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Ph.D Degree in International Psychology and Trauma

July 26, 2015

I am writing to seek admission to study towards the Ph.D. in International Psychology at XXXX University.  During my MSW program, I fell in love with providing diagnostics and therapy to children and adults at an outpatient psychiatric clinic and stayed up almost until midnight every night during this period studying about interventions that might be appropriate for those whom I was trying to help.  I now hold the MSW Degree and have 11 years of direct social work practice experience in elementary schools, psychiatric settings (inpatient), and I currently work as an in-home counselor. I see your distinguished and unique Ph.D. Program in International Psychology at XXXX University as the optimal springboard upon which to advance my career.

While finishing my BSW (2004), I worked full time at a correctional facility group home for teenage boys as a counselor.  I obtained my Master’s in Clinical Social Work (2011) from the University of XXXX, in St. Paul, MN, traveling 500 miles round trip for three years in order to complete my clinical training. My clinical methods courses provided me with a learning experience that went beyond the theoretical and philosophical constructs, launching me on my way towards greatly increased self understanding and general psychological awareness—in addition to studying practical approaches and effective clinical applications.  During my clinical methods I completed a 640 hour clinical practicum providing outpatient psychiatric diagnostics and treatment to children, adolescences, and adults and I made the most of this opportunity to focus on the psychodynamics of trauma and how this is related to clinical intervention and treatment.  One class in particular stood out during the course of my graduate studies, Psychopathology and Human Behavior, which explored a broad range of human behaviors and pathologies from biological, psychological, sociological and spiritual perspectives--seamlessly integrating an agenda of social justice values and principles to our study of human behavior.

My clinical research project for the MSW examined secondary traumatic stress amongst caregivers of persons with Huntington’s disease.  This is a topic that was and still is very close to my heart since my wife Tania passed away from a decade long battle against Huntington’s. In fact, my wife’s disease progressed rapidly during my graduate studies, and it was a great struggle for me to juggle work, graduate school, and caring for her. During this time, I was also a volunteer support group leader for our Huntington’s disease chapter and saw firsthand the impact it was having on the families. Certain caregivers appeared to cope better than others; which I attributed mostly to a positive outlook and disposition which helped them to cultivate resiliency. I created an assessment tool based upon the Positive Affect Scale along with a Compassion Fatigue survey instrument and surveyed 30 caregivers.

I attach my curriculum vitae which illustrates the diversity of my professional and volunteer experience and training. The majority of my professional social work experience has been as an elementary school social worker, with two years spent working as a psychiatric social worker.  I have received special training in the areas of Teacher Child Interaction, Collaborative Problem Solving, and Child Welfare Training, and I have organized and presented workshops to teach members of the community about proactive solutions to challenging children. I also devoted countless hours as mentioned above to the HDSA (Huntington’s Disease Society of America) chapter in XXXX as a fundraiser, consultant, and volunteer.  

The core of my motivation to obtain a Ph.D. in International Psychology at XXXX University is to study towards the terminal degree in my chosen field from an implicitly international or global perspective. In order to become a highly effective advanced clinician and researcher working in the field of traumatic stress, it is essential in our diverse society to cultivate a trauma-informed perspective that is knowledgeable about and sensitive to the concrete issues faced by the victims of trauma—all in accordance with advanced understandings of human rights and their complex relationship to international politics, immigration law, and a variety of related areas.

I consider myself to be a follower of Dr. Farmer, a human rights advocate and physician working with Partners in Health, who declared that, “the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”  I look forward to staying engaged with a variety of projects on the international level that help victims of trauma as a graduate student in your program. The opportunity to engage in international research associated with traumatic stress is something that I find extremely exciting and I have a few areas of special interest close to my heart in which I hope to do further research armed with the refractory power of a global lens. 

I would very much enjoy building upon my graduate research on secondary traumatic stress in caregivers by analyzing secondary traumatic stress affecting clinicians, caretakers, teachers especially those who care for children exposed to trauma in a variety of international areas, such as Rwanda (genocide) and Thailand (Tsunami). I also would like very much to do a qualitative research study, interviewing Vietnam Veterans that returned to Vietnam to live full time, in essence to heal their wounds, or to make amends.  I would assume that return to the scene of the trauma by living in Vietnam is helpful for mitigating the negative effects of PTSD and I would attempt to describe how and why this is the case.  I am currently investigating possibilities that exist for me to interview US veterans who have made their home in Vietnam as part of an internship in that country. The secondary influences of culture, issues of access to proper treatment, along with a variety of other international variables, all combine to put this avenue of research at the top of my wish list for a possible dissertation topic. 

After completing your program I would like to complete a traumatic stress fellowship with a global health agency like Partners in Health, the Trauma Center in Boston, or the Trauma Academy at Baylor University.  A fellowship would be an opportunity to weave together my Ph.D. training with my prior MSW clinical experience. Upon my completion of a fellowship, my dream job would be to serve as trauma clinician/trainer working for an international agency providing training to teachers, therapists, and other caregivers in traumatized areas of the world.

I believe my professional, personal and educational experiences have prepared me for the rigors of earning a Ph.D. in International Psychology XXXX University.  I bring a high level of dedication and an advanced work ethic to my professional duties. If given the opportunity I feel strongly that I would have much to contribute to your program and academic community. I look forward to hearing from you and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at any time.

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