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PHD Counseling Psychology, Community

July 26, 2015

My mother’s illness in 2007 provoked a career shift for me, from business to psychology. Once I found out that she had brain cancer, I immediately withdrew from my MBA Program and threw myself entirely into the study of this new enemy. At the same time that I struggled to adapt to the increasingly dementia-like symptoms that resulted from the tumor, I began to realize that I wanted to study for professional advancement in this area. By December of 2011, I had earned my Post-Graduate Certificate in Dementia Studies along with my Adult Training and Development Certificate. Since then, I have been completing the prerequisite courses for acceptance into the XXXX.

The XXXX is my first and only choice for graduate study because I share XXXX’s priority focus on the human ability to create positive social change. I am a good fit for your program because I am convinced that your curriculum, both didactically and experientially, most fully encompasses my areas of greatest interest, particularly structural community intervention. Dedicated to the empowerment of older adults to become active citizens in their community, I very much to devote my life to reducing levels of social isolation for elderly people in my community.

I speak Hebrew as well as French. Born in Canada, I spent some of my most formative years in Scotland; later, we returned, first to Montreal and then Toronto. For me, relationships are the foundation of our humanity and our connection to our communities is an especially critical part of the process of healing. I am most engaged with the psychology of older people, women in particular, and their special need for community support and sense of belonging. Being Jewish, I have a strong belief in the power of the Jewish philosophical concept of healing the world through community engagement and social action. I have had many rich life experiences that have helped me to grow personally and professionally, challenging my own personal fortitude and ultimately reaffirming my belief that relationships are the foundation of our humanity and our connection to community can bring about healing.

I am at a stage in my life where I am well poised to fully appreciate the opportunity to return to graduate school. Even as an MBA student, I was most interested in business issues related to psychology. I was in France in the Spring of 2007 when my mom called with the news, participating in a practicum and working to complete my graduate research study investigating the brain’s response to anti-smoking advertising. We went on to share the last three years of her life together, adapting to the new realities of what we were facing, together and as individuals. At first, I felt wholly unprepared for the challenge, as a caregiver and as a daughter losing my mom. I responded by seeking the advice of a counselor and drawing strength from my beliefs in Jewish philosophy. Through the process of introspection and practice of reflection in counseling, I learned to cope with my fears, feelings of sadness, frustration and stress. Little by little gaining a sense of acceptance, I became more open, learning to focus almost exclusively on the positive.

I believe that my professional experience will also help me to excel in your program. My strong belief in the Jewish philosophical concept of “tikkun olam”  (healing the world through social responsibility and community engagement) led me to serve from 08/07 through 06/08 as part of the devoted team at XXXX Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, teaching an integrated kindergarten class—“one that invites able-bodied kids to attend a school for children with physical disabilities.” This was a pivotal experience helping me to focus on life with meaning, purpose and value. We created a parents’ support group that helped me to better appreciate the power and beauty of group therapy. From 10/07 through 09/09, I served as the Director of the XXXX Foundation, responsible for functions involving strategic planning and program development. I nurtured partnerships with key Canadian, American, and Israeli allies to ensure mutually beneficial, productive, and sustainable working relationships. As a part-time Research Assistant with the Mental Health & Addictions Emergency Alliance, 08/11 through 12/11, I worked collaboratively with multidisciplinary teams investigating psychosocial vulnerability, helping to develop new initiatives and creating a web based application (QLAB system) for assessment over time.

I have learned that I love nothing as much as reaching out to isolated and depressed people, particularly the elderly. I was moved by the stories shared during intake interviews and resilience training, soon coming to realize that I have a very special soft spot in my heart for elderly patients, because of their vulnerability, isolation, and the fact that they so seldom take advantage of the mental health services that are available to them. Colleagues have invited me to collaborate in program initiatives in the areas of palliative care and support groups for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My understanding and appreciation of older adults’ mental health needs has greatly expanded through continuous reading of current literature, attending conferences, workshops, and professional rounds. I now have experience conducting cognitive and behavioural testing, co-facilitating group therapy sessions, and developing treatment plans for patients exhibiting challenging behaviours. Since January of 2012, I have been serving as a Research Project Coordinator for the Centre for Mental Health, XXXX, where I lead evidence-based health research in support of strategic educational and organizational innovations within the priority areas of cognitive impairment and mood disorders. I keenly look forward to further developing my research skills at Adler and contributing to our body of literature on the elderly in the future.

I connect with elderly patients; and my greatest joy is seeing what a profound and immediate difference I am able to make in their lives. The XXXX program is the ideal location for me to learn how to do best enhance the quality of education and support services for patients and family caregivers through in-service knowledge transfer training for clinicians, developing a seniors-specific mental health education website, and implementing a peer-led support group for caregivers of patients suffering chronic depression.

I thank you for considering my application.

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