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Why I Chose Yale

My Background

My name is Matthew Hagler, and I am a doctoral fellow in the Child and Adolescent Service and the Young Adult Service at the West Haven Mental Health Clinic, part of the Connecticut Mental Health Center. I grew up in South Carolina and attended Sewanee, the University of the South, where I majored in psychology and English. As undergraduate and post-baccalaureate researcher at Sewanee, which is nestled in the rural Appalachian region of Tennessee, I gained my first field experiences in psychology among a severely underresourced and underserved population. Seeking to continue my psychology education from a social justice perspective, I attended the Clinical Psychology Ph.D. Program at University of Massachusetts Boston, which follows a first-of-its-kind Scientist-Practitioner-Activist model. While in graduate school, I received a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, which supported my program of research examining mentoring relationships between youth and non-parent adults. My work explores how mentoring relationships (both naturally-occurring and formally assigned within programs) can provide supplementary and/or complementary support to underserved youth, and how mentoring interventions might be used to disseminate evidence-based interventions through community health and stepped care models to address treatment disparities. Clinically, I am interested in early detection and intervention for youth at risk for developing serious and persistent mental illness, particularly the treatment of complex trauma, psychotic-spectrum disorders, and their overlap. I integrate cognitive-behavioral, mindfulness and acceptance-based, and relational-cultural approaches to formulation and intervention.

Next year, I am staying on as a postdoctoral associate in West Haven. I will continue to work with child, adolescent, and young adult clients, while also having the opportunity to supervise practicum students, teach site didactics, and conduct applied research projects.

Why I Chose Yale

I looked nationwide for internships, seeking a dynamic, challenging experience that would provide high-quality training while enabling me to continue my work with marginalized populations. The joint appointment at Yale School of Medicine and the Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC) appealed to me because it provided the best of two worlds – the rigor and resources of a top academic medical center and the social justice mission of a community mental health center. I was particularly drawn to placements at the West Haven Mental Health Clinic (WHMHC) because of opportunity to work with children, adolescence, and young adults, as well as the faculty’s emphasis on provided developmentally tailored, trauma-informed care. I have particular interests in the transition to adulthood and mitigating risk for serious mental illness, so a primary placement focused on young adults with emerging psychopathology was a unique and well-aligned opportunity. I was also eager to provide clinical services in the context of the young adult team’s wrap-around treatment model. In addition to psychotherapy and medication management, we have staff and resources to help young adults obtain employment, secure stable housing, and build daily living skills, helping to address some of the structural challenges and basic needs deficits that can interfere with recovery.

My Professional Activities

In my primary placement, I spend about 30 hours a week conducting clinical services, case management, consultation, case management/care coordination, and administrative work for my young adult clients. Over the course of the year, I carried a caseload of 5 young adults, most of whom I had multiple points of contact each week, while also providing adjunctive family or couples therapy for two additional cases. I coordinate extensively with our team’s psychiatrists, vocational counselors, occupational therapists, and housing and financial coordinators, as well as external residential, forensic, and educational providers, depending on my clients’ needs and systems involvement. I have also completed various assessment cases, including a psychosexual risk assessment and a neuropsychological assessment.

In my secondary placement, I spend about 12 hours per week conducting clinical services, case management, consultation, case management/care coordination, and administrative work for my child and adolescent clients, ranging in age from 6 to 17. I carried a caseload of 4 to 5 children and adolescents, conducting individual therapy, family therapy, and/or parent coaching, depending on needs, while coordinating with our team psychologist and school providers.

The remaining 8 hours of my 50-hour week are devoted to site-based and internship-wide didactics and my scholarly project. For my project, I continued to pursue my interest in early psychosis by collaborating with Yale’s PRIME Clinic and Research Program. In particular, I conducted secondary data analysis of two datasets to identify potential sampling bias and disparities in early detection and intervention among clinical high risk and first episode psychosis populations. I am planning on submitting the manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal.

My Favorite Things to do in/around New Haven

It was a strange, limited year due to the pandemic, but I have enjoyed the area none the less. My partner and I live in Milford and frequently go to the nearby beaches (Walnut Beach, Woodmont Beach). I also loved meeting friends at East Rock Park for a hike and then stopping at East Rock Brewery for a beer. The New Haven food scene was a pleasant surprise – some of my favorites include Sherkaan, Rice Pot, and Bear’s Barbeque. Next year, I am hoping that the Yale museums open up because I was really looking forward to exploring their world-class collections (e.g., British Art, Natural History, Rare Books/Manuscripts). Outside of the immediate area, my partner and I have been able to take a few fun weekend trips, including to Mystic, CT and Newport, RI. Next year, I’m also looking forward to taking some day or overnight trip to NYC and seeing some theater!

Final Thoughts

Completing internship through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was incredibly challenging. I felt very supported by my onsite supervisors, the broader internship program, and from my wonderful cohort mates. Despite the challenges, I grew, personally and professionally, and I am grateful for the experience. I have to admit that I felt a bit intimidated coming to Yale, but I found the interpersonal climate to be welcoming, warm, and supportive. I am looking forward to another year at Yale!