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Shannon Cusack '14

Shannon Cusack is a Psychology major from Richmond, VA. She used her Johnson Opportunity Grant to intern at the Yale Parenting Center in New Haven, CT. 


After fighting the New Haven traffic on 95 South towards NYC, I arrived at the Yale Parenting Center at the edge of the Yale University campus. The clinic was in an old Victorian house that had been renovated into office space. After meeting the other interns and staff at the clinic, we got right to work. The Yale Parenting Center is run by Dr. Alan Kazdin, a well-respected figure in Child Psychiatry. Dr. Kazdin developed the "PMT, or Parent Management Training to help parents who struggle raising their kids who have conduct disorder or oppositional defiance disorder. Because the Parenting Center has such a high demand for their services, the grant they are currently working on deals with the effectiveness of delivery via videoconference software vs. in person vs. recordings of the therapists teaching the PMT. In order to reach a larger and more geographically diverse population, the Yale Parenting Center is hoping to find that their Parent Management Training is just as effective when delivered via videoconference software or via therapist recordings.

Although it was a research position, I was surprised to learn that we would not be working in a lab, but in more of an office setting. Intern tasks included a variety of things such as observing therapist sessions, scoring assessments, intake interviews, entering and analyzing data, and social media responsibilities. We usually started the day observing the videoconference cases to not only learn the PMT program, but also to ensure integrity throughout the therapist's deliverance of the program. Because it is a structured training, it is important that the therapists deliver the information in a uniform way so that the resulting data will be valid. This was my favorite part of the internship because I got to experience the therapist-family relationship and also learn about effective tactics for parenting. After observing sessions, we often entered data into Data Manager. Usually we were entering data from assessments families had to fill out before starting treatment and after that dealt with demographics as well as diagnostic questions. Analyzing this data allowed the Parenting Center to see similarities and differences in whom they were treating, and also how the differences created variances in the effectiveness of the PMT. Every once in a while an intern would complete an intake interview over the phone of a potential new case. Because the study is funded by a grant, there were many pre-requisites that had to be met by a family in order to be entered into the grant; this is what was screened for during the intake interviews. Every day varied based on the number of therapist sessions, how much data needed to be entered, and what other things needed to be done to help the study run smoothly.

This experience at the Yale Parenting Center allowed me to see how effective my psychology degree can be in helping people solve real life issues. Getting to work with a clinical population first hand has made such a difference in how I view my degree and what opportunities I will be able to pursue in the future.  After having this experience, I am even more excited about what I will be able to do in the future with my degree.