Student from Nicaragua chooses degree at Antioch
When Celia Aráuz came to the U.S. from her native Nicaragua, she didn’t speak English well and was very intimidated to attend college, let alone begin her graduate studies.
Upon doing research and discovering the master’s program in mental health counseling at Antioch University Seattle, she was drawn to the school’s social justice aspect.
“As soon as I talked to program faculty and staff my fears and self-doubts disappeared,” she said.
Aráuz wanted to be a psychologist since she finished secondary school, earning her bachelor’s in the field of psychology at university in her home country.
When she moved to the U.S. and settled in the Seattle area, she attended a bilingual community college while working part-time and learning to speak and write English.
By then Aráuz, a mother of two, had built up courage to apply for a position as a therapist specializing in working with child, ethnic minority and geriatric populations at a community counseling center in the city.
Raised as a member of the middle class, Aráuz views had now changed because she became a minority.
“I had dreams and I needed to go back to school,” she said. “I started to question if my English was good enough. I didn’t think I could leave my husband while I went to school either.”
Her mother-in-law had completed her master’s; her father-in-law was pursuing his law degree and she had friends who had their master’s in counseling and worked as therapists.
“I was surrounded by people who valued education,” she said. “They were supportive of my idea.”
Aráuz was impressed by the small class size at Antioch University, that faculty not only teach but work in the field and have life experience, and the level of support for new students.
“There’s always someone to talk to face-to-face if needed,” she said. “As soon as I began attending my English got better and better. Everyone was so welcoming and willing to work with me – I never felt Antioch was not my home.”
Aráuz was a part-time student and completed her master’s in mental health counseling in 2010 while working full-time and raising two children.
While pursuing her post-graduate education, she worked at the community health counseling center (she was 10 years), serving as supervisor and finally manager of the mental health program through 2015.
She left to pursue her PsyD in clinical and forensic psychology.
While a doctoral degree program in this field may focus more on conducting psychological research than therapy services, Aráuz believes she was being prepared to be a professional colleague as well as a therapist.
“You start to think differently about yourself,” she said. “I now know (research) is doable – it’s something you can do if you want.”
Any help she needed writing complex research papers was provided by peer counselors at Antioch’s writing center.
“There’s a lot in place at Antioch to support students in different ways,” she said. “Peers support each other’s goals and talk to each other if they are feeling down. We talked about our desires and fantasies and ask each other questions. I got all these ideas by talking to them.”
Most importantly, she believes the structure of the program opens up all possibilities to students.
“There are so many other things I’m curious about right now,” she said.
She is currently doing her practicum as a student intern at a state psychiatric hospital, where she works with six clients.
“I wanted to work with the psychiatric population,” she said.
Her supervisor, a licensed psychologist, does forensic assessments for court purposes but Aráuz has been conducting testing and therapy and writing reports.
“I’m gaining experience from being there and I can ask questions,” she said.
Aráuz will graduate in 2020; right now she’s conducting research for her dissertation on Imposter syndrome (also called imposter phenomenon or fraud syndrome). Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.
She has a specific interest in this topic as she feels she herself has suffered from this pattern.
“These are people who believe they aren’t good enough but their self-doubts are not necessarily true,” she said. “It can be shown in different self-handicapped behaviors. Maybe these people won’t try new things, they procrastinate or they’re perfectionists.”
With help from her experience as an Antioch student, Aráuz has been able to break this pattern.
“How we work as a team is important,” she said. “Everyone is pushing you to do your best. It’s an informal relationship between mentors, supervisors, and teachers. It makes you feel part of a special community.”