" After my undergraduate degree in psychology, I knew I wanted to pursue graduate studies in clinical-forensic psychology. It was an easy decision to apply to SFU’s Clinical Psychology graduate program, as its forensic track has an incredibly strong reputation in North America."

Meet More Students in Arts + Social Sciences


Curate your digital footprint

Want to be featured on our website? Complete our online submission form.

Submit your profile

Madison Edge Almond

January 18, 2024

Clinical-Forensic Psychology doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Tell us a little about yourself, including what inspires you to learn and continue in your chosen field

I am currently a second-year Ph.D. student in the Clinical-Forensic Psychology graduate program. I also earned my MA degree in Clinical-Forensic Psychology from SFU in 2022 and my undergraduate degree in psychology from SFU in 2019. Between my undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked as a Research Coordinator at the B.C. Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. As early as high school, I was fascinated by abnormal human behaviour and how psychological illness can influence the risk of specific behaviours like violence. This interest has followed me throughout my life and has ultimately inspired me to research and practice in an area where I can use my expertise to decrease others' risk of violent behaviour.

I hail from Vancouver Island, B.C. When I’m not pursuing my studies, I enjoy reading all sorts of fiction, hiking the beautiful trails around the Greater Vancouver area, traveling, and improving my amateur photography skills.

Why did you choose to come to SFU?

After my undergraduate degree in psychology, I knew I wanted to pursue graduate studies in clinical-forensic psychology. It was an easy decision to apply to SFU’s Clinical Psychology graduate program, as its forensic track has an incredibly strong reputation in North America. I was excited by the prospect of receiving supervision from leading experts in topics like violence risk assessment and psychopathy, such as my senior supervisor, Kevin Douglas, LL.B, Ph.D. Additionally, throughout my undergraduate degree at SFU, I received so many opportunities to be engaged in research, teaching, and student life. I assisted with ongoing research in multiple psychology labs, conducted my own research through a Directed Studies project and an Honours thesis, served as an undergraduate teaching assistant, and worked as a Student Information Assistant at Student Central. I knew I would find the same great opportunities at the graduate level!

How would you describe your research or your program to a family member?

Broadly speaking, I conduct research on the accurate prediction of an individual’s risk of violence and the relationship between criminal offending, mental illness, and the legal system. Specifically, my MA thesis and Ph.D. dissertation have fallen within the realm of threat assessment - the practice of information gathering and recognition of a threat (either implicit or explicit) posed by an identifiable person, group, or organization and the strategies and actions taken to decrease the risk of said threat. In the past, I have investigated what risk factors and behaviours are exhibited by individuals who have uttered an explicit threat of violence and subsequently go on to fulfill their threat. I am now aiming to examine the validity and utility of a common model of threat assessment, created and used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, for my doctoral dissertation.

What three (3) keywords would you use to describe your research?

Threats, assessment, and violence.

How have your courses, RA-ships, TA-ships, or non-academic school experiences contributed to your academic and/or professional development?

A broad range of coursework is required to obtain an MA and Ph.D. in clinical psychology, and I believe that the wide variety of topics that I have learned about and perspectives I have been exposed to in my coursework have made me a more thoughtful researcher and clinician. The clinical experience that many of the program's faculty have further increases the richness of their didactics.

Furthermore, we have a wide range of practicums that we are able to apply to each year to increase the breadth of our own clinical training. I have completed a junior practicum in assessment at Back in Motion Inc., which involved the provision of psychovocational assessments to individuals who were having difficultly finding work, and two senior practicum placements at the BC Forensic Psychiatric Hospital/Surrey Regional Forensic Clinic and the Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) Centre of Vancouver, respectively. The former senior practicum mainly comprised assessing justice-involved individuals for risk of violence, and therefore afforded me direct practical experience with my area of research, and the latter practicum has focused on the provision of the DBT modality of psychological treatment to complex clients suffering from borderline traits, suicidal ideation, self-harming behaviours, and other difficulties. These placements have brought me into contact with clients from all walks of life and afforded me the chance to hone the clinical skills that I was taught in my coursework.

In addition to the above, I have sought out various other academic and non-academic opportunities to enrich my tenure as a graduate student at SFU and contribute to my professional development. For example, I have had the opportunity to serve as an informal junior mentor to undergraduate students' research and have served as a Sessional Instructor for a third-year undergraduate course on clinical forensic psychology. The latter opportunity was particularly surreal, as I myself had been an undergraduate student in this same course several years prior.

Have you been the recipient of any major or donor-funded awards? If so, please tell us which ones and a little about how the awards have impacted your studies and/or research

I am a proud recipient of the Canada Graduate Scholarships - Doctoral program award, which will fund my Ph.D. studies for the next three years. Prior to this, I was fortunate to be awarded a Canada Graduate Scholarship at the Master's level. These awards have permitted me to focus on important aspects of my degree, like the various research projects I am a part of, and will allow me the financial ability to attend and present my research at academic conferences, such as the American Psychology-Law Society and the Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals annual conferences. Personally, conferences are one of my favourite parts of being involved in academia - you can't beat an opportunity to simultaneously catch up with colleagues, make new connections, and explore a new city!

What have been the most valuable lessons you've learned along your graduate student journey (or in becoming a graduate student)?

First, it is important (but difficult!) to let go of perfectionism in all pursuits and allow kindness for yourself when you are just starting out learning a new skill. In graduate school, I have found that you are frequently being pushed outside of your comfort zone and you won't always get it right the first time - the most important thing is to give it your best effort and take notes for next time! Second, graduate school is the perfect time to start thinking about your major career goals and taking steps towards them - for example, making connections in your intended area of study, teaching a course to gain experience as an instructor, and applying to practicums in your desired area of clinical practice. I know that it may feel like you'll be in graduate school forever! However, now is the perfect chance to experiment with different possible job routes (e.g., academia, researcher, etc.) and lay the groundwork so that you have CV-worthy experience once you graduate. Lastly, savour the connections you make! I have made some of my best friendships through graduate school; there is no one else in the world who knows exactly what you are going through like the other students in your program. This can also mean growing connections with faculty members, who often remain some of your biggest champions after you graduate.

What are some tips for balancing your academic and personal life?

This is a tough question, as it is something I still struggle with! I recommend remembering that nothing can be poured from an empty cup and scheduling time for self-care activities, if needed. Although I was not always able to do this in the first years of my program, I now try to keep most evenings and weekends free of work. It's also important to acknowledge that different priorities can wax and wane - it's okay if school is taking up a lot of bandwidth for a period of time, but try and balance that with another period where self-care or outside relationships are prioritized.


Contact Madison:medge@sfu.ca

Additional Links