Rachel Schein (RS): My name is Rachel Schein and I am an advanced student at GIPP. Today I am talking with Dr. Kelly Weber, a 2000 graduate of the Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology. Dr. Weber, tell me a little bit about yourself professionally. For example, what is your current job? Are you licensed? What kinds of clients do you work with, and what are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of.
Kelly Weber (KW): Currently I am licensed, and I actually just this year purchased the private practice that I have been working in. When my daughter Lauren was born, I started working part time at Counseling Affiliates. We have offices in Glastonbury and Farmington. This year, Dr. Werboff, the psychologist who founded the practice, retired. So we had the opportunity to buy the practice. So myself, and John Chapman, who’s also a former graduate of the program, and a psychologist by the name of Jack Thaw, are in partnership purchasing the practice. Right now, I work about ¾ time. Lauren is still in pre-school; when she starts kindergarten next year I will start working full time again. Before I took that job, I worked at CCMC School, and I still do some per diem work for them occasionally as well, doing psychological evals, just to keep my feet wet doing that. That work is pretty minimal at this point, and I probably won’t do it much next year because the practice will be too demanding.
RS: What is the age range of clients in your practice?
KW: We work with all age ranges. That’s one of the things that I had to get accustomed to because my training work was primarily with children and families, where coming to this group I am now more multi-specialty/multi-age. I see adults, couples, marriage and families, young children, and adolescents, so it’s a real mixed bag. One of the advantages of being a child and family therapist is that you get sort of good at doing that with lots of people, working with all different age groups.
RS: Great! What are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?
KW: I’m proud of purchasing the group practice. To own your own business has real flexibility with hours of work and things like that, and it will be good for my future. I will do some testing but primarily therapy there. We have a lot of marketing to do to develop the practice.
RS: Tell us a little bit about yourself personally. Where are you from? Where did you grow up, go to college, etc?
KW: I originally grew up in Texas, born in Ohio but only lived their briefly, so I mostly identify with growing up in Texas. I lived in Texas until my sophomore year in high school and then we moved to Princeton, New Jersey. I went to Rutgers for undergrad and then worked for about a year in between in an inpatient hospital in NJ. And then I decided that psychology was the path for me. Then I applied to GIPP. I knew I wanted a PsyD as opposed to a PhD and wanted to stay relatively close to home. I applied to Hartford, and out in Colorado, the University of Denver. I distinctly remember my interview day at the University of Hartford because it was a snowy day, kind of like it was this past year, and I was actually in a car accident on the way to the interview; but I eventually made it to the interview. I think in the end that is one of the things that made me stand out in the crowd and helped me get accepted! I definitely made a grand entrance that left a lasting impression. Coming up here required relocating; I lived for my first couple of years of the program with two other students, which was a good experience. I met my husband here while I was in the program and decided to stay. I liked Connecticut a lot.
RS: What are some of your personal interests outside of psychology?
KW: Well, right now it’s being a mom. I have just one daughter, Lauren, and we like to do things together--take day trips, gardening, traveling, and doing stuff for her school. I have the mommy life right now.
RS: It would be interesting to hear a bit about your reflections on your time at GIPP. Why did you choose GIPP? What do you remember most about your experiences there? What was the most valuable aspect of your training? What was the most challenging part of your experience?
KW: I think the PsyD model was something that was appealing to me. To have the clinical experiences that you get at GIPP through practicum training and what at the time was a pretty broad range of choices of practicum sites, that was certainly one aspect that I truly felt I got a lot out of. I remember being respected from the get-go. We were involved in every aspect of the program. My first year I got a stipend to do some office assisting, and I was involved in some running of the office. There were a lot of good opportunities to help students financially. I also did some teaching assistantships through the psychological assessment course and individual psychotherapy, and I think those were great opportunities to begin to learn how to teach and what the process of teaching is like, so I think that was very helpful. Also, just administratively, there was a lot of input that students were given in terms of faculty selection and just the day to day running of GIPP. We had program Fridays at that point, which I think they’ve gotten rid of. It was like a community day, where everyone came together and it was an opportunity to have a seminar for the day and a gathering. We had community meetings, where everyone would meet and talk about professional development issues or something concerning that was happening in the program. I think it was a great opportunity for the classes to mingle. I think one change that I’ve observed now is that the classes seem a lot more separate, and, although there are opportunities for everyone to interact, I think it was a more cohesive, larger group, and a lot more mentoring that happened with the students. I certainly had a lot of excellent supervisors. I think the program does a great job of maintaining their connections to the community. I think University of Hartford has a great reputation in Connecticut, which I’ve heard at a lot of sites that I’ve worked at. I think there are a lot of opportunities locally to be connected to a lot of sites and facilities.
RS: What was the most challenging part of your experience?
KW: I guess it was really the first time I had moved a distance away from my family, so that was a bit of an adjustment initially. Financially, it was a struggle; it was hard to maintain focus on course work and practicum while having a part time job and trying to pay off student loans. It was costly and takes a bit of time to recoup the money that was put in. Dissertation was a challenging thing for me, as it is for many students. I think there’s been a good effort lately to get students more support and mentoring earlier on. The hard stuff really becomes a blur when you’re away from it, because life is pretty good. You certainly have your trying times, but now it’s all just a memory.
RS: What about your training experiences at settings outside of GIPP? Where did you do your practicum, your internship, etc and how would you evaluate your experiences in these settings?
KW: We didn’t have pre-practicum at that point, which I think has been a nice addition for students to begin to get experience early on. My first practicum in my second year was at Wheeler Clinic at Northwest Village School, and in my third year my practicum was at Clifford Beers, and then I did my internship at CCMC hospital. My year was the last year that it was an APA accredited internship site. It had three 3-month rotations, one in the hospital doing pediatric psych, then in the inpatient unit at IOL, and then a 3- month rotation that was community based, running interventions for children. We also saw outpatient clients the whole time we were there, did testing, and did medical consults for all of the doctors who were there. You got your feet wet and good experience in a lot of different areas working with children and families. For post-doc, I went back to Clifford Beers and was responsible for developing the domestic violence treatment program for children and families. That was also something that I’m proud of. It was a lot of work and we built connections throughout the community with people who were involved in domestic work and became a general advocate for families affected by domestic violence. Clifford Beers had an excellent reputation for sex-abuse treatment teams and really specific focused treatment for kids affected by trauma. So this was a really nice addition to some of the other work that the clinic was doing. There were a lot of overlapping cases and a lot of case collaboration within the clinic. I was there for a couple of years and then ultimately got drained by the hours. I was seeing a lot of difficult cases and the paperwork demands were really, really great. So in addition to running the program, I had a huge case load and was beginning to start a family, and commuting from West Hartford; so it was getting to be a little much for me. It was sad to leave Clifford Beers and I truly respect all of the professionals there and learned a lot from all of the people there, but CCMC School offered me an 8-4 day that was manageable, although it has its moments of intensity there as well, as it is a difficult population of kids to work with. But ultimately the hours and being closer to home and not having to deal with managed care were good. And I was there for a couple of years, and now we’re back full circle!
RS: Please talk a bit about your transition to the working world. What was it like for you? How easy or difficult was it to find a job, get licensed, pay back loans, etc.?
KW: It was actually pretty easy. During my internship, I had kept in touch with my supervisor from Clifford Beers, and she called me when it was time for the internship to end, saying that she had this opening. So it wasn’t very difficult to find a job. Because I had worked there before during practicum, it was not difficult adjusting to the site; I knew the place, I knew the people, I knew what was required in terms of paperwork, and where things were. I had been through my training there and I felt fully prepared to see the kinds of cases we were seeing. I just finally paid off my last student loan last month, which was a great accomplishment, but I’m almost 40, so it took some time! Getting licensed wasn’t too bad. It was a lot of studying, but I also felt like I had been well prepared through my course work.
RS: Is there any particular advice you would like to pass on to current or future students at GIPP?
KW: I think over the years, both with my own classmates and my time in the program and working with students now, I see a lot of anxiety about feeling maybe they aren’t learning everything they should know. I think to trust the process and know that the program really builds on itself and that you will develop the skills you need along the way, and that, at the end of the line, you feel like you’re a pretty competent professional. I mean, of course there are areas of incompetence that we all need to continue to work at, but I think to be patient with the process. Seek out supervision appropriately. Don’t be so worried in the moment; it will all come together in the end.