Who’s Who – Christopher DeCou

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Christopher DeCou, MA

1) What is your current occupation?

I am a pre-doctoral psychology intern at the University of Washington: School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington.

2) Where were you educated?

I completed my graduate coursework at Idaho State University, and will be graduating from the PhD program in Clinical Psychology this summer. Prior to graduate school, I was professionally trained and certified as a police officer and firefighter/EMT, and also completed a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Emergency Services at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

3) Why did you choose this field?

My experiences as a first responder played a large role in my decision to enter the field of clinical psychology and to specialize in the study and prevention of violence and suicidality. That is, as a police officer I witnessed firsthand how limited access to mental health treatment contributed to and maintained ongoing patterns of interpersonal violence, alcohol- and drug-related emergencies, and suicidal crises in the rural community in which I worked. Although I enjoyed my work as a police officer, I was also unsatisfied by the ineffectiveness of arrest and detention in changing problematic behaviors. To make a difference, I left law enforcement to contribute to what is known about the psychosocial antecedents of complex public health issues like violence and suicide. I also wanted to help identify effective ways of assisting underserved and understudied individuals and communities in preventing the tragic outcomes that result from these types of incidents.

4) What is most rewarding about this work for you?

The most rewarding part of my work in the field of trauma psychology has been the opportunity to give voice to the experiences of trauma survivors from underserved and understudied communities and to highlight the treatment needs of trauma survivors who experience disproportionate rates of attempted and completed suicide. I am hopeful that identifying and reporting these disparities will contribute to an evidence-base that might promote trauma-informed care and trauma-informed policies for marginalized and underserved populations of trauma survivors.

5) What is most frustrating about your work?

In my clinical work, I am often very humbled by the ways that broader issues of access to resources (e.g., housing, employment, nutrition, health insurance) can thwart clients’ motivation, desire, and ability to address longstanding symptoms and patterns via psychotherapy.  I am most frustrated by the limited resources that exist for addressing clients’ material needs as they are seeking to engage in psychotherapy to improve their overall level of functioning.

6) How do you keep your life in balance (i.e., what are your hobbies)?

Spending as much time as possible with my partner and our daughter is the most important thing I do to keep things in balance. In addition to time with my family, I enjoy reading obscure books, gardening, and wild fermentation (e.g., making kimchi).

7) What are your future plans?

I will be starting a 2-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric injury prevention research beginning this July at the University of Washington, Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center. I am looking forward to this opportunity to understand further the mechanisms that underlie the association between trauma exposure, violence, and suicidality. I also look forward to learning how to conduct intervention trials related to suicide and violence prevention among underserved and understudied populations.