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Counseling Psychology Career and Professional Resources

Alumni Spotlight: Cate Drinan, MA

June 02, 2009

Fond Memories & Meaningful Work


I’m so pleased to be invited to tell my story for this website. While a graduate student in the Counseling Psychology program (1995-2000), I also worked in several graduate school offices, married and gave birth to both my children. I have very fond memories of balancing my son on my knee while typing at my desk, and then gathering materials for evening classes! Those were wonderful times filled with new beginnings. Now I have the opportunity to share what I’ve done since leaving Lewis & Clark, and to reflect on what I learned then that has helped me in my current work.

Two weeks after graduation, I gave birth to my daughter. Six weeks later, I was thinking about finding a job, when I got a call from a CPSY staff member known for her warm caring about students and alumni, and her diligent efforts on our behalf. Another alum was looking to hire an instructor for a parenting program, and had called the department asking for help in contacting graduates about the position. Two weeks later, I was teaching my first class at Willamette Falls Hospital’s Parent & Young Child Program.

That first job was both wonderful and challenging. Encountering several steep learning curves, I was grateful for what I’d learned at Lewis & Clark about group facilitation, family therapy and child development. At the hospital we taught emergent curriculum in a group format. Each week parents brought their most pressing questions: sleep issues, feeding, behavioral challenges, discipline, etc. We responded with information about development, temperament, attachment and positive limit-setting in a collaborative fashion. We set up the room like a small preschool, and parents brought their children to play while we talked. This provided the opportunity for immediate modeling and practice as we simultaneously supported parents’ and children’s learning. It was then, and continues to be, a tremendously rich program.

In early 2004, I transitioned to Morrison Child and Family Services to begin work as an Early Childhood Mental Health Prevention Consultant. One aspect of my job consists of providing early childhood consultation in community preschool settings. I provide on-site support to a preschool by consulting with the director and teachers about classroom management, as well as providing information about common challenges that can make it hard for children to be successful in the classroom. With permission, I can provide individual observations of children who are struggling; I work with them in class, and also support their families with parent coaching services and referrals.

Another aspect of my job involves implementing evidence-based groups. I teach both a parenting series and a cognitive-behavioral therapy group for parents. Our parenting series, The Incredible Years, was developed at The University of Washington, and is supported by 25 years of research demonstrating its success reducing conduct problems in children and increasing their social, emotional and academic competence. Certified as an Incredible Years Mentor Teacher (1 of 5 in the U.S.), I provide both training and consultation to my agency for the parenting series. In September of 2007, Morrison was honored with a national Science and Service Award from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, recognizing our effective implementation of the Incredible Years as an evidence-based program. We’ll be featured in the Winter 2008 edition of Focal Point (see link below), in an article about changes in clinician roles in the face of new modes of practice. (NOTE: The PSU Focal Point link also offers archived articles on evidenced-based practice related to family support and children’s mental health).

My tenure at both Willamette Falls Hospital and Morrison have provided me with rich and rewarding work experiences. Both jobs have brought to life for me all of the knowledge I took with me from Lewis & Clark. My education in the Counseling Psychology Program was firmly grounded in both theory and practice, and I continue on a learning path that started for me with my first class. The classes I took and the instructors I worked with taught me not only core knowledge areas and elements of professional practice, but also how to think and to be open to new ideas. Working with families unites a passion for me that is both professional and personal. I hope to continue working for a long time to come, in the modes of practice I have come to love – prevention, consultation, and groups – in order to support and advocate for each family in my care.

I would be happy to talk further with anyone interested in more information.

Related Links and Helpful Resources

Morrison Child and Family Services
The Incredible Years
RRI Focal Point publication

~Cate Drinan  

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