Her Derner doctoral training has given her new ways to provide long-term treatments to marginalized populations.

by Rebecca Endres

Catherine Holder, a third-year doctoral student at the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, admits that her experience has been one of stepping out of her comfort zone. With a background in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), she likened her initial transition at the psychodynamically-oriented Derner to translating one language into another. Still, the inviting nature of the professors she met heartened her.

“The fact that a predominantly psychodynamic program would take a chance and consider someone of a completely different theoretical orientation has encouraged me to reciprocate that and try as best as I can to embrace and try to integrate everything that this program has to offer,” she said, adding that the diversity Derner welcomes “really speaks to the potential for growth in the program.”

Her connection with many of her professors has also been a grounding force. Holder said that Professor Francine Conway, Ph.D., was one of the biggest influences on her decision to attend Derner. Holder noted that, among other things, Dr. Conway inspired her as a fellow woman of color. “Instantly I saw Dr. Conway as a model of what my career could be, and maybe potentially the type of clinician that I’d like to be.”

Three years into the program, Holder sees herself as able to utilize both the CBT background she was trained with as well as the psychodynamic approach she has learned. The result has been a unique blend of the two different models, which Holder sees as similar rather than “diametrically opposed.”

“I have more tools in my toolbox when I’m working with patients,” she said of her learning experience. The focus of her research has been on Caribbean immigrants, and her goal is to one day develop “interventions that are culturally relevant to this population, as well as even training individuals within the Caribbean on some of these models of therapy.” She explained that there is little research in this area, and she feels it is her duty to contribute to it.

“I have become more open to learning about dynamic therapy and how it can be useful to populations that I work with,” she said, “which are populations that are marginalized and typically the interventions they are engaged in are short-term, not long-term.”

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