Evolution of Psychotherapy 2013: A View from the Student Seats

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By Katy Byrom, GA

Bounding into the Anaheim Convention Center for the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference this past November, I felt as if I had stepped through the looking glass. All of a sudden, the personalities I had read about in my basic theory textbooks were sharing the same line for the ladies’ room. It was difficult at times not to be star struck; “Hi, Marsha! I just loved you in that DBT demonstration!” Recapping the experience with some fellow Pepperdine students who were also in attendance – all of us new to field after switching gears from a previous career path – it is plain that this conference will go down in our memory books as the one that reeled us in.

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The microcosm that is the Evolution of Psychotherapy is so well crafted that it often feels as big as the field itself – CBT, DBT, mindfulness-based therapy, Buddhist psychology, positive psychology, hypnosis, neuropsychology, child, couples, and family psychology were all seated at the table. At certain times, the dinner conversation got contentious, as with the debate between Scott Miller and Steven Hayes over whether technique or the ability to adapt to client feedback is the secret ingredient within effective therapy. At other times, things got quirky, as when Bill O’Hanlon demonstrated the power of group think by showing a clip of a lone rebel, who –engaged in some awkward rhythmic-type flailing at the edge of a reggae concert – started a dance revolution among the crowd that first trickled in to mock him, but then flocked to avoid being left out of the fun. Sometimes things got pretty out there, as with Ernest Rossi, whose ideas on the epigenetics of creating new consciousness are so big that even he got lost amid the beautiful expanse. There were moments of genuine sweetness, as in every time the Gottmans were in the same room together. There were some squirm-worthy moments as well, like when a certain member of the audience attempted to commandeer the entire post-presentation Q&A to plug his nascent manuscript on abuses of power within clinical practice (Note: Don’t be that conference attendee). Fortunately, to re-center yourself, you could simply meander down the hall to where Jack Kornfield was emanating the deep and ancient glow of the compassionate Buddhist.

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Among the takeaways from this year’s conference is that it’s an exciting time to want to be a therapist, although it’s difficult to know whether the field is burgeoning with a wave of new findings from neuroscience or dying out – an impending casualty of insufficiently trained therapists operating under the burden of managed care. I suppose it depends on which room you’re seated in – the one where Daniel Siegel is unriddling the adolescent brain with the jubilance of a Halleluiah chorus, or the one where Scott Miller is inciting an emergency mobilization around the elephant in the room – namely, that therapy is no more effective today than it was 60 years ago. Despite the shaky view of the future of psychotherapy, the torrent of ideas waltzing and colliding across the ballrooms of the expansive Anaheim Convention Center left me reeling with anticipation at being among the next generation to jump into the fray and help determine the direction in which the field will shift.

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For me, the definite highlight was the generosity of spirit sprinkled over the conference attendees by the older generations – Minuchin, Meichenbaum, Yalom, and Beck, among others – who still very clearly relished the mystery of what happens between therapist and client. Having long ago carved out their places within the field, they had nothing to prove, but much to give away in terms of wisdom accrued over the decades of working as clinicians and researchers. It seemed that those personalities whose reputations warranted the greatest reverence did the most to demystify their practices and laugh at themselves. Don Meichenbaum, for instance, insisted that he learned all he needed to know from the 1980’s T.V. sleuth Columbo, and repeatedly offered that the best skill a therapist could have is the ability to play dumb. Salvador Minuchin promised to show us at least half of everything he knew in 7 minutes. I cannot say whether he accomplished this feat, but he made an impression with his ability to help families deeply entrenched in a particular way of interacting to see each other anew. Irvin Yalom, with his masterful narrative style, told stories from inside the therapy room, where he seemed to revel in the experience of shape-shifting between existential healer and confounded novice (often within the course of a single session) as he fielded the unique challenges posed to him by clients young and old. Then there was the venerable Aaron Beck, up-close-and personal via Skype, whose work in integrating cognitive theory to apply to diverse populations is still very much at the forefront of ushering in the next evolution of psychotherapy. Apart from their remarkably keen minds and prolific bodies of work, what impressed me about each of these speakers was their humanity – their capacity to look with the eyes of a child to discover the unique strengths of each client. Drinking in the wisdom of these giants, I felt a sense of urgency to prepare myself for living up to the privilege of standing upon their shoulders.

Want a further taste of the 2013 Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference? Session handouts are available at http://www.evolutionofpsychotherapy.com/handouts/. A full conference DVD will also be available later this year at https://erickson-foundation.org/store/.


Introducing MAPS: A support group for Pepperdine students navigating their way through an MA in Psychology

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By Katy Byrom & Robert Byrom, GAs

A new student organization has formed on Pepperdine’s Irvine Campus! MAPS is a collaborative peer-mentoring group created to support Pepperdine MA students in psychology as they complete their programs and prepare for what comes next. While some of our meetings will be geared specifically toward those students who are interested in pursuing a PhD or PsyD after graduation, we aim to be a resource and social network for students across the MAP and MFT routes and fully encourage students from both tracks to get involved.


Some topics of interest that MAPS intends to tackle include:

  • Accruing clinical competencies

  • Developing research skills and experience

  • Networking and participating in academic conferences

  • Preparing for PsyD/PhD applications and interviews

  • Building a vibrant, supportive community of graduate psychology students across Irvine and other GSEP campuses

  • Trying to determine what the MAPS acronym stands for (Our member Josh is wagering that it stands for Masters of Awesome in Psychological Services)

Whether you accurately guess the meaning of the acronym or not, you are very much invited to join us!

How to Get Your MAPS On:

Come to Meetings: The MAPS cohort meets on the last Thursday of each month at 3:00pm in room 333 at the Irvine Graduate Campus (IGC).

Contact the Organizers: The group was organized by Katy Byrom (katy.byrom@pepperdine.edu) and Victoria Nelson (victoria.nelson@pepperdine.edu), and is sponsored by GSEP faculty member Kathleen Wenger. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions!

Attend Social Stuff: Below is the link to the newly formed MAPS Pepperdine Meetup, where members (unabashedly referred to as Peppy Scholars) can go to generate invitations and post RSVPs to study groups, rideshares to other campuses, upcoming trainings or conferences, group volunteer opportunities, social events, research teams, happy hours, dinner soirees, and other essential grad student activities.


We thank you for staying with us to the bottom of this announcement and look forward to plotting our course through the MA in psychology program together! Join us for our next meeting, Thursday, March 27th, @3pm in IGC Room 333.

There’s a First Time for Everything, Again: Experiencing Déjà vu

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By Sarah E. Knapp

The sloping corners of an oak bedroom dresser ascend sharply until they meet at the tip of the Gothic structure. As if in prayer, the arms jut abruptly toward the sky as the corners weep down. The piece of furniture sits equidistant between a window that appears top heavy with ornamentation, and a red brick keystone doorway. Now, hold this thought.

Have you ever experienced déjà vu (DV)? Most have. Approximately 65% of adults and 79% of students (Funkhouser & Schredl, 2010) have encountered the feeling of a “subjectively inappropriate impression of familiarity of a present experience with an undefined past” (Neppe, 1983).  There are several different hypotheses regarding the occurrence of déjà vu in healthy persons (those without neurological or pathological disorders), yet the familiarity-based recognition hypothesis has received recent attention and credence.

Of Gestalt origins, this hypothesis suggests that the way a certain scene is visually configured may incite feelings of déjà vu in an observer who has seen a similarly constructed scene in the past, although the memory of that scene is no longer available to recall. Collaborative researchers from 4 major U.S. universities recently looked into the familiarity hypothesis using virtual reality technology to ascertain the importance of a three dimensional experience on the occurrence of déjà vu. Additionally, for the first time, these researchers sought to induce in a laboratory setting the simultaneous feeling of both newness and familiarity that characterizes DV (Cleary et al., 2012).

In the first of two experiments conducted by Cleary et al. (2012), college students participated in a two-part task involving original (or “primary”) scenes and an equal number of similarly configured scenes. Each was precisely matched to its counter to mimic a sort of visual stage that was hoped to incite a feeling of DV. For example, a virtually animated 3-D primary scene of a bowling alley that shows the lane, rows of chairs, and certain background architecture may be matched with an airport scene that shows like structural elements (rows of chairs, a long empty aisle, parallel architecture, etc.). The elements are placed in the same relative configuration as in the primary image (Cleary et al., 2012).

For the first part of the experiment, Cleary and colleagues used 3-D virtual reality goggles to introduce primary scenes. A title of the scene (such as “bedroom”) was revealed to the participant. In the second part of experiment 1, the corresponding similarly constructed 3-D virtual scene was presented to the participant, three questions were asked. 1) Is the scene familiar? 2) Can you recall the name of a primary scene that it may be similar to? 3) Are you experiencing déjà vu? These questions served as an important part of the first experiment. The ability of the participant to associate the scene with a previously viewed primary scene suggested that the individual retained a conscious memory of that scene. Individuals who scored scenes as being highly familiar, yet did not believe that it had been previously seen (as a primary image) were more likely to report that the task incited a feeling of déjà vu. This indicates that one’s inability to recall a previously viewed scene is a factor in eliciting déjà vu when a structurally similar scene is introduced (Cleary et al., 2012).

Experiment 2 started with a new set of participants and was conducted in nearly the same manner as the first; however, when the participants viewed scenes in the second round of the experiment, some scenes were unaltered from the first (they were not reconfigured to be similar, they were unchanged) and others were again reconfigured to be different scenes with similar elements as in experiment 1. Researchers found that when participants viewed a scene identical to that which they previously viewed, but could not recall having viewed it, they were more likely to experience déjà vu. This was true even compared to those participants who viewed scenes with similar features to those they had previously seen yet did not make the connection (such as in experiment 1). The fact that participants’ likelihood of experiencing déjà vu was greater when re-viewing forgotten scenes lends credibility to the familiarity-based hypothesis (Cleary et al., 2012).

The findings of this study are exciting on several levels. This is the first of its kind to provide quantitative evidence that an individual’s surroundings, as configured by similar spatial elements, can be perceived as familiar in a 3-D environment, even when no recall of the originally experienced space is retrievable in memory. In addition, for the first time in an artificial environment, the feeling that a situation has “oldness” yet is entirely new has been successfully mimicked under laboratory conditions. This inherently difficult-to-study phenomenon may be more accessible to future researchers as a result of this model. Lastly, the second experiment lends weight to the familiarity-based hypothesis with the finding that an identical scene that cannot be recalled is still even more likely to induce déjà vu than a scene that is just very similar. Though impressive, a laboratory cannot substitute for the impact that a truly unrecallable memory can have on the occurrence of déjà vu (Cleary et al., 2012).

Now, back to the dresser, window and door. Imagine, as if perfectly placed upon a grid in the mind’s eye, these three separate objects suddenly click into their place like puzzle pieces. Now, imagine that instead of those three objects, a fireplace, framed oil painting and keystone-shaped bookcase replace their exact location and formation within a room. The sloping corners of an elaborate fireplace mantle ascend sharply until they meet at the tip of the Gothic structure. As if in prayer, the arms jut abruptly toward the sky as the corners weep down. The fireplace sits equidistant between an oil painting that appears top heavy with an ornately decorated frame, and a keystone-shaped shelving unit. Each is of nearly precise size and shape as the dresser, window and door, and is arranged in the same spatial configuration.

The cognitive processes are overwhelmed by an illusory recognition of the surroundings, creating a feeling that this moment has been lived before. In a room infused with ambiguous familiarity, the feeling that time has been interrupted sets in and a profound ambivalence begins to overpower the senses. This is both old and new. This is déjà vu.

Cleary, A. M., Brown, A. S., Sawyer, B. D., Nomi, J. S., Ajoku, A. C., & Ryals, A. J. (2012). Familiarity from the configuration of objects in 3-dimensional space and its relation to déjà vu: A virtual reality investigation. Consciousness And Cognition: An International Journal, 21(2), 969-975. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2011.12.010

Funkhouser, A., & Schredl, M. (2010). The frequency of déjà vu (déjà rêve) and the effects of age, dream recall frequency and personality factors. International Journal Of Dream Research, 3(1), 60-64.

Neppe, V. M. (1983). The Psychology of Déjà Vu: Have I Been Here Before? Witwatersrand University Press.

Faculty Spotlight: Shannon Wilson, Psy.D.

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“A teacher enlarges people in all sorts of ways besides just his subject matter.” – Wallace Stegner

As students, many of us possess a great deal of curiosity about the unknown lives of our professors – the journeys that led them to their present careers and what it is that they do outside of the classroom to fuel the wisdom and insight they bring to the podium. Recently, we touched base with Shannon Wilson, PsyD – who teaches PSY 659 (Behavioral Principles and Theories of Learning) and PSY 603 (Assessment of Individuals, Couples, and Families) at GSEP’s Irvine campus – to get a glimpse of her interests and work outside of Pepperdine. Here’s what she had to say…

What are your primary clinical interests?

Depression and anxiety in adolescents and adults; core beliefs; assessment.

Do you have a particular theoretical orientation?

If I had to put myself in one category, I’d say CBT is what I practice most.

Are you currently working on any research? If so, what is the focus of your research?

Yes!  I am supervising research with current Pepperdine students, focusing on the effects of laptops/cell phones (different types of technology) that may alter classroom dynamics and attention/focus levels.  I also have a very exciting opportunity coming up for our students where we will look at archival data focusing on therapy session attendance/no show rates in diverse populations; we will be looking at numerous possible correlational variables such as length of assessment period, connection/rapport with caregivers, SES levels with special focus on transportation issues, diagnoses, extent of distress, etc.

Who/what inspired you to get into your current profession?

I started off pre-med but realized my talent was in psychology.  I was soon inspired by the experiences of really helping people to live happier lives without so much suffering.  The connection I feel with my clients and students inspires me and provides much satisfaction in my profession.

One piece of advice you have for students working toward their MA in psychology?

If I could grab hold of every single student and teach them one thing only, it would be to always follow your heart and gut instincts and BE YOURSELF.  I see so many students trying to please the “profession,” trying to be what they think they should be instead of just being themselves and knowing that who they are is perfect, just the way they are.  Many of our students applying to doctoral programs attempt to mold themselves into what they think the schools are looking for instead of walking in there knowing the schools are lucky to have them.  Obviously they need to have the proper schooling, grades, experience, etc., but they forget they are okay just the way they are.

What’s the best piece of advice you received during your clinical training?

HA!  When I was faced with a decision to do what I wanted to do and what I felt was right for me versus what I was expected and told to do, some very wise person I will forever be grateful to said “Shannon, just be you…you are the best you that you can be.”  And so I did.  And I was.

One fun/interesting fact about you?

My favorite TV show is Judge Judy…I never miss an episode! My kids also have me looming (making those rubber band bracelets) constantly on the weekends; they bring me orders from all of their friends.  I am a very popular mom right now. 

Something that inspires you?

My clients that really have extremely difficult lives in numerous ways and they keep trying, keep going.

Something that turns you off?

People that have no compassion or empathy for others; lack of common sense.

If you could have dinner with anyone in history, past or present, who would it be?

I would love to have dinner with my maternal grandfather who died when I was three months old.  I want to see what he was like, his mannerisms, his humor.

What book is currently on your nightstand?  

Princess Bedtime Stories and Dragon Slayer’s Academy.  You asked!

If your life were a literary work, what would it be called?

The Mommy Who Wanted To Freeze Time So She Could Take a Nap.

What do you need to start your day?

Enough sleep! I wish I was a coffee drinker!

How do you unwind at the end of your day?

Watch Judge Judy!  Haha!  Actually, my husband and I can’t wait to get the kids into bed so we can just relax; it’s our golden time and there’s never enough of it, but that’s my favorite time of day.  The kids are safe, clean and cozy in their beds, and we get to finally relax.  Also, my blind, snorting pug snuggles with me and that relaxes me instantly!

What food can you not live without?

Mexican food!!

When I’m not teaching or seeing clients, you can find me…

Spending time with my family.

Favorite quote/words to live by?

“That’s not okay,” “that doesn’t work for me,” and “100% worthy, just the way you are.”

Faculty Spotlight: Andria Glasser Das, Psy.D.

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A teacher enlarges people in all sorts of ways besides just his subject matter. – Wallace Stegner

As students, many of us possess a great deal of curiosity about the unknown lives of our professors – the journeys that led them to their present careers and what it is that they do outside of the classroom to fuel the wisdom and insight they bring to the podium. Recently, we touched base with Andria Glasser Das, PsyD, who teaches Assessment of Intelligence at GSEP’s West LA campus, to get a glimpse of her interests and work outside of Pepperdine. Here’s what she had to say…

What are your primary clinical interests?

The main focus of my clinical practice is psychoeducational assessment, in which I seek to find out why a child or adolescent is having trouble in school.  My assessments include evaluation of cognitive, executive and adaptive functioning, visual and auditory processing and memory and language abilities.

Do you have a particular theoretical orientation?

No, but I frequently use Cognitive-Behavioral interventions in my treatment recommendations.

Are you currently working on any research? If so, what is the focus of your research?

About 12 years ago, I started writing a book called “Marriage After Motherhood,” about the impact of children on the marital relationship.  As part of my research for the book, I launched an online survey through which I obtained nearly 200 participants.  The survey yielded great statistics as well as a wealth of qualitative information.  Unfortunately, I haven’t put in the time necessary to finish the book.  Maybe someday…

Who or what inspired you to get into your current profession?

I enjoyed assessment from my first class in graduate school.  I noticed that most of my peers did not share my enthusiasm for the subject so I thought it might be a good niche for me.  Assessment suits my personality and my lifestyle.  It is highly structured but not rigid.  There is flexibility in the selection of instruments for each individual battery.  There is art in not only the interpretation and synthesis of test scores, but also in the administration and scoring of tests, while still maintaining standard protocol.  I love the process of discovery—where each new test exposes information that confirms or refutes my hypotheses, or suggests new ones.  It is like a mystery that unfolds revealing not only the client’s deficits, but their strengths as well.  I like figuring out ways to leverage a client’s strengths to compensate for their weaknesses and help them maximize their potential. Also, as a mother of 2 children, I appreciate the flexibility that assessment offers in terms of making my own schedule.  Since the bulk of assessment work is scoring, interpretation and report writing, much of my work can be done at home.  I try and schedule clients for test administration during the day while my kids are at school and then I can be home by the time they get home.  I’m working, but I’m home.

One piece of advice you have for students working toward their MA in psychology?

Actively participate in your classes as much as possible.  Your professors will be among those who will write your letters of recommendation for doctoral programs, clinical placements or jobs.  The more familiar they are with you, the more specific they will be able to be in their letters.  Also, the more they know you, the more likely they will be to take on the role of mentor, serving as a resource for your professional development.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I have a birthmark on my knee that disappears when pressed.


What’s something that inspires you?

I am inspired when I see young people who have put in the time and dedication to excel in something beyond school, whether in music, art, dance, athletics, robotics or in launching a business idea.


Something that turns you off?

Seeing children glued to electronics.  I have seen toddlers in restaurants or in their strollers with a Nintendo DS or an iPad.  These devices are used by parents the same way that TV was used a generation ago—as a babysitter, keeping the child occupied and quiet.  This is even more dangerous though, because these devices are portable so a child (or parent) is often never without them.  I don’t think that kind of constant stimulation is good for the developing brain or for social development.


What book is currently on your nightstand?

“Eat, Pray, Love.”  It is not the kind of book I usually read.  I am more of a James Patterson or Jonathan Kellerman murder mystery kind of person.  However, I took a continuing education class in mindfulness and the instructor showed the class Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on the nature of creative genius.  She was such a compelling speaker and showed such amazing insight that I decided to give the book a try.  I am really enjoying it.


What do you need to start your day?

I need more sleep, but usually a chocolate muffin will have to suffice.


How do you unwind at the end of your day?

I play a couple of rounds of QuizUp on my phone (usually the Psychology category) followed by a couple of games of solitaire, also on my phone.  Or I read until my eyes start closing.


When I’m not teaching or seeing clients, you can find me…

My children are very involved in music so a lot of my time is spent at high school football games, concerts or competitions.  My older daughter is in her high school marching band, jazz band, concert band, mariachi group and drumline.  She plays tenor sax, oboe, mellophone, trumpet and vibes.  My younger daughter is in her middle school jazz band, concert band and mariachi group.  She sings and plays trombone and trumpet.  They usually have some musical event on the weekend that I want to go to.  I work on my writing when I feel inspired—either “Marriage After Motherhood,” a novel I’ve been working on for several years, or just short articles or anecdotal pieces.  Recently, a friend invited me to bingo night with a group of women that has been meeting once a month for 16 years.  It seems like an “old lady” thing to do, but it was a lot of fun and I won some good prizes (chocolate bars and a GoGo pillow) and I’m getting to be an old lady anyway, so this might become a permanent fixture in my social calendar.


Favorite words to live by?

“There but for the grace of God, go I.”  Keeping this sentiment in mind helps me in both my professional and my personal lives by increasing my empathy, reminding me to avoid judgment and allowing me to feel connected with people regardless of their situation.

Encino Graduate Campus Spring 2014 Calendar

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Clinical Connections w/Carla Elia, Ph.D.: “Psychosocial Implications of Living with HIV/AIDS”: Saturday, March 8, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Clinical Connections w/David Wadman, LMFT: “New Information on the MFT Exams”: Date TBA

Clinical Connections w/Patrick Madden, M.A., LEP: “The Magic of Metaphor”: Saturday, April 5, 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

West LA Career & Practicum Fair: Tuesday, March 4, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., West LA Campus

Coffee Talk w/Alice Richardson, LMFT: “LPCC Information Meeting & Powerpoint”: February 10, 18, 24, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (3 dates at the same time)

New MACLP Student Meeting: January 21, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Practicum Meeting: February 18, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Intern Registration Meeting: April 17, 4:15 – 5:30 p.m.

West LA Graduate Campus Spring 2014 Events

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Clinical Connections w/Ilona Strasser, LMFT: “Working with Teens: Techniques & Strategies for Individuals, Dyads & Groups”: Friday, February 7, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Clinical Connections w/Lara Garibian, LMFT: “Navigating the World of Community Mental Health: Developing Clinical Skills, Practicing Self-Care and Getting Appropriate Training”: Friday, March 7, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Clinical Connections w/Petar Sardelich, LMFT, PT, MAC: “Therapists & Clients: Why and How You Should Care About Legitimate Suffering”: Friday, April 4, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Coffee Talk w/Sheila Sayani, LMFT: “Preparing to be a Trainee”: Friday, February 21, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

New MACLP Student Meeting: Wednesday, January 23, 5:30 p.m.

Practicum/Career Fair: Wednesday, March 5, 12:00 p.m.

Tips for a Successful Practicum Experience: Thursday, March 20, 5:00 p.m.

Intern Registration Meeting: Monday, March 31, 7:15 p.m.