Interview With a Board Certified Specialist

Jamylah K. Jackson, PhD, ABPP

Clinical Psychology

Q. What is your practice like?
A. I am a staff psychologist on the Mental Health Trauma Services team at the Dallas VA Medical Center. My clinical work involves providing individual and group psychotherapy for returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. I joined our staff in 2006, after completing my internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Dallas VA. During my time at the VA, I’ve had opportunities to receive formal training in several Evidence Based Psychotherapy protocols, including Cognitive Processing Therapy and Prolonged Exposure therapy for PTSD. Additionally, I served as a national consultant for the VA’s National Training Initiative for Prolonged Exposure therapy for several years.  Despite working with a fairly specific subset of patients who have experienced trauma, my clinical practice is quite varied. I’ve had opportunities to work with Iraq/Afghanistan veterans as young as 20 years old, as well as Iraq/Afghanistan veterans well into their 60s, some of whom have served in the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts! I’m always amazed and in awe of the varied military experiences of my patients. Veterans within my clinic also possess a wide variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. One of the highlights of my clinical work is exploring each individual’s world view and learning the ways their viewpoint has impacted how they make sense of traumatic experiences, their experience of mental health symptoms, as well as how they view the process of healing. Thus, my practice is never dull.

In addition to clinical work, education and training are centerpieces of my daily professional experiences.  I am the Director of Psychology Training for the training programs at the VA North Texas Health Care System. Our facility has training opportunities at pre and postdoctoral levels. As a graduate of our training programs and a member of the psychology training community for a decade, I am tremendously invested in cultivating and maintaining the highest standards of training and supervision within our programs. Along with facilitating training for our psychologists-in-training, I co-direct staff educational programming for our Mental Health Service. This position involves identifying educational needs and organizing workshops, seminars, etc. to meet those needs for mental health staff. These roles are actually two sides of the same coin, given that you can’t have exceptional training programs, without exceptional and well-educated staff and supervisors. I enjoy my work as a VA Psychologist and love the diversity of professional opportunities my VA career has afforded me thus far.

Q. What motivated you to seek board certification in clinical psychology?
A. I sought board certification as a way of validating that I was practicing at a high level. Pursuing board certification was a way for me to step back and evaluate my practice, including why I do many of the things that I do. As a busy professional with young children, it’s often hard to find time to reflect on where you are and where you want to go professionally. The board certification process really allowed me to do that. The prospect of having my clinical and written work samples evaluated by ABPP examiners was certainly anxiety provoking but I’ve found anxiety to be a good motivator. I was motivated primarily by my belief that the seeking certification would be helpful either way. If I failed, I’d have an opportunity to learn and grow from the feedback of the examiners and if I passed, I’d feel that much more confident that my clinical practice and management of professional issues is where it’s supposed to be.

Q. What have you found most valuable or rewarding about board certification (e.g. salary increase, referrals, colleagues, increased self-esteem, learning, something else)?
A. There are many rewards I’ve experienced as a result of the achieving board certification. One of the most rewarding aspects of certification is receiving the validation that I was seeking. Ironically that validation didn’t come from the examiners, it came from me. The process was surprisingly rewarding.  I found that in talking through my management of different clinical and professional situations my confidence grew as I realized that I knew a lot more than I gave myself credit for. After achieving certification, I was able to become an examiner and contribute to the pursuit of learning and self-discovery for psychologists seeking certification which has been tremendously rewarding as well. As director of a large training program, I’m able to encourage our trainees (and staff) to pursue certification when it’s appropriate. Furthermore, I can do this from the standpoint of having gone through, and remaining a part of, that process. Board certification is incredibly valuable for professional psychologists and my certification allows me to be a strong advocate for this achievement.

Q. What advice would you give a candidate for board certification in clinical psychology?
A. My advice would be to use the resources available to you. Talk with board certified psychologists and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback about your work. The evaluative aspect of pursuing certification can certainly be intimidating, but don’t let that stop you from being open about your goals and being willing to receive feedback from those around you. An important part of self-reflection is knowing when it’s time to let someone else proofread.

Q. What would readers be most surprised to learn about you? 
A. I would have loved to have been a food critic…however I have too many food allergies to have made that work. So instead, I have a group of friends whom I dine with once a month at a new restaurant in Dallas. Afterwards, we summarize the experience (ambiance, cuisine, service) and are compiling it for our records and to create a resource list for those inquiring about local cuisine. We call ourselves the Ladies Dining Club (LDC) and I am the president of our little dining association.