Alumni Voices

Michael Horst, Doctoral Student in Counseling and Supervision
Doctoral Student in Counseling and Supervision, Resident in Counseling James Madison University

EMU’s MA in Counseling program not only prepared me to work as a professional counselor, but also to pursue a PhD in Counseling and Supervision. While at EMU, I had the opportunity to engage research projects with a faculty mentor, get involved with VCA, present original research, and participate in honest, challenging, and creative class conversations. For me, the program combined a solid academic experience for my further graduate work with grounded clinical experience for my work as a counselor. EMU’s clinical training structure provided appropriate developmental clinical steps for me, from practice counseling sessions, to a practicum experience, to an internship experience, and finally to preparation for counseling residency after graduation. These clinical experiences allowed me to take on more and more professional responsibility in a way that reflected my growth as a professional counselor.

EMU’s focus on counselor identity and the development of each student encouraged my growth as a counselor and as a person. EMU combined my personal inner work with active clinical and academic experiences. My experience with EMU’s MA in Counseling program made evident to me that training as a counselor requires deliberate personal exploration and growth. This process further developed my counselor identity and connected me with theoretical orientations that inform my work as a professional counselor and doctoral student. Personal and professional growth is an ongoing process for me. EMU’s focus on student strengths and areas of growth helped me to approach my self and my work honestly, which helps me continue to grow.

EMU’s small class sizes and excellent student to faculty ratio allow space for the honest, vulnerable, and creative conversations necessary for counselor development. While at EMU, I felt very connected to each of my classmates and comfortable engaging in personal inner work as we grew together in our counselor identities. I also had the opportunity to form mentor relationships with faculty members. These relationships helped me to pursue extracurricular academic work and gain valuable experiences for my doctoral work. Each of the faculty and staff members have a dedicated and caring presence for each of their students.

Josh Harrod, Bereavement Counselor
Bereavement Counselor – Blue Ridge Hospice, Winchester, Virginia

Beyond counseling theories, techniques, interventions, and diagnostic skills, EMU’s counseling program helped me learn how to listen to myself more clearly and authentically. Somewhat paradoxically, learning how to listen to myself from a quiet place underneath the noise of routine habitual concerns (What do I need from the grocery store? Am I picking up the kids today? When is my annual performance review due?) makes me more available to listen meaningfully to others. I’m scared of needles. Otherwise I would’ve already gotten some tattoos of the mantras that came from my time at EMU. “You are the instrument,” for starters.

My experience was rigorous, transformative, and not perfect in the conventional sense of the word. Thank goodness! I never got lost in any shuffle, which means there are few places to hide. To see and be seen, to hear and be heard, requires awesome vulnerability. This is not merely an academic exercise. I think of my professors and cohort-mates, true allies, daily.

Erin Gumm, Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Center Associates, Marshalltown and Toledo offices, Iowa

At Eastern Mennonite University, I found space to learn about my own passion for providing quality holistic mental health care. I learned to assess all aspects of the individual that contribute to each unique individual’s wellness, and to help my clients find and use their resources to create change. In the MA in Counseling program, I learned about the variety of tools available to assist in growth and working through trauma, and enjoy using complementary and alternative therapies while educating about the importance of nutrition and lifestyle changes. Being in a rural area, I work with individuals of all ages and diagnoses, co-occurring disorders, family and marital issues, and I particularly enjoy working with women. As a result of the variety in my clientele, an important part of my work is collaborating with psychologists for testing, psychiatric doctors, nurses, school staff, case managers, and other community supports. By doing this, I am better able to maximize the use of resources for wellness.

At EMU, I learned about the importance of practicing good balance in life. Being a Christian, faith and spiritual practices sustain me in the demands of my day-to-day work, and EMU has opportunities and space for worship, prayer, and meditation practices. I felt deeply supported by faculty while in the program, and continue to experience this genuine care beyond graduation and professional licensure in the Midwest.

Josh Redding, LPC, Assistant Director of Counseling and Intervention Services
Assistant Director of Counseling and Intervention Services, Department of Health Education and Student Well-Being, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

I’ve served in many clinical capacities since receiving my Master’s in Counseling and rely on the skills and knowledge that I learned through at EMU on a daily basis. They helped me see people. Really see people. However, what I’ve really appreciated are the relationships with my cohort and the professors which I reflect on fondly and many of whom I still communicate with today.

EMU’s MA in Counseling program helped me examine myself and my beliefs about the world in a safe environment and challenged me to grow, gently but firmly. I entered the program well intentioned and wanting to help people. EMU’s program gave me the skills and self-understanding to be a confident counselor.

The faculty and staff are exemplary role-models in the most genuine way possible. They served as guides and set standards that I continue to appreciate. I know that someone who graduates from EMU will be well trained clinically and have a heart to serve people. The small class size and cohort model provided a rich environment for learning and experimentation that I enjoyed.

Genhi Whitmer, LPC, Director of Training
Director of Training for Region Ten Community Services Board, Charlottesville, Virginia

EMU’s graduate counseling program offered a strong foundation for development of my counselor identity, an emphasis on research and continued learning, and outstanding emphasis on ethics and honoring the therapeutic relationship as sacred space. The faculty’s commitment to counselor development and to ensuring a holistic perspective in practice was formative, and the small class size fostered a cohesive cohort. At EMU, I gained a solid clinical foundation that included exemplary instruction in ethics, diagnosis, multicultural counseling, research, and spirituality in counseling. Each of us was encouraged to explore various theoretical orientations and deeply consider what fit us best, while also learning that the most important element of therapy is the relationship. I especially appreciated the faculty’s emphasis on the sacredness of the individuals we serve and the honor it is to bear witness to their life journey. EMU offers the total package for counselor training that shows up when you get out into the field! Since graduating from the program, I have worked with children, teenagers, adults, and families, across the span of diagnoses including mental health, substance use, and intellectual disabilities. My clinical skills combined with previous work experience opened doors for me to move into leadership roles in the community and in the workplace. In my current job, I am responsible for the clinical and administrative training of approximately 600 employees ranging from support and direct care staff to licensed clinical and medical staff. My manner of training is heavily influenced by my time in the program, and I enjoy sharing knowledge with others, as well as the values of compassionate caring, love of the profession, ethical practice, and a passion for helping others. Perhaps most importantly in my journey, my time at EMU has been instrumental in my development as a more whole and healthy individual in all facets of my life. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for my experience in the program.

Angela Anderson, LPC, Director of Counseling Services
Director of Counseling Services, Serenity Counseling Center, Blue Ridge, Virginia

EMU gave me a client-centered approach to counseling that helps me meet my clients where there are presently. As a learner, I appreciated the flexibility to focus on personal interests while given the opportunity to explore new opportunities of growth. Faculty presence and support at EMU is amazing. Class size is perfect allowing for individual focus if required.

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