Children’s Book Published by Dr. Hennessey Lustica Addresses Social and Emotional Wellness During the Pandemic

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Children’s Book Published by Dr. Hennessey Lustica Addresses Social and Emotional Wellness During the Pandemic

Posted by Medaille College Office of Communications

Masks & Smiles by Dr. Hennessey Lustica

Clinical Assistant Professor Hennessey Lustica, Ph.D., LMHC, from Medaille College’s Department of Counseling & Clinical Psychology, recently wrote and published a children’s book titled Masks & Smiles. As a school-based mental health provider and parent herself, Dr. Lustica worried about the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic and wearing masks can have on the social and emotional wellness of elementary-aged children, especially with the return to school this fall. The illustrated book shares the journey of one student’s day at school, focused on the expressions he knows are behind his helpers’ masks. Knowing that the masks might feel scary and unfamiliar, this story normalizes these feelings while reuniting the main character with bus drivers, crossing guards, teachers, administrators, lunch monitors, firefighters, policemen, doctors, nurses, the mailman and family members. Each helper’s smile is described behind a unique and colorful mask to help children feel at ease at school.

Masks & Smiles is already being used in schools across New York State and can now be purchased on Amazon. Dr. Lustica, who has been interviewed and featured in a WHEC-TV news story about the book, says that inspiration struck her after she took a trip to the grocery store during the COVID-19 pause. She noticed that she was not able to see the other shoppers’ facial expressions throughout the store. Feeling uneasy and sad as an adult, she became worried about the effects that not seeing smiling faces might have on young children.  

Dr. Lustica earned her Ph.D. in counselor education and supervision from the University of Rochester, has a permanent certification as a school counselor and is licensed as a mental health counselor in New York State. In addition to 16 years of experience as a school counselor, she runs a private practice in Rochester, serving children, adolescents and families experiencing anxiety, trauma and depression. She also works as community schools mental health grant director for Sodus Central School District.

Dr. Lustica is steadfast in her contribution to research within the counseling field, and has presented at state, regional and national conferences on a wide variety of school counseling topics. Dedicated to service within the counseling community, Dr. Lustica has served as the western region event chair for the American Counseling Association of New York (ACA-NY), the graduate chair and representative to the Executive Council of the North Atlantic Region of Counselor Educators and Supervisors (NARACES), and founded the NARACES School Counseling Interest Community as a forum for research and professional development within our region. Most recently, Dr. Lustica was the recipient of the 2019 Leadership Award from the New York State School Counselor Association (NYSSCA), in which she is an active member.