Recent Posts

Decisions, decisions

Posted on April 17,2014 by aliatmspp

As tax day approached, so, too, did the deadline to respond to invitations graduate programs. I think back to a year ago when I was buried in my own decision-making process; I had spreadsheets, pro-con columns strewn about, and the counsel of friends and family. The factors included in my process were the following:

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Tagged Change of Career, Clinical PsyD, Counseling Psychology, School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

Art as Self Care

Posted on March 31,2014 by aliatmspp

This weekend, despite struggling to overcome a wicked stomach bug, I took some time out to stroll through the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) with a friend who was visiting town. Historically, I had considered taking in art as a luxury; currently, however, I am beginning to approach art viewing as a mode of self-care. It may not be the traditional example of “art therapy,” and I do love a good finger-painting session when possible, but for those of us who do not consider ourselves artists beyond Painting by Number, having the opportunities to delve into art as an observer (and by extension, an active participant) can be a healing and fulfilling process.

There’s something about walking around the MFA that is relaxing to me. I think it’s partially the quiet, the fact that visitors whisper when communicating, the absence of cellphone rings, along with the architecture itself – high ceilings grounded by stone upon which my boots made a hollow thud. And then, there’s the art. The number of pieces is overwhelming to me, so I try to have a plan of attack each visit. Most recently, my friend wanted to look at art of the ancient times, most specifically Greek and Roman sculptures. To me, there was an indulgent quality to getting lost in the marble, following the lines of the sculptures’ draperies. In a way, it’s a bit like an exercise meant to instill appreciation for the “here and now” by forcing me to focus on exactly what I see before taking a click out and thinking about the piece in historical context.

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Tagged Personal Growth, Around Boston

Super supervision

Posted on March 13,2014 by aliatmspp

We know that supervision is a vital aspect of becoming a good practitioner. As a trainee, I rely on supervision for several reasons. First, it ensures that my clients are receiving quality therapy. By reviewing my client interactions with my supervisor, we reflect on different approaches and tailor a treatment plan to help my client manage his or her experiences effectively in an effort to meet his or her therapeutic goals. Second, supervision is a space for learning; it allows me to ask questions that pop up at my practicum, and because I have good supervision, I feel comfortable doing so without shame or embarrassment. Supervision also provides a space for me to talk about my experiences as a clinician and as a graduate school student studying psychology.

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Tips for Surving the GRE

Posted on February 27,2014 by aliatmspp

For some of us, standardized tests are the last thing on our bucket lists. The truth is if you thought you were done with filling in bubbles with the SATs, I have some tough news for you: not only do you need to bubble-in like a champion for many national voting procedures, but equally bubble-riffic are exams like the GRE and the Examination of Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP). However, depending on where you take it, it’s likely that your exam will be administered on computers, so you can put your #2 pencil away. As you may know, the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required for entrance to MSPP’s Clinical PsyD graduate program; it is an optional application material for the Master’s programs, and the PsyD programs in both School Psychology (“strongly recommended” that you take the GRE for the School Psych PsyD program) and Leadership Psychology. This post will take a closer look at the GRE and offer some tips to employ when tackling that computer screen’s challenges.

As previously mentioned, for most test takers, this exam will be computer based. Please note that there was a significant overhaul of the GRE a few years back, so for those of us who may be rusty, let me offer some conventional wisdom: from what I understand, the “newer” (as of 2012, I believe) GRE is adaptive between sections, not within sections. Knowing this takes the pressure off those first five questions that had been touted as the most important in the previously adaptive GRE. Also, you can skip questions, flag questions, and scroll through questions. This is helpful for those moments when you’re stumped and feel the need to move on but not completely abandon ship. One overarching theme I might advise is to be sure that you understand what each question is really asking. This applies to both verbal and quantitative questions. If you’re not sure about a response, it’s okay to flag it and come back to it.

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Tagged Change of Career, Clinical PsyD, Organizational Psychology & Leadership, School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

Hallmark Hurrah

Posted on February 12,2014 by aliatmspp

This can be a tough time of the year for some people. Here in the Boston area, the luster of freshly fallen snow has worn out (don’t worry – we’re due for more soon!), and some of us might be getting sick of scraping the ice off of our windshields in the wee hours of the morning. In addition to an increased frequency of the expression “wintry mix,” this time of year marks Hallmark’s dominance. From here through Father’s Day (that’s in June, folks; you’re prematurely welcome), there’s a Hallmark holiday to keep you going. While I have my own thoughts regarding the corporate drive behind many of these holidays, I must say that there is something about receiving a card – or letter for that matter – in the mail. But what is it that makes snail mail so special? Well, since you asked …

1. It takes thought. These days, with the availability and wit of someecards, taking the time to select the perfect card for someone is meaningful. Then, if you’re lucky, you get a card with a note inside, too. On the flip side, sometimes there is a card you pass that screams out to you and seems destined for a specific someone in your life.

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Dust Off Your Suit

Posted on January 16,2014 by aliatmspp

Last year during interview season, I made a significant commitment, one that may or may not end up being one of the longest in my life. I bought a suit. Yep, a lady-suit, meaning I bought a suit jacket, pants and a skirt (to increase versatility). I remember walking into the store, muttering to myself, “This is ridiculous. Why buy an outfit that I’ll only wear a few times a year – at best?” You see, I’m much more of a corduroy/khaki person myself. This whole “business” attire seemed foreign to me. Remember, I was an elementary and middle school teacher, which is code for “I used to climb on/under/around desks to help students understand prepositions.”

A year ago, I was interviewing for graduate programs. I was pitching myself while simultaneously scrutinizing programs to see if they would be a good fit for me. It was an odd experience. What I learned from this experience, and what I continue to learn through interviewing for practicum sites, is the following:

  1. Preparation is key. Learn as much as you can, whether it’s from an inquiry to someone who may already be there (practicum, intern, or program student) or from other information sources. Always go into an interview with a few questions in mind. Sure, they may actually be answered during the course of the interview, but it’s a good idea to have them at the ready. For some people, it’s helpful to role-play interview questions in the mirror or with a friend.
  2. Interviewing is a conversation. I think my stronger interview experiences were when the interviewer and I seemed to sustain a good conversational flow.
  3. Interviewing is a little bit like a first date. It’s an exploratory introduction. I’m learning about them, and they’re learning about me. Hopefully, we identify some professional passions we share and there’s a spark. Also, see the point above.
  4. The most important (and sometimes most challenging) point: be yourself. Even in the fancy lady suit, I often take a minute to reflect on why I’m doing what I’m doing at that interview site, grounding myself in the purpose of being there.
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Setting Goals in the New Year

Posted on January 04,2014 by aliatmspp

Happy New Year!

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T.V. Time: Commercials that "speak" to me

Posted on December 27,2013 by aliatmspp

I’ll be honest, having a little extra time has led to increased internet and television surfing. A bit of reading has snuck its way in there, too, but it’s been a screen-heavy few days. This got me thinking about the powerful effects of commercials. Obviously, we know about marketing and subliminal messages transmitted in commercials. But I’m still a sucker for a good heartstring-tugging ad. There has been some recent controversy regarding the Apple "Misunderstood" commercial with the young man who appears to be on his phone for the bulk of a holiday gathering (another example that may be all too familiar to us); however it is later revealed that he is making a video for the family. A link to this video is posted at the end of this blog post. But I think one of my favorites recently viewed ads might be Google’s “Reunion” commercial, which I have posted below.

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Brain Injuries in Sports: Is it worth the price of admission?

Posted on December 11,2013 by aliatmspp

In light of the recent incident between Shawn Thornton of the Bruins and the Penguins’ Brooks Orpik (despite being taken off the ice on a stretcher, Orpik was evaluated and deemed well enough to travel home with the team, thankfully), I was thinking about the physical and psychological impact that these contact sports could have on an individual.

In hockey, the “enforcer” is a teammate, typically of a larger stature, whose primary responsibility is to protect other teammates while simultaneously motivating them. This is often achieved by fighting players on the opposing team. The enforcers are not usually known for their skating, passing or shooting prowess; instead, they are revered for their fighting skills. Often their roster slots are precariously defended, literally with their fists, and their names draw crowds of cheering fans who wait for the dropping of the gloves.

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Imagining Nelson Mandela's "dash"

Posted on December 08,2013 by aliatmspp

Linda Ellis wrote a poem entitled, “The Dash,” about the dash that stands between the date a person was a born and the day the person dies as a symbol for the life and legacy of that person. I first became aware of “The Dash” at a memorial service I attended last month and found it to be a paltry visual representation of one’s existence. However, after further consideration, I began to think more about the dash, the symbol of a life lived, as one that could vary in length, design, or color. In the wake of Nelson Mandela’s passing this week, I thought again of the poem’s message, “What matters is how we live and love/and how we spend our dash,” (Ellis, 1996) as a way to remind us that we have the power essentially to draft our own eulogies in what it is that we do with our lives.

Without a doubt, Mandela’s dash can be imagined as a bold one, perhaps in larger font than the text itself to indicate the evolution of “terrorist” to empathic leader. I came across an article that suggested that Mandela and a handful of other inspirational leaders are to be admired not simply for their fine accomplishments, but more for that fact that they appear to have achieved a level self-actualization that many strive to attain. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is topped by self-actualization, which is the apex of a human’s psychological life. Though there are many schools of therapeutic approaches, most of them share this state of self-awareness and the maximization of one's fullest potential as the end goal.

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