A Transformative Career Journey (Part 2)

In 2013, we featured a blog story on Emma, a MS Psychology alumna who is pursuing a PhD in Psychology- Health Psychology program at Walden.  We recently reconnected with Emma and learned that she completed her CBCT® (Cognitively-Based Compassion Training) certification through Emory University’s Emory-Tibet Partnership and taught CBCT® to individuals in recovery, schoolteachers, parents of autistic children, and HIV+ clients participating in research studies. We asked Emma to share how she gained teaching skills and a deeper understanding of health and wellness issues through this transformative experience.

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Emma Brooks

Dina Bergren:  What is CBCT®?

Emma: CBCT® is a secular training method that uses several steps to cultivate compassion and is based on techniques from the Indo-Tibetan tradition. CBCT® was developed at Emory University by Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi, PhD using meditative practices from the Lojong tradition.  According to scientific research, compassion can be developed as well as heightened.

Dina Bergren: How did you learn about Emory’s Tibetan Partnership program?

Emma: I learned about the Emory-Tibet Partnership program while completing a residency program in marriage and family therapy.  I expressed my interest in contemplative practices and Tibetan traditions to one of the on-staff licensed therapists.  She informed me about the work in this area taking place at Emory University.  I researched the program and registered for an 8-week training course in CBCT®.

Dina Bergren: What prior knowledge/experience helped you qualify for this opportunity?

Emma: My resume reflected my master’s thesis, The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Well-Being and Depression, and internship at Moore House School of Medicine where I worked on a field research study using Transcendental Meditation. I obtained this internship opportunity through networking while I was working on my master’s degree at Walden University. Also, I included my yoga teacher training experience, marriage and family therapy residence experience at the Link Counseling Center, and my introductory 8-week CBCT® course.  In addition, I listed my pursuit of a doctoral degree in Health Psychology and experience as a student researcher on a published research project at Walden University.

Dina Bergren: What instructional skills did you gain and how did you impact your clients? 

Emma: Well, I quickly learned that the presentation skills I used in the business world were different from skills in the teaching environment. My presentation skills shifted from PowerPoint discussions to experiential and lecture style presentations. I learned how to create lesson plans, improvise, find the right balance of instruction when co-teaching, and recognize the delicate dance between teaching and learning where the teacher is also the student.

As a CBCT® instructor, I enhanced my active listening skills as well as developed my ability to take pedagogy and apply it to everyday life situations. I learned that classroom management is a skill that is forever evolving because no two classes are exactly alike. It was important for me to understand my audience’s learning styles and identify what worked and didn’t work in the first session, while also being open to an organic process to emerge. Hence, I tapped into the intuitive aspects of the teaching process especially when lesson plans didn’t go as planned.

Dina Bergren:  What research studies did you conduct related to CBCT®?

Emma: I taught on two separate research studies which applied CBCT® to the following populations: parents of autistic children and HIV+ individuals. The studies reinforced what I learned during my coursework and experience as a student researcher at Walden University. As an instructor and educator, the experience allowed me to see the research process from a new perspective as I was playing one role within the research process protocol.  This experience felt different from my student research experience as the interviewer. Also, I was required to take the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) training for the research study conducted by the Marcus Institute, which was very informative and helpful as I continued my dissertation research as the principal investigator.

Dina Bergren:  How did your work at the Emory-Tibet partnership influence your career journey?

Emma: This experience contributed to my dissertation progress and enhanced my teaching skills. I met many wonderful people, scholars, and physicians by becoming a part of the CBCT® community.  The CBCT® community provided me with an extended web of connections and expanded my awareness in unexplainable ways, and for this I am grateful.  I have no doubt that my future will be bright!

Written by Walden Doctoral Student, Emma Brooks
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Edited by Associate Director of Career Services, Dina BergrenDina