Clinical Psychologist Profile
Read what a professional clinical psychologist has to say about her profession.
Dr. Jennie Snell, PhD
Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychologist
Interested in clinical psychology since her teen years, Dr. Snell earned both her bachelor’s degree and her doctorate in Seattle, Washington, completing her PhD in 1998. She selected a program with comprehensive training and found that to be profoundly valuable. “My faculty was heavily focused on research, but we also had excellent clinical training programs.”
During her predoctoral clinical training she worked in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and her post-doctoral clinical work was at the Child Study and Treatment Center in Washington. She notes that licensing changes in some states, such as Washington, now allow practitioners to get credit for clinical work done earlier in their course of study, eliminating the need for a full year of postdoctoral clinical internship.
“Kids have a great sense of humor, they use play to work out problems in a way that adults would never think of,” says Dr. Snell, whose Seattle psychology practice is focused on children, adolescents, and families. “Sometimes I use puppets to help kids work out a problem and imagine different ways things can go. With a turtle puppet, we practice different kinds of brave behavior—coping behavior—and they can use their imaginations more readily than adults do.”
Preventing Serious Problems
In her post-doctoral research, she dedicated a lot of time helping schools develop innovative programs to prevent aggressive behavior and manage bullying. She continues to find her clinical psychology careerworking with children and teenagers highly rewarding. “Working with kids and young adults, there is a lot of room for positive development; we know much more than we used to about the prevention of serious problems.”
Today, as the mother of a small child, she prefers the time flexibility of a private practice, allowing her to focus on clinical work, which is her “true love.” In her general child clinical psychology practice, Dr. Snell sees 3- to 18-year-old clients and their families, focusing primarily on cognitive, behavioral, and family therapies. She works extensively with anxiety disorders, stating, “That’s one of the most common disorders for both children and adults, and one that often goes untreated, even though we have good treatment strategies.” Dr. Snell also helps children adjust to changes that may be going on in their families such as divorce, depression, and common life-stress.
Like most private practitioners, Dr. Snell manages the administration of her own business—the daily phone calls, billing, and paperwork. She notes, “Administration and working with insurance providers can be a challenge. I’ve chosen to be on panels for those insurers that I feel most comfortable with, and this limits who can access my services. I also have sliding-fee scale slots that allow me to provide services to some kids who would not otherwise be able to see me.”
Connect in a Clinical Psychology Career
“It’s so important to develop ways to take care of yourself, and to have a realistic sense of what you can and can’t do, and to have supports in place.” To compensate for working in her sometimes isolating private practice, Dr. Snell shares space with trusted colleagues and she is active in a consultation group. Additionally, she is in a journal group that looks at current literature in the field. She comments, “It’s a great privilege to do this work, and it requires healthy compartmentalization—the ability to keep the stresses of work life separate from your personal life.”
The Future of Clinical Psychology
Dr. Snell thrives on keeping up with new trends and discoveries in psychology and sees many positive changes in the field. She finds that major medical problems have a psychological or mental health component, and there’s more recognition of that now. Many of her referrals come from pediatricians, which is positive. “They’re the first ones that parents go to when they have a worry, and the doctors are more prepared to recognize a need for a different kind of intervention. Research supports the importance of family involvement in children’s mental health, and I see that happening more.”
With so many therapists and counselors coming out of master’s level programs, Dr. Snell sees a real value in the deeper study required for clinical psychology licensure. “People who want the broadest range of options should do the clinical. I was lucky to get into a strong research-based program, and it’s allowed me to do what I wanted to do. It’s been a great field for me!”