Emily Gary graduated in May 2020 with a Ph.D. in the marriage and family therapy (MFT) specialization of the Virginia Tech Department of Human Development and Family Science. Her dissertation focused on the experiences of LGBTQ+ women in disaffiliating from their religions of origin and what happened to their family relationships during and after the process. She is currently working at a practice for couples and sex therapy in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her research interests include religion and spirituality, LGTBQ+ issues, and women’s and gender studies.

How has your doctoral program helped you?
The teaching seminar was so useful for me in developing my own pedagogy. I liked being able to check in with fellow graduate students and share our experiences as teachers. It gave me many practical tools and skills — including my teaching philosophy — that I have been able to apply after graduation.

What are you now doing, and what are your more immediate goals?
I am currently working at a therapy practice that specializes in couples and sex therapy. I had always wanted to focus in couples and sex therapy for clinical work, and I just happened to find the job advertisement for this company when I was planning to relocate to North Carolina.

I plan to continue to publish while I practice, starting with my dissertation. I also plan to gain full MFT licensure and become an AAMFT approved supervisor, at which point I would like to teach MFT at the master’s level.

What is your current position like?
Right now, my job is fully online due to COVID-19. While this is not always ideal, I am glad to be getting experience in delivering therapy in a format that is new to me, especially since online therapy is becoming more and more popular. My practice places a huge emphasis on attachment theory for case conceptualization and treatment. I work primarily with couples, but have several individual clients as well. A typical day consists of me seeing five to seven clients via telehealth as well as some time for notes or other meetings.

What is the best part about your job?
It’s hard to choose just one. My supervisors provide me with lots of training and support. I like the flexibility I have to create my own schedule and take time off when needed. Most of all, I really enjoy seeing my clients make positive changes.

How did Virginia Tech prepare you for your career?
Virginia Tech afforded me experiences such as teaching human sexuality, diving deep into MFT theories, and a nine-month clinical internship, all of which contributed a great deal to my being able to secure my current position. The program also trained me to think critically, which has been especially useful in my work as a therapist as I try to identify and help interrupt the negative cycles that impact clients. Between the professional development seminar and teaching seminar, I also feel prepared for the academic job search in the future.

What advice do you have for current graduate students in the Department of Human Development and Family Science?
For MFT students specifically, research MFT licensure requirements through the Virginia Board of Counseling and apply for your MFT residency in Virginia. Seriously. Do it right now.

For human development and family science students more broadly, take any research opportunity that comes your way. Not only is it a great experience to have, but it could also open up new areas of interest you weren’t aware of before.

Interview by Krista Hein