As a young boy in 1974, he never imagined that someday he would work inside that building—which housed Rogers Memorial Hospital—as a leading expert in the assessment of obsessive-compulsive and anxiety disorders. His childhood fears aside, he found, of course, there was no reason to be scared here, a place where people come to be well.
Dr. Riemann, a 1987 graduate of Carroll, is now the chief clinical officer for Rogers Behavioral Health. He has authored numerous scientific papers in his areas of expertise, spoken at national and international conventions, taught graduate and post-graduate students nationwide, and been featured on television shows that include 48 Hours, The Today Show and Anderson Cooper Live.
In 2017, he took all of that life experience and brought it back to Waukesha to help establish a new partnership and pilot course with his alma mater. It brings Carroll students to Rogers for hands-on learning about cognitive behavioral principles, theories and practice as it applies to psychological disorders. It also provides an opportunity for employment immediately after graduation from Carroll.
There are 2,200 employees at Rogers—the second largest behavioral hospital in the United States—and 160 programs in the system with entry-level opportunities for graduates with a bachelor’s degree, according to Riemann.
“In theory, when they are done with the class, they can walk right into a job,” he said.
Patient interaction is a rare opportunity for psychology students at the bachelor’s level. It’s available to Carroll through Riemann’s work in making the connection with Rogers.
After completing the class, Lizzy Hoehnke ’18 secured a job as a residential counselor at Rogers’ Child Adolescent Center, working with teenagers. Patients in her unit are treated for obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. She said her experience at Rogers while a Carroll student “made me want to do it even more.” She plans to attend graduate school to become a licensed professional counselor.
“At first I was indifferent,” she said of her career path. “Now I love it and I love working with the kids and helping them with their exposure and coping skills. For psychology students, it’s very valuable and eye-opening.”
Looking back on his own days as a student, Riemann recalled how the field of psychology hooked him at Carroll. “Learning just kind of even how the healthy mind works was really fascinating to me and I started to learn unfortunately about behavioral health issues,” he said. “I was struck by how common they were, how debilitating they were but also at the same time—this was the late 80s—that there were really some impressive treatments being developed and you could really help people.”
He learned about cognitive behavior therapy and later focused his studies on anxiety disorders as he pursued his master’s and Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He appreciated mentors at Carroll as well as those during graduate courses at the University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School and now aims to offer his own mentorship to Carroll’s students.
“From our standpoint, part of it is giving young people opportunities and giving back a little bit,” he said. “We try to set up a win-win situation and finding and training young talent is not easy. So creating this little conduit with Carroll is a benefit for us, too.”
Dr. David Simpson, who has taught at Carroll for more than 40 years, including those in which Riemann was his student research assistant, said the partnership combines the work of two hidden gems: Rogers and Carroll.
“It’s a good pairing,” he said. “They’re able to apply things that they’ve learned about in psychological testing or experimental design or personality or abnormal psychology.”
With the potential for a job as a residential counselor with Rogers after graduation, it’s a popular and increasingly competitive option. There has become such a demand for the course that the university has had to limit enrollment to graduating seniors in their final semester.
“I knew it was right for me,” said John Venderley ’18. “The doctors went into so much depth with every didactic we had. I felt like I had enough of the grasp to succeed in the job.” Rogers hired him as a residential counselor after graduation to work with children ages 8 to 13 being treated for obsessive compulsive disorder or anxiety disorders. He said he would like to use his psychology experience and combine it with his art minor from Carroll to develop skills and eventually programs in art therapy.
The partnership is working well, according to Dr. Jessica Lahner, instructional faculty for Carroll’s psychology program in the department of life sciences, who said plans are to propose the course be added for good. It “checks all the boxes Carroll is looking to do in terms of partnering with the community and offering experiential opportunities for students.”
Students spend four hours per week during the semester at Rogers, split between classroom time and shadowing residential counselors and other staff. The aim is to make students job-ready or better prepared for graduate school.
Annie Zinnen ’18 took the opportunity after her graduation from Carroll to work at Rogers as a residential counselor with girls ages 13 to 17. She aspires to go on for a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a focus on research and advocacy in eating disorders. She said the opportunity to shadow staff at Rogers while still an undergrad “was life changing.”
“I remember walking in the first time,” she said. “I hadn’t had an internship before with patients. I went home and was overwhelmed, and was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”