Christopher Murphy, Psychology & Counseling, '08
Capt. Christopher Murphy, U.S. Army
Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center
Fort Gordon, Georgia
As an Army psychologist, U.S. Army Capt. Christopher "Topher" Murphy often sits down with soldiers recovering from life-changing brain injuries caused by explosions of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Murphy '08 (Psychology & Counseling ) doesn't just talk the talk—he knows all about how life can be turned upside down in an instant. As he counsels soldiers, Murphy draws on his personal fight with cancer as a teenager.
"When I was 14, I had two types of cancer: Burkitt's lymphoma and leukemia," Murphy says. "I was on death's doorstep and not expected to live." When he sought to serve his internship in the Army, Murphy, whose cancer has been in remission for years, had to obtain medical letters stating he was cancer-free and fit to serve.
He can identify with people struggling with physical limitations and help them realize they can move on in spite of their perceived shortcomings. That successful battle as a teenager changed him for the better and helped focus his choice on psychology. "I had been super shy," Murphy says. "I was more willing to come out of my shell and try new things. It also helped me to have a better understanding of others and how I could help them. I have been able to use my experience in a variety of arenas such as counseling."
He is now serving his residency at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga. His responsibilities include individual therapy, group therapy and substance abuse counseling. Murphy also performs neuro-psychological assessments of soldiers with head injuries and evaluates soldiers for fitness and suitability to serve.
These soldiers usually have suffered a direct hit from an IED to their post or vehicle in Iraq or Afghanistan. After medical, psychological, occupational, speech and physical therapy, the military must decide whether they can continue to function in their jobs. Murphy forwards his recommendation to a higher-level committee that makes the final decision. "The toughest part is the responsibility of having to make quick decisions and knowing your decision affects not only the individual but the Army as a whole," Murphy says.
Murphy and his wife, Tina, '99 (Psychology & Counseling) both majored in psychology as undergraduates. She started the master's program at Regent first, then Topher followed about nine months later, also completing a master's degree in community counseling.
When it came time to consider a school to pursue his doctorate, Murphy looked no further than Regent. He didn't want to be a nameless face sitting in a large lecture hall. He chose Regent because he knew he'd get one-on-one interaction with his professors. "As opposed to being known by the last four digits of your Social [Security number], I was able to drop by a professor's office and say, 'I have a question,'" says Murphy, who also earned a Master's in Clinical Psychology as part of his doctoral program. "Dr. Lynn Olson was not only my supervisor, but also a mentor. She allowed me to grow personally and professionally. We still talk regularly about cases and concerns in the field of psychology."
At Regent, Murphy honed his leadership skills by serving as student body president. As president, he helped start a welcome-back-to-school cookout and spearhead relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. "The Army values loyalty, honor and commitment, which is what Regent teaches," he says.
The Regent community maintained a balance between independence and support. "The professors fostered a sense of independence, while at the same time, a camaraderie where you can call up a professor at any point and ask for assistance," Murphy says. "That has greatly helped me here. I can operate independently when appropriate, yet I'm comfortable to go at any time to an appropriate commander to consult for help."