Why go back to school? Why MSPP?

Posted on November 16,2010 by msppblog

A guest blog by 2nd year Clinical Psychology, PsyD student, Judi Pasino

I worked as a hospital chaplain for 11 years, and found great fulfillment in the care and comfort I provided to the people I met. From the start, however, I recognized that my theological and chaplaincy training had not prepared me well enough to be helpful when spiritual/theological issues and psychological issues intersected. And along the way, I developed an expertise in working with end-of-life concerns – and became deeply worried about how death is managed in our healthcare system. I discovered palliative care, with its emphasis on knowing all the options and honoring patients’ and families’ values, and became a champion for it.

I was sufficiently impassioned that I burned (and still burn) with a desire to make a difference beyond the bedside: I wanted to go out and educate people in the healthcare world and the everyday world, and if possible, I wanted to have a say in public policy. Yet I knew I couldn’t do that while working only as a hospital chaplain. Over time, I decided that if I really wanted to do this, I had to go back to school. I had to obtain the credentials and the expertise that would attract the attention I needed to get the message out. So, after six months of talking to people in the psychology and theology arenas, I decided to apply to doctoral programs.

The first decision was location – that one was easy because I wanted to be in New England. The next question was, “Which school?” MSPP jumped out at me immediately. The school claimed to offer several things that were of interest to me, including:

- a health psychology concentration;

- a focus on the development of clinical skills both in the classroom and in the field (through a learning model that puts students into field placement from the first day of the first year onward);

- a commitment to students’ growth and wellbeing, through a culture that promotes community;

- and a sense of caring for people on the margins of society.

I needed to know more, of course, so I emailed them and began making plans to go to an Open House. Liz in the Admissions Office was prompt, cheerful and patient in answering my emails, so that was a good first sign. At the Open House, I was impressed by the hospitality and the fact that everyone there seemed to be happy and friendly. More importantly, each professor that I “accosted and interrogated” about MSPP’s willingness to welcome a) an older student and b) a chaplain with only the barest training in psychology was courteous, and affirming of my welcome should I decide to apply and be invited to attend. But that’s a story for another time...