SAN DIEGO – People talk. A football coach gives a pep talk before a game to motivate his players. A college student explains to her parents the reasons why she decided to major in dance. A math teacher explains how to solve an equation to his class. A medical provider explains a treatment plan to her patient.
Each day, human beings around the world interact. These conversations may uplift, enlighten, educate, or inform.
Lt. (Dr.) Larkin E. Magel, assistant program director for Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) residential post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) program, Overcoming Adversity and Stress Injury Support (OASIS), has a keen interest in interpersonal interaction. She studied it as an undergraduate. It is her passion.
This passion eventually led to Magel pursuing a clinical psychology career in the Navy. On Feb. 8, after seven years in the service, she was selected as the 2012 Junior Navy Psychologist of the Year Award.
Magel, a native of Boise, Idaho, was nominated for Junior Psychologist of the Year by her chain of command for filling a variety of leadership roles in 2012.
During Magel’s time at OASIS, she designed a class that helped patients recovering from PTSD learn how to more effectively communicate in their various relationships, which further enhanced the program and gave patients a greater probability of success after completing this intensive course of treatment.
“When I came onboard OASIS, they didn’t have a group specifically for the patients themselves,” said Magel. “So, I felt like I could offer something that’s in my area of expertise.”
Patients recovering from PTSD tend to have difficulty readjusting to everyday life, and their relations with people, especially those close to them, can be especially problematic. Magel’s class at OASIS helps these patients learn better ways to interact with loved ones.
“The patients feel disconnected and numb, and have a lot of struggles in their relationships,” said Magel. “If we can get in there and start addressing some of those issues then maybe they’ll be able to learn some extra skills about how to manage themselves better in relationships.”
One of the key ways in which OASIS aids patients in the recovery process is by teaching patients how to view their combat experiences.
“The meaning of their experiences has to shift in their own mind in order for them to come to terms with it, so it no longer affects them in such a profound way,” said Magel. “We help them try to shift their thinking and perspective and their sense of self around those issues, because that’s what is causing the relationship problems, the nightmares, the anxiety.”
Magel first became interested in interpersonal psychology while an undergraduate at California State University, Long Beach. Initially an art major, Magel took an interpersonal communications course which sparked her interest in human interaction and the science behind the various ways people communicate, which prompted her to change her major to speech communication.
“I had no idea you could actually learn about how to communicate with people,” said Magel. “It was something I was already interested in naturally. And when I saw you could actually get a degree in it, it was really exciting.”
After earning her Bachelor of Arts degree, Magel had her sights set on a career in the psychological field.
“We were learning a lot of interpersonal theory and dynamics,” said Magel. “I really loved that aspect of it. I knew I wanted to get an advanced degree after that. I wanted to be able to do personal clinical work, and effect change at a personal level.”
Magel earned her doctorate in clinical psychology at the California School of Professional Psychology in 2000. She joined the Army reserves in January 2006 as a commissioned officer and clinical psychologist. As a reservist, Magel deployed to Iraq from 2009 to 2010 with the 55th Medical Company, Combat Stress Control. Magel transferred to active duty, was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Navy Sept. 11, 2010, and began working in NMCSD’s adult outpatient mental health clinic in October 2010. Magel became the assistant program director for OASIS at NMCSD in November 2012.
Magel shared her thoughts on being awarded Navy Junior Psychologist of the Year for 2012.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I knew that my chain of command had nominated me. It was nice to be recognized. I love what I do.”
Capt. Catherine A. Bayne, head of the Wounded Warrior Mental Health Programs Directorate Mental Health at NMCSD, revealed the reason behind Magel’s selection.
“Lt. Magel’s exceptional executive and organizational skills are impeccable and exceed her current rank,” said Bayne. “She is consistently a superior performer. Lt. Magel is most deserving of recognition as the United States Navy Junior Psychologist of the Year.”
Magel’s selection as the Navy’s Junior Psychologist of the Year 2012 was announced in February 2013 during the Commander’s Monthly Meeting at NMCSD.
NMCSD’s OASIS program treats an average of 80 patients per year. It is the only PTSD residential program in the Navy. Active duty service members are eligible for treatment when their combat PTSD has not improved with outpatient treatment.
For more information on OASIS, call (619) 524-9605 or visit Naval Medical Center San Diego’s website at http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd.
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