Insights to a Psychology Career with Professor Jaynine Howard

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Jaynine Howard is an Adjunct Psychology professor at Coastal Carolina Community College, a 20-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a business and career coach. During her service with the Marines, Howard earned her B.S. in Social Psychology from Park University. She went on to earn a Master’s in General Psychology from Capella University and is currently working towards her PhD in Psychology.

jaynine howard, psychology careerDuring her time as a psychotherapist, Howard worked at a residential mental health hospital counseling troubled teens and their families.  On her own free time, she spent 10 years volunteering as a Rape and Domestic Violence Advocate for a local Woman’s Center.  Howard is also a member of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, Veteran’s Chamber of Commerce, and the American Psychological Association.  

Psychology Career Insights

In addition to being featured in various publications, Howard has served a guest expert for the Huffington Post and has been quoted in the Military Times. In both instances, she offered her insight into the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life and how establishing a set of realistic short and long-term goals can be beneficial. She also speaks at various conferences and symposiums throughout the year.

In 2014, Howard was awarded Adjunct of the Year of the Division of Social Sciences, recognizing her outstanding abilities as a psychology instructor. 

eLearners: What made you decide to pursue a psychology career?

JH: I love helping people. While in the Marine Corps I noticed men and women would leave the service without a plan. When I pushed them further, I discovered they did not know how to dream or had never been afforded the opportunity to dream. I decided I wanted to work with people on living life on their own terms and help them push themselves beyond their wildest imagination to be who they were meant to be. I wanted to see people succeed.

eLearners: Do you have any experiences to share about your time working at a residential mental hospital?

JH: Working at a residential mental hospital was eye-opening. I worked predominately with developmentally delayed teenagers with dual diagnoses. Many of the children were bigger than me and had violent tendencies. I discovered I had a great deal of patience, and I’ll admit that at times I was scared to work with this population.

However, It was incredibly rewarding to seeing these children blossom and grow. I taught them to believe in themselves and not use their diagnoses as an excuse to avoid trying new things. Part of my work involved things like helping them recognize when they were getting angry and showing them how to employ coping skills to manage this anger. 

The biggest challenge I faced was parents who didn’t want to admit they were part of the problem or who wouldn’t follow the treatment plans. It was a rude awakening to realize that not all parents truly had their children’s best interest in mind, or were open to help.

eLearners: As a professor, what do you think are some of the most important things instructors can do to help prep students for a psychology career?

JH: Honesty is the best policy. I let them know that not all clients are nice. There will be times when they need to keep safety in mind. Also, they need to stay abreast of changes in the mental health community, insurance industry, and what is going on in their local areas that may impact their earning potential.

Since many of my students are military spouses, I encourage them to look at job announcements for places they think they will want to work as they move from duty station to duty station. Another think I stress is realizing that they may need to work weekends and nights because that is when people want appointments. I also think that it’s beneficial to have a niche or area of expertise – and that it’s never too early to focus on a particular area.

eLearners: What would you say are the most important traits of an effective psychotherapist? 

psychology careerJH: Active listening is paramount. You must be able to hear not only what is being said, but what is not being said. We all think we are good listeners but the reality is that most of us really aren’t. It takes effort to actively listen. It can be very tiring. You must be able to give 100% of your attention at all times to the client.  Honesty is also important. You must be honest with yourself and refer the client to someone else if you are not able to assist them. You must also be honest with the client. There may be times where you’ll need to find the courage to disagree or challenge your patients. It’s also important that you don’t let personal feelings or biases get in the way of treatment.

eLearners: How has your military experience affected the way you teach students and work with your clients as a life coach?

JH: I am very no nonsense. I do not put up with whining. My clients know that I move fast and expect them to take action. They hire me for this reason. I am able to be a bit more blunt as a life coach than as a therapist. Most of my clients are Veterans so when the Gunnery Sergeant in me comes out, it doesn’t faze them because I’m speaking their language. Sometimes a tougher approach is just what they need to help them get unstuck.

In the classroom, I find that my military experience has made it easier to read the body language of my students and change my method of teaching if they don’t seem to be engaged. I think it’s helped be more quick on my feet and adaptable.

eLearners: Along similar lines, do you have any advice for military members who are considering pursuing  psychology career?

JH: My advice is to realize that it can be difficult to shake off 20 years – or even four years – of military culture. I would advise that Veterans honestly examine the population they want to work with and consider whether their own personalities would be a good fit.  In some cases, Veterans may find they are best suited to work with Veterans or with a population that is a bit rough around the edges. However, this is by no means an absolute.

eLearners: How is technological innovation affecting the field of psychology ?

JH: Technology in the classroom is a big plus. I love being able to incorporate YouTube videos and current news items into my instruction to help spark discussions. Sometimes, I teach accelerated classes that are three hours twice a week. Technology allows me to introduce different mediums to break up the class time and make learning fun. For example, Prezi turns boring PowerPoints into unique presentations. Socrative allows students to answers questions using their cell phones.  Even just having students take out their phones and look for news articles that supplement our topics for the class is really helpful.

As a therapist, technology brings new concerns when sending email, charting records, and talking to patients over the phone or via text message. Even taking payment via PayPal and online invoicing is may not be as easy as one might think. Another important thing to consider is how you will safeguard sensitive information to protect the client and stay HIPAA-compliant.

eLearners: Are there any theories or trends in abnormal and/or developmental psychology that you think are particularly important for students to be aware of?

JH: The world is always changing. However, the theories and stages of development have not been updated in quite some time.  It’s important to recognize that culture and social norms impact what is considered acceptable. Technology is rapidly changing the stages of development in children. Obviously, the internet and social media were not around or the norm in every household prior to the late 1990s and early 2000s. Now we see more bullying and sexting, and less playing outside until the street light comes on.

eLearners: What are some alternative tracks or concentrations within the field of psychology that you think students should seriously consider as they plan their careers?

JH: Research is an area that is often overlooked – so is teaching. I think most people get a degree in psychology thinking they will be a therapist or psychologist. But, there are also psychologists working for businesses in areas such as Organizational Psychology.

eLearners: Is there anything else you would like to share that you feel would be valuable to someone who is considering psychology career?

JH: Realize that you will need to earn Master’s Degree or a PhD to work in an area where that will pay you a living wage.  I hear people say they are not worried about what they will make. This may be true until they decide to get married or start a family. Then income or earning potential does matter. Know your options.

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