When I started my college career at Brigham Young University (BYU) in 2001 I had a lot of interests, too many if you were to ask a college advisor. During my freshman year I bounced between computer science (I loved the logic of it) and microbiology (I loved the complexity of it). It wasn’t until I went on a religious mission for two years in Seattle, Washington that I recognized the value of psychology. I talked with many people that opened up about their problems and I found myself interested in what they had to say. It seemed like my mind couldn’t stop thinking about what motivated those I had met and what had lead to their problems.
Upon returning to Utah, I pursued psychology and never looked back. I began to recognize that studying psychology required a lifelong commitment to learning more about the complexity of the brain. I worked in treatment centers, inpatient psychiatric hospitals, and as a psychology teaching assistant. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2007, I applied to graduate school and entered the PhD Clinical Psychology program at BYU. The pairing of theoretical study with practical application was incredibly motivating for me.
The more I learned about psychological assessment, the more I was hooked. I received training and experience in conducting psychological testing with children, adolescents, and adults. One of my first assessment experiences involved psychological testing with children and adolescents in residential treatment centers. I found it motivating and challenging to differentiate between diagnoses when a child or adolescent is experiencing quite a wide array of symptoms (emotional, learning, attention, and social problems). This challenge was further complicated by the fact that each child, each adolescent, was at a different place in their development. I learned to consider the complexities of assessing clients that can seem to be a “moving target” as they are developing. I was drawn to how important it is to consider individual developmental factors when working with children and adolescents.
My first assessment placement within a university setting was in the BYU University Accessibility Center where I conducted evaluations with students for learning disorders, ADHD, emotional disorders, and other conditions. I found it fulfilling to spend several hours with a student and observe their tendencies and patterns. My favorite part of the process came at the end when I shared personalized feedback about their results and highlighted strategies that could help them in their academic journey. I still have the same enthusiasm for this part of the process today. My interest in helping students soon lead me to pursuing assessment applications in career issues. For 20 months, I volunteered at the BYU University Career Services and interpreted career assessments, provided career counseling, conducted mock interviews, and lead staff trainings on interviewing techniques. I found that conceptualizing a student’s psychological strengths and limitations allowed me to provide pointed guidance about preparing for specific work difficulties which could arise. It soon became clear what I wanted to do for my dissertation. I studied how mental health factors can impact work productivity. I gained a strong perspective about the unique challenges that individuals with mental health difficulties face as they work and progress in their career.
My research with work productivity and mental health drew upon my previous assessment research. I had worked for several years under the direction of Dr. Michael Lambert, a leading expert in outcome research (the study of measuring the effect of psychotherapy). For me, this research represented a unique bridge between assessment and psychotherapy. I saw how one of Dr. Lambert’s psychological tests, the OQ-45, helped to inform therapists about the effectiveness of their psychotherapy techniques. The test produces a score each time it is completed by a client before a therapy session. Seeing the pattern of a client’s scores, over time, can add depth to how the therapist understands their situation. When I conduct evaluations today, I rely on this blend; I combine quantitative data (achieved through the testing) with my own observations and experiences of my clients.
After four years of graduate studies, I completed a year-long internship at the University of Miami Counseling Center. I loved the diversity of the city and the experiences of working with individuals different than myself. I have come to understand that every therapy session and every evaluation is colored by the unique experiences that the client, as well as the therapist, brings into the room.
During my time in Miami, I received additional training and experience with projective testing, including the Rorschach Test. This type of testing allows me to enrich my view of a client’s mental health, especially with regards to how they perceive and interact with their environment. I came to understand how clinical decisions about less common psychiatric conditions (e.g., bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and personality disorders) could be informed by integrating this data.
After graduating with a PhD in Clinical Psychology, I was invited to rejoin the BYU University Accessibility Center. I worked to support thousands of students with mental health disorders in their academic experience and conducted hundreds of evaluations for ADHD and learning disorders. I soon started a small private practice and began working with children, adolescents, and adults in the community who were in need of psychological testing. Towards the end of my five-year work experience at BYU, I supervised the psychological testing program and helped to guide interns in their assessment work.
As my private client load grew, I jumped into full-time private practice. Although I am now on my own, I have recognized that no psychologist is an island. I joined Bristol Health Associates in Orem, Utah and have thoroughly enjoyed bringing my independent practice into such a devoted group of providers and support staff. I have also recognized that my clients benefit as I network with other mental health providers in the area. I have tried to remain accessible and helpful to my clients, even when it means volunteering my time to share options of treatment resources outside of my practice.
I have also recognized the benefit of increasing my knowledge as I traverse the complex landscape that is psychology. In 2020, I completed a 30-month supervision experience for Autism Spectrum Disorder (and other related conditions) with Dr. Julien Smith, a neuropsychologist and Director of Wasatch Pediatric Neuropsychology. I have also completed a 3-year experience conducting disability evaluations (for the determination of Social Security benefits) under the direction of Dr. Alina Fong, a neuropsychologist and Clinical Director of Cognitive FX.