Tess Myers (C’20) strives to break the norms of psychology through research

Tess Myers (C’20) with her horse at Sewanee’s equestrian center. Photo courtesy of Myers.

By Caroline Nixon
Staff Writer

Tess Myers (C’20) has always wanted to connect with people. This passion followed her throughout her high school career at Harpeth Hall in Nashville. Believing that English would allow her to communicate with others, she took various English courses and eventually got into creative writing. It was during this time that Myers discovered the Young Writers’ Conference at Sewanee and became interested in Sewanee as an option for college.

It was here that she found her love for psychology. “I hadn’t taken a psychology course until I came to Sewanee,” Myers said, “After taking an intro course, I realized that psychology fit what I wanted to do better. I wanted to help people and couldn’t directly do that with English.”

The psychology major has provided Myers with opportunities such as volunteering at Dr. Tiernan’s Emotion and Cognition Control Lab and a summer research internship at the Centerstone Research Institute in Nashville.

The Centerstone Research Institute of Nashville is one of the largest behavioral health services companies in the United States. Myers worked for their Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. It is a federally funded, evidence-based program whose goal is to lower rates of teen pregnancy across the state of Tennessee.

“Centerstone opened up a new field of psychology to me,” Myers said, “I had never heard of the field of research and evaluation, as it isn’t really advertised to psychology students.”

The psychology major has also opened up Myers to an Eagala Equine Specialist certification that she pursued last summer. Becoming a certified Eagala equine specialist has allowed Myers to merge her two passions: horseback riding and psychology. Eagala equine therapy is a specific type of equine therapy, that puts a patient in an arena of unbridled horses and the horses create a “storyboard” of what is happening in the patient’s life.

“Horses are very emotionally intelligent. How the horses interact with the patient or objects around them reflects the patient’s emotional state. I wish more people would take more advantage of it because many of the patients have huge epiphanies and breakthroughs with these horses,” she continued, “part of the certification is to go through the therapy yourself. I’m glad that they force you to do that because it is such a unique experience that you have to have gone through it to properly understand the patient,” said Myers.  

Myers was prompted to get certified by her Equestrian coach, Karine Gordy. “She wants more of the Equestrian team to get certified in order to create a school Eagala equine therapy program. Karine already has run sessions with the Sewanee Baseball team,” Myers said.

This summer, Myers will be travelling to Costa Rica for the Sewanee Athletes Abroad program. She plans to do social work there, hopefully with the Special Olympics or afterschool counseling. As for Myers’s plans after college, she hopes to go to graduate school to become a clinical psychologist or get her masters in forensic psychology.

“I am a bit torn as if I became a clinical psychologist I would be able to directly make people’s lives better like I’ve always wanted, but forensic psych would allow me to see what makes up humanity, see into people’s minds. Both interest me greatly,” Myers said.

Whatever she decides to do, Myers has gotten the most out of the opportunities that the psychology major has given her.