It’s not typical for someone fresh out of college to begin work on a doctorate in psychology, but Damaliah Gibson ’04 did just that. Immediately after graduating from Mount Holyoke, she began work on a Ph.D. in counseling psychology at Seton Hall University. She knew that people in the field might be skeptical about whether she was ready for the challenges. “I was a lot younger than most of the people in my program,” she says, “and the typical applicant earns a master’s degree before entering a Ph.D. program.” But, Gibson says, her experiences as a psychology major at Mount Holyoke—which included working closely with faculty on significant research projects—had more than prepared her.
While a grad student, Gibson interned at a college counseling center and in inpatient and outpatient units at two different hospitals. “I’ve worked with a wide range of people including college students, adolescents dealing with substance abuse, seriously mentally ill adults and adolescents, and women coping with postpartum depression,” she says. “I’ve also had the opportunity to conduct psychological evaluations and assessments.”
Cultural diversity is a thread that runs throughout Gibson’s academic career. “I have a strong interest in how demographic variables such as gender, race, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and religion inform the psychological strengths and challenges of individuals, families, and communities,” she says. For her undergraduate thesis, Gibson examined the relationship between attachment, guilt, and displacement among international students. In her doctoral dissertation, she explored the psychological and behavioral strategies used by African ancestral lesbians to negotiate their multiple identities within their families of origin.
Now that she has her Ph.D., Gibson plans to continue to develop and expand her clinical skills and become a fully licensed psychologist. Eventually, she hopes to augment her clinical work by teaching and supervising in a counseling psychology program.