Hayat Abu-Ghazaleh, a first year Master’s student in the Counseling Psychology program here at the Morgridge Collection of Education (MCE), is a true advocate for social justice and equity. She shows her commitment to these tenets through her studies and clinical work in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling, through her volunteerism with refugee groups, and through her participation in the Vagina Monologues here at the University of Denver, which promotes representation and equity across gender boundaries.

Hayat was born and raised in Saudi Arabia with her family, and noticed that there was a greater need for mental health services and care in her community than was available, which prompted her interest in the fields of psychology and counseling. In Spring 2016 Hayat complete her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at American University in Washington D.C., then decided she wanted to further her knowledge and the impact she could make upon the field of mental health through our MA program in Counseling Psychology. After graduation, she is considering a move back to Saudi Arabia so that she can affect change in her home, and create more opportunities and options for those in need of mental health treatment.

As part of her MA program, Hayat is completing her counseling practicum with Asian Pacific Development Center, where “services are tailored to address the needs of immigrant and refugee status clients. Issues involving cultural adjustment, such as language, values, customs and behavioral differences, are often intimately associated with the client’s chief complaint” (APCD 2018). Hayat’s fluency in two languages, her strong interest in helping refugees, and her commitment to social justice make her a great addition to the team at APDC, and to the MA program here at MCE.

Hayat is eager to make a difference in the Denver community through her work with APDC, but her involvement with refugee advocacy and support began well before accepting her practicum position. In 2016, she volunteered with Northern Lights Aid, an NGO that started as a project to provide emergency relief and supplies to refugees in Lesvos, Greece, and now is “focused on implementing innovative, compassionate solutions and creating community-oriented projects serving around 400 residents of the Kavala Perigial camp (NLA 2018).

Recently, Hayat participated in the Vagina Monologues here on campus as part of the DU Health and Counseling Center’s Love+ Sex+ Health Week. The week-long event promotes education and awareness around issues of sex, sexuality and gender, and proceeds from the resistance-themed Vagina Monologues went to Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA) and the global organization VDAY. Hayat wanted to get involved with the event to promote gender equity on-campus, and to feed her passion for performing.

When asked why she chose the Counseling Psychology program at MCE, Hayat said that she appreciated the college’s emphasis on social justice and multicultural issues, and that she felt the CP faculty were compassionate and engaged. As a current student, she appreciates that the faculty are willing to work with students at all development levels, and they are willing to push some boundaries to foster real learning and growth in students.

We know that Hayat’s commitment to helping marginalized populations around the country and the world is part of what will make her a great counselor, and thought-leader in the field.

Laura Finkelstein (PhD ’14), has been keeping very busy since graduating from Morgridge College of Education at the University of Denver (DU). She spent the first year of her post-graduate professional career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. She then accepted a position as a staff psychologist at the University of Texas Dallas (UTD) Counseling Center until she was promoted to Outreach Coordinator. In her roles at UTD, she provided individual counseling for students dealing with a broad range of concerns, from adjustment issues to the emergence of more severe mental health symptoms. She ran several groups, including an Expressive Arts Therapy Group, a Men’s Issues Group, and a Self-Compassion group. She also oversaw outreach training, coordination, and provision for UTD students and staff.

More recently, Laura moved back to Washington, DC to be closer to family and has since opened her own private practice where she sees adults with a range of concerns and symptoms.  She focuses on trauma, relationship issues, men’s issues, and expressive art therapy, and she just recently accepted a position as the Director of the Counseling Center at Marymount University.

Laura remembers her time at DU and Morgridge fondly, particularly the relationships she built with faculty and instructors.

“They embodied the type of compassionate, curious psychologists I wanted to be, and in many ways continue to be important examples to me,” Finkelstein said. She also appreciated the broad scope of experiences and counseling skills that were a part of both the MA and PhD programs, which prepared her well for an assortment of challenges she has faced professionally.

Finkelstein was initially drawn to the field of counseling based on her fascination with people’s stories; their childhood, relationships to self and others, and construction of narratives. Before entering the field as a student and eventually a professional, Laura wrote for a fashion magazine but found that she was more interested in how individuals functioned psychologically in the industry than she was the fashion itself.

“I applied to the MA program to see if these interests would fit for me as a career,” she said. “Absolutely loving it from day one, I knew I wanted to continue through a PhD program and make a professional life out of psychology.”

“DU first came on my radar because I had a lot of friends from the East Coast, where I grew up, who had recently moved to Denver and loved the lifestyle. Through my research of the program and my interview, I was excited by the breadth of learning and experiences offered by the counseling program. The people in the program, my cohort and professors, kept me going and feeling inspired professionally.”

In the future, Finkelstein is open to different roles as a psychologist, including further work in counseling centers, either in a teaching or administrative capacity. In whichever direction her career in the field of counseling moves, she feels very prepared for a wide array of positions, which is one of things she appreciates most about having her degrees in Counseling Psychology.

“The path of a counseling psychology student, especially a Ph.D. candidate, was not always smooth,” she said. “There were many challenges and I definitely had moments where I questioned if I could do it. I have so much admiration and respect for students in these programs. To them I want to say, this can be such a rewarding and meaningful path, and it does get easier!”

Chesleigh Keene, a doctoral student in the Morgridge College of Education (MCE) Counseling Psychology program, is an exceptional student and an exemplar of inclusivity. She is an American Psychological Association (APA) Minority Fellow, is working on her dissertation, coauthoring a book chapter on best psychological practices for Native American girls and women, and working on her first first-authored article. In addition, she serves as the Research Chair for CO Psychological Association of Graduate Students (COPAGS).

Chesleigh combined professional and personal interests when she reached out to the Native American community in Denver through a nonprofit called Denver Indian Center. Through Denver Indian Center, she has volunteered her time to assist with community events and participated in sociopolitical events including attending the Sand Creek March in 2013 and raising awareness about the issues and controversy surrounding Standing Rock.

According to Keene, participating in these events puts her close to the current issues and allows her to see the impact of sociopolitical events on the Native community.

“This helps me to inform my practice for other groups that are similarly impacted, “she said. It also impacts my research as I consider what the most salient concerns in a community might be.”

Keene’s path to counseling psychology was largely influenced by her decision to take time off from education after her master’s graduation. During this time she worked in an inpatient psychiatric hospital and got to work with every type of psychology provider in one setting. It was there that she was encouraged and motivated to pursue a PhD. Her master’s was a research-based community counseling degree and initially Keene thought that she’d pursue a clinical PhD. Working in a neuroscience laboratory changed her mind and she realized she wanted the freedom of practice and research that counseling psychology allows. In in the field of counseling psychology, she could use her scientific background and her community training to inform her research practice.

After having decided what she wanted to study, Keene needed to find a program and an environment that suited her. Initially, she had not considered the University of Denver (DU). A friend she knew from Denver Health referred her to an open house that was hosted by University of Denver Morgridge College of Education. It was there that she was introduced to Anthea Johnson Rooen at DU’s Center for Multicultural Excellence, who assured her that she would receive the support and resources she needed to meet her educational goals. Rooen provided Keene with contacts and helped her build a larger network. Based on this experience, she felt that DU and MCE could provide her the opportunities she was seeking, not just as a doctoral student but as a Native American student.

“I think prospective students should really consider which programs are going to support their professional and personal growth,” she said. “Even as doc students, we have growing pains and it’s so helpful to have mentors and faculty who can share their own experiences of managing difficult caseloads or overwhelming deadlines and who can provide guidance.”

“In the end, you want to finish your doctoral education as a psychologist who still has all of that early enthusiasm, empathy, and drive still intact,” she continued “It doesn’t help anyone if you finish a program just a shadow of yourself, so consider how you will fare in the programs you’re considering.”

Earlier this year, masters and doctoral students in the Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology (CP) program saw a rising need in their community for social justice and advocacy for underrepresented people. Instead of sitting idly by, the students decided to take action through the creation of the Social Justice Committee with help from faculty members Pat Garriott and Ruth Chao.

Many students attend the CP program here at Morgridge specifically for its focus on issues of diversity and multiculturalism, and while much of our course content currently reflects that focus, many students and faculty feel we could still be doing more, hence the formation of the committee. Since the committee’s inception, they have kept busy with lots of activities and efforts to promote inclusive excellence and create a more equitable and welcoming space for all community members, both on campus and in the greater Denver area. Here are just a few ways they are making an impact:

  • Revamping Curricula: The Social Justice Committee is currently collaborating with faculty to find ways to incorporate issues of power, privilege, and inequity into all of the Counseling Psychology curriculum through possible instructor trainings, and reflective surveys for students where they can provide feedback on their in-class experience, particularly related to socio-political and multicultural climate in the classroom. Their hope is that in the future, curricula across University of Denver (DU) programs will reflect those themes, and provide a space where all students and faculty feel safe.
  • Workshops: They are working with the Center for Multicultural Excellence in hopes of providing training opportunities and workshops for all community members that address these issues. In the fall, several students in conjunction with the Social Justice Committee plan to host one such workshop on “Responding to Microaggressions” (stay tuned for further details).
  • Bias Incidence Reporting: The committee has also taken steps across campus to address issues of social justice, particularly in the reporting of bias-related incidents, and the way in which individuals are described and identified in reports of crime or other incidents. Committee members noticed that bias-related incidents were not consistently reported to the whole university community, and that many reports only identified individuals’ racial and ethnic identity if they were a person of color, and in turn joined the Bias Incident Response Team (BIRT) to address these issues with Campus Safety (who was very responsive to the committee’s concerns). Using counseling skills they’ve learned in the classroom and in practice, the team was able to effectively work with Campus Safety to change the way incidents are reported and improve the relationship between campus law enforcement and students. While this change is a step in the right direction, the committee thinks we can still do more. First year PhD student, Ellen Shupe, who led this effort, had this to say about the process: “Anytime you try to change a system you experience barriers. Hopefully through continued work with the Campus Safety department, we can continue to move in the direction of minimizing racial profiling and the criminalization of people of color on campus. Additionally, we want to make sure that violent acts against people of color are reported and investigated with as much urgency as those against white people.”

The Social Justice Committee currently meets twice a quarter, and they are always looking for new members who are committed to social change. For more information on joining the committee or their current efforts, you can contact PhD student, J. Galluzzo at Joseph.Galluzzo@du.edu, or subscribe to the Social Justice listserv here.

First-year Morgridge College of Education Counseling Psychology MA students, Helen Chao and Courtney Hadjeasgari, were selected as 2017-2018 STAY Fellows, and will receive up to $6000 each to support their training as mental health professionals and practitioners. The fellowship also provides a one-year membership to APA and the opportunity to participate in specialized training at next year’s Psychology Summer Institute in Washington D.C. in July 2018.

The APA STAY (Services for Transition Age Youth) Fellowship is an award program funded by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and offered through the Minority Fellowship Program to only the most deserving students in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age (16-25) youth.

Courtney Hadjeasgari

Courtney Hadjeasgari

Chao and Hadjeasgari are recognized as exceptional students who have strong interests in social justice and helping others through direct service.

At a young age, Chao witnessed firsthand how mental illness affected people’s lives, and decided that she needed to equip herself with skills and knowledge to help those around her who were suffering. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 2015, which furthered her interest in the field.

Hadjeasgari found her passion for counseling psychology during her two years of service as a Teach for America corps member. Teaching third grade in rural North Carolina, Hadjeasgari was able to understand the systemic problems that needed solving in the education system, while making a profound and immediate impact on the lives of students, families, and communities. “I witnessed the high need for clinicians in behavioral health and discovered my true passion for working with the ethnic minority youth population here. I knew that going into counseling psychology is where I needed to be,”  Hadjeasgari said.

Chao was first attracted to the University of Denver and MCE when she moved to Denver to provide direct service as a Young
Adult Volunteer
where she worked with a refugee resettlement agency, and at a day shelter for seniors without homes. That

Helen Chao

Helen Chao

experience solidified her commitment to social justice, and she found that MCE and DU provided her the best opportunity to continue to work toward social justice, and that the university’s creed of Inclusive Excellence rang true. During her initial admission interview Hadjeasgari appreciated how welcomed she felt by the Counseling Psychology faculty, and her research interests strongly aligned with many of those faculty members.

Both students have already contributed greatly to the program and department. Chao has been integral in the creation of the Counseling Psychology Social Justice Committee (more information on their contributions here), and co-leads Campus Conversations, which provides students and community members across disciplines a chance to interact and discuss issues of social justice and inequity. Hadjeasgari has been an active member of Dr. Pat Garriott’s research team, and has made many valuable contributions to the team’s research.

When asked if they have any advice for prospective students seeking a graduate program in Counseling Psychology, Chao says that it’s important to find a program that “walks the walk” when it comes to social justice and diversity.

“It’s important to find a program that nurtures and welcomes students and encourages student engagement,” Hadjeasgari. “Prospective students should go with a program that they feel a strong connection to, and that feels right. Speaking in-depth with as many professors as you can is important, since these are the educators you’re going to be learning from, and they will be leading you through your graduate work . . . The people you meet in graduate school are the ones who help you achieve your goals, present you with opportunity, and guide you along the way.”

The Counseling Psychology program, Morgridge College of Education, and the University of Denver congratulates Chao and Hadjeasgari for their dedication to social justice and mental health as recognized by this prestigious award.

When you hear the title, “school counselor,” you might think of someone who makes student schedule changes and hands out college applications. While school counselors are responsible for scheduling and post-graduation guidance, they do a lot more than that. Per the American School Counselor Association (ASCA): “school counselors are certified/ licensed educators with a minimum of a master’s degree in school counseling, making them uniquely qualified to address all students’ academic, career and social/emotional development needs by designing, implementing, evaluating and enhancing a comprehensive school counseling program that promotes and enhances student success.”

Not only has the role of school counselor grown, so has the need for school counselors across the country. The ASCA recommends a ratio of 1 school counselor to every 250 students. As of 2014, there were only 3 states in the U.S. that met that recommendation, with the majority of states well over a ratio of 1:400. In Colorado, the ratio was 1:395.

School districts and states across the country have taken notice of the deficit in school counseling, and many have made funding available in an attempt to fix the problem. Since 2008, Colorado has allocated over $13 million through the School Counselor Corps Grant Program (SCCGP) to secondary schools and school districts with particularly high dropout rates and low graduation rates to increase the amount of school counselors and counseling opportunities for their students.

In 2015, the U.S Department of Education awarded over $24.8 million in grants for 67 school districts across 26 states for school counseling and school mental health services. In late 2016 in Indiana, Lilly Endowment Inc. issued a request for proposals from schools in need of counseling resources, and will potentially award up to $30 million in funding across the state to hire more counselors and improve school counseling services.

What does this mean for jobs in school counseling? The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there will be 22,500 new jobs in the field, and an 8% growth overall by 2024. How can you prepare yourself for a job in school counseling? You need a Master’s degree in school counseling, which you can earn here at the Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver in our Counseling Psychology Master of Arts program. Our program prepares students for the School Counselor License in Colorado through the Colorado Department of Education, and allows you to work as a school counselor for children and young adults (up to age 21). Through this degree program, students have the opportunity to take interdisciplinary coursework in the areas of counseling and child development, and to complete a supervised practicum and internship in a school setting.

Second year Ph.D candidate, Brooke Lamphere, has a long history with the University of Denver (DU). In 2010 she completed her Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Sociology and Psychology. She then went on to complete her Master of Arts in Sports and Performance Psychology through the Graduate School of Professional Psychology here at DU in 2013. As a DU Alumna and second year Ph.D student in the Counseling Psychology program, Brooke knows and appreciates the connections the university makes within the greater Denver community. Connections that support marginalized and underrepresented populations, which she cites as a major factor in her decision to continue her education here. Brooke highly values the support received from faculty who encourage her to personalize and take ownership of her degree at DU. Her positive experiences in her undergraduate and Master’s programs at the university, combined with the emphasis on collaboration over competition in Morgridge, made it easy for her to choose the Counseling Psychology program for her doctoral work.

Brooke was first attracted to the field of counseling psychology based on her wide interest about the human condition, and her specific interests in strengths-based approaches to treatment, social justice, and multiculturalism in the field. She also likes being able to combine her interest and experience in sport, health, and positive psychology under one discipline. She loves the environment of working and studying in a university, and hopes to pursue a career in academia, both in research and teaching.

Brooke has had some interesting and eye-opening experiences in her clinical training thus far. She currently works as a psychology graduate student trainee at AF Williams Family Medicine Clinic, where she works with a diverse client-base present with a wide variety of physical and mental health issues. AF Williams Family Medicine works under an integrated healthcare model, in which all aspects of physical and mental health can be addressed by a collaborative team under one roof.  Brooke also has experience working with Eating Recovery Center’s Behavioral Health Hospital programs for adults with eating disorders, and other comorbid mental and physical health issues. This experience has broadened Brooke’s perspective, both personally and professionally, and reminded her to practice consistent self-care and self-compassion.

Brooke is very actively involved in research teams in the department, and has co-authored several manuscripts, one of which was recently accepted into the Journal of Health Psychology. She has completed extensive work with Dr. Trisha Raque-Bogdan on the psychology of cancer survivorship and the utility of self-compassion. She also works with the Marsico Institute lab on their Early Learning Trajectories team, and as a team member in Dr. Jesse Owen’s Relationships and Psychotherapy research lab.

For prospective students who are looking for a counseling psychology graduate program, Brooke recommends not only finding a fit with research interests and career goals, but selecting a program that aligns with your personal and professional value system. Brooke feels that the Morgridge College of Education and the University of Denver create opportunities to work collaboratively toward our goals of fostering an inclusive and socially just academic environment that respects and honors diversity in experience, interest, and identity.

Substance abuse and addiction is an issue that affects nearly 12% of the US population directly, with over 21 million adults battling substance use disorders each year according to American Addiction Centers. That figure doesn’t account for family members and friends of addicts that are indirectly affected. Counseling Psychology Master’s student, and NAADAC fellow, Elizabeth Kidd, put it well: “When you are counseling someone with an addiction, you are also touching the lives of their friends, family members, and community. Addiction harms not only the person who is struggling, but also the people who surround them.”

Heroin use is at an all-time high, with rates of use tripling from 2002 to 2014. According to a CBS News report, current rates of overdose deaths are at 5 times what they were in 2000. The Surgeon General recently released its first ever report on alcohol, drugs, and health, titled “Facing Addiction in America.” Amongst the report’s key findings are figures representing the financial impact of addiction and substance abuse: It is estimated that the yearly economic impact of substance misuse is $249 billion for alcohol misuse and $193 billion for illicit drug use”.

These figures are scary, but with adequate funding and services, and appropriate training for medical and therapeutic professionals, it can get better. This year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $53 million in funding to 44 states to help address the opioid and heroin epidemic through prevention efforts, making treatment more readily available, and multiple other support services. There is also a growing amount of funding available to students wishing to learn about and work in the field of addictions counseling. Several of our Master’s students were awarded substantial fellowships through NAADAC this year, totaling over $90,000 in scholarships awarded to students in the addictions specialization. One of those students, Riley Cochran, said this about the field: “Especially in today’s world where substances are more readily available than help, it is imperative that those interested in the field of addiction counseling make significant efforts to reduce the stigmas of addiction and make treatment more readily available.”

The projected rate of growth in employment for Substance Abuse Counselors is 22%, making it one of the fastest growing career paths in the country. This means that over the next few years there will be more jobs in the field of addictions counseling than there are professionals to fill those jobs.

Here in the Counseling Psychology program, we offer Master’s students the opportunity to pursue a specialization in addictions counseling that covers timely and practical content that prepares students for jobs in the addictions counseling field. For students who wish to work in the state of Colorado, the specialization provides the coursework required for certification as a Colorado Addiction Counselor II (CAC II), making students especially qualified and hireable in a wide variety of mental health and school settings. Our program has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Office of Behavioral Health, making the application process for certification simple and straight-forward. According to Master’s student and NAADAC fellow, Demi Folds, “This program enables me to take what is discussed in class and apply it to my work with clients almost immediately.” If you feel passionate about helping people, especially those suffering from substance abuse disorders, a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a specialization in addictions counseling might be for you. Check out our website for more information on the program.

Counseling Psychology alumna, Khara Croswaite, M.A,, LPC, has been busy since graduating in 2012. She is a business owner and a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in the Lowry neighborhood of Denver, Colorado.  In addition to supporting students, adults and Medicaid clients with anxiety, depression, trauma and life transitions, she also offers clinical supervision as an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS) to Masters-level clinicians seeking licensure in Colorado as an LPC.  She even teaches as an Adjunct Faculty at Red Rocks Community College in the Psychology Department!

We had a chance to catch up with Khara to talk a little bit about her work, and how she feels the Counseling Psychology Master’s program here at Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver, prepared her to enter the counseling field. “DU was vital in contributing to my success in the Denver professional community today. It was thanks to DU that I received a competitive, valued degree that allowed me to find the right jobs based on hands-on experience in the program.  DU contributed to my ability to build a solid network of professionals and resources in the metro area to be successful in private practice. I am a proud alum and hope to give back to the University in the future as an educator!”

In addition to her professional work, Khara is currently presenting workshops on self-harm, suicide and safety planning, including the Mental Health Professionals conference at DU, hosted by the Colorado Counseling Association, scheduled for next April. If you would like to see Khara, and other counseling professionals, present at the conference, make sure to register here.

So what are Khara’s future plans? The next item on her to-do list is to get into a Ph.D. program in Counseling Education and Supervision in order to continue teaching, which she loves. She also hopes to write a collaborative book next year with colleagues to support clinicians working in Community-based programs.

As we enter into 2017, it is a good time for a reminder of the values of the Counseling Psychology Department at the Morgridge College of Education. Said concisely, our faculty, staff, and students work to promote social justice and stand against hateful, discriminatory, and divisive language and actions. Although this statement may appear to be an affirmation of common sense, in 2016 we witnessed an alarming increase in hate speech and discriminatory rhetoric, including encouraging for violence towards women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and generally other underrepresented populations in our country. Sitting down, remaining silient, and accepting this behavior as the new normal is not an option, at least not for us. For instance, our faculty and students continue to be active in promoting our values (Click here for an example of Dr. Garriott’s examination of power and privilege dynamics in society).

Our department’s recognition of the primacy of social justice translated this year into five students awarded fellowships from the SAMSA and NAADAC’s Minority Fellowship Program. The Fellowship Program’s stated goal is to reduce health disparities and improve behavioral health care outcomes for racially diverse populations including minority and LGBT populations, and transition age youth. Additionally, another student was awarded APA’s Minority Fellowship.

During these times we must try to remind ourselves that ultimately the convictions and dedication of the community to justice and respect for all people, has, and will continue to prevail. Our students, faculty and staff have committed themselves to justice and equity through tangible actions. We have participated in on-campus rallies in support of Native Americans at Standing Rock, advocating for a sanctuary campus, and additional political protests around the city. Our on-going forum, called Campus Conversations, provided a great space to organize our efforts and voice our opinions and feelings about happenings on-campus and around the world, especially as they relate to discrimination and equal rights. Evolving from this group, the Counseling Psychology Department created a CP specific Social Justice Committee. We also started a social justice listserv to provide community members a platform to share events and stories, and to organize grassroots efforts to continue the fight against hate. Our faculty are also engaged with several initiatives focused on promoting social justice locally in our Denver-metro area as well as around the nation (check out their profiles to learn more). Perhaps our most important effort is the one we give to each other every day in seeking to learn and understand concepts and people that are unfamiliar to us, and to honor each other’s unique identities.

We will continue the to combat against hate, and to promote a more loving world, and we hope that you will too. We leave you with the powerful words of Margaret Mead that ring true, now more than ever: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


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