1. Please state which graduate program and school you are participating in, and why you chose that program/school ?
I’m in my third year of the School Counseling program at James Madison University. I also attended JMU for my bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I just happened to already be going to a school that has an excellent reputation for what I wanted to continue my education in; counseling. It felt like the natural next step for me.
2. What are some of the difficulties you have faced, and how have you or how are you overcoming these difficulties?
One of the challenges of this job is that you can do everything within your power to set a child up for success while they are at school, but you’re still sending them home to the same environment that may be the source of their troubles. It has been a hard reality that there are limits to what I can do. I’ve tried to focus on the small professional successes where ever I can find them and to be confident and comfortable with what my best looks like.
3. Describe the journey that made you pursue counseling as a profession.
My journey to becoming a School Counselor has been a bit of a winding road. I actually started off in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at JMU and I did my practicum doing individual therapy with clients at Counseling and Psychological Services. While I had a great experience there, I felt most energized and rewarded when working with kids. The best environment for me to do this was the school setting, so I made the switch to School Counseling. What felt risky to me about going into the counseling profession is that due to confidentiality you can’t really get the full experience of what it’s like to be a counselor without the educational piece first. I was taking a leap of faith with what I know about myself, my interests, and my collective experiences up until this point where I’ve been able to put those things to test in my internship. There are days that I think, “Can this really be a job?” because being a School Counselor suits me so well. I can’t believe it wasn’t so clear all along.
4. What are some of your hopes and concerns for the future as a counselor entering the profession?
My hopes and concerns for counselors are two sides of the same coin. Our field has been gaining credibility by integrating evidenced based practices into our work and being more accountable for what we do by trying to measure that what we are doing is working. While I think this is moving our profession in the right direction, I would hate for the pressures to prove ourselves to take away from the heart of our work.
5. Describe what your world would be like if you woke up tomorrow and everything is just as you hoped educationally and professionally.
My hopes for myself educationally and professionally in the near future would be that I would graduate with my degree in School Counseling in May and that I would be employed as an elementary school counselor. Hopefully I will also be able to start accruing hours towards being a Licensed Professional Counselor since I have completed the necessary course work. I know the “what” and the “how”, but what I’m struggling with answering right now is the “where”. I’m toying with the decision to either stay in Virginia or experience living in another state.
6. Please describe your top three forms of self care (does it involved dessert?)
I’m extremely lucky to have such a great support system of professors, family, friends, and roommates who I’ve learned a lot from on how to let others care for me and how to ask for time and understanding to care for myself. I’ve learned to listen to myself and what I need at a given moment, so my self care can look very different from day to day. Some days it’s giving myself the time to get outside in the fresh air and run and other times it’s being kind to myself and being okay with skipping the gym and dipping into my cheese drawer in the fridge. Sometimes it looks like reading a book that has nothing to do with counseling and other times it’s sinking into my couch and being fully absorbed in a reality TV show. Oh! And tea time every night before bed.
7. Please tell us about research or projects that you have been involved in.
Right now I’m currently working with Drs. Michele Kielty, Renee Staton, and Tammy Gilligan on a research project to better understand the benefits of teaching classroom based mindfulness strategies to 6th grade students at Kate Collins Middle School. We’re doing this by comparing pre and post tests of students who have assented to participate in a 3 week mindfulness classroom curriculum. There is also a qualitative piece where teachers will fill out anonymous surveys on their perceptions of the usefulness of this program. I have been working closely with Dr. Kielty implementing the lessons and collecting data. This has been an amazing opportunity that has benefited me personally as well as professionally.
8. What else would you like to share?
I’ve really enjoyed this year of internship so far. Everything that I’ve read and learned about up until now has fallen into place and makes sense in a completely different way. I’m excited to continue on this journey of emerging as a Professional School Counselor.
At James Madison University, a CACREP accredited program, students earn a M.Ed. in their department of graduate psychology. The program requires 54 credit hours, and covers a wide range of relevant topics. Classes are smaller, allowing students to receive personal support from the faculty.
JMU’s philosophy of training is based on five principles:
- We learn by working together. Our program is a community of learners committed to supporting one another in the formidable enterprise of becoming a successful counselor.
- We learn by doing. In virtually every class period, faculty members involve students in some activity that requires them to practice the craft of counseling – the process of observing, gathering information, conceptualizing, and taking action.
- We learn throughout our lives. Counseling professionals have two simple options – to grow as persons and professionals by challenging ourselves, or to stagnate.
- We learn by example. The heart of a counselor education program is not the curriculum, but its people. Actions do speak louder than words, so it is vital that both faculty and students exemplify the values of the counseling profession.
- When we learn, we change. As students progress through this program, they do more than acquire knowledge and develop skills – they transform themselves professionally and personally.