Q&A with adjunct Psychology professor Jessica DeBoom

Psychology adjunct instructor Jessica DeBoom

Where did you get your degree and why did you choose it?

I got my undergraduate degree in psychology from Simpson College and my master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling at the University of Northern Iowa.  I chose to major in psychology basically because I loved learning about it.  Initially I was on a path to continue on to pursuing a Ph.D in psychology, but discovered that while I appreciate scientific research, I didn’t enjoy doing it, so I chose not to continue after my bachelor’s degree.  I struggled a bit professionally after graduation, working in an unrelated field (banking) for a while.  At the time, I lived within commuting distance to Cedar Falls, so started exploring graduate programs offered there.  Once I learned more about their Mental Health Counseling program (and more generally about the field of Mental Health Counseling), I recognized that’s what I wanted to do.  Thankfully, I was admitted to the program and the rest, as they say, is history.

What made you want to be a therapist?

My love of psychology and more generally my interest in what makes people tick and what it means to be human (for which I can thank my many undergraduate humanities electives in addition to my major in psych) was a big piece of it.  I also found helping others to be personally meaningful and fulfilling, so being a therapist seemed a natural extension of those two things.

What is your favorite part about your job (therapist)?

It’s hard to name one part as my favorite.  But if I had to choose, I think it’s being allowed to be part of someone transformational process from (typically) a place of pain and struggle to (ideally) living their life in line with what matters most to them.  It’s an honor that has a lot of highs and lows (lows like hearing truly awful experiences of trauma and loss, highs like seeing examples of resilience, creativity, hope and inspiration).  I also think it’s no accident that I chose one of the career paths for which continuing education is literally a legal requirement to keep my license; even after having been a therapist for over 10 years, I still get the pleasure of continuing to learn.   

Where do you work and how long have you worked there?

I am self-employed in my own solo private practice, True North Therapy & Wellness in West Des Moines.  I’ve been at my current location since November 2021; prior to that I was part of a group of independently practicing therapist for 4 years, and in community mental health for about 6 years.    

What made you want to teach a Psychology class at DMACC?

I still love doing therapy and have no plans to stop anytime soon, but I was looking for a little more variety and a new professional challenge.  I have considered teaching in some capacity for a very long time, and figured it was finally time to give it a go.  I also thought since I really like learning, that I might also like teaching, and so far that’s turning out to be the case.

How has being a therapist helped you with your skill set as a teacher?

Providing what’s called psychoeducation – psychological concepts/information relevant to the client’s concerns – is something I do with nearly all clients to some degree.  I’ve also had some experience leading therapy groups that didactic in nature, which has some similarities with teaching a class.  But since this is the first time I’m teaching; I still have a lot of learning to do about how to be an effective teacher.    

What unexpected challenges have you faced with teaching?

So far, my biggest challenge has been managing the time commitment to teaching a class for the first time, while also managing my practice and having a life outside of work, including time for myself.  While it wasn’t exactly an unexpected challenge, I’m finding I’m investing more time than I initially anticipated would be needed; however, I’m hopeful future semesters will be less time intensive as I’ll already have much of the initial work done.

What has been the most rewarding part with teaching?

Seeing students engaged in class and asking great questions (some of which I don’t always have the answer to) has been the most rewarding.

What do you hope to gain with teaching?

I hope to gain the variety and new challenge that brought me to it to begin with.

What do you hope students gain from this class?

I hope students gain an understanding of the basic concepts of psychology.  I would also love for them to leave the class with more curiosity about psychological concepts, whether that is continuing on to study psychology or being just being able to use what they’ve learned in Intro in whatever career field they choose.

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