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on August 4, 2017
Dr. Sarah Skelton
2014, Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology
Hawai`i School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University
Psychologist, Practicum Training Coordinator and Student Veteran Liaison at Texas A&M University
“Argosy University’s focus on cultural competence, self-care and being student centered really made for a positive learning environment for me.”
Helps Student Veterans via Psychotherapy Crisis Intervention, Outreach and Training
Dr. Sarah Skelton is a psychologist, practicum training coordinator and student veteran liaison at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas. In her role with student veterans, Skelton provides short term psychotherapy, crisis intervention, outreach and training. It’s a profession that she pursued following the 9/11 attacks when she joined the Army as a mental health technician.
“I wanted to serve soldiers that were struggling with years of trauma and war,” she said. “When I came to Argosy University, I did not initially want to work with veterans and military in my practicum because I was already doing it in the Army. However, it was my [calling] to be able to work with soldiers and their families in different capacities.”
Skelton chose Argosy University because, according to her, it was a small, diverse school known for being military inclusive. “I was blessed to be in a military inclusive school and frequently had two to three veterans even in our small classes,” she states. “Hawaii is such a melting pot of diversity. The school’s focus on cultural competence, self-care and being student centered really made for a positive learning environment for me.” Her instructors, said Skelton, were interested in her success and she continues to keep in touch with both her instructors and mentors.
Skelton added that the school taught her how to be reflective and authentic—two qualities she describes as valuable assets in her profession. “I was a first generation student,” she continued. “When I started at Argosy University, I was the first in my family to go to college. By the time I finished, my mother and both of my sisters had graduated or were enrolled in college. Argosy looked at my experiences and life when considering my application and that helped me to change an entire generation of education in my family.”
During her practicum, Skelton worked at an active duty base in Hawaii at a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) clinic. “When I was applying for my internship, I kept looking at training manuals of college counseling,” Skelton said. “It felt so much like what we do with our National Guard soldiers, just in a different context. I took a chance and applied for university counseling sites and was ultimately matched with Stanford University.”
At Stanford, Skelton developed training programs and initiatives for student veterans. Her post doctorate work took place at George Washington University, where she worked as a student veteran coordinator. “I love working with student veterans and military. I continue to serve as an enlisted mental health technician with the Texas National Guard and recently came back from a deployment where we were able to support the behavioral health needs of almost 2,500 soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait,” she said.
During that deployment, Skelton offered combat stress support to soldiers in Operation Spartan Shield in Kuwait and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq. She also provided crisis management and trauma debriefings. “I taught 10 applied suicide intervention trainings and instructed 248 soldiers in suicide intervention skills,” she stated. “I was part of a resiliency team that coordinated a large scale suicide prevention outreach for over 500 service members and live streamed from Kuwait to Washington D.C. in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.” Additionally, Skelton trained almost 500 soldiers in sexual harassment and assault prevention.
Her close relationships with military personnel are the highlight of her career, and she indicated that she works to eliminate the stigma of mental health in the military. “It’s a warrior culture,” she said. “So when I am offered a glimpse into their worlds, when they allow themselves to be vulnerable with me or when we build those relationships that allow for authentic dialogue and change, I feel my most successful.”
Skelton admits that transitioning into higher education after military life was difficult. “One of the biggest challenges I had was communication style,” she stated. “I was in the military and came from New York. You couldn’t find a more loud, intimidating direct communication style than I had [when I arrived in Hawaii]. Direct feedback from my peers and the ability to find an authentic way to communicate really helped people to hear what I was saying.”
Skelton served in the Army National Guard for 12 years and was named the Citizen Soldier of the Year (2008), Distinguished Honor Graduate for the Warrior Leader Course (WLC) (2011) and Trooper of the Quarter (2015). She was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal , Army Accommodation Medals, Army Achievement Medals and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.
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