Alumni Spotlights

Monica Lawson

Where were you born and raised?
I was raised specifically in London, Kentucky. However, I claim Lexington, Kentucky (where I went to college) as home.

Why did you choose the SMC Clinical Psychology program? 
I chose this program due to its emphasis on the psychodynamic and humanistic approaches to clinical work. Not many programs in clinical psychology specifically focus on these two approaches. Saint Michael’s Clinical Psychology program is a rare find in a field dominated by quantitative research and cognitive-behavioral approaches to clinical work. It’s funny, I almost did not apply to SMC. I was using the American Psychological Association’s Graduate Study in Psychology book (which lists graduate programs in psychology throughout the United States) and one day I decided I was going to look through the book one more time. I flipped to Vermont, because it’s such a small state (and had only a few programs to look through) and found St. Mike’s. I was blown away by the description of a humanistic, psychodynamic, psychosocial program. I immediately went to the website to read more about the program and decided I had to apply. 

What did you enjoy most about the program? 
The fact that the program is located in Vermont is special in itself. I loved living in Vermont; it’s a gorgeous state. I also really enjoyed the emphasis on clinical training and I particularly enjoyed Dr. Ron Miller’s classes. I am so thankful for his critical approach to clinical work and research. His Intensive Psychotherapy class is one of the best clinical courses I’ve ever taken. Also Dr. Molly Millwood’s Marital and Family Therapy class was phenomenal and prepared me for the work I now do with couples in my PhD training. 

What about the program has helped you the most while working towards your Ph.D.? 

The clinical experience I received in the program left me feeling prepared for the clinical work I began in my first semester at Duquesne. The program helped instill in me the values of a human scientist and clinician. Also as I am gearing up to write my dissertation, I can say that the Research Seminar class with Jason Fechter, and writing a Major Paper/Theoretical Thesis, greatly prepared me for the dissertation process. I feel less overwhelmed having already gone through this process on a slightly smaller scale. 

Are there any resources you utilized during your graduate work that current students might not know about? 
I am a huge fan of writing centers. I worked at the university writing center where I went to college as a writing tutor. It’s so important to have a space where writers can discuss writing in a supportive, learning environment. I used the Saint Michael’s College writing center as place where I could get feedback on my writing. Sometimes it’s just helpful to talk about ideas with other writers. I also used the center at SMC when working on my application to Duquesne. It’s so important to have several people look over your applications for jobs or schools. I highly recommend this resource. 

Do you have any advice for our current students?
If I could it all over again, and if I had not been on a trajectory (hopeful trajectory!) towards a PhD program, I might try to do the program as a part time student. It’s so important to sit with the material you’re learning. Given economic and educational pressures (and likely many others) often students take a full course load, while working perhaps multiple jobs, and it’s difficult to have time to sit with the material you’re learning. Rushing to “get everything done” takes away from the experience of learning and being able to sit with ideas and make the material meaningful. My advice is, if you can, slow down and really let the ideas you’re studying sink in. Don’t rush through the material. Don’t do the work to get it done—do the work because of its importance to the people you will work with, and because the material will likely change you as a person. The orientation of this program is a rare gift and truly treasure the time you have here. 

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