September 18, 2018 | ° F

Collaborative training program prepares aspiring psychologists for their future

Photo by Nick Romanenko |

(l. to r.) Associate professor Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Lynn Clemow,PhD with students David Eddie (GSNB'16) and Jessica Yu (GSNB'16) at the Family Medicine of Monument Square clinic.

The story of an older man who slowly recovered from anxiety and panic attacks stuck with David Eddie, a clinical psychology doctoral candidate.

Through his participation in a collaborative program, Eddie helped treat the patient, who had worked through his anxiety issues to hold a job and raise a family. Eddie implemented cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy to reduce the man’s stress. 

“We saw a mass reduction in his anxiety. He stopped having panic attacks, and his generalized anxiety was reduced greatly,” he said. 

The program he participated in is a joint effort from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology and the Graduate School-New Brunswick to provide psychology graduate students the opportunity to meet patients and treat community members.

Lynn Clemow, a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, began the program four years ago to aid mental health sufferers while serving as a practicum for students. 

The graduate students practice at the Family Medicine Practice at Monument Square, the faculty and residency practice of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

One reason the program was a good fit for the psychology graduate students was the lack of health-related placements at Rutgers. Clemow said the student presence helps both patients and the students themselves.

“I thought it would be a really good idea for [students] to become involved with Family Medicine because I had heard so much from my physician colleagues about how difficult it was to get psychological services for their patients,” she said.

The program has expanded from four to 10 students who are currently psychologists-in-training.

As more students become involved, more patients know about the program and are more open to their efforts, Clemow said.

Today, psychologists are often expected to have hands-on experience, which Clemow said could work in favor of the students involved with this program. 

While working alongside attending physicians and residents, students are able to learn about mental health issues like anxiety disorders and depression.

“I think they get great experience in a setting that is relatively hard to find opportunities to work in as a graduate student,” Clemow said.

Jessica Yu, a graduate student of psychology at the Graduate School-New Brunswick, has been actively involved with Family Medicine for two and a half years. Her main aspiration is to become a clinical psychologist.

When Yu decided to be part of the collaboration between the graduate school and RWJMS, she believed it would grant her more exposure to the field.

“There are so many opportunities to meet people and get to work with people in that setting, so I was just really eager to gain that experience,” Yu said.

Eddie said the experience he has gained through the program would benefit him in his future goal to practice behavioral medicine in a medical setting.

Eddie credits the collaborative program for broadening his knowledge on psychopathology and medical terminology and increasing his exposure to new medications.

“It has made me improve as a clinician. It has forced me to learn about a lot of disorders I might not have otherwise had any contact with in graduate school,” Eddie said.

He said although learning from books is good, sometimes it is better to see the principles applied from the book in a real-life setting.

Eddie said the diversity of the patients at Family Medicine helped the graduate students become more aware and better equipped to handle a variety of situations and people.

Due to the location of Family Medicine, students are able to meet with a diverse group of patients.

“I had the opportunity to work with individuals from various races and ethnic minorities I might not have been exposed to elsewhere,” Eddie said.

He said being able to comprehend the differences between each culture is important in making sure each patient receives the best possible treatment. Just because an idea is normative in one culture, it does not mean the effects would be the same in another. 

During the course of her two-year involvement with Family Medicine, Yu believes she has developed more skills and traits that will help her later on in her career.

“I think I have also developed a lot more compassion for both the patients and doctors that I work with,” Yu said.

Megan Dougherty

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