Andre Johnson: “How I Make It Work”

From students fresh out of undergrad to professionals who are retraining for a new career, the Michigan School of Psychology welcomes students wherever they are in life. “How I Make It Work”  highlights the diversity of student experiences as they balance classes, work, and life.

Name: Andre Johnson

Program: PsyD 

Describe the (joys and) challenges in your life that make graduate school difficult to manage, especially now during the stress and upheaval of the COVID-19 and racism pandemics.

The joy for me is knowing that one day my graduate work will “pay off” and I will graduate from MSP as a Psychologist.  It is my belief that although graduate school can be challenging, the real “work” begins once I am a graduate of MSP.  That is when I can apply the knowledge and skills that I acquired at MSP to work within the community.

I am looking forward to learning and becoming proficient in the humanistic approaches to psychotherapy. I believe that the humanistic approach will be well suited for individuals facing adversity and life difficulties.

My most challenging moments were losing loved ones and colleagues that succumbed to COVID-19.  In fact, I, too, was a victim to COVID-19. Although it was challenging, I persevered.

Nevertheless, I also believe that I have a purpose and I found the “silver-lining” during the COVID-19 and racism pandemics. Instead of focusing on the outside world which are things I have no control over, I have decided to self-examine my inner self, my fears, inadequacies, and strive to be the best me.  I aspire to one day, as a psychologist, be able to help my clients to seek the “silver-lining” when s/he is faced with adversity.

How do you make it work?

I take it one day at a time and give it my best and leave the rest in God’s hands. Also, in order for me to make it work, I focus on my goal of becoming a psychologist.  By focusing on my goal it helps me to minimize distractions that can negatively impact my focus.

What are some tips or secrets you have for staying organized with a busy schedule? 

Prioritizing is essential at this time of my life; my educational goals are at the top of my list of priorities.  In order for me to achieve my educational goal, I am actively learning the need to delegate some of my responsibilities.  My mantra is the 5 P’s: Proper, Planning, Prevents, Poor, and Performance. I have committed to 3-4 hours study/review at a minimum of 5 days a week.

How do you make time for yourself?

Creating balance within my life is key for me to make time for myself.  I have a saying – you have to take a break because nobody is giving you a break.

My self-care is vital to my overall well-being.  I typically go for walks, practice yoga, mindfulness, and meditation.  I personally find spending time with nature most rejuvenating.  I especially enjoy taking mindful walks and embracing the moment in a wooded area and enjoying/appreciating nature.

 How do you avoid feeling overwhelmed?

I am actively learning to be more aware of my emotional and physical needs, as well as my triggers for being overwhelmed.  Being aware of my needs is necessary in order for me to address my feeling of being overwhelmed in order to curtail them. Staying organized is a key process.

I think as a graduate student it is inevitable to feel overwhelmed.  The key for me is not allowing anxiety to get the best of me. I stay steadfast and enjoy the journey using the old adage what doesn’t kill you make you stronger. Trust the process!

What support have you received from MSP?

My advisor Dr. Doug Callan has provided me a great deal of encouragement and a open door policy to discuss whatever issues that may arise.  Additionally, Dr. Shannon Chávez-Korell, Dean of Academic Programs, and our illustrious President Fran Brown have fostered an environment to discuss difficult but needed racial and social justice issues.

What advice would you give a prospective student who is worried about making grad school work?

Worry or apprehension is common whenever a new endeavor is embarked upon.  What has worked for me is creating balance within my life and to focus on my short-term and long-term goals. 

Have patience with yourself – it takes a little time to get acclimated and adjusted. Easy does it! Staying organized! If you stay caught up, you don’t have to worry about catching up!