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Blog posts : "PsyD Counseling"

PsyD, Soldier, Priest, Counselor, PTSD


I ask for acceptance to earn the PsyD Degree at the XXXX Institute so that I might add the final and most important professional hat to my repertoire of historically interconnected or culminating roles. First, I gave my all for my country as a soldier; then I became an Episcopal Priest. Since June of 2014, I have served as the Director of Admissions at the XXXX School Prior to this position, I served for two years as a parish priest at XXXX Episcopal Church in XXXX. The cause to which I have decided to vote the balance and hopefully by far most significant part of my professional life is that of helping our veterans to heal. My comrades have been thrust into questionable moral situations for a very long time, forced to engage in many morally questionable activities, and with all too great a frequency fall into moral decay, as a result of stress, violence, and in some cases their own moral failure. I see the Wright Institute as the best fit for my interests, an academic community in which to find support and ideas to empower and inspire me to write a doctoral dissertation on the subject of Moral Injury and how it is related to PTSD.

I look forward to many decades to come fully immersed in an exploration of the ways that Moral Injury has, in the words of Rut Gubkin: "biological, emotional, neurological and spiritual and/or existential dimensions." As a priest of ecumenical formation, I believe that I have education/training/experience that will prove to be of great value in the development of models for healing that incorporate spirituality from a diverse body of religious backgrounds with a central focus on spirituality itself, rather than spirituality as it exists within any given religious tradition. I am especially interested in first studying, perhaps even helping to perfect or contribute to the development of Moral Injury Event Scales (MIES). I am pleased that there is already an extensive body of literature with which I have to work as a foundation, helpful data regarding moral injury resulting from transgressions by others, transgressions by self, and transgression by betrayal, resulting in stress, PTSD, feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, anger and rage.

I look forward to connecting some of the dots from my own experience as a soldier, with Moral Injury Theory which suggests, for example, that those who suffer Moral Injury as a result of the transgressions of others rather than their own are especially susceptible to PTSD. I saw this to be glaringly true of the poor fellows who I interacted with in the mortuary affairs unit overseas. They are the ones who process the bodies of those killed in action. They processed both Americans and the local Iraqi population who were killed in action (KIA). It's a terrible thing to see a mother and father lying on a table next to their children, the entire family KIA. It is even worse to see this several times a day, almost every day, for long periods of time. As if this were not yet tragic enough, these soldiers were well aware that many if not most of these casualties of war that come from air strikes that are not reported on the news and sometimes not reported at all. The transgressions of others often occur by people making simple mistakes with deadly consequences; these transgressions are also the most heavily correlated with PTSD.

Transgressions of self, on the other hand, have been shown to be more strongly associated with hopelessness, pessimism, and anger. One young marine from my unit was the gunner on top of a vehicle and the driver fell asleep and lost control, flipped the vehicle, and the young marine was crushed and mangled beyond recognition. Despite the fact that what happened was an accident, the driver of this vehicle is likely to experience more trauma than would have been the case if he had fallen asleep in civilian traffic and taken a life—due to the sheer chaos and ambiguity of combat. Adrenaline, fear, and a desire for revenge can be most lethal combinations resulting in soldiers all too frequently transgressing their own sense of morality in the heat of battle, making split-second decisions that will haunt them for a lifetime, leaving the with invisible scars that are sometimes not easy to detect.

I am especially concerned with the variety of ways in which Transgressionsof Self in warfare can have deadly consequences. One suicidal young marine that I dealt with in my office stands out in my mind. He had been standing guard on a dirt road in Fallujah when a car was approaching his checkpoint. The car was not slowing down so he aimed his rifle at the driver and pulled the trigger. The bullet struck the driver in the head and the car came to a slow stop. There was a 5 year old boy in the front seat covered in his father’s blood. The young boy was crying uncontrollably as the driver was still grasping for his last few breathes. Radio communication was not working properly and the marine who pulled the trigger spent 2 hours with the young boy and his now-dead father before backup arrived. This had happened 3 months prior to our conversation. I glanced down at his boots and noticed that the bloodstains were still there.

Finally, I seek to excel in Moral Injury Theory and PTSD treatment in my research concerning “Betrayal.”  The damage that occurs from the perception of being morally betrayed is especially evident among Iraq veterans who feel strongly that they were betrayed by their government because they were required to fight an unjust war, and that the blood that has been spilled in Iraq has been spilled in vain. The struggle to recover for these veterans who suffer from a sense of Betrayal is compounded by the fact that evidence has continued to emerge that they were indeed sent to war on the basis of false intelligence (no weapons of mass destruction). Many joined the military because they felt that they were serving a greater purpose after the country was attacked on 9-11. Now they have to deal with the fact that Saddam/Iraq had nothing to do with 9-11. They are left with the unsettling question about the atrocities of war they participated in and what was it all for? 

My central objective in life has always been to serve others, first in the military, followed by the ministry; these days I mostly serve the needs of prospective graduate students. My experiences as a priest in the Episcopal Church have given me a platform for making connections with groups on every level, from the Bay Area to internationally. I have valuable connections to important people that will help me to excel, with the leaders of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) for example, an international relief and development agency that is currently operating in over 40 countries. This is also why I feel strongly that I am an especially good fit with The XXXX Institute since your motto is "Educating Clinicians to Society.” 10 years from now I hope to be serving as a psychologist with ERD, working on an interdisciplinary team of medical doctors, nurses and social workers.

My ideal roles and responsibilities include that of educator as well as clinician providing psychological services in the various parts around the globe served by ERD to populations that have been displaced by war, within refugee camps, and areas affected by natural disaster. As an educator I want to be a valuable resource to the leadership of ERD concerning the needs that exist for psychological services in crises areas around the globe, in addition to attending to the psychological needs of the staff and volunteers of ERD. Over the course of the last 2 years, I have come to increasingly recognize a calling to pursue a new career direction in clinical psychology, meeting twice a month with a therapist about this career change. I feel confident that I am making the right decision and have the support of my wife as well, an attorney with an established practice here in XXXX, and most certainly one of the most valuable of my social connections and human resources.

I appreciate XXXX’s commitment to diversity, social justice and equality and how you require students to be in a field placement getting real world experience each year of the program, including the first year. I want to gain as much experience as possible and I believe that getting real world experience while in the midst of academic study is an effective strategy for creative learning. The therapist whom I have worked with for over a year about my career change is a Psychiatrist and Marriage and Family Therapist and he suggested the Wright Institute. I very much admire the research endeavors of your faculty, most especially the work of Dr. XXXX and his research into anxiety disorder. A former Lutheran minister, I particularly look forward to comparing notes with and learning from Dr. XXXX.

In addition to Moral Injury among veterans, I am also looking forward to an in-depth study of the extent to which Moral Injury occurs in non-military, even non-violent situations. I want to study the history and range of both PTSD and Moral Injury in an exhaustive fashion, especially in light of ethical transgressions, attorneys who make poor life/death decisions for their clients, negligent doctors or nurses, financiers that have committed fraud; at least theoretically the possibilities are endless, hence the search for the best way to define or delimit definitions of these terms in psychology that have become increasingly important to our efforts to diagnose and cure, especially our veterans returning from the field. I thank you for considering my application. 

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PsyD Integral Studies, Spirituality, Vietnamese


I am a humble applicant to our program who has overcome great difficulty in arriving where she is in life. This is why I ask for special consideration with respect to my low GPA which resulted from the fact that I had to simultaneously work and study full time.

Now 33, I left Vietnam at 7 years old with my grandparents on a fisherman’s boat as a small child. The engine died and we floated for 2 weeks with little to no food left and were even robbed by pirates of what we had. Fortunately, we were saved by a cargo ship heading to Thailand, were we spent 4 months in a refugee camp. We were able to immigrate to the USA so quickly because my grandfather had served in the US army during WWII. My parents and siblings would come to California in time, later on, but I am to this day the only member of my family who is fluent in English, and I have always been a major breadwinner, especially since I lost both of my grandparents who brought me here to America.

Nevertheless, I feel strongly that I am an excellent candidate for your PsyD program because of my profound passion for studying the potential contribution of Eastern spirituality to Western psychology. I came to America from Vietnam at the age of 6, so I am as American as I am Vietnamese. This helps to provide me with unique perspectives and a sense of direction in terms of Asian-American spirituality, particularly Buddhism since I am a devout Buddhist, all in the context of New Age movements generally speaking. A vegan with a deep respect for animal life, I believe that yoga is medicine and that emotional healing can be greatly advanced through the pursuit of eastern spirituality, harnessing its power to great strength of counseling psychology as developed in the West.

The XXXX is my first and only choice for graduate school for a variety of reasons, most of all my profound admiration and full endorsement of your emphasis on the importance of spirituality, diversity, and multiple ways of learning and teaching and experiential learning models. I like the way that your program facilitates student engagement with adventure and cultivates our direct contact with and appreciation for the complexities of cultural variation in human experience. Among the world’s finest professors who teach at XXXX, I am particularly looking forward to studying under Dr. XXXX since his interests dovetail nicely with my own passion for research in ADHD, biofeedback, and meditation. I also focus much of my study of Buddhism on Tibet and its relation to physiology and transpersonal psychologies.

I believe firmly in the importance of searching for core problems and addressing them through connectedness on many levels, social, psychological, emotional, and particularly spiritual. I want to dedicate my life to the cause of understanding my patients and their families on the level of their whole beings, so that I will be better able to help, uplift, and inspire them to achieve greater levels of fulfillment, security, and tranquility in life. I'm a very dedicated and loving soul who by nature goes out of her way to help mitigate the pain and suffering of those with whom I come into contact. An active participant at my local Buddhist center, I find great strength in community and the sharing of spirituality.

I wish to devote my life to the cause of my people, the Vietnamese, in the spirit of culturally appropriate mental health and cultural services. In particular, California is in need of more highly trained Vietnamese psychologists in order to meet the needs of those residents whose first and primary language as well as culture is Vietnamese. Most immigrants to America from Vietnam, children and adults, experience some level of culture shock and often experience decades of difficult adjustment, including on psychological levels. Many report that they feel trapped: “stuck inside a shell.” I think that much of this is due to their lack of information processing skills and tools, and often fall into negative rather than positive thinking patterns complicated by poverty, little support or even contact from family, language barriers, and vast culture differences that run counter to Asian understandings. For me, the greatest a blessing in life is the opportunity to help someone overcome what they are fearing.

Elderly Vietnamese immigrants often suffer as a result of feeling that they are a burden to their family, exacerbated by the fact that their children don’t spend much time with them because they are busy working. Frequently, these older immigrants want to be both more independent and better connected to others in their new world, but they need help in order to achieve this. Children offer suffer severe culture shock on arriving from Vietnam, and I have first-hand experience in this. Children who cannot yet speak English or who do so with a heavy accent are picked on, bullied, and humiliated, and they need our support.

 I want to assist adolescents in their critical struggles for identity development, helping them to avoid hiding within themselves just because they feel different from their peers, to have confidence, and to learn to express themselves so that they will avoid problems later in life, especially with intimate relationships and with their children. Many Asians and some Vietnamese elderly people come to our Buddhist center. Many feel lonely and alienated from their children. They come to the temple to converse with others and to do some good deeds along the way. As someone dedicated to lifelong learning and a Buddhist who hopes to become a psychologist, I intend to give my all for the rest of my life to helping the members of my community to escape from pain and suffering and to find inner peace, each in their own way, through the practice of Buddhism and/or by a touch of science. I look forward to an in-depth exploration of the science behind the Buddha’s dharma teaching.  

Most of all, I want to live my life for Vietnamese and other immigrant children, especially orphans or foster children, on both sides of the ocean. While working on my PsyD, I plan to open a child care center at the XXXX Buddhist Center in Westminster so that young ones will have a place to learn about dharma and for family and parents to drop them off for day care and after school programs, so they have a place to go to after school and not wonder around in the streets getting into trouble. I'm currently working on my Director of Child Development Certificate so that I can open and operate this facility. I owe this dream to the wisdom and energy of my masters/gurus. They have also inspired me to labor in the coordination of groups of volunteers to pack food bags to be distributed to low-income families and seniors. We now have over 30 volunteers who distribute food to more than 1200 families monthly.

I was given a blessed opportunity from my grandparents to come to America and I want to give back to my community by serving as a voice for those who have no voice. I would like very much to someday create my own non-profit organization and adoption agency to help Vietnamese children. I hope to spend the balance of my life working hand in hand with temple/centers where the monks or nuns can teach the core of Buddhism at the same time that we keep people off the street and help them build and recover lives of dignity.

I am a very determined young woman, highly organized, and I turn negatives into positives. I am keen on adventure and would be especially honored by the opportunity to participate in your two-week study abroad course in Sri Lanka studying Sinhala Buddhism. I am convinced that Buddhism has much to contribute to our mental health here in America. Americans suffer from stress, for example, and could benefit greatly by learning to relax through meditation. A clear mind also makes one more productive, especially in creative disciplines. We learn to live in the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or future. We do not worry about meaningless things, but always search for the bigger picture. There have been numerous studies pointing to the health benefits of meditation, especially in the alleviation of stress and anxiety. If we can reduce stress, many health benefits follow. Meditation enables us to have a deeper understanding of our inner self. Through meditation we can gain a better understanding of our life’s purpose, diving deep into the heart of the matter in order to gain access to our soul--our inner reality---and find inner peace. Once we understand the fourth noble truths of Buddhism, we can cut out through our suffering. 

I think Buddhism can benefit children, in particular, helping them to learn to be compassionate through instruction in dharma, praying before each meal, thankful for everything you have in life or everything that has been given to you, mind training is much easier at an early age, let them be aware of their conscious, give them the foundation in life, teach them what is right and what is wrong etc! It is thought that children are really closer to Buddha Nature than adults are by their very youth, thus having an inherent advantage over adults in undertaking the practice of meditation and advanced study.  I believe that our children are the foundation for our future; if we teach and guide them at an early age we can build a better world for all through hope.

I do not wish to limit myself, however, to working with children. I also want to help adults who are struggling emotionally--if you help them they will then be able to help their own family and children. I want to help children and adults alike to find a road map and to give them a helping hand, showing them how to live productive, positive, and fulfilling lives, becoming successful professionally and spiritually by cultivating a balance between these two aspects of our lives.

I thank you for considering my application to your distinguished program.

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