Alumni Spotlight 12: Jennifer B. MacLeamy, Psy.D.

Where are you living currently?

I live in Petaluma in beautiful Sonoma County, CA.

Photo: Jennifer MacLeamy, Alumna

What is your current job?

I’m a licensed clinical psychologist working for Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa in the Chemical Dependency Services department. I was recently honored to accept a position as a manager in this department.

In addition, for the past three years, I have been Co-Training the Director of Kaiser Santa Rosa’s postdoctoral residency program. It has been a joy to help mentor and train postdoctoral residents as they take their final steps into licensed clinical practice.

How has your training at the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. program helped you get where you are today?

During my training in the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. Consortium, I learned not only how to be an excellent clinician, but how to critically evaluate research and develop programs to meet the needs of my patients and my organization. This training served me well in my role as a Postdoctoral Residency Training Director, and will continue to do so in my role as a manager.

I have continued to appreciate the Consortium’s emphasis on diverse hands-on training. Throughout my career, I have needed to draw upon my varied clinical and research experiences when presented with challenging patient populations.

What advice would you offer current consortium students that you wish you knew when you were in graduate school?

Practice willingness whenever possible!

Be willing to try a practicum site that might not initially seem like the best fit, as you never know when the experiences you glean there could come in handy later in your career, or lead you into a field that you didn’t realize you would love. As a postdoctoral resident myself, I did a minor rotation in Chemical Dependency at Kaiser Santa Rosa, a field which I had never explored in my previous training, and I fell in love with that work. I would never have learned that if I had stayed within my comfort zone. 

Be willing to move, if you can, for internship or postdoc year – there are amazing training opportunities available all over the country and you will never be able to replicate the intensity and support of a great predoctoral internship or postdoctoral residency.

Be willing to really listen to feedback from your peers and supervisors. It is so easy to get entrenched in one way of practicing as a clinician, and your willingness to accept and work on critical feedback will help you grow into a psychologist who can truly help make a difference in patients’ lives. Vulnerability and openness is not a weakness in our field, it is how you grow and develop, as we can witness when working with our own patients. And please consider engaging in your own therapy—it’s an incredibly powerful experience, especially during graduate school when you are finding your professional identity.

Be willing to accept help during the hard times (exams, dissertation, application times, licensure preparation, job applications). The road to becoming a licensed psychologist is longer than I had ever imagined, but it’s worth it! You have people in your corner who want to support you, if you are willing to let them. Self-care is not just a buzzword - it’s critical to your survival as a psychologist.

Also, one of the best pieces of advice I received from my dissertation chair, Dr. Kim Wilson was this: truly celebrate your accomplishments during this long process. The time between milestones may feel very long and it is so easy to quickly move along to the next big task at hand. Allow yourself to feel proud of what you have accomplished so far and to celebrate every milestone along the way. 

What was your favorite experience during your time in the PGSP-Stanford Psy.D. program?

My favorite memories of graduate school are filled with amazing people: colleagues, classmates, professors, and supervisors. I don’t know if I can choose one instance that stands out, but the collective experience was one of supportive community and growth. I fondly remember late nights studying with my classmates, working on projects together, and watching each other grow over the five years into full-fledged clinicians. I recall intense group supervision sessions in various training sites and witnessing the power of trust and community as my colleagues and I worked together to be able to provide treatment to challenging populations and maintain personal boundaries. Years later, my friendships with former classmates, supervisors, and professors are some of my most cherished personal and professional relationships.

What has been the most surprising thing you learned about the field since graduating?

I continue to be surprised by how much there still is to learn every day. I love working in the field of psychology, because it is constantly changing and shifting as we learn more. I hope that I never stop exploring my own experience as a clinician and as a human in the room with my patients.

What are your favorite hobbies/extracurricular activities outside of psychology and work?

I became trained as a yoga instructor a few years ago in order to deepen my own practice – I have found that this truly helps keep me grounded, especially when I have had a challenging session with a patient or when I am experiencing personal stress. I love to paint, sing, and play guitar; although I admit, I don’t do those much anymore since becoming a parent and working full-time. Living in Sonoma County, I get out for hikes and day trips whenever possible to enjoy the amazing place in which I live.

Anything else you think would be great for us to know about you?

I’m married to a wonderful fellow psychologist (we went through graduate school together – I highly recommend it) and we have two delightful little boys who are my REAL job when I’m not at work. I have been fascinated to watch them grow and to see first-hand how universal a lot of the human experience is, even starting in infancy. It has also been humbling to learn how personally challenging parenthood can be. I have learned a lot about myself as a parent and as a clinician as a result.