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For clinical psychologist Colby Chlebowski, becoming the new director of the SDSU Psychology Clinic was a perfect fit.

As a graduate student, Chlebowski moved back to southern California to do a clinical internship with the San Diego Veterans Affairs Department, one of the sites where the students she now trains in the SDSU-UCSD clinical psychology joint doctoral program will also be interning.

“The JDP has such a strong reputation and produces such high quality trainees. It was easy to be asked to help continue that trajectory,” Chlebowski said. “The students are highly motivated, high-achieving and the clinic affords the format to both learn best practices and do therapy really well.”

Her previous research has focused on effectively training therapists to provide mental health services for children with autism, and she plans to continue some of this work with collaborators at SDSU’s Center for Autism and UC San Diego. 

But she always saw herself doing more teaching and training so that she could have a greater impact beyond being one-on-one with a patient.

To make this vision a reality, she plans to have the clinic focus on what both the students and supervisors want to provide. “Students in the clinic have a real commitment to equity and access of mental health care,” she said.

Increasing ties with the community by offering Spanish-speaking therapists and offering accessible workshops is also on Chlebowski’s agenda.

Another aspect of improving accessibility is offering virtual therapy options, even when the clinic re-opens for in-person sessions after spring break.

“We’ll never go back to a fully non-virtual therapy world. It would be short-sighted if we don’t train our students in telehealth,” Chlebowski said.

Having only been in the role six weeks, Chlebowski said, “It’s been truly phenomenal. The people have been the number one piece. I’ve been so welcomed by JDP faculty and students at Alvarado and up on the main campus.”

Returning to southern California has also allowed her to take up urban gardening in her backyard with her two sons and seven chickens.

Just as she’s experimenting with finding the right growing conditions for native plants, Chlebowski hopes to gather data on which therapy approaches work best for different populations and what works for training doctoral students to “keep the field moving forward.”


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