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EMU school counseling program the ‘first of its kind in Virginia’

emu school counseling program
Photo: Professor Gregory Czyszczon (pictured in fall 2019) coordinates the new education specialist degree (Ed.S) in school counseling at Eastern Mennonite University. The degree combines trauma-sensitive and resilience-focused counseling with clinical mental health counseling studies. Photo by Macson McGuigan/courtesy Eastern Mennonite University.

An innovative new program at Eastern Mennonite University combines trauma-sensitive and resilience-focused counseling with clinical mental health counseling studies for an education specialist degree in school counseling.

“It is clear that adverse childhood experiences can affect a person throughout their lifetime,” explained Professor Michael Horst, director of the graduate counseling programs. “Our mission is to train trauma-sensitive and resilience-focused school counselors who can provide crucial spaces of support and healing for children and adolescents in the school setting and beyond.”

Professor Gregory Czyszczon, who coordinates the new program, said it’s “the first of its kind in Virginia … We are broadly and deeply informed by the most recent developments in the fields of child development, attachment, trauma, and psychotherapy, particularly around the importance of human relationship.”

The program runs on a cohort model, and offers a dual degree track option for students who want to concurrently earn a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. The coursework also draws heavily on EMU’s rich history in restorative justice and practices, and includes a practicum during which students work alongside a school counselor.

Czyszczon brings to the program his experience with pioneers in the fields of attachment and human development, including Dr. Bruce Perry’s Child Trauma Academy, Dr. Diana Fosha’s Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) Institute, and the Secure Child Program in Charlottesville. He said the program was developed after faculty recognized a growing need in the community and the interest that school systems across the country have taken in trauma-sensitive and restorative practices.

The previous director of the graduate counseling programs, Teresa Haase, who now directs the Center for Grief and Healing at Hospice of the Piedmont, co-led the developmet along with Czyszczon and Horst.

“We were delighted to have this program be a part of EMU’s outstanding CAEP accreditation process this November,” Horst said. “It is a delight and a privilege to be able to offer a program like this at EMU, and we’re eager to train school counselors who will make a difference in the lives of the students and clients they serve.”

Czyszczon said he’s particularly thrilled to see the next five to eight years unfold, “as our graduates fan out through Virginia to create and advocate for resilience, relationship, and restoration in our schools.”

Applications for the 2021-22 academic year are open now until March 21.

If you’re a prospective student, or an organization interested in a partnership, read more about the program and get in touch with faculty on our website. And keep an eye out for a (hopefully in-person!) Restorative Communities Conference in the works for fall 2022.

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