Being honest with what you want in life and going for it keeps you happy and satisfied.
1. What is your current job title and how did you decide on this career choice?
My name is Lea Tate and I am a clinical psychologist. I was raised in the Northstate and graduated from Shasta High School, Class of 1993. I attended the University of California, Berkeley and received my BA in Psychology with an informal emphasis in Military Affairs. After graduation in 1997, I attended the California School of Professional Psychology and earned my Masters Degree (1999) and my Doctorate in Psychology in 2001 with an emphasis in Cross-Cultural Psychology. I have been working in the field since that time. Currently, I work at the Department of Veterans Affairs as a clinical psychologist and as an associate administrator at Patients’ Hospital of Redding. In my “spare” time, I have a small private practice where I perform disability evaluations on infants, adolescents and adults.
Making the decision to go into psychology was done when I was in the 5th grade. I was always the child who others went to for advice, family problems and problem solving. I enjoyed helping my friends and trying to figure out other ways to solve problems they were having. I continue to enjoy doing the same thing as an adult.
2. What types of qualities are important for this career choice?
Clinical psychologists have to be able to balance empathy with helping individuals achieve their goals. The qualities that are important in this profession are: empathy, great listening skills and the ability to establish rapport with clients. Connecting to clients no matter what is said in confidence is imperative. Putting aside your biases for certain issues (treatment of sex offenders, domestic violence perpetrators or victims, etc.) is important because it is difficult to help clients achieve goals if you have a preconceived idea about the goal. I have found that the best psychologist are ones that have great intuition!
3. What is a typical day or week in your position like? What exactly do you do?
I have several different hats in my current jobs:
At the Department of Veterans Affairs, I am the Local Recovery Coordinator. I work there part-time and I am responsible for ensuring Recovery Oriented Treatment is given to Veterans within the Northern California Healthcare System. Most of my days are spent on the telephone speaking with Veterans or training other VA mental health staff members on Recovery principles.
At Patients’ Hospital of Redding, I am responsible for ensuring all departments are complying with state and federal hospital regulations. I work closely with the CEO of Patients’ Hospital of Redding.
In my private practice, I typically see 4-7 patients on Fridays. I perform psychological testing on infants, adolescents and adults. Psychological testing can includes: determining intelligence quotient (IQ) scores, achievement scores, memory impairment assessments, development estimations, sexual deviant behavior levels, personality characteristics and neuropsychological functioning. It also focuses on cognitive, social, language and motor skill impairments
If you haven’t notices, the common denominator of all of my current positions is that it involves interacting with people… You have to enjoy people!
4. What areas of study would you suggest for kids interested in your field? What path would you suggest?
When I speak to younger people who are interested in psychology, I always encourage classes in psychology, statistics, anthropology and sociology. Courses in history are helpful when working with clients of diverse backgrounds–if you have more knowledge about where the client comes from, rapport is easily established. This could be knowledge about the military, immigrants, various ethnic groups or socio-economic struggles. Connecting with a client can be the only difference between life and death as a result of suicide.
I would also suggest volunteering in an inpatient unit or county mental health. This is where I started. I worked at Shasta Psychiatric Hospital as a mental health worker while I was home from college in the summer. It is always been helpful for me to have the background of starting from the very bottom in mental health and working to the top. The most difficult patients are found in these types of facilities. You will immediately know if you have the personality to manage a successful profession in clinical psychology.
5. What is one piece of advice you would give to someone interested in your field?
If you pursue a career in psychology, commit to getting the doctoral degree. Having your Bachelor or Masters degree will not allow you to utilize the entire degree to the fullest potential. Since I received my degree in 2001, I’ve had so much flexibility in my career! It has led me to working in 2 of the largest healthcare organizations in the nation, working at Hurricane Katrina in a supervisory position, perform psychological testing, consult with lawyers on juror selection, teaching classes, profiling clients and testifying in court regarding psychological incidents. I would not have been exposed or included in most of these experiences without having my doctoral degree.
6.What is one myth buster you would like to share about your field?
All psychologists are NOT crazy!
7. Did you take a linear path to get here? If not, what were some pivotal points that changed your direction?
I made the decision in 5th grade to pursue a career in clinical psychology. I never deviated or considered anything else… I have always enjoyed school so going to college for several years was not a problem from me. Life changes all the time. You have to be prepared for highs and lows. Having a solid, successful degree and career has given me stability and options. As a woman, I think it’s important to have options so that you never feel trapped. I definitely have “exercised” options throughout my life! Overall, I am happy with me career choice and very proud of my career history.
8. What personal qualities have helped you succeed in your career?
I believe that my top qualities that helped me succeed is 1) not being afraid to pursue something new, 2) honesty and 3)being genuine. It’s always tempting to say “no, thank you” if someone asks you to do something different or foreign. I believe that getting involved, meeting new people and challenging skills is key to personal growth. Being honest with what you want in life and going for it keeps you happy and satisfied. Genuineness is important because people know when you aren’t being sincere–you can’t connect with anyone when they don’t trust you!
I also have a pretty good sense of humor. My family laughs a lot together!
9. What do you most enjoy about your career?
The flexibility is the most enjoyable part of my career! My degree has allowed me to work in juvenile hall, testify in court, provide psychological profiles and work for 2 of the largest healthcare systems in the nation (Kaiser Permanente and Department of Veterans Affairs). I love the variety in my schedule!
10. What kind of work experience as a student would be the most beneficial for this career?
I always did a lot of volunteer work in high school and college in the psychology profession. Exposing yourself to difficult individuals occurs in psychology at some time or another… Working in an inpatient unit or a county mental health agency is great experience.
11. What education or training is required, if any, to reach your position?
4 years of undergraduate school, 4 years of graduate school, 1 year of post-doctoral internship. You must complete a dissertation to complete your doctoral program.
12. If you weren’t in this career field, what other career would you be interested in? and why?
I think that I picked a great career option that works with my personality! I have never considered a different profession.
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