Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

When I thought about doing P90X a few months ago I wanted to write out the routines on a calendar so I could cross them off as I completed them. Basic behavior modification. I asked my wife to pick up a calendar for me and when she asked what I wanted on it I told her “whatever is fine.” And so I have an “Extraordinary Chickens” calendar upon which I track my progress.

It now has 7 X’s on it 🙂

I made it through the first week of P90X and did pretty well. I’m still getting used to eating differently. I generally eat lots of carbs and not enough protein in any given week. I’m good with veggies and fruit though (thanks to my wife). In order to really have enough energy to do this program I need more protein. I don’t do any of the supplements or drinks. For one, they’re expensive, and for two, I’m not trying to build myself up to be this awesome bodybuilder or anything. Yes, I know I’m missing out and my body is probably missing out, but I take my multivitamin and now a glucosamine supplement (recommended by a friend since I’m having knee trouble this week). My nutrition and vitamin intake are in the spirit of the program and for now that is good enough for me.

My biggest hurdles so far in the program are yoga and abs. Abs are just plain brutal. I’m doing 12-15 reps for each exercise (instead of the 25) and it’s all I can do for now. As for yoga, I’m just not all that flexible and I have a belly, which gets in the way and has more than once caused me to fall over. Plyo isn’t the monster I thought it was. I can mostly keep up and I try to push myself a bit more each time. I’m getting better at pull ups and, honestly, I’m doing mostly adjusted versions of many of the exercises at the moment to get some benefit and learn the routines. It does me no good to do 3/4 a pull up without a chair when I can do 5-10 with a chair (and I always try to do at least one without the chair each time). That’s my best right now and I’m not sad about it.

Kempo X is probably my new favorite thing. I enjoyed the punches and kicks when I did P90 back in the day and this is a high pace version of that. I’m still learning form, but I can keep up intensity, which is something I can’t do on any of the other programs.

In other news, Fantasy Football starts up soon. I’ve tinkered around a bit this weekend and plan to read up on the guys this year during the week. I’m hoping to find enough people (read: people I know) to start my own league this year. I’m sure I can cobble together 7-9 people to make it happen. Updates on that progress later.

I finish my internship in <1 month. After that I will be finishing my dissertation and hopefully finding a job. I’m applying to a lot of places this weekend and next week. I hate not having a plan and feeling like I have little control over what happens to Maggie and the cats and me for the next 3-4 months. All I know is that by the end of the year I will be graduated. There’s also a small chance that we’ll all be homeless. Now accepting donations.


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A lot is going to happen in my life in the next 90 days. I will complete my internship year at Coatesville. I will be extremely close, if not finished with my dissertation. I will almost be graduated with my PsyD. Maggie and I will be packing to move or have already moved to…somewhere. I will tackle P90X.

Internship has been a great experience overall. I have grown so much this year and learned a lot about myself professionally. Admittedly I was slow to adapt to the program and had to relearn a couple of things, but my professional confidence continues to grow and I feel like I’m making a difference in the lives of many veterans.

My dissertation is stressing me out. I need 4 more participants and I am working to find them wherever I can. If you are yourself or know a gay male college student in the Philly area who might be interested in participating in my research on the coming out process, send me an email (jschwenker@spalding.edu) for details. Once I have the last 4 I can pull all my data together, analyze it, write it up, and get on defending to my committee. I’m ready to move this process along since my proposal was accepted by ISTSS for discussion at the 2012 conference in Los Angeles. Yay!!!

I’m not sure what our future holds. Everything is once again up in the air (or perhaps it has always been there). We’re currently stuck in PA paying really high rent while I scour the nation for a job or post doc that will take me ABD. Looking forward to a time when I can count on just a little bit more stability.

Finally, I have decided to tackle P90X. After 2 years of consideration and a lot of procrastination, I will begin the program next week. I’ve been auditioning the workouts the past couple of weeks, doing one to the best of my ability and taking a day or 2 off to recover. They’re difficult. No question. And I don’t think I would have made it through Plyo without having spent the last 90 days running and building up my stamina and leg strength. Plyo was rough, but I think the real challenges for me are going to be Abs, pull ups, and yoga.

I plan to approach this the same way that I did my running and, to borrow a phrase from Tony Horton, “do my best and forget the rest.” My goal is to complete the program. Do each routine from start to finish. Do all of the exercises. There are some exercises where I can keep up with Tony and the gang. There are others where I absolutely cannot, and that’s fine. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I may not be able to do 25 of each type of crunch, but I am sure I can manage 10 and work my way up. The same goes for other exercises. I can do more than half of what they’re doing and work toward matching for the moment.

I plan on tracking my progress here for each of the phases (tracking my measurements anyway and maybe a few pics). I will be tracking my daily progress on Fitocracy now that I’ve managed to translate the P90X exercises into Fitocracy’s language. I have my calendar marked and my worksheets printed. I take my initial measurements tomorrow (Sunday) morning and I start fresh on Monday after work. All that is left is to do the work and stay focused, which applies to more than just my exercise.

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I am currently in Nashville preparing to gather data for my dissertation. Let me catch you up to speed.

I have 18 participants so far for my dissertation and need 7 more to meet my goal of 25. Trying to find people in PA has been largely a bust as only one person has volunteered despite completing the IRB process at 3 universities and contacting local groups for assistance. I am in Nashville today because of a plea for friends to find friends of friends who might be interested. This has led to a road trip from PA to KY to TN to NC back to PA. Presently I am scheduled to work with 4 people and hope to cobble together 3 more before the trip is through. I’m waiting to hear back from others, but I can’t say for sure how many people I will have by the time I return to PA on the 4th.

I’m ready to be done with this project. Very ready. Following this portion I have to score each data set, send it to my dissertation chair to have her score it as well, compare notes, input the data into a program, download that information into 2 stats programs (SPSS and Excel), tinker a bunch, confer with my committee, run analyses, tinker some more, write up results, run everything by my committee, finalize edits, defend, and make final final edits. All of this needs to be done before Sept 8th (and preferably before Aug 31st) so that I can graduate in October.

Deep Breath

And so I am traveling approx 1,900 miles across 9 states to hopefully wrap up data collection so that I can throw myself headfirst into analysis and writing.

In addition to dissertation stuff, I am seeing lots of old friends, meeting new ones, and seeing many family members. In Louisville I got to visit with mom and Alicia. I had lunch/breakfast with several Murray friends as part of a fortuitous reunion, as well as spend time with my brother, his wife, and two kiddos, meeting my nephew for the first time. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Murray/Mayfield. Now I’m in Nashville visiting more Murray friends and doing dissertation stuff. Tomorrow I head to NC to meet friends of friends and gather more data with the outside chance of having a meal with friends and/or family (time and schedules permitting). I’ll be spending the 4th driving north and getting back to PA around bedtime for work on Thursday, rounding out the trip bookended by Thursdays.

I’ve been running where/when I can and I am nearly finished with my 90 in 90. I have 5 days left and, unfortunately, I believe I have injured myself. I’m almost certain it is shin splints, which have plagued me from the start. Given the rigor with which I have structured this goal (i.e., no days off) I have scantly rested my legs other than to alternate running with elliptical work to minimize footstrike. I have decided that I will walk briskly my last 5 days, further minimizing injury, and will follow up my goal with at least 2 weeks of rest. More on that progress later. I intend to restart P90 by the end of July, but I need to make sure I haven’t injured myself more severely than I think before I start something as rigorous as P90. I plan to alternate that with C210K to keep up my running, opting for longer running periods but shorter bursts of running.

So that’s where I’m at right now. Pushing to get this project done and staying healthy. Wish me luck. The next step is graduation, jobs, and moving away from PA.

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I need to write more frequent blog posts so that I can cover these things individually. That being said, here we go.


Things are going smoothly at the VA. I’m getting into a bit of a rhythm and I’ve almost completed my first assessment. Just today I updated Time2Track with my hours. It looks like I’m going to get my first individual inpatient PTSD client, which simultaneously excites and terrifies me. I really want to work with people who have experienced trauma, but I’ve never really done it for real. I have a decent level of anxiety surrounding me about future sessions. Will I do or say something that makes things worse? What do I do once my client has opened up? How do I avert a crisis? These are some of the thoughts I have about working with trauma. They don’t deter me. In fact, I’ve taken a more assertive approach to the whole thing. I’m a student. A professional, yes, but a student. I am expected to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. Now is the time to do so while I’m under supervision (and while it’s not my license on the line). I can do it. I will do it. But I’d be a liar if I said it was easy or it came naturally. Maybe after I’ve done it for a few years it’ll be more natural. For now, it is most definitely work. And don’t get me started on how to document it. I did mention I work for the VA, right?


It just keeps on raining here in PA. The locals swear it’s an anomaly. I’m not sure I believe them. I feel like I’m in that scene from Forrest Gump where the rain is coming from every direction. Hmm. Given my previous paragraph, perhaps that’s not such an appropriate metaphor. Still, Maggie and I were out on Friday and it rained pretty steady. And then it rained a lot. So heavy so quickly that visibility was horrible. So heavy you’re soaked before you can close your car door. So heavy we took shelter in a store and got shakes and malts to wait it out a bit. So heavy our apartment flooded. Yup. It finally happened. A big damn hurricane came blasting through last month and we got puddles. One heavy heavy downpour was apparently enough to turn our sidewalk and porch into a pond. There was no drainage. There was 2 inches of standing water at our door. The cats were riding in a sailboat. Ok, I made that last part up, but sailing cats? Cute, right? Anyway, two moldy smelling days later the landlords have replaced the padding and shampooed the carpet. Now we’re waiting for that process to dry.


I’m a gaming dork. But you knew that. This website was created by gaming dorks in an effort to make exercise fun. It plays on the addiction and competitive nature of games and gaming to get you to exercise. You gain experience based on the exercises you do and you gain levels. You can join groups and enter weight loss challenges. There are even quests and achievements, though I haven’t experienced any of them yet. I’m enjoying it so far, though I’m reverting back to my rules-lawyering nature and documenting all of the walking I do at work. Granted, I do a lot of walking at work, but I’m only documenting the walking I do from building to building, which is enough that I think it counts. I’m so far away from the other interns that it’s a 5 minute brisk walk through the tunnels to get to their building. That’s 10 minutes round trip. It adds up. Anyway, I just gained a level after hitting the elliptical machine at our complex, so I’m now level 3.


Maggie brought an article to my attention that I have to share since it eloquently describes how one of my fantasy teams is doing right now: God: Human Body Not Designed to Play Football. I have changed the name of my Philadelphia Noobs team to “Bangup Job” because so many of my players are out due to injury. It’s not enough that 3 of my players are out for the season, but everyone else seems to be injured as well. I even had a player I drafted as a backup for one of my injured players become injured himself. You can’t throw a dart at the injured players list without hitting someone on one of my teams.


Who has two thumbs and needs to sleep? This guy. I’m tired when I don’t need to be and I can’t fall asleep when it’s time. I wake up tired and I’m drowsy all day long. I nod off when I shouldn’t and it’s becoming more and more of a problem. I got a nice, new, comfy pillow, which is nice, comfy, and new, but isn’t doing anything to help (other than being comfy). It is time to schedule an appointment for a sleep study. I’m 99% certain I have apnea, since everyone and my brother has it, and now that I have government employee health benefits (read: plain ol’ health insurance) I can afford to take the time to go do something about it. The time is *yawn* nigh!

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I’ve had several things on the mind lately and I thought I’d put them all in one place. Here we go.

Tomorrow morning is 9/11/11. It’s been 10 years. My flashbulb memory of that morning has me being woken up around 9am-just before the second tower was struck-by my roommate Grant, who had just gotten out of the shower and was getting ready for class. We were in White College dorm room 300something at MSU in Murray, KY. I was a sophomore that year.

We watched the TV and I turned on NPR on my clock radio, which I would later take to work with me, and listened to the news as it was continually updated. We were speechless. We listened as news and video of the towers being struck was aired and as we were updated on the crash at the Pentagon. I checked my email and found several emails from friends and classmates talking about the situation. I remember receiving an email from a professor cancelling class for the day. I also remember talking on AIM with some high school friends about it. I didn’t know anyone personally in the towers, but there were so many people in the dorms who did. It was a confusing and sobering time for sure.

I don’t plan on exploring how the country has or hasn’t changed in the past decade. I’ll leave that to the news casters and professional bloggers. My goal is to share my own experience at that time and hope that it leads you to think about where you were 10 years ago. Maybe even consider who you were 10 years ago. Then I was a music major and marching band dork. Today I’m very nearly a psychologist who hasn’t played the trumpet in almost 6 years. It’s amazing what can happen in a decade.

On to other thoughts.

Next week starts our first rotation at internship. Rotations are a lot like what med students go through in their degree process while residents at hospitals. I’ll be doing one thing for 4 months, then switching to something else for 4 months, etc. I have 3 rotations like that. We decide which ones we’re interested in on Monday. For the most part my interests haven’t changed since I applied. I’m very interested in PTSD and plan on signing up for inpatient and outpatient rotations that give me opportunities for that. I’m especially interested in military sexual trauma (MST), which is offered as part of a minor outpatient rotation.

Other interests include biofeedback and hypnosis, an intensive assessment rotation with an emphasis on Rorschach, primary care (mostly working as a consultant within the colocated collaborative care model. I’ll be doing a lot of screening and some crisis work), and severe mental illness (SMI) psychosocial rehabilitation (less interested in the SMI part and more in the specific skills I’d learn while on the rotation). I was originally interested in taking the neuropsych rotation, but I wouldn’t be able to do several of the minor rotations I’ve listed above because neuro is a major rotation. I’ve been told that I can sit in on some of the neuro seminars and stuff like that, which I didn’t get in my practicum experience, so I think it’s win-win. I won’t have to do any neuro assessments (which I’m already familiar with) but I can learn about types of dementia and other cognitive diseases and disorders.

More thoughts.

Peyton effing Manning. He and a handful of other players are ruining me. If you’ve paid any attention at all to football in the last week (or even general news I’d imagine), then you know Manning had neck surgery and will likely be out for 2-3 months (which is essentially the whole season). Along with him are a slew of players across my teams (really, most of them are on the same fantasy team) that have either been traded and are currently teamless (David Gerrard, QB; Jeff Reed, K), have become injured themselves (Marques Colston, NO, WR; Rashad Jennings, Jac, RB), or are suspended (Will Smith, NO, DE). I’ve had to release, bench, and/or replace these guys with the slim pickings left after the draft. I’m sure some guys will show up on waivers, but for now, I have few options available to me. *sigh*

Even more thoughts.

I’m really starting to miss marching band. I’m living vicariously through Facebook friends posting pics and talking about drill, but it’s not the same. I dropped Maggie off at the local university a couple weeks ago and the pit and color guard were rehearsing outside. It made me feel so nostalgic. While I’m extremely happy with where I am in life and my career now, a very small part of me wonders where I would be today had I continued with my music degree. Also, I miss ska. I’ve been listening to Reel Big Fish and The Aquabats on iTunes lately and it makes me miss being on stage and having fun. Apparently, some of the Brass Smacker songs are on youtube. Where did I put that cd?…

Still more thoughts.

The weather here is nice today. It’s sunny. It’s the first time I’ve needed to use sunglasses in 2-3 weeks. Everyone in the area tells me that all this rain is a fluke and mostly due to the hurricanes, but that’s apparently only partially true. We got a lot of rain here before Irene came along and dumped more. It’s a wet Summer/Fall. Fall!!! Fall is here/coming soon! I really like Fall and it’s Maggie’s favorite season as well. I’m looking forward to bundling up outside and going to local events and seeing how West Chester does Halloween.

Final thoughts.

I want to go to a pro ball game. Local options include the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers. The closest pro teams to Louisville were Cincinnati and Nashville. People are much more adamant about cheering for their sports teams when there are pro teams around. Back home we cheered mostly for college teams because that’s what we had available (I’m also jealous of several friends who are attending the UK game today). I’ve always been interested in sports, but I never followed them very closely. I’d pick a team or two each year to cheer for or follow and that’d be it. Fantasy football and proximity to some pro teams have gotten me more interested and involved. Also, I have no gaming outlet (other than Guild Wars) and most/all of my intern friends are interested in sports. Not all of our conversations have to be about psychology 🙂

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Internship: Day 1

Well, I survived my first day of internship. As I expected, it was mostly about getting me access to lots of VA stuff. I got my ID badges and we signed a lot of paperwork on everything from taxes to insurance to proof that I’ve been briefed on policies. We also got an introduction to orientation, which basically says “here’s what you can expect over the next couple of weeks.” We get our computer codes tomorrow morning and start CPRS (the VA’s medical record system) training at 8:30 sharp. We also got a safety overview talking about fire procedures, codes to call, all the emergency numbers, and a brief history of hostile events that have happened at VAs across the nation over the years and what the VA cops have done about it (they’re pretty good at their jobs, fyi).

There are 5 interns total: 3 general psych and 2 neuro. They’re a great bunch of people so far. Everybody’s pretty laid back and we gelled pretty quickly. I can see some similarities between us and we’ve found common interests and things like that already. Leave it to a group of psych interns to quickly learn about each other. I’m also getting a bit better at navigating the maze of a campus. It’s a big figure 8 and it is connected by basement level tunnels that navigate most of the main buildings, which is pretty cool. The campus is a mental health campus, which is different from my past experience at the Louisville VA, which is a full blown hospital. There are medical personnel on site, but it’s not a truly functioning hospital like many other VAs. In Louisville you could get your prescription filled, see a dentist, and have your appendix out all in the same building. Here they ship veterans off to other hospitals in the area.

Tomorrow is a bunch more training. Our schedule isn’t terribly clear what we’ll be doing, other than CPRS in the morning, so I’m not sure what they have in store for us. Still, it’s one more day of training before a 3 day weekend, so I can’t complain. I have mixed feelings about this whole process right now. On the one hand, I’m sad to be losing all the free time I’ve so enjoyed these past few weeks. On the other hand, I’m excited to be working in my field again. I’m also not sure how I’m going to handle a 40 hour gig. I’ve never truly worked full time like that before. Sure, I’ve worked lots of part time, sometimes exceeding the 40/wk thing, but never a straightforward j.o.b. like this. I could use some structure in my life and it won’t hurt me to get a regular sleep schedule going. Getting up at 6am isn’t the end of the world, though I’m not terribly excited about going to bed at 9 or 10…

I’ll update again soon. Maybe tomorrow if anything worth writing about happens, but prolly next week instead.

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Maggie, the cats, and I have been in PA for just over a month now. It’s been kind of an adventure.

The move was much more expensive than we planned so we’ve been eating a lot of ramen noodles this month. Since we’ve been here we’ve experienced an earthquake, a hurricane, and over 14″ of rainfall (a PA record). We’ve been to downtown West Chester several times on days where the weather is good and I’ve found a few running spots for whenever I get off my lazy butt to do that again. We found a farmer’s market as well and are enjoying fresh, local veggies for the first time in a while. I’m actually spending a little more time cooking, which is to say I help in the kitchen 🙂

Maggie is applying for jobs everywhere and has had a few auditions with churches and the like. She has an audition today for a teaching gig teaching lessons in people’s homes. She is pretty excited about finding some work in her field. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. She turned down a church job in New Jersey because it wasn’t terribly feasible considering the travel time/expenses. She’s also considering taking a class or two at WCU.

I start my internship tomorrow. The first couple weeks are going to be filled with orientation, VA employee red tape, and “getting to know yous”. I’m not sure when I’ll get to work with my first client, but for now I’m happy get oriented and do something more than dissertate and goof off on my computer all day.

I’m still reading a couple of books, though not as heavily as I was at the beginning of the month. I’m working my way through the Harry Potter books at Maggie’s insistence and I’m on the third Anita Blake novel (audiobook). Usually I’ll read a bit before bed (in this case the Potter book), but Maggie and I have been catching up on TV shows on Netflix in the evenings (we just finished Battlestar Galactica and are nearly finished with Arrested Development). The audiobooks, as you may know, I typically reserve for my runs. I need to run more. Also, when I have run here I have been running with Maggie, so I listen to my iPhone less (obviously).

Finally, I’ve started playing Fantasy Football this year. I stumbled across a friend on FB who started a league and I decided to join. I watched John do it the last two years and I had planned on joining his league this year if there was a spot open (jury’s still out on that one). So I’m in several leagues at the moment, each one different from the next. I’m in a standard ESPN league, a light points per reception (PPR) league, and two autopick individual defensive player (IDP) leagues. I’ve enjoyed the draft process and planning my teams. It’s pretty much my only non-Guild Wars gaming outlet, so I’ve approached it with some fervor. I’m getting more and more excited about Football this year.

And that’s the highlights for the month. I plan on having more regular updates once I begin internship and start getting a paycheck that will allow me to do things around town. I’m not homesick yet, but I do miss everyone.

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