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A Final Goodbye: Mastering My Masters

I plopped down on my sofa in my new office and let out a deep breath, enjoying the sweet aroma of the diffuser I snagged from the boutique down the road. With a slew of clients soon to arrive, my mind wandered to my upcoming completion of my Master's degree. Channeling my inner counselor, I engaged in some good, old-fashioned box breathing- you know, the drill, in for four, holds for four, out for four, and hold for four. As the counting lullabied me into a peaceful state, I focused on all the Lord has brought me through, feeling grateful for the journey that has led me to this moment. I visualized being present in my final class on Saturday morning, but a chill ran through my body as I did. It's not the kind of chill from danger but rather the kind you get when you feel a deep sense of release. However, the next thing I know, I'm bawling, gasping for air. "Oh great", I thought to myself. "I have a client in an hour and a half!" But a little voice inside me insisted I work through these emotions - to recognize my achievements and perseverance and to thank the One who has led me every step of the way. As I leaned into the visualization, tightly closing my eyes, tears streaming down my face, I realized how incredibly cathartic it can be - especially when combining it with faith and spirituality like my own. And with that, I closed the book on this intense and incredible chapter of my life.

Curious to hear more about the ups and downs of my journey to obtaining a Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Liberty University?

Keep reading as I engage in a self-interview about the process!

Master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling

Why did I choose this program?

I chose the master's program in clinical mental health counseling at Liberty University due to two main factors: academic rigor and integration of faith. Liberty University is committed to providing a rigorous academic curriculum, ensuring students receive a comprehensive education in their chosen field. This program in clinical mental health counseling is designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to excel in their future careers as mental health professionals.

Additionally, Liberty University is known for its strong emphasis on integrating faith into all aspects of education. This can be particularly beneficial in counseling, as it enables students to learn and apply counseling techniques within a framework that aligns with their personal beliefs and values and how to apply this in the therapy room. By choosing this program, I expected to receive a well-rounded education that combined academic excellence and a faith-based approach to counseling.

What was the application process like?

The application process at Liberty University is straightforward, but it does require students to fulfill certain requirements. The admission process involves submitting all relevant documents, such as official transcripts, recommendations, questionnaires, or writing samples. Understanding the program-specific requirements and submission deadlines is essential to ensure timely application processing.

In my case, I spent a year before applying to a different university to increase my GPA from my undergrad to meet the admission requirements. While going through the application process, I learned I needed to complete a statistics class. I feared bombing the course and missing out on an education from Liberty, but after successfully completing the statistics class, the rest of the application process became easy for me.

What was the most challenging part of the program?

Well, let me tell you, the most challenging part of my Master's program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling wasn't my coursework or my professors- it was my age! Starting this program at 40 as a nontraditional student was no joke. I was juggling a house full of kids in middle school (that’s plenty difficult on its own!), being a devoted wife, and trying to manage a full-time student workload. It's not easy to write a paper when the boys are having middle school meltdowns and begging for food every moment. (If you’re a mom of boys, you know the grocery budget is insane.) Plus, keeping my eyes open after 10 p.m. was nearly impossible, which was also when I needed to study the most. Most days, it was better for me to snore by 9 p.m. and wake up at 330-4 a.m. to get to work. It's a struggle that every nontraditional student can relate to.

What was your favorite class?

Throughout my time in the program, I had mixed feelings about some of my classes - while most were enjoyable, others were incredibly boring. However, one class truly stood out and reaffirmed why I chose Liberty University: integrating the Christian faith. This class allowed me to delve into my faith and examine how to effectively incorporate it into my counseling practice when clients requested it. It challenged me to critically evaluate long-held beliefs of my faith that may not have been accurate or needed maturing. The curriculum of the class was rich and comprehensive, and even to this day, I find myself drawing upon the knowledge and insights gained, particularly when working with clients who are dealing with spiritual abandonment or abuse. The class provided practical tools, stimulated personal growth, and deepened my connection to my faith. One book, in particular, caused me to create a counseling group, and I found enormous success. Be sure to read Embodying Integration by Mark McMin and his daughter-its a fabulous book for Christians and their journey in counseling!

Who were the professors who had the greatest impact on me?

Throughout my journey in pursuing my Master's Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Liberty University, I had the privilege of being taught by an exceptional group of professors who left a profound impact on me. It's challenging to name just a few, as each brought unique strengths and expertise. However, some professors truly stood out and made a lasting impression. Their passion for the field of counseling and their desire for me to succeed, dedication to teaching, and ability to create a supportive and engaging learning environment were truly remarkable. These professors expanded my knowledge and skills and inspired me to become a better counselor. Their guidance and mentorship have given me the extra boost I needed to continue on this path.

Now, the well-deserved recognition is essential for these exceptional professors who significantly impacted my journey. Although their names may appear on my tiny blog with limited visibility, trust me, they are giants in counseling education. So, without further ado, let me unveil the curtain and give them their moment in the spotlight.

Dr. Anita Knight Kuhnley COUC 515 Research and Program Evaluation

I am immensely grateful to Dr. Knight Kuhnley for her invaluable guidance and support throughout the research and program evaluation course. Initially, I was petrified by the thought of tackling this subject despite having passed statistics. The fear of potential failure consumed me, and I doubted my abilities. However, Dr. Kuhnley's teaching style and expertise put my fears to rest. She not only imparted knowledge but also instilled in me a genuine passion for research. Her passion and dedication were contagious, and she went above and beyond to ensure I understood the intricacies of research and program evaluation. Thanks to her, I mastered the subject matter and developed a deep appreciation for the research behind what I do.

Dr. Susanna Capri Brooks COUC 505 Intensive: Counseling Techniques & Helping Relationships

Dr. Brooks left a lasting impression on me during our time together in COUC505, despite the short duration of the course. From the moment I met her, I could feel her genuine care and support for her students. Dr. Brooks not only taught the course material with expertise but also took the time to understand each student's goals and aspirations in the counseling field. What truly touched me was how she wholeheartedly embraced me as an individual and expressed her belief in my potential to flourish in this profession.

Even after the course ended, Dr. Brooks and I have managed to maintain a meaningful relationship. She has continued to offer guidance, share valuable resources, and provide support whenever I needed it. And, although it hasn’t panned out yet, I know we will work together at a conference! Recognizing her impact on my personal and professional growth often stirs up some tears. I am truly grateful for her unwavering belief in me and how she nurtured my confidence in my abilities.

Dr. Michael Trexler COUC698 Practicum

Where to start with Dr. Trexler? When it comes to summarizing what I learned and how I felt being a student under Dr. Trexler's guidance, it's a tough job to condense everything into one paragraph. Dr. Trexler had an enormous impact on my growth as a student in the counseling field. His teaching opened my eyes to the importance of articulation in diagnosis and how consultation is necessary for effective counseling. Furthermore, I recognized how a deep Chrtistian faith can be incredibly helpful in an industry that sometimes involves difficult client stories. Although the practicum ended, Dr. Trexler and I kept in touch constantly. He still continues to inspire and teach me about the field and the ethical and successful way to operate a private practice. It's clear that Dr. Trexler has had a huge impact on my life and career, and I feel so lucky to have had him as a mentor and motivation.

Dr. Michael Rogers COUC699 Internship

It's disappointing that I couldn't find information about Dr. Rogers on Liberty University's website. However, whether he is an adjunct or faculty member, it doesn't diminish the fact that he has been absolutely incredible.

During my final semester in the counseling program, I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rogers. He has been an incredible teacher, albeit quite tough. Sometimes, I got pretty frustrated with him, but upon reflection, I realized that he was pushing me to learn and be the best I can be when I graduate, which I appreciate. He was a stickler on treatment planning, but it helped me to create plans that I am proud of and effectively guide my clients and me. One thing that stood out to me is his depth of knowledge about the business side of counseling - something that is not typically taught in counseling programs but is invaluable, especially since my ultimate goal is to own a private practice in the future. Additionally, I found his faith in Jesus to be incredibly inspiring. It consistently renewed my energy when the master's program seemed overwhelming. Although I wish I had more time with him, I'm grateful we will keep in touch. Dr. Rogers has left a lasting impact on my life and career.

Not to Mentions

Reflecting on my journey through the program, I realize that it's easy to fall into the trap of complaining about certain professors. Sometimes I felt that some of them didn't have a genuine desire to teach or even like me. However, as I continued working through the program, I started recognizing the valuable lessons they imparted. They taught me about the importance of emotion regulation and maintaining professionalism, even in challenging situations. Despite personal difficulties, they provided examples of areas where I could improve myself as a future counselor. It's important to remember that even the professors who may not have been the most engaging still played a role in my growth and development.

Most Honorable Mentions

Dr. Susan Belangee Clinical Supervisor

A clinical supervisor like Dr. Susan Belangee has seismically impacted my development as a therapist. Our relationship has lasted for over a decade, and in that time, her guidance and mentorship have contributed significantly to the therapist I am today. I deeply love and appreciate her as a supervisor and friend, and I am incredibly grateful for all that she has taught me, guided me through, challenged me through, and helped me breathe through! Her new venture, Dynamic Growth Counseling and Consulting, is particularly exciting, given its unique integration of Adlerian lifestyle principles with traditional therapeutic techniques like cognitive-behavioral therapy. This endeavor will continue to impact the lives of many, just as she has done for me.

What is the biggest takeaway from your time at Liberty University?

The biggest takeaway from my time at Liberty University is the importance of spiritual integration into my studies and work as a therapist. My belief and reliance on Jesus was even more cemented through this process. This has helped me become more aware of how important it is to maintain my relationship with God before helping others do so. I must fill my spiritual cup before I can fill others. Liberty’s Educational and Philosophical Mission statement drove it home for me when I did everything to transfer into the program, including a Christian academic community that upholds Christ-centered values. Their philosophy of education is rooted in their understanding of God's truth, which includes the belief that individuals are created in God's image and possess various qualities that connect them to God and others. As an institution, Liberty University aims to equip men and women with knowledge, skills, and values through a holistic process that integrates a Christian worldview. They emphasize the development of essential competencies in communication, critical thinking, information literacy, and mathematics. Additionally, they encourage the integration of academic knowledge with a Christian worldview to foster personal, social, intellectual, and physical growth. Liberty University promotes a commitment to the Christian life, personal integrity, sensitivity to the needs of others, social responsibility, and active communication of the Christian faith. You just can’t go wrong with the standard of Christ at the core!

The second but most valuable lesson is the importance of a strong personal support system. In this regard, I am endlessly grateful for the unwavering support from my amazing and adoring husband, who has been by my side for almost 20 years. His unwavering love and encouragement have been an anchor in my journey, giving me the confidence and strength to persevere. Additionally, the support and understanding from my teenage sons have been instrumental in my personal and professional growth. Their presence and belief in me have constantly motivated and inspired me. With the love and support of my family, I have built a strong and nurturing support system that has been instrumental in my personal and professional growth.

Third and finally, effectively managing time is crucial throughout the clinical mental health counseling program MA. The program's pace can be fast-paced, leaving little room for procrastination. Or you can slow it, but I had goals to complete it so I could begin counseling as quickly as possible. Personally, I have adopted a meticulous approach to ensure that tasks are completed on time, both before and after deadlines. However, there are moments when the workload can become overwhelming, causing stress. Fortunately, there are strategies to address this challenge.

One effective method is setting up reminders through phone alerts, which can be sent directly to email inboxes. This helps to stay organized and ensures that important deadlines are not overlooked. Another option is to leverage technology tools like Google Calendar. It is still my favorite tool for organization (especially when I can also have my boys and husband place items on the calendar!) This allows users to schedule appointments with specific dates and times, saving the details within their accounts. The benefit of using such tools is the 24/7 accessibility they offer, regardless of the user's geographical location or internet connection.

By implementing these strategies, I effectively managed my time, reduced stress (kind of), and stayed on top of my responsibilities throughout the program.

And Goodbye…

Over the course of this program, I have undergone a profound transformation. It has been a journey of self-discovery, unraveling layers of my identity and purpose. And let me tell you, it hasn't been an easy ride.

Throughout this process, I've grappled with intense emotions that have overwhelmed me emotionally. As a result, I decided to put my emotions into words by writing this blog instead of recording a podcast. Writing allows me to dig deep and be authentically vulnerable. And to not sob incoherently.

In this program, I've gained invaluable skills, such as becoming a compassionate listener and a helpful guide to others. Navigating time management. Overcoming difficult situations in the classroom. But it's important to acknowledge the struggles along the way. Confidence has been a constant battle, as I've wrestled with self-doubt for years. However, I've made strides in building my self-assurance slowly but surely. And I can proudly say that, I will complete my Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a 4.0. Whoa. I can’t believe I can write that.

Reflecting on everything I've learned, I must express my heartfelt gratitude for the opportunities God has provided me through this program. It hasn't been an easy path, but it has been undeniably rewarding. I'm eager to embrace what lies ahead, knowing this journey has just begun. With vulnerability as my guide and God as my Rock, I look forward to embracing new challenges and continuing to grow personally and professionally.

So, a final goodbye. Mastering my Masters has been incredible. I sit here. Again, visualizing the final moments in class, tears filling my eyes…

My adventure has just begun.

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