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Deanna Eilenberger: Clinical Psychology Through Chinchillas and Art

Deanna Eilenberger

“She’s a tough girl, bossy too,” explains Deanna Eilenberger, a student pursuing a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Immaculata University.

Although she decided to study clinical psychology because she enjoys working with people, the girl she is referring to isn’t even a person. She is Pepper, a chinchilla. Growing up with cats, hamsters, chinchillas and an assortment of other animals in Stroudsburg, PA, Eilenberger’s dream is to open a private practice that would allow people and animals to interact with one another.

She understands the beneficial nature of therapy. As an undergraduate student at Marywood University, she majored in psychology and art therapy. The combination allowed her to learn how artwork can be used to evaluate client behavior and thought process.

The assessment component of psychology is where Eilenberger would like to focus her work by becoming a neuropsychologist, administering individualized tests, such as an intelligence test, one-on-one with patients. She specifically plans to work with the geriatric population to determine the level of neurocognitive dementia and other ailments. Although not personally touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s in her immediate family, Eilenberger has witnessed a slow decline in her grandmother, which inspires her to help develop a cure for the disease that affects 5.5 million Americans each year.

She credits an undergraduate research paper that she wrote on body image for helping to secure a graduate assistant position in the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness at Immaculata. Working in the office, she is gaining experience writing reports from survey results. After taking Tests and Measurements class with Dr. Ashley Higgins and Cognitive Assessment with Dr. Elizabeth Gibbings, she is confident that she is on the right career path.

Purposefully staying relaxed and remaining calm is what helps Eilenberger through her busy days of class, her job as a grad assistant and her second job as a neurocognitive specialist for Main Line Rehab.

She laughs, saying, “there are days when I just don’t make it to the grocery store…I’m too tired.” And Eilenberger is okay with that­­––there are always tradeoffs.

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