Dispatch from New Orleans
When Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area in 2005, it traumatized not only its victims, but the psyche of the community itself. Those who lived through the upheaval continue to feel the impact more than a decade later, including thousands of citizens struggling with mental health issues.
Until recently there were no Doctor of Clinical Psychology programs outside of Baton Rouge, La., more than 80 miles from the heart of the devastation. Recognizing the need to rebuild the city’s mental health infrastructure post-Katrina, leaders from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) forged a partnership with historically black Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) in late 2013 to launch a Psy.D. program right in New Orleans.
Three current students tell us why they chose XULA, and what it means for New Orleans.
“The city of New Orleans is in dire need of care. The people are what make New Orleans special, and it is up to us to support them in every way possible,” says Janae Llopis, a New Orleans native and proud Xavier alumna. “Choosing to apply to a Psy.D. program versus a Ph.D. program was a no-brainer. I wanted to enhance my career gaining hands-on experience. The reputation of The Chicago School only solidified my decision.”
Currently a second-year student, Llopis is eager to begin a practicum with a local agency working with children. “My community needs more quality care and competent professionals. I am ready to meet that need,” she adds. “When the opportunity arose to be a part of history with The
Chicago School and XULA, I seized it.”
“Being a native of New Orleans, I was extremely excited for the opportunity to become a student at TCSPP at XULA. I always wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but leaving the city was not an option for me,” says Jill Boutte, who adds the need for mental health services has only increased since Hurricane Katrina hit. “I have been impressed by The Chicago School’s Engaged Practitioner Model, especially in New Orleans, because this is a very personable, hands-on city.”
A practicing social worker, Boutte hopes to turn her Psy.D. degree into a career as a medical psychologist, working with the youth of New Orleans and their families. “There are many disparities in public health, as well as mental health issues among the people of New Orleans,” she says. “I believe
having more clinical psychologists here will significantly assist with these issues.”
Kristin Jones Tew
“The Chicago School being here is huge for this state,” says Kristin Jones Tew, a Mississippi native and Air Force veteran who joined TCSPP’s first cohort of 16 students at XULA in the fall of 2015. “I would love to see more young psychologists come through these doors.”
Soon after Katrina hit New Orleans and Tew’s own rural Gulf Coast community in Mississippi, she and her husband decided to move their growing family closer to where help was needed most—setting up a new life in a Louisiana parish out beyond the New Orleans airport, a region that continues to suffer. “The Mississippi River separates our parish, and on our side, we didn’t have any counseling services available to help people through these hard times,” says Tew, explaining how she founded The WellSpring Center, a nonprofit counseling facility. “This program in New Orleans has been a blessing, not just for me, but for the entire community.”
Read more about Kristin Jones Tew’s story here.