Maria Leija Briones, PMHCA ‘21, receives NBCCF Minority Fellowship to better serve the Latinx community
The National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation (NBCCF), recently selected Maria del Carmen Leija Briones, Professional Mental Health Counseling with Specialization in Addictions (PMHCA) ’21, as the NBCC Minority Fellowship Program-Addictions Counselors (MFP-AC) recipient. This program helps increase diversity throughout the counseling profession, with more than 400 doctoral and master’s students having received scholarships to practice counseling in underserved areas as of today.
Leija Briones is a first-generation Latina, originally from a small town outside San Luis Potosi, Mexico, who came to the United States at the age of 15. Leija Briones faced the barriers of a new language and new culture. However, these obstacles did not prevent her from obtaining her bachelor’s degree from Portland State University and pursuing a Counseling Psychology graduate program at Lewis & Clark.
Leija Briones first experienced the counseling world while working as a Bilingual Spanish speaking Peer Court Case Manager and Drug and Alcohol Counselor in various nonprofit organizations in primarily underserved minority communities. Most recently she served in a juvenile justice setting as a Bilingual Spanish speaking Juvenile Counselor.
“While I was working with youth who were struggling with substance use, I realized the need to recognize mental health and substance use as co-occurring problems,” says Leija Briones. “By becoming aware of the high need that there is in the Latinx community to receive appropriate counseling services, I decided that it was time for me to start my journey in the counseling profession.”
Leija Briones recognizes the impact that faculty of color had on her journey of navigating higher education as a Latina/Mexicana. Lewis & Clark’s Counseling Psychology Assistant Professor, Alexia DeLeon provided Leija Briones with ongoing support to expand her knowledge and her professional development.
“I had great mentors who helped me to navigate the higher education system as a first-generation Latina student, and I strive to pay that forward by mentoring other students in their educational journey,” says DeLeon.
Upon graduating, Leija Briones would like to continue working with underserved minority communities, with a focus on Latinx youth and their families. “I am a member of this population and I am aware of the lack of resources and lack of opportunities that this population experiences” adds Leija Briones.
Leija Briones advises other students and new professionals in counseling to go out of their comfort zone.
“Look for educational opportunities outside of the school. Experience working with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds, and look for webinars or training that can enrich your knowledge about counseling.”
More information about the Graduate School’s counseling programs is available on our website.