GSE’s Warm, Supportive Environment: Q&A with Caroline Brachfeld and Chelsea Atlas

Caroline Brachfeld and Chelsea Atlas

Caroline Brachfeld (left) and Chelsea Atlas (right)

What motivated you to pursue your doctorates in Counseling Psychology? What are your career goals?

Caroline: When I entered the program I thought I would probably end up wanting to do mostly clinical work in the future, but since being here at Fordham and being involved in research, I have been surprised how much I truly enjoy research, especially qualitative methods.

Chelsea: I definitely agree with a lot of the things you’re saying. My career goals are also changing. I definitely want to do clinical work, but I am still unsure of the specific population I would like to work with or setting I want to work in. It has been an incredible journey so far at Fordham. I am seeing myself grow as a clinician and researcher, and I am really starting to gain more confidence in my skills in both roles.

Why did you choose Fordham?

Caroline: I chose the Fordham GSE program for its social justice orientation, it’s very warm and caring atmosphere and the research interests of the faculty members. I chose Fordham because I felt so comfortable here, but I am surprised by the fact that I have made really close friendships and feel like I have support from these friends throughout this long haul!

Chelsea: Like you, I chose Fordham because of the warm and supportive environment as well as the emphasis on multiculturalism and social justice. I really see those emphases in every aspect of my experience.

You both started your externship this semester at the Pace University Counseling Center. How is that going?

Caroline: I am very happy at my field placement. At Pace, I am seeing individual clients weekly, running a stress management group once a week (with Chelsea!), and doing different outreach projects. So far, I have enjoyed seeing individual clients most and working with my supervisors to figure out who I am as a clinician.

I am looking forward to having steady clients and really building a therapeutic alliance. I am also excited to start doing outreach projects, which is something I have always enjoyed doing. At Pace we are also given the opportunity to “guest lecture” an Introduction to Psychology course, and I will be doing that in November!

Chelsea: I am also really enjoying working at Pace. The site has been extremely supportive, and they are very committed to trainees’ personal and professional development. My work at Pace so far has been very challenging and rewarding. I, too, enjoy seeing individual clients and building unique relationships with each of them. I have wanted to be a therapist since early childhood, so it feels like a dream come true to be finally doing direct clinical work. I have already learned so much about the counseling process and about myself. I can see myself growing every day as a clinician, and it has been really exciting to see that!

What have been your favorite classes at GSE?

Caroline: I would have to say my favorite classes have been Theories of Counseling II with Dr. Keitel and, currently, Correlational Analysis with Dr. Thanos Patelis. Thanos explains everything so clearly and effectively.

Chelsea: The classes at Fordham have been great. They have enhanced my counseling skills and my multicultural awareness and knowledge and have given me the foundation to be an effective clinician and researcher. My favorite classes have been Group Counseling, Theories of Counseling, and Multicultural Counseling. I tend to really enjoy the more practice-oriented courses.

Can you talk about your research experience at GSE?

Caroline: Getting on a research team in our program is a very simple process since the professors really want you to join their teams and gain experience.

When I got to Fordham last year, I joined Eric Chen’s research team and worked on his study about the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) legislation and how it affects undocumented immigrants. I helped recruit participants and transcribe qualitative interviews. Now, we are in the data analysis phase.

Additionally, Eric is my mentor for research apprenticeship. I just began my project on homeless runaway young women and how they perceive their identity in their family in the past, present and future.

Chelsea: I definitely agree with Caroline about the ease of joining research teams. The faculty is very open to accepting students on their teams and they are very committed to teaching students the intricacies of the research process. Joining a research team is a great thing for new students to do because it builds a sense of community and enhances research skills quickly.

I joined Dr. Jackson‘s Participatory Action Research team and it has been a great experience. I worked on developing a new preliminary validation study of the Success Learning Experiences Questionnaire (SLEQ-UM) as adapted for urban middle school students.

What I like about the research team in particular is the service component. We are going in to low-income, culturally diverse middle schools and essentially providing students with success-based career counseling in addition to collecting our data. Dr. Jackson’s team really embodies the philosophy of the Counseling Psychology program and the Jesuit mission of social justice and service.

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