Kathryn Barbash, Psy.D.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
1. What is your current occupation?
I am a child and adolescent psychologist in the Behavioral Science Division at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
2. What do you do? / Describe your role.
I am an embedded psychologist within the Plastic Surgery department and the Center for Independence. The roles of the embedded psychologist are to the meet the clinical needs of specific populations and provide comprehensive care to the families. This is accomplished through behavioral health evaluations, treatment, and consultation and collaboration with medical teams. As a member of the team in Plastic Surgery, one of my main focuses within the department is working with children and families seen in our Cleft-Craniofacial Center. I evaluate and treat children with a wide range of presenting issues such as anxiety, depression, learning issues, developmental concerns, experiences of bullying, and ADHD to name a few. The other clinic that I am embedded within is called The Center for Independence. The Center for Independence provides interdisciplinary, group-based services for children and teenagers with behavioral, communication, cognitive, and/or physical challenges through activities that promote achievement and independence. This clinic includes behavioral health, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology. One part of my role within this clinic is to co-facilitate with a speech- language pathologist a social skills group targeted for children with ADHD. I also provide behavioral health evaluations and outpatient therapy for children referred from other medical clinics that do not have an embedded clinician within their department.
3. How did you learn about your job?
I was in the process of relocating from Massachusetts to the Pittsburgh area and looking for a position that was in the medical setting. My husband’s employer provided me with the contact information of the clinical administrator of the Behavioral Sciences division at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. I contacted her and discussed employment opportunities at Children’s and the rest is history.
4. How have you navigated your career? As in, what was the process that you took to get to your current position?
I knew I wanted to career in psychology working with children early on. I majored in psychology in college and sought out job, research, and extracurricular experiences that involved working with children and adolescents. I knew I was well suited for more clinical focus for my graduate program so I pursued a PsyD degree after completing my undergraduate studies. When I entered graduate school my classes and training experiences focused on child and adolescent psychology. Early in my training and career I focused on becoming a competent clinician in a broad range of issues that arise for children and adolescents. I wanted to have a strong foundation in working with children that would allow me to provide services in a variety of settings. As I finished my training I knew I wanted to move into the medical setting and sought out opportunities to move into a more specialized area. I spent a lot of time networking and talking to those in the field in my interest areas. I was fortunate that my relocation aligned with an ideal job opportunity for my interests.
5. Are you a member of SCCAP? If so, how has being a member of SCCAP been helpful to you?
I became a member a couple of years ago. I appreciate the networking opportunities as well as the listserv, which provides such interesting discussions about our field.
6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? Why?
I thoroughly enjoy working with patients in an academic medical setting. You get to see such a range of presenting issues and be present in a work place full of innovation. It keeps the job very interesting and stimulating. The collaboration with the medical team is also a very rewarding piece of the work. It allows us to make sure that we are providing families with comprehensive care that factors in the physical, medical, mental, and emotional components. I have to say though that what I love the most is working with patients. I love working with families and being able to provide them with support and guidance.
7. What is a tough aspect of your job? How have you handled it?
There are so many helpful services a psychologist can provide within the medical setting but getting reimbursement for these services is difficult. It can be hard to navigate all of the rules and red tape at times. Education is key in understanding these ever-changing processes as well as continuing to think about new ways we can provide optimal care to families within the medical setting.
8. What is one thing that you wish you had known as a graduate student or post-doc/early career psychologist that would have helped you navigate your career?
Talk to people who have the job you want as early as you can. They can provide you with guidance on what type of courses, training experiences, and research you will need to move towards your goals. Networking has been a really important part of my career, don’t be afraid to do it early on, it can make a huge difference down the line. After being rejected from a fellowship I was really interested in, I contacted the training director to discuss what experiences I was missing in my application. She was happy to talk with me and provided a lot of helpful guidance on how to move forward in my career. People are often willing to help, but you need to ask first!
9. What advice would you give to students (including undergrads and grads) who may be interested in doing what you do?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, be honest with yourself. Connect with those in the field that have the job you are interested in and learn more about the path to that job. Assess how your areas of less strength may impact your future career goals. If there are areas that you know you have less experience in or you struggle with, seek out those experiences as early as you can. All experiences, even the most challenging, are enriching experiences; they can broaden your knowledge base and help you become a well-rounded clinician, better preparing you for your career.
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