Loyola Clinical Centers: An Interdisciplinary Approach

How does one become the best counselor he/she can be?  The classes offered through Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Program provide the foundation to becoming a good counselor.  The Pastoral Counseling Program also requires two years of an internship at a mental health facility for their degree programs, which helps to provide the experience.  Loyola also offers hands-on clinical experience through their own Clinical Center located at the Columbia campus for Pastoral Counseling students.

Because of my Masters in Clinical Psychology and my status as a Certificate of Advanced Studies Student, I was not required to do an internship.  I felt I was sorely lacking in the experience of true counseling because my previous internship experience through my masters program was at Kennedy Krieger Institute and the internship utilized behavioral psychology primarily where I basically observed the behaviors of clients and recorded them.  I chose to do an internship during the 2011-2012 school year through Loyola in order to gain the experience I lacked but was intimidated by the thought of counseling clients one-on-one and I expressed my concerns to Dr. LaSure-Bryant.  She informed me of Loyola’s Clinical Centers and the opportunity to work there in the summer prior to my internship. 

The clinic has a diverse population of clients who come in for counseling.  The clinic’s focus is on the care of the client so they try to work with the client’s financial situation in order to make counseling affordable.  One aspect of the clinic, which was particularly appealing to me, was that talking about spirituality was acceptable which brought a whole different dimension to the counseling experience.  At my internship experience in the fall, talking about prayer and spirituality was not encouraged and I shied away from those topics unless the client brought it up.  At Loyola’s Clinical Center, clients choose to come in to see a Pastoral Counselor, which provides the forum for the subject of spirituality to be brought up during the counseling session.

I gained invaluable experience working with clients while having the expertise of my supervisor, which gave me the confidence I needed to work with clients in the fall.  There are many opportunities for Pastoral Counseling Students in the clinic whether it is through counseling or running group therapy in conjunction with the Speech – Language Pathology DepartmentLoyola’s Pastoral Counseling Department provides its students with the opportunities to become the best counselor one can be.

Loyola’s Most Influencial People

Time magazine recently had an article naming their 100 most influential people of 2012, which made me start thinking about the different professors I have experienced through Loyola’s Pastoral Program and how they have influenced my life.

In the early part of 2009, I attended an information session about Pastoral Counseling at Loyola’s Columbia Campus.  Different speakers shared their experience in the Pastoral Counseling Department at Loyola.  I will never forget how I felt when Dr. Ciarrocchi, a professor in the Pastoral Department, spoke at the meeting.  His very presence embodied the spirit of Loyola.  I was so moved by how he described Loyola’s Pastoral Program that I knew in an instant that I had to become a part of whatever he was talking about.

On orientation day for the new Pastoral Counseling students, we were grouped according to the program we were joining.  I was confused as to which group I should join because I wasn’t sure if I was going to pursue my masters degree or take the classes I needed in order to be licensed.  I received my Masters in Clinical Psychology from Towson University in 1997 and it felt like a lifetime had passed since that time.  Dr. Fialkowski, director of M.S. admissions in the Pastoral Counseling Department, had recommended that I look into the Certificate of Advance Study program which would allow me to take the classes missing from my masters that were required for a Maryland license. 

I was very emotional on orientation day, scared to take this big step back into the world of graduate school and wondering if I had made the right decision.  At the beginning of the session with Dr. Ciarrocchi, he asked us what it was that brought us to this program.  When it came time for me to share, I surprised myself by breaking down in tears.  It had only been a year since I lost my brother to cancer.  Losing my brother propelled me to really reflect on my life and what I wanted to accomplish in my time here.  Dr. Ciarrocchi’s loving presence exuded from him while he comforted me and gave me the time and space I needed. Dr. Ciarrocchi fought a long battle with cancer which ended in the fall of 2010. He was the first professor I would have at Loyola and his being has left a forever imprint on my life.

Continuing Counseling Education

As I near the end of my studies here at Loyola, I find myself in wonderment of the road that led me to the Certicate of Advanced Study in the first place.  I can’t say that 30 years ago when I was in high school, my life’s dream was to grow up and become a counselor even though I did have an interest in psychology.  My parents’ expectations and cultural background (I’m Asian Indian) led me to the plan of becoming a medical doctor.  I sensed a desire in me to be able to help people in some capacity.  The direction that my life’s journey ended up taking has led me to believe that my calling to help people would not be fulfilled by becoming a medical doctor…God had a different plan.

After marriage, I pursued a masters degree in clinical psychology.  Once my oldest child entered kindergarten and both kids started becoming involved in many extra-curricular activities, the need to stay home became evident so that I was readily available for my children.  Twelve years literally flew by!  In that time, I wrote a column for the county paper and worked as a teacher in our Catholic school.  I appreciated the experience these jobs gave me, but still felt that I had not found my niche. 

I would browse the internet for careers or educational opportunities.  The programs at Loyola for post masters students caught my attention because I learned I needed certain classes in order to become licensed as a counselor in Maryland and their program would allow me to fill in those holes.  I was not in a place where I could commit the time to study until my oldest was in tenth grade.  A week after deciding that it was time to make some changes in my life, I learned my 40-year-old brother had Stage IV cancer.  Losing my brother changed who I was in many ways and made me question many things about life.  It was then that I became even more attracted to Loyola’s Pastoral Counseling Program.  The idea of integrating spirituality and psychology made sense and I could see the value in it when it comes to counseling. 

This blog is a chance to share some of the amazing experiences I have had while at Loyola and the opportunities it has led me to.  I am looking forward to sharing this journey with you.