In this issue
Criminal Justice Section member spotlight: Dr. Libbi Palmer
By Jeffrey J. Haun, PsyD
Name: Libbi Palmer, PsyD
Location: Lakewood, Colo.
Education: BA, psychology & sociology, University of Colorado at Boulder
MA, counseling psychology, Lesley University
PsyD, counseling psychology, University of Northern Colorado
Current Position(s)/Affiliation(s): Clinical data analyst at the Community Reach Center, Denver; private practice psychologist at Palmer and Associates, Lakewood, Colo.
Libbi Palmer is professional psychologist with a unique background in law enforcement. Her law enforcement career spanned 15 years, beginning just prior to her sophomore year at the University of Colorado. She worked first as a police dispatcher, followed by 14 years as a police officer in the Denver Metro area, which included experiences as a crimes against children and homicide detective and as a SWAT team negotiator. She worked as a police officer throughout graduate school and while completing her doctoral internship at Community Reach Center (CRC). She elected to remain at CRC for her postdoctoral training and ultimately accepted a permanent position with the agency. She has been at CRC for 10 years, where she has worked in a variety of roles. She has served as the agency's data analyst for the past four years. She also operates a private practice that primarily offers psychological services to victims of crimes and emergency services personnel.
How did you become interested in psychology as a profession?
I knew from very early in my college career that I wanted to be a psychologist. From early in my law enforcement career, I was drawn to the places within that career that I could use my knowledge and skills from the field of psychology. I spent more than 10 years as a negotiator for our SWAT team, and nothing was more satisfying than to be able to help facilitate a nonviolent resolution to a situation.
What do you find most satisfying about your career?
At the mental health center, the most satisfying aspect is being able to help clinicians know they are doing good work and seeing them get excited about getting better at their craft. In my practice, I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people heal from the trauma they have experienced. When I was a police officer, especially when I was a detective working primarily homicide and crimes against children cases, I saw the damage that these criminal events caused, not only in the victims and family members, but also in the professionals involved in investigating and prosecuting these cases. It is really satisfying to work on the other side of these cases to help people heal and move forward.
Why have you chosen to work in public-service positions?
Working in public service has always been important to me, so continuing to work in public service once I became a psychologist just felt right. I was thrilled to find a home in Div. 18 with sections for my interests in community mental health, working with people with serious mental illness, criminal justice and law enforcement psychology.
What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of your career path and how have you handled/coped with that challenge?
For me, the hardest part of my career path has been finding a way to do many of the things in psychology I am interested in while having some work-life balance. I have not always been good at it, but right now I am blessed to have work options that I love and to still have time to do the things outside of work that I am passionate about.
What would you recommend to a student or early career psychologist who's interested in similar work?
The best advice I can give to students and early career psychologists is that there is time to do all of the things you want to do. I think most often it is about being patient and “paying your dues” while also keeping your eyes open to opportunities that you might not have thought about.
How do you maintain positive work-life balance?
I have had to work hard to develop balance, and I have to continue to stay on top of it, but right now it is working well. I like to travel and went to South Africa last year. That was the most amazing trip! I play golf and love spending time outside. My husband and I like to build furniture for our house and for friends and family. We also enjoy spending time with our dogs, Ike and Atticus.