Kathryn Brown

brownK-State graduation year: 2003
Degree: BA in psychology with a minor in French
Other degrees received: MS in clinical psychology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; PhD in counseling psychology, The University of Southern Mississippi
Current Employer: Kansas State University Counseling Services, Kansas State University Psychology Department, Manhattan Mental Health Services, LLC
Position: Licensed psychologist and adjunct faculty

How many times did you change your major during college?

I changed it once officially, but considered three different degrees before settling on psychology.

Describe the process of choosing your major:

When I started college I was very confident that I wanted to go into medicine to be a medical doctor. However, as school progressed I had a difficult time staying competitive for medical school and struggled with my science classes. My junior year I took a course in genetics which finally made me stop to reconsider my goals. I got the first D of my entire life in that class.

I happened to be working at the Academic and Career Information Center at the time and started thinking about how I might figure out an alternative career, especially since it was so emotionally difficult for me to consider an alternative to medicine. One day my supervisor suggested that I think about the reasons I wanted to be a doctor. When I looked at my list I realized that ALL of the reasons had to do with the relationship to the patient. I thought a long time about my interests and abilities as well as some limitations to changing majors. I decided that I did not want to add any more time to my schooling for financial reasons, so I needed to pick a major that I could still finish within the next two years.

I ended up torn between English and psychology. At the time I thought I wanted to teach at the university level. I took classes in both disciplines to see which one I liked better. By the end of that semester I decided to go into psychology. After I changed my major from biology to psychology I started the process of thinking about graduate school.

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?

Academic and Career Information Center

Alpha Delta Pi

French Club

Psi Chi-International Honor Society in Psychology

Psychology Department Research Assistant

Describe the process of finding your first job:

I started officially applying for jobs in January 2009. I had been in graduate school both in Colorado (for my master’s) and Mississippi (for my PhD). Thus networking was built in to working on my degrees and doing practicums.

During my internship year I looked at different websites geared toward recruiting psychologists for different agencies. One website in particular was for my specialty area, which is university counseling centers. Most of the places where I interviewed required an initial phone interview before they decided to fly me in for a traditional interview. The typical interview for this level of a position is a full-day event.

During the interviews I was typically asked to present a case study about one of my clients so they could get an idea of how I worked with people. They also required that I develop a presentation geared toward educating undergraduate students about a topic area in which I was interested.

I went to lunch and dinner with different staff members. Throughout the day I was provided a campus tour and a tour of the department, and met with several key members of the organization (e.g., vice president of student afffairs). Most of the interviews were done in a group setting, but some of them were one-on-one.

The entire job search took about six months, which was much longer than most people with my level of education. I spent roughly two to three hours a week looking and applying for jobs. This was in addition to working full-time. I went on four different in-person job interviews (I don't even remember how many phone interviews) before I was offered and accepted my current position.

Briefly describe a typical day at your job:

My days vary quite a bit. I see students for individual counseling every day; sometimes I will only have room for one or two clients, but then other days I see up to six. I attend meetings to help with program development in different areas. I co-lead therapy groups, and right now I have two groups a week; however in a few weeks I will be adding another group.

I am responsible for developing and delivering presentations to students on different mental health topics. I have two days a week where I do two hours each day of crisis coverage, meaning that I am on standby to help students who have just been sexually assaulted, feeling suicidal, homicidal, etc. Each semester I have the after-hours phone to assist students that are in crisis.

I have recently been teaching a class on campus, which allows me to take on a different role with students. I enjoy having the opportunity to teach others about the field of psychology and help them determine if this is the right field for them.

Finally, I have a part-time private practice in which I am a co-owner. There I see individuals and couples as well as provide ADHD assessment to members of the Manhattan community. Being a co-owner of a business requires that I know how to run the business in addition to provide the clinical work. I am in charge of developing policy and procedures, billing, marketing, etc. It has been very different experience from working within an agency as I have for the past 5 years.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety and challenge of my job. My job is mentally challenging, and most days I hardly notice the time going by because I am so involved with what I am doing. I am also very passionate about the students I serve and helping them to be more successful in college and in life. My job is very rewarding because there are many times where I get to see important change happen in people’s lives.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Often the challenge of my job is not becoming overly emotionally involved. I have had to learn how to separate my professional and personal life. Occasionally the work itself can be emotionally challenging and frustrating. Unfortunately, sometimes people need counseling because they are difficult to get along with, which means that they may be difficult to connect with on an emotional level. It is very important to be patient with people.

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

Perseverance will be the key to achieving your degree, but then once in your job, it will be the key to enduring success. In order to be successful in this job you have to be a committed to lifelong learning and to be able to not take yourself too seriously.