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Spotlight on Walden // Jul 07, 2017

Meet a Graduate: Helping Small-Town America

Dr. Trey Jensen
Dr. Trey Jensen

Dr. Trey Jensen, a PhD in Clinical Psychology graduate, grew up in a very small town in rural Minnesota. “I’m from High Forest, which is 30 miles from the nearest city, Rochester,” he says. Now, Jensen and his fiancée live just outside the Twin Cities, where he provides individual, couples, and family therapy. Since earning his doctoral degree, he is now able to administer psychological evaluations.

While he enjoys filling a need and business is good in Forest Lake, his heart remains in rural areas like his hometown that have a growing need for mental health services. “Inside the Twin Cities, psychologists are everywhere, but the accessibility is different for those living outside the metropolitan area,” he says. He pursued his doctoral degree in order to become a licensed psychologist and eventually set up a private practice in a rural town.

Jensen also hopes to leverage research from his dissertation, Impact of Distance, Diagnosis, and Demographics on Attendance for Rural Outpatient Treatment, and consult with private practices with low therapy attendance rates. He has seen firsthand how poor attendance can impact a business, forcing bankruptcy and abrupt closure. “We were unable to properly terminate clients or set up solid referrals for them. The closing didn’t just impact the staff of 75 and clients, but the small-town community as well.”

After assessing age, gender, distance to treatment, and diagnosis categories, Jensen’s research concluded that while distance may play some role, specific diagnoses (bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety) appear to be a major risk factor for poor attendance. “I want to help other practices with in-house research by looking at their client data to identify the potential red flags. Implementing proposed client retention methods will not only help them improve their bottom line, but also the mental health of those in critical need.”

Excited for his road trip to National Harbor, Maryland, for commencement in July, Jensen is looking forward to crossing the stage as his fiancée cheers him on. He made sure his family knew about his doctoral degree pursuit and gave them direction. “I told them I want them to ask me about it once in a while—but not to push—because it means a lot to know they care about what I’m doing,” he says. “The family support is so important to power through this effort.”

As he prepares to receive recognition for his hard work, he says it was important to schedule fun and leisure time along the way. “Just like you would schedule a client’s appointment or a doctor visit, make sure your calendar has some relaxation included,” Jensen explains. You think it seems like this time may slow you down, it actually helps you become more efficient. Avoid burning out and make time for yourself and your family to keep you in the game.”

Even though he has completed his doctoral degree, Jensen will continue to offer insights from interactions with his Walden peers in his client work. “Clients can have prejudices or will be ill-informed about issues that get in the way of their functioning,” says Jensen, who thinks your point of view of life can affect your mental health. “My classmates were diverse and had different perspectives, and I plan to help clients realize there are lots of other ways to see their problems and the world.”

—Jen Raider