Guest Column: Pursuing the Doctoral Dream

Dec 15, 2015 by Marni Feuerman
Marni Feuerman
Marni Feuerman

I have always loved learning. I am pretty much a geek! For as long as I can remember, I have had the goal of earning the highest degree available from a university. The reality was that the combination of a lack of finances and pressing life circumstances kept me from achieving this goal earlier in my life.

I was drawn to the helping profession since I was in high school. That led me to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Psychology degree at the University of Florida. After college, I attended Barry University to obtain my Master of Social Work degree, while working full-time. I was fully supporting myself, and although my professors urged me to do so, I was not able to continue on to a doctoral program at that time. However, I never let go of that dream, even though it is not a requirement for my current career as a licensed psychotherapist. And when my career began to take off after becoming a licensed clinical social worker, the doctoral dream was put on a back (way back) burner.

After several years of working (and dating!) in my 20s, I met my husband at age 30, got married and had twin girls. Two babies meant an instant family. Far from merely being on the back burner, getting a doctorate was the furthest thing from my mind at that point in time. I stayed home for two years, then slowly started back to work doing psychotherapy and building a private practice. After working for a while in this setting, I gained another state license in marriage and family therapy. Then, that doctoral dream began to creep back into my head. Clearly, it was not going away.

Many people thought I was crazy, and I understand why: the time, the work, the commitment. Why add that stress to my life? After discussing the idea with my husband, he reluctantly came on board. He was understandably concerned, too. I am happy to say that my success in private practice allowed me to pay for this education. And I could count on my husband’s financial and emotional support. Finally, the time was right to enter a doctoral program.

After doing a lot of research, I found that CalSouthern’s PsyD program offered the best combination of academic quality, convenience (100-percent online) and affordability. The curriculum looked great and the CalSouthern staff was friendly and welcoming. This program was a perfect match for my circumstances. As a mom, a wife and a working clinician, I needed flexibility the most. I wish I could say the coursework is "easy," but I cannot. It is rigorous, challenging and at times downright difficult. But, it is what it is supposed to be at this educational level.

What I am learning has both enhanced concepts I was already familiar with and introduced me to new ones. Graduate-level education pushes you to read, write and, most importantly, learn an enormous amount of material. I now feel even more competent and confident in my abilities as a clinician and a writer. So much so that I have started blogging. Having a "niche" within the psychology field—couples and marriage therapy—and the ability to read and interpret research has given me quite a marketable skill set. I am now a freelance writer with nationally syndicated articles and a regular writing position for the relationship channel on the popular website

The process of learning and formal education has made me a role model for my daughters. They see that I work hard and that I enjoy what I do. And they know that I also "walk the walk" when I lecture them about how important it is to work hard in school and get good grades. (I have to laugh sometimes when we are sitting in the same room on different computers doing schoolwork.) I am and will always be a life-long learner. I would encourage everyone to continue to learn new skills or gain an understanding of new subject matter throughout their lives. I can't think of a better way to keep your mind "young" even as we inevitably grow old. I am thankful for the technology that allows for distance learning and for the program at California Southern University.

And I am excited to see what the future brings once I actually earn that PsyD!




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