June 1, 2021 | UHCL Staff
Psychological intervention for a traumatized child can be life changing. When she discovered that, said Behnaz Darban, it changed her own life.
Now in her fourth year in University of Houston-Clear Lake's Doctor of Psychology in Health Service Psychology program, Darban is among a cohort of seven who will begin yearlong internships in schools, hospitals and clinical settings on the path to becoming a pediatric psychologist this summer.
"I have had a practicum at Shriners Children's Hospital in Galveston, which is a pediatric burn hospital," said Darban, a native of Iran. "I have worked before with children and families who have had traumatic experiences, such as refugees and immigrants, and I really enjoy working with this population. But my time at Shriners confirmed it for me — working with children who have gone through trauma is what I find the hardest, but the most rewarding."
She added that she has developed a strong interest in research on people who have survived natural disasters and children who have gone through intense medical traumas. "I'm interested in the level of support we can provide, and how meaningful psychology services can be not only for children and families, but the whole team of providers," she said.
Darban, who had a previous teaching career while still in Iran, received her master's degree from the University of Kansas and had begun a doctoral program in curriculum and teaching there. It was through her voluntary community work and involvement with international women there that she found her passion to support and address children and their families' mental health needs.
"I decided I wanted a switch," she said. "I searched and found the program at UH-Clear Lake, and was referred to (Professor of Psychology) Mary Short, who is also the co-director of the university's Psy.D. program."
After meeting with Short, Darban said, she learned that UHCL's program was a combined school and clinical psychology program. "I thought this would be a great fit with my background and experience and career goals," she said. "This is a great combination, to be in both a school and hospital/clinical setting, especially for those interested in working with children and families."
Short said UHCL had one of the few combined clinical and school psychology doctoral programs in the country. "That emphasis really changes things for students, especially for those going into pediatric or child psychology," she said. "Our students are trained in clinical and school psychology. Most will become licensed psychologists."
She explained that students in the program received a clinically-focused education, with great therapy electives and very strong assessment and treatment classes. "We have excellent community partnerships for our students' practicums. They do two or three practicums, which prepares them extremely well for their internships," she said.
Darban will begin her internship this July at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. "I'll be doing nearly everything the psychiatry students will be doing, which will be a great experience for me," she said. "My first rotation will be at Riley Hospital for Children providing consultation liaison services, and working in the Gender Health Clinic with LGBTQ adolescents and working in the stress and trauma clinic."
She said she felt lucky that the program had given her the opportunity to get equal experiences in schools and on the clinical side. "Some students have specific interests in one or the other, but I love both," she said. "My clinical experiences have been in Galena Park, Clear Creek and Dickinson Independent School Districts, as well as in hospitals like Shriners and Texas Children's Hospital."
As she anticipates her internship at IU School of Medicine, Darban said she was very confident. "I know I've been very well prepared," she said. "Generally, students in our programs get interviews at competitive sites. I got 13! Everyone was amazed with the experience we get in our program, even with the pandemic."
Other students in Darban's cohort are Jocelyn Gomez, who will intern at Nemours/AI duPont Hospital for Children, Kenia Velasquez, who will intern at UT Health-Houston and Hannah Hartnett, who will intern at Vanderbilt-Autism and Lifespan Development Track.
Additionally, Megan Millman, Katie Ranton and Jenna Turner will intern at University of Vermont Medical Center, OU Health Consortium, and the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department, respectively.
For more information about UHCL's Doctorate in Psychology in Health Service Psychology, go online.