A Jill of all trades
Shackelford, 41, is a private practitioner in Oakdale, Minn., where she also does forensic work for the county court system and trains predoctoral interns at Canvas Health. This is the same community mental health organization where she interned from 2007–08 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in 2009. For a half day each week, she serves as the only psychologist on an interdisciplinary team at a local primary-care agency, where she sits in the clinic and sees patients referred to her by physicians.
‘A face of psychology'
Shackelford's forensic work helps pay the start-up bills for the private practice she opened a year ago to treat teens and adults. It also satisfies her interest in assessment. One day each week, she evaluates juvenile and adult offenders to determine whether they are mentally capable to stand trial or to be held responsible for their crimes. Sometimes she testifies in court, but "being an introvert, that's not my idea of a good time," she says. What is? Her face-to-face time with the defendants. "I see assessment for that population as an opportunity to provide a face of psychology that is respectable and yet direct and straightforward," she says. "I'm there to do a job, but I'm also there to be a human with another human."
Shackelford was in seventh grade when she learned what therapists did and decided she wanted to become one. To get an early start on her career, she borrowed Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" from her local library. "I was really bookish," she says.
Though the book didn't keep her attention for long, Shackelford's dream persisted. In 1993, she earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Earlham College in Richmond, Ind. She was the first person in her family to go to college.
For 10 years, she took her bachelor's degree as far as she could — managing residential homes for adults with developmental disabilities in Indiana and Ohio, and conducting intake interviews with convicted and abused adolescents before referring them to a psychologist at Cook County Juvenile Court Clinic in Chicago. After a while, she no longer wanted to pass them on. "I was supporting the psychologists who were doing the work that I felt like I really wanted to do," she says. So in 2003, Shackelford moved to the Twin Cities to attend the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology, where she earned her PsyD in 2008.
Shackelford volunteers for a local animal welfare organization, helping to improve how the agency tracks cases of animal abuse. She's also working on a resource guide for psychologists who evaluate defendants in animal cruelty cases. "The [animal welfare] system is antiquated in Minnesota; it's not working as well as it could," says Shackelford, who owns two toy poodles and two cats with her husband. "We're working to reform it."
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