As a 2019 recipient of the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) Minority Fellowship, Deborah Park is committed to providing mental health resources to those who need it most.
Park is a second-year master’s student in the clinical mental health and addictions counseling program. The fellowship aims to empower and foster the growth of culturally diverse counselors and to serve underrepresented, marginalized clientele including LGBTQIA+ populations, people with disabilities, ethnic minorities and people with geographical or financial barriers to health care.
When it comes to the mental health profession, there is a shortage of diverse counselors and clients, Park says. She is interested in helping populations who are traditionally underserved and lack access to health care and hopes to see more diversity among mental health professionals in the future.
“There are great disparities when it comes to adequate health services, and a lot of times people are left out,” she says.
As a fellow, Park will attend conferences, which will provide learning and networking opportunities. The $15,000 award will go toward Park’s education, which includes her internship experiences at the New Leaf Clinic and Eastern State Hospital this year.
Park is interested in addictions counseling partly because it touches many people’s lives. She sees the humanity in addiction and wants to dispel any stigma and stereotypes surrounding the topic.
For Park, addiction is more than being addicted to a substance. It carries a greater symbolic meaning and represents one of the core challenges of what it means to be human.
“I've always been interested in what it means to be a person, navigating life everyday, with all of its trials and tribulations,” she says. “Also, I tend to be a little bit on the sensitive side and tend to feel things deeply, and I have heard that many people with substance use disorders also tend to be sensitive, deep-feeling people. So I may have felt that I could connect and understand."
At New Leaf Clinic, Park serves W&M students and community members by using motivational interviewing to help clients with substance use and other concerns. Her second internship site at Eastern State Hospital, where more than 50% of patients are African American, allows her to fulfill her promise to the NBCC Foundation that she will work with underserved clients, many of whom do not have access to quality care.
Park hopes to continue serving diverse populations and is interested in working at a university counseling center in the future where she would be able to help a variety of students with diverse backgrounds who find it difficult to access mental health care.
She is grateful to have been recognized by NBCC and to have the opportunity for an enriching experience while receiving her education. Among some of the events she is looking forward to as a fellow, Park will attend the Association for Addiction Professionals conference and the NBCC Foundation Bridging the Gap Symposium and listen to and learn from all of the speakers and other attendees. She finds that the conferences that she has already attended provide valuable insights, experiences and knowledge that she will be able to apply in her education and counseling career in the future.
“It is heartwarming to know that the foundation is passionate about working toward the betterment of all people.”