Why I Chose Yale

Kelly Workman

My Background

My name is Kelly and I am a Psychology Fellow at the Yale New Haven Hospital Adult DBT IOP. I’m from Los Angeles, California. My clinical career started in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) in 2007, and I became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in 2010. My work in ABA focused on conducting assessments and developing intervention programs for individuals with disruptive behavioral problems and developmental disabilities across the lifespan and in multiple settings. I also provided ABA supervision, training, and consultation for several years. During this time, I observed a range of mental health issues in parents and siblings of individuals receiving ABA services.

This exposure helped me realize that I had always been most interested in addressing mental health issues, with a strong preference for working with challenging and life-threatening behaviors. Thus, in 2012, I returned to graduate school, intent on learning how to approach treatment from a clinical behavior analytic perspective, and soon became impassioned by my experience working with patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD). My subsequent training focused on treating individuals with pervasive emotion dysregulation, suicidality, self-harm and trauma.

Why I Chose Yale

When I first applied to Yale, my primary training goals involved developing clinical expertise in using DBT for individuals presenting with suicidal and non-suicidal self-injurious behavior, interpersonal difficulties, and pervasive emotion dysregulation. I also aimed to further my clinical skills in providing exposure-based treatments for trauma-related issues. The Adult DBT IOP is a highly specialized training environment in which fellows develop specific competencies in applying behavioral strategies and structured protocols, DBT-oriented case management and consultation, dialectical case formulation, and observing personal limits with culturally diverse patients with BPD who have an array of comorbid conditions. On paper, this site appeared to be a perfect match with my research and training interests, especially considering that I would be supervised by Yale faculty who happened to also be Behavioral Tech trainers.

However, it was not until interview day that I became wholeheartedly convinced that Yale was where I needed to be. I was immediately drawn to the strong sense of community and the warm-hearted and supportive culture. My initial perceptions on the interview day were confirmed throughout the training year, and I felt like a valued colleague in my interactions with fellows, directors, supervisors, researchers, and other clinicians.

My Professional Activities

I am at the Adult DBT IOP Monday through Friday full-time. I serve as the primary clinician for 7-8 patients with BPD who struggle with chronic patterns of suicidal and other self-destructive behaviors. The work occurs in the DBT general track, which is a group-based DBT program. Group program days for this track are on Tuesday and Friday mornings and involve skills training, diary card review, behavioral analysis, and skills coaching. I also provide risk assessment and management, telephone skills coaching and as-needed family sessions and consultation to outpatient providers. I conduct orientation and commitment interviews for one to two new prospective DBT patients per week. I participate in morning rounds and weekly DBT consultation team meetings and receive at least four hours of supervision per week from DBT trained psychologists and psychodynamic-oriented psychologists. Other professional activities include providing DBT-oriented supervision to a Yale practicum student, conducting trainings for residents and community agencies, co-coordinating the annual Yale NEA-BPD Conference, and conducting diagnostic and psychological evaluations. I also attend the weekly core and YNHH seminars. With the exception of some specified clinical, research, and didactic hours, my schedule is flexible, which has facilitated the development of my own autonomy and independence as a young professional.

My Favorite Things to do in/around New Haven

I am a Californian at heart, so I enjoy all things sunny and outdoors. There are many great hiking trails and green spaces in the New Haven area such as Sleeping Giant State Park and East Rock Park. Some spots have waterfalls – check out Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middlefield, Connecticut. I also fit in beach time as much as possible. Hammonasset Beach State Park is my favorite local beach; however, the beaches are nicer and the waves get a little bigger the farther northeast you go. If you are willing to drive a bit, Misquamicut State Beach in Rhode Island is beautiful. Wine tasting with friends from my cohort is another favorite activity of mine. Connecticut has several wineries and vineyards, some of which are about 20 minutes away from New Haven. Yale also has great museums, theatres, and interesting talks and events that I have been able to attend. Lastly, being a big city kind of person, NYC is just a 1.5 hour drive or 2 hour train ride away.

Final Thoughts

My experience at Yale has been incredibly rewarding. I have grown tremendously, both professionally and personally. I have increased confidence in my ability to conceptualize BPD from a DBT framework while attending to in-session dialectical dilemmas, and I have greater dexterity and precision in my application of the DBT principles that guide my interventions. The fellows in my cohort are inspiring and brilliant individuals, and I have formed invaluable friendships that will last for years to come. My supervisors are genuinely supportive of my professional development goals. I have been able to further my professional identity as a developing psychologist and better understand how my experiences and values will enable my continued growth. This was truly the perfect match for me.