Sometimes life lessons are instrumental in initiating academic lessons. For Dr. Rachel Singer, knowing her grandfather was essential in helping Jewish people escape Eastern Europe during the pogroms—tumultuous violence and persecution between her ancestors and Russians—affected her. As a result of that, the then-graduate student chose to study trauma and work with refugees, including the African Affairs Advisory Group.
“I worked with a lot of first-generation immigrants during my internship in Santa Monica, Calif. at St. John’s Hospital, as well as refugees and asylees at Massachusetts General Hospital,” Singer says. “In addition to general mental health issues, they also encounter trauma related to immigration and trauma related to experiencing racism for the first time.”
In Washington D.C., where she works, Singer is aware of the stigma related to accessing mental health care—including fear of witchcraft and worries about deportation due to their status as undocumented immigrants. By working with refugees, Singer’s goal is to expand outreach in the community and normalize access to better health care.
Initially she didn’t think this would be the direction her career would go in. With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a certification in elementary education, she thought she’d be an elementary school teacher. But she started to observe vibrant students whose intellectual lights were dimming due to the violence in their local environments. She realized it was impossible to proceed with a lesson as planned when her students reported having nightmares due to witnessing shootings in their neighborhoods.
Singer sought to gain tools to address mental health concerns through pursuing and earning her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Boston College. Her specialty areas were expanded to cultural and diversity issues, PTSD, gender identity, racism and white privilege, social development, anxiety disorders, and more. Additionally, she developed an interest in clinician self-care and burnout after watching fellow classmates, supervisors, and faculty in her graduate program struggle to balance the weight of secondary trauma with their own professional responsibilities.
She also worked for the Kennedy Krieger Institute at Johns Hopkins in Washington D.C., focusing on how mental health issues affect military families who had one or more family members deployed.
In her current roles as a TCSPP faculty member and a licensed psychologist, she has extensive experience working within school, hospital, and community mental health settings to provide comprehensive care for graduate-level students who are also as passionate about social justice. She is a passionate advocate of self-care and work-life balance.