All in the Family: One Father-Son Pair’s Pursuit of their PsyD, Three Decades Apart

Father with son in cap and gown holding diploma

When Drew Gosnell, 2023 graduate of the Clinical PsyD program, crossed the stage during the William James College commencement exercises in June, he took the notion of following in his father’s footsteps to a whole new level.

“Growing up, becoming a psychologist wasn’t really my goal,” said Drew, an avid three-sport athlete who, despite consistent effort in the classroom, found academics challenging due to a diagnosed learning difference. Throughout the journey, his father David Gosnell, a 1989 graduate of the Clinical PsyD program at William James College, remained a beacon of what was possible for a person-centered, hands-on learner like himself.

“I've always idolized my dad and looked up to him, not because he's a therapist, but just because of the person he is,” Drew said, citing David’s ability to remain calm in stressful situations and steward those who gravitate toward him. Before pursuing graduate work at WJC, both father and son earned their BA in psychology from Connecticut College (and landed their first jobs at Belmont’s McLean Hospital) before finding their way to William James College—albeit three-plus decades apart.

“I was constantly in the middle of the work,” David explained, citing William James College’s experiential education model—which combines academic instruction with supervised clinical experience—as ultimately piquing his son’s curiosity as well.

“[My dad] definitely painted a good picture of [WJC] for me,” said Drew, who had convinced himself he was not cut out to be a doctor because of his ongoing experience with dyslexia. However, the more he heard about the hands-on approach, the more Drew contemplated pursuing his Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology.

“I took a chance,” Drew said, citing an interview with Robert Dingman, EdD, now-retired associate professor of clinical psychology and former director of the Military and Veterans Psychology concentration, as sealing the deal. “I was nervous, and his confidence in me, his belief in my abilities, made me believe in myself,” said Drew of his mentor, who called to personally deliver news of his acceptance to the College more than four years ago.

Since then, Drew has learned to embrace his studies through a humanistic lens which, he admits, comes naturally. “It’s just who I am, and who I always have been, [and understanding this] has made me a more successful and authentic therapist,” he said in advance of commencing with his post-doctoral work in the fall. “The connections I've made [at WJC] have been really impactful on my life and my well-being,” said Drew, who has been hired as a staff psychologist in the behavioral health department at Springfield Health Center (an extension of his consortium placement at the same rural Vermont facility). Looking back, he cites the positive relationships with his teachers, classmates, and co-workers as both keeping him in the field and opening the door for his growth as a clinician.

“They are all truly a special kind of people and their trust and belief in me keeps me moving forward, especially when it has been difficult to manage the stressors of completing a doctoral level graduate program,” said Drew.

In many ways, things have come full circle for the Gosnells. As Drew begins work as a postdoc fellow, his father, who is about to turn 70, wrestles daily with the idea of retiring. “I still like what I do, and it’s such a big part of who I am,” said David, underscoring the benefits of his continued one-on-one work with clients as integral, not only to his work as a therapist but also his growth as a human—an outlook inherent in his son.

“There was something in Drew that I saw and felt, but I didn’t want to push him—I wanted him to find it,” said David of a connection with his son that ultimately evolved along their intersecting paths. “Our relationship is based on really digging in and, you know, experience,” he said, one both father and son have taken to the next level in large part due to their shared love of a profession, and by extension life, for which WJC prepared them.


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