Program of the Month Q&A: CMHC Student Jan Pelletier

Jan Pelletier is in her last year of the clinical mental health counseling (CMHC) program at Medaille College. An online student who currently resides in South Carolina, she chose Medaille because of the strength of the program and because it follows New York State requirements, which are among the most stringent for certification. Since Pelletier moves frequently due to her husband’s work, she likes that the high requirements make it easier to transfer licensure to another state if needed.


What led to your decision to pursue a CMHC degree?

I was volunteering as a mentor in an inner-city elementary school, working with young girls who were suffering from symptoms of childhood trauma. I noticed how a small bit of encouragement and advocacy had such a positive impact on them, and a long-held dream of mine to become a clinician was reignited.


Describe your experience in the online CMHC program. What stands out or has been a favorite aspect? 

As a student in the online CMHC program at Medaille, I have been with the same group of students in a cohort since our first course in September 2015. I had no concept of how online learning would unfold. I took a leap of faith in Medaille’s endorsement of the approach, and also sought out positive outcomes from scientific studies of asynchronous learning. The biggest surprise of this experience has also been my favorite aspect: I appreciate each of my cohort members, the experiences and perspectives they represent, and the value they add to my learning.


What types of things have you learned about yourself and your career goals from your studies?

The CMHC program asserts a strong aspect of the effects of culture and society on mental health, mental illness and mental health services. I learned how passionate I am about cultural equity and personal awareness. This understanding is key to developing mental health services that are more responsive to the cultural and social contexts of racial and ethnic minorities. I learned that by respecting and approaching clients from their unique cultural context, I am not only practicing ethically and morally, but I am also contributing to the greater good of society.


What is the best advice you have received from a CMHC faculty member?

As the mother of two children, the supportive wife of a partner with a demanding  career,  the loyal daughter of aging parents and a dedicated Medaille student, it is very easy and  natural to place my needs behind the needs of others. I have had consistent guidance and  encouragement from both professor Michele Bauman and Dr. Donald Nowak to allow  and value self-care. Self-care is considered to be an important aspect of resiliency; those  who are able to adequately meet personal needs are often able to better cope with  everyday stressors. Adopting this practice makes us better partners, caregivers, students and professionals.


What would you like to do with your degree after you graduate?

The next step after graduation is to gain licensure (to be a Licensed Professional Counselor) in South Carolina. I would love to continue the work I am doing in my internship, which is trauma-informed care for children, adolescents and their caretakers.


What advice would you give to current undergraduate students or those trying to decide on a major/degree?

A series of small goals, one after the next, can lead you to a big success. If committing to a program seems too overwhelming, break it down into smaller benchmarks. Focus on and commit to each piece. This will relieve some of the pressure of committing to the whole. Listen for negative self-speak and challenge it with a positive re-frame. Each accomplished goal will build your confidence for the next challenge. Push through the challenges and nothing will stop you!

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