Recent Posts

Off to a great start!

Posted on September 26,2013 by sthurstonmspp

There is nothing like the fall. Aside from the gorgeous colors and abundance of delicious fruit-turned-pie, the crisp weather sends me scurrying for hoodies that have been buried in the back of the closet all summer. I am always quick to spot my favorite grey, the super large one that still has the soft and fuzzy feel of a brand new sweatshirt. It occurs to me that this year’s placement has that same feel.

My full time internship is at an elementary school, the kind where we have no testing cases yet but plenty of lunch groups and visits to classrooms. I feel as though I am tunneling back into my comfortable place, where the past year’s teenage dramas are a memory and the gap toothed smiles of small children make me feel at home. I’ve dusted off a few of my old favorites, but for the most part have spent some time reacquainting myself with the picture books and tv shows that will inspire my social thinking lessons.

Read More

Tagged School Psychology

Graduation Goggles?

Posted on April 24,2013 by sthurstonmspp

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of appointments, interviews, and dramatic events that have melted away the month of April at an alarming rate. I vividly remember looking forward to April vacation, and am startled to find it has already come and gone. Finals are upon me, the end of year wrap up classes mingled with final assessments that have, this year, taken on the form of tests. Study sessions take up my usually free nights, and I am watching it all happen through “graduation goggles”.
This in itself is ironic: we are not actually graduating this year. We had a ceremony in October to commemorate our conferral of Master’s degrees, and next year will graduate the CAGS program. But this year, the one without any major academic milestone, feels like the true ending to what we think of as our graduate program at MSPP. Our full class schedule is over, this week being the final time we will all spend 12+ hours together drinking coffee and collaborating within the MSPP building. Next year we will be busy with our own lives, in our own full time placements, and see each other about once per month for a practicum seminar.
The eerie thought is that this means we are “done” learning- no more classes on various modalities of assessment, on the development of pathologies, on prevention. No professors handing out packets of information, of materials, of experiences. We will truly begin to learn by doing, to immerse ourselves in a 40 hour work week and practice being a school psychologist.
Then reality steps in, and reminds me that nobody- least of all mental health professionals- are ever done learning. But the classroom will have to change. There may never again be a lecture with a powerpoint and exam, but will rather take the form of self-directed study. Articles read, shared, and discussed with colleagues. Continuing Education seminars to attend and learn from. Peer supervision to expand our zones of proximal development.
It will be sad to move away from the traditional education model, to move away from my cohort and venture out on my own, individualized path of professional development. I happen to be pursuing the PsyD, and so may have a bit more time to enjoy the leadership of my professors. But I anticipate some change nevertheless.

Read More

I haven't been here for the Longest Time...

Posted on April 01,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I’ve been feeling a little brittle lately. Overall, things are good. But it feels as though the bad news has been stacking up- things that, on their own, can be taken in stride but when piled together seem to generate a mire of thick, taffy like substance that is constantly threatening to trip me up.

My classes are coming to an end (already!) and with that comes the inevitability of final exams and projects. This year, it is coupled with the sad knowledge that my time of living and breathing together with my cohort is coming to a close: we will only meet for class about once a month next year, a far cry from the 12+ hours a week we’ve had this year. For myself, I am also keenly aware that this summer will herald the beginning of my doctoral pursuits as I take 3 classes, venturing in to the intimidating unknown.

Read More

Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology

Taking Space

Posted on March 14,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I recently had cause to review my conflict intervention skills. Although the old IASSIST framework has gone the way of the dodo in favor of “Emotional First Aid”, the basic principals are the same. Space and time are the crux of almost any intervention with a child whose behaviors are screaming that they’ve left baseline.

We all use taking space as a go to strategy. Personally, I walk away from my troubled, overwrought brain and take a long shower. Other people I know go for a run (insanity!) or do yoga. When we fight with our spouse, our friends, or our coworkers we know enough to get some distance and let ourselves regain some perspective.

Read More


Posted on February 28,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I intended to write this blog yesterday. My supervisor is out for the week and I had already seen each of my four clients. I has presumed that I would be able to leisurely enjoy a mug of tea while pondering which parts of my life I would share today, and how my roundabout metaphoric way of thinking would come together in a (hopefully) cohesive snapshot.
Just after my first sip, however, a face appeared in the narrow rectangle of a window in the office door. It was a young face, a male face, but most importantly it was an angry face. I opened the door to clenched fists, furious breathing, and a request to speak with my supervisor. After relaying her unavailability I immediately asked him to come in with a door opener “You look angry right now.”
BAM flood gates open. 40 minutes and 5 laps around the school later, we return to “my” office to retrieve his bag having discussed and dissected the situation that had got him so steamed. He had a plan, a good one. With the lowered head half smile that, in high school tough guy lingo, is equivalent to the hug of a five year old he sauntered out of the office and back to class.
I resumed my place in front of the computer, tea cold but brain and fingers running hot with a mixture of adrenaline, pride, and satisfaction in the completion of good work. I had no sooner re opened the file when another face appeared. 30 minutes and a scaffolded consultation with a teacher later, he too headed back to class. This time I decide to re heat my tea in the lounge, and return to the office to find one of my favorite visitors waiting in a chair outside the office. 15 minutes, several smiles, and a reassurance that he is very capable of attending college in the fall later he melts back into the crowd that is ever present in the library.
This pattern continued the remainder of the day. Other school mental health professionals may nod knowingly and think “Ah. The week after a vacation.” I had a rather lengthy email to send to my supervisor by 3 pm, keeping her apprised of my activity for the day, particularly as most of the students I saw are typically “hers”. There was a quick response, mostly of support and thanks, but with a brief “sorry your day was so busy!”. I was surprised: this had to have been the most interesting and rewarding day so far! This is the pace and pattern of my work at Walker, and the reason I believed School Psychology to be a good match for me. I hope tomorrow is just as unpredictable!

Read More

Sugar, Spice, and Everything.... Nice?

Posted on February 13,2013 by sthurstonmspp

I have never really thought much on the phrase “look daggers at”. It was something I glossed over, immediately translating into “gave a dirty look.” Just some sprinkles in the writing, someone having fun with a turn of phrase.

Today, however, I saw the daggers fly. This was no I-hate-you-so-much-right-now glare, or even a you-man-stealing-home-wrecking-so-and-so. This was a full on, hard as steel, sharp edged, I-AM-GOING-TO-END-YOU gaze that was so intense I have nicks and cuts on my own soul. The scariest part? The death stare giver was a sophomore in high school. A girl who weighs in at no more than 110 pounds, just got her driver’s permit, and is dedicated to cheerleading.

Read More

Just Keep Swimming

Posted on February 09,2013 by sthurstonmspp

The snow has been coming down for hours. Despite the fact that I dutifully went out to shovel the driveway and the walk no less than 4 separate times yesterday I can no longer see my husband’s car in the drift: a lone upright windshield wiper barely clears the mound marking where the Camery succumbed to the white powder. The rumble of a cacophony of snowblowers lets me know that my neighbors have begun to dig themselves out. However, the fact that they have been running for no less than 3 hours also tells me the process is long, slow, and feels insurmountable. My dog agrees: the 25 pound mutt who blends in with the snow if she is not wearing her bright red fleece takes one look at the piled snow and refuses to step paw outside. Despite the fact that I demand, then cajole, then beg for her to take the leap of faith required for her to forage through the snow that rises above the tips of her ears she will not go out until I have shoveled her a pathway. I can’t say that I blame her.

My house is warm, my husband made it home at 11 pm last night after patrolling the roads, and I have power. I do not want to go outside to shovel for a fifth and sixth time. There is simply too much. Too much snow. I know it is going to be slow, cold, and unrewarding as the continued wind blows the powder across the patches I’ve already managed to clear. And I think about how some of my clients feel when they come to talk to me about their crushing burdens at school. The juniors who are finally realizing that their grades are important to their college plans. The 2nd semester freshman who thought everything would sort itself out but is now realizing that high school is harder than middle school. How do they recover? Is it too late? Is there just too much to be done?

Read More

Come for the Professors, stay for the coffee.

Posted on January 30,2013 by sthurstonmspp

Over the summer I moved. I had been living with my husband (then fiance) in a rented house, one with a large kitchen and small yard, but the kind of place where bright paint seeks to hide old cracks, the heating bill for the old oil furnace is outrageous, and the faucet continually leaks despite all variety of handy work. My new home, our new home, may not be bright and shiny new but the yard is huge, there are multiple bathrooms, a gas heating system, and no cracks in the walls.
Over the summer MSPP also moved. The new building is immaculate: it is bright and shiny, infused with modern technology and trendy furniture. There are four microwaves on every floor, touch pads at every classroom door which allow you to look at the schedule of each space and book rooms as needed. The lights in the lounge on the third floor are whimsically reminiscent of fireworks, or the seeded head of a dandelion poised for a young child’s wishing breath.
Recently, my cohort and I had reason to reminisce and fully understand the change the new space has had on the perception of MSPP. In the spring of 2011 we all arrived to Interview Day, excited at the prospect of finding our place in the world of graduate study. For myself, I was determined to make the transition from working back to schooling as painlessly as possible: I wanted a program that focused on the practical, that allowed me to be in a school system starting my first year, and whose faculty were actually doing the work rather than just talking about it.
All of my classmates and I shared similar versions of the same story: dressed to impress, rehearsing potential interview answers, we faithfully followed the GPS which lead us down the VFW, enticed us behind the Home Depot, and down a road that hadn’t seen a new paving job in at least 20 years. And directed us to stop in front of a used car dealership. WIth a drop of the stomach that accompanied the thought “Of course this program was too good to be true” we ventured further down the road, arriving at a lot of cars pooled by a bend of the Charles River. A low slung building, blending into the dreary landscape of early spring, had one bright spot of color: a blue awning that boldly proclaimed “MSPP”. There were thoughts of turning back, wariness inspired by a less then awesome facade. Entering the building was a great leap of faith. We fumbled through the entryway, gathered name tags and a green folder, and tried to stifle the new set of worries as we spread cream cheese on a bagel.
Within 5 minutes I forgot the tumultuous journey, the road that spoke of strangers and dark alleys, and the unassuming building. Other green folders came and joined me at a small round table. Current students sat with us, the president sat with us. Conversation came easily, the way it does when you have found the people with which you share not only hobbies and interests, but values and goals. By 10 minutes into the welcoming breakfast, and certainly by the time Bob had finished his spiel on “Why School Psychology, Why MSPP” I was newly convinced that I had found the program best suited to me, one dedicated to creating a well rounded, well connected and high quality school psychologist. Here were the people who were not only working in the field but who were changing the field, the movers and shakers of the world.
So, to all you interested parties: MSPP is a wonderful place to come and learn. But as you walk through the glassy hallways and marvel at the art brightening each step don’t forget the real reason you have come knocking at the door. You are looking for a great program. You are looking to roll up your sleeves and get involved. You are looking to open your textbook and find footnotes about your professors and the contributions they are making to the field. The microwaves and free coffee machines are just the icing!

Read More

Tagged School Psychology, Applying to MSPP

"Never Worry Alone"

Posted on December 14,2012 by sthurstonmspp

Today’s tragedy stuns the nation. It generates conversations even as it breaks hearts. Facebook is plastered with personal statements. Statistics. Most of it is about guns, and gun control.

There is another important aspect to this tragedy: the access to mental health care.
We need to continue to cultivate a culture of acceptance around mental health services. And we need to have access available to all who need it.

Read More

Tagged Social Responsibility, School Psychology


Posted on December 05,2012 by sthurstonmspp

When you hear hoofbeats, you are supposed to think “horse” not “zebra”.

Most of the time, that is sound advice. Sure enough, you turn to see a glossy chestnut or black stallion thundering across the field, not a black or white stripe to be found.

Read More

Tagged Personal Growth, School Psychology