Alejandra Stepensky

M.A. in Counseling, specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

About Me

I was born and raised in San Diego, although my family is from Mexico City. I feel a strong connection with my Jewish heritage as well, and therefore identify as a Jewish Mexican woman. I earned a B.A. in Liberal Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles along with my Multiple Subjects teaching credential and minor in Special Education. I worked at various schools in the LA and Hawthorne districts during my undergraduate studies as I pursued my credentials. I also had an internship at the Winston School in Del Mar where I worked with students in both Elementary and High School who were on the spectrum and/or had emotional disturbance. I am currently working as an Educational Therapist at La Jolla Learning Works here in San Diego, where I work one-on-one with children ages 6-18.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

I hope to actively practice counseling and help individuals become the best version of themselves that they can be. Clinically, I hope to work with children with emotional disturbances and Autism Spectrum Disorder while continuing to pursue my research on the silence that surrounds Female Sexual Dysfunction disorders, specifically Vaginismus. As an Elementary School teacher, I come from an education background and was developing a focus in Special Education through an internship at a school with children who were on the spectrum when I discovered that I wanted to work with the population on an emotional level, rather than an academic one. I felt that I had the second epiphany of my life (the first being to become a teacher) and felt that it was my calling to come to this program and reach out to the population in this way.

How did you hear about SOLES, and why did you choose to enroll?

As soon as I discovered my change in direction from Special Education to counseling, I began researching programs that would allow me the opportunity to pursue my passion for helping, specifically the Special Education population. I discovered SOLES during my research of diverse programs and upon attending an information meeting felt that this was the platform I was looking for to allow me to help the population I was so passionate about on an emotional level. What I liked most about this program was that the faculty seemed to be very available to their students and I was searching for this sort of relationship with my professors. I was seeking a program where I could truly connect with my peers, as well as the staff, and I felt that SOLES offered that to its students.

Are you currently working?

I am currently working part-time as an Educational Therapist at La Jolla Learning Works in San Diego. I work with students ranging from 6-18 years old who are diagnosed with a wide range of learning disabilities, including ADHD, auditory processing disorder and dyslexia. I am currently developing a math remediation curriculum for LJLW as well as an emotional control intervention program to help students pursue their academics successfully. I am very involved with working with the parents and teachers of these students in order to make sure that we are all on the same team to support these students and see them succeed and reach their full potential. The biggest goal that I strive to achieve at my work is to truly help these students see past their disabilities and to become confident in who they are and what they are capable of in this world.

Tell us about any research you have done at SOLES.

I have been involved in many research projects at SOLES and have presented at various conferences. My research has been on a range of topics including OEF/OIF Female Veterans, anti-terrorism responses, the Salafist-Jihadist movement, and Female Sexual Dysfunction. I have traveled to Dallas to present at the ACJS conference, presented at the SDSU Multicultural Conference and recently presented at the Rose Tyson conference here at the Museum of Man in Balboa. I am also currently in the process of publishing a paper that will include my research on Female Sexual Dysfunction and the silence that has been created around it, specifically Vaginismus.

Have you completed an international experience?

I had the opportunity to travel to Tijuana with my Multicultural Counseling class this summer, and it was truly an unforgettable experience. Although I am from a Mexican background, the experience I had with my class in Tijuana was unlike anything I had done before. I was able to visit a Special Education school and witness the miracle that these individuals created for the students, all with such limited resources. It was such an honor to be able to take the time to talk with these individuals and get a different perspective on the way that they do things at their school, particularly because of my background in Special Education. We also had the great fortune of meeting women who were part of an amazing leadership organization in Tijuana, and they invited us to their home and shared a beautiful meal with us. I will never forget how welcoming and warm these women were in inviting us to their home and sharing their stories with us. It was truly a special opportunity.

How has your SOLES education impacted your career goals?

Before coming to SOLES and starting the program I thought that I was sure of the population that I wanted to pursue working with, and it was not until I was completely immersed in the program that I learned of all the different doors that were open to me. I became interested in a wide range of topics and I was so excited to have the opportunity to open my eyes up to all of them. I found that my professors were very encouraging of all of these different paths and they are helping me become educated about the different options that I would have as a counselor. It is so nice to have the support of my professors as I explore the different populations that are out there. They truly want to help me find the best fit for me.

Which class has impacted you the most?

The class that has impacted me the most was my Clinical Interviewing class because I feel that it is where I had the most personal growth. I was not expecting to have such a powerful experience so early in the program, but I learned so much about myself. I learned to be honest with myself and take a look at what was going on within, as well as to begin developing my counseling style within the same context. I learned many things about myself that I was not aware of, and that are of great importance on my journey to becoming a counselor. These included my judgments, insecurities, and strengths. It helped me realize which areas I wanted to work on and actually led me to a point where I was ready to start my journey in my own personal therapy, completing the requirements of the program to receive counseling.

Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?

I feel that Dr. Ronn Johnson has greatly contributed to my success in the program by opening my eyes up to the many research opportunities that are out there. He has had a personal hand in helping me develop my specialization, and has been one of my biggest sources of support throughout the entire experience. I am also very grateful for adjunct faculty member Jessica Williams, who first opened my heart to my own personal journey as I prepare to enter this new profession.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I plan to pursue my licensure in the state of California and begin practicing in a clinical setting. My dream job would be one in which I am directly working with individuals in need on a regular basis, and in which I wake up happy to go to work every day.

Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?

I would like to advise students to stay true to themselves throughout the entire process and to enjoy the ride. Starting this program is also starting a new phase of your life; your own unique and very personal journey. I would tell students to take the time to really absorb what you are going through, what you are learning, and the wisdom of those around you, and not try to rush through it. Everyone is unique, and within that everyone will have a unique experience. Accept this, practice self-care, and be proud of your accomplishments as you continue on your journey!