Counseling Graduate Student Offers Resources, Encouragement to Help Peers Succeed
Erin Durrah grew up in San Francisco, watching her mother work on HIV/AIDS policy and service development at the Department of Public Health.
Those early experiences sparked a desire in her to help people manage life stressors and achieve personal goals.
"I wanted to do something to change the lives of diverse populations of children who were impacted by trauma, poverty and other elements outside their control," she said.
After earning a master's degree in counseling psychology and a license to practice marriage and family therapy in California, Durrah began working at San Francisco's Department of Public Health herself. She also began counseling at the city's unified school district, helping students find culturally responsive mental health resources.
She moved to Northwest Arkansas a year ago to pursue a doctorate in counselor education in the University of Arkansas' College of Education and Health Professions.
"My goal in this program is to deepen my clinical skills and to share the experiences I've had as a provider with students that I will supervise and teach," Durrah said.
She also researches how to improve systems that fail to address the needs of marginalized people.
Durrah is a graduate assistant at the U of A's Career Development Center as well as the Graduate School and International Education program, which allows her to collaborate with both undergraduate and graduate students. She enjoys helping students realize their career potential and find important campus and community resources.
She's furthering this work as a volunteer at U of A Cares, an organization that connects students to people and services they need to overcome challenges impacting their personal and academic success.
Durrah has also gone out of her way to create a robust list of services on her own, which she freely shares with fellow students.
"I'm passionate about increasing access to supportive resources and outlets for diverse groups of individuals," she said. "I truly enjoy working with students and encouraging them to seek out opportunities to enhance their sense of wellbeing for a better quality of life."
Her list of resources includes everything from where to find professional clothing for a job interview to information about a stuttering support group on campus. She also hosts a resource group called "Grad Life Lunch" each semester. This group encourages graduate students to create community, share their experiences in a safe space, and exchange tips and resources for success.
Durrah often shares her own strategies for navigating stress so she can break through to success:
- Nurture relationships with supportive and knowledgeable friends, family and mentors, and reach out for encouragement when feeling overwhelmed.
- Stay active and take breaks to gain perspective, which also helps reduce stress and creates balance.
- Exercise self-compassion when you make mistakes or struggle. This will help you keep your morale up for the rest of the journey, and if you can't find the words to encourage yourself, reach out to someone who can or who knows where you can get the emotional boost that you need to continue.
She appreciates all that the U of A has to offer, particularly the people.
"What I love most about studying at the U of A is working with so many brilliant, warm and welcoming professionals who inspire me and enrich my studies," she said. "I genuinely enjoy the exchanges that I have with faculty members and my classmates who are incredibly encouraging and talented."
This story is the latest in a series called the Dean's Spotlight, featuring outstanding students in the College of Education and Health Professions. Visit COEHP's online magazine, the Colleague for more news from the six units that make up the College. Visit the Counselor Education and Supervision page for more information on COEHP's counseling programs.
Shannon Magsam, director of communications
College of Education and Health Professions
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