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Career Spotlight: Jonathan Perle, Ph.D., ABPP, Midwestern University

Jonathan Perle, Ph.D., ABPP
Board Certified in Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
Assistant Professor

Coordinator of Child and Adolescent Track
Behavioral Sciences – Clinical Psychology Midwestern University

1. What is your current occupation?

I recently began my new role as an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Child and Adolescent education track within the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Midwestern University in Illinois.

2. What do you do?/Describe your role 

Academically, my role at Midwestern University has provided me with the flexibility to engage in multiple endeavors including the ability to design the child and adolescent curriculum, teach several clinically-focused courses to doctoral-level trainees, supervise dissertations and research, supervise clinical endeavors, serve on division and university-wide committees (e.g., admissions, curriculum), and conduct my own research. Two passion projects I am currently working on are: 1) a smartphone app designed to improve monitoring, adherence, and outcomes for families undergoing behavioral interventions to address a child’s disruptive behavior disorder and/or ADHD-related symptoms, and 2) the norming of ASEBA system tools (i.e., CBCL, YSR, TRS) for the populations of Trinidad and Tobago.

In addition to academic responsibilities, I also provide clinical child and adolescent services for a range of challenges (e.g., disruptive behavior, ADHD, anxiety, mood, adjustment, elimination, academic, etc.) at a side practice outside of Chicago, Illinois. Furthermore, I am collaborating with my department and the university to create a psychology-focused consultation service for the Midwestern University clinics, which will then serve as a basis to create a full psychology-focused clinic.

3. How did you learn about your job?

I first learned about my job through the APA Monitor’s job listing webpage after a fairly thorough review of several websites (e.g., APA Monitor, Indeed, Monster), listservs (e.g., APA Division 53, 54, 12), and discussions with colleagues.

4. How have you navigated your career? As in, what was the process that you took to get to your current position?

As I always enjoyed inter- and multi-disciplinary work that allowed for clinical, research, and service-based possibilities, I pursued opportunities within medical centers. This trend continued throughout my entire doctoral training, internship at the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital / Baylor College of Medicine, before compelling me to accept a position (where I remained for several years) as a staff psychologist within the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Combined experiences have proven invaluable, as each provided unique contributions to my professional training and evolution. Specifically, they allowed me to provide direct clinical services to families within a variety of settings (e.g., medical centers, primary care community medical centers, rural outreach clinics), conduct clinically-meaningful independent and collaborative research, consult and provide didactic trainings within my place of employment and the larger community (e.g., medical practices, schools, community centers), supervise and train psychological and medical trainees/interns/fellows/residents, and assist in running several psychology clinics.

When I decided that it was time to leave Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to relocate to be closer to my fiancé, I felt that my past experiences provided me with the versatility to explore several potential job options including academic medical centers, general hospitals, universities, and community centers. After reviewing websites and the listservs, I narrowed my choices to a few true potentials. At that point, I did my homework by reviewing each website, and looking into their faculty/staff members in terms of professional trainings, research, and current interests to see how well my abilities and interests match with the program’s needs. I then asked as many family members, colleagues, and friends as I could find about what they knew about the institution, the people who worked there, and the location it was in. This helped me further narrow my options, as colleagues provided some “unpublished” information that helped me avoid locations where I likely would not be able to thrive. Once it was narrowed down to top options, I applied and subsequently interviewed, where I asked tons of questions regarding what my role would be, what responsibilities I would have, and how much flexibility I would have to also pursue my interests above and beyond the program’s goals for my employment. Once I had offers on the table, I again consulted family, friends, and colleagues before putting all the information together to look at the job itself, the location it was in, the reputation of the institution, and benefits to select a place that was best for me. This ultimately led me to negotiate and accept my current position at Midwestern University, an inter-disciplinary-focused institution that allows for an integration of my desired roles (e.g., clinical, research, service).

5. Are you a member of Div53?  If so, how has being a member of Div53 been helpful to you?

Yes. I believe that being a member of Division 53 has been very helpful in several regards. For me, the biggest benefit has remained the professional identification it allows within the field of clinical child and adolescent psychology. Not only is it a respected organization, but access to member listings, listservs, and division-specific events at conferences have allowed me to network and connect with countless other like-minded people.

6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? Why?

While sort of a vague answer, the most enjoyable aspect of my current job is the flexibility. I say this because I am the type of person who enjoys many roles and diversity of responsibilities to keep me happiest. As such, my current role that allows for teaching, training, supervising, research, involvement in committees, and clinic development is one that I have greatly enjoyed. Although this may not be the most unique answer, I can honestly say from personal experience and from stories from colleagues that flexibility is not always present.

7. What is a tough aspect of your job?  How have you handled it?

Due to the types of locations I have worked in, and my specialization in the evaluation and treatment of children/adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), one of the toughest aspects of my job is treating children and families who present to me with seriously impairing behavior challenges after having attempted unsuccessful treatments with other providers. While every case is different, I attempt a collaborative approach that involves a heavy dose of psychoeducation, role-playing, invitation of feedback or criticism, and problem-solving at each stage of treatment to ensure that families are well prepared to make progress and understand how my approach may differ (or not) from previously attempted interventions. Utilizing this approach, I have two favorite parts. First, I enjoy involving the child, adolescent, or teen in the discussion of the treatment to make them active participants in their own interventions. The sense of ownership and shift away from either blame or punitive strategies that many families employ due to a lack of helpful options helps each member see treatment in a different light. Second, I enjoy the problem-solving at each session. This allows me to watch the family develop from requiring some “hand holding” to becoming more and more independent as they demonstrate therapeutic progress.

8. What is one thing that you wish you had known as a graduate student or post-doc/early career psychologist that would have helped you navigate your career?

One thing that I wish I had known as a graduate student and/or postdoc, and something that I finally learned as an early career psychologist, is how helpful professionals in the field can be. I remember reading countless articles by prolific psychologists who I never imagined speaking to. Nevertheless, as I progressed in my career, I remember explaining to a colleague that I really wanted to work on a project and reach out to one of the field leaders for some feedback. While I originally thought that the person would not “waste their time speaking to me,” thanks to some pushing from my colleague, I did in fact reach out and was pleasantly surprised to find a warm and helpful reply. Following this lesson, I’ve since reached out to and met several other esteemed clinicians and researchers from around the world, and have been fortunate enough to have even collaborated with some of them. Not only has it been helpful for my CV, but it has been great to consult and work with people whom I look up to in terms of their contributions to the field. I have attempted to convey this knowledge to my supervisees and explain that while not everyone is equally willing to help, many people are.

9. What advice would you give to students (including undergrads and grads) who may be interested in doing what you do?

Probably the biggest advice I can give to students, regardless of whether they want to pursue my path or not, is to be proactive (and not passive) in their pursuit of clinical services, research, mentorship, and overall knowledge. If you have a type of patient population you really want to see or treat, tell your supervisor, as they may be able to help direct those people to you. If you have a specific research idea, you may want to discuss it with a supervisor or colleague who can help you flesh out the details and possibly even start it. If you need help with a specific family’s treatment, you may want to ask for feedback to get a new viewpoint and possibly a new strategy that you did not consider. Even if you simply want suggestions or assistance with CV preparation or finding an internship, fellowship, or job, supervisors and colleagues may be able to provide useful help if asked. While students should be mindful to avoid “biting off more than they can chew,” I have watched countless good and well-meaning colleagues wait for others to go to them before beginning endeavors or getting help due to fear of the unknown. This unfortunately had them miss out on countless opportunities that often times went to the students who sought them out.

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