Student Spotlight

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.

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.

Student Spotlight with Sergio Enriquez

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Interview by Courtney Crisp


Tell us a little about yourself!

My name is Sergio Enriquez and I am a police officer for the City of Santa Ana, 22 years of service. I was born in Los Angeles, but raised in Downey, CA. I live in Santa Ana with my wife Liz and my 13-year-old daughter Savina.

What brought you to Pepperdine/the field of psychology?

With respect to psychology, I like to think that psychology chose me and not the other way around. I served 17 years before I decided to back to school to pursue my undergrad in psychology. After reaching the halfway point of my career, I wanted to study a discipline that would enhance my understanding of people in general, as well as being able to understand my own experiences.

I selected Pepperdine because of its reputation amongst professionals in the mental health field, as well as the flexibility in class schedules.

What are you hoping to do/who are you hoping to work with after you receive your Pepperdine degree?

I would like to obtain a PsyD so I can work with the law enforcement community in selecting new recruits, create wellness programs, and work with peer support groups during critical incidents.

What has been your favorite Pepperdine class so far and why?

Anne Kerbrat’s group therapy class (PSY 606). I appreciated getting to know everyone in class at a level that I may never again experience. I also enjoyed the diversity of our respective backgrounds. It gave me an opportunity to be an ambassador of law enforcement, thereby embracing the opportunity to show another side of my profession.

What have you learned from other students at Pepperdine?

That diversity in ideas with the ability to be open can yield far more learning than you ever intended.

What is your favorite quote?

I have two…”stand up for what’s right, even if you stand alone”

“It’s not about how hard you get knocked down, it’s about how fast you get up”

Who has been the biggest influence on your life?

My father because he taught me about staying true to my word.

What might people be surprised to know about you?

Two things – I love taking care of my trees and I’m a book hoarder.

Where is your go-to relaxation spot on your nights off?

The dinner table with my wife and daughter.

What is your favorite food?

 Anything that goes well with red wine.