M.A. in Counseling, specialization in Clinical Mental Health Counseling
I am originally from the northern part of San Diego County, from a small area called Poway. I earned my Bachelor of Arts in Biology at USD in 2007. I also studied Chemistry and Psychology (minors). I have worked full-time at USD since 2007, working mainly with the undergraduate student population in Student Activities, Student Organizations, and Greek Life. I am also a Resident Minister, which is a part-time, live-in staff position for University Ministry here at USD.
What do you hope to do with your degree?
I want to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) and hope to work in any setting that allows me to practice counseling while applying my passion for social justice. I would like to work with underrepresented, underserved populations in a community setting because I love working alongside and advocating for my clients as much I love the actual counseling work.
How did you hear about SOLES, and why did you choose to enroll?
I went to the University of San Diego for my undergraduate degree and have worked at the University ever since. After I graduated from with my bachelor's I wasn’t 100% sure what was next, so I took some time to discern and researched the different programs at SOLES. SOLES’ Department of School, Family, and Mental Health Professions made the most sense to me. I knew I wanted to work with people in a helping or counseling profession and SOLES offered a strong curriculum, the opportunity to work closely with faculty in research or practice, and the unique opportunity for Global Study.
Are you currently working? I actually do both part-time and full-time work! I work full-time in the Student Leadership and Involvement Center (affectionately known as the SLIC) and part-time as a Resident Minister in the Alcala Vista Apartments, the undergraduate second year housing area. Through my work in the SLIC I interact with undergraduate student leaders in their program and event planning, as well as their general leadership development. As a Resident Minister I live in a residential hall with the sophomore students and serve as a resource, role model and mentor, and offer a space for students to reflect on their undergraduate experience.
Tell us about any practicum you have done through SOLES.
While in the CMHC program I completed most of my practicum hours at Urban Corps of San Diego County, a charter school serving at-risk young adults (ages 18-25) who are working while earning their high school diploma. As a counselor at Urban Corps I was able to provide individual counseling, case management, advocacy for social services and group facilitation and lead psychoeducational workshops. The site was flexible and open to what I wanted to do as a counselor, which was great. At the same time, the high risk and/or international backgrounds of many of the students at Urban Corps made for rich and diverse clinical experiences. The site really enforced my knowledge and skills in multicultural counseling, risk assessment, crisis management, career counseling, social services and working with a forensic population.
I also completed some practicum hours at the Hillcrest Youth Center, a sub-set of the LGBT Center of San Diego. The youth at HYC are 14-18 years old, so I really appreciated being able to round out my practicum experience with an adolescent population. HYC is a drop-in youth center for LGBT youth and youth allies, so once I again I worked with a diverse population. I helped facilitate support groups for youth in their coming out process and youth navigating issues as a transgender teen.
Both of my practica experiences were life-giving, affirming and engaged all of the knowledge I was gaining in the classroom. The supervision I received while in practicum was priceless; I was guided and mentored by faculty/professionals that were able to help me navigate challenging situations, and even navigate the balance of working, going to school and completing practicum.
Tell us about any research you have done at SOLES.
I presented at the American Counseling Association (ACA) Conference in March 2012 on the impact or importance of Global Study on Counseling Trainee Education Programs. I am huge fan of the SOLES Global Center and the unique aspect of the international experience required of all SOLES students. My presentation synthesized the impact of Global Study on counselors in training as it correlates to gains in multicultural competence by providing first-hand witnesses from counseling students who had completed a Global Study program. I also summarized a “how to” for other institutions and faculty to consider creating their own Global Study experiences.
Have you completed an international experience?
I studied Multicultural Counseling in Montego Bay, Jamaica in June 2011. It was the first Multicultural Counseling course offered in Jamaica and thankfully, it hasn’t been the last! While in Montego Bay, we attended the International Association of Counseling (IAC) Conference which brought counseling professionals from over a dozen countries together to learn about best practices in counseling, and dialogue about counseling in a global society. We also traveled throughout the area, immersing ourselves in Jamaican culture and learning about the history of the country. Finally, we visited the Granville Child Care Facility, a residential facility for girls ages 8-18. The facility offers an opportunity for girls who have been abandoned or neglected to live in safety, continue schooling, learn life and vocational skills and receive counseling. It was an indescribable opportunity getting to work with young women in this capacity and seeing how residential facilities operate in a foreign country with unique social structures.
How has your SOLES education impacted your career goals?
The biggest impact I have felt has been how easily the knowledge and skills I learn in the classroom transfer into practice. While I was in practicum I would often have a question or uncertainty that would suddenly be answered in class, or otherwise I would learn a new intervention or other technique that I could immediately apply in practicum. I have been able to sit with peers and professionals to work through cases from practicum, complete independent research and broaden my general worldview to become the best counselor I can possibly be. I have gained mentors that I will continue to go to for years to come and colleagues that will be my support, both professionally and personally, while in my counseling practice.
Which class has impacted you the most?
Practicum Supervision – both group and individual – has had the biggest impact on me. During supervision you sit with a faculty member who listens to your experience/cases from practicum and can guide you through what is going well and what can be improved upon. In group supervision you also have peers who are in practicum in completely different settings, so it’s great to hear what is happening in a school setting, a hospital setting, working with a veteran population or others. In that way I’ve gained a broad experience by listening to and contributing to others’ practicum cases.
Are there specific SOLES faculty, staff or administrators you feel have contributed significantly to your success?
My academic advisor is Dr. Ronn Johnson and he is the best! He has had so many different career experiences and can speak to counseling in different settings and with different populations. While his classes are challenging, it is great to sit down with a faculty member and “be real” about how things are going in the program and what my career goals are, and be guided as to how to reach those goals. I have also really appreciated my practicum supervisors who have all had such different perspectives on how to best serve different clients, but in the end, have provided great wisdom and direction.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After graduation, I will apply for my registered intern number with the Board of Behavioral Sciences so that I can earn hours to become a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor (LPCC) in the state of California. I will be happy in any setting that allows me to engage in counseling and social justice work with a diverse population. I’m really open to anything!
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective students?
Being a graduate student is definitely different from being an undergraduate, but one thing does remain the same – there are SO many opportunities to enhance your professional and personal development (from lectures outside of the classroom, conferences and volunteer work, to building relationships with peers and being mentored by faculty) that are not to be forgotten or neglected. Be a student, but be a well-rounded student and take advantage of all the opportunities you can (especially at that “student discount” cost!).