Division 53 | Past Columns - Melody Keller

Past Columns - Melody Keller

Melody Keller, Ph.D.

Melody Keller, Ph.D.
Director, UCSF Youth OCD Intensive Outpatient Program,
Pacific Anxiety Group, Menlo Park, CA

1. What is your current occupation?

I am a licensed clinical psychologist in a group private practice and Director of the University of California, San Francisco Youth OCD Intensive Outpatient Program.

2. What do you do? / Describe your role.

Part of my time is spent working with anxious youth and adult clients in a group private practice. The practice focuses on providing evidence-based treatment for anxiety and related disorders. I see most clients for a standard 50 minute weekly appointment; however, for clients who need it (e.g., moderate to severe OCD), I work with them more intensively by seeing them more frequently and/or for lengthier sessions. I also work part-time at UCSF where Dr. Carol Mathews and I have recently developed an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for youth with OCD. I serve as the program director, supervising other clinicians in the treatment of pediatric OCD, and providing exposure and response prevention (ERP) treatment to these youth in both group and individual formats.

3. How did you learn about your job? 

I learned about my current positions through colleagues. Maintaining professional relationships is extremely important for young professionals, and I strongly encourage early career psychologists to keep in touch with their peers and former supervisors in order to learn about career opportunities.

4. How have you navigated your career? As in, what was the process that you took to get to your current position?

I majored in psychology at the University of Washington, where I got involved in research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. My experience there helped me to obtain my first post-undergraduate job as a research assistant at UCLA’s Child OCD, Anxiety and Tic Disorder Program. I originally planned to work there one year before applying to graduate school, but I was learning so much through the process and by working with experts in the area that I was lucky to continue working there for three years. My experience there helped prepare me for graduate school, both in terms of knowing that I wanted a career in psychology and becoming better prepared for clinical and research work. In 2003, I began the clinical psychology doctoral program at UCLA where I was mentored by Dr. Michelle Craske. During my time in the Craske lab, I continued my relationship with the Child OCD lab as as a clinical practicum extern. Surrounding myself with such knowledgeable and amazing mentors over the years has been essential to my development as a psychologist and to where my career has taken me. I was fortunate to stay at UCLA for my child clinical internship where I obtained experience in areas that were unfamiliar to me, such as inpatient work with eating disorders and a more general ward of patients, learning how a psychologist can serve as a consultation-liaison within the medical world, and being part of a team in a day treatment program for youth. All of these experiences helped me to grow as a clinician. After graduating, I wanted a clinical post-doctoral experience, and moved to Northern California to complete a one-year post-doc position in child outpatient psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente. There, I provided individual treatment and co-led a variety of groups. Following that, I returned to UCLA to be the associate director of the UCLA Child OCD IOP for two years before my personal life brought me back to northern California, where I am now working at UCSF and in a group private practice.

5. What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job? Why?

There are so many enjoyable aspects of my job, but I must say that it is very rewarding to work with clients who are brave to confront their anxieties to challenge themselves and improve their lives. I also appreciate that exposure work allows me to be very creative, which I enjoy.

6. What is a tough aspect of your job?  How have you handled it?

A difficult part of my job is that not everyone is ready to confront their fears because it is very hard work. Thus, it is important to help them see what their lives are like when they allow OCD and anxiety to control them, and help them slowly work towards their goals.
7. 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?

I think everyone should know how important it is to make connections with colleagues who have like-minded interests, and to foster professional relationships with mentors. So, I would recommend that you introduce yourself to experts in your field when you attend conferences, and reach out to obtain experience working with them. Network!

8. What advice would you give to students (including undergrads and grads) who may be interested in doing what you do?

Understanding that everyone starts out at a similar place (e.g., research data entry) and works upward is important. See the importance in each step in the process, and value the opportunities you are afforded by mentors, as all steps are necessary to become a well-rounded psychologist. Connect to organizations that allow you to network and stay abreast of the current work in the field…like Division 53!

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