November 19, 2007 was an important day for Walter Lowe, the new assistant professor in the Applied Psychology Department’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program. That was the day Lowe successfully defended his dissertation, completing the final chapter of a 4-year PhD program. He will receive his doctorate in Child Development and Family Studies with a specialization in Marriage and Family Therapy from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The MFT Doctoral Program is among the oldest in the United States.
For his dissertation Lowe posed the question, “How Do Therapists Choose Their Initial Models and Why Do They Change Them?” To answer this question, Dr. Lowe conducted a national survey of practitioners affiliated with the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).
“The most surprising result of the survey,” he says, “was that 96% of respondent therapists reported that they had changed their practice model at least once in the course of their careers. That was an unexpectedly high percentage. Other significant results were that ‘life experiences’ —particularly marriage and parenting—was a major categorical influence on therapists’ decision to change models, as was ‘the new model fit with my personality and world view.'”
Dr. Lowe points out that his dissertation provides quantitative support for his belief that MFT students need to adopt a model that fits their experiences, personalities and world views: “The model chosen, whether early or later in a therapist’s career, must be a good fit with their current personality and world-view, as well as harmonious with their personal experiences.”
Dr. Lowe started teaching in the Applied Psychology MFT Program in September. He believes his career path and experience will be particularly beneficial for students who are adult learners coming to their professional calling after having worked in other fields. Lowe embarked on his journey toward a PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy after a successful 20 +- year career in journalism. He says, “Because I changed my career in mid-life I can perhaps offer more meaningful support to students making career changes later in life.”
Another aspect of Lowe’s graduate experience that many students will readily relate to is that while completing coursework for his PhD, he drove two hours each way, four days a week, from his hometown of Gary, Indiana, to the Purdue campus at West Lafayette. He knows first hand what it takes for students who have long commutes to their University of choice to fulfill their personal commitments to acquire a graduate degree.