Alumni Voices

Cassandra Kennell, Psy. D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Shenandoah Psychological Services, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Through the program, I learned how to connect with clients who had diverse backgrounds. I worked with clients of different ages, ethnicities and with a wide variety of disorders. I was able to employ core conditions of therapy such as empathy, nonjudgmentalism, congruence and unconditional positive regard. The program helped identify my passions in the field, such as non-directive play therapy, working with under-served populations, and college age students. I also became aware that my therapeutic technique is an integrative style. When I first entered the program I identified with Cognitive Behavioral Theory. Along the way, I learned that to serve different needs for each particular client, I must be willing to try different techniques, especially ESTs. The program also inspired me to continue my education and pursue my doctorate in psychology. I enjoyed the small class size, easy accessibility of faculty, and the individualized attention we each received. I felt welcomed to talk with faculty about any issues that arose during my time at EMU.

Jodi Myers, School Counselor
School Counselor, Fishersville, Virginia – Psychiatric Emergency Team, Harrisonburg, Virginia

Since graduating from the program in 2007, I have been working full time as a school counselor at the high school level, had the opportunity to work in other areas part time, and PRN to keep current and growing with clinical skills. The counseling program at EMU was instrumental in helping me understand what it truly means to live as a counselor “from the inside out” and I feel so blessed to have had such a strong training. The focus on counselor self knowledge and self care has steered me through many a crisis allowing me the opportunity to walk with students, their families, and patients. EMU is such a special place and while I was there I felt that the students and faculty became like family providing a safe haven for all of the intense experiences that are such an integral and important part of counseling training. I have worked with teenagers, provided in home counseling and performed emergency evaluations. I feel that I never would have been able to be a successful helper in these differing arms of counseling without the strong identity I formed while at EMU. This program also helped strengthen my faith in ways I never had imagined; and the support of the pastoral staff and counseling center were key to this growth as well as the learning community within the program.

Jason Lichiti, Resident in Counseling
Counselor, Minnick School/Lutheran Family Services of VA, Harrisonburg, Virginia

My time in the counseling program prepared me to work as a counselor by giving me multiple experiences to learn from. I appreciated the emphasis on the process of growth. Each day of work, I encounter new challenges that force me to face things within myself and am grateful for the groundwork that came from my time in the program. The program exposed me to the different theories, allowed me to try them on, and then to settle in my own identity. The faculty were in the trenches with me, walking with me through the process as I grew into the counselor role. I am extremely grateful for my time at EMU, faculty and my classmates were instrumental in my formation as a counselor and as a person.

Caleb Johnson, Resident in Counseling
Regional Coordinator, Northern Virginia Region, Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, Virginia Department of Veteran Services, Fairfax, Virginia

Previous to entering EMU’s MA in Counseling program I completed a BS in Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. While completing his undergraduate at PSU, I volunteered as an ESL teacher at The Mid-State Literacy Council and as a case manager at the Fairfield Center where I completed the mediation trainings and co-mediations necessary for certification as a Virginia State Certified Mediator. Additionally, I served honorably in the US Army Reserves for 6 years including a 12 month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The process of developing my counselor identity was by far the most important part of my experience in the program. The individual and group supervision as well as the interpersonal dynamics of the diverse perspectives of fellow students germinated the necessary environment for me to recognize, confront and allow all aspects of my individual identity to surface to a depth where I could honor them as parts-of-myself. I found that the individual process of this integration was by no means easy or precise, but rather a confounding journey that sowed a recognition of latent subterranean roots which could be woven into my present being as a continuous making of myself. In sum, I found that the journey through my own identity provided facets within a theoretical kaleidoscope which I was (am) able to grasp, pull and gather to create my own framework for both perceiving and empathizing with what is presented in the therapeutic experience. The development of my counselor identity was pivotal to discovering my theoretical perspective—without this I would lost.

There are so many diverse reasons for how EMU’s MAC program prepared me to work in my field. It is easier for me to describe this in the context of my position as a program manager. Rather than providing individual counseling to clients, I provide supervision to peer specialists who provide assistance to veterans. A primary part of the role of the veteran peer specialist is to first identify with veterans on a peer level in order to build rapport. When rapport is built, the peer specialist can successfully break the military stigma of seeking help and connect the veteran to employment, disability claims, VA benefits and various mental health services. In this realm of work I often find a blurred line between “clinical” work and communication with another Human.

EMU’s MAC prepared me to look below the surface of what is often mistakenly perceived to be the “problem” which a veteran is facing. Whether this is substance abuse, relationship difficulties, or unemployment, the current needs of our veterans are not “problems”, but rather a symptom of an internal inequity which requires the ability to listen without placing subjective judgments upon the initial need which is brought forth for assistance. EMU’s MAC prepared me to provide training, guidance and clinical supervision to veteran peer specialists as they assist veterans with a plethora of diverse needs.

The MAC program’s strong emphasis on exploring the dynamics of ACA ethics & ethical dilemmas prepared me to encounter unconventional situations involving veteran’s ideational and planned suicides. Unlike a traditional counseling setting in which the counselor has control over the client’s safety by allowing them to leave a session, my position as a mandated reporter often requires me to navigate more complex situations outside the boundaries of an office setting. The MAC program through the structure of its clinical supervision, did not just give me simpleton ethical guidelines to adhere to—it engaged me in an explorative opportunity which gave recognition to all the potentialities within the ethical decision making process.

After interviewing and gaining acceptance into Oregon State University and University of New Mexico, I elected to enroll at EMU. My reasoning for this was due to explorative qualities I experienced in the EMU interview, as opposed to the stringent theoretical perspectives apparent at OSU and UNM. I have always been a free spirit. Having already been broadly familiar with counseling theory, I had a strong inclination to explore and develop my own framework rather than have an external theoretical perspective imposed upon me. Above all, I feel that EMU provided me the opportunity to explore my own philosophy, values, viewpoints and subjective perspective of myself—the pith of my counselor identity all of which were necessary for me to develop empathy in a framework that allowed to me organize the therapeutic experience with coherent structure—all of which ultimately give way to identifying with the experience of another Human.


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