In this issue
Criminal Justice Section member spotlight: Dr. Abigail Tucker
By Jeffrey J. Haun, PsyD
Name: Abigail Tucker, PsyD
Location: Denver, Colo.
Education: BA psychology, Loyola College
MA and PsyD, clinical psychology, Nova Southeastern University
Current Position/Affiliation: Clinical director, Community Reach Center
Abigail Tucker currently serves as the Criminal Justice Section secretary/treasurer. She has been a member of Division 18 since she was a graduate student at the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. She completed her internship at Community Reach Center (CRC) in Denver, Colo., followed by a postdoctoral residency at Eastern Shores Psychological Services in Salisbury, Md. Dr. Tucker returned to CRC in 2009, where she has served in various roles since that time. She is currently a clinical director at CRC and is responsible for overseeing several programs, including CRC's forensic programs, emergency and case management services, and psychology department. She has authored several articles focused on crisis intervention and critical incident stress management in law enforcement and jail/detention settings. In addition, she teaches online graduate courses in juvenile justice, police psychology, and general psychological studies at the Center for Psychological Studies at Nova Southeastern University.
What does your work entail?
What I love about my job is that no day is ever the same, the days fly by, and my job constantly changes. The responsibility of any clinical director in our center is to ensure ethical, quality clinical services within our division that serves both our community and our clients. Day-to-day operations often looks like clinical supervision with program managers, postdocs, interns, and staff; program development and evaluation, presentations and training, and a lot of cross-disciplinary work including budgets, human resources, grant writing, and quality improvement.
What do you find most satisfying about your career?
Overall, what I find most satisfying is that I am able to use my degree and passion in life every day at work and then also in my adjunct teaching roles. However on a more personal level what I enjoy most about working at CRC is working with amazing staff and working for wonderful clients. Every day, either from staff or our clients, I am able to watch people change their life for the better. The capacity of that occurring in jail, detention, therapy office, or hospital – is just humbling.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your career path and how have you handled/coped with that challenge?
This appears to evolve over time for me. When I was younger I was frustrated by the lack of teaching opportunities and would constantly be challenged by my own drive for professional development. However, after marriage and enjoying motherhood, my current challenge is the typical working-mom balance. In sum, there is never enough time in the day. But both career and family are exciting – so I suppose the challenge is what it should be.
Did you have any mentors? How did he/she impact your professional life?
My ultimate mentors of course have always been my parents and my grandmother. Professionally, Dr. Vincent Van Hasselt (NSU) and Mr. Donald Sheehan (retired Supervisory Special Agent, FBI) have and continue to be great mentors and influences in my career. What I appreciate most about both of these gentlemen is their willingness to challenge me without compromising their genuine support. Additionally, Dr. Lenore Walker has always inspired me and impressed me with her intelligence and passion for learning. That is why I so appreciate my education at NSU – the exposure to top-tier psychologists was invaluable.
What would you recommend to a student or early-career psychologist who's interested in similar work?
If you are interested in teaching, become a TA; plain and simple. The other recommendation I would give if teaching is your interest is learn about web-based learning – it's the future of academia. If you are interested in serving the public sector (police psychology or forensics in community mental health), I would highly recommend service at any time in your career in a community mental health center, and, take care of yourself – its tough work!
Why have you chosen to work in public-service positions?
It is the challenge combined with the congruence in values. I am proud of the work I do every day and working in public-service makes that possible.
What do you like to do outside of psychology -or- how do you maintain positive work-life balance?
That is the joy of Colorado – there is always something to enjoy. We are gearing up for ski season here and I am excited for my three-year-old to join us on the slopes. And, of course, this time of year, it's wonderful to enjoy family and friends visiting and the simple pleasures of seeing our dog and child romp around in the snow.