Thomas Schmidt



Graduating Year:  2010

Before Dominican: BA in Humanities, Dominican University of California

Currently: Staff Research Associate II, UCSF Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging

Highlight: "The Counseling Psychology program facilitates self-discovery that, as a prospective student, I could never have anticipated."

Freedom to explore

I came to Dominican because I was looking for a program with a broad-based curriculum that covered multiple domains not just in counseling/clinical psychology, but also in research.

Dominican’s Counseling Psychology program gave me  an opportunity to explore my many areas of interest such as treatment methodologies, planning, assessment, qualitative research, etc.  The faculty did not preach one way to do things, but rather, they exposed me to a great number of topics that ultimately helped me decide what I wanted to focus on as a career. This type of personal freedom to “self-discover my own path” was what attracted me to this unique program.

Program of self-discovery

Essentially, Dominican’s Counseling Psychology program helped me figure out what I want to do when I grow up. But, there is a secondary experience that occurs in the program that is equally as important as figuring out one’s career path. 

The Counseling Psychology program facilitates self-discovery that, as a prospective student, I could never have anticipated. Throughout the program, I was confronted with the task of taking an objective look at my own life, my actions, my family and my relationships. I began to abandon long-held beliefs and ultimately began to broaden my perspective. It was a joyous, frightening, saddening, invigorating, happy and revealing process of self-discovery that helped mold me into an alternate—and better—version of myself.

The faculty members who initiate this process of self-discovery and work with you directly, who know you on a first-name basis and who care about you are present to help you through it all—the good, the (seemingly) bad, and the (seemingly) ugly. 

How I became interested in research

I gravitate towards thinking on the scientific end of the spectrum rather than the theoretical. For that reason, I resonated particularly well with Dr. Padma Catell and Dr. Andreas Bollinger who infused their instruction with a scientific perspective. Drs. Catell and Bollinger introduced me to topics in psychopathology, psychopharmacology, neurobiology and neuropsychology that, at first, seemed esoteric. However, their thoughtful, clear, and concise approach to teaching made these topics understandable and intriguing. I personally credit Drs. Catell and Bollinger with informing me of the direction I chose to take my career—clinical and translational research.

Today, I work as project coordinator for a neuroimaging study that is looking at neurobiological and neuropsychological predictors of smoking cessation for an opiate-dependent population. I am also a member of an assessment team for related studies at the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases, with most of my work falling into the "psychological assessment" and "neuropsychological evaluation" categories.

Faculty’s invaluable clinical experiences

The success of any academic program is contingent on the ability of its educators to integrate practical, real-life experiences with textbook learning, and ultimately relay that information in clear and meaningful ways. The educators in the Counseling Psychology program are able to walk this delicate but critical balance because of their vast clinical experience. 

How does this translate into my professional development? At this point in my career, I have yet to be presented with a situation that has been startling or unexpected without knowing what to do or how to handle it. I credit my ability to handle these situations confidently and calmly to the clinical experience of the CP instructors. Learning from their clinical experiences has helped me avoid stumbling through potentially unnerving situations with a client without knowing exactly what to do or how to handle the situation. This has in-turn helped me cultivate a sense of self-confidence that has helped me in many other ways, namely during job interviews when I am inevitably asked how I might handle a difficult client.

The program’s greatest strength

The Counseling Psychology program’s greatest strength is the breadth of courses that allows someone with an interest in counseling psychology to discover a specialized interest within the field, and ideally, facilitates their pursuit of that interest in whatever way is most meaningful. Whether it is working in research, helping inner city youth, helping a couple see a way out of marital disarray, or support someone who is grieving, you (the prospective student) will discover what is of most interest to you. 

My unique take on the degree

While in the Counseling Psychology program, I began to develop an interest in researching the neurobiological aspects of mental health disorders. Although my area of interest is slightly atypical (most of my colleagues chose a more clinical route), I have benefited significantly from learning the fundamental principles of counseling/clinical psychology in a way that has enabled me to make an easy transition into the world of clinical and translational research. Without a thorough grounding in counseling psychology, I would not have been able to advance my career in the way I have chosen.  

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