August of 2011. I am currently employed by St. Cloud Hospital within the CentraCare Health System. I work in the Adult Behavioral Health Clinic which is located at the CentraCare Health Plaza in St. Cloud, MN. I provide adult services that include individual therapy as well as cognitive and psychological assessment.
The Behavioral Health Clinic provides psychological services throughout the CentraCare Health System and as such, my position has a significant amount of variety. I am provided the opportunity to work with individuals on an outpatient basis within the Behavioral Health Clinic and also provide assessment or therapy services on a consult basis to other areas of the healthcare system that include the Adult Inpatient Mental Health Unit and various medical floors at the hospital, as well as the St. Cloud Hospital's Recovery Plus Addiction and Mental Health Services program.
What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I graduated from St. John's University in May of 2006 and immediately began graduate school in August of that summer. The process of obtaining a degree in psychology is universal such that you spend time as a student and then complete a one year clinical internship (similar to a medical school residency) before you graduate. The amount of time in the academic program varies between schools and is strongly related to how grandiose one becomes in developing research projects. The Clinical Training Program at The University of South Dakota allowed me to complete the academic program in four years followed by the one year internship so I was completely done after 5 years. I received a Master of Arts degree in August 2008 and Doctor of Philosophy degree in August 2011.
I received clinical training in USD's mental health clinic, a community mental health center in Yankton, SD and also worked within the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System. I completed a one year clinical internship in the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Bay Pines. FL. I interviewed for and accepted a position with the St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic during the fall of my internship year. When my training was complete in Florida, I moved back to the St. Cloud area and started my current position in August 2011.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
It is important to get involved in extracurricular activities early. For example, ask professors about opportunities to participate in research studies, participate in shadowing or an internship if possible, and take on the extra work of completing an Honors Thesis. Those types of things provide an inside look into what psychology is about and perhaps most importantly, they look good on applications for graduate school. It is important to find out as much information that you can about the career path, specifically, understand the process related to academic requirements, internship, and post-doctoral training.
If you can develop a sense of what interests you, the process of narrowing down where to apply for graduate school becomes easier. Not sure? That is ok too. Most schools accept that students applying to graduate school have not laid out their career plans yet, but it is a good idea to have thought about it.
Take the hard classes and pay attention. I remember describing to some of my friends that graduate school classes were about as difficult as my hardest undergraduate class. When Dr. Wielkiewicz told us "This is what it would be like in graduate school!", he was right.
Take the GRE EARLY! The earlier you take it, the more you can prepare and avoid the "down to the last minute" anxiety. Also, if you take it early and are not satisfied with your performance, there is ample time to re-prepare and take it again.
What skills are important in your field?
What I have learned in my short career in this field is that it is of utmost importance to be self-motivated and be able to push yourself to get things done. The ability to work independently serves one well during graduate study as well as during typical day-to-day activities.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
It was helpful to be able to learn about what opportunities existed with a degree in psychology. I remember attending panel discussions with recent graduates who were accepted to graduate schools and learned about the process that way. My internship experience at CentraCare was great in that it provided information about day-to-day operation in the field that you cannot receive in classes. It is understandable that not all students may be able to participate in an experience like that, but I would encourage those interested to make contact with someone like myself or other CSB/SJU alums and try to meet to talk about the career. I know that myself and other providers at this clinic are willing to meet with students to discuss career plans.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help people make changes in their lives. The opportunity to work with a wide variety of people with diverse backgrounds is very rewarding. It has been my experience that no two days that are alike and I really enjoy that.
I had been generally undecided about career goals until I had the opportunity to participate in an undergraduate internship program with CentraCare during my third year at SJU. It was that experience that provided insight into the day-to-day operations of a psychologist's career that helped clarify what it was that I wanted to do. I now work with many of the same people who supervised that experience.