Keosha Branch, a doctoral student in the counselor education program, was one of 23 students across the country selected as a National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellow for 2016-2017. The fellowship was established to engage diverse individuals in counseling and increase the number of counselors providing effective, culturally competent services to underserved populations.
The $20,000 award will help Branch continue her research in the use of positive psychology in offender populations. Her interest in the topic stems from three years working as the mental health director in a Richmond jail. “During my time there, I saw vast need for mental health and substance abuse treatment within an often forgotten population,” says Branch.
Branch is exploring whether the “broaden-and-build” theory from positive psychology can be applied to offender populations. The theory suggests that positive emotions, such as joy and interest, encourage new, varied and exploratory thoughts and actions. Over time, these behaviors help an individual build skills and resources. Branch says if her hypothesis holds true, the next step will be to develop new treatment and intervention strategies specifically for offender populations.
The fellowship also supports professional development opportunities, allowing Branch to attend conferences and providing a one-on-one mentorship with a professional in the field of counselor education.
“I am truly grateful for the many doors the NBCC Foundation has opened for me and look forward to continuing my research and work with the offender population,” says Branch.