Program of the Month Q&A: CMHC Alum Lynn Lauria ’16
As a child and family therapist at BestSelf Behavioral Health, clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) alumna Lynn Lauria ’16 uses the information and skills she learned in the program every day in working with her clients. Prior to accepting her position at BestSelf, an organization which also partners with Medaille to run a counselor training clinic on campus, Lauria worked as a mental health counselor at Horizon Health Services. Here, the Western New Yorker discusses her experience in Medaille’s CMHC program, and explains how her education taught her valuable lessons about herself and about effective counseling.
What led to your decision to enroll in the clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) program at Medaille?
I decided to enroll in the clinical mental health counseling program at Medaille, mostly because of the different program options the school offered that allowed me to earn my degree. I liked the online program because of the busy life that I had working and taking care of my family. The online CMHC program offered so much flexibility for me to complete the program and earn my degree in just a couple of years. In addition, I was very happy to learn that I would have a small cohort of students who would continue together throughout the program.
Describe your experience in the CMHC program. What stands out?
My favorite experience in the online program was spending several hours in discussions with my class online and then meeting for the first time in person. Our cohort met for two courses at the Medaille campus. It was an incredible moment to see the friendships built and the bonds created, which still continue today.
What types of things did you learn about yourself and your career goals from your studies?
The most valuable thing I learned about myself is that true empathy is the single most important ingredient of being a successful counselor. However, being empathetic in this field can be both a blessing and a curse. It is very difficult for me to hear stories from clients each day that are hard to process and to not internalize them. The instructors at Medaille taught me the importance of counselor wellness. There needs to be a healthy balance in order to help my clients without letting their pain affect my life.
My career goals also changed a little from the time I entered the program to the time I graduated. When it started, I thought I would work with adults and couples. I did not believe that I would be effective working with kids. Now, I am a family therapist, and the ages of my clients range from 3 to 21 years old. To say I love working with kids is an understatement! They are incredible, ever-changing little people who listen when I teach them a coping skill and smile when I offer them suggestions to grow in a healthier way! Do not ever rule out a population of potential clients. It may be your calling!
What is the best advice you received from a CMHC faculty member?
The best advice I received was from one of my professors, Dr. Donald Nowak. He brought so much passion to the CMHC program and believed in its success. That was enough to keep our cohort engaged in the studies and constantly believing in the end result – graduation. Dr. Nowak taught me that our body language when sitting with a client could say a lot more than our words. He taught me that facing the client and leaning forward acknowledges to the client that you are actively engaged and empathetic to their story. To this day and with every client, old or new, I remember those words of wisdom. Moreover, I have seen that it does make all the difference in creating the bond that is necessary between the client and therapist.
How do you use the knowledge and skills you learned in the CMHC program at Medaille in your current work?
I use the knowledge and the skills that I learned in the CMHC program at Medaille every day in my current work. I learned valuable techniques, strategies and theories, which I now use with my clients to better help them during their healing process. Probably the most important information I received was about ethics, diagnosis and treatment planning. This program offered me a great base of information that helped me prepare for and pass the New York State licensure exam last summer.
What advice would you give to current CMHC students or those trying to decide on a major?
The advice that I would offer to current CMHC students or anyone deciding on a major is to take one day at a time. Looking at program requirements can be overwhelming to say the least. I decided to go through the program with just a vision of my goal in mind. After enrolling and beginning the program, I never looked at how many more classes I still had to get through. I just kept starting and finishing each course. I remember a friend finally asking when I would be done with my master’s degree. I looked at the remaining schedule, and to my surprise, I only had three courses left! It can be a lot if you look at the big picture. However, if you focus on this moment right now, before you know it, your dreams and goals will come true.
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