Michele Nealon-Woods

Michele Nealon-Woods

Natl. President, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  • President, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
    Professional Faculty, Clinical Psychology
  • The Chicago School Los Angeles
National President's Office
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
617 W 7th St Los Angeles, CA 90017
617 W 7th St
Office Location
Office Phone
On-campus Ext.
On July 1, 2010, Dr. Michele Nealon-Woods became the eighth president of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Prior to studying and working in the United States, Dr. Nealon-Woods began her career in clinical psychology in Dublin, Ireland. She moved to the United States in 1994 and between 1994 and 2000, she worked with adolescents in group home and foster care. Dr. Nealon-Woods has worked in a variety of clinical settings with diverse groups of people including inpatient, outpatient, community mental health, forensic, and academic settings. She specializes in the treatment of children, adolescents, and their families. Therapeutic modalities include individual, group, and family therapy and theoretical orientations are primarily behavioral, cognitive-behavioral, and family systems. Dr. Nealon-Woods is the 2006 recipient of The Chicago School's Distinguished Teaching Award in the area of public service teaching. She became department chair of the Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program at The Chicago School in 2007 and the first dean of the school's Los Angeles Campus in 2008 before being named campus president in 2009.
  • B.A., University College - Dublin, Ireland
  • M.A., University College - Dublin, Ireland
  • Psy.D., The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
Areas Of Expertise

Select Presentations

  • January 2005. Julie Atkins, Michele Nealon-Woods, Ryan Tobiasz. Borderline Personality Disorder. ChildServ, Illlinois.
  • July 2004. Samantha Gaspar, Michele Nealon-Woods, Amy Tilley. Treating Adolescents with Dual Diagnosis. ChildServ, Illinois.
  • June 2005. Nathalie Going, Kristina Kelly, Michele Nealon-Woods. Oppositional Defiant Disorder: The Barkley System. ChildServ, Illinois.
  • March 2005. Julie Atkins, Amanda Harrell, Michele Nealon-Woods. Borderline Personality Disorder, Self-Mutilation, and Therapist Self-Care. ChildServ, Illinois.
  • May 2004. Born Learning Early Caregiver Conference. Workshop on the social and emotional development of 0-3 year old provided for professional caregivers and teen moms from Chicago Public School's Grade to Classroom Program. Hosted by the Office of the Mayor, City of Chicago, Illinois.

Select Publications

  • Nealon-Woods, M.A., Ferrari, J.R., and Jason, L.A. (1995). Twelve Step Program Use Among Oxford House Residents: Spirituality or Social Support in Sobriety? Journal of Substance Abuse, 7, 311-318.

Community Involvement

  • Consultant for Chicago-based not-for-profit child well-being organization

Professional Memberships

  • American Psychological Association (APA)
  • Illinois Psychological Association (IPA)
  • Midwestern Psychological Association


Q: Please describe your teaching philosophy.
A: The purpose of this essay is to illustrate two important points as I speak to the evolution, and ongoing development, of my teaching philosophy. First, I outline my personal beliefs about the importance of providing quality education in the field of clinical psychology. Second, I speak to you about my growing awareness of what are the essential components needed to maximize the classroom experience. Every time I enter a classroom, I am reminded of the magnitude of our work as clinical psychologists and of the potential for the development of excellence in the field of psychology as a whole. The effects of teaching may be immediately profound or quietly subtle, going unnoticed for many years. As such, I am aware that in our moments with students, we impact them as individuals, but we also help shape larger customs and norms and ultimately impact their future professional endeavors. We also impact the lives of our students' future clients. Because of this responsibility, I regularly reflect upon the climate of the classes I teach, students' individual needs, the institutions I work in and support, and the larger systems students will enter as their career advances. My teaching is shaped by the influence of not one, but several of the teaching models available to educators. I first and foremost believe in active and cooperative learning. In all courses, I select activities and actively draw on the case examples I know will convey powerful messages about the content and/or skill being addressed. In watching students apply this material to their studies, I know they have value beyond the actual academic requirements of the course syllabi. Additionally, I strive to facilitate active problem solving, to help students learn how to generate scholarly questions and answers to clinical problems, and foster the ability in students to formulate questions of their own. To achieve this goal, I encourage in-class discussions; provide explanations as needed, preferring to challenge students to generate their own explanations. I welcome debates, creative brainstorming, and even educated and constructive disagreements. Having students work in dyads and teams helps promote a sense of positive independence, individual accountability, and fosters the beginnings of the skills required to work as members of multidisciplinary teams in practice. To complement active and cooperative learning I draw on both behavioral and constructivist teaching and learning models. I believe students are more than capable of successfully navigating the learning environment so I approach intervention courses with a focus on mastery. Students will find me combining direct and explicit instruction approaches with the expectation that they engage with me and that we can work together collaboratively and cooperatively. I aim to guide students towards independent practice and supply the defined tasks to accomplish this goal. I routinely monitor students' progress in reaching learning goals and provide them with regular feedback about their achievements. I draw on constructivist teaching approaches to the extent that they guide me in understanding that learning is guided by the context in which an idea is taught as well as by student's beliefs and attitudes. Students, I have found, welcome a challenge and want to learn in an environment that is engaging and non-threatening. I emphasize the student's need to learn how to analyze information, create concepts, engage in causal reasoning, actively problem-solve, and become comfortable with asking questions. I believe that students are also responsible for their learning environment and I subsequently encourage them to construct knowledge through their interactions with books, fellow students, and the broader academic and clinical environments in which they study and work. It is of paramount importance to me to get to know students as individuals and to learn, over time, how each student personally learns. We know that each student has a particular way of seeing the world and that this worldview is shaped by the totality of their experiences. I am deeply interested in learning about such worldviews and enjoy watching how the sharing of these views enhances our collective understanding of classroom material. It is my belief that clinical psychologists need to think about the importance of what they are doing and to understand the potential impact of their work. As such, a student needs more than just technical tools; they need to be guided in understanding how their own belief systems and their level of psychological self-awareness influence their current and future competencies. Students require guidance as they grow professionally, but also as they grow personally. To reach maximum professional and personal growth, they need to be mentored in developing a critical awareness of their clinical responsibilities, responsibilities that go beyond technical adherence to the professional roles they may play. I believe the way in which I approach and prepare for class reveals much about my general teaching philosophy and style. I work tirelessly to ensure I have prepared quality lectures and carefully select assigned and supplemental readings to augment these lectures. In addition, I frequently consult with colleagues on course content and invite students to make suggestions that will lead to a positive learning experience. I use feedback evaluations to distinctly shape, and keep a pulse on, the climate in the classroom and to streamline certain aspects of the course as needed. While presenting technical skills, I consistently draw upon clinical experiences and real-world examples. The manner in which I combine implicit instruction and challenging in-class discussions provides for a dynamic interactive classroom experience for students. Teaching technical skills is essential but can also be limiting. As such, I invite students to work with me to also learn the "what" of psychology. Students need to think critically about the dynamic and complex issues they will encounter in clinical psychology. To mentor students in the development of this skill, I routinely invite them to become part of my own professional activities. Students are invited to actively participate in my teaching, clinical, and consulting endeavors. I work to provide students with opportunities to develop technical skills and to learn how to deliver their products in a professionally skilled manner. My energy for teaching has been solidly shaped by my personal academic journey through European and American learning environments and by my work experiences. To me, quality learning occurs in an atmosphere that is challenging, mutually rewarding, and when collegial relationships have been built and nurtured. At the core of my teaching philosophy, then, is my firm belief that learning flows when both teachers and students work within an atmosphere of respect and when they join together in their efforts to teach and learn. I communicate respect to my students by being an informed and active teacher, by being accessible inside and outside of class, by being willing to advise and mentor them, and by following them through the totality of their learning experiences. I expect students to embrace the idea of being adult learners, to communicate with others in a respectful manner, and to work hard to become quality clinicians. Each student has something important to contribute to the classroom experience, each student brings news insights, and making these known can only add to the dynamic field of clinical psychology. Teaching is, without exception, the most rewarding aspect of my career as a clinical psychologist. Each semester I work to improve some facet of my teaching and work with students. I aspire to be part of a system that graduates students who can work innovatively, who embrace diversity and actively contribute to the broader community, who willingly give of themselves in improving the lives of others, and who subsequently become leaders in the field of psychology.

Q: Please provide a statement or philosophy regarding the practice of psychology.
A: When people enter psychotherapy, they do so because they want to change something about their lives. They rely on us, the practitioners, to provide them with effective and clinically useful interventions. Psychotherapy works best when it occurs within the context of a collaborative and fully supportive relationship. It is in the realm of cognitive-behavior therapy that I believe these aspects of treatment occur. Cognitive-behavior therapy is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy, both effective modes of treatment in their own right and both helpful to clients needing help with a range of psychological problems and concerns. For a "talk therapy," cognitive-behavior therapy is the most well researched form of psychotherapy, a psychotherapy that has proven the test of time. The "cognitive" part of cognitive-behavioral therapy helps our clients become experts on the way they "think" and helps them understand how this impacts the areas of their lives causing distress. It is not just "the power of positive thinking," rather it is a subjective process, a way to help clients analyze and alter distressing cognitions, and a way to equip them with the skills for facing challenges with a clear and focused mind. Behavior therapy, on the other hand, is an objective process that helps clients understand how distressing situations and personal reactions to them can become problematic. It helps clients undo the links between both and to subsequently gain psychological relief. Behavior therapy is also very effective in helping clients feel more relaxed and calm. Of course, when people are feeling more relaxed, lots of other things seem to fall into place, better decisions are made, and daily life is faced from a different perspective. When cognitive and behavior therapies are combined, we really get the best of both worlds. Both are powerful modalities for altering distressing symptoms and for making life more rewarding. When used together, clients are participating in an active form of psychotherapy in a structured and focused manner. There is a refreshing focus on the present and on the future. Our clients learn how to overcome problems, now and in the future. The even better news is this all can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time.

Q: Why did you choose to enter the field of psychology?
A: My career as a clinical psychologist began in Dublin, Ireland where I completed my Bachelor of Arts and master's degrees at University College Dublin. I actually had no intention of being a clinical psychologist when I first began my academic career; I wanted to teach history and economics. At one stage in my life, I was a prolific reader of European history and wanted to teach high school students to share my enthusiasm for the topic. When entering college, I was encouraged to study economics to have, what was then considered, the perfect balance of subjects to teach. The Irish education system is markedly different from the American system. I took psychology as a "third subject" to be dropped in my second year in college. When I began studying psychology, however, I quickly realized I had found my career home. The study of psychology, its empirical nature, and multiple clinical and real-world applications caught my attention and I have never looked back. My master's experience solidified my commitment to the study and practice of psychology. From this initial master's training, I was invited to study at The Queen's University of Belfast and the Northern Health and Social Services Board, Northern Ireland where I received my first formal training as a practicing clinical psychologist. I left the program at Queen's University of Belfast as I knew I was moving to the United States and little of my degree there would transfer to American psychology programs. While researching the different university based and professional schools, I was sold on The Chicago School of Professional Psychology because of its emphasis on multicultural education and training and because of its very strong emphasis on training the practitioner. Since my enrolment in The Chicago School, I have remained completely committed to the professional school model of education and training. The world of professional psychology has been where I found my career home. I graduated from The Chicago School in 2001, and while working on my postdoctoral residency, I began teaching as an adjunct professor at The Chicago School focusing initially on behavioral models and therapies. In 2003, I joined The Chicago School as program faculty for the Doctor of Psychology Program and, again, have never once looked back. I now continue to teach intervention courses such as "Basic Intervention: Cognitive-Behavioral" and "Advanced Intervention: Cognitive." In addition, I teach proposal development seminars, professional development seminars, and have been able to teach courses such as "Life Span Development" and a seminar in "Child and Adolescent Therapy." Although I had identified teaching and mentoring students as primary career goals, I never could have estimated the extent to which I would enjoy these activities. What has been most rewarding about my teaching activities is the range of student contact I am afforded on a daily basis. In addition to in-classroom teaching, my responsibilities include student advising, student mentorship, curriculum development, committee membership, community work and consultation, interviewing applicants for the Doctor of Psychology Program, chairing dissertation work, conference presentations, supervising students on clinical practicum, and much more. In addition to my work at The Chicago School, I work one day a week in private practice, mostly with children, adolescents, and their families. My clinical work reminds me daily of the reasons I aspired to be a clinical psychologist. The potential impact, through empirically based interventions, we have on clients never ceases to motivate me to become a better clinician. The complexities of human life and human experiences, and my ability to share these in the classroom, add a richness to teaching that students comment about on a regular basis. Outside of my career, I am a mother of two beautiful young boys. Being a working mother has its challenges and maintaining a healthy sense of personal and professional balance has been one of my great life lessons. The combination of teaching and private practice has afforded me the flexibility I need to pursue both a career and a family. In reflection, while I accidentally stumbled upon my career as a psychologist, it was the best stumble of all.

Q: What advice would you give to a student entering The Chicago School?
A: For those of you pursuing clinical psychology as a profession, I would say to you that the art and science of psychology prepares us for more than just our careers. It is a life-long journey that evolves with the profession itself, and with those actively involved with the profession. These are lessons we learn as we take time to evolve into professional clinical psychologists, lessons I would encourage all never to rush but mindfully explore as you begin your graduate studies.