A toddler with severe autism first inspired Jamie Carroll, PsyD ’13 to pursue a career in psychology. As a 16-year-old growing up in Westford, Massachusetts, Jamie was intrigued by the child and became his babysitter, while being closely supervised and mentored by his mom.
“Through her example, I was challenged to move beyond simply meeting her son’s needs and establish a sense of ‘we’ with her son,” Jamie wrote in an autobiographical essay. “Through the tears of frustration, the shared joy of jumping hand-in-hand on the trampoline, and the quiet moments of connection, my heart opened.”
“At the time, I thought I was compelled most by autism, not the complex relationship we had established,” Jamie further reflected. “With this impression, I decided to pursue psychology and specialize in applied behavior analysis.”
Seeking a More Expansive Education
Jamie attended Northeastern University and received specialized training in behavior principles. Despite her high hopes, behaviorism did not hold her interest. Wanting to expand her knowledge base, she applied to the Clinical Psychology program at Antioch University New England (AUNE), which had impressed her with its generalist approach, emphasis on reflective practice, and the professors’ clear investment in the learning and growth of their students.
“No longer confined by one authoritative paradigm, I entered graduate school in pursuit of intellectual challenge, emotional fulfillment, and the opportunity to learn from clients themselves,” she said. “Without traditional grades, I was further granted the opportunity to be playful with my academics. I read not just for my classes, but to feed my interests.”
As part of her AUNE education, she spent several weeks in South Africa in the summer of 2010 working with children in the Cotlands home-based care program. She traveled with one of her clinical psychology professors, Susan Hawes, and three other PsyD students. “I learned much about different family structures, the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, and children’s ability to play despite poverty and illness,” Jamie said. “Since that trip, I find that I am especially careful to monitor my own assumptions, to develop an understanding of each individual and family’s local culture, and to collaborate with clients around forming a common language and vision for treatment. I find that I am also better able to suspend judgment in a more general sense.”
A Wide-Ranging Internship
During her internship at the Community Healthlink Youth and Family Services in Worcester, Massachusetts, Jamie conducted general classroom and child-specific preschool consultations and provided therapy to children between the ages of three and eight through her clinical placement in Early Childhood Mental Health Services. She also conducted psychological assessments and manages a quality improvement project with providers of in-home therapy. Formerly Worcester Youth Guidance Center, Community Healthlink is one of the oldest child guidance clinics in the country. It takes a multidisciplinary approach, emphasizing training and collaboration between the fields of social work, counseling, and child psychiatry in a community mental health setting. Jamie carried a diverse outpatient therapy caseload, which included children, adolescents, adults, and families.
Her education, experiences, and that crucial teenage relationship with a child all helped her develop not only a more accomplished professional life but a richer personal life as well. “Over time, I discovered theories and ideas that I could be passionate about. I developed messy, complex, and strong relationships with peers, supervisors, professors, and children of all ages,” she wrote. “With my heart engaged, I am now more present not just in the relationships with the children and families I treat, but in my own life, too.”