James Mathisen, Psy.D. '99 Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (Psy.D.)

Read about James Mathisen, Psy.D. '99 
and his work with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read about James Mathisen, Psy.D. '99
and his work with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

James H. Mathisen graduated in 1995 with a Master of Arts in Counseling and in 1999 with a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology. Jim currently works with the Department of Veterans Affairs in Omaha and Lincoln, Neb., and he is also the Director of Mental Health at two local youth detention and juvenile justice facilities.

Q: Tell us about your work.

Jim: I currently work with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs at VANWIHCS in Omaha and Lincoln, Neb. My area of specific focus is performing medico-legal examinations with the Department of Compensation and Disability. I have been working to help streamline the process of active duty service members who are undergoing medical evaluation boards (IDES Evaluations), and to provide all other types of mental disorder evaluations claims (Traumatic Brain Injury, PTSD, Depression, etc.) that relate to active duty service.

For the past year and a half I have been involved with a specialized task force with the Veteran’s Benefits Administration to assist with expediting disability claims with various Veteran’s Affairs Administrations across the United States. This has been a very exciting process to help the Veterans who served and have protected our country and to give back to them.

I am proud to say that I have worked for the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for 11 years as of 1 September, 2014. I am also the Director of Mental Health with Douglas County Youth Detention Center (DCYC) for 14 years, and Director of Mental Health at Sarpy County Juvenile Justice Center for 2.5 years. I have really enjoyed supervising the mental health programs and team members at both facilities, in providing education to staff, coordination of care with psychiatry and medical professionals, and “front line” mental health services youth with a cornucopia of mental health disorders.

Q: What is your impact on the individuals or communities with whom you work?

Jim: The backlog of compensation and pension claims for the Office of Veteran’s Affairs is well known through print and electronic media. I am excited to be a part of a wonderful team in Nebraska where we are working hard to provide quality mental disorder examinations so that the veteran’s claims for disability can be adjudicated expeditiously. I am happy to follow the creed of Abraham Lincoln who noted: “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and orphan.” The ability to provide services to those who served and for their families is very fulfilling knowing that we are taking the best care we can of those who served.

There have been many changes for the mental health care of our youth in Nebraska in the past 5 years. With the community based programming movement and moving away from traditional group home care, often youth with a host of mental health disorders are detained in corrections until they can be placed safely into the community. It has been uplifting to assist with the court process of helping youth find the most appropriate level of care to meet their needs.

Q: How did your Adler University experience affect where you are today?

Jim: My experience with Adler affected me in a host of ways. The techniques of Mosak and Maniacci are a foundation of how I operate in corrections and within private practice. Analysis of one’s movement, not the words one may say in therapy, is a key factor in how I analyze youth or adults movement during assessment or intervention. Paradox, interpretation of non-verbal behaviors, and confrontation are key to my approaches with those I work with therapeutically.

Q: Was there a particular Adler University faculty member or experience as a student that has most influenced you, and why?

Jim: Dr. Jerry Westermeyer was the most influential person in my academic career with Adler. Coming from Iowa, at first, was a drastic change for me to be in Chicago without any family or friends. Dr. Westermeyer helped me when times were tough with the written comprehensives and with the dissertation process. He was encouraging and I looked to him as a mentor figure in the area of research on severe and persistent mental illness, he was a positive role model in diplomacy and professional etiquette, and most of all kind being a person who is truly genuine. Dr. Westermeyer was a person with whom I felt I had someone who had my best interest in mind, and was invested in me as a person.

Q: What career accomplishment have you found most fulfilling, or considered your greatest professional accomplishment?

Jim: Working with the Dept. of Veteran Affairs and Dept. of Veteran’s Benefits Administration has been my greatest accomplishment. I have been selected to assist VA and VBA to assist with helping other VA’s across the United States to expedite disability and compensation claims to those that sacrificed their lives for our country. With all of the media attention focused on care for our veterans, I am proud to put in extra hours to help relieve the pressure at other VA facilities due to backlogs.

Q: What is the single most important piece of career advice you can give someone in your field?

Jim: The single most important piece of advice I can give to someone in our field is to maintain balance in life. Make sure to take good care of yourself with exercise, diet, family, friends, and recreation. Taking good care of ourselves makes us better helpers.

Q: What advice can you give a student just joining Adler University?

Jim: There are several things that I have to say to new Adler students. The harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed in your career. If you put forth mediocre efforts, you may as well have mediocre results. Remember that the course-work, practicum, and internship are the building blocks for your career and for preparation for the final goal of passing the licensing examinations nationally and locally in your state. Find an area of interest and focus on that area as your niche. This may take the form of volunteering with specialized research projects within the community, focusing your practicum or internship with specialized foci of training, etc. Don’t be afraid to put in more than you feel you are getting out. Sometimes we have to “pay more” in our efforts, in order to obtain the desired outcome with competitive internships, post-doctoral fellowships, and/or finding employment post licensure.