Nicholas' Story

Recent Graduate

Started Program: 2010

Why graduate school?
I decided to go to graduate school because I was working full-time as a case manager for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and wanted to learn how to serve my clients in a deeper way. Most of my clients were experiencing chronic homelessness due to severe and persistent mental health illness, trauma, and other systemic issues. I wanted to gain skills and knowledge that would help me walk next to them in their pain and joys.

Why did you select UNC?
I selected UNC for two primary reasons: reputation and flexibility. In my research and speaking with professionals in the field, UNC was often named for having a challenging, ethical, and intentional program. Secondly, UNC offered a schedule that allowed me to take courses on the weekends so I could maintain my full-time employment. The combination of their reputation and flexibility allowed me to focus on learning without questioning how to make ends meet or if the program was meeting my expectations and goals.

Nicholas' Headshot

Graduate Program

Clinical Counseling – M.A. – 2013

Previous Degrees

Psychology – B.A. – 2007, University of Dayton

Tell us a little about what you're doing now, post-graduation from UNC.
I am currently the Program Director for an adolescent day treatment program at Aurora Mental Health Center. The program supports up to 16 adolescents struggling with mental health, behavioral issues, and learning disabilities in multiple settings, typically school and home. I provide support and supervision to a team of clinicians and special education teachers implementing various interventions like individual therapy, family therapy, group therapy, and classroom behavior management.

I also manage a private practice in Denver where I provide individual, couple, and family therapy. This year I have partnered with another clinician to grow into a group practice in order to serve more clients and offer learning opportunities to newer clinicians.

Finally, I am an adjunct faculty member for a local university teaching undergraduate psychology courses.

Explain how your degree aided you in achieving your goals.
My degree aided me in achieving these goals by preparing me for licensure as a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT). I earned my LPC in 2015 and my LMFT in 2017. The degree and program prepared me to be ethical and competent in my clinical work by encouraging continuous learning, supervision, and consultation with respected colleagues and experts in the field. UNC's faculty provided mentoring and consultation post-graduation, which modeled integrity to the profession they taught throughout the program.

Please explain how the journey of graduate school has changed you.
The journey of graduate school was humbling. The clinical counseling program required constant personal reflection and confrontation of my worldviews, behaviors, and communication styles. I was encouraged to face my insecurities and understand how I desire to present myself in the world to clients, friends, family, and the community. My most challenging, compassionate, and integrous professor shared many mantras with me, but one of many that I continue to carry with me today is understanding the intention and impact of my interactions with others. She challenged me to be mindful, clearly communicate, and explore ways to soften some of my rougher edges. To credit her again in reflection of my journey of graduate school, she helped me become comfortable understanding that "life is not stability with periods of transition, but transition with periods of stability." Graduate school helped me develop congruence between my values and actions.

Were there any strategies you found helpful to keep you on track to complete your degree?
One strategy that I found most helpful was to meet with my adviser at the beginning of each semester and ask for help. This strategy allowed me to plan my course work and feel known by receiving specific feedback on ways to continue growing academically, personally, and professionally.

Do you have any advice for students who may be considering whether or not to pursue a graduate degree at UNC?
I would recommend working for a few years after undergraduate school to allow for personal and professional experiences. Having some personal and professional experiences allowed me to enter my graduate program with more understanding and focus of the direction I wanted to follow.