Get to know Kristin Dempsey, Ed.D. - Full-Time Faculty, Counseling Psychology Program
See Kristin's professional biography here.

Shayna Quilty (SQ): Tell me about your history with the Wright Institute.
Kristin Dempsey (KD): This is my second time around at the Wright Institute! Several years ago, I taught in my three areas of passion: Addictions Counseling; Crisis, Disaster & Trauma Counseling; and Community Mental Health. I took a break from teaching in order to pursue my doctorate, which I completed earlier this year. Now I'm back and I'm really excited because I believe in creating a socially responsible, recovery-oriented behavioral health workforce. I’m looking forward to teaching again, and to engaging with the warm, positive environment of this program.

SQ: We’re glad to have you back! What has been your most memorable moment at the Wright Institute?
KD: Earlier this year, before I decided to return to the Wright, I organized an internship coordinator conference and worked with the team to host it at the Wright. That helped me decide to rejoin the faculty here. I remember sitting in a workshop with Wright Institute faculty on the panels, and enjoying learning from them. I was inspired by how much they care about the work that they do. They're thinking really strategically and explicitly and profoundly about very important issues, and they’re very present in the room.

SQ: What originally drew you to the Wright Institute?
KD: One thing I always liked about the Wright was the feeling that the leadership was interested in and supportive of my work. I love that teaching is such a collaborative experience in this program, which isn’t the case everywhere. I find that collaborating with my colleagues creates a more enriching experience for us, and benefits the students because they’re learning from all of us, not just the faculty member who’s in the room.

SQ: What course are you most excited to teach? What do you love about it?
KD: I’m definitely excited about the MFT Professional Development Seminar because I enjoy working with people at the beginning of their practicum experience. I do a lot of training on basic counseling skills at the high school level all the way up to seasoned clinicians. I like the idea of being really intentional about what skills we teach right at the beginning of training, and watching the transition through the years is so rewarding. But all of the classes I’ll be teaching are exciting to me because they’re either an area where I’m comfortable or an area where I’m excited to continue to grow. I always look forward to teaching Addictions Counseling because there’s so much in addiction that’s changing all the time. Right now it’s a political topic, so I’m interested in engaging in those discussions.

SQ: Going back in time a bit, can you tell me about someone or something that motivated you to get involved with mental health work?
KD: When I was an undergrad, I had a work study job where I was a receptionist for a student-run peer counseling program. The people who were in the program were graduate students in counseling, and they were really influential for me. Then when I became a Women’s Studies major, I did a lot of advocacy work, and I did an internship at a women’s shelter. Because of scheduling I was only able to work in the children’s program, which I found really disappointing because I wanted to work with adult women. I was surprised to find that I was actually good with kids and enjoyed that side of the work.

Through additional work experiences after college, I saw the relationship between activism and empowering people for healing through counseling. People can and do get well, develop self-efficacious behavior, and sometimes become advocates around social issues that exacerbate mental illness. Working through this process with people has made my life meaningful.

SQ: Once you decided to move into the mental health field, how did you decide which specific degree and licensure track made sense for you?
KD: I originally considered going into social work because of my interest in the medical field and family planning. I’ve done a lot of case management, advocacy, and policy work, which traditionally fall under the social work umbrella. I decided to go into Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) training because I was hoping it would let me focus on a broader range of things, including those systems pieces as well as counseling, which I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do as much of as a social worker. There are a lot of MFTs in policy areas as well. What I really liked when I started training as an MFT was the systemic approach to therapy. We’re looking at how an individual fits into a family and other systems, not looking at isolated individuals.

Like the Wright Institute’s Counseling Psychology program, my graduate program fulfilled the requirements to be an LPCC as well, so when that license became available in California all I had to do was take the licensure exams. I’m now able to incorporate those different focus areas - careers, etc - into my practice as well. I hope to help shape the future of this license in California by making it more recovery oriented and helping to determine the niche that this license will fill in our state as there’s an increasing need for mental health professionals.

SQ: I know that working at the Wright is only one of many hats that you wear. How else do you spend your time?
KD: I have a half-time private practice. I'm also participating in workforce development and training projects for the California Institute for Behavioral Health Solutions (CIBHS). For most of my training, I do things I would in clinical practice, like motivational interviewing and also trauma informed care and then different types of cognitive behavioral therapies. In my free time I like to do yoga and travel.

SQ: If you could give one piece of advice to the students in the Counseling program, what would it be?
KD: I would urge students to come to the program with willingness and flexibility. Willingness to do things you don’t expect of haven’t tried before and a flexibility to learn from one another and adapt. Try new things; you never know if it will lead to a new passion.

Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute’s Doctor of Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.) program.
Click here to learn more about the Wright Institute’s Master of Counseling Psychology program.