Patrick McGonigal '16, MA

Alumni Spotlight

Patrick McGonigalUndergraduate degree: B.A. in Psychology; Minor in Sociology; Certificate in Criminal Justice
Graduate degree: M.A. in Psychology

Current Position Title and Affiliation: Ph.D. Student in Clinical Psychology and Masters of Legal Studies (MLS) Student at the University of Nebraska Lincoln

Summary of Position:
As a Ph.D. student in the Clinical Psychology Training Program (CPTP) at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, I am training to be a clinical forensic psychologist. I take classes related to the assessment and treatment of psychopathology, as well as data analysis and research design. I also work closely with a faculty member and other graduate students to facilitate research projects related to targeted violence and threat assessment. As a team, we present our research at national and international conferences and publish peer-reviewed articles. My program involves clinical training where I provide assessments and psychotherapy within the local community. So far, I have completed clinical training at a residential forensic psychiatric hospital and two maximum-security prisons.

At the same time, I am in a dual degree program with the Nebraska College of Law and am working towards my Master's degree in Legal Studies (MLS). The MLS degree provides more insight into the intersection between law and psychology. I am particularly interested in how psychology research can inform public and institutional policy to prevent violent behavior. In addition to psycholegal courses, I have taken traditional law classes such as torts, administrative law, international criminal law, and human rights.

Future Goals:
I am pursuing an integrative career that blends my interests in forensic clinical work, training, policy, and consultation. In the future, I would be interested in working as a psychologist at a forensic psychiatric facility and training site where I can conduct various evaluations for the court and be involved in the training of future psychologists in the field. In this role, I hope to consult with policymakers and legislators to inform public policy decisions at the intersection of law and psychology within the community.

Patrick presents research at a conference with power point

What do you love most about this career path?
What I love most about this career path is being able to do my part to build a safer community at both an individual and systemic level. The risk assessments conducted in forensic settings inform legal decisions made in the courtroom and treatment is geared towards preventing future violence. Evidence-based policy decisions can reduce violent behavior by addressing specific issues within the community. I also enjoy seeing clients’ growth and change over time as they learn more about themselves in treatment.

How did UMass and/or Psychological and Brain Sciences help prepare you?
UMass provided wonderful opportunities that prepared me for my current career path. I am incredibly grateful for the Commonwealth Honors College and the ability to complete a psychology honors thesis with Katherine Dixon-Gordon in the Clinical Affective Sciences Lab and assist Michael Constantino with his research in the Psychotherapy Research Lab. After graduation, these experiences allowed me to secure a full-time clinical research position before applying to doctoral programs. I am also grateful for the Residential Academic Program (RAP) because I was able to take many classes with other first-year students in my residential building, some of whom I am still friends with today!

Tips for Current Undergrads:
Take advantage of the opportunities in research and within the community. UMass has many faculty conducting really interesting research that can help you find what you are passionate about. Even if you decide not to pursue an academic career or graduate school, being involved in research is a great addition to your CV or resume. There are also several places in the community that are happy to sponsor part-time internships for college credit. While at UMass, I interned at an adoption agency, a VA hospital, and a county jail. These community experiences, as well as the research experiences, helped set me on my career path and made it much easier to find employment after graduation.

Patrick McGonigal '16, MA on LinkedIn