Published: January 17, 2017
Tell me a little about what led to your decision to get a master’s degree from Pacific Oaks.
One inspiration was watching the compassion of a nurse I encountered while in the service. I was injured in Iraq and woke up in the hospital surrounded by people I had been in combat with. One person in particular had 90 degree burns all over his body and just did not want to live anymore. One nurse asked him if there was anything she could do and he asked her to transcribe a letter to his wife. She would show up every day after her shift and write for him and I thought, “What an amazing person she is to do this for him.”
Also, toward the end of my career in the Marine Corps, I volunteered to become a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO). I would deliver flags and visit the families of fallen marines. It was a tough job, but I think it’s what led me to want to take on this kind of career.
I began searching for psychology programs that would allow me to complete a master’s degree while in the military. Pacific Oaks stood out because it allowed for a flexible, self-paced schedule.
How has your perception of war evolved from when you were a U.S. Marine to your current role as a clinical psychologist?
This can be encompassed in one sentence: The military tells you what and how to think, whereas, as a psychologist, I am instead asking people to explain what they are thinking. It is a hard transition, especially for veterans who spend their lives following directions.
What type of person is successful in your field?
When people ask me how I define success I say it’s when I don’t want anything more—when I’m happy. I tell my students that the first part to being a good therapist is to focus on being a good person. When you’re a good person, being a good therapist is just a side effect. It just happens.
For me, being a good person encompasses four major components: 1. Knowing the difference between reacting and responding; 2. Continual self-reflection and an understanding that your actions impact others; 3. Acknowledging that while you can’t change the whole world, you can change the world around you; and finally, 4. You must recognize your own values and truths.
Tell me about a time when you were reminded of why you love what you do.
I am reminded of how lucky I am on a daily basis. I can’t think of any way to describe what it’s like to have someone say, “I wanted to kill myself yesterday and then you were here and I just realized that life is worth living.” Just knowing that I can have some small impact on who they are, to help them find meaning in their emotions and their life, reminds me of how fortunate I am.