In 1994, I completed my internship at Stroger Hospital (then called Cook County Hospital), and joined a private practice in downtown Chicago. Over the next six years, my practice entailed assessment, therapy, and consulting work. My assessment work included conducting child custody evaluations for the courts, "bonding and attachment" or "parental capacity" assessments of under-served minority parents and families involved in DCFS, and individual psychological assessments. My therapy work included services to individual, couple, and family clients, and supervising master's therapists. My consulting work included on-site consultation for clinical cases and staff development.
In 2000, I began teaching as a part-time adjunct instructor at The Chicago School, and supervising some of The Chicago School students in practice. I found I enjoyed teaching a great deal, but more felt I could offer to students something I felt I had missed. My own graduate school training in a PhD program had seemed very divorced from real-world clinical practice with diverse populations, and so I found teaching allowed me to offer PsyD students a more integrated understanding of professional practice in the real-world. After teaching part-time for three years (twice winning the Adjunct Faculty of the Year award), I joined The Chicago School faculty full-time in 2003. I taught full-time for several years, then became the Associate Department Chair in 2007 and spent three years in administration (one semester as interim Department Chair).
I returned to teaching full-time in 2010, and maintain a small private practice part-time where I work with gay and straight individuals and couples, both in the traditional theoretical models like Bowenian Therapy, as well as newer evidence-based models like Gottman's Sound Relational House. Couples work is my professional passion and primary research interest, including issues associated with cohabitating couples, divorce, remarriage after divorce, and domestic partnership rights.
I began practicing in Chicago in 1994, and earned my Ph.D. from Saint Louis University in 1997. I am the webmaster of www.psychpage.com.
Niolon, R. (2013). Taking a second look. [Review of the book LGBT-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice by A. E. Goldberg and K. R. Allen (Eds.)]. In press.
Niolon, R. (2012). The differentiation of stepfamily therapy. [Review of the book Stepfamily therapy: A 10-step clinical approach by S. Browning and E. Artelt]. PsycCRITIQUES, Vol 57(4), doi: 10.1037/a0026022
Niolon, R. (2012). Forget Mars and Venus: Men and women from earth are complicated enough. [Review of the book The Science of the Couple: The Ontario Symposium on Personality and Social Psychology by L. Campbell, J. G. La Guardia, J. M. Olson, and M. P. Zanna (Eds.)]. PsycCRITIQUES, Vol 57(44), doi: 10.1037/a0029863
Niolon, R. (2012, 2011, 2010 Fall). Theoretical Orientation Panel. Colloquia for TCS students representing major theories taught in the program. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Niolon, R. (2012, 2011, 2010, Summer). Parental Capacity Assessments. Presentation to the Child and Adolescent Track students as part of the Guest Speaker Series. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology.
Niolon, R. (2012, Fall, 2012, Spring). Couples Therapy with One Gay Couple. Presentation to students at Howard-Brown and Center on Halstead. Chicago, Illinois.
Niolon, R. (2010, February). Divorce and Child Custody. Presentation on family assessment in forensic settings with divorcing families (offered for 2 CEUs to participants). Lake Villa, Illinois.
Niolon, R. (2009, February). Efficacious Couples Therapy. Presentation on the Sound Relational House Model to students and clinicians at Bradley and Allendale Center (offered for 2 CEUs to participants). Lake Villa, Illinois.
Niolon, R. (2008, February). Parental Capacity Assessments. Presentation on the scholarly basis and an applied method to evaluation of parental functioning and parent-child attachment to students and clinicians at Bradley and Allendale Center (offered for 2 CEUs to participants). Lake Villa, Illinois.
American Psychological Association
Q. Please describe your teaching philosophy.
A. As a graduate school professor, I teach students how to think critically about the research and scholarly work that guides the practice of our profession, and then how to apply their understanding to real-world clinical practice. While I do not believe technology is required to do that, I find it can make learning much easier. I try to present information in various ways for both verbally and visually driven students, using tools like word clouds of my notes, scrolling timelines, concept maps, interactive spreadsheets, and even popular songs and videos. I try to present (and re-present) information in the best ways for novice learners to understand it, but also to organize it in the ways clinicians use it. My assignments are scaled-down versions of the same work we do in the field, with feedback to refine skills. I try to create "learning moments" even in moments of failure, as the cost of mistakes is lower in graduate school compared to real practice, and graduate school provides the time and support to reflect and grow from our mistakes. It is my hope that students say "I had to work hard, but I feel like I learned a lot of things --and I know how to use them--" when they finish my classes.
Q. Please describe your philosophy regarding the practice of psychology.
A. As a high school student, I read The Thomas Covenant Chronicles by Stephen Donaldson. One of his characters talked about "permanence at rest and permanence in motion," and I've remembered that quote ever since. In many ways, human psychology has been "at rest" for generations. Suffering as well as the goals for "a good life" have remained largely unchanged over the decades, and most people still want to feel connected to loving others, do something meaningful in their lives that leaves a positive mark on others, and enjoy life (or in other words to "love, work, and play").
However, we've seen profound changes in the specific forms of suffering and healthy life - the ways we connect and disconnect, the ways we leave a mark on the world that is judged to be positive or negative, and the things we can do to feel love and enjoyment or loss and pain are always in motion. As a result, I think what we psychologists really do is hold on to what hasn't changed while recognizing what has, and try to help people do the same and reach a unique balance in their own lives.
Q. What advice would you give a student entering The Chicago School of Professional Psychology?
A. The advice I would share is the same advice someone told me as I left for graduate school. They said that graduate school would teach me three things. First, it would teach me how to work to the best of my abilities, so I should embrace it fully. Second, it would teach me to extend the limit of "the best of my abilities" further than I had thought I could, so I should work through the hard times knowing I would be better for it. Finally, graduate school would teach me to say "the hell with it" to the things that really didn't matter in life, so I should see every opportunity as a way to learn more about what life really is about. I have found these to be wise words, time and time again (in more places than just graduate school, in fact).