Feature Articles

Rediscovering the Soul in Psychology

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By: Seima Diaz, Ed.D, LMFT

Many of us who enter the field of psychology, do so in an attempt to find meaning or gain insight into our own experience. We likely possess a burning desire to help put an end to suffering, our own and others. Throughout my experience working with clients and teaching aspiring therapists studying masters and doctorate level psychology, I have found that I can only influence those around me to the degree in which I myself have evolved.

I hold true to the original definition of the word psychology rooting back to the mid-late 1800s, defining the word psychology as the study of the soul (Goldsmith, 2010). It is only natural then that my work revels in the uncovering of one’s true inner-self as a means of overcoming mental illness and dissatisfaction in life. It has been my experience that a deep exposure of the unconsciousness occurs when an individual seeks spiritual enlightenment. From a therapeutic perspective, the psyche is the segment of us that is most instrumental in achieving behavioral change and improving self-esteem (2010). Lasting change, with limited chance of relapse transpires from an individual diving deep into his darkness and finding his infinite light.

Spirituality means something different for everyone so it is important to allow clients to define and create their own spiritual identity. Think of spirituality as a tool one can use to help their client gain insight, and outgrow what no longer serves them. Below I am going to discuss four techniques that can be used in psychotherapy to reconnect a client with his soul in order to foster self-awareness, insight, positive behavioral change, enhanced self-regulation, and improved interpersonal relationships.

  • Meditation
  • Mirror Self Talk
  • Deep Breathing
  • Mindfulness

Meditation is commonly described as a training of mental attention that awakens us beyond the conditioned mind and habitual thinking (Buddhism for Today, 2017). It induces consciousness and transforms the mind. Meditation practices are techniques that encourage and cultivate focus, clarity, emotional positivity, and a calm seeing of the true nature of things (2017). By helping our clients engage with a particular meditation practice, we give them the opportunity to learn the patterns and habits of their mind. The practice offers a means to develop new, more positive ways of being. Meditating with your client for the first and last 3 minutes of each session can have a transformative effect and can lead to a new understanding of the self and life. I would encourage you to experiment with meditation before utilizing it as a tool in your work with clients. You can find very helpful information on diverse meditation styles here


Mirror Self-Talk is the practice of making a connection with one’s soul through intentional eye contact in a mirror, while saying positive words of support, encouragement, and love to oneself outload. Encouraging clients to connect with themselves in this way, promotes understanding of the mind-body-soul connection while enhancing self-esteem. This can be done in or out of session, ideally as a part of the client’s daily self-care regimen. If you haven’t connected with your own soul in a while, I would encourage you to take a nice long look into your own eyes. As the legendary William Shakespeare once said, “The eyes are the window of the soul.”

Deep Breathing can be important to our health and spiritual development. It is the process of taking a slow deep breath in through the nose, allowing the air to travel all the way to your diaphragm causing your belly to expand, and then exhaling the air slowly through your nose, pulling in your belly toward your spine and exhaling all of the breath in your lungs (Rakal, 2016). The benefits of deep breathing include but are not limited to muscle relaxation, improved functioning of every system in the body, decreased anxiety, a release of endorphins, the detoxification and release of toxins reducing the chance of illness, and a relief of emotional problems (Patel, 2016). Deep breathing also helps foster the mind-body-soul connection by connecting you with the present moment and detaching you from unproductive thoughts and emotions. Encouraging your clients to take deep breaths while processing material in therapy will aid them in their ability to gain insight and heal.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present. It is the moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. Mindful states of being can be achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without attaching to them (Gunaratana, 2015). A dedicated mindful practice can result in improved physical health (stress reduction, improved sleep, weight loss), emotional health (increased empathy and compassion, decreased anxiety and depression), mental health (increased ability to focus, boots in working memory, increased processing speed), and spiritual health (enhanced self-awareness and a stronger connection to one’s higher self) (2015). After teaching your clients how to practice mindfulness within the therapeutic relationship, you can encourage them to develop mindfulness rituals throughout their day to further support their expansion and growth.

It has been my experience that the aforementioned techniques will do wonders in cultivating the mind-body-soul connection in everyone seeking wellness and a meaningful life. It is my hope that you experiment and master each technique before utilizing it in your therapeutic work. In doing so, you will rediscover your higher-self and transform your own life, thus becoming more effective in your work with others.


“The New Shape of Romantic Love” Webinar Highlights

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On November 20th, I attended a Web-lecture, “The New Science of Romantic Love: What You Understand, You Can Shape” presented by Dr. Sue Johnson at Cal Southern University in Irvine, CA. The lecture was also available to watch live online through Cal Southern’s webpage.

I was excited to learn about one of the most powerful forces on Earth- love. Dr. Sue Johnson is an expert on Emotion Focused Therapy (EFT) and utilizes it to help couples repair their relationships. Emotionally Focused Therapy is best used to expand partners’ emotional responses, create new types of interactions between the couple, and foster secure bonding between partners.The basics of EFT Empathic Reflection that Dr. Johnson covered are validations- creates alliance and safety, focus during sessions, and cohesion through organization.

In addition to explaining EFT and how it is used as a “dance” between partners, Dr. Johnson also discussed John Bowlby’s attachment styles and how they influence adult romantic relationships. The ideas that held my interest throughout the lecture include: secure attachment bonds lead to emotional responsiveness while insecure attachment leads to anxious emotional responsiveness. Furthermore, my biggest take-away point was learning how a cue of rejection or criticism from a person you’re connected with is processed the same way as physical pain in the brain.

First Thoughts as a Student Volunteer

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by Akshay Mehta

If you are a woman reading this right now, I’d like you to think about a scenario for a moment. Imagine yourself as a young teen seeking therapy for an unplanned pregnancy. You sit down on a nice comfortable couch in a pleasantly calm room with décor and atmospheric conditions tailored to immediately tone down your anxiety. As you prepare your thoughts, the door opens and a male therapist walks in. Wait…what?

Your first thoughts might be, “How is he going to understand anything I’m going through?”, “Is he a substitute therapist?”, “How do I start talking and what am I comfortable sharing?” Well, in the near future, I may potentially be that male therapist facing an environment dominated by female patients and issues.

I recently began a volunteer position at Claris Health Clinic. Claris’ mission is to empower women and men to make informed and positive choices in regards to their sexual and relational health. Additionally, Claris isn’t controlled by a linear way of thought or a strict religious ideology. Its utmost aim is to just help people make the best productive choices for themselves.

At first, I was a bit skeptical as to how impactful I would really be at this place. But I thought about it and bounced some ideas back and forth with my supervisor at Pepperdine, Rebecca Reed. Through her knowledge about my personal history and experiences, she helped me to see how important I could be. I gained confidence and applied. I was offered an interview. Dr. Route, the Clinical Director at Claris and Stacy Williams, the Client Services Director, conducted my interview. Aside from making the interview as comfortable as possible, they also assured me that they saw the benefits of having a male around the clinic. In fact, they explained that there is a male right now running an outreach program within Claris. It’s called Reality Check. Reality Check aims to proactively help young teens in school settings. Instead of waiting for the teens to come to the clinic, the Reality Check team goes out and talks to students in their schools. They run various activities, presentations and group therapy sessions. I learned that currently they are in a stage of innovating the ways in which they connect with students. Dr. Route and Stacy thought this would be a perfect fit for me.

I have yet to attend a ‘real’ Reality Check workday, so to speak. I have been attending trainings so far. But I am excited to know I am part of a non-profit health organization, which caringly, openly and interactively helps women and men make informed positive choices in their lives. The level of energy at Claris is abundantly clear through the team members’ efforts and enthusiasm. I am thrilled to be a part of Claris’ mission and hope that I can add another piece to their aspirations of becoming an important resource for our society.

My Experience as a Graduate Assistant

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by Akshay Mehta

Should I pursue an MFT, an MA or a Psy.D.? What are the requirements for licensure? When will I begin my internship and how long will it take to complete? What is the best way to network? These are ordinary curiosities for a graduate student. But for many, these questions seem to linger around without ever getting definite answers. It builds up in our minds to such an extent that we might find ourselves thinking of them as essay prompts. Therefore, this forces us to endlessly research about them online and/or attempt to understand them further by scheduling meetings with an expert. Sounds hectic right?

These ‘experts’ are Pepperdine’s faculty, staff and alumni. And luckily for me, I am an assistant to one of these experts. Her name is Rebecca Reed. She is the MFT Clinical Training Coordinator at the West LA Campus. She is a ‘one stop shop’ for anything related to MFT. Her genuine devotion to making sure Pepperdine students succeed easily makes her a critical and valuable resource for someone pursuing an MFT. Although she invests time and effort in everyone equally, I must brag a little about my accessibility to her as her Graduate Assistant. Not only am I able to help her in assisting other students with various needs, but by working next to her I am able to take advantage of her wisdom (stemming from over 25 years of experience at Pepperdine). I consider my assistantship to Rebecca an invaluable opportunity for which I am extremely grateful.

But the flip side of my position brings satisfaction through interaction with the students. Every new semester, Rebecca and I schedule ‘Quick Meets’ with new MA or MFT students. These are short but extremely beneficial presentations, which provide a large number of resources to ultimately help students in getting to know their program better and the various ways they can effectively excel in it. Equipped with information on private practice field trips, Pepperdine MFT workshops, career fairs and career-marketing tools, I am able to really connect with new students and witness the anxiety settle in them.

My work as a Graduate Assistant to Rebecca Reed has provided me with just as much satisfaction, knowledge and confidence as the education I have retained from my classes. With the level of support and accessibility to resources I have in my LMFT/LPCC path, it is now up to me to humbly recognize it and continue making the best of it. Because one day soon, my current experience will be seen as the foundation of my professional life.

Please also note that Quick Meets and Clinical Training Staff are present at every Pepperdine Campus. Please contact Kathleen Wenger, Manager of Clinical Training and Professional Development at the Irvine Campus, Alice Richardson, Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the Encino Campus, Andrea Lipnicki, at the Malibu Campus or Rebecca Reed, Clinical Training and Professional Development Coordinator at the WLA Campus depending on your specific campus or practicum site preferable locations.

Learning to Wait for the Marshmallow

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By Sarah E. Knapp

The Stanford marshmallow experiment—an exercise that introduced a cognitive-emotional dilemma to young children to see if they could delay their gratification—is widely known and studied in the psychological community. The children had the option to have one marshmallow now or two if they waited. This study from the late 1960s and early 1970s showed that it is not only harder for some people to wait than others, but that there seems to be a sensitive period in which children that can delay their appetite for gratification become distinct from those who cannot wait. Over the years, the marshmallow experiment has been replicated, and in a follow-up study, researcher Walter Mischel found that the children who at age 4 could wait for two marshmallows were more likely to have higher SAT scores, better jobs, lower anxiety, depression and addictionthan those who could wait. What does one’s ability to wait have to do with how well that individual will perform in life? Maybe a lot.

Children who were able operate reflectively (the ones who waited for two marshmallows) rather than impulsively  scored an average of 210 points higher on their SAT’s, were more cooperative, worked better under pressure, overreacted less to frustration, were less aggressive and had less anxiety, depression and addiction. In short, they seemed to be happier, healthier, more successful and less stressed. As some of the 4-year-olds began to learn the meaning of an if/then relationship—if you wait, then you get two— their attention to this causal sequence grew and they attained the ability to imagine the future benefits weighed against the present cost. Some children, however, did not internalize this type of relationship, and foresight for future paybacks and consequences was not well established.

The Time Paradox, by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd, discusses what our time perspective has to do with our social life, finances, education and careers, as well as with our anxiety, depression, and addictive behaviors. An empirically validated set of questions called The Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory tells us where we fall on the time perspective continuum. Though there are 5 distinct time perspectives, it is a combination of three orientations (Past-Positive, Present Hedonistic and Future) that serve us best, while the remaining two (Past-Negative and Present-Fatalist) are associated with those character attributes that tend to hold us back in life.

According to Zimbardo, we are all born Present-Hedonists (that is, self-indulgent, impulsive, focused on the pleasures of today at the sacrifice of the rewards or repercussions of tomorrow), yet many learn through various avenues to incorporate other beneficial orientations such as the Future and Past-Positive types into their lives.


zimbardo table

(Table information obtained from Zimbardo, P., & Boyd, J., October 3, 2008, Authors@Google)

People get into trouble when they are too oriented toward the Present-Fatalist and Past-Negative types. All people will have some elements of each, but it is these types that are associated with aggression, addiction, pathology, low energy, low ego strength and stress. Forfeiting internal loci of control, the Present-Fatalist doesn’t bother to study because he feels like it isn’t going to do any good anyways, while the student with overdeveloped Present-Hedonism goes out with friends the night before a final (this is also the type of student that may commit to writing an article for their school’s psychology newsletter when they should know that they have a midterm coming up and will have difficulty getting it done on time). It is the student with the Future time perspective that allots their time wisely, thinks about their obligations, sets a goal, thinks about what needs to be done to obtain that goal, and then follows through.

internet vs paper

People who are more Future oriented also tend to have better health as a result of not smoking or excessively drinking, and obtaining medical care. Researchers Kern and Freidman (2008) determined that Future-oriented individuals have higher levels of conscientiousness, which is directly correlated with a longer life span.

The good news is that you can change your time perspective and gain a more balanced place on the continuum. There were a lot of factors that helped contribute to your current view and it will take work to alter those. Even factors such as socioeconomic status and how close one lives to the equator can contribute to time orientation. A single mother living in severe poverty may have a realistically Present-Fatalist ideal that the future looks hopeless, but when she internalizes that perspective her child begins to do so as well, creating a cyclical effect. When you live in a place with varying weather patterns (i.e. not near the equator), you internalize the idea that you must plan for the future season for your survival. It is these sometimes-subtle circumstances that can make our time perspective seem fixed, but it is not.

Too much of any one type will not pay off. Balance is key. After taking Zimbardo’s Time Perspective Inventory, you can determine how balanced your outlook really is. You may wish to become more Future-oriented. According to Zimbardo and Boyd, you can practice delaying gratification. The next time you want that cookie, tell yourself that you will wait 20 minutes first. It is not about the cookie, it is about practicing waiting and forcing yourself to think about it in the future tense. You can also come up with a goal and chart your progress. You are practicing waiting and it may be harder than it seems for Present- or Past-oriented individuals. If you don’t wear a watch, start doing so. Try to avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Focus on all that it takes between wanting something and obtaining it. Work hard to lead a stable lifestyle so that when uncertainties do come up, you can have reasonable expectations of what the future holds.

If you are too Past- or Future-oriented (being too Future-oriented can lead to working too much and missing out on valuable interpersonal relationships), you may wish to increase your Present time perspective. This is the good part of living in the moment. Zimbardo and Boyd suggest practicing relaxation and spontaneity. Spend time with pets and kids, go to Las Vegas or unwind with a drink now and again. If you are looking to increase your Past orientation, slow down and listen to other peoples’ stories. It may prove helpful to create a family tree to reconnect yourself with your past, or observe traditions that you did as a child. Zimbardo and Boyd offer many other concrete and evidence-based practices for becoming more balanced in The Time Paradox.

It took time to become who we are, and it will take time and practice to get to where we want to be. You may now have a goal in mind for being more balanced and focusing more on the past, present or future than you have been; nonetheless, remember to enjoy yourself and the time you have no matter how or where you focus it. If you want to change, work at it. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “Time is a tool, not a couch.” Make your time work for you.


Kern, M. L., & Friedman, H. S. (2008). Do conscientious individuals live longer? A quantitative review. Health Psychology, 27(5), 505-512. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.27.5.505


Zimbardo, P., & Boyd, J. (2008). The time paradox: The new psychology of time that will change your life. New York, NY US: Free Press.


Navigating the PhD Application Process: An interview with Robert Byrom

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As students in Pepperdine’s GSEP program, you have probably considered what comes next after graduation. Some of you will get licensed as Marriage and Family Therapists, and others will go on to attend Doctoral school. Hoping to help shed some light on the application process for next year’s applicants, we caught up with Robert, who, starting next fall, will be pursuing a PhD in Counseling Psychology at the University of Nebraska.

How many schools did you apply to?

As many as I could afford, which ended up being fewer than I would have initially liked. After factoring in the application fees, score reporting fees, transcript request fees, and whatever amount you consider justifiable for your hourly rate, you are looking at roughly 100+ dollars per application. For some (more affluent) people, this may be small change, but for most graduate students it can be a daunting blow to the personal finances. If I had started saving a year in advance, putting away 100 bucks each month, I would have comfortably been able to apply to 10 schools. Instead, I whittled down my top 10 choices into a top 4 and took my chances. This ended up working in my favor, because I really focused in on the specific aspects of the programs that I most wanted to attend, in a way that would have been more difficult with 10+ applications.

How much time did the application process take?

A lot. First, there was the research phase. I researched many more schools than I ended up applying to, just to make sure my target programs were definitely those where I would be likely to fit in well. My research efforts took at least a hundred hours, spread out over several months. Next, there was the time spent on personal statements (conceptualization, deciding what to include or not, writing the statement, and editing it). Only the very luckiest, or most calculating, individuals will be able to reuse their personal statements for each of their applications. After research and statement writing, there were still applications to fill out, letters of rec to request, and departments to contact about funding. Thankfully, I had already taken the GRE or that would have been another important time constraint. Start early!

Did you know what you wanted to research when you applied?

I did. I’m fascinated by intrigue, intrigued by curiosity, and curious about fascination. In short, I find whatever it is (within us or without) that grasps our respective attentions and holds those reins tightly is of extreme interest to me. The best instructors (both inside and outside of the ivory towers of academia) I have ever had have been deeply interested in their preferred subject matters, and were thus interesting to be around. Beyond that, I am interested in remaining as much of a generalist as possible, which is difficult given the ever-increasing preference given to specialists in modern society.

What was the interview process like for you?

I was pretty nervous leading up to interview day, but was equally intent on having a good time and counting my blessings for having been offered a chance to go and meet with everyone else who was hoping to gain admittance into the program. I can only speculate, but my hope is that this proclivity for maintaining a positive attitude really came through during the various interviews.

What was your favorite part of the interview process?

I really loved the way the interview day I attended was structured. The day started at 9am and ended at 5pm, and each interviewee had only three 15 minute interviews (one with each full-time faculty member). In the middle of the day, there was a tour of the on-campus counseling center. This left several hours to get to know the other applicants and to get a feel for what it might be like to be in a doctoral cohort with them. In a funny turn of fate, the two people I spent the most time talking to were also admitted, so we are already (very loosely) acquainted with one another.

What (if anything) would you do differently if you had the chance?

I accepted the offer of admission in less than 24 hours despite having an interview for another program the Friday of that week (which I courteously canceled). A friend in another doctoral program advised me to attend the second interview and leverage any potential admissions offer for more funding from the program that I most wanted to attend. If I had the chance to do it again, I would consider attending the other program’s interview day and attempting to navigate that process of negotiation, if only for learning’s sake.

What advice would you give to students who are about to apply to Doctoral school?

First, before you apply, figure out what your wants and needs are in terms of program. Do you want a program that has great funding or can you afford to pay out of pocket for your education? Is there an area that you want to restrict your search to (for family or other reasons, like not wanting to leave sunny California) or are you willing to relocate just about anywhere if you and the program match well? The main advice I would give is to know yourself, know the impact you want to make on the world, and pursue programs that will support your doing just that. In the meantime, soak up what you are learning in classes and engage with the professors in meaningful ways, because you are almost always as interesting as you are interested.

“Could you repeat that?” Students offer their insights on navigating tough questions during the in-person interview

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By Katy Byrom, GA


After tireless networking and seemingly endless revisions to your CV and personal statement, you’ve arrived at the in-person interview. You’re sitting across from a potential supervisor, giving it your all, and trying to keep cool about the subtle, yet wondrous revelation that things are actually going rather well. Your answers are rolling smoothly off your tongue, and somehow, your research and clinical experience sounds more impressive today than usual. Better yet, you seem to have woken up on the witty side of the bed, as evidenced by the laugh track coming from the other side of the table. You almost start to enjoy yourself, when, all of a sudden, your interviewer throws a googly of a question your way and catches you completely off guard.

With a number of students having recently made their way through the application cycle for clinical internships and doctoral programs, we thought we’d do some espionage to find out the types of questions next year’s applicants might expect as they post their credentials for internships and coveted places within doctoral programs. So, we chased down some of our fellow Pepperdine students and scoured the internet to find some of the toughest queries our peers faced during the interview process, as well as how thy handled them. Here’s the breakdown:


According to Bobby, a current student on the MA track, one of the toughest questions he faced while applying to doctoral programs in Counseling Psychology came from the Chair of the department at his top choice school. “After asking a question that revealed an enthusiasm to be of service to others (not uncharacteristic of psychologists-in-training), my interviewer responded with a pointed question of his own regarding how I would effectively maintain my personal boundaries in light of others’ needs and wants.

While many people have already navigated this terrain, upholding my personal needs has proven to be a difficult area for me. I offered my best and most honest response, feeling a bit sheepish about its somewhat nascent articulation. The lesson is this: You are going to be interviewed by psychologists, and psychologists are (in my experience) quite skilled at seeing through to the core of a person. Be yourself, and plan accordingly.”


Says the author of the blog, How to apply to clinical psychology PhD programs: Practical advice for someone who’s done it…three times, “On one of my interviews, my potential advisor talked about how great my current job sounded, and wondered why the hell I would want to quit and go to grad school.

It really threw me off, because my real answer at that very moment would have been “Oh god, you don’t know the half of it, my job is terrible right now and this is currently my only way out!” No… wrong answer. I told her it was a good question, then took a moment to think about the real, logical answers why I’d want to go to grad school. Closer mentorship. More involvement in data analysis and interpretation. More opportunities for theoretical, rather than just practical learning. There were better answers, and I just gave myself a moment to find them. The point is, anticipate that there may be tough questions, just keep your cool, come up with the best, most succinct answer you can, and move on.”


Says recent MA in Psychology graduate Larissa, “I think I went into the interviews prepared for the general questions regarding my different experiences and work history, why I wanted to study counseling psychology and what I wanted to do after completing the program.  I didn’t plan for the following two questions:  1) What would your dissertation title be and why? 2) What population do you think will be the most challenging or difficult for you to work with?

The first question was the hardest because I had never really thought about dissertation topics.  It seems so far in the future and is something that is going to change depending on where you get in, who you are working with and what other experiences you have during the course of the program.  Unfortunately, I had to scramble up something on the spot.  I wish I had prepared to talk about a more precise and specific area of interest (e.g. PTSD and substance abuse in college-aged women) within the larger area of interest (e.g. substance abuse).  It is really important to be clear in your exact interest and goals and make sure the programs you apply to fit these goals. The research projects that faculty are working on now and have lined up for the future are what are relevant, not what they have done in the past.  They are looking for those who share their research interest and can discuss that particular area of research with a deeper level of understanding.”


For my part, I can recall a potential supervisor who asked, simply, “Dog, cat, or cow?”

I get it…now. The interviewers were bent on administering Rorschach, the results of which would reveal whether I was fun-loving and loyal, sassy and demanding, or hardworking and practical. But in truth, the barnyard metaphor didn’t speak to me, and I struggled to answer the question in those terms. In retrospect, I wish I had had the gumption simply to say that I prefer the intellectual and physical companionship of other humans to those of the bovine, feline, or canine variety. During the actual interview, however, I got stuck in the moment and sputtered an inarticulate and much too sentimental response about coming from a family of cat lovers. (I was about 4 words into my anecdote before I clued into the strong signal my interviewers were giving off that they were dog people. No question about it.). My answer fell flat, and I lost the audience. Disheartened, I stumbled through a few more questions before the lead interviewer abruptly ended the session, glancing at his collaborator and stating, disinterestedly, “Well, I’m good. You?” Her complicit nod told me there would be no solicitation of questions from my side of the table, nor would there be a sympathetic offering of hope that generally comes in the form of, “We’ll let you know.” Clearly, this door was closed. Forever.

On the way home from the interview, I went through all the stages of grief – denying the fact that I would have wanted to work there anyway, blaming my failure to land the gig on the interviewers’ inane line of questioning, and getting angry with myself that I had offered such lame responses. As a method of self-soothing, I thought of at least 12 different answers I could have given to the cat/dog/cow question, all of which would surely have knocked their socks off. Then I got a bit more realistic in coming to terms with the fact that what had been missing from the interview. In truth, I had been uncomfortable from the beginning. The office gave off a vibe that seemed a bit too immaculate and cold to me. There were no smiles or even acknowledgements from the passersby in the reception area. I entered the interview room already doubting my fit for the place. Clearly, I didn’t show my potential supervisors what they were looking for in a candidate, but I didn’t really show them much of who I am was, either. Therein lay the missed opportunity. Somewhere on my 30 minute drive home, I realized that I had been checked out of the interview from the beginning, voicing answers to their questions, but not responding to them authentically. C’est la vie.

Coming to a point of acceptance, I turned my cognitions toward the future. I thought about what I would do the next time I came face-to-face with the interview questionnaire version of a grizzly bear. Now, I’d like to think I would rise to the challenge simply by being where I was, even if this meant saying, in response to whether I was a cat, dog, or cow (or wolf, sheep, or goatherd, etc.), “I’ve never thought to align myself with any of those labels. Let me think through the repercussions a bit. Here goes…”

In the time since the barnyard incident (as I’ve since begun to refer to the “cat, dog, or cow” exchange), I’ve braved interviews with similarly daunting questions (e.g., “Tell me something about yourself that you don’t want me to know.”). I’ve even landed a position or two. I suppose that the difference between then and now – likely as a result of my time at Pepperdine – is that I have learned to be more authentic, which sometimes means stopping for a moment to think things through. With that in mind, I don’t experience many qualms about taking a beat – even during an interview – to think about my response to a tough question. Nor do I hesitate to reframe a query using terms in which I am more naturally inclined to speak. Not surprisingly, my comfort level during an interview grows with the level of authenticity both parties bring to it. Chances are, if I’m not feeling comfortable during the interview process, I’m not a proper for the agency, and neither are they a good fit for me. I’ve learned to take it in stride that I won’t be right for every position, trusting that I will be right for the right job.


As students, we may not be prepared for every question our interviewers will throw our way as we audition for a doctoral program or traineeship, but there are certain strategies we can keep in mind to help us maintain our composure when thrown a curve ball. From brushing up on hot topics in psychology to having a few impactful clinical experiences in mind, the following resources provide a wealth of advice for nailing the in-person interview: