Psychotherapy Bulletin

Psychotherapy Bulletin

Clinical Impact Statement: This reflection on the Student Excellence in Practice Award highlights meaningful experiences related to the award, with a brief focus on where the recipient would encourage other students to attend regarding their own development of skills related to clinical practice.

When I reflect upon my journey to becoming a clinical psychologist there are three aspects that have significantly shaped my development as a therapist. The first is that, during my training, I have been exposed to a wide range of clinical settings, therapeutic approaches, and clinical populations. I have practiced at the university counseling center, a community-based clinic, and a psychiatric hospital, among other settings. This allowed me to work closely with supervisors with different clinical backgrounds and models, and to see a wide spectrum of clinical severity, ranging from clients who were in a journey of personal growth to clients who were significantly detached from the world around them. I was always expected to address all of this range of needs, understanding my clients’ struggles not as combinations of symptoms but as complex and yet coherent manifestations of life experiences and dispositions. I also had the chance to work with clients with different cultural backgrounds. As a native Spanish speaker who was raised in Peru, my cultural background and language skills were an asset in creating opportunities to work with populations with unmet needs. Thus, I have worked with Spanish speaking clients and other underrepresented populations in the community, providing individual and group therapy, competency to stand trial restoration education, and conducting neuropsychological and psychoeducational assessments. Finally, although I knew since the beginning of my program that I wanted to work with adults, I was also encouraged to work with children and incorporate developmental aspects in my conceptualization and treatment of patients.

The second key aspect of my training relates to shaping my professional identity and finding my own voice, which were possible due to exposure to diverse perspectives and clinical experiences. After learning from many different models, I found in one specific therapeutic approach (Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy; IRT) an integrative model that served as a basis from which I could develop comprehensive case formulations and plan individualized treatment. It was very important to find the clinical approach that spoke to me, as it became a tool that gave me the confidence to navigate complex scenarios and work with severe clinical cases. I have also been involved in research that uses IRT’s comprehensive theory of socio-emotional functioning to look at mechanisms of change in psychotherapy. This has given me the opportunity to further deepen my clinical skills. During my practicum at an adult psychiatric hospital, I took a step forward and extended the IRT model to an inpatient group setting. I developed an IRT-based curriculum aimed at providing patients the space and tools to become more aware of their maladaptive relational patterns, their origin and impact in their life, and healthier ways of relating with others and with themselves. I am currently working on formalizing this curriculum for replication and testing.

The third key aspect is that I was lucky to be in a program that provides substantial supervision and mentoring. This has also significantly shaped my development as a therapist. Thanks to that support system I could be an active agent of my own education since the beginning of my training, creating opportunities for myself, taking risks, and not being afraid of “complex cases.”

Every career pathway is unique. I would encourage students who are initiating their clinical training to explore with openness the range of possibilities that the field offers, find their own voice and the therapeutic model that speaks to them, and to welcome facing new challenges taking advantage of the support system that their program offers. Embrace the journey! I hope yours is as exciting and stimulating as mine has been.

Mariafé Panizo is a doctoral student in the Combined Integrated Clinical and School Psychology program at James Madison University, Virginia. She is writing a dissertation on the Interpersonal Reconstructive Therapy (IRT)’s conceptualization and treatment of personality disorders, under the supervision of Dr. Ken Critchfield. During her doctoral training, Mariafé has practiced at several clinical sites, including Western State Hospital, where she is developing an IRT curriculum for group therapy with patients with severe mental disorders. In the future, she wishes to continue working with severely mentally ill adults and other vulnerable populations. Mariafé is originally from Perú, where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. In 2010, she moved to the USA to pursue a Master’s in Psychological Sciences at James Madison University.

Cite This Article

Panizo, M. T. (2018). A reflection upon clinical training. Psychotherapy Bulletin, 53(3), 50-1.



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