Interview with Clinical Psychology doctoral fellow: Valerie Valledor

  • By Valerie Valledor
  • Published on September 28

Hi! My name is Valerie Valledor, a Miami native who loves being by the water, finding creative outlets, and helping others through my chosen field, psychology. I am a doctoral student at Eastern Michigan University. As a doctoral student I hold many titles and roles including that of lab manager, student therapist, researcher, and teacher. 

What did you go to school for? 

My undergraduate degree was a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, obtained at the University of Florida.

What is your current job title and how has that changed since you first started working?

I am currently a doctoral fellow in the Clinical Psychology Doctoral Program at Eastern Michigan University, meaning that I am a PhD student who receives funding from the university to support my research studies and courses. My title has remained the same since the first year of the program, but my role title has grown each year. The first year I was simply a student. The second year I added teacher’s assistant (TA) and student clinician. My third year, I continued to TA, became a lecturer for an undergraduate course, and continued my clinical work as a student clinician. Currently, with the hours I have accrued being equivalent to that of a master’s student in psychology, I am considered a graduate clinician.

What made you decide to become a therapist?

My decision to become a therapist and be involved in the mental health field in general stemmed from my time as a group fitness instructor! I have always been passionate about healthy living and encouraging a positive lifestyle. I found while I taught group fitness that a lot of people are “doing” the right things to be physically healthy, but their thoughts, feelings, and sometimes reasons for exercise were more harmful than beneficial. At this point, I recalled how much I loved AP Psychology in high school and decided that I would dive into psychology and become a therapist to help people live healthier and happier lives. 

Other factors when into this decision, including reflection about my values and my skills. I knew I wanted to work one-on-one with people rather than be at a computer all day. I also knew I had a lot of energy and ease connecting with others. It was pretty clear that therapy, especially with children and families, was a route that would align with my values and skills.

What are some different roles you’ve held since becoming a therapist?

As a training therapist, I can say that I have done a lot of different clinical work. This has been to ensure that I am a well-rounded clinician when I am full licensed. While my role has consistently been “graduate therapist” I have provided psychotherapy services and neuropsychologist assessment services. In terms of therapy, I often work closely with children and families using evidence-based treatments for presenting concerns. In terms of assessment services, I guide families through an intake process to learn their concerns and use that information to carefully build and administer a test battery. The results of those tests serve as data for the child’s cognitive profile, which I then analyze and summarize to produce a case conceptualization and/or diagnoses for the family. I always add recommendations too! 

The fun part is I have done this across different clinical settings including a community behavioral health clinic, a university outpatient center for children and families, a university counseling center, and now, a pediatric residential inpatient psychiatric facility. 

Like I mentioned, I am a doctoral fellow, so I do research, I teach courses, I mentor undergrads, and the list goes on. Most recently, I created an Instagram to share the reality of life as a PhD student including the good and the bad, and how to get through it in the most healthy and happy way possible. 

What would you share with someone who wanted to find a position like yours or build a company/brand such as yours?

I would say that it is one of the most rewarding lines of work, and also one of the most emotionally demanding. I think it takes a certain level of resilience, strong healthy habits of your own, confidence, and ability to compartmentalize to work as a therapist. People are coming to you at their lowest point. In my specialization as a child psychologist, I have parents coming to me nervous about their child’s psychological wellbeing and trajectory. It’s a heavy weight to hold. But when you can help, it is AMAZING. 

What would you share with someone who is starting their journey to be a therapist?

I would remind them that they’re touching so many lives for the better, and to hold on to that when it feels too hard or like they are not making a difference. I would in fact remind them that even touching just one life can have a ripple effect.

What are you most passionate about with your role as a therapist?

I feel I am most passionate about equipping clients with tools and resources that will overall change the trajectory of their life. 

I think this comes up for me most when I do assessment for children whose parents are concerned. While it is never easy to let a parent know that their child does in fact, have a learning disorder or any other neurodevelopmental diagnoses, I think there is a HUGE sense of relief when parents actually understand what is contributing to certain behaviors and HOW to respond knowing this new information. It’s kind of like, I have given them a mini handbook to help make their kids’ lives easier and more successful. 

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your journey to where you are right now?

Don’t let fear hold you back. I was told I was too young to do a lot of things, like apply to the PhD program that has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and passions as a therapist. I was nervous but I went for it anyway and I feel like the timing is perfect for me.

I think there are a lot of negative “what if” thoughts that can come up and make use question whether we should have such a big role in other people’s lives as their therapists. What if I am a bad therapist? What if I do more harm than good? What if they don’t like me? While these are normal to think every now and then, but we should not let these thoughts hold us back. WE can do so much good when we can move past those fears, and understand that simply listening and providing empathy is meaningful for clients. 

What are you most proud of in your journey to where you are today?

I take a lot of pride of how I have navigated the system of advanced education. I have learned a lot by falling and getting up, which is quite characteristic of the first-generation student experience. My parents have always been supportive of my goals, AND…I had to seek practical support from others who knew about the PhD journey and what it took to become a therapist. I figured out what needed to be done by setting up meetings with professors while others were out having fun. I sought out mentors and internships on my own. I am proud of my boldness and where that has landed me today. 

What are ways our readers can connect with you and follow what you are up to?

Readers can follow me on Instagram @her.gradgrind! I share a mix of the personal and the professional with hopes of creating a safe and fun space for prospective PhD students and current PhD students in psychology to connect. I think it gives a good sneak peek of what life might look like for those considering this career path while validating and connecting with others already on this path!

Thanks for joining us on the Jobs For Therapists blog, Valerie!