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Why I Chose Yale

My Background

I am a soon-to-be-graduate of the Clinical Psychology PhD program at the University of Oregon, as well as a Psychology Fellow at the Adult DBT Services placement at Yale New Haven Hospital. Following completion of my PhD and graduation from the Yale Doctoral Internship, I am staying at Yale as a Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of Psychiatry and the Yale Gender Program. In this research position, my focus will be on health outcomes and healthcare delivery research for transgender and gender-expansive individuals.

I am broadly interested in how traumatic experiences impact psychological and physical health outcomes. This includes investigating the effects of interpersonal betrayal (i.e., harm perpetrated by a close and trusted other, such as a caregiver or romantic partner) and institutional betrayal (i.e., intentional or negligent harm inflicted by institutions on those who depend on them for resources, protection, or survival) on those who have experienced these harms. Of particular interest to me is how institutional betrayal may exacerbate the effects of interpersonal trauma, and how certain groups (e.g., women, sexual and gender minorities) may be more at risk than others for experiencing both interpersonal and institutional betrayal in a variety of institutional contexts.

Why I Chose Yale

I chose Yale because of the opportunities for world-class clinical and research experiences. A significant portion of my clinical experience is in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), working with patients who have borderline personality disorder, have difficulties with emotion regulation, and struggle with chronic suicide and self-harm behavior. I hoped to continue refining and expanding on my DBT skills and practice, and the Yale Adult DBT Services placement – particularly the opportunity to work with Drs. Seth Axelrod and Emily Cooney – offered the ideal opportunity to accomplish that goal. In addition to working in a DBT-adherent program, I had the opportunity to attend multiple in-house and external trainings offered by DBT experts. This placement exists within the larger Intensive Outpatient Program/Ambulatory Psychiatry system at Yale New Haven Hospital, which provides Fellows with the opportunity to collaborate with clinicians and professionals from multiple disciplines.

I was also excited by the opportunity to complete a Scholarly Project and have 4 hours weekly of protected research time. Drs. Cooney and Axelrod made clear in the interview process the importance of the Scholarly Project both to the internship and to them personally. Once I arrived, they facilitated me meeting multiple potential research mentors, and were dedicated to helping me find the research mentor who provided the best fit for my goal of undertaking an impactful project.

My Professional Activities

I work Monday through Friday, approximately 50 hours per week. I have a case load of up to 6 patients in the DBT Intensive Outpatient Program, Substance Use Disorders track (DBT IOP SUD). Patients commit to an initial 4-month treatment contract and have the option to renew for a second 4-month contract. As the patients’ primary clinician, I provide case management, DBT phone coaching, and biweekly brief check-ins. I also review their diary cards, continuously update their treatment target hierarchy, and seek consultation from the team when needed to improve the effectiveness of treatment. I receive three hours of individual supervision each week, in addition to a weekly DBT consultation team (group supervision) of nearly two hours. The Adult DBT Services placement is demanding and requires flexibility, adaptation, and tolerance/navigation of very intense clinical interactions. If you are someone who likes challenges, are flexible, and identify with the DBT tenet of “speed, movement, and flow,” you will be well-suited for this position.

In addition to the core activities of the DBT placement, I participate in the weekly Yale Internship Core Seminar and the Yale-New Haven Hospital Fellows Seminar. I also completed the Yale School of Medicine DBT Intensive Summer Seminar and DBT-Prolonged Exposure Seminar, and attended a Behavioral Tech training on DBT for substance use disorders. I was a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, working on initiatives in the Department of Psychiatry to not only raise awareness of DEI issues in the department, but also to implement concrete steps to improve the training experiences for Fellows, such as an assessment of supervisors’ attention to DEI issues and improving programming for the Core Seminar.

I contributed to ongoing quality-improvement research at the Yale Gender Program, an interdisciplinary program at the Yale School of Medicine/Yale-New Haven Hospital, through my Scholarly Project. This project characterized self-harm in transgender and gender-expansive youth, including overall rates, differences among sub-groups, and patterns of methods/means for self-harm and areas of the body harmed. I worked on this project with the Dr. Christy Olezeski, Director of the Yale Gender Program, who will be my mentor during my Postdoctoral Associate appointment.

My Favorite Things to do in/around New Haven

There are many fun and interesting things to do, see, and eat in the New Haven area! New Haven has incredible food, and some of my favorite places include: Modern Apizza, Atticus Bookstore Café (where until the COVID-19 pandemic I would go at least once per week), Heirloom, Geronimo’s, York Street Noodle House, September in Bangkok, Claire’s Corner Copia, Harvest, Arethusa Farm Dairy (perhaps the best ice cream in the entire world), Ashley’s Ice Cream, and so many more.

There are also lots of options for non-food related activities! One of the things that surprised me most about Connecticut is that there were beaches, and that said beaches are fantastic! Going to the beach is an excellent way to reduce stress on the weekends and get outside. Twice per year the Yale School of Medicine has their symphony orchestra concert, which was a perfect reason to venture out on a weekend night in the cold of winter. There are plenty of opportunities to go on nature walks/hikes, including Sleeping Giant State Park as well as the Farmington Canal Rail Trail – a very well maintained paved path, converted from old railroad tracks, that spans the length of the state.

Importantly, all of these activities have involved other Fellows and who are now close friends. Being able to make lasting friendships has been one of the highlights of this year.

Final Thoughts

Spending this past year as a Psychology Fellow here at Yale has been rewarding, challenging, and impactful. I feel grateful to have had supportive friends and colleagues in the Fellows; encouraging, effective, and supportive supervisors; and incredible research and training opportunities. I look forward to my next steps here at Yale and feel confident and prepared with the training and experiences I had this year.