The YCS Institute for Infant & Preschool Mental Health offers training, consultation, clinical services, and research. An important part of the Institute’s work is its doctoral internship program. Since 2000, the Institute has trained more than 100 doctoral candidates who have gone on to establish successful practices across the country. In honor of YCS’ 100th anniversary, we would like to highlight the accomplishments of Dr. Matt Clark, an Institute graduate.
Every Wednesday, Dr. Matt Clark can be seen on WZZM TV- My Grand Rapids morning talk show discussing timely mental health concerns. Most recently, he spoke about the importance of having gratitude and its positive effects on our mental health.
It is with a deep sense of gratitude, that Dr. Clark shares with us his appreciation for the YCS Institute and its influence on his clinical practice today. Fourteen years ago, when Dr. Clark accepted an internship at the YCS Institute to complete his Ph.D. in clinical psychology, he admits that he was less than enthused. He had wanted to work with children challenging serious medical conditions but was turned down for an internship at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
The internship at the Institute turned out to be pivotal in redirecting his professional goals and finding his life’s work. “Studying at the Institute was the best thing that could have ever happened to me,” says Dr. Clark.
The training he got in didactic therapy – working with mothers and their young children – put him on a course to becoming a clinical psychologist with a specialization in child and adolescent psychotherapy. He eventually returned to his home town of Grand Rapids Michigan, and in 2008, founded The Clark Institute- a counseling service for children, adolescents and young adults. “The Clark Institute focuses on the incredible potential found in every child and adolescent by providing the tools to strengthen the relationship between parents and children,” explains Dr. Clark. Reaching out to his community, he also provides child development consultations to local pre-school and childcare centers.
Dr. Clark has many fond memories of his year at the Institute. “The staff had very high expectations of us, but always treated us with respect,” recalls the doctor. “We were like one big family.”
The work was not always easy. He remembers often being frustrated with trying to work with the children who had very challenging behaviors. In one instance, Dr. Gerard Costa, former director of the YCS Institute, intervened when the young intern grabbed a child who was acting out by the arm.
“Dr. Costa was so calm and loving with all the children. He would get down on the floor with a child and talk soothingly to him or her till they felt safe,” Dr. Clark has taken this lesson with him into his own practice. “I always try to get down to a child’s level when I am talking to them so they feel safe.”
Dr. Clark’s work does not stop here. He is also the founder of The Gay Christian Therapy and Consultation Center – an online/phone counseling service for young gay and lesbian youth. According to the center’s website, it “specializes in providing expert help for individuals who are struggling with reconciling their gay and Christian identities…[and provides] therapy to help youths with the “coming out” process, self-esteem, depression, anxiety, adjustment, parenting, relationship challenges, and stress management.”