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The Many Hats of a Psychologist: A Conversation with Dr. Justin D’Arienzo

Dr. Justin D'Arienzo

Dr. Justin D'Arienzo

Business, Forensic & Board Certified Clinical Psychologist

drdarienzo.com

  • Most people don’t know the difference between a psychologist, social worker, and psychiatrist, and there are significant differences in the training and what each does professionally.
  • One must be able to synthesize lots of information and provide tools to people. Patients especially don’t just want to be listened to. They want actual answers.
  • Being a psychologist can be emotionally draining if you do not have good boundaries with patients or if you are involved in forensic psychology, which is adversarial in nature.
  • The next shift in psychology is psychologists gaining the ability to prescribe psychotropic medications for psychological conditions.
  • A misconception is that one cannot make a good living being a psychologist. If you are good at it, the sky is the limit.
  • The harder you work in the beginning at creating a reputation, becoming an expert in a few things, and building a professional network, the sooner you will find success. Nothing worthwhile will come easy, so be ready to grind hard.

Could you walk us through your career path to becoming a clinical psychologist?

“I went to Furman University for my first two years of undergrad and realized I was not ready for the college experience. I entered the construction industry for two years and matured. I returned to undergrad at the University of North Florida and majored in psychology and minored in marketing. I was in the Honors program and published psychological research about personality and marketing. 

Once I graduated, I worked as an adolescent substance abuse counselor for two years and applied to Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs in clinical psychology. I chose to attend Nova Southeastern University’s Psy.D. program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida beginning in 1999 and ending in 2004. 

At the end of my program, I applied to military psychology internships and was selected to complete a Navy one as well as to be commissioned as a Naval Officer. I went to the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia for my Psychology Internship and then completed my psychology residency at Naval Hospital Pensacola. Once my internship was completed, I sat for licensure in Alabama and then later in Florida. 

D'Arienzo Psychology team

I remained in the Navy for a total of five years. My experience in the Navy catapulted my career, preparing me for private practice and giving me the confidence and ability to do many things as a psychologist. Further, while in the Navy, in 2008, I earned board certification in clinical psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology. Also, in 2008, I left the Navy and opened a private practice in Jacksonville, Florida which is where I still practice today. 

My current private practice is made up of three administrators and 10 providers including six psychologists, an attorney, a social worker, and two mental health counselors.”


What inspired you to pursue a career in psychology, and what continues to fuel your passion for this field?

“My fascination with psychology began in high school after taking a psychology course. My fascination was tied to trying to better understand myself as well as others in my life. Of course, I was also troubled as a child, and my parents had sent me to several psychologists. There was one in particular who I thought was an amazing person and someone who I wanted to emulate one day. His name was Dr. Brooks Gallagher.”


How did you come to specialize in fields like relationship counseling or forensic psychology within clinical psychology, and what led to your expertise in these particular niches?

“I am a clinical psychologist by training, but after leaving the Navy and entering private practice in 2008, there was a major financial and housing crisis that was occurring.

People were getting divorced, losing their homes, and going bankrupt yet they were still seeking services like couples counseling, behavior therapy for their children, and the courts needed forensic psychologists to assist with custody and expert testimony based on the numerous divorces that were occurring at the hands of the economic crisis. So, despite so many other businesses failing at the time, we were thriving. 

That work led to us creating a significant footprint in our area. My family law forensic work led to me expanding to other realms of forensic psychology. When you do good work for an attorney, they refer you to others in their firm and their attorney friends as well. You also quickly get to know the local judges, who then begin ordering you to cases.”


Have some mentors or figures played a significant role in shaping your career as a clinical psychologist?

“Yes, Dr. Brooks Gallagher, my psychologist while I was at Furman University, galvanized my passion for the field. While in graduate school Dr. Scott Fehr a professor at NSU and a successful private practice psychologist took me under his wing as did an undergraduate professor, Dr. Mark Cavanagh. I recommend to any student to find a professor who they want to emulate and tell them they want to be like them when they grow up. Most are honored to help you after hearing that and are happy to show you the way.”

What’s Life as a Psychologist?

In your experience, what have been the most rewarding aspects of being a psychologist?

“I am easily distracted so having a different appointment each hour makes for interesting and attentive days, but what is most rewarding has come later in my career as I have become very well known in my community as one of the key psychologists. I am often asked to help schools, businesses, churches, media outlets, the courts, and individuals outside of my regular practice work. I’m excited every day about making an impact on many lives.”


Conversely, what is the most challenging aspect?

“The greatest challenge is maintaining the energy and giving adequate focus to running a business, managing my clinical patients and forensic client cases, and being present with my family. I am only able to do it because I have a supportive wife who works in the practice as my business partner, and I have two great administrators who keep me organized.”


What are some of the common misconceptions people have about the profession of psychology?

“Most people don’t know the difference between a psychologist, social worker, and psychiatrist, and there are significant differences in the training and what each does professionally. The other misconception is that one cannot make a good living being a psychologist. If you are good at it, the sky is the limit.”


How is technology influencing the practice of clinical psychology today, whether through online therapy platforms, telehealth, or other innovative approaches?

“Much more work can be done virtually. Half of my patient and client load is managed virtually. We actually closed one of our two offices since so many of our providers began working from home when conducting virtual appointments. What else has changed is that psychologists can earn licensure reciprocity in most states so you could create a completely virtual practice seeing people all over the US, but you would have to know how to market yourself in this manner.”

Advice for Aspiring Psychologists


What type of person, or personality traits, make a great psychologist? 

“Someone who is non-judgmental, smart, patient, and likes people, whether extroverted or introverted, can make a great psychologist. One must be able to synthesize lots of information and provide tools to people. Patients especially don’t just want to be listened to. They want actual answers.”


What advice would you give to aspiring psychologists who are just starting out? What are some of the common mistakes they should avoid?

“The harder you work in the beginning at creating a reputation, becoming an expert in a few things, and building a professional network, the sooner you will find success. Nothing worthwhile will come easy, so be ready to grind hard. Just like the power of compounding works with investing, your professional compounding power will be determined by how hard you work and the connections you make early on.”


What trends or shifts do you foresee in the future for professionals in the field of clinical psychology? What’s the career outlook of the profession?

“The next shift in psychology is psychologists gaining the ability to prescribe psychotropic medications for psychological conditions. Licensed psychologists in five states, the military, and the Indian Health Services who have an additional master’s degree in psychopharmacology are able to prescribe these medications. With this shift, psychologists will be the ideal prescribers, being knowledgeable in both psychology and psychiatry.”


Reader Q & A with Dr. Justin D’Arienzo


“Take some psychology college courses and if you are more passionate about the subject in comparison to other subjects, get a job in the field. If your passion persists, you may want to consider being a psychologist.”


“Being a psychologist can be emotionally draining if you do not have good boundaries with patients or if you are involved in forensic psychology, which is adversarial in nature. Personally, I find it empowering and fun, as there is always something to learn and a new way to apply psychology to resolve a problem.”


“Yes, the professional aspect of psychology is a good career for introverts, as the typical work is done between you and another person. However, if you are running a private practice, it helps to be extroverted so you don’t have any barriers or hesitation in marketing yourself and networking.”


Dr. Justin D'Arienzo

About the Author

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