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Non-traditional Student Pursuing a Lifelong Goal of Working as a Psychologist

Non-traditional Student Pursuing a Lifelong Goal of Working as a Psychologist

Bahareh Sahebi, Psy.D., AMFT
2017, Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology
Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg
Postdoctoral Clinical Scholar Fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University

“At the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg, I’ve obtained a superior level of training from the faculty, who are dedicated to the growth of each and every student.”

Non-traditional Student Pursuing a Lifelong Goal of Working as a Clinical Psychologist

Bahareh Sahebi never gave up on her passion to pursue a career in psychology. After completing undergraduate degrees in sociology and psychology, she became a corporate business systems analyst and a project manager. But she turned that detour into an opportunity to develop competencies that benefited her clinical studies. “My previous career greatly contributed to my strong level of adaptiveness including evolving within a changing environment, utilizing a systematic approach to critically analyze situations, developing flexibility, enhancing the ability to attend to details, and expanding an elevated level of learning agility,” she stated.

“My goal was always to obtain a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology,” she added. “I wanted to learn about the science behind clinical practices and gain the skills I’d need to contribute to the literature, through research practice. I also wanted to learn about diagnostic practices and integrative assessments in order to thoroughly conduct psychological evaluations.” Her clinical research project was titled “Reproductive Decisions in Choosing a Childfree or Parenting Lifestyle: Adapting Psycho-educational Program for Couples from In-Vivo to Online Models.”

Sahebi earned the degree Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg in 2017. She is currently a postdoctoral clinical scholar fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. Dr. Sahebi completed her doctoral psychology internship at the State of Connecticut’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS)—a hands-on training experience through the Connecticut Valley Internship Program—that placed her in many different settings, including:

  • River Valley Services, providing community mental health for outpatient treatment of individuals with severe and persistent mental illness within the public sector;
  • Whiting Forensic Division, a psychiatric inpatient maximum security prison;
  • Blue Hills, an inpatient substance abuse rehabilitation facility in the inner-city;
  • Mobile Crisis assessment, working with social workers and psychiatrists to conduct risk assessment identified by a state police department; and
  • Cognitive remediation research, in collaboration with Wesleyan University, focused on individuals within the public sector who have been diagnosed with some form of a psychotic disorder and experience neurocognitive symptoms.

She admits that it was challenging to be a non-traditional student. “One of my biggest challenges throughout graduate school was to find my own place as a student transitioning from a non-traditional academic background and also changing careers,” she said. “One thing I appreciated about the program [at Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg] was the diversity in the student population’s age and previous career backgrounds. Looking back, I am sincerely grateful to a number of faculty members who took the time to get to know students like myself. They provided opportunities to help me bridge my skills from a previous corporate career into competencies within the program that ultimately helped to enrich my overall experience as both a graduate student and a launching professional.”

Sahebi recently began a two-year residency program as a postdoctoral clinical scholar fellow at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. She works with individuals, families, and couples in a clinical setting. This fellowship will also provide her with opportunities to teach classes at Northwestern University and provide clinical supervision to students at The Family Institute. She’ll also be involved in research related to families and couples.

Sahebi is proud of her work at DMHAS within the last year, which included providing individual, couples, family and group psychotherapy for the public sector to individuals diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness. This placement was critical in her professional development as a trauma specialist. Sahebi’s internship also provided the opportunity to develop advanced skills in psychodiagnostic testing within both outpatient community and maximum-security forensic psychiatric state hospital settings. She has also received ongoing didactic training in psychological assessment, neuropsychology, forensics, case conceptualization, and the integration of science and practice; worked collaboratively within a multidisciplinary team including medical practitioners, social workers, case managers, psychiatrists and vocational rehabilitation specialists; and collaborated with a research team from Wesleyan University on a cognitive remediation study with participants who have schizophrenia or schizoaffective diagnoses. This effort was part of her internship clinical research project for patients within the community mental health setting. After a year of working within the research group, in August 2017, Dr. Sahebi proposed her program development initiative – A Quality Improvement Project: Implementing the Cognitive Symptom Management and Rehabilitation Therapy (CogSMART) Program and Expected Group Treatment Barriers – and her clinical research paper and presentation were well received at River Valley Services.

Sahebi continues to develop a multi-systemic outlook in client care—a view she discovered in her master’s degree program at Adler University and continued into her doctorate program at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University | Schaumburg. “At ISPP, I obtained a superior level of training and supervision from psychologists and marriage and family therapy supervisors,” she said. “My clinical experience took place in a variety of settings including non-for-profit organizations, private practice settings, inpatient behavioral units, substance abuse rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, forensic maximum security psychiatric treatment facilities and state hospitals, partial hospitalization settings within a behavioral health hospital, and community mental health centers focused on public sector services. Through these experiences, I have learned the skills necessary to conduct thorough psychological assessments and provide tailored clinical treatment for individuals with diverse presenting issues.”

Sahebi recommends that current students step outside of their comfort zones and learn to face fears. “If there is a certain clinical population that you are afraid to work with, then apply to practicum placements that will nurture your strengths and show you that those insecurities can be changed,” she said. “If writing is an area where you struggle, ask for feedback and take advantage of the many resources at the university, including collaborating with your professors and the writing tutors, to help you refine those skills. Also, life balance may not always be possible but don’t ever fall short on developing your own way to self care.”

Sahebi believes that one of the most important tasks for a clinician is to be attentive to one’s own cultural competence. She is encouraged to continuously work toward becoming a culturally-informed professional in the field, prepared to provide individual, family, couple, and group therapeutic services as well as psychological evaluations. “My diverse training experiences have helped me acquire competency in treating a multicultural clinical population while providing care for individuals and families with consideration of systemic factors,” she added. “Much of my clinical experience thus far has focused on helping underserved individuals and families with a history of exposure to complex trauma. Training at both the national and local levels has helped me gain an appreciation for evidence-based practices and the importance of demonstrating effective assessment and psychotherapeutic skills tailored toward diverse clinical populations. As I launch my career, I am very excited about opportunities to contribute to the body of literature related to multicultural considerations, assessment, and clinical treatment of diverse populations.”

Dr. Sahebi’s work has received special recognition from various professional organizations and she has been invited to speak at numerous regional, national and international conferences. She also received the following awards:

  • Recipient of the 2014 IAMFT Maurlea Babb Conference Scholarship
  • Recipient of the 2013-2014 Illinois School of Professional Psychology Diversity Fellowship Scholarship 
  • Recipient of the 2012-2013 Illinois School of Professional Psychology Academic Scholarship
  • Recipient of the Alfred Adler Scholarship

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