Singer, Songwriter and Counselor-in-Training: Sofia Softas-Nall
May 20, 2019
In this podcast, University of Northern Colorado graduate student Sofia Softas-Nall discusses how she’s using the award-winning study she produced as a graduate student at the National University of Ireland to help students with chronic physical and mental illness at UNC’s Psychological Services Clinic.
In April, she received a 2019 International Psi Chi Rocky Mountain Psychological Association Regional Research Award for her study in Ireland.
While pursuing her second master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at UNC, Sofia is also a songwriter and lead singer for a local band featuring UNC School of Music students. The song used in this podcast is by Sofia’s band, Blue Lady, and is called, “In The Woods.”
Recent UNC graduate Josh Parsons sat down with UNC alumna and current graduate student Softas-Nall to discuss her research in Ireland, the award she received, her band and more.
Follow along with the podcast's transcript below:
Hi, I’m Katie Corder, the creative content producer at the University of Northern Colorado. Recent UNC graduate Josh Parsons sat down with UNC alumna and current graduate student Sofia Softas-Nall.
In this podcast, Sofia discusses how she’s using the award-winning study she produced as a graduate student at the National University of Ireland to help students with chronic physical and mental illness at UNC’s Psychological Services Clinic. While pursuing her second master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at UNC, Sofia is also a songwriter and lead singer for a local band featuring UNC School of Music students. The song used in this podcast is by Sofia’s band, Blue Lady, and is called, “In The Woods.”
Can you describe to me, in simplest terms, the study you conducted in Ireland?
Yeah, it was a study on well-being, in emerging adults, that was 18- to 25-year-olds, who had a chronic illness, and we looked at levels of well-being in 18- to 25-year-olds with cancer or chronic pain, anxiety, depression, it was both physical and mental conditions. And that was part of my master’s dissertation for my Master of Science over there.
Can you explain your inspiration for the study?
I had to do a master’s dissertation to graduate from my program, and it was a study that was already there, it was part of like a youth mental health lab. So, my supervisors already had this program set up, and they kind of put me on it, but I’m really glad that I ended up there because I really enjoyed the research, and I have a chronic illness myself, so I think it’s really important research to do.
What are we defining as a ‘chronic illness?’
So, there’s a lot that goes into that. It’s usually long-lasting, which means more than three months, and that can be physiological, neurological, biological, psychological, a lot of things go into that. Usually conditions, like cancer, chronic pain, anxiety, diabetes, asthma, so long-lasting and has an impact on your quality of life.
Can you describe the findings and implications of your study?
Yeah, so we found that 18- to 25-year-olds in Ireland had lower levels of self-esteem than their peers who didn’t have a chronic illness. So, it shows that one place, maybe in counseling, in groups or individual therapy, is to work on self-esteem, and also, university supports and college supports because we looked at colleges of further education, which weren’t universities but kind of more like community colleges in the U.S., a little different but they’re pretty comparable, and just the amount of services and what students can be offered. So, some things that I found that were implications that would be great would be like groups for students who have illnesses, and more mental health support and things like that because it is smaller colleges and usually universities have more support. So those were some findings.
Students who had chronic illnesses were reporting that they had lower levels of well-being, so it just shows that we need more research in this area to be able to support students through their education.
Do you plan to expand on your first research, or your initial research?
Yeah, I would love to! Right now, I’m doing another master’s in counseling here at UNC, but I will do a Ph.D. someday, and I would really love to continue this research. I’ve had a lot of family members who’ve had illnesses, so I’ve been kind of trying to put myself into places where I can help others in that position, and I did an internship at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Institute here at UNC, and I hope to do a study with them, or something like that.
How would you sum up that initial research project?
We need to walk together with students who have chronic conditions, support them, being there for them, recognizing that they need a little more help maybe than other students.
What can you tell me about the organization … I think it’s Psi Chi?
Yeah, Psi Chi. It’s an international psychology society, and they have, I don’t know I can’t tell you how many, thousands of members all over the world. I think they’re located in Tennessee, but they were here for a conference that I went to in Denver, and I got the award from them for my research. And they have a chapter here at UNC.
Did you get to the present at that conference?
Yeah, I did, I presented my research at Rocky Mountain Psychological Association. I know that’s a lot of words! But yeah, I did, I had all of my mentors there and some family there, and it was great.
Awesome. You said you were doing your masters, what is your current area of research?
I’m not currently doing research because I’m working with clients, so I came to UNC to do the counseling master’s actually because my last master’s was in research. I wanted to apply that, and I felt like, ‘It’s great, I did the study, and I found all of these things, but I want to apply them and be able to help people who have chronic conditions.’ So, I’m seeing clients at the Psychological Services Clinic at UNC, and I’m just going to be working with people for now. Applying the research, not doing it as much now.
Why did you choose UNC?
I chose UNC because I’m from Greeley, so I grew up here, and I’m also Greek, so I kind of grew up in Greece, as well. It’s familiar to me, and I have a lot of friends here, it’s my hometown.
So, I have to ask, how did you wind up in Ireland?
I went on a vacation there once with some friends, and we rented a car and traveled around, and I just fell in love, went to a national park and I was like, ‘This is so beautiful and so green, I have to live here!’ And so, I applied for school, and I got in, and I got a scholarship and it all fell into place, I never expected that I would go to Ireland.
So, what do you do outside of psychology?
I do music, yeah, so I’m pretty super nerdy into my field, but I play at like bars and breweries and small theaters and things like that. I’m a singer/songwriter, and I have a band called, Blue Lady.
Really? Tell me a little bit about that band.
So, it’s made up of UNC students, actually many, actually ALL of the students are from the UNC Jazz program, except for me. I taught myself how to do music, but I play with the professionals because they are so good and I’m lucky to play with them. We play indie, folk, rock music, and we writer our own songs, we record in the studio here at UNC.
How has UNC helped you on your journey?
I’ve had really great mentors here who really supported me to go to Ireland, and they were part of the reason I was able to go out there. I hope to do more research, it’s kind of in the works, and I’ve been talking with a professor. We’ve published a paper on meaning in life and self-hood and kind of like human connection to nature and why that’s important for health and obviously for the world and the state that we are in. I hope to work on a research project, we’re talking about it, and I just had great mentors who really pushed me.
I think that’s all I have. Thanks so much for your time.
Okay, great, thank you!
Ending song lyrics from Blue Lady’s, “In the Woods”:
"This is for the girl, used to be.
I called to reach her, singing, be free, be free.
As you were, in the woods.
Round the riverbend.
Laughing in the woods with your friends.
Yea, you were laughing in the woods with your friends.
In the woods.
In the woods.
She called home.
I ain’t got no time for your politics.
It’s time to hit the road, I got to go.
One day, one day, I’ll be back."