Gabi Galvin’s career push came from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was working for Twentyeight Health, “a mission-driven womxn’s health organization with the goal of increasing access to reproductive and sexual healthcare for all through convenient, affordable and high-quality care” in Florida, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Passionate about increasing accessibility and wellness in the mental health space, the Bay Stater-turned-New Yorker was excited to have found a job that helped people in a tangible way. One of Gabi’s favorite roles at Twentyeight Health had been doing community outreach to local colleges and organizations.
“I attended dozens of in-person health fairs where I was able to chat one-on-one with students and young people who had questions about anything from what our service provides to how to talk about sex with parents or partners,” she explains. In a way, she was also providing informal therapy by addressing their concerns.
“Getting to hear people’s personal stories and curiosities was so interesting and made me feel like I was actually connecting with others and helping them confront real issues.
“When the pandemic hit and I could no longer visit communities in-person,” she continues, “I realized pretty quickly that I craved that type of connection and decided to take the leap toward applying for grad school.”
That decision led her to research the credits she needed to apply for Psy.D. programs, which in turn brought her to our Post-Baccalaureate Program for Counseling and Psychology Professions.
But let’s back up a bit.
Your degree from New York University is in creative therapies. Can you tell me a little about what that is?
I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Like many students, when I was applying to undergrad I only had a vague idea of what I wanted to pursue. At the time, I was interested in playing soccer at a collegiate level, so finding a school where I could explore my interests and still play sports was important to me.
I realized pretty quickly that:
I did not want my college experience to be based around my ability to play soccer.
I needed more room to explore other interests before committing to a specific career path. (She studied marketing communications at Emerson College for one year.)
I transferred to New York University (NYU) at the start of the fall semester my sophomore year and was admitted to NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study where I had the opportunity to craft my own major based on a combination of topics that interested me.
I knew that I was craving more exposure to studio art classes, philosophy and psychology, so I began crafting a concentration loosely based on art therapy practices but with room to explore other outlets of creativity and introspection.
The actual title of my final concentration was “The Catharsis of Creation,” but that can come off as a bit much for people on LinkedIn so I tend to list it as “Creative Therapies.”
Creative Therapies encapsulate the practices of art therapy, drama therapy, music therapy, et cetera.
How did you come to the decision to pursue a career in mental health?
I knew that I was interested in studying psychology abstractly for a while before I decided that I really wanted to become a therapist. When I graduated from NYU, there were a handful of times where I sat with myself, looked at the skills I had developed and really thought about what they could add up to.
I initially pursued a career in marketing, but during every job interview I found myself saying something like, “I think I’d be great at this job because I’m so interested in human behavior and what drives people to do the things they do.” But after a while I realized that I didn’t want to use that interest to sell people things or analyze trends. It was about finding a role where I would feel fulfilled and could use my insight to hopefully help others.
I think that’s why I always gravitated toward working with children. There is such an immediate gratification to helping a child solve a problem and seeing how much that can change their mood and perspective. When I initially began learning about the different creative therapies, I noticed that a lot of the techniques used were most frequently implemented with children.
Although I’m not 100 percent sure now that I would like to specialize in working with just children, I do think that it is a population that will always interest me.
I also want to note that when I moved to New York I started seeing an amazing therapist. She has inspired me and supported me in so many ways. I would love to be able to give someone what she has given me.
I also had an internship at a nonprofit called Rxhibition (now defunct) that perfectly illustrated where I was in terms of my career interests at the time. I was straddling between my learned skill set in marketing and my interest in the healing space. Rxhibition was creating “art therapy galleries” in the oncology wing of hospitals in Boston, and needed help maintaining a blog and Instagram presence so it felt like a perfect fit! This role was definitely the beginning of my path toward further exploring the nature of healing in a broader sense.
In September 2018, you began working for Twentyeight Health as the organization’s social media coordinator. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, your ability to personally connect with the communities has been hampered. How has this influenced your decision to pursue post-bacc counseling and psychology courses to further your education?
When I started at Twentyeight Health, I was not as educated on womxn’s health issues as I would have liked to be, so it also presented an opportunity to learn more about a population that really matters to me.
I found your post-bacc program while searching for a way to collect the credits I need to be a qualified applicant for a Psy.D. program.
Based on the accounts of several friends who were in grad school and experiencing the frenzied shift to online classes, I was really wary about starting a program that was a bit chaotic and would not give me the education I was looking for. Seeing that UC Berkeley Extension had already been doing online class options for years and had extensive information on the website about the formats and resources made me feel much more confident in enrolling.
How will the courses in the program help you reach your career goals of becoming a Psy.D. candidate and licensed therapist?
I’m actually enrolled in four of the required post-bacc courses right now! I’ve also already completed the two seminars: Counseling and Psychotherapy as a Career Option and Seminar on the Graduate Application Process. These two seminars were particularly helpful and also part of the reason why I chose UC Berkeley Extension. I really appreciate the consideration of having students fully understand what they are getting into and all of the steps that they will need to prepare for.
That being said, all of the courses are incredibly valuable because while in undergrad, I only took an intro to psychology general course, a few art therapy classes, and a child and adolescent mental health course. I never followed a psychology curriculum from start to finish, so getting to do so has really expanded my understanding of the field and helped me to connect the dots of where my interests lay.
By successfully completing all of the courses in the post-bacc, I will be increasing my chances of getting into an accredited program and one step closer to becoming a licensed therapist!
“Now it feels like I’m going to school because I’m pursuing my future.”
Congrats on receiving one of our scholarships! How will this help you achieve this goal?
Thank you so much! The Community Impact Scholarship will allow me to take Positive Psychology, which will help me dive deeper into my understanding of how to help others by teaching them to help themselves.
I am a huge believer in mental health well-being being informed by a mind-body connection, which is why focusing on mindfulness and mindset is so powerful.
Additionally, positive psychology also explores societal well-being, which is also in line with what I discussed in my scholarship essay.
In whatever work I eventually do, I plan to focus on reducing the stigma of seeking therapy for mental health. I also plan to prioritize making mental health resources more accessible in terms of both price and cultural significance.
What advice do you have for others thinking about making a career change?
Honestly, I think the best advice would be to take your time and explore when you can. I wish that someone had told me that when I was applying to undergrad. I rushed into school because it was what everyone else was doing, but I didn’t have a good sense of what I wanted from it until I was about to graduate.
Now it feels like I’m going to school because I’m pursuing my future. My overall attitude towards school has shifted from “I have to go to class now” to “I get to take these classes because I’m working towards something exciting.” I’m so grateful to UC Berkeley Extension not only for awarding me with the scholarship, but also for giving me the opportunity to make this commitment to myself.