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Interview with Cory Bridwell-Sells, PsyD

Rachel Schein (RS): My name is Rachel Schein.  I am a student at GIPP and today I am talking with Dr. Cory Bridwell-Sells, a 2000 graduate of the Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology. Dr. Sells, tell me a little bit about yourself professionally.  For example, what is your current job? Are you licensed? What kinds of clients do you work with?  And what are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

Cory Sells (CS): I am a licensed community psychologist and I work in an outpatient clinic. My official title at my job is clinical team leader.  I think of my job as separated into three components. One is to deal with the clinical component and two is clinical supervision of non-clinical staff. My team consists of case managers whom I supervise to make sure that what they’re doing in the community is clinically appropriate. The third component is the administration, paperwork and all of that stuff.

RS: With what types of clients do you work?

CS: I work with a really wide range of clients, a lot of folks with severe and persistent mental illness, ranging from bipolar disorder to mild depression. We really see the full spectrum of diagnoses. The team that I oversee deals with two populations. One is the young adult services team, working with individuals ranging from age 18-25 and the other is the intensive supportive housing team, which works with people who have been identified by DMHAS as having severe and persistent mental illness and require a lot of extra support from the community.

RS: Great! What are some of the accomplishments that you are particularly proud of?

CS: I think the accomplishment that I am most proud of is the daily work I do. Seeing the success of the clients and of the staff or anyone that I supervise.

RS: Tell us a little bit about yourself personally. Where are you from? Where did you grow up, go to college, etc?

CS: I grew up in New Jersey.  I am the oldest child.  I went to college at Skidmore College and then took a year off and came to GIPP. I had a fantastic internship in North Carolina and came to Yale for my fellowship, which is where I met my husband, to whom I have been married for 2 years now.  He is also a psychologist at Yale. We work with the same population, but he does only research and I do only clinical work…it’s a good balance.

RS: What are some of your personal interests outside of psychology?

CS: Well right now we’re trying for a dog! I love to garden, I’ve recently gotten into jogging, and I love to travel.

RS: It would be interesting to hear a bit about your reflections on your time at GIPP. Why did you choose GIPP? What do you remember most about your experiences there? What was the most valuable aspect of your training? What was the most challenging part of your experience?

CS: I chose GIPP for the same reason that I still appreciate my training there: because it’s very clinically focused. I joke that it’s almost vocational, like a trade school, because it was so very focused on the how to, which was great and has served me incredibly well. The clinical training was outstanding, and when I went on to internship and post-doc I got feedback a lot that I was doing a good job myself and that the training that I had just come from seemed outstanding. For what I do, it was very good training. I was also given the basic knowledge that, if I worked very hard, I could also become a researcher. I found the Quals to be very valuable. They were really stressful and very difficult, but that really helped me to evaluate what I was doing as I was doing it.

RS: What was the most challenging part of your experience?

CS: I don’t know if the dissertation was the most challenging, but it was certainly my least favorite part. My experience with the dissertation was that it was a very long hoop to jump through. I think that other people made much better use of it than I did and used it as a way to find their expertise. And I did that, but it doesn’t much relate to what I’m doing now. My topic was how adults with ADHD score on the Rorschach. Grad school in general is challenging. It’s a lot of work. The subject itself I loved and I still love, but the work is hard. I would not start grad school without loving the field. If you feel so-so about the field, don’t go to grad school, because it’s a big chunk of your life. It takes over for five years. You have to really be dedicated before you start.

RS: What about your training experiences at settings outside of GIPP? Where did you do your practicum, your internship, etc and how would you evaluate your experiences in these settings?

CS: I did my practicum at what’s now called Midstate Medical Center and Charlotte Hungerford Hospital; both were very representative and similar to what I do now. I did my internship at Broughton Hospital, which is a state psychiatric hospital whose grounds were designed by the person who designed central park and it has a gorgeous campus.  My experiences at all of these sites were excellent.

RS: Please talk a bit about your transition to the working world. What was it like for you? How easy or difficult was it to find a job, get licensed, pay back loans, etc.?

CS: It was like someone had thrown cold water in my face. I didn’t really know much about post-docs, and the procedure for post-docs and license requirements varies by state. When I was doing my internship in North-Carolina, the internship completed my degree. When I was done, I was considered a psychologist and could call myself doctor. Then I decided to move back to CT and that’s not the case. Here you can’t be a psychologist until you’re licensed, and it’s very difficult to find a job as an unlicensed doctor of psychology, because with Dr. in front of your name you expect a certain salary but you can’t collect that salary until you’re licensed because the insurance won’t pay for you. So, the jobs that you can find don’t necessarily fulfill the licensing requirements, which are strict and rather complicated. I wanted to just find a job that I could stay with; I was done with these one year things, I was Dr. Bridwell now, and I wanted to get the job and get started. Instead I found the post-doc, which was great, but it was another unexpected hoop that I had to jump through, and I think that the licensing tests themselves are worthless. The license tests do not measure whether the person is a good psychologist. They are not valid; they just measure how well you can memorize.

RS: Is there any particular advice you would like to pass on to current or future students at GIPP?

CS: I would say, pursue your passion while getting realistic advice on the realities of the job.