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Professional Altruism: Stories from the Second Cohort of Psy.D. Students

Morristown, N.J. (July 30, 2015) – Bonds created in the classroom can dictate your future direction in life. For several students who just completed their master's in counseling psychology, it promoted continued education – right into the doctorate in psychology (Psy.D.) program at CSE.

The Psy.D. is a dynamic 88-credit/four-year program that prepares students for a career in professional psychology. Based on a cohort model in which accepted students stay together from beginning to end, this program fosters a sense of camaraderie, teamwork, and support as the students' progress through a rigorous academic and professional training experience. Currently, there are 25 students in two cohorts.

"We have created such a lasting bond," says doctoral student Judi Amberg. "At our master's graduation, fellow graduate Jessica Marques gave us Psy.D. girls matching bracelets that had the word Peace on them. That sums up our bond."

Lisa Luisa added, "The cohort model has provided a unique learning environment with a diverse group of colleagues. We have developed a great academic and social support system as well as good friendships."

Each student has her own career goal. Amberg of Hackettstown, N.J., wants to work in health psychology with people who have permanent or life-long disabilities and diseases, such as diabetes, kidney disease, paralysis, or amputations. She feels that with her advanced education, she will be able to help people overcome the trauma of loss and work towards a future of possibilities.

Jessica Mlecz of Frelinghuysen, N.J., is interested in health and wellness particularly among those with brain trauma or diseases such as dementia. "I am fascinated by how the brain and the body work together for optimal health and wellness," she explains. "I want to work with this population to help them overcome adversity and feel better – inside and out."

Luisi of Basking Ridge, N.J. is interested in women's issues, working with young adults in the areas of eating disorders, abuse, and suicide prevention, as well as with clients having more significant psychopathologies. "I would like to guide my clients to build personal resilience that will help them maintain health and wellness through all of life's challenges," she says.

Jessica Marques of Clark, N.J., is seeking a career in the field of breaking the cycle of recidivism among teens and adults and common mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression and PTSD. "My ultimate goal is to open my own private practice where I can work with these populations," she offers. "The beauty of this field is that it is so broad and diverse I just want to do everything!"

The students were attracted to the emphasis on social justice in the program and feel that as professionals, they will be equipped to advocate for mental health in the larger community. "CSE's social justice emphasis is invaluable to me and would be another very important and unique part of one's education that would set them apart from others in internship or job applications," says Amberg.

The requirements for admission to the program are rigorous and the students noted that the professors are a wealth of knowledge. All the students effused about the faculty at CSE and how much they are willing to go above and beyond to ensure the most excellent education.

Marques told of how she was ill for an extended period of time. "My teachers and advisors worked with me during one of the most difficult times and with their support and guidance I was able to complete the semester on my hospital bed. Their motivation and belief was what kept me focused and allowed me to successfully complete the semester," she explained.

Others were just as enthusiastic about the program and faculty, citing that the program is very challenging but the faculty keep the students grounded with their encouragement, and personal as well as academic support. "I have found the faculty to be excellent and I very much appreciate the small class size and the personal connection between faculty and students," says Luisi.

The students all had advice for prospective Psy.D. students – ask questions! While they came to CSE for different reasons, the methods were the same – explore the program to see if it has the elements a prospective student is seeking, get to know the faculty, and be prepared for a time commitment.

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