The human experience

bilde.jpgThe Michigan School of Professional Psychology celebrated its 27th commencement, the sixth graduating class since moving to Farmington Hills from Detroit’s cultural center.

The ceremony was held at Groves High School in Beverly Hills on Aug. 1. MiSPP President Kerry Moustakas, PhD, presented 11 doctoral and 33 master of arts candidates their masters and doctoral diplomas in humanistic and clinical psychology.

Known for its emphasis on qualitative and integrative research, MiSPP students complete a rigorous clinical program, as well as pursue personally relevant research projects.

Student research topics covered a diverse range of clinically and socially significant issues this year including: the experience of soldiers returning from the Iraq War, unemployment, the experience of recovering from depression, the family member’s experience of growing up with an autistic sibling, aging vitally, and the experience of mothering a gifted child.bilde1.jpg

“Students at MiSPP are curious and engaged learners, because they are encouraged to select clinically important and personally meaningful research questions as their areas of inquiry,” said Moustakas. “In this way, students maintain a passion for their work while contributing new discoveries to the field of behavioral and social science.”

Sensitive to current community needs, Ryan Ochoa, MA, studied the therapist’s experience with the unemployed, and how losing one’s job goes beyond financial strain. He examined ways in which psychotherapy can assist those dealing with loss of personal identity.

“I believe this project ultimately affirmed how unemployment is truly a devastating issue, not only for communities economically, but also for individuals and how their everyday lives can be affected,” said Ochoa. “I urge all mental health professionals to explore a client’s experience of job loss instead of considering it a logistic concern.”

Pinel Yaldo, MA, researched the experience of being Chaldean in an inter-racial relationship, and the potential interpersonal issues that arise within specific cultural groups.

“Being in an inter-racial relationship can be extremely difficult,” said Yaldo. “Because, you are trying to please everyone in terms of family and friends. This study sheds light on the growing issue of inter-racial relationships within the Chaldean community.”bilde2.jpg

The notion of masculine spirituality was examined by William Reese, Jr., MA, in his thesis work on the topic.

“I would like men from all walks of life, inclusive of socio-economic, ethnic, faith traditions and creeds, to embrace a masculine spirituality that allows them a presence in the world through which they can manifest their fullest potential,” said Reese, who will enter the doctoral program this fall.

Reese described his education at MiSPP as “invigorating, challenging and richly rewarding.”

“It underscores the dire need for thoroughly grounded and trained psychotherapists in the Detroit area,” he said.

In addressing the role in society of well-trained clinicians, Board of Trustees Chair and MiSPP alumni, Sanford Koltownow, M.D., PsyS, told those gathered that MiSPP graduates, “will go forth to join our alumni in providing much needed psychological services in varied environments. My own career, as an emergency room physician, has reinforced in me the humanistic principles that ground me in my life, as well as in my clinical practice.”

In a graduation ritual, the master’s students thanked those who supported them during their year of study, and placed a river stone into a large glass bowl on the stage. This ritual is symbolic to the student’s journey as they moved through MiSPP’s river of experience and how one stone can create a large rippling effect.

Doctor of Psychology graduates presented a brief summary of their dissertation research findings to the audience of friends, family, MiSPP alumni, faculty, staff, and board members who attended the event.

Dr. Robert Flewelling researched the experience of those who are aging with vitality, pointing out that there is prejudice in the United States against old age. He interviewed productive people who were between 80 and 105 years old.

“My research provides a foundation for understanding the experience of transcending the stigmas and stereotypes of not just aging but to varying degrees, all forms of prejudice,” Flewelling told the audience.

Dr. Miriam Engstrom examined a mother’s experience of parenting a gifted child. Recounting tales of isolation and misdiagnosed learning disorders, Dr. Engstrom’s research showed that, “parenting a gifted child does not always feel like a gift.”

She hopes her dissertation work will help parents understand the challenges and solutions of raising gifted children who have their own set of unique and special needs. She hopes her findings also have an impact on the educational community, so that learning is a more fulfilling experience for gifted children.

Other dissertation topics included: the parentified psychotherapist’s experience of psychotherapy; the experience of home-based psychotherapy; rites of passage rituals of adolescent girls and their mothers; the experience of Gentle Teaching; and, becoming a self-identified successful coper to a highly stressful event, among others.

The 2008 PsyD graduates include: Drs. Mark Blough, Frances Brown, Miriam Engstrom, Robert Flewelling, LaTonya Graham, Shannon Lowder, Carla Sabbagh-Keyser, Karen Schurgin, Colette Simone, Toni Start, and Tiffany Zlatich.

“Every year I feel so proud of our graduates,” Moustakas said. “Students work hard all year long, and then the moment they’ve been waiting for arrives when I hand them their diploma. All the academic challenges and their perseverance results in the realization of personal goals and dreams, a major life accomplishment in the lives of MiSPP graduates. Graduation day is one of my favorite days, rich with celebration.”

Also honored and named Trustee Emeritus at the ceremony were MiSPP board members, Byron Douglas, PhD, clinician and educator, for 14 years of service to the board, and Kathleen Jenkins, CPA, for her 17 years as a trustee.

The school’s mission is to “educate reflective scholar-practitioners with the competencies necessary to serve diverse populations as professional humanistic psychologists and psychotherapists.” MiSPP emphasizes the importance of human engagement and interaction. The school offers both a one-year intensive Master’s of Arts program, and a four-year Doctor of Psychology program in Humanistic and Clinical Psychology.