With a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in educational psychology, Adele Gonzaga became a skilled researcher. But after years evaluating therapies and outcomes, the work had grown unfulfilling. Gonzaga realized she wanted “to see the interventions at work,” to interact with people first rather than data.
Gonzaga received her undergraduate degree in the Philippines and her first master's degree in Philadelphia. A relative told her about the Master of Professional Studies in Addictions Counseling. Gonzaga felt that the health care climate and resources were good in Minnesota, and she decided to apply.
She was accepted to the program, moved here, and began taking three courses a semester. She completed an internship at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge, an addiction rehabilitation and recovery center, where she worked primarily with adult women in the long-term program. At the same time, Gonzaga held a graduate research assistantship here at the U.
Clearly, she is not afraid of a challenge. “It was hard,” she says, but the effort was worth it.
Gonzaga first became interested in becoming a counselor when she was researching interventions for active duty service members who experienced PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. She learned that some of them suffered from addiction as well as mental health issues, and she wondered how her interventions were affecting them.
“Exposure to a population that had mental trauma inspired me. I wanted to do more.”
She hopes to work toward reducing the stigma around mental health issues. “People might not talk about it,” she says, “but everyone knows someone who is struggling.”
Today, Gonzaga’s unique background in educational psychology informs her approach to counseling and work in general. She recognizes the value of individual life experiences, not just those of her clients, but her own, other students’, and counselors’.
“There’s a way to mesh what you come with and what you want to achieve,” she says. “You’re not coming in empty handed—you have your knowledge, background, and skills. How do you use those as you are studying, learning, and working?”
For example, when Gonzaga sees clients struggling with memory loss and learning, she calls on her educational training to help them acquire different skills. She applies this to her own growth, too, acknowledging that she is “always looking to learn something new,” even if it isn’t clear how she will use the information yet. Ultimately, she would like to integrate research back into her practice, to combine the academic with the applicable.
Pro Tip for Students
“Pace yourself.” As someone who took on multiple tasks and roles at once, Gonzaga encourages students to take on only what they can handle to avoid getting overwhelmed or burned out.