Ryan Engdahl

Ryan Engdahl

Year of Graduation: 2006

Major(s): Psychology

Current Position: Director, Behavioral Health Operations and Integrated Behavioral Health Services

Previous Positions: Clinical Psychologist-St. Cloud Hospital within the CentraCare Health System (University of South Dakota, August 2011)

Please give a brief description of your current position and where you're working: 

I am currently employed by St. Cloud Hospital within the CentraCare Health System. My current role is mostly administrative in that I support the financial and operational components of the entire behavioral health section. Additionally, I support a growing department of behavioral health professionals who are integrated into family medicine and other care centers. I currently see clients one half-day each week.

Previously, I worked in the Adult Behavioral Health Clinic, which is located at the CentraCare Health Plaza in St. Cloud, MN.  I provided adult services that included individual therapy as well as cognitive and psychological assessment.

What path did you follow to arrive at your current job?
I graduated from St. John's University in May of 2006 and immediately began graduate school in August of that year. The process of obtaining a graduate degree in psychology is universal such that you spend time as a student and then complete a one-year clinical internship (similar to a medical school residency) before you graduate.  The amount of time in the academic program varies between schools and is strongly related to how grandiose one becomes in developing research projects. The Clinical Training Program at the University of South Dakota allowed me to complete the academic program in four years followed by the one-year internship, so I was completely done after 5 years. I received a Master of Arts degree in August 2008 and Doctor of Philosophy degree in August 2011.

I received clinical training in USD's mental health clinic, a community mental health center in Yankton, SD, and worked within the Sioux Falls VA Health Care System.  I completed a one-year clinical internship in the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Bay Pines, FL. I interviewed for and accepted a position with the St. Cloud Hospital Behavioral Health Clinic during the fall of my internship year.  When my training was complete in Florida, I moved back to the St. Cloud area and started my position in August 2011.

In that time, I have held numerous roles. I developed an outpatient practice, completed psychological assessments, worked as a consultant in our hospital for patients admitted to hospital floors, and then began working in primary care as the system began developing an Integrated Behavioral Health Department. As my role changed I was given more administrative opportunities. With that, I was offered the position that I currently hold to add support to the entire section and not just one department.

What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?

It is important to get involved in extracurricular activities early. For example, ask professors about opportunities to participate in research studies, participate in shadowing or an internship if possible, and take on the extra work of completing an Honors Thesis. Those types of things provide an inside look into what psychology is about and perhaps most importantly, they look good on applications for graduate school. It is important to find out as much information that you can about the career path, specifically, understand the process related to academic requirements, internship, and post-doctoral training.

If you can develop a sense of what interests you, the process of narrowing down where to apply for graduate school becomes easier. Not sure? That is ok too. Most schools accept that students applying to graduate school have not laid out their career plans yet, but it is a good idea to have thought about it.

Take the hard classes and pay attention. I remember describing to some of my friends that graduate school classes were about as difficult as my hardest undergraduate class. When Dr. Wielkiewicz told us "This is what it would be like in graduate school!", he was right.

Take the GRE EARLY!   The earlier you take it, the more you can prepare and avoid the "down to the last minute" anxiety. Also, if you take it early and are not satisfied with your performance, there is ample time to re-prepare and take it again.

What skills are important in your field?

It is very important to be self-motivated and be able to push yourself to get things done. The ability to work independently serves one well during graduate study as well as during typical day-to-day professional activities.

What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?

It was helpful to be able to learn about what opportunities existed with a degree in psychology. I remember attending panel discussions with recent graduates who were accepted to graduate schools and learned about the process that way. My internship experience at CentraCare was great in that it provided information about day-to-day operation in the field that you cannot receive in classes. It is understandable that not all students may be able to participate in an experience like that, but I would encourage those interested to make contact with someone like myself or other CSB/SJU alums and try to meet to talk about the career. I know that I, and other providers at this clinic, are willing to meet with students to discuss career plans.

What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is the opportunity to be involved with the care provided by our teams throughout the entire section. I see the services we provide as being vital to the health of our community. It is exciting to be part of the development of new and innovative ways to connect our providers and programs with the community.


(June 2018)