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Combining best practice, science and the art of counseling

Matthew Kasopsky, counseling and clinical mental health track first-year graduate student, says that there is much to appreciate about the field of counseling. “One thing I really love about the program is that while we are all passionate about counseling, we have different interests, which lead to some great conversations,” he said. “Even though we have broad areas of interest, faculty members foster a positive environment and support us in our different clinical and research interests.”

Kasopsky, from Norristown, Pa., explains that as students, they started practicing counseling on the first day of classes. “There is something to be said about counseling being both an art and a science. You can learn the science part, but you must practice the art side of it to get good,” he added.

Students take classes dedicated strictly to practicing and receiving feedback from professors, mental health professionals and second-year grad students. Kasopsky likes the process. “This has been extremely helpful for me to learn how to be a good counselor and find my counseling style,” he said.

Kasopsky knew he wanted to go into a “helping” profession. “I've always loved making connections and supporting people. I thought about medicine, social work and law but I couldn't figure out exactly which direction I wanted to go in,” he said. “As I continued taking classes I discovered that I really enjoyed learning about human behavior.”

He realized that wished to make a difference in society. “With the current substance use crisis, I wanted to be more educated about addiction and mental health, so I minored in addiction studies,” Kasopsky said. “After I learned more about the counseling process and the career itself, I realized that this is something that I might enjoy. Counseling is the perfect space to learn about human behavior and make a difference at the same time.”

Kasopsky chose the West Virginia University counseling program for a variety of reasons. “I have a few friends who have gone through the program and had nothing but good things to say about it. After talking to faculty from programs across the northeast and mid-west I realized that there were a few things that set WVU apart from other programs,” he said.

Kasopsky says that CAHS and counseling faculty emphasize the personal mental well-being and growth of their students. “The faculty in the program support us and want to make sure that we are the best versions of ourselves that we can be so we can provide quality counseling to our future clients,” he added.

“One thing that underlines this approach is the program's cohort model. Because everyone in the program takes all the same classes and is mostly on the same schedule, you become close. Often, we will lean on each other for support. You can't find that in every program,” Kasopsky said.

Kasopsky says that there is a lot to love about being a WVU student. “One of the things that stands out to me the most is the ability to find close connections within the larger WVU community. Going back to the cohort model, being able to lean on and bounce ideas off my classmates has been super beneficial,” he said.

Looking ahead, Kasopsky wants to earn a Ph.D. in counseling psychology. “I'd like to do research and focus on mental health disparities across various marginalized populations. I want to work to address them in meaningful ways,” he said. His goal is to help shift the public narrative surrounding minoritized communities and mental health to improve mental health policy.

Kasopsky says that for students considering a degree in counseling, it is important to commit to self-growth, open-mindedness and receptiveness to feedback. “Training to be a counselor means that you are going to get a lot of input from different angles,” he explained. “That may include assessment on counseling skills and use of theory/technique, cultural competence/ humility, or areas of personal growth to best serve your clients.”

“Sometimes it can feel like a lot, but at the end of the day, you need to look at your goal, which is not to get good grades but to be the best, most competent clinician that you can be,” Kasopsky said. “It's important to remember that the views you receive are not reflective of you as a person but are coming from a place driven by best practices, science and the experience of the experts within our department.”

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