Patty Challan has been a member of the Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services (ECAPS) team since 2003, when she was hired as a part-time staff psychologist. She has held a leadership role since 2005 and is currently the Center’s associate director.
Challan helps manage operations of the department and also meets with students for individual therapy appointments. About 20 percent of Emerson students visit ECAPS during the year. The Center uses a short-term treatment model, and the clinicians also help connect students to outside resources for longer-term therapy. However, there is no specific session limit for students at ECAPS.
Recently, she helped implement a “triage model” to get students in for appointments sooner. Instead of a traditional 45-minute intake session, students are first seen for a shorter 25-minute triage session, which allows clinicians to see students more quickly (typically within a few days) for their first session. They may return for a longer follow-up session and brief treatment or receive referrals off campus, depending on their preference and therapy needs.
Challan is also the director of clinical training and hires three graduate trainees per year. Trainees are master’s or doctoral students in social work or psychology who are looking for training in college counseling. Over the years, she has created longstanding relationships with about 10 local colleges for recruitment purposes. She is excited to be recruiting a post-doctoral fellow next year, who will be even further along in their training and will work full time, providing more clinical hours for students.
Trainees are closely supervised through videotaped sessions with students. Challan and her colleagues also teach psychological theories and intervention strategies and help the trainees solidify their identities as therapists. The training program provides an immersion experience in the speciality of college mental health.
Challan said that college counseling is unique in that students are in the midst of many developmental changes. Some of the main issues often discussed are anxiety, depression, identity development, stress management, self-harm, eating disorders, and relationships. She enjoys working with the students at Emerson because they are open to therapy and are naturally reflective. She also admires students’ passion, drive, and commitment to their chosen career paths.
Challan received a doctorate in clinical psychology from Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (now known as William James College). She attended Fairleigh Dickinson University to obtain a master’s in clinical psychology and obtained an undergrad degree in psychology from the College of St. Elizabeth.
A native of New Jersey, she came to Boston for her doctoral program. After finishing graduate school, she moved back to New Jersey for a few months until she found post-doctoral placements in Boston, and she has been here ever since. She has trained and/or worked at Tufts University, Boston College, and Rhode Island College and also had a placement at MGH in Chelsea. She worked at Human Relations Service in Wellesley, which was the nation’s first community mental health center, before settling at Emerson. She also has a small private practice focusing primarily on children and adolescents in Wellesley.
Having minored in writing during her undergrad education, she enjoys reading and writing in her spare time. She also spends time on photo shoots with her partner, Mark. She loves spending time with animals. She has a 16-year-old cat named Mister Oreo and is a regular at the Winslow Farm Animal Sanctuary in Norton, Massachusetts. She is always happy to help brush the goats at the sanctuary. She has even tried goat yoga at Jenness Farm in New Hampshire. It’s no surprise that she was one of the masterminds behind the popular end-of-semester event for students, the Cirque de De-stress!
Nancy Howell (Marketing)