Debra Bellings-Kee



Graduating Year:  2004

Before Dominican: BA in Sociology, University of Southern California; Juris Doctorate, Southwestern University School of Law

Currently: Self-employed in private practice in Marin and San Francisco as a psychotherapist, collaborative divorce coach, custody mediator, and co-parenting counselor

Highlight: "When I opened my private practice, I felt competent to practice. This confidence and strength came from the quality of education, field placement and the discipline that the Dominican’s Counseling Psychology program provided."

Professors want to provide you with a quality education

I was accepted to two counseling psychology programs but chose Dominican because the curriculum was more diverse and current, the classroom size was smaller (better professor-student ratio), and the professors that interviewed me were enthusiastic about Dominican, the counseling psychology program and the subject matter that they taught. They were really interested in providing me with a quality education.

Emphasis on the ethics of practice

The professors in the program were top notch and, in addition to their knowledge of the material, they taught from a perspective informed by their years of clinical practice. I appreciated their emphasis on practice ethics and I greatly enjoyed their integrated teaching approach that enabled me to read the material, write about it, hear it and present it.

Entering the program, I hoped to study diverse theories and perspectives, and that is exactly what happened: I came out knowing how to approach counseling psychology and, as a result, my clients and their issues, from many perspectives. Most important, I learned to think and write like a clinician. Because I thoroughly digested each and every class, I was confident in my abilities when I opened my private practice.

The most memorable moment of my experience was having part of my paper published in Psychodynamic Theory and Practice: Collected Works.

Memorable fieldwork experiences

My first field placement was at Dominican University of California as a university counselor. It was a great experience because my clients ranged in age from 18-65 (they were students, faculty and staff at Dominican), and I was able to deal with a wide range of issues. Dr. Billings was a wonderful supervisor and was very encouraging, knowledgeable and available when I needed his guidance. Most important, there was never a shortage of clients and I was able to schedule clients around my classes and other commitments.

The most important part of the experience was the supervision and the encouragement that Dr. Billings and my field placement professor, Dr. Gayle, provided. I was initially nervous to apply what I had learned in class to real flesh and blood clients, but Dr. Billings and Dr. Gayle were so encouraging and supportive that I concluded my first placement as a competent clinician (in my eyes as well as theirs).

My second internship was with Family Service Agency of Marin. At first I was an intern in the Pregnancy and Early Parenting program (working with families with children 0-5 years old), and then I transferred to the Child, Adult, and Family team (working with diverse age ranges). I also assisted in teaching parenting skills to divorced parents and I worked on the intake line (which helped me tremendously when I opened my private practice as I was already well versed in doing initial intake with clients).

Family Service Agency was a wonderfully versatile internship as I was able to experience a diverse number of clients and issues. This experience ultimately allowed me to hone in on the type of work I wanted to do once licensed: working with divorcing and divorced families.

Faculty’s clinical experiences were extremely valuable

In my mind there is a difference between learning counseling psychology theory and interventions and actually applying what you have learned to actual clients. Clients and situations are not as straightforward as theory makes it seem. My professors, which all had clinical experiences, were able to provide the nuanced theoretical answers to questions that we had, in addition to providing real live examples of theory in practice. I believe this helped me to feel more comfortable, more confident and more competent when I began applying what I had learned to real clients.

Current and empowering program

The program’s greatest strength is its ability to stay current and provide quality education. Also, the quality of relationships that I was able to establish with fellow colleagues and faculty has been a constant asset and resource for my practice.

When I opened my private practice, I felt competent to practice. This confidence and strength came from the quality of education, field placement and the discipline that the Dominican’s Counseling Psychology program provided. All of my hard work and the quality of my education at Dominican paid off and, within the first year of opening my office, I had a successful private practice.

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