Paths, Present and Future: There's More Than One Way Forward
I arrived on the Hill with a long-held plan to become a pediatrician. Despite Professor Yourtee’s heroic efforts, it became quickly apparent that Orgo would be an insurmountable barrier to that path. I was adrift and scared. Now what? I took my first psychology course, Developmental Psychology, in the winter term of my freshman year and enjoyed it.
Meanwhile, I had done EMT training and joined the EMT squad on campus, where I became interested in the psychological effects of injury or illness. Professor Amy Gervasio, the only clinical psychologist in the department at that time, became a mentor. So I chose to major in psychology, with a minor in French. I did a summer internship with the Massachusetts Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, and then after graduation, through contacts made there, got my first professional job as a vocational rehab counselor at a sheltered workshop for disabled adults.
The following fall, I entered the Ph.D. program in clinical psychology at George Mason University, and did my pre-doctoral internship at Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania, where I received wonderful training in the area of health psychology. I acquired my doctorate and entered the working world at a time of uncertainty and change. Insurance companies had tightened their coverage for mental health treatment, and requirements for earning licensure required a certain number of hours of supervised work. In short, I needed to earn hours toward getting licensed, but employers could not hire me because I was not licensed. It was after nine months of searching that I interviewed with a partner in a large group practice, who liked my resume, but did not have a solution to how he could hire me. He told me he would pass along my resume to his partner. I drove home, discouraged. There was a message waiting: “I note with some pleasure that we are fellow alumni of Hamilton College …” They made it work, hired me, and my career was launched.
We moved from Virginia to Massachusetts, started a family, and I worked part-time in a couple of group practices. A few years later, we moved to Rhode Island where I was a SAHM for a few years, then returned to work part-time, doing psychotherapy in primary care settings, where I honed my focus on behavioral medicine, the intersection of physical and mental health. As my kids grew, I kept adding to my work hours, and in 2015 took the leap to opening a solo private practice where I treat adults with depression or anxiety issues, as well as all sorts of behavioral medicine interventions. Since mid-March of 2020, I have moved my practice to tele-health. I did not know where the path would take me when I first set out, but it has allowed me to build a career I love, helping people to make their lives better, while giving me the space to raise a family and balance life and work in a way that works for me.
A further musing: I majored in psychology, a subject that interested me a great deal, and have built a rewarding career. But … cleaning out a box that had sat for three decades, I recently found a note from my freshman year advisor, Professor John Ellis. He asked me to come in for a chat, noted he had received my first semester grades and that my chemistry grade would likely preclude continuing on the pre-med path. He then noted that my grade in French showed strength, and that perhaps I might find a path in languages. In high school, I had excelled in French, Latin and Spanish, and loved them, but had no idea what I would do with them.
In the past year, I have started to study Italian, and again enjoy it immensely. When I sit to translate a passage, an hour or two might pass without my noticing. I love being a clinical psychologist, but I have to wonder where my path would have led me if I had studied what I loved at Hamilton. I believe there are multiple paths that begin on College Hill. Have the courage to start by studying what you love, and know that the path will have lots of twists and turns. Enjoy the journey, and don’t worry too much or feel like you have to have the whole thing mapped out ahead of time.