Student Profile: Lisa Gormley-Leinster, Master’s in Counseling
Lisa Gormley-Leinster is a student at City University of Seattle, who had a chance to chat with us and let us know a little more about her time at school, her future plans, and some advice for prospective students.
City University of Seattle (CU): Tell us a little bit more about yourself. What program are you enrolled in at CityU? What brought you here?
Lisa Gormley-Leinster (LGL): I’m in the Master of Arts in Counseling program. I spent 15 years working in the Film/Television and Music industry before deciding to go back to school and complete an undergraduate degree in Psychology. I have always been drawn to human behavior – why people do what they do – and I have always been passionate about mental health, raising awareness around stigma, and giving back to my community.
CU: What brought you to CityU? What made you decide to enroll here?
LGL: After I finished my undergrad in Psychology at the University of Washington I researched a number of graduate schools and felt CityU was the best fit for me based on price, weekend classes, and the core principles of the academic program. Additionally, I am a working mother of two girls, so having a family, working 30-40 hours a week, and being in graduate school is pretty grueling. Having the flexibility to come to class on the weekend with mixed mode teaching and online components really enabled me to be in the program – fully engaged – and still be there for my family.
CU: What’s your experience at CityU been like so far – what’s good, what’s great, what might you have done differently if you could go back and start over?
LGL: Overall my experience at CityU has been a good experience. Naturally some classes and some professors will resonate with you more than others depending on your interests, learning styles, and personality. At CityU, specifically in the counseling program, I have encountered some of the most talented, insightful, inspirational teachers/therapists in the field. Their knowledge, and human approach to meeting clients where they are at, has been invaluable to my growth, insight, and overall experience in the field. Where this program really excelled for me was when I started my internship – I felt beyond prepared academically, clinically, and personally. There is no greater feeling when you have the confidence to know that you can do the task ahead of you and that if you fall that’s okay because there is an entire faculty and department ready to catch you and guide you. I am not sure that I would have done anything differently, other than small tweaks here and there with structure/format of certain classes.
CU: Was your degree something you felt you needed to obtain in order to take a professional step forward?
LGL: Absolutely! Without this degree I could not be as marketable in my chosen field, or have the credentials necessary to apply for a therapist position. Additionally, this program helps to not only train students how to be therapists but prepares you both academically and clinically to do effective therapeutic work in the field.
CU: What do you envision is going to be your biggest challenge after graduation? How are you planning on addressing those challenges?
LGL:I think the biggest challenge after graduation for me will be getting a job. Many of the agencies are not hiring therapists right out of graduate school without gaining an additional credential of Mental Health Professional that requires a clinician to gain 4,000 hours of direct clinical service. Many new graduates are not aware of this and find themselves in a difficult situation whereby they have to extern another year after their internship or find a non-therapist position. I plan on addressing this challenge by utilizing the contacts that I have made networking at my current internships in the hopes that I can secure an interview and be hired on basis of my education, experience, and clinical skills.
CU: Any advice for future graduates who might be traveling the same path you are?
LGL: Hang in there when the going gets tough because the rewards are immense. Any graduate program will be a challenge, especially when balancing other aspects of your life such as work and/or a family. But if you are committed to wanting to work in the mental health field then the struggle is worth it. There will be times of great stress, times of self-doubt, and times of feeling completely overwhelmed, so knowing yourself well, reflecting on what it is that you want from your career, and learning how to do self-care will all play an important role in your success. Asking for help when you need it and reaching out to friends, colleagues in the program, and professors within the program are all ways to help support yourself through this process. Additionally, start working on the MHP (Mental Health Professional) status from the get go. If students begin to gain these hours the moment they enroll in the program they can be hired right out of grad school.
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