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Seven Graduates Receive Degrees at 2014 Commencement Ceremony

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Kandice Hyatt van Beerschoten, Suzanne Blaising Meredith SoRelle Hwang, Susan R. Terrell, and Chuan-Chuan Tsai were awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Social Work and Rachelle Leah DeBehnke and Talia Rose Weiner received the degree of Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling and Psychotherapy at ICSW’s 2014 commencement ceremonies. The event was held June 7 in Chicago, and included warm remarks from Dean Scott Harms Rose, and a thoughtful convocation address delivered by Estelle Shane.


Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Social Work

Kandice Hyatt van Beerschoten (Dissertation Chair: Jennifer Tolleson) explored the various meanings that heterosexual male Dominants assigned to their relationships and sexual scenes with their submissive partners. In her interviews, van Beerschoten utilized a multiple case study methodology when asking her participants about their family history, interest and practice of BDSM, relationship history, and the internal emotional impact of the interactions that take place during a scene with a submissive. The findings show that there was an important element of restitution for the participants during the scene, wherein they were able to work toward reconciliation of individual childhood experiences. Furthermore, a clear sadomasochistic pattern also emerged in the adult relationships of the participants, and participants voiced a distinct need to connect with their partner in an emotionally significant manner.

Suzanne Blaising (Dissertation Chair: Barbara Berger) explored the connection between the use of Facebook and narcissism levels in young adults. Using a quantitative methodology, 123 participants, 68 male and 55 female ranging in age from 18 to 29 were randomly selected and administered an online survey. The data from this study shows that Facebook use has a tendency to become habitual or integrated into the daily habits of its users. These respondents increasingly used Facebook as a means to communicate, share, show, seek attention, and to connect with others. The results from this study suggest the longer one is on Facebook the more deeply embedded it becomes in one’s life. These online interactions do not supply the necessary ingredients for healthy self-development.

Meredith SoRelle Hwang (Dissertation Chair: Michelle Sweet) explored the experience of psychodynamic psychotherapists when they make a mistake in treatment. Hwang used an interpretative phenomenological analysis of the data, which yielded several key themes and understandings about mistakes, including broad categories of typical mistakes (such as avoiding, disconnecting, acting our emotionally, proving worth, incompetence, and over or underestimating your patient), processes that occur for therapists after making a mistake, and several themes, including the vulnerable self of the therapist evoked by mistakes; the gray area, where therapists feel unsure if they have erred; and professional growth, which denotes how therapists tend to feel more self-compassion and less shame about their mistakes with increased professional maturity. Hwang’s findings suggest that acknowledging and talking authentically about mistakes can be a powerful tool to mitigate shame and grow as a therapist, allowing a more compassionate understanding of one’s mistakes and an increased ability to use them to enhance the treatment.

Susan R. Terrell (Dissertation Chair: Joan diLeonardi) explored the subjective experiences of youth identified by their school systems as having a behavior disorder. Terrell’s work examines how these youth view and understand their lives, their selves, and their relationships with others through unstructured, in-depth interviews. Terrell used grounded theory to analyze data and findings were interpreted from a self psychology perspective. The findings show that youth displayed either primary or secondary disorders of the self depending on their selfobject experiences, youth with secondary disorders of the self experienced adequate selfobjects which led to a cohesive sense of self accompanied by the view of liking themselves and seeing others in a flexible, nuanced manner, and that youth with primary disorders of the self consisted of youth who did not experience adequate selfobjects. Terrell’s study suggests further research in the area of theoretical understanding of the developing child with inadequate selfobject functions as well as research regarding policy implications for schools treating youth with an education disability of Emotional Disability.

Chuan-Chuan Tsai (Dissertation Chair: Joan diLeonardi) explored the experiences of mindfulness in psychodynamic listening. Through an embrace of Freud’s admonition to maintain “evenly suspended attention” to foster unconscious-to-unconscious communication in-session, Tsai’s sample of seasoned psychodynamic clinicians disclosed attitudes and beliefs formed from years of experience, integrating their practices of mindfulness and psychotherapy. Participants reported a common understanding of mindfulness and experienced it as integral to good quality psychotherapy. Depth of mindfulness in conjunction with psychodynamic appreciation of the unconscious mind sensitized their attention to cues of unconscious-to-unconscious communication in-session. Mindfulness helped participants remain clearer about their own associations and manage reactivity to the patient’s processes. Consequently, participants could sustain attention to their own mind/body experiences, enhancing recognition of unconscious communication from the patient. Tsai’s research was context sensitive to the migration of mindfulness from its traditional Eastern roots to its therapeutic Western setting.


Master of Arts in Clinical Counseling and Psychotherapy

Rachelle Leah DeBehnkecame to ICSW with a Master of Arts in English Literature with a focus areas including: trauma studies, psychoanalytic theory, and women’s literature from Northeastern Illinois University. During her time at ICSW, Rachelle always displayed a sophisticated level of thinking and exceptional writing skills. Rachelle’s practicum placement at Lurie proved beneficial to her development as a psychodynamic clinician. Rachelle’s hard work and resiliency garnered her much respect from the ICSW community.

Before ICSW, Talia Rose Weiner received a Master of Arts degree in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. She joined the ICSW community with extensive ethnographic research experience, and in interest in mood disorders. During her time at ICSW, Talia exhibited a wealth of knowledge and appreciation for psychodynamic theory. ICSW faculty members observed Talia’s enthusiasm and commitment throughout the program, which the ICSW community hopes she continues throughout her career as a clinician.