The Critical Role of Field Supervisors in the Military & Veterans Psychology Program

December 18, 2017

Interns at the Worcester Vet Center work with veterans from eras dating back to World War II and the Korean War, with the majority of the veterans having served in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia.

The opportunity to train with respected and deeply experienced clinicians is a hallmark of William James College, and its Military and Veteran Psychology concentration is no exception. Students overseen by field supervisors at a local veterans center or hospital will acquire experience working with clients impacted by trauma, depression, and substance abuse, all under the guidance of clinicians with vast experience working with veterans and their families.

Integrating Clinical Skills with Self-Awareness

Richard Amodio, PhD, Director of Psychology Training, Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital.Richard Amodio, PhD, Director of Psychology Training at Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital in Bedford, MA, has been in his current role since 1999, overseeing the students in the practicum training and internship programs, as well as the residency program. The practicum program offers various areas of special emphasis, including neuropsychology, psychosocial rehabilitation, a mental health clinic, and a geropsychology track. In addition to extensive individual and group supervision, practicum training includes a range of didactics, diversity seminars, and intensive clinical training in one or more specific approaches.

“We want students to develop a clinical skill set as well as an intrapsychic awareness of themselves as they move through this process. As they do both of these things, they will become better able to see issues from multiple perspectives and recognize where they can step back and approach things differently from a clinical perspective and how to most effectively engage with the work by seeing it from a different angle,” says Amodio.

“Underlying all of this is the development of heightened awareness of the clinical needs of our nation’s veterans and the culture of the military itself.” 
—Dr. Richard Amodio

“Underlying all of this is the development of heightened awareness of the clinical needs of our nation’s veterans and the culture of the military itself,” he adds. “When a student is aware of those dynamics, he or she can become a better therapist. Part of our mission with all trainees is to help them develop an understanding of how to best treat and respond to the needs of veterans and their families.”

Juliennne Ugalde, MS, is an Assistant Professor at a local college, teaching full-time in the Human Development and Human Services program, and is also involved in the Early Childhood Education track. Concurrently, she is pursuing her second graduate degree at William James. She is enrolled in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling MA program with a concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy and Military and Veteran Psychology. Ugalde says of Amodio, “He is truly empathetic to his students, encouraging both learning and reflective thought. While giving us a comprehensive look into his own experiences and perspective, he also asked us to examine what we felt and thought throughout the process.” Ugalde, a Blue Star Mother who is committed to working with veterans and their families upon completion of her degree from William James, feels that Amodio has helped her to learn how to build resilience in both veterans and their family members, adding “Dr. Amodio has a deep understanding of what it means to work with veterans and how to see veterans and their families as unique individuals, approaching each client from a different perspective.”

Preparing Interns for Hands-On Work

Peggy Laneri, PhD, Director, Worcester Vet CenterPeggy Laneri, PhD, Director of the Worcester Vet Center in Worcester, MA, served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, during which time she earned her PhD in Counseling Psychology. She began her work at the Worcester Vet Center in 2013, establishing a training program that allows students to gain experience working with veterans of all ages. Laneri and her staff of clinical social workers and mental health counselors collaborate in order to train students and determine when they are ready to be assigned cases, which can often be as soon as two weeks, depending on how quickly a student develops a skill set and exhibits readiness for the work. Interns from William James College attend a weekly team meeting where they can present their cases and receive both individual and group supervision. “We’re a really nice team, and we always keep our doors open so that interns can pop in and ask questions as needed,” says Laneri. Interns at the Worcester Vet Center work with veterans from eras dating back to World War II and the Korean War, with the majority of the veterans having served in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia. The families of veterans also come to the center to receive care.

“Dr. Laneri’s military and civilian experience, her commitment to women and military leadership, and her place on the board of the VFW make her both an expert and role model for her interns.”
Michael McGrath Fourth-year Clinical PsyD student William James College 

Michael McGrath, a fourth-year Clinical PsyD student at William James College and one of the student leaders of the military student organization at the college, was Laneri’s first intern at the Worcester Vet Center. “Dr. Laneri is one of those incredibly competent people who exudes professionalism. Because of her sense of calm under pressure, she helped me to develop the ability to distinguish between client circumstances that are true emergencies and those that are evolving situations. She is a font of quiet compassion who inspires everyone around her to be better at what they do. Training with Dr. Laneri at the Worcester Vet Center is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done. I felt supported and able to focus fully on the work. Dr. Laneri’s military and civilian experience, her commitment to women and military leadership, and her place on the board of the VFW make her both an expert and role model for her interns.”

Robert Dingman, EdD, Director of the Military and Veterans Psychology Concentration at William James, says, “At William James, our students gain theoretical knowledge, as well as access to research about psychotherapy and assessment. However, we wouldn’t have a professional school of psychology if we didn’t have relationships with people who train students in the field. It’s a difficult thing for MVP students without military experience to learn to sit with vets and become comfortable navigating their range of experiences. Supervisors like Dr. Laneri and Dr. Amodio allow students to work through their own feelings as they become accustomed to clinical work with this unique community.”