Dr. Susan Powell

Hey blog readers! Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while, the end of the semester was super busy! I’ll be adding a few of the blogs I’ve been working on over the break, but I’ll start first with a couple of interviews I did in the last month or two. First is the interview I had with one of MSPP’s most celebrated professors, Susan Powell, PhD, with whom I took Diversity and Difference this last semester.

So let’s start early. What made you decide to pursue your PhD in Counseling Psychology?

A: When I was in junior high and high shool, people used to come to me with problems and in my naïve way, I felt that I wanted to help people. I feel very fortunate to end up where I did. I went to college because a few teachers told me I should and during college, I had a few professors suggest graduate school. I don’t think I knew what I was getting into!

What do you think led to you teaching at MSPP?

A: I trained in a traditional PhD program which is very different. In four years of graduate training, I was never asked to look at myself. Maybe it’s different today, but I doubt it. I think most traditional PhD programs have a very different focus. After school, I worked as a staff psychologist for a few years and I burned out and started working for the Illinois School of Professional Psychology. I eventually ran their Master’s program in counseling, and it was there that I was exposed to the different model of professional psychology schools. I loved the focus on clinical development and the use of self in therapy. I moved to Boston and found out about MSPP. I found they were hiring and applied! I taught at professional psychology schools for the better part of seven years before finding MSPP.

What is your favorite part of teaching?

A: Gosh… I love the engagement with students, I literally have fun coming in and teaching. I love being part of somebody’s development. It’s a real privilege being part of someone’s growth, and I grow as a result! Then, the other part of teaching about diversity and difference, I  like helping see things from a different perspective.

If you weren’t in teaching or psychology, what would you do?

A: Professionally, I really like zoology and marine biology. Maybe it’s my love of dolphins, but I think that would be rewarding and I love the ocean and marine wildlife would likely be my direction. Either that or an environmentalist or a cake decorator.

What kind of music do you listen to?

A: I listen to a range of music, I heard you mention Led Zeppelin in class. I love classic rock. My mp3 player ranges from Aerosmith to a bluegrass-hip hop band called Gangstagrass. I like all kinds of music.

Who is your favorite music artist?

A: Oh, that’s hard. I love Niel Young. I’ve seen him two or three times, he’s political and smart and still does some hard stuff, so he’s probably my favorite.

Here’s a really heavy one: What do you think counseling as a field most needs to work on?

A: That’s a really interesting one. I think it’s really about self-reflection. I think MSPP does a great job of this, but I think a lot of programs don’t focus on the subject enough. Especially regarding microaggressions (a form of communication which disempowers people), a lot of therapists don’t always recognize their own biases and how subtle they can be. Through self-exploration, people become much better therapists!

What do you do on your free time?

A: I exercise, I spend time outside, I spend time with friends, and I used to bake a lot. I also like to watch TV too. I can watch Seinfeld every day and laugh every single time. I just saw some friends who I hadn’t seen in a few weeks, and I realize that I need laughter to keep me happy and healthy.

What’s your favorite book ever?

A: That’s a good question, I’m generally biased to the stuff I’ve read recently. I really like an author named Richard Russo, and I’m about to finish another one of his books. He did books called “Straight Man,” which is very based in academia, as well as “The Bridge of Sighs,” and “Empire Falls,” which won a Pulitzer prize.

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