The art of understanding

The Newman University Bachelor of Science in Counseling program is more than a major; for many students, it’s a calling. It takes a special type of person with a special set of carefully honed skills to be able to help others navigate their lives and experiences. The very nature of the work forces practitioners to constantly re-examine their own responses to life’s challenges, in order to provide clients the best possible care. One of these special people is Lindsey Fontelroy, a 2015 Newman graduate with a degree in counseling.

IMG_8268Lindsey was not someone who initially saw herself studying to become a counselor. Before starting the counseling program at Newman, she worked in the auto industry. She enjoyed the work, but for her it lacked the purpose she longed for—work that directly impacted the lives of people in a meaningful and powerful way. The decision to return to school was not easy, but it was a decision that Lindsey knew would provide her with the opportunity to help others improve their lives.  It was at this point when she made the decision to attend Newman, where her personal and professional transformation began.

Enrolling first as a psychology major, Lindsey ultimately decided after working with Newman advisors that a major in counseling would provide her with the greatest opportunity to pursue her passion to help others. She didn’t know exactly what her ultimate career goals might be in the beginning. She did know, however, that she wanted to incorporate art into her education. She began taking drawing and painting classes, eventually minoring in art.

Eventually Lindsey found that blending her two passions—therapy and art—was the recipe she had been looking for. Drawing from her studio and education experiences, Lindsey found she could introduce art to clients who needed alternative ways of expressing themselves and share with her clients the cleansing and restorative powers of art in a therapeutic way. As Lindsey puts it, “Art can be healing and soothing. People have used it for thousands of years to express themselves.”

Despite her success in the counseling and art programs at Newman, Lindsey’s transformation was not necessarily easy. Many of the classes in the counseling program require students to continuously take an honest look inward to understand themselves in new ways, and to apply this understanding as a model for fostering an understanding of and empathy for others.

In 2015, Newman University was named among the 30 Great Small Colleges for a Counseling Degree, and recognized as one of the top 20 Counseling Programs among the nation’s Christian colleges.

Assistant Professor and Director of the Counseling Program, John Walker says, “Students are confronted with very real scenarios where they are able to experience the challenges facing the people they will help every day. The experiences are intended to provide students with real-world experiences that help students apply what they have studied in practical and useful ways; to experience the role of clinician and client in a safe and supportive environment. Along with philosophy and traditional theory, students become students of themselves, exploring their own perspectives and the experiences that helped shape who they are today, and how they see the world around them.” Professor Walker adds, “The counseling program at Newman is one of only a handful of undergraduate programs in the nation that focuses so intensely on developing clinical practice skills.”

Fontelroy PictureLindsey agrees wholeheartedly with Professor Walker and speaks to her internal growth and the transformative impact of the program. “You really need to be all in,” she says. “If you don’t go to class every day and consider your own demons, and really strive to better yourself, how are you going to help others?” She added that, “The program offers an experience unlike any other degree. The material and theory are rigorous, but there is more to the program than just a classroom. It’s a defining life experience. When you commit yourself to counseling, you want to be in class, you want to engage and learn, and you want to do and be more.”

Since graduating the program in May 2015, Lindsey has continued her success. She accepted a counseling position with Seventh Direction, Inc. and will enter the Newman University Master of Social Work program this fall. Ultimately, she dreams of opening her own practice, where she will continue to combine art with therapy to help children and adults actualize their dreams.

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