Dr. Jed Yalof: Providing the treasure of education for hundreds of Psy.D. students
“It was exciting to read and to be introduced to the language of the unconscious,” said Jed Yalof, Psy.D., describing his first time reading Sigmund Freud in college. The descriptions of people’s behavior in case studies fascinated him, and he wanted to learn more.
He went on to earn a master’s and a doctorate in clinical psychology, studying with Marc Lubin, Ph.D., whom he called “a sophisticated psychoanalytic thinker” who gave exams that required students to synthesize and apply what they had learned.
In 1984, after completing his doctoral degree, Yalof was hired at Immaculata as the director of college counseling and testing services. In 1990, he became a faculty member and was invited to help refine the curriculum and develop Immaculata’s graduate psychology programs. He now chairs a combined undergraduate and graduate department of 17 full-time faculty members, and the Psy.D. program he oversees has graduated nearly 300 alumni over the past two decades.
Why have the department and its programs grown steadily over the decades? Yalof points to two factors—demand for mental health services and interest in entering a helping profession.
“Many people have a desire to draw from their own life experiences and help other people. And it might sound trite, but it’s true,” Yalof said. In addition, “many people are struggling and need to talk with another person who is skilled and who can provide them with confidentiality and protection and help them cope.”
Yalof regularly encourages his doctoral students to get professional help themselves, whether with managing stress, navigating relationships or addressing difficult memories or emotions. “You don’t necessarily have to be in therapy all the time, but you do have to be able to recognize when you need it, when troubles in your personal life are compromising your ability to work with clients,” Yalof said. “You cannot run away from your own mind. It will catch up with you somewhere.”
Yalof is board-certified in adult psychoanalysis and is a training and supervising analyst affiliated with the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. His training involved undergoing psychoanalysis himself for many years. “That has been the most important part of my non-book learning,” he said. “The more comfortable you are with yourself, the better you’re able to teach and explain.”
Yalof teaches a course in psychoanalytic theories and therapies in which he breaks down complicated ideas so that Psy.D. students can understand them in terms of their everyday reality. Following the example of Lubin, his mentor, Yalof’s exams require students to apply psychological concepts to specific clinical scenarios, identifying psychological dynamics such as how clients’ past experiences are recreated in the present, internal conflicts they may feel, and defense mechanisms they use. The exams also require students to suggest clinical interventions they would use in the scenarios.
In addition to conveying content, Yalof wants the Psy.D. program to socialize students and expose them to supportive faculty who model ethical practice. Students speak highly of the program faculty in their exit interviews: “They were professional role models of the type of practitioners I’d like to be, as well as sensitive educators, and very approachable. I never felt timid or like I couldn’t speak up or ask a question,” one student said.
Students’ responses to other exit interview questions are overwhelmingly positive. Many students reported that progressing through the Psy.D. program helped them gain not only knowledge, but also confidence in their abilities, increased self-awareness and a sense of professional competence.
Yalof tells incoming students, “You’ll be a very different person, six or seven years from now, in ways that we can’t exactly tell you. You just have to let the program work on you. And if you’re open to it, you’ll find your way as a professional.”
Reflecting on the Psy.D. program’s impact on students, Yalof says, “If they could feel as good about their education and training as I did over the years, then that’s all I could ask for…I had an opportunity to create a vision that’s modeled on my own experience of what I think would be a lifelong treasure for other people.”