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New Horizons Family Counseling Center wins award from the American Counseling Association

  • An honor from the ACA:
    An honor from the ACA:  Two doctoral students in counselor education, Nate Wagner (left) and Colin Vaughn (right), pose with Gerard Lawson Ph.D. '02, president-elect of the ACA.  
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Don Dinkmeyer was a pioneer in the counseling field, working to help children and families gain the skills needed to live in today’s world and creating new models in family counseling services. Every year, the American Counseling Association (ACA) recognizes one individual or organization with the Don Dinkmeyer Social Interest Award for significant contributions to families. This year, William & Mary’s New Horizons Family Counseling Center took home the award for its commitment to improving the lives of community families.

“New Horizons is a model in how to engage in the community to address the needs of families,” said Gerard Lawson Ph.D. ’02, president-elect of the ACA. “The services are high quality and the program looks for opportunities to be innovative and flexible, while still following the approaches and methods that have proven to be effective.”

New Horizons offers free family counseling provided by advanced master’s and doctoral-level students under the supervision of licensed William & Mary faculty. More than three decades since its founding, the center now serves 250-300 families per year at locations across the area, offering area families access to family counseling that they would not be able to access or afford otherwise.

A hallmark of the center’s work is a whole-family approach to counseling. “New Horizon’s philosophy is to serve families as a system and meet their needs as completely as possible,” said Lawson. The entire family is encouraged to participate in counseling, and the center’s services are flexible enough to adapt to the needs of any family.

The counselors at the center are master’s and doctoral degree students in the W&M School of Education’s counselor education program. This training offers students a unique opportunity to work directly with clients, complete clinical practice requirements to become licensed therapists, and pursue research related to counseling practices.

“Working at New Horizons, I've adopted the clinic's focus on providing family-oriented services that are connected and coordinated throughout the community,” said Colin Vaughn, a doctoral student in counselor education and an intern at the center. “My clinical work, research focus, and teaching passions are all related to family counseling, and that comes directly from my experiences at New Horizons. I know that I want to continue in the spirit of New Horizons wherever I go.”

For the center’s two faculty co-directors, Victoria Foster and Rip McAdams, the award is an affirming recognition of more than two decades of dedication and vision. “Our mission is to help families develop the skills and abilities to promote their own health,” said Foster. “Along the way, we’ve developed a model of family counseling based on collaboration and community. It’s gratifying to receive this type of recognition and to see our model being replicated successfully in other communities.”

The awards ceremony took place at the annual conference of the American Counseling Association last month. Lawson, an alumnus of both W&M’s counselor education program and New Horizons, received the award on behalf of the center. “There are a lot of good counselors doing great work with families every day,” he said. “So it tends to be the truly remarkable ones that rise to the level of this recognition.”