Pearls of Wisdom… no, really!

Among the myriad of Facebook posts (Side note: Facebook is 10?? Really? It makes me feel old to remember a time [high school!] before Facebook existed) there was the all too familiar link to a quasi-deep post that makes my eyes roll before I even finish reading. Then, however, I noticed who had posted it. Not a typical person to go in for the Oprah-like messages of transcendent learning. So I checked it out. And, I have to say, you should too.
One the reflections offered was the following:
Do not carry broken people who are not in the process of rebuilding themselves.
There have been a lot of professors who have said this in a lot of different ways. One metaphor that has stuck in my mind was shared by a man who taught us counseling: “As school psychologists we are flashlights. We can shine a light on a person’s growing edges, show them the way to bettering themselves, but it is up to them to change, to want to change.”
I truly believe this. You can lead a horse to water, and all that. But in some places, such as schools and courts, our clients are not seeking us out for change. They are assigned to us, or mandated. The real task, then, lies in guiding the person to desire change as if it were their own idea. I have been struggling with this for almost 3 months with one of my students, until today when she finally said “I wonder why I don’t have as many friends as Sarah.” Bingo, a way in! Wish me luck!

Posted in Counseling Psychology, Personal Growth, School Psychology

Snow Day for All!


Offering a much-needed break from all things graduate school. It has really been great to be on a fixed schedule again, but boy did I need a day off. There’s something about snow days that allows you to let out that breath you didn’t know you were holding. I, for one, also manage to be super-productive on snow days. I get to focus on what’s going on in my life at home, rather than planning for tomorrow, thinking about what readings need to get done, and making sure I’m ready for individual sessions. Instead, I cook, clean, do laundry, and turn my music waaaay up. The best part, I think, is not feeling guilty about it. Because it’s a snow day! Make snowballs! Wrestle in the snow with a friend you don’t see often! Make snow angels! Sled! Throw yourself into a snowdrift! Maybe it’s just me and the fact that I didn’t grow up around a lick of snow, but those are all things I enjoy doing on snow days.

On a connected note, we were having a discussion in one of my classes the other day about Theory of Mind, and the benefit of the attachment relationship in developing theory of mind. For those who may not have come across the term before, it speaks to the developmental process of being able to take a perspective that is not your own and realize that both can exist at once, and that your own truth is not necessarily someone else’s. To stand in someone else’s shoes. To look through someone else’s eyes. You’ve heard about this, and it all relates to our ability to empathize with others. What I was drawn to, though, was the idea that a primary caregiver will be the main person to nurture this ability in a child. But even further, the caregiver (and others who interact with children in general) also ends up looking at things with a child-like mind. Children revitalize us. They give us energy (and, yes, they taketh), and help us to see the joy and wonder and magic in everyday things. Like… snow (see what I did there!). It isn’t surprising that most adults see the onslaught of snow and groan inwardly as the thoughts of shoveling and salting their steps and slow driving immediately jump into their minds. But see if you can, even for a moment, let that inner child build a few snowballs and jump into a pile of fresh snow. Your mind will thank you for the moment of vitality!

In order to honor that feeling of being a child again and enjoying the snow for what it is, I direct you to this blog, manned by Boston’s own Craig “Cappy” Caplan. He has many suggestions for fabulous things to do in the winter, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to repeat them and pretend I know fun things to do in the Boston area when it’s snowing out. Plus, plagiarism!

~ Na



The Big Super Game

Being a Colorado native, that game was an ultra-disgrace. Like, beyond mortifying.

Because I am from Colorado, it was easy for me to know who I should root for in tonight’s horrendous “big game”.

(The NFL gets touchy about using the game’s official title on public forums, so…)

Otherwise, I don’t have any football preferences. I don’t follow it because I don’t like it.

There. I said it.

I’ve tried to like it. Everyone else seems to find it on some scale of entertainment. People have even tried to convert me. They’ve failed, bless their hearts. It’s just not gonna happen. I can think of thousands of other activities that would behoove me more than watching those 24 guys set up yet again after a call that pleased approximately half the viewers, and disappointed, frustrated or even enraged others.

I just find no connection with it.

Maybe it’s all those Sundays and Mondays of aired Packers games in which my dad would yell at the television using his “stadium voice”–as though his ribbing of the refs and poo-pooing of opposing players would affect the game’s outcome–eternally turned me off to the sport. By the time I was in high school, Mom and I had finally wised-up and sought the comparative solace of…the shopping mall.

Now had a team other than the Broncos been playing today (which, in fact, I now wish they would have), how would I have selected which team to cheer for? There’s some real psychology to this.

Would I look solely at their stats? Which stats would be important? Would it merely be a logo preference? The attractively contrasting colors of their uniform?

If I personally knew one of the players on a team–if I’d grown up with him, or even if I’d had a brief encounter with him where he spotted me a quarter at Starbucks–it’d become an easy decision. If I know you and you’re a relatively decent person…I’ll support your initiatives or your organization.

What I’m interested in is this: How does the majority of the United States overwhelmingly choose a favorite professional sports team?

I’d love to hear how you do.

I have a feeling that Venus and Mars will offer some level of variation on this survey.

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Kid President

Maybe some of you are more in touch with trending videos than I am and have heard of Kid President. Maybe this is new to you, too. Regardless, you should watch some of his videos, like the one here:

This is a fourth grade boy who, with the help of his uncle-in-law, started making some videos about his take on the world. They are heartwarming and impressive, but most of all they contain some of the simple messages that we should all be hearing and saying every day, but are too busy to.

And, beyond what it brings to us in our lives, it is a great reminder of what kids can do with the support of a caring adult. I love the way this boy communicates, and am looking forward to a particular friend of mine who would probably do some great sharing if she got to make a fun video and post it. I can’t wait to see her proud smile!

Posted in School Psychology | 1 Comment

Dr. Gregory on Organizational/Leadership Psychology Program

Here’s a recent conversation with Dr. Erik Gregory, sharing his thoughts on MSPPs organizational & leadership psychology programs.

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What Lies Ahead

Around here when the wind howls it shakes the ducts in our ceiling. There is a resulting metallic clang of thunder which sounds ominous as it echos through the drop ceiling of our office. It is the perfect sound for a Monday morning.
There is not a lot on the docket this morning: 4 meetings, and some classroom observations, and one block of coverage for the math specialist who is out today. However, classwork has kicked into high gear, with a lot of reading and responses. I also have multiple assessment cases (finally!) which all need testing completed and reports written. Additionally, spring is lurking just around the corner. This is usually cause for smiles and fond thoughts of purple crocuses erupting out of the ground overnight. This year, though, it brings thoughts of resumes, letters of recommendation, and the ever intimidating Job Hunt.
We have done mock drafts of this Event every year, applied to many field sites and brought out our best outfits for the interviews. We have all turned in our resumes to our supervisors for editing and overhaul, and are thankful for all of the experience provided by MSPP’s program that fills its pages.
What intimidates me, and reverberates through my brain at the quiet moments between activities in time with the thundering ducts above me, is the thought that my Career will begin with whatever choices I make next. While I have an idea of what I would like my job to look like, I am aware that compromises will most likely have to be made. Which means I will have to make some choices… and what if I make the wrong ones? I have been so fortunate to love my job prior to graduate school, to love all my field placements, and yet I worry I won’t know what I have gotten myself into until it is too late. For the first time, I need to get the most out of an interview, to understand the community I am applying to, and make sure it is a fit for me. This is not a temporary situation, a time when a bad match can be chalked up to a learning experience with the knowledge that the following year will be different.
So, I will quietly tell myself that no job has to be forever, and that I will take my time to make good choices (despite my lack of income over the past 3 years). I know I am ready to be a great school psychologist, and I will remain hopeful that I will find a school system that fits me!


Leadership Psychology vlog

Leadership Psychology has been around for a long time, but never the less, thoughts and theories in this fascinating field are as exciting today as they have ever been. I will start a series of video blogs beginning today, with a conversation with one the most renown and respected individuals in the field; Dr. Barbara Kellerman. Dr. Kellerman is an expert on Leadership, Followership and the dynamics of change. She has authored many books on the topic, they including: The End of Leadership, Followership: How Followers Are Creating Change and Changing Leaders, Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters, Women Leaders in American Politic, All the Presidents Kin: Their Political Roles

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Last night I unintentionally paid tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., by watching The Butler – a film released last year, directed by Lee Daniels. The charm of this movie, I found, was in its generational scope; it told the story of a Black butler on the White House staff, and marked the years through the changes of his life in connection to the changes in U.S. presidency. The film was loosely based on the story of Eugene Allen, who did live to see President Obama sworn into office. The protagonist in the film, Cecil Gaines (played by Forrest Whittaker), has a son who is friends with Dr. King and is active in the Civil Rights movement. Though (in my opinion) not as profound or moving a film as either Malcolm X or 12 Years a Slave, The Butler is well worth watching for a glimpse back in time at the struggle for equality that was so intense in the 60s.

I’m choosing to write about Martin Luther King Jr. for the emphasis days like today place on our history and the changes society and individuals have undergone over the past few decades. Regardless of the states of racism, prejudices, and equality we live with today, regardless of where in the world we come from, we all carry the weight of our histories; they make up parts of our identities and define how we connect with and relate to others. In our Clinical Seminar course, we have all had to create genograms that tell a story of family and connectedness, and to further write about what it all says about the strengths and weaknesses we carry as practitioners. I’m glad we take the time to reflect in these ways, to understand ourselves better and discover what that means about the way we interact with others.

As a Black, international student – a minority in this country – my background and my roots have always been elements that I’ve held to because they define a part of me. My values and view of the world are all tied up in who I am and where I come from, and knowing these helps me to value the individuality that each new client will bring, whether it is visible or not.

I’m experiencing the vast importance of this as I facilitate a team-building, communications and social skills group at my placement site. There are 25 students in the group and our first task, before we can get anywhere or get anything done, is to find out what makes each of us unique, what do we consider to be need-to-know information about ourselves, and how do we connect to others. Luckily, there are tons of fun ways to do this and make learning about relative strangers less of a challenge.

I’ve also been wanting to touch on the passing of the great leader and inspiration, Madiba (Nelson Mandela). My heart is warmed by all the coverage and talk that has centered around his life and his teachings, and by seeing how many people aspire to understand and carry with them the values he promoted. I’ll leave with you a sweet little clip of a South African girl who pays tribute to Madiba through spoken word.


~ N


Dust Off Your Suit

Last year during interview season, I made a significant commitment, one that may or may not end up being one of the longest in my life. I bought a suit. Yep, a lady-suit, meaning I bought a suit jacket, pants and a skirt (to increase versatility). I remember walking into the store, muttering to myself, “This is ridiculous. Why buy an outfit that I’ll only wear a few times a year – at best?” You see, I’m much more of a corduroy/khaki person myself. This whole “business” attire seemed foreign to me. Remember, I was an elementary and middle school teacher, which is code for “I used to climb on/under/around desks to help students understand prepositions.”

A year ago, I was interviewing for graduate programs. I was pitching myself while simultaneously scrutinizing programs to see if they would be a good fit for me. It was an odd experience. What I learned from this experience, and what I continue to learn through interviewing for practicum sites, is the following:

  1. Preparation is key. Learn as much as you can, whether it’s from an inquiry to someone who may already be there (practicum, intern, or program student) or from other information sources. Always go into an interview with a few questions in mind. Sure, they may actually be answered during the course of the interview, but it’s a good idea to have them at the ready. For some people, it’s helpful to role-play interview questions in the mirror or with a friend.
  2. Interviewing is a conversation. I think my stronger interview experiences were when the interviewer and I seemed to sustain a good conversational flow.
  3. Interviewing is a little bit like a first date. It’s an exploratory introduction. I’m learning about them, and they’re learning about me. Hopefully, we identify some professional passions we share and there’s a spark. Also, see the point above.
  4. The most important (and sometimes most challenging) point: be yourself. Even in the fancy lady suit, I often take a minute to reflect on why I’m doing what I’m doing at that interview site, grounding myself in the purpose of being there.

Good luck!


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.