Whether at Dartmouth or Argosy, Berman Considers Teaching Her “Guilty Pleasure”
After eight years as assistant professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine, Dr. Margit Berman knew that her new position at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University would be different. But she wasn’t quite sure just what those differences might be.
“It’s been fascinating to discover how students at the two schools are alike—and how they are unique,” says Berman, who is an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at Argosy. “My Argosy students tend to be a more diverse group in nearly every way, including age, ethnicity, and life experience.”
While their backgrounds are generally less academically rigorous than her Dartmouth students, says Berman, they often possess a level of ambition and enthusiasm that can serve as a great equalizer.
“Many of my Argosy students begin their graduate or post-graduate studies with a wealth of life experience to draw upon,” Berman explains. “That experience can serve them really well, whether they intend to pursue a career in clinical work, research, or teaching.”
Berman, who earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology and Social Psychology from the University of Minnesota in 2006, says she’s especially drawn to working with older students who are returning to pursue a graduate or post-graduate degree in psychology, often after developing successful careers in a totally unrelated field.
“I find that most ‘adult learners’ return to the classroom with a focus and clarity that younger, straight-out-of-college students don’t yet possess,” says Berman. “In many cases, they’ve known what they’ve wanted to do their entire lives, but family and financial responsibilities required them to earn a living and to stay in a certain lane. Now they’re at a time and place in their lives when they’re ready and able to pursue their passion.”
Berman says that by the time adult students find their way into her classroom, their commitment and focus is unmistakable.
“They possess a unique wisdom and humility that comes from knowing what you don’t know—and being totally open and willing to learn it,” Berman says. “No matter how sharp or evolved a younger student may be, he or she isn’t likely to possess that degree of inner wisdom and self-awareness without some life experience as a foundation.”
Berman says she’s committed to helping students zero in on their passion—and then craft career paths that allows them to do what they love most. For Berman, that passion is working with patients who are dealing with issues around eating, weight, body image, and mood. In 2015, she was the recipient of the Hitchcock Foundation Scholars Career Development Award for her research and development of the “Accept Yourself!” intervention for women with obesity and depression.
She also trains colleagues throughout the country in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an innovative “third wave” cognitive-behavioral treatment that offers new hope in treating depressed clients, clients unable to tolerate exposure to their fears, eating-disordered clients, and clients who have tried and failed to lose weight.
But as much as Berman enjoys training fellow clinicians, treating patients, conducting research, chairing committees, or serving on the editorial boards of scholarly journals, the classroom is where her heart is.
“I often call teaching my ‘guilty pleasure’ because I just enjoy it so much,” says Berman. “When you do clinical work with patients, there’s an immediacy and a sense of importance to the process. That session can make a difference in the life of that patient. When you do research, you hope your work will also have an impact of people’s lives, although often in a less direct way. While teaching doesn’t have the same sense of urgency as clinical work or research, I love being in the classroom with students.”
Berman says she finds debating ideas and challenging and mentoring students to be a very stimulating.
“I’m doing more than teaching students—I’m helping train my future colleagues,” she says. “It’s an incredibly rewarding and energizing process.” ###