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May 7, 2013
By Philip Gruenwald, media relations assistant
Psychology instructor Elizabeth Dimmitt recently took eight Northwest Missouri State University psychology and sociology students to the American Counseling Association of Missouri’s annual conference in Jefferson City.
They were the only undergraduate students presenting, and the youngest by far, but they represented Northwest by impressing conference attendees with their professionalism.
“They said we were extremely formal and very intelligible with what we were doing,” Miles Mitchell, a senior psychology major from Tarkio, said. “Knowing many of them had their Ph.D. or master’s degrees and have done this plenty of times before, it was much more helpful and nice to know that we were doing it correctly.”
The students presented “Battle Buddies: Considerations when Counseling Military Families.” The study shifted the military psychological focus from combat and post-deployment to the way family units can struggle when one or more members are in the military.
“An example is the child who has to get himself ready for school because his parents are at physical training, or a spouse is out on three-week training during parent-teacher conferences or while they’re pregnant,” Dimmitt said. “In the military you’re taught to do it right the first time, and kids don’t always do it right the first time. So, we proposed that it would be more therapeutically sound when working with military families to assess how one may modify the values and goals they have, making sure it fits their core beliefs in relationship to both military standards and the needs of their family?”
These eight students were not part of a course and only one student received academic credits. Instead, they participated for the experience. Dimmitt offered psychology students and her advisees the opportunity to research and present a topic at the regional conference. The students then posed a topic, completed the research, submitted a paper, practiced the presentation and presented their findings at the conference.
“Being able to do research in counseling and present it and interact with other counselors and stuff, the hands-on experience rounded it out for me,” Erin Richmond, a junior comprehensive psychology and sociology major from Chariton, Iowa, said.
The military is frequently a topic for psychological study, but senior Bridget Clark, one of the “Battle Buddies” presenters, predicts the military will receive even more attention in the near future. Clark, a comprehensive psychology and sociology major from Oregon, Mo., will begin graduate school in the fall and plans to work as a counselor after receiving her degree in substance abuse therapy, which she said relates well with veterans’ post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We were really passionate about military as a topic because, especially with our generation, as soon as we get our licenses we’ll really have to step up to the plate as military counselors,” Clark said. “In the military there has been a real direction change from counseling and mental health being a very taboo subject to being a lot more accepting, and people are taking advantage of that opportunity to get help. That’s really exciting for counselors.”
The students also listened to presenters during the three-day conference. Along with the research and presentation, the networking and professional development has added to their collective Northwest educations in psychology. Dimmitt, who was elected president-elect of the American Counseling Association of Missouri, plans to take students back next year. She was greatly encouraged by the positive feedback from professional counselors.
“A lot of students now have mentors from around the state because of the connections they made during the conference,” Dimmitt said. “They were able to speak to world-renowned psychologists who came in as guest speakers. I have also been receiving mail and random emails from attendees who said ‘You should be so proud of your students,’ and ‘Your students were amazing,’ and ‘If you need anything in the future let me know.’ I truly believe they represented Northwest very well.”
Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
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Northwest Missouri State University
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