Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology

Letters from Doctoral Alumni

Michael Groat, PhD (2003) 
Staff Psychologist 
Menninger Clinic 
Baylor College of Medicine 
Houston, TX

When deciding on a doctoral program to prepare me for the work of a psychologist, I wanted a program that was intellectually rigorous, offered a wealth of training experiences, had supportive faculty who were research leaders in the field, and provided funding for graduate training. In all of these counts, the program delivered superbly. Year by year I grew in clinical acumen through exposure to a variety of theoretical and technical approaches to therapy, joined faculty in research projects that involved writing and presenting, and had full funding support through assistantships my entire tenure— 1998-2003.

Something else happened though that I think is important for a prospective student to know—the diversity of faculty, students and practicum experiences can quite literally change you. I came in thinking that I wanted to work at a university counseling center after I graduated. After two practicum experiences working with supervisors who turned me on to hospital based work with individuals with severe mental illness, my direction changed. Instead of doing internship at a college counseling center, I went to the Albany Medical College. I then pursued further hospital-based training with an intensive four-year postdoctoral fellowship at the Austen Riggs Center, a specialty hospital that treats individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. From this, I developed my current interest in treating and assessing individuals with personality disorders. And, consistent with the strengths-based approach of the program, I teach my current patients about normal, adaptive personality attributes and strongly support patients’ competence, even if illness might temporarily obscure it.

There is one more influence worth knowing about—research. When I started the program I joined a research team that was studying career decision-making, especially among individuals who go directly from high school to work. I joined some of the faculty’s interests in looking at how social class affects career development and discovered an exciting project. I did my dissertation on the experience of social class mobility.

I now direct an inpatient hospital program that treats professionals in crisis at the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas, a teaching hospital of the Baylor College of Medicine. As an assistant professor I also love the teaching and supervision I do, skills I first learned and honed in Albany. I believe the strong clinical foundation, vocational and research training and overall support I received during the doctoral program prepared me well for the professional path I have chosen.

2014 update: Michael is now the Director of Menninger’s Adult Division and Assistant Professor, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Baylor College of Medicine.

Norma Poll, PhD (2003)
Senior Research Associate
Association of American Medical Colleges

Since I grew up in New York City, it initially was a challenge to adjust to Albany in 1997. While only 2 hours from home, the adjustment was more than just moving to a small city. It was moving into a predominately White, middle class environment - graduate school, which was foreign for a Nuyorican from the South Bronx. However, the smaller community within the University at Albany’s Department of Counseling Psychology helped to make Albany feel more like home. It was evident in the classroom, the variety of assistantships, research activities and through mentoring that the faculty was committed to nurturing all students and their diverse interests.

I had many enriching clinical experiences including the University Counseling Center and St. Mary’s Hospital, where I used my bilingual skills. With faculty support, I pursued my interests in public policy, public management and qualitative research by taking additional courses and completing two public policy fellowships. Also, in collaboration with graduate students in other departments, we started a multidisciplinary graduate student organization focused on Latino issues, and a bilingual publication in which the faculty served as guest editors.

The Counseling Psychology faculty and staff provided a “secure base” from which to explore, learn and succeed. After completing my internship and obtaining my license to practice in New York, I embarked on a different route in policy and research. Currently, I work as the Senior Research Associate in the Division of Diversity Policy and Programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges. Each day, I realize that the Counseling Psychology program provided me with a solid foundation in research and practice which enables me to work in a variety of areas to support diversity and cultural competence initiatives in the health professions. I am grateful for that!

2013 update: Norma is now the Director of Human Capital Portfolio at the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Lucy Rathier, PhD (2001) -

The University at Albany's Counseling Psychology program afforded me the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills both as a clinician and researcher, assume leadership roles, create my own specialty track in health psychology, and grow professionally through challenging experiences. This was conducted in the context of highly collegial relationships with both faculty and students. I'd like to share with you significant aspects of my experiences.

As a returning, nontraditional student, I arrived at the program with some skills and knowledge, having been a practicing school psychologist for a number of years. First and foremost, I felt that faculty respected the level of professional experience that I brought while continuing to assist me in further development and expansion of my clinical skills. The clinical experiences gained in the program not only provided a solid foundation of skills, but allowed me to broaden and deepen my knowledge in the area of health psychology. My three years at the Psychological Services Center (our primary training center), as a practicum student, graduate assistant, and assistant director, were integral to my evolution as a clinician and also afforded me supervisory opportunities. The flexibility of the department was evidenced by their willingness to allow me to seek out clinical health psychology training via a practicum at the Glens Falls Hospital in their Chronic Pain Clinic and Comprehensive Cancer Center. Additionally, a previous student created a practicum opportunity at the Stratton Veteran's Affairs Medical Center in neuropsychology in which I also participated. Lastly, my experiences as an assistant health educator at the University Counseling Center rounded out my preparation in health psychology.

The doctoral program promoted the development of research skills, not only throughout coursework, but within exceptional opportunities that I would like to highlight. First, I participated in a research team that focused on student research. This was invaluable to me in developing my dissertation idea and learning critical thinking about research as I refined my own research and listened to the ideas of peers. Secondly, a pro-seminar dedicated to the development of a dissertation proposal was integral to the development of research skills. Not only did this course provide the necessary structure to proposal development, it gave me access to a seasoned researcher who assisted me in refining my research and critical thinking skills through his own vast knowledge and through the creation of a peer proposal review process. Lastly, I was able to garner project director skills via my assistantship at the Evaluation Consortium (an Educational Psychology center that conducts program evaluations) and via the coordination of faculty research projects. To a student who primarily worked as a clinician and had trepidation about developing a research proposal, these experiences were invaluable. They were also the envy of my friends who were in other psychology doctoral programs without all of these opportunities!

Leadership roles were also plentiful and well-respected by both the student and faculty community. The faculty requested student feedback on various topics. I represented my class in providing feedback on the doctoral qualifying examinations. Additionally, I acted as a student mentor to first year doctoral students and participated in the review of doctoral program applications.

This training promoted my development as a well-rounded professional and prepared me for future positions. My training continued as an intern and post-doctoral fellow in clinical health psychology in the VA Connecticut Health Care System. Through these experiences, I worked with a variety of patients, especially those with chronic medical conditions, and developed and conducted health promotion programs.

Currently, I work as a psychologist in Behavioral Medicine at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. I have developed two areas of specialization. One is counseling caregivers of dementia patients who are experiencing stress. I also have some involvement in research on helping caregivers manage their stress and in the hospital’s initiative toward providing quality care to senior citizens. The other specialty area is working with patients who have chronic headaches. In addition, I conduct psycho-educational groups in our comprehensive weight management program. I also see patients who experience anxiety or depression related to their medical diagnosis and treatment such as patients with cancer. Lastly, I am an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University. In this role, I supervise clinical psychology interns and conduct seminars for medical faculty, medical residents, and clinical psychology interns.

I am grateful to the opportunities afforded to me by the University at Albany Counseling Psychology program as they helped me on the path to a rewarding career.

2014 update: Lucy is now a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and a behavioral medicine psychologist at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI.

Timothy U. Ketterson, Jr., PhD (2000)
Center for Research on Telehealth
& Healthcare Communications
Dept. of Clinical and Health Psychology
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32610-0165

Currently (1/03), I am in my second year as a Research Assistant Professor in the Clinical and Health Psych Dept at the University of Florida. My appointment is in the Center for Research on Telehealth and Healthcare Communication (CRTHC) where I collaborate with my colleague and mentor, Robert Glueckauf, Ph.D., on most, if not all, center-related projects in some way. Check out our Center website ( and read the "about us" section for more details on me, our staff, and current projects.

I consider myself to be a geropsychology-trained "(clinical) health psychologist" with a major interests in aging (and human development from a life-span developmental perspective), health promotion, program evaluation / outcomes research, issues surrounding the use of emerging technologies (e.g., videoconferencing, the Internet) to deliver mental health and health promotion interventions / health information. Grant administration, supervision of project staff (i.e., undergraduates, masters-level students in rehabilitation counseling, counselor education, clinical psychology (en route to the Ph.D.), pre-doctoral interns, and post-doctoral fellows), grant writing, manuscript preparation / writing, brainstorming regarding research design, database construction and management, data analysis / interpretation, idea generation for potential grant-funded projects, problems solving related to grant management, and public speaking / networking throughout the state an at the state capitol are all part of my job. Also, I have been able to co-teach, along with my Center colleagues, an undergraduate survey course on "Telehealth and Healthcare Communications." We will be developing a Program Evaluation course soon, which should prove to be quite interesting as well.

While mine is not necessarily a glamorous job, it is interesting to me (for now). I feel as if I am contributing both to science and community, and it does keep me "off the streets" as Dick Haase was known to say. Ultimately, I'm still unsure where I'll end up in the grand scheme of things but life in Gainesville and UF is good. I also have entertained a career as a VA researcher / clinician, which would be an ideal "fit" for me. Currently, I am heading up a sub-project (an outcomes core) on an NIH PPG at the Gainesville VA Brain Rehabilitation Research Center (BRRC) which is one of 13 national centers of excellence within the VA system. So, in the end, to borrow a concept from Carl Rogers, I guess I am always " the process of becoming" and I kind of like it that way.

I suppose I should add a statement about the high quality of the training I received in Counseling Psychology at UA and the wealth of opportunities (a.k.a. breadth of training experiences) that were offered me. I value my UA experiences very highly and would strongly recommend prospective students consider applying to the program.

Joyce Dewitt-Parker, PhD (1999)
Staff Psychologist
University at Albany Counseling Center

One of the many reasons why I chose the Counseling Psychology Program at SUNY-Albany is that the faculty is comprised of psychologists who truly embrace the scientist-practitioner model. In fact, many faculty members continue to remain active within the local community as practitioners and consultants, in addition to being active at the national level. I found the faculty to be sensitive to multicultural issues and very supportive of my personal and professional development. I began doctoral training in 1994, with a Master's Degree and six years of mental health experience. I successfully completed internship with the Albany Medical College Psychology Internship Consortium and received my doctorate in August, 1999. I joined the University Counseling Center of UAlbany as a Staff Psychologist on September 1, 1999.

Elizabeth Skowron, PhD (1994)

What stands out most for me about my experience as a graduate student at Albany is the faculty's commitment to training and willingness to develop mentoring relationships with students holding a variety of interests. Likewise, my research/science and psychotherapy/practice training were equal December 9, 2012 lly-recognized experts in their areas of research, the opportunities for collaboration and student-initiated research abound. At the same time, the faculty invest in providing students with outstanding and diverse clinical training...and they deliver. Practicum training is supervised by program faculty, all of whom have ongoing private practices or do community consultation. Practicum training includes excellent ratios of client contact to supervision time and individual plus small group supervision to enhance skill development. Quality over quantity!

When I left Albany and headed out to my internship training site (the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center in California), I was a little concerned about being only one of two counseling psychology interns there. My concerns were unfounded, however, and as the year progressed, I was extremely pleased to see that my training in case conceptualization, assessment, and intervention strategies, vocational development, and clinical supervision matched up well against the other interns who had also trained in quality programs.

In the years since graduating, I have worked as a post-doctoral fellow (at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute, University of California--San Francisco) and as a faculty member in APA-accredited clinical and counseling psychology programs. During each new experience, I found myself reflecting with much gratitude upon my years at Albany and the quality training that has served me so well in my career.

2014 update: Elizabeth is now Associate Professor in Counseling Psychology and Research Scientist, Child and Family Center, University of Oregon.

Julie Wildman, PhD (1994)
Informatics Educator, Informatics Section
VHA Mental Health Services
Palo Alto VA HCS
Menlo Park, CA

Picture of Julie WildmanIt’s truly amazing to me to realize that I began my doctoral studies at the U @ Albany 25 years ago!  How can that be when I’m only 35 and holding?!  I made the wise decision to choose the Counseling Psychology Program at Albany for several reasons: the faculty, the training, and the funding. I found the faculty to be extraordinarily well-versed and talented in the scientist-practitioner model, open and available to students for consultation and mentoring, and sane.  You may think it odd that I should mention sanity as a quality but having spent 20 years in practice, the first 13 of which I supervised pre-doctoral interns and thus heard many stories about faculty in other programs, I cannot overemphasize the importance and impact of faculty mental health on student mental health.  I continue to appreciate the training model used at the U @ Albany Counseling program whereby you begin with a very small caseload and immerse yourself in learning about your clients and how to actually do therapy, all in a safe, closely supervised environment.  I was well-prepared for my VA internship and subsequent VA position.  Indeed, in my 13 years as Assistant Training Director of an APPIC accredited predoctoral internship, I rarely came across applicants whose training was as extensive and provided the level of supervision I received at Albany.  As for funding, I managed to live relatively comfortably for a “poor graduate student” and avoided finishing a doctorate with a huge student loan.  The scholarly and growth-oriented atmosphere in the Counseling Program in addition to the camaraderie with my classmates made for a wonderful graduate school experience.

I have worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs since I began internship at the Brockton VA (now part of the Boston VA HCS) in 1993.  I was hired into a Staff Psychologist position at the Alvin C. York VAMC in Murfreesboro, TN right out of internship into a newly forming PTSD Clinical Team (PCT).  I remained at York (which eventually merged with the Nashville VA to become “VA Tennessee Valley HCS”) for 13 years during which I provided psychotherapy, was the Assistant Director of Training, supervised predoctoral interns, and taught medical students and psychiatry residents.  I left “York” in 2007 to take a position at the Palo Alto VA HCS in their newly forming “Primary Care-Mental Health Integration” (PCMHI) program in which mental health professionals are embedded in primary care clinics to provide brief assessment and therapy.  I eventually became the Clinical Coordinator of the Palo Alto PCMHI program until I “jumped ship” in 2011 to work for VA “Central Office” (VACO).  Although VACO offices are in Washington, D.C., many VACO employees like myself are “decentralized” meaning that I still live near Palo Alto, California.  I now work in VACO Mental Health Services (MHS) in the Informatics Section as a national Informatics Educator.  The MHS Informatics Section is currently staffed solely by psychologists, some of whom are working on innovative mobile apps and web services.  As an Informatics Educator, I apply my clinical knowledge to policy consultation and implementation.  I provide education and training in the use of software products for VA mental health employees across the country and consult to software developers to ensure that mental health service needs are being met by the software.  I love my job and feel very fortunate for my rewarding VA career in psychology.

Nicholas Ladany, PhD (1992) 

I was a student in the University at Albany's Counseling Psychology program from 1986-1992. More than anything else, I remember the extraordinary number of research opportunities available to me and other students. In fact, the only thing more plentiful in Albany was the snow (this of course comes from someone who grew up in Washington, DC!). The research projects on which I worked pertained to counselor supervision, research methodology and statistics, and health psychology. By the time I graduated, I had been mentored by, and published with, four of the faculty. Moreover, I learned the consequences of saying "yes!" I also had diverse practicum training experiences in sites such as the Psychological Services Center (community mental health agency), Siena College (counseling center), Middle Earth (counseling center), Berkshire Farm Center (inpatient adolescent facility), as well as internship at the George Washington University Counseling Center. My overall training served as an excellent foundation when it came time to look for a "real job." My first job after graduating was a visiting faculty member in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Maryland. I then spent three years at Temple University as an Assistant Professor and am currently at Lehigh University as a Professor. My current research interests are counseling and supervision processes and outcome, using both quantitative and qualitative methodologies. Clearly my training at Albany was instrumental in preparing me for my past and current professional work. I'm happy to talk with anyone interested about my experiences and can be reached by e-mail at the above address.

2015 update: Nick is now the Dean, School of Leadership and Education Sciences, University of San Diego.

Jonathan W. Gould, PhD, ABPP (1985)

Since I Left the Frozen Northeast
Over the six-mile course that used to define my daily run around the UAlbany and state office building campus, among my running companions was a guy named Don. I did not know Don other than as an occasional running partner until one day he asked about my interest in the Counseling Psychology program. It was 1980 and I had been studying in the Educational Psychology doctoral program since 1978. I had recently begun a part-time job in a methadone maintenance program and had developed an itch to get into a more applied field. How to scratch that itch? As Don and I talked further, I discovered that Don (Biggs) was the chair of the Counseling Psychology program. He convinced me to further investigate the program. The rest, as it is said, is history.

My life after UAlbany (then called SUNY@A) took me to an internship in the Midwest and a year of supervised training at what was then called Marriage Council of Philadephia, a training program for AAMFT. It is now called the Penn Center for Relationships.

I began a private practice and started a family. My clinical work was fun and, along with a fellow SUNY@A graduate, Elliott Rotman, PhD, began a decade of working and consulting together on clinical cases.

Something was missing for me, however. I always enjoyed research and writing, so I began to write. My first book, Reinventing Fatherhood, sold about five copies. It was, however, translated into Mandarian Chinese. I presumed that the publisher found a market in China in which middle class American notions of parenting and fatherhood would sell like hotcakes. Go figure!

I fell into my current work by accident. Sometime in the late 1980s, I was contacted by an attorney to assist in a child custody case. I found the evaluation process interesting but poorly defined. I bought every book I could find, attended workshop after workshop, and began to develop a small practice.

I was drinking my first ever cup of Starbucks coffee at a three-day child custody seminar when I was struck by a missing component in the child custody arena. No one had yet brought together the needs of the legal system, particularly the requirements of the rules of evidence for scientific testimony, and the procedures used in child custody assessment. For those unfamiliar with forensic psychological work, a forensic psychological report must be based upon reliable procedures that produce information upon which trustworthy expert opinions are based. I found my niche.

So…I have spent the past two decades writing and lecturing about the importance of bringing science-as-process into the courtroom. Often judges and attorneys understand science-as-fact (i.e., the earth is round) but struggle with science-as-process (i.e., defining a reliable methodology?).

Among the areas in which I have written is examining how best to conduct clinical treatment of children when their parents are involved in custody disputes. Too often therapists, intending to be helpful, will provide testimony to the court about custodial placement based only upon information obtained from a child or information obtained from one parent and a child. This, of course, is an inherently flawed basis upon which to offer expert testimony to a court. The opinion is based on information obtained for only one source (the child) or from only one parent rather than based upon an opinion based upon the integration of information from both parents and other independent sources of information.

I have also written about the importance of developing and using reliable methods and procedures in child custody reports. I have written about the importance of citing in the body of the report to the court each of the research-based articles discussed in the body of the report and about the need to further examine the boundaries of appropriate witness preparation.

Although I have written many solo articles, the most fun is to work with one or more colleagues to produce an article or chapter that is accepted in a peer-reviewed publication. There are many areas in the child custody arena that need to be examined.

I have an active clinical and forensic psychology practice. Most of my forensic psychological activities are consultations with attorneys across the country. I may be asked to review a colleague’s custody report, help the attorney understand the current state-of-the-science with regard to specific and relevant areas of research such as parenting plans for young children, alienation dynamics in custody disputes, application of child development research to crafting age-appropriate parenting access schedules.

I also assist attorneys in drafting psychological factors in their legal arguments. I may help write direct and cross examination questions, assist in reviewing documents and pleadings, summarizing how opposing counsel may attack the research findings that we intend to present, and offer assistance to their clients to better manage their anxiety about deposition and/or trial.

Additionally, I conduct child custody evaluations. The overwhelming majority of these evaluations are done in my role as a court-appointed evaluator. On rare occasions, I may be retained by an attorney to conduct a psychological evaluation of his or her client or a parental fitness of his or her client and children.

Often I testify in court to provide educational information to the court, a role often referred to as educator-to-the-court. I may also testify in response to a hypothetical situation or to provide rebuttal testimony to an witness who had already provided testimony to the court.

Part of what is nice about the different roles that I play is that I continue to maintain a private practice. Translation: I am in control of my time except when I have to attend to a court-related engagement. Being my own boss allows me the flexibility to take time during an otherwise busy workday and write this essay for the website.

The Counseling Psychology program at UAlbany provided me with a substantial foundation for my work. It taught me the value of research and how to evaluate it. It taught me the value of academic argument, a skill that becomes more and more important in my role as a forensic psychologist and expert witness. It taught me the value of collaboration and the importance of being open-minded. It taught me the critical importance of thinking in a multi-hypothetical framework.

These lessons from the Counseling Psychology program were not always learned in the classroom. The accessibility of many professors from other departments was critical to creating an intellectually challenging environment. I learned much from my daily discussions with professors from the Counseling Psychology, Educational Psychology and Clinical Psychology programs who would join in the daily runs around the campus or the twice weekly basketball games at the gym.

I remember fondly my former running partner and advisor, Don Biggs, who recently passed away. He would complete a six-mile run, buy a dozen hot bagels, and consume the bagels after we completed our run. Don was never too busy to sit and discuss my dissertation work, even as he chomped on his bagels.

Don Blocher, the faculty member who started the PhD program in Counseling Psychology, also recently deceased, would join us downstairs at the bowling alley (Does it still exist?) and would rejoice when the faculty would outscore the graduate students! Not that any of us were competitive :).

Sue Phillips, who is now a Vice President at UAlbany, had an open door policy and seemed to always have time to talk about academic and personal challenges faced by the doctoral students.

Micki Friedlander was a relative newcomer and her energy helped to revitalize and reenergize a department that at the end of its transitions into a strong, research based APA-accredited Counseling Psychology doctoral program.

Back in the early 1980s, many of us in the doctoral program used to refer to the newly minted program and newly arrived faculty as “Instant Harvard on the Hudson.” The Counseling Psychology program seemed to turn overnight into a prominent Boulder-model based doctoral program. In sum, UAlbany provided an environment that created a basis for critical, higher level thinking that has been a foundation for all of my professional development. Despite the many, many freezing cold winters in Albany, the academic environment stoked a fire of curiosity and intellectual passion and pursuit that now, 30 years (!) after I graduated, still burns hot.