Alumni Spotlight: Gabriele Smith, M.A., LMHC, NCC
July 05, 2010
Many influences contributed to my desire for a counseling career. My family includes a number of social service professionals (social workers, counselors, clinical psychologist), so it was natural for me to aspire to having a similar career someday.
However, it wasn’t until I received a diagnosis of cancer that I took stock of my own life and recognized that someday had arrived. I wanted to have an impact on others. That would be my lasting legacy, my “immortality”. I wanted my headstone to be something more significant than “she liked the outdoors and horses”. It was this quest that took me from Tampa, Florida to enroll at the University of Missouri, Rolla.
After completing my undergraduate degree, I entered Lewis and Clark College’s Masters in Community Counseling program (Counseling Psychology Department), Portland, Oregon where I focused on counseling children and their families. My life as a graduate student included rigorous academic studies, collegiality with other students, practicing counseling skills and thinking ahead to the time when I would have both the credentials and sufficient supervised counseling to practice independently as in the State of Washington.
The Counseling Psychology Department at Lewis and Clark College stressed the value of experience and required all graduate students to acquire substantial experience as a helper prior to entering internship. For a time I volunteered with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). Serving as a voice for children in the foster care system affirmed my desire to work with children.
I also volunteered in the private practice of a local psychologist whose focus is the families of children with Autism, Sensory Disorders, Aspergers Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorders. Later she hired me for part-time work in her practice.
My final year of graduate studies included an internship as a Child and Family Therapist at a local community mental health agency. My caseload included children and families struggling to overcome multiple life stressors. I gained experience diagnosing and treating children who are challenged by a range of mental health issues, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Adjustment Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive-Compulsive, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. When I received my M.A. in Community Counseling in 2006, I knew that I can make a difference in the world, especially in the lives of children.
During my last term in graduate school I sat for the NBCC exam, an exam which most states use as the exam for licensure. Professors encouraged us to take the exam at this first opportunity, because the content areas of the exam were still fresh in our minds (theoretical models, research foundations, career development, lifespan development, etc.). Following this advice proved to be a good decision on my part. After passing the exam, the only remaining component to qualify for licensure was to acquire the necessary clock hours of supervised post-Masters counseling (usually 2-3 years after graduation). I completed those requirements in March 2009. Since that time I have been both a National Certified Counselor and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the State of Washington, living my dream.
I started my own private practice at the beginning of 2007, transitioning into my own brick and mortar office in June 2007. My practice, In Touch Counseling Services, Vancouver, Washington, has developed to the point where I now focus on helping women with transition issues, anxiety, and depression. I also treat children with deficits in social thinking, and I offer children’s social skills groups and girl-power self-esteem groups.
Eighteen months ago I joined a weekly peer consulting group that serves as a professional practice think tank. These collegial interactions have been quite valuable and have influenced the course of my professional practice. One outcome of these discussions is collaboration between a colleague and myself, offering training for new counselors wishing to establish a private practice. The Development Center is located at 203 Park Plaza Dr, Suite# 105.
I enjoy working with Lewis and Clark graduate students. Students wanting counseling to meet Counseling Psychology Department requirements, and students/alumni interested in establishing a private practice are welcome to contact me to schedule an appointment: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.718.8544.