Student Spotlight: Rachel Harris

April 4, 2024

Tell us about yourself.

My name is Rachel Harris, and I am a MSW student. I am from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and I graduated from MSU in 2022 with my Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and Neuroscience. In my free time, I am on the MSU Club Tennis Team, am an Izzone Section Leader, enjoy running, reading, and spending time with friends and family.


Why did you choose to get your Masters of Social Work (MSW) at Michigan State University (MSU)?

I attended MSU for my undergraduate degree, and loved my time here. The second half of my undergraduate experience was during the COVID pandemic. I knew I wanted to stay in-state for my MSW to be close to friends and family. I was fortunate to have offers from two excellent in-state MSW programs.  I chose the MSW program at MSU because of my love for the University. I appreciated the curriculum structure of the MSW program at MSU, with having two different field placements and the ability to customize the courses to my interests and passions. The Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Certificate also peaked my interest.   I was offered the GA position, which would pay for my education and would provide me with invaluable experiences related to crisis intervention, supervision and mentorship, and housing administration.


What have been the highlights of completing the Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Certificate as part of your degree?

The Evidence Based Trauma Treatment Certificate has provided me the opportunity to have incredible training, supervision, and consultation around the Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) model. I was able to complete intensive skill-based training from Dr. Kate Chard, who is an international expert and one of the developers of the CPT model. Each week, a group of approximately 10 students have been able to meet for consultation with Dr. Chard. Consultation includes presenting our cases and receive guidance and feedback. It’s rare to be able to graduate with your MSW with this amount of extensive training in an evidence-based model. I am incredibly grateful to be able to meet criteria to be on the national registry for CPT post-graduation. And, I feel confident in my ability to work with trauma survivors.


What has your experience been like learning Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT)?

I’ve really enjoyed being able to combine my knowledge with neuroscience and my passion for trauma treatment through learning CPT. Through this, I’ve been able to provide psychoeducation surrounding neurobiology and trauma to my clients to help validate and normalize their experience and responses. The highlight of my experience with this certificate has been watching my clients begin with high scores on their assessments for PTSD and depression, and then to finish the 12-week therapy model not even meeting diagnostic threshold criteria for either PTSD or depression. The CPT model has extensive research regarding its effectiveness, and I was able to witness that first hand. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to have a part in working with survivors toward healing and to be able to provide them with some of the best research-based treatment.


Where is your field placement and what was your experience like there?

This past year, my field placement was at the Center for Survivors on MSU’s campus. I can not say enough about the incredible work the Center for Survivors does for survivors of sexual assault. I have been able to complete the CPT model with four different survivors. I’ve been able to receive immense support from the other clinicians and the staff at the Center for Survivors, and have been able to vastly expand my knowledge by learning from them through consultation sessions. 


What are other opportunities you have had as a result of being part of the MSW program at MSU?

During my first year as an MSW student, I received a Research Scholar position to work under Dr. Hyunkag Cho and study intimate partner violence polyvictimization, health outcomes, and help-seeking among minority communities. I was able to contribute to two different peer-reviewed journal articles that are currently under review for the Journal of Family Violence and a poster at the Society for Social Work and Research conference in Washington, DC in January of this year. During my final year in the MSW program, I have served as a student assistant for the Trauma Services and Training Network (TSTN). In this role I have served on the Steeering Committee and been a part of the campus wide Learning Community. I have managed the TSTN social media pages (Facebook and Instagram) curating and creating evidence-based information  and content to disseminate through both platforms.  


If you could offer advice to someone entering the MSW program at MSU, what would you tell them?

Take the time to make meaningful connections with your cohort, professors, supervisors, and others within the program. There are so many unique and incredible individuals within this program, many of which could be connections you maintain throughout your career post-graduation. Working in the mental health field can sometimes lead to burnout and compassion fatigue. Surround yourself with individuals you know you can go to for support, consultation, or simply to learn from.