Alicia Quayson, a Georgian Court graduate student in clinical mental health counseling, was recently honored by the American Mental Health Counseling Association Foundation (AMHCA) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC).
The foundation’s scholarship allowed her to attend the professional organization’s July 2016 national conference in New Orleans. While there, Alicia and research partner Chelsea Sikora presented their findings about ethical decision making to an audience of professional counselors and clinicians.
“It was an honor to have been selected as a recipient for the AMHCA scholarship,” says Alicia. A high note was sharing their research on counselor values and decision making, based on data collected at the 2015 AMHCA conference, with those who can help implement their findings.
“I was able to interact with others in the profession who are doing life-changing work, learn from them, and network with them,” she says.
Focused on Counseling Problems and Finding Solutions
In May, Alicia was recognized by the NBCC Foundation, an affiliate of the National Board for Certified Counselors, which selected her for its Minority Fellowship Program-Youth. The $8,000 counseling fellowship supports Alicia’s interest in helping two populations where she sees the most need: underserved minorities and youth ages 16 to 25.
“I want to work with community institutions to build programs that raise awareness and create solutions for the prevailing issues that affect ethnic minorities,” says Alicia, who is a member of the American Counseling Association. “I’m especially grateful that the fellowship will allow me to participate in clinical training for counselors serving Spanish-speaking clients.”
Alicia will also connect with professionals and stakeholders nationwide as she travels to observe successful programs that can be applied in New Jersey.
Counseling Research Meets Real-Life Experience
She leads GCU’s chapter of Chi Sigma Iota, the international honor society for counseling students, professional counselors and counselor educators. In June, she did a 15-day tour of China with GCU’s Global Education program, and now she’s preparing for another academic year as GCU’s peer tutoring coordinator.
This is in addition to her internship with the Ocean Township Department of Human Services. On the job, she helps individuals, couples, and families struggling with substance abuse, youth intervention, family supervision problems, and more.
“I’ve worked with kids who came in defiant and averse to counseling,” says Alicia,“but we make that time productive. At first, they may feel forced into it, but they switch their attitudes.”
When she isn’t working, Alicia benefits from challenging courses taught by CMHC Program Director Richard Ponton, Ph.D., and faculty members Joseph Springer, Ph.D., and Jessica Reno-Burkholder, Ph.D., who each bring considerable clinical experience to the classroom.
“This kind of professional exposure before you earn the licensed professional counselor (LPC) credential is important,” she says. “And since GCU’s program is CACREP accredited, I’m coming from a university that already meets the profession’s standards, and a program that gives me accessibility now to what I want to do in the future.”
Ready, Willing, and Inspired to Help by Counseling Others
In helping clients, Alicia is learning, too.
“Counseling works if you want it to work,” she says. “I’ve seen couples as well as parents and children come in because they want to mend a relationship, but internal conflicts may exist. Sometimes people come to us because they are mandated by the courts, and we help them change perspective.”
She is animated—ebullient even—as she talks about the importance of putting the right resources in front of people. And the more she talks about the positive impact of counseling, it’s clear Alicia isn’t pursuing a career. It’s her calling.
“Even though I know it’s an impossible goal, I want to make everybody’s lives better.”