April is Counselor Awareness Month

April is "Counselor Awareness Month," and educating the public about the extensive training required for counselors and the many ways that counselors serve the community, is one of the goals of Dr. Lynn Haley-Banez, assistant professor of Counselor Education at Fairfield University.

"Nearly every segment of society uses, at some point, the skilled training of counselors. They are some of the unsung heroes in our communities who are there to help people through times of crisis and important decision-making," she said.

Meghan McHugh of Norwalk, who graduated last May, completed 48 credits to earn her master's degree in counseling. Now a school counselor at Roger Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, she is about half-way through completing the 3,000 hours of supervised practice she needs to qualify as a Professional Counselor. She expects it will take two to three years beyond her master's degree before she can qualify to take the licensing exam that will lead to the Professional Counselor status.

Many people think school counselors only help students select courses, but at the Middle School level, she interacts with students on a variety of issues. "It's important for kids to have someone they can talk with and feel comfortable with, whether we are looking at their test scores or discussing a problem," Meghan explains. She meets with students to discuss everything from issues with a friend to abuse issues and everything in between.

At Blackham School in Bridgeport, Kathy Gombos of Fairfield works with students who are in Kindergarten to third grade as well as seventh and eighth-graders.

She uses a lot of developmental guidance techniques to help the younger children with social skills, such as friendship, classroom behavior and self esteem. She works with the older children in groups to help them learn anger management and conflict resolution.

Her clients total more than 500 children and she admits the job can be daunting. Still, she can't imagine being anywhere else. "We have parents who are just wonderful and I love our kids. It's important to keep them in school," she said. Her main job, she emphasizes, is being an advocate for the children.

Across town, at Family Services Woodfield, Karen Brockman of Westport, works in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services division. And while she didn't anticipate working with people with psychiatric disabilities, the year-long practicum she completed at Woodfield has cemented her interest in the field. She said the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions at Fairfield prepared her well and she felt comfortable doing clinical work at Woodfield with supervision. So comfortable and so capable, it turns out, she was offered a position when her practicum was over.

Karen counsels adults who are about age 25 and up, either individually or in groups. Each client's program is individualized as she works to enhance their independence and self-sufficiency.

John Dunphy of Norwalk is a counselor at Darien High School where 95 percent of graduating seniors go on to college. He helps students prepare for the rigors of the application process, advising them how to build a resume and recommending schools that fit their interests and abilities. He says his training prepared him to help students so they don't feel smothered by the process, which can be intense and highly competitive.

For students who are not interested college, he provides career development assessment and guidance to students individually.

Fairfield University offers concentrations in Community Counseling and School Counseling in its Counselor Education Program. For further information, please call (203) 254-4250.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on April 1, 2000

Vol. 32, No. 206

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