Dave Aitken, PhD

Psychological Associate

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Dave is wrapping up the final requirements for his PhD in clinical psychology after completing his doctoral internship at the Veteran’s Administration medical center in Grand Island, Nebraska. Through training and supervised treatment of clients during his PhD program, Dave developed expertise in treating older teens and adults with depression, general anxiety, social anxiety, specific phobias, panic disorder, OCD, body-focused repetitive disorders, and PTSD. He also acquired solid experience administering and interpreting neuropsychological assessments and became familiar with evidence-based treatments for borderline-personality disorder, eating disorders, hoarding, and substance-abuse disorders.

Dave is thoroughly familiar with Willow’s treatment philosophy and methods, having worked at Willow for three years under Dr. Jakatdar’s supervision as a practicum trainee. At this site, he developed a thorough understanding of CBT and how to use it with the target populations treated at Willow. Over the years he has worked with children in various capacities, including tutor, part-time teacher’s aide, and assistant Little League coach. In addition to working with adults, Dave enjoys working with children and teens.

In addition, Dave taught classes on self-control techniques, mindfulness, values clarification, and relationship maintenance in the clinic’s Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. He delivered didactic presentations to mental health and medical staff on OCD, psychotherapy with low-income clients, and suicide assessment and prevention. He also led a weekly tobacco cessation group and co-facilitated a weekly dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) group for borderline personality patients.

During his internship year, Dave developed an increased awareness of the importance of helping clients clarify their personal values and vision of the kind of life they want to lead. He observed that the clients most likely to succeed in the substance abuse program and in individual psychotherapy were the clients who were able to construct a clear sense of who they wanted to be. Dave’s clinical philosophy is as follows - It’s much easier to make big changes in thinking and behavior if they fit into an overall vision of who you want to be and the life you want to live. The most successful clients didn’t just stop bad behaviors; they built a new life that they felt was more worth living. All the disorders I’m familiar with involve thinking and behavior habits the client uses to avoid emotional pain, but in the process of avoiding pain, clients avoid living their life. Figuring out the life that they’re not living provides the motivation and energy to do the hard work required to build and maintain new habits.

Before beginning the PhD program, Dave had a long career in the computer software industry as a technical writer, software developer, technical marketing consultant, and manager. He grew up in Connecticut, dropped out of Stanford University after his Freshman year, spent two years in the Army, where he was ground communications chief in a combat helicopter company, and then returned to Stanford to complete a degree in English literature. Before entering the computer software field, he worked at a variety of jobs, including dishwasher, door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, factory worker, and a very brief stint as a private detective operative.