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Master of Arts in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology: Prevention & Treatment

An Unexpected Career Path

Israel FrancoisIsrael Francois

Psychology Associate, Echo Glen Children’s Center

Israel Francois didn’t plan on going into child and adolescent psychology, but he believes he was meant to end up in the field. After serving in the U.S. Army, Israel earned his bachelor's degree in social welfare at the University of Washington and began exploring graduate programs in social work.

During a seminar, he heard a professor talk about how they trained in social work and then transitioned into psychology. “And I thought, ‘Huh, you can do that?’” Israel remembers. When he saw an ad for the UW Master of Arts in Applied Child & Adolescent Psychology: Prevention & Treatment program, he said it was a sign. “I was destined to go into this field.”

How did you get interested in the field of child and adolescent psychology?

To tell you the truth, I wasn’t planning to go into this field. I was going to be a social worker. I served in the military and after my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw what war and trauma can do to young men and women. When I went back to school, I decided to do social welfare and did my practicum as a juvenile probation counselor at King County Juvenile Court.

I started looking at the files of the kids and saw so much adversity that they’d gone through. A light bulb went on and I realized that these kids are not doing these things because they want to be horrible people. It’s just a chain reaction to so many things in their lives. So that experience made me want to learn more about psychology, and it cemented my willingness to work with kids.

Tell us about your current role.

I’m a psychology associate at Echo Glen Children’s Center, which is a juvenile rehabilitation facility. I work with a very tough population of kids who are dealing with so much trauma — and not just one trauma. When a child first arrives, I do their intake assessment, so assessing their depression, anxiety and trauma levels. I have one-on-one therapy sessions with individual kids, and I also hold group sessions. I’m helping the kids learn how to deal with some of their problems and issues and giving them skills to help them cope — to be their own therapist in a way.

How did the program and instructors prepare you for working in the field?

Some of the kids I work with are dealing with multiple mental issues. The program really prepared me to deal with this population. The professors took their time to make sure that we knew the material and understood the importance of the career that we were entering. That we understood how fragile the adolescent and child mind can be if it's not nurtured — and understood who kids are and their potential.  

Every class I went to was this welcoming, caring environment. Each professor brought their own genuine love for the field and gave us room to grow as a cohort and individually. I consider them my mentors, and I believe they'll be mentors for the rest of my career.

How were your interactions with your classmates in your cohort?

The cohort really shaped me and my understanding of how to work with others. Everybody had something to bring to the table — everyone had their own ideas. Even though the ideas clashed with each other sometimes, because we all aren’t going to be thinking the way everybody else is thinking. But everybody brought a willingness to be okay with being wrong and to take criticism from each other.

We had a lot of diversity, too. Everybody brought in their own flavor to the cohort and their upbringing and what they value, which helped all of us. And we all wanted to see everybody succeed. If you were having issues or problems, you could literally go to anyone in the cohort and that person would be a shoulder. Not just for the academic stuff, but also life barriers that may be going on.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of applying to this program? 

Do it. You will not regret it. Though it will challenge you — it challenged me. It challenged my focus and my understanding of how society can play a big part in shaping young men and women. And I would say that the professors care, and they are there to teach and to care.