Derner hosted "Where Do We Go From Here? – Part II," in which alumni returned to advise current students looking to the future.

By Avigail Gordon, M.A.

Following up on a very successful program last year, Derner hosted “Where Do We Go From Here? – Part II,” in which alumni returned to help advise and guide current students looking to the future. Participants came from a range of different paths to help clarify for students the many possibilities available to us in life after Derner. Dr. Sherry Breslau, Dr. Glen Bromley, Dr. Thomas Cromer, Dr. Johanna Herwitz, Dr. Allison Rothman and Dr. Yasmine Saad imparted the wisdom of their experience to a gathering of students already in or considering entering the program.

In their years since graduation, the members of the panel have taken on an impressive array of responsibilities. Most spoke to the experience of running a private practice, while Dr. Cromer has worked primarily within the framework of hospital systems. Dr. Rothman and Dr. Saad represented the field of academia, holding part-time posts as clinical assistant professors. Several have worked for the New York Police Department, with Dr. Bromley who is currently employed there describing the excitement of a ride-along as part of his job (bullet-proof vest and all). Dr. Breslau specializes in group work, while Dr. Herwitz emphasizes couples and family work (with a focus on parent-child interaction).

To take full advantage of these amazing resources, after a brief introduction, the alumni representatives responded to questions from current students. Advice was sought in relation to what current preparations students could take or what to expect in terms of starting out as early professionals. These ranged from the broad (“What do you wish you’d known before you started your private practice?”), to the specific (“Do you worry about liability for suicidal patients and how do you approach thatissue?”) While many student questions were explicitly directed to the future, some emphasized instead coping
strategies that could be immediately implemented (such as a question regarding self-care practices). Faculty joined in, as well, with important questions about debt and factors contributing to the decision to follow this career path.

While there were more detailed answers to all questions, panel members emphasized that students can rely on the strength of their training to carry them through most situations. As students, we naturally worry about how to be best prepared for the careers we have only begun to imagine. Our colleagues on the other side of graduation have a very different view. In retrospect, they explained, they recognized that their excellent theoretical background and clinical skills helped them over any obstacles that arose and led them down the paths that landed them where they are now – financially secure and professionally fulfilled.

And of course, they added that there are other things to help us as we navigate the transition from pupil to professional. In answer to the question of how to protect ourselves from the emotionally draining nature of the work, Dr. Bromley summed it up in one word: “Run.” As long as we keep going, and trust the path we’ve started down, with luck in a few years we will be the alumni returning to impart our wisdom to future cohorts who are only now taking their first tentative steps towards the path in the first place.

Published Spring 2013 in Day Residue, the Derner Institute Doctoral Student Newsletter

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