Student Stories

Capt. Brandon Watties, PsyD ’15

United States Army

Sometimes, the path ahead just isn’t clear. That’s the road Capt. Brandon Watties, PsyD ’15, found himself on after earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Los Angeles, in 2005.

“I felt God calling me to join the military,” said Watties, “but I was completely unsure how that calling would be fulfilled.”

So, like a child learning how to walk, he started small, with baby steps. First, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy (MFT) from Cal State Dominguez Hills, which he completed in 2009, then joined the workforce in the field of community mental health. After several years of that, he was offered a civilian position with the United States Air Force.

“I thought that was the fulfillment of that promise,” he said. A few years into that job, however, God nudged him again.

“I had the opportunity to work with a special operations soldier, and I was able to support him throughout his treatment, but the scope of my job and education limited the range of services that I wanted to provide. I realized quickly that I could have a greater impact on the treatment of soldiers if I joined the military.”

Again, though, he was unsure how to proceed.

“I prayed, and I felt that God was calling me to the field of clinical psychology. I knew that in order to enter this field helping soldiers, I had to obtain a doctoral degree in clinical psychology and become an active-duty service member.”

One of his mentors confirmed what Brandon was sensing from God, and he had the support of those closest to him, so he joined the U.S. Army, and also began exploring various Doctor of Psychology (PsyD) programs. His father had earned a Master of Divinity from APU, and Brandon saw the benefits of that, how the APU education prepared his father for a military career. Still, he wanted to do his due diligence, so he looked around, but nothing seemed as good a fit as APU.

I had an amazing, unique experience in the program. The respect and support I received from my professors was outstanding.

Capt. Brandon Watties, PsyD ’15

“I connected with the idea of approaching treatment from a systems perspective, which takes a whole-person view (e.g., community, culture, spirituality). And the program’s focus on the family, diversity, and integration of the whole person matched how I view the field of psychology.”

The steps along his path seemed clear at that point, but a host of challenges remained.

“My biggest challenge was facing my fears. I wasn’t certain I was smart enough to get a doctoral degree. I also wondered if my professors and colleagues would look negatively at my aspiration to be in the military. My greatest fear, though, was wondering if I had heard God incorrectly.”

The situation challenged his confidence, courage, and faith, but proved worthwhile.

“I had an amazing, unique experience in the program. The respect and support I received from my professors was outstanding—they treated me and other students as their future colleagues, and it was apparent early on that there was respect given for the experience and knowledge I brought to the classroom. The professors allowed me to use my experience to add to the classroom’s learning environment, and they supported my strengths and helped find ways to expand them. They also helped me turn my weaknesses into areas of growth and launching pads for my success. That level of support and respect created a setting in which I and other students wanted to step forward and explore new areas in hopes of improving our knowledge and abilities.

“Also, the director of clinical training worked with me to design specific clinical experiences that would make me a great candidate for a military internship site. Some schools follow a strict formula for success and then request that each student follow that path, but APU was willing to modify the formula for each student.

“My experience in the program also taught me to have confidence in my God-given abilities. At times I settled for staying in the safe student role, but I wanted to be a professional and be able to share the valuable information I obtained from my academic work and my professional experiences. Because this program focuses on students gaining the knowledge and ability to practice as clinical psychologists, I gained the confidence I needed to begin to be effective in this field.”

Note: This information is current for the 2022-23 academic year; however, all stated academic information is subject to change. Please refer to the current Academic Catalog for more information.

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